Reactions To Some Comic-Con News

None of us here went to the San Diego Comic-Con, but we learned about the announcements made there and even saw some bootleg footage from the presentations (we won’t bother to post the links to them, they’ll probably be disabled before long). This piece is basically our reactions to what was revealed about certain films and shows for the coming months and 2013.

Elysium

Director Neill Blomkamp previewed footage from his next sci-fi epic which stars Matt Damon. It showed Earth as a futuristic, debris-filled wasteland and what was surprising was that Blomkamp didn’t need to do any special effects since he filmed these scenes in the slums of Mexico City. To some of us it felt like Blomkamp’s previous District 9 (but with a more naturalistic feel since there weren’t any shaky cam shots) and that’s a good thing. The viral campaigns touting the futuristic utopian city of Elysium were well done and whetted our appetites.

Fringe, The Final Season

The Fringe team appeared for the final time at Comic-Con and actor John Noble teased about the possibility of a Fringe movie. While enticing and unlikely if it happens let’s hope it doesn’t wind up like The X-Files films. They premiered a special trailer for the final season of Fringe which takes place primarily in the future. In that time period our heroes are trying to overthrow the enigmatic Observers who’ve taken over the world. Plus, it seems as if William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) will appear again. Sweet!

Iron Man 3

A mixed bag here, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley) will be the villain in Iron Man 3 instead of another armored villain. However, we were less than enthused with the look of Iron Man’s new armor which is mostly gold with red highlights. It’s not known if this is to be his main armor but why not just stick with the suit he wore in The Avengers?

The Man Of Steel

Sadly what was learned about Zack Snyder’s reboot of Superman wasn’t very inspiring. The footage shown had Snyder’s typical empty but flashy filmmaking style. If you’ve seen Watchmen and Sucker Punch then you can imagine how The Man Of Steel footage appeared. At the same time the scenes from The Man Of Steel looked like they were desperately trying to emulate Christopher Nolan’s look for the Batman films. It just didn’t look right and in light of the recent X-Men and Spider-Man reimaginings it screamed “Me too!” The worst news came when Snyder revealed that John Williams’ iconic Superman score will not be used. That is a huge mistake since that score has become so ingrained with Superman it’s almost as bad as radically changing his costume. We feel that if they could get away with getting rid of the cape and S shield Snyder and Nolan would’ve done so just to be different. Let’s hope DC has better luck with their Lobo movie.

Miscellaneous Marvel Movies

The official titles for Marvel Studios’ next sequels were revealed. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, who has one of our staff members very excited since it seems to indicate the movie will cover one of his favorite Captain America storylines. The other title is Thor: The Dark World, and little else was revealed about the thunder god’s further escapades. But the most interesting announcement was that a film based on the Guardians Of The Galaxy is coming in 2014. Based on the artwork released, this team will not be the classic version featuring Vance Astro but rather one that has Starlord, Gamora and Rocket Raccoon (!). It’s a big risk since the team isn’t as well known or popular as the Avengers and the movie will probably be a big budget epic. The last space-based superhero film Green Lantern proved to be a dud (many blamed the aliens-filled space scenes which lacked a human touch, frankly those were the highlights for the dull, Earth-bound film), let’s hope Guardians Of The Galaxy doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Oz, The Great And Powerful

It seems as if Sam Raimi has moved beyond the Spider-Man movies with this astonishing prequel to the classic Wizard Of Oz. The transition from a small black and white screen to a gorgeous, colorful, widescreen Oz is stunning and rivals Tim Burton’s work. In addition to Oz (portrayed by James Franco who is a great casting choice), other characters appear like Glinda, and the flying monkeys. Oz, The Great And Powerful could be a new fantasy classic.

Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro supposedly blew the audience away with footage from next year’s Pacific Rim. Actually it’s the only film that can compete with Godzilla due to its epic scope and level of destruction. In the film, giant monsters have overrun the Earth and humanity’s last hope lies with human operators of gigantic robots that can go head to head with the monsters. Bottom line: Pacific Rim sounds terrific just based on the talent behind it and can be described as a love letter to kaiju movies and fans of that Japanese genre.

The Walking Dead Season Three

Our resident fan of The Walking Dead is very psyched up for the upcoming third season of the show. We saw the prison our heroes occupy, the evil Governor and badass zombie killer MIchonne, who looks like her comic book counterpart. What was shown looks exciting, suspenseful and harrowing (especially with the scenes featuring the sadistic Governor). Honestly, October can’t come here soon enough.

Star Trek Sequel and Proof Of Concept

There isn’t anything to report about the still untitled Star Trek sequel by J.J. Abrams because the filmmakers decided not to present anything at the Comic-Con. This is just baffling.  Maybe they’re saving the big guns for a Trek convention. Regardless, in a crowded marketplace where films are vying for business and word-of-mouth the people behind Star Trek should’ve had at least a bone to throw to the fans. The film comes out next May and attendees got more info about films set to debut further ahead in time. We hope this isn’t a bad harbinger for the movie. Being that the last film left Star Trek fans divided over its quality, Abrams and company need to hit this one out of the ballpark and they can start by wowing fans now.

There were proof-of-concept footage shown of Ant-Man, Godzilla and Thomas Jane returning as The Punisher at the convention. While they’re cool (esp. seeing Punisher in R-rated action), until there is an actual project being produced they won’t amount to much unless something concrete comes out of showing the footage. However they seem more promising than some of the actual films being promoted.

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The Best Sci-Fi Vacation Destinations

   

Alright you’re wondering where to go on your next vacation now that you have time off. Tired of the theme parks and big cities? Well here are some fantastic destinations and itineraries to consider. Note: Never mind isolated incidents in these places like out-of-control androids and rampaging dinosaurs. For the most part these are prime vacation spots to ease a tired mind and body or excite anyone seeking adventure.

Local Earthbound Adventures

Forget about subpar theme parks that charge you so much for so little. The Delos Corporation’s amusement park features authentic looking recreations of times past that allow visitors to interact in the most realistic environment possible. You can choose Medievalworld or Romanworld but Westworld (Westworld) is the most memorable spot to visit. For a mere $1,000 per day, you can indulge yourself in your most primal desires. Have a shootout (and win!), do some hard drinking and bar fighting or spend time with a lovely partner. Don’t let that recent glitch with the human-looking androids keep you from visiting. Coming soon is a new addition called Futureworld where you can visit Mars!

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park) is a must-visit theme park that blows away all the others. For anyone tired of fake-looking audio-animatronics, Jurassic Park has actual dinosaurs. Resurrected after millions of years of extinction thanks to genetic engineering, these gigantic beasts are a wonder to behold for the young and old. Visitors can view them in their natural habitats from the safety of perimeter fences and rugged jeep vehicles. Back at the park’s facility take a behind-the-scenes tour of how these reptilian giants were recreated. Or indulge yourself with top-notch amenities and make sure to visit the gift shop.

Sure the above parks promise and deliver a chance to interact with the past. So why not go go one step further and actually visit history? Explorers-at-heart can go anywhere in time with the Time Safari (A Sound Of Thunder). The most popular temporal destination is the prehistoric past where guides on marked above-ground trails help you hunt down a vicious t-rex just before its natural death. Please make sure not to leave anything behind not even footprints and don’t step on any butterflies.

Out Of This World

Love cruising? Desiring a grand trip through the stars away from Earth? Try the best of both by booking a voyage on an interstellar replica of the famous cruise ship the Titanic (Doctor Who “Voyage Of The Damned”). This upgraded Titanic is the ship for you. It’s posh, elegant and can warp between planets in no time. And what’s better is that these voyages are without Celine Dion songs and morons shouting “I’m the king of the world!”

So a Titanic replica may not be your thing. How about a magnificent, state-of-the-art space cruise ship that takes leisurely anti-g sails on alien oceans and has weird blue aliens that sing opera for entertainment? Call your cruise agent today to make arrangements to sail on the Fhloston Paradise  (The Fifth Element). And hey you may get a chance to help Korben Dallas save the universe!

If you’re going to go on a space cruise, why not do it in luxurious style? Close your eyes and relax. Ahh, gluttony, hedonism and instant robotic service at your fingertips are on board the Axiom (WALL-E). Make sure to run a few laps around the giant vessel’s jogging track or you’ll wind up looking like its permanent residents. Otherwise, enjoy the Axiom’s advanced resort and spa, take in the spectacular galactic sights and lend a hand to a certain beat-up little garbage robot who’s out to save humanity.

Let’s say a cruise doesn’t interest you. Earth bores you since you’ve seen and experienced all there is on our world. So rejuvenating yourself in a literal world of luxury is your true desire. There are plenty of worlds to choose from, these are just a small sampling:

Make sure to visit Naboo (Star Wars Episode I and II), a planet of royal luxury! Verdant plains, magnificent waterfalls, and majestic Mediterranean-like architecture are just some of the highlights in your trip to Naboo. Just don’t mind those pesky Trade Federation android armies or those underwater Gungans.

Imagine you’re a weary war refugee and need a resort planet with locals who will welcome you with open arms, food, drink and great chances to win fortunes. Look no further than the planet Carillon (Battlestar Galactica “Saga Of A Star World”). Just don’t mind the fact that the indigenous and insectoid Ovions only want to wine and dine you in order to fatten you up for their children’s menu.

Located in the Omicron Delta system, the Shore Leave Planet (Star Trek “Shore Leave”) has highly advanced facilities can literally create your ideal dreams just by scanning your thoughts. Want to get even with the school bully? Here’s your chance to find him and give him a beat down. You can also be a part of fairy tales, fight a samurai or spend time with the person of your dreams. Just be mindful of your thoughts.

Out of all the resort worlds like Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet and Argolis, Risa (Star Trek: The Next Generation “Captain’s Holiday”, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine “Let He Who Is Without Sin” and Enterprise “Two Days And Two Nights”) is the resort planet that everyone talks about and visits. From Captain Archer in the 22nd century to Captain Picard and the Deep Space Nine crew in the 24th century Risa is probably the most popular spot in the galaxt for Starfleet personel and others. Why would so many people visit Risa? Imagine a planet with a plethora of white-sand beaches, luxurious resorts, rich gardens, outdoor activities, nightclubs, perfectly controlled weather and unforgettable twin sunset views. It’s the best destination for spacefaring couples wanting to get away from it all. Plus, it’s the hottest spot in the galaxy for singles, just remember to have a Horga’hn statue ready.

Annette DeForrester

 

The Dearth Of Far Future Films

Last week, we learned a bit about Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming science fiction movie Elysium and while intriguing one thing revealed is that despite rumors the film isn’t set in the far future. On the other hand, earlier we found out that Will Smith’s next science fiction film After Earth takes place some one thousand years after humanity abandoned Earth. The settings for both films point out how there is very little science fiction films that take place in the far future. It seems as if filmmakers are uncomfortable producing films that take place beyond the 25th century. In fact, the average future date they tackle is the 22nd to 23rd centuries. Just look at Star Trek, Alien and other recent films. If not date is set and they want to depict a far future, the date is left vague like in THX-1138.

This contrasts with science fiction literature that is filled with books and stories taking place thousands, millions and even billions of years from now. Some of the most famous examples are H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation saga and Frank Herbert’s Dune books. As everyone knows, the first Dune book was adapted into a poorly received film by David Lynch. One complaint leveled against the adaptation was how confusing Dune’s premise was to the general audience who couldn’t relate to a tale in a galaxy-spanning society. This could be why there are so few films set far into the future. The reality is that no one can accurately predict how humanity will evolve. It’s very likely that we wouldn’t relate to them at all. That isn’t to say that it’s not possible to make the characters relatable. If it weren’t possible there wouldn’t be so many sci-fi books taking place in the far future.

Obviously the ones to blame for this attitude are movie executives who try to sell films to the general audience and often underestimate their customers’ intelligence levels. While someone who is only into romantic comedies and mindless action flicks probably don’t want to be bothered with a sci-fi movie whose setting needs some explaining. Many of them point to the failure of Dune and assume that no one wants to see a film set in an unrecognizable society. Unfortunately this has become a convenient fallback for executives (never mind that the Sci-Fi Channel produced two successful adaptations of Dune and its sequels). Also their inability to simply explain a film’s setting is due to their lack of storytelling skills. But that is debatable.

Then again one problem facing filmmakers is presenting a far future that won’t look dated years after the film is released. Not to mention they usually don’t have the budget to present a full-fledged future in detail.

One way around this challenge was to depict a dystopian future where society has collapsed and nature has reclaimed the Earth. Planet Of The Apes comes to mind when using this depiction. It takes place in 3978 long after humanity has devolved into mute savages and simians have inherited the Earth. The Time Machine is another example where humanity has evolved into two separate species millions of years from now. Or just do away with the Earth like Don Bluth’s animated film Titan, A.E. did. After the world was destroyed in the film’s beginning, humanity has become a refugee species, having lost any cultural and technological advancements. This meant that they were relatable to modern-day audiences (who related to time-placed heroes from our era in The Time Machine and Planet Of The Apes).

It is a challenge to put out a sci-fi film that takes place far into the future but it isn’t impossible. This conception that people won’t be able to relate to the characters and setting is ridiculous. After all, films come out that depict our distant past yet audiences care about those characters and understand what is going on. So it shouldn’t be difficult for the average moviegoer to understand a character in the far-flung future. It has been done and hopefully will be done in the future.

Lewis T. Grove

The Amazing Spider-Man Reboot

It can be argued that The Amazing Spider-Man is the Spider-Man film for fans of the web-slinging hero. Frankly, it surpasses Sam Raimi’s trilogy in terms of special effects and that is not overly relying on CGI. The practical effects and stunt work really make Spider-Man come alive in a way that hasn’t been done before. The 3D is visually spectacular even the night shots. Pardon the pun but some shots of Spidey are truly amazing and look as if they were taken out of a comic book panel. Forget about alterations to his costume, the filmmakers captured the essence of Spider-Man.

But enough about the effects and look. The rest of The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid and welcome addition to Marvel’s superhero film roster. While director Marc Webb may not be as gimmicky and flashy as Sam Raimi was, he has an eye for character. He lets the quiet moments speak for themselves and knows how to show just enough of a character moment before moving on. The relationship that Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is the soul of the movie without going overboard.

Webb wisely uses this constraint in showing us other aspects of Parker. This results in the film not being as cornball or overly sentimental as Raimi’s Spider-Man films sometimes felt. Don’t worry, there aren’t any dance numbers! Garfield does an excellent job portraying him and his masked alter ego. He makes viewers and fans forget about Tobey Maguire with his constant moping and sad eyes. This Parker while burdened with responsibility is very proactive and as Spider-Man he cracks jokes, and behaves just like he does in the comic books. While this film has the hero constantly unmasked it actually works and one doesn’t mind.

As for the rest of the cast, they turn in fine performances with top honors going to Stone and Denis Leary (as her father police captain George Stacy). The captain’s obsession with trying to arrest Spider-Man is an engaging subplot that was never explored in depth before on film and deftly adds to Spider-Man’s headaches. BTW, Stan Lee has one of his very best and funniest cameos in the film that puts him in the same shot with his greatest creation.

The main villain in The Amazing Spider-Man as everyone knows is the Lizard a.k.a. Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a one-armed scientist with ties to his dead parents. The film links his creation to Spider-Man’s and it’s a complaint that goes back to many of these films (such as Batman) but it’s handled fairly well. Compared to the comic book version, Connors isn’t as sympathetic which is a detriment to the film. The Lizard may not be as great a villain as Doctor Octopus but he is still an imposing, formidable  character who puts Spider-Man through hell. Standing nearly eight feet tall with regenerative powers and a cunning mind he seems more like a smart Hulk mixed with Wolverine and a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. That’s a deadly combination.

The film does have faults: we didn’t need to see another origin sequence, which could’ve been handled with flashbacks; some plot developments are dropped too cleanly; the score by James Horner isn’t particularly memorable. But there are so many things that the filmmakers get right with this film because like Sam Raimi, they understand Spider-Man and it shows. So how does it compare to the previous films? Well it’s much, much better than Spider-Man 3 and arguably on par with the first Spider-Man. Despite Spider-Man 2’s flaws it was Raimi at his energetic best and a better film than The Amazing Spider-Man, but Spider-Man 2 set a high bar that is hard to top. It’s too bad Sony chose to release The Amazing Spider-Man so soon after Raimi’s trilogy ended. This is bringing about some unfair comparisons by fans of those films. But go in with an open mind and be prepared to be amazed.

José Soto