This Time It’s For Real, Marty McFly’s Sneakers With Power Laces Are Coming!

mcfly and power lacesA couple of years back, it was reported on this blog that Nike released  special limited edition replicas of the Nike sneakers worn by Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in the movie Back To The Future, Part II. While they looked amazingly accurate to the futuristic footwear worn byMarty and lit up, they lacked that shoe’s distinctive feature: the power laces. In other words, they didn’t self lace themselves like in the movie.  That was the one thing that made the sneakers so freaking cool! But fear not fans, it turns out we will be getting those special kicks after all.

This past Friday, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield confirmed that next year, 2015 the year that the movie takes place in, the shoe company will release sneakers that will have the self-lacing feature! He didn’t say, however, if the power laces will be on new releases of the Nike Air Mag or another shoe. Hopefully, they’ll release the Air Mag (and not just limited editions) with the power laces. That would be sweeeet! Forget Velcro! Just push a button on the shoe and it laces itself, think of the precious seconds you’ll save when getting dressed. The funny thing is that these shoes that looked so futuristic back then when the movie was released in the late ’80s look so contemporary. It’s like modern fashion has caught up to the future.

So, start saving up your dollars people because it’s a guarantee that we’ll have to pay top dollar for the product. power laces 2But you know what? It’ll be worth it just to say that one thing prophesized in Back To The Future, Part II came true. Next year we won’t have flying cars, or Jaws 19, or even Mr. Fusion, but at least the coolest future gadget from Back To The Future, Part II will be a reality.  Now if only Mattel could get working on those hoverboards…

T. Rod Jones

Advertisements

Top 10 Utopian Films

Star Trek future London

One of the niftiest things about sci-fi films are the eye-popping portraits of the future. Most recently, audiences were floored by the breathtaking futuristic cityscapes seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. Keep in mind, that for dramatic reasons, things may not be perfect in these futuristic utopias. In fact, sometimes with these paradises there are significant drawbacks about them and the cost of paradise is often steep. Still, from flying cars to robotic servants, these films best showed how humanity can create a future to strive for.

Buck Rogers in the 25th century10. Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: A utopian vision inspired by late ’70s deco! The pilot for the TV show was shown in theaters before the proper series started. Tackiness takes on a new meaning in this future society with wise-cracking robots, skin-tight outfits and cheesy sets. But thanks to unfrozen astronaut Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard), things like disco, basic military tactics and boogying down make a comeback!

9. Gattaca: Imagine a future with Gattacamodern architecture from the 1950s, turbine cars and where you get all the social and employment opportunities just for being you. Yes, you can live out your dreams…as long as you’re genetically pure. It’s a haven for the one-percenters. For the rest of us created the old fashioned way, well, we’re shit out of luck. But that doesn’t stop Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) from achieving his dreams in this tech noir thriller by passing himself off as one of the genetically pure.

I Robot8. TIE: I, Robot/Bicentennial Man: Both films dealt with the nature of evolving androids in the future. They featured sprawling and impressive skylines, servant androids, and nifty, futuristic vehicles. In lots of ways, life is the same as it is today in the films except with the technological advances. Life isn’t perfect and androids and robots must grapple with their civil rights. This is dramatically shown in I, Robot where the robots attempt a takeover. But overall, the futures in those films seem enjoyable.

Logan's Run apartment

7. Logan’s Run: More cheesy, ’70s-based, sci-fi trappings! Humanity’s remnants live in an underground city connected by a rail system, making it all look like something from Disney World’s Tomorrowland. In Logan’s (Michael York) futuristic society, life is pleasant and hedonistic with casual sex and drug use. No one has any cares except for their looks. The only drawback is that once you reach your thirtieth birthday, you’re euthanized.

6. Demolition Man: Welcome to San Angeles, a city rebuilt from Demoliton Man on patrolthe ashes of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara. Along with clean streets and civil order, Taco Bell is the winner of the Franchise Wars and courteous behavior is strictly enforced. Also, crime is so rare that when a master criminal from our present (Wesley Snipes) is thawed out he creates chaos since cops in the future can’t cope. Enter John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a roguish policeman from the same time period, who is also unfrozen in order to stop him.

meet the robinsons5. Meet The Robinsons: Young inventor Lewis time travels to the year 2037, which is a time period heavily influenced by Tomorrowland. There, he meets the wacky titular family and contends with a mysterious villain from his past. Lewis also experiences a colorful world filled with curvy skyscrapers, genetically enhanced frogs, flying bubble cars, robots and even cloned dinosaurs. It’s a bit like The Jetsons, but much cooler looking.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Unfortunately, most of the nifty innovations and tech showcased in that monumental 2001 part 2film weren’t available by the time the actual year of 2001 came along. That year would’ve been better if we had some of the inspiring developments depicted in Kubrick’s masterpiece like space planes, commonplace space travel, a moon base, and super-advanced AIs. On second thought, we’re probably better off without the super smart and neurotic AIs like HAL 9000.

Minority Report

3. Minority Report: Director Steven Spielberg worked with futurists to create a believable and probable future stocked with stupendous technologies and inventions. Sure we have no privacy and eroded civil rights in Washington, D.C., circa 2052 thanks to the PreCrimes police force led by Jon Anderson (Tom Cruise). But take a gander at Minority Report’s amazing depictions of the future. Personalized holograms for customers in stores, electronic papers, glass-based computers, jetpacks, and robotically controlled cars that can scale walls. It all makes that future seem bearable to live in.

Hill Valley BTTF Future

2. Back To The Future, Part II: What’s not to love about the optimistic future seen in this follow up to the first Back To The Future? Start with the cool-looking flying cars that clog skyways. You can convert your old cars to fly for just $39,999.95; it’s a steal! Next move on to dehydrators, holofilms, dust repellant paper, and hoverboards by Mattel (just avoid using them over water. All these innovations were part of a whimsical look at Hill Valley, CA, circa 2015. Even the clothing is uber cool–power Nikes with auto laces and jackets that adjust to your size! Worried about crime? No need to, with lawyers being abolished, justice is swift and efficient. Just watch out for those tranks, lobos and zipheads!

Starbase 11. Star Trek films Beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and continuing most recently with Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek films have shown audiences pleasant and sometimes astounding images of our future. From Earth all the way to deep in the galaxy, humans have made san franciscoincredible social and technological advances. Gone are war, disease and poverty. Innovations like faster-than-light space travel, transporters, replicators and holodecks enrich humanity. The Star Trek films also displayed an Earth in the 23rd and 24th centuries that look clean and pristine. Take a look at the dazzling cityscapes of London and San Francisco in the latest Star Trek film. They set the bar for breathtaking and enviable views of the future. Of course, humans have to deal with Klingons, Borg and other alien bad guys. But with the likes of James T. Kirk (William Shatner, Chris Pine) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), humanity can breathe easier. 😀

Lewis T. Grove

Top 10 Butterfly Effects

One theme that runs through many time travel stories is that of the Butterfly Effect. Most famously demonstrated in Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder” where time travelers go back to prehistoric times on a dinosaur safari and inadvertently change the future by carelessly killing a butterfly in the past. The most recent example of the Butterfly Effect is in Stephen King’s newest literary release 11/22/63; in that book the assassination of John F. Kennedy is prevented resulting in a radically altered timeline.

This list will cover some of the best Butterfly Effects presented on several media that I’ve seen or read (sorry haven’t read Lest Darkness Fall or The Time Ships yet), and are based on Effects directly due to time travel and the amount of time spent exploring those altered worlds.

10. “Storm Front, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Enterprise; the fourth season opener concluded the maligned and confusing temporal cold war storyline. Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew are trapped on Earth during World War II in a timeline altered by aliens. This resulted in the Nazis being more technologically advanced and occupying parts of the U.S.

9. “Turn Left” from Doctor Who; the episode examines what would have happened if Companion Donna Noble never met the Doctor. It’s a grim timeline that features the deaths of the Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Torchwood and Britain under martial law.

8. “Year Of Hell, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Voyager; the crew of the lost starship Voyager stumble upon an obsessed alien intent on using time as a weapon in his region of space then as a means to restore his wife after utilizing the weapon erases her from history. The Voyager crew literally go through hell as they try to track down the alien and restore the timeline. It was so well done many fans grumbled when things went back to normal!

7. Flashpoint; The DC Comics mini-series and its spin-offs has the Flash preventing his mother’s death while time traveling, which forever alters the DC Universe. First the Flash is trapped in a nightmarish, violent version of the DC Universe with many altered heroes and villains then the storyline concludes with the creation of the New 52 titles running today with updated versions of the DC heroes.

6. “The Hanged Man” from Journeyman; it’s a short-lived series from 2007 that in a similar vein to Quantum Leap had the hero (reporter Dan Vasser-played by Kevin McKidd) uncontrollably time traveling and changing history. In this episode, Dan leaves behind a digital camera in 1984 that is reverse engineered. When he returns, not only is technology more advanced but his young son is erased and instead has a daughter, leaving him with a deep moral dilemma.

5.” Profile In Silver” from The Twilight Zone of the 1980s; the late Lane Smith portrays a history professor who goes back in time to study the assassination of his ancestor, John F. Kennedy, and winds up saving him. This of course begins a cataclysmic chain of events due to time trying to compensate for the alteration. In other words World War III is about to erupt. In true Twilight Zone fashion, the ending is a real twist.

4. The Guns Of The South; Harry Turtledove’s masterpiece is about what happens when Confederate soldiers are armed with AK-47s by time-traveling racist white South Africans. Obviously this turns the tide of the Civil War in the Confederate’s favor and readers learn that Lincoln loses re-election, Robert E. Lee becomes president of the C.S.A., the U.S. gets into a war with Britain and the Confederacy becomes a technologically advanced nation.

3. The Age of Apocalypse Storyline from the X-Men books; Professor X of the X-Men is accidently killed in the past by his son. This chain reaction leads to the villainous mutant Apocalypse conquering America and committing genocide on non-mutants. For months the crossover X-books featured alternate versions of mutants such as a heroic Magneto leading the X-Men, Wolverine with a missing hand and teams with different members some of whom are villains in the regular books like Sabretooth.

2. The Nantucket Trilogy comprised of S.M. Stirling’s books Island In The Sea Of Time, Against The Tide Of Years and On The Oceans Of Eternity; the storyline has the island of Nantucket, its modern-day inhabitants and a Coast Guard ship sent back in time to the Bronze Age. Their necessary interactions with the people in that time period lead to early introductions to gunpowder, primitive air travel and increased global trade and contact. Naturally trouble starts when renegades leave Nantucket and begin to carve out their own kingdoms leading to armed conflict.

1. The Back To The Future Trilogy; Robert Zemeckis’ three films about a time-traveling teenager and his buddy scientist is actually a fantastic examination of the Butterfly Effect. In the first film, Marty McFly travels from the 1980s in a DeLorean to the 1950s and prevents his parents from falling in love. The obvious effect is that he and his siblings are being erased so he has to restore the timeline (audiences are helped by the rapid fire explanations of Doc Brown about the nuances of time travel). He succeeds for the most part. While his parents do wind up together they are changed due to their future son’s influence and this results in Marty’s family being better off when he returns to the ’80s.

In the second film, a trip to 2015 results in a more dire Butterfly Effect. The trilogy’s villain Biff Tannen steals the DeLorean and travels to the ’50s to make his younger self rich. When Marty McFly and his friend Doc Brown return to the ’80s, their hometown has been transformed into a nightmarish vision. Seedy casinos and chemical plants are everywhere,

crime is rampant and even Richard Nixon is still president while the Vietnam War rages on. Marty’s family life is radically changed as his father is dead and his mother is married to Tannen. In the third film, the Butterfly Effect is reflected in the duo’s adventures in the 1880s; chiefly with their confrontation with Tannen’s murderous ancestor which could lead to their premature deaths. The Effect is last touched upon in the end when we see a landmark renamed and Marty McFly altering an event in the ’80s that has an unknown yet hopeful alteration to his future.

José Soto

Alternate History In Film and TV

Time travel films and TV shows are popular and well known to audiences. However one will find a lack of films and shows about alternate history and universes. Based on this inequality viewers  would think that alternate history is some minor niche sub-genre in science fiction. But sci-fi fans who actually read books and stories know that’s not the case. Just scroll through the Amazon or Barnes and Noble sites and one can find a multitude of books and story collections concerning alternate history. Many are very popular with readers such as the many multi-book series by Harry Turtledove (ex. the Worldwar books, the Great War trilogy, etc.), S.M. Stirling’s works and so on. Even comic books have notable alternate history works. These include Captain Confederacy, Storming Paradise, Marvel Comics’ What If? one shots, DC’s Elseworlds comic and most famously Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Then why so little films and TV shows?

The genre has been so poorly represented that one can easily count the amount of films and shows about this subject. Some of the best examples aren’t obvious alternate history but are well known. In fact, one film is considered one of the best films ever made. Which one? It’s A Wonderful Life. Many say it’s a fantasy but it’s also about alternate history. George Bailey wishes he was never born and is then shown a world where he never existed, one that is nightmarish. Viewers only see the butterfly effect on George’s hometown Bedford Falls (renamed Pottersville) but one can’t assume there weren’t other butterfly effects. Notably when his guardian angel points out to George Bailey that he never saved his brother and thus George’s brother never saved his fellow soldiers in World War II. Who knows what effect that would’ve done to the timestream? Also evil Mr. Potter became more powerful and corrupt without George Bailey to keep him check. There’s no telling what kind of influence Potter would’ve had in the darker world shown in It’s A Wonderful Life.

Other examples of alternate universes usually show a world that has been altered by time travel (and perhaps giving the impression that the genre is tied to time travel, which it isn’t). A good example of that is Back To The Future, Part II where Biff Tannen steals the time-traveling DeLorean and alters his past making him a rich and influential figure in history. Aside from the changes to his and Marty McFly’s hometown, viewers with good eyes will see that the world had been altered. Look at a newspaper that Doc Brown shows to Marty McFly. The altered timeline in Back To The Future, Part II takes place in 1985 and a feature article in that paper is one that shows that Richard Nixon is still president of the United States and that the country is still involved in the Vietnam War.

There have been other films that are more clearly about alternate history. Unfortunately many of them aren’t any good, and came and went in theaters without much notice. This could be why studios don’t greenlight more films in this genre. Such films include Jet Li’s action piece The One (which shows several alternate worlds including one with a President Gore), Southland Tales, C.S.A.: The Confederate States Of America, the 1995 version of Richard III (which takes place in a 1930s fascist Britain and stars Ian McKellan), Never Let Me Go, HBO’s adaptation of Fatherland (with the oft-used premise of Nazis winning World War II), It Happened Here, and White Man’s Burden (which has a world where racial roles are reversed between whites and blacks). Add to that list Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation where frankly the best part of the film was the opening credits which showed how history was altered when superheroes came into existence in the 1940s and 1960s. A more recent film that has to be labeled alternate history is Inglourious Basterds. It’s more of a World War II action picture but the ending, without giving away spoilers, demonstrates that the film is about alternate history. Another recent example is District 9 wherein an alien craft becomes stranded in South Africa in the 1980s although it takes place in modern times.

Regarding the TV medium, the best examples of alternate history are Fringe (which has a major storyline about crossing over into a world where the World Trade Center is still intact, technology is about ten years advanced of ours, and where Bono isn’t a famous singer), an awful ’80s show called Otherworld about a family trapped in a parallel world and Sliders, of course. Despite its wildly varying quality, Sliders best exemplified the exploration of alternate worlds. Oftentimes, the creators went wild in presenting worlds that had living dinosaurs, an America ruled by Communists and other powers and different world threats. Sadly this also meant that Sliders had some truly dumb episodes that ripped off the plotlines of several sci-fi stories. Regardless, Sliders is probably the best TV example of alternate universes. Believe it or not The West Wing can also be considered to be about an alternate universe since it clearly shows that recent history has had a few fictional presidents (without a mention of the Bushes and Clinton) and events. Spike TV recently aired a half-hour program called Alternate History that examined what if the Nazis conquered America. It was blasted by fans of the genre for glossing over many repurcusions and it’s unknown at this time if more episodes will follow. Other genre shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who have had episodes dealing with alternate universes as well.

Some shows and films (and books too) are now considered alternate history because at the time they came out predictions were made that never came to be. They clearly point out that they took place in a certain time period and events happened that would radically change our history up to now. Look at Alien Nation (both the film and series). The storyline claims that the alien Newcomers came to Earth sometime in the late ’80s or early ’90s. Then there’s Strange Days (which takes place in late 1999 and has a world with advanced VR tech) and Red Dawn, where the U.S. is invaded by Soviet forces. One has to lump in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010 since we don’t have A.I.s or regular lunar transports (with Pan Am still in existence!) to bustling space stations. Some films will soon become alternate history presentations as dates stated in the films come to pass. That includes Blade Runner (L.A. has about eight years to keep from looking like that hellhole shown in that classic film) and Back To The Future, Part II. We’re about four years away from the film’s look at 2015 and there still aren’t any hoverboards, cool flying cars and self-lacing sneakers. There’s still time for the Cubs to win the World Series by then. 😀 With TV shows, the mini-series Amerika and The Day After have to be thrown into this lot (thankfully neither events depicted in them have come to pass).

 

Aside from poor reception by viewers one reason why there alternate history doesn’t have more of a presence in film and TV could be that they require extensive exposition to explain themselves. Look at Southland Tales; in that film several minutes in the beginning was used up to show that the U.S. diverged from our history when terrorists detonated two nukes in Texas. It was clumsily presented and frankly one didn’t care about how this impacted the dull characters.

Another reason for the lack of such films and shows is that alternate history can be complex, showcasing a broad range of characters affected by altered events. Aside from expensive production values, to really get audiences involved the productions  need to have well-developed characters like in many books. This logic of caring only about characters could be why some films are only about the altered lives of the characters such as It’s A Wonderful Life, Sliding Doors and The Family Man. It would help if people took more interest in history to better appreciate this genre. That is because alternate history offers us a way to reflect on how things might’ve been different and to enjoy what we have or strive for something that we don’t have yet.

José Soto

Marty McFly’s Future Shoes Are Here? Great Scott!

Nike is about to announce tonight a new line of shoes that many believe will be a take of Marty McFly’s self-lacing high tops from Back to the Future, Part II. Called the Air Mag, these shoes will utilize a Nike patented technology that will reportedly allow the shoes to lace themselves. A press conference at 8:30 pm Pacific Time by Nike will unveil more details. There’s already a viral video commercial online promoting these line of shoes that resemble McFly’s muy cool shoes from that film.

This is the best news I’ve heard all day, and was actually wondering about this recently when I went shoe shopping. The next thing you know a company will announce the sale of that nifty self-size adjusting jacket he wore complete with drying mode! Better yet where are the flying DeLoreans?

José Soto

UPDATE: According to Nike, the shoes, while a replica of Marty’s shoes, don’t self-lace but they do light up as shown in the film. Too bad. They still look snazzy. 1,500 pairs will be auctioned off on eBay until September 18th, with net proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Regardless of the selling price, it’s for a good cause and who knows? It could take off and there are only four years left to develop the self-lacing feature. 😀