Sunday, November 24, 2013

Blade Runner

Blade Runner- 1982
Another cult classic film, Blade Runner has a reputation as a must see film that breaks the sci-fi mold in a very special significant way. A futuristic, detective film set in Los Angeles 2019 with classic Hollywood detective film components like smoky, limited natural light sets, a super cool detective with a questionable main character love interest. Similar to Total Recall, Blade Runner is based on the question of authentic versus synthetic experiences and memories. Blade Runner however utilizes synthetic life disguised as authentic life known as Replicants, and when a group of Replicants break their code and seek the answers to a longer life. The retired Blade Runner, Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford is asked to come back for one last mission, to destroy the rogue Replicants. These Replicants want to live a longer existence; oh great, aggressive robots with a desire to live longer better lives. This is a post singularity world were robots are only noticeable when their technology threatens the natural social environment. The role of a Replicant is to fill unwanted responsibilities and jobs in society thus creating their own class in this futuristic society. Obvious throughout the film is the corporate advertisement, letting you know that a capitalist society has helped create a stronger void between humans and robots and destroying the overall need for human touch. Rick Deckard’s journey to destroy the rogue Replicants has its ups and downs with a small love story in between Blade Runner and a seductive Replicant named Rachel, who believes she is human, just like all of the other replicants. Rachel even has a back story and pictures of herself as a child with her family. Deckard informed her that her memories are just programmed history scenarios, planted memories. Rachel has a hard time believing that her whole existence is just a computer program and once again the similarity to Total Recall is prevalent. The topic of synthetic verses authentic memories arise, how our memories don't always reflect absolute truths and sometimes the mind has the ability to alter memorized information, over time creating a scenario that isn't exactly correct. So, Blade Runner is constantly dealing with the ideas of the synthetic vs. authentic whether its memories or existence itself and leaves many questions unanswered. Is Deckard a Replicant too? Is the whole movie a figment of Deckard’s imagination? The movie has an open ending so it's kind of cool that the viewer can come to their own conclusions about these possibilities. Blade Runner is a smooth, cool, futuristic detective sci-fi film that does not disappoint on any level.

Total Recall

Total Recall- 1990
Set in the year 2038, Total Recall is a futuristic, psychological roller coaster ride that plays with our conceptions of authentic and synthetic memories. What makes an experience real? Is it our literal actions or just the cerebral remnants of those actions in the form of personal memory? Douglas Quaid played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who is a special agent that is stuck in between his authentic memories and synthetic memories that were planted by a C.IA type agency. He becomes his own pawn in a weird plan to destroy Kuato, a Martian alien revolutionary. Now this film has an interesting premise but it is often overshadowed by an abundance of over the top violence. At times it is more of an action film with Arnold filling his typical role of action hero than a thoughtful sci-fi film. However, it is always interesting given our current position in time to go back in time to see what the vision of the future once was. Technology can either date a film, making aspects really outdated or they truly capture a futuristic feel for Total Recall it is a bit of both; boxy cars and sets no longer seem “futuristic” while intergalactic recreational travel and advanced memory replacement are still out of our reach, at least to my knowledge. Another interesting aspect is Doug Quaid/ Hausser's decision to live in the now, following his instincts throughout the film and not always believing the b.s that is being thrown his way, this actually gives the character his credibility instead of just coming off as a psycho killer who is a few cards short of a full deck. Total Recall is exciting in both visual and contextual realms, the special effects are strong providing a few memorable visual moments like the long shots of Mars or Kuato the mutant. The general idea of synthetic vs. authentic memories and experiences remains the strongest component of the entire film and at times is overshadowed with unnecessary violence. Total Recall is a good, thoughtful film that just has a little too much big budget special effect, shoot em up watering it down.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thx 1138

Thx 1138 - 1971
Thx 1138 is a visually stunning futuristic sci-fi film that follows one citizen’s escape from a brainwashed sedated, underground dystopia. Citizen Thx 1138 played by Robert Duvall slips out of his mandated but functional sedation and is being sought after by the authorities for his violation of mandatory sedation. A couple of things are instantly eye catching, first, the authority  figures are bumbling, generic robot cops and second, is how everybody looks. All the citizens are bald including the women; they are all draped in white karate gis; everyone kind of resembles David Carradine from Kung Fu. In this sedated society emotions like love are extinct, sex is a crime and life revolves around work and consumption. The sterility of the society ensures the expected behavior so instantly it feels uncomfortable and we can relate to Thx 1138 and Luh’s journey, it's only natural that we want them to make it across the threshold of suppression. Visually Thx 1138 is similar to 2001 in that it feels very geometrical and balanced, long shots that at times start to feel very uncomfortable. The vast, white prison purgatory scenes are very interesting giving a dramatic feeling of infinite nothing that has been replicated in several movies including the matrix.

The cerebral, psychological aspect of this film is a very strong component that provides depth and dimension to the overall story; the idea of being trapped underground with no real control of your natural human instinct is terrifying. The cast and crew minus the newest revisions capture this world perfectly, Thx 1138 is it beautiful imaginative piece of art that leave us questioning our own reality boundaries.

Silent Running

Silent Running- 1972

                 On a preservation spacecraft called Valley Forge, a half greenhouse half space ship located somewhere near Saturn. Silent Running is the most eco-friendly sci fi movie this semester and like any good sci fi movie, Silent Running explores contemporary fears of human behavior. This story is very one sided in that there is no subtlety in delivering the overall message. After spending years in space growing in maintaining the Valley Forge, American Airlines recalls the cargo ships and orders the greenhouses to be nuked; not so subtly implying that big business is destroying the planet for profit. The main character Freeman Lowell is a passionate biologist / botanist whose primary goal of preserving the forestation in order to return it to the earth has been crushed. Unlike Lowell the rest of the crew is excited to get back to Earth and Lowell really loses his cool when the crew doesn't care that the forest and greenhouses are going to be destroyed. Lowell sets up a subterfuge and kills the rest of the crew by locking them in the greenhouses that are going to be nuked and lies to Mission Control about what's happening. Lowell now alone on the Valley Forge has chosen isolation; he is now the crazy off the grid pariah. At this point in the film everything feels a bit over the top, music, Bruce Dern’s acting and the extremes in ideas between peace and destruction. Lowell chooses to kill 3 humans over destroying the greenhouses and this is justified in his own mind but seems insane. Lowell is now the tree hugging psychopaths roaming the universe alone with 2 robots, Hewey and Dewey. Ultimately Lowell symbolically programs one of the robots to maintain the last remaining greenhouse deposit into the abyss and then blows himself up after receiving communications of his retrieval from Mission Control. Silent running has an interesting story that questions human impact on the earth obviously a growing concern the 70's and still resonates today. This particular movie very in your face regarding content, typically sci-fi movies don't feel so preachy but the overall message of human and corporate greed destroying our natural world is poignant. The overall aesthetic of the film is decent, while the ships interior and exterior are well crafted. The forests and gardens seemed a bit neglected which is kind of funny because it was Lowell’s obsession. Silent Running as a whole is entertaining, somewhat campy film that at least has something important to say to a broad audience in order to invite a change to our environment.

Dark Star

Dark Star

John Carpenter's 1974 sci-fi comedy, Dark Star is a light-hearted film poking fun at overly serious space travel movies like 2001 and Silent Running. A parody of sorts that utilizes a silly cast and plot in order to have a bit of fun with the typically not so funny realm of deep space. A crew of 5 guys are out in space blowing up unstable planets Sergeant Pinback, Lieutenant Doolittle, Boiler, Talby and Commander Powell who was serious injured then cryogenically frozen, which actually looked very cool, if not the best special effect of the film. It is obvious that the crew has grown sick of each other after 18 years in space together, at moments bickering at each other like brothers. The plot is simplistic, making the dynamic of the low budget film impress with its character development, interaction, acting and dialogue. The different personalities of the crew members work well with and against each other; apathetic introverts and extroverts stuck on a spaceship has a way of creating some funny memorable tension filled moments.  A couple scenes really stick out like Pinback's adventure with the ship's pet alien, which resembles a tomato and a beach ball offspring, also the scene with Doolittle attempting to reason with the onboard bomb is great, and last is Doolittle surfing and burning up into the atmosphere of a nearby planet. Overall Dark Star is a great low budget sci-fi comedy that is nothing short of fun and ridiculous. This is the kind of movie that you can't go into expecting to be going away, the lower the expectations the better this movie is.