Chris Pratt is brought out of suspended animation by a computer error. There’re still 90 years to go before his ship will arrive at the new colony. There’s no way for him to re-enter suspended animation (the first contrived plot point). Of the 5000 passengers on the ship, he’s the only one who’s awake. A year goes by and he’s all but suicidal. He’s ‘saved’ by falling in love with one of the sleeping passengers (the comely Jennifer Lawrence, who’s left video diaries which he’s watched over and over again). No longer able to resist, he brings her out of suspended animation, robbing her of her future on the new colony. It’s an interesting moral dilemma that he’s been wrestling with, and he can’t bring himself to tell her that he’s responsible for her waking up (rather than it being down to a computer glitch). A romance blossoms between them, only for her then to discover the truth. The fallout is believable – Pratt and Lawrence work well enough together on-screen.
But then the plot starts to intrude once more. A crew member of the ship is awoken by accident – and he explains a lot of plot for us (including, yet again, the impossibility of re-entering suspended animation – almost as if the movie is so embarrassed by it that it overdoes its explanation). The original computer error has now become a mission critical cascade failure. The engine needs to be flushed and rebooted, but the door is jammed (an even more ridiculous plot point, given how hyper advanced the technology of the ship is). Needless to say, Chris and Jennifer rush around and scream a lot… and save the day. Phew. They then live happily ever after (albeit only with each other for company).
Look, the good things about this film are the SFX, the moral and existential issues and some of the acting. It’s such a shame the film didn’t confine itself to a deeper study of such things, really. It’s such a shame that Hollywood feels a need to insert a hackneyed, well-worn set of things that they label plot. A missed opportunity, but an interesting one. Scores 7 out of 10 from me.
Hidden Figures is based on the true story of the black female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the 60s to enable manned space travel. These women were treated like a ‘secretary pool’, given a dress code and segregated toilets (a long way from where they actually worked). They also couldn’t use the communal coffee supply. They weren’t allowed to put their names on reports, even if all the work was theirs. Yet the racism within the NASA of the time was institutional rather than personally enforced. Watching the movie, we find most of the white characters likeable (if not admirable), making it hard for us to square that with our feelings about how the black women are treated. The film cleverly manages to weave race issues and social themes with the dramatic narrative about the US’s ‘space race’ with Russia. There are many levels of juxtaposition that make this movie so insightful that you can only be enlightened and enriched by watching it. There can be no doubt it’ll win multiple Oscars. It scores 9 out of 10 from me!
Happy to announce I’ll be giving a presentation on the sociohistory of fantasy sub-genres, doing a reading and engaging in a Q&A at the BFS York Pubmeet on Saturday 11 March 2017. There’ll be a raffle, give-aways, signed things and all that. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/2nd-2017-york-pubmeet-fantasy-sub-genres-sociohistory-and-a-j-dalton-tickets-31990617799?aff=es2
A young man wins a high-level IT competition to spend a week with the world’s leading tech guru on his country estate. It turns out the guru wants our hero to test a cyborg that he’s built, to see if the artificial intelligence is truly ‘sentient’. The movie is then organised via a series of film-recorded ‘interviews’ between our hero and the ostensibly female cyborg. However, there are periodic power-outages and the film recording fails, at which point the cyborg tells the hero not to believe anything the tech guru says. Ultimately, the hero begins to fall for the cyborg and agrees to help her escape her prison!
This storyline bears an uncanny resemblance to the plot of the madam in Westworld, of course. A lot of the visuals are also strikingly similar. Ex Machina pre-dates Westworld by a couple of years, of course. Nuff said.
If you’re a scifi fan who likes movies with the thoughtful vibe of Moon, then you’ll love Ex Machina. A must-see, with clever plot twists throughout. It’s a 9 out of 10 from me.
In the future, we have been genetically (re-)engineered to be less emotional (a bit like Vulcans, I suppose), since it is emotion that leads to war, etc. Expressing emotion (love, anger, etc) is a ‘crime’ and a sign that you have Switched On Syndrome (SOS). To avoid being sent to prison or hospital, those with feelings (like Kristen Stewart) have to discipline themselves not to show anything in public (earning themselves the name ‘hiders’). Anyway, Kristen (predictably enough) falls in love with a young chap and they cannot resist ‘coupling’ (would have been a much more interesting movie if it had been a young woman). They then have to go on the run to escape (aided by a support group).
‘Equals’, of course, nicks the premise of better scifi films like ‘Equilibrium’. Does Equals offer anything new? Kinda. It explores the interior pain and abuse that ‘sensitive’ people experience rather than looking to engage in big SFX and an action-based fight against the politics of a dystopian world. The sound track is brilliant – a transcendental white noise that is as much psychological as melodic. Equals, then, is a tender, sweet and contemplative little movie. Worth a look if you’re in that sort of mood. It scores 7.5 out of 10 from me (more than most of the nitwit critics out there have given it). So there.
If you’re reading this, you might do me the swiftest of favours. (You’ll win many soul-points.) To help my scifi novel Lifer get a book deal, just click this link and ‘nominate’. Painless.