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Old School Review: “Until The End of The World” Director’s Cut (1991)

For my 250th blogpost here, I wanted to review and write about something that felt as monumental as reaching this number of articles. Wim Wender’s 1991 globe-spanning road-trip, mystery, romance etc.. felt like the appropriate choice. At nearly five hours long, I’ll be reviewing the Director’s Cut version of the film, and it was a feat simply to find the time to sit through the road trip epic. I’ve only seen one other film from Wenders, “Wings of Desire”, which many call his Masterpiece, and you can read my thoughts on that film here on the blog as well; (https://spacecortezwrites.com/2018/08/24/old-school-review-wings-of-desire-1987/). If I were to try to describe all of the story beats, all of the character moments, or even the bulk of the visual/audial hallucinatory imagery that takes up a considerable volume of the last hour of the film- then this review would be nearing the 8,000-10,000 word mark with ease. Instead, I’ll try to give an authentic sense of the film’s perceived meaning and chatter along about the aspects I thought were especially poignant or prescient.

Sam Neill, Chick Ortega, and Rüdiger Vogler together in the Australian Outback.

Written by Peter Carey and Wim Wenders, “Until The End of The World” was based off of an idea conjured up by Wenders and Solveig Dommartin, who stars as Claire Tourneur, the lead of the film. “Until The End of The World” is a hard film to narrow down to any one genre other than that of journey and discovery. The film mainly follows Claire on a journey that spans the world, however she herself is chasing another individual, Trevor McPhee (William Hurt), an Australian with an American accent that she bumps into in France. However, there are a few key details to digest first before getting into that. While the film was released in 1991, it is set in 1999, aka “The Future“. In this version of the twentieth century’s final year an Indian Satellite outfitted with Nuclear weapons has spiraled out of control and the unknown impact of this slowly falling doomsday device has the world on edge. Millions of people are constantly migrating away from the next best guess on wherever it may land, but Claire could care less. We begin the film with her in an eclectic Venetian Party as she tries to forget about Gene (Sam Neill) her former boyfriend, an English Author living with her in Paris. Gene’s infidelity drove Claire away, and even though he loves her, she quickly falls for Trevor after a few encounters in Europe. On her way back north to Paris Claire gets in a car wreck with a couple of amicable French Bank Robbers, namely Chico Rémy (Chick Ortega) who becomes fast friends with Claire as she allows them a ride for awhile. There’s a huge bag of cash involved but getting bogged down in the details won’t help in analyzing a movie that’s almost five hours long. Anyways, on the road to Paris she meets Trevor, who’s in dire need of transport as he’s also being pursued by another Australian in a trenchcoat, but he’s armed. When she finally gets back to Paris, Trevor departs, and she returns to Gene’s apartment. After Claire showcases the huge bag of stolen money to Gene, she realizes that Trevor has stolen some of the money. She vows to track down Trevor, she says it’s to retrieve what’s been taken from her- but as we hear in the plentiful narration, Claire couldn’t really even articulate her reasoning for herself other than a sensation of purpose in doing so. Meanwhile, Gene’s been writing a new Novel with Claire as the protagonist, and as such, he too follows her across the world. In fact, the narration within the film is all from Sam Neill’s Gene, by the end we realize that the narration we’ve been hearing for roughly four hours, is from Gene’s second book he starts on this journey when he has a profound realization about Claire, humanity, and life in general. There’s a lot of chasing, following, love loss, forlorn nostalgia, and newfound friendships in this film. In truth the first half of the film is Claire following Trevor around the world from Paris to Berlin, where we meet a German Detective (Rüdiger Vogler) that Claire hires to track down Trevor, to Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, San Francisco, and then to central Australia. There’s A LOT that happens in that time. Relationships between those involved in the Love Triangle evolve, we learn more about Trevor, why he’s being pursued, what his personal mission is, and that his real name is Sam Farber and that he’s the son of brilliant scientist Henry Farber (Max von Sydow). *I must stop for a moment to acknowledge the nod of cinematic respect for Yasujiro Ozu’s work with the short but notable inclusion of the legendary actor and longtime collaborator of Ozu’s, Chishû Ryû- seeing him appear in this film even for only but a moment was like seeing an old friend again, and I personally adored that moment.*

Solveig Dommartin, William Hurt, and Lois Chiles in San Francisco as Hurt’s Character, Sam, attempts to record a video clip of his sister, Elsa, for their Blind Mother to see with their father’s latest invention.

However, it is the second half of this film that captured my attention more. The whole of the second half of the film is set in Australia. The characters discover that the U.S. Government actually did nuke the Indian Satellite, resulting in an planet-wide N.E.M.P. (or nuclear electromagnetic pulse) that shuddered all non-shielded electronics. People everywhere are unsure of the devastation, without a connection to the world, they fear for their fellow humans all over the planet, not knowing if the atomic winds will turn in their direction. The whole gang of characters, Claire, Gene, Sam, Detective Winter, and even Chico, gather at the home and laboratory of Dr. Henry Farber. They all engage in pleasantries and we meet Sam’s mother Edith Farber (Jeanne Moreau) as well, the person he’s traveled the world over for, just to help her see once more. They spend what seems like weeks or months there trying to get the science of the project down as they ignore the greater significance of world events and look inward on their little project, which brilliantly foreshadows the next stage of events. On December 31st 1999, the group reestablishes radio contact and realizes that the world has been spared, the nuclear explosion and fallout was entirely contained to space. They also had some successes in transmitting images and video into Edith’s brain and visual cortex with the help of Claire, a natural at transmitting brainwaves apparently. However, all of this exhaustive testing has wrought too much from Edith and she passes with the twentieth century. After the news that the Earth is indeed intact, each character except for Gene, Claire, Henry, and Sam leave for home which sets the tone down to a more personal one. Sam’s father Henry may be a genius- but he’s as obsessive as his son in his pursuits and after Edith’s death he moved towards a new goal; transmitting people’s dreams into digital images and video. Henry thinks it will win him a Nobel Prize, but the truth is he needed to make the device, for his dreams where the only place that Edith lived for him, or at least, his memory of her. After some trial and error the headset and accompanying monitor reveal their dreams to both Sam and Claire and it immediately consumes their interests to an unhealthy level. Neither or them can take their eyes off of their monitors as they stumble through the world and ignore everything around them. Sound familiar? Obsession with screens and the nostalgia of the mind aren’t the only things Wim Wenders correctly predicted with this film. The only reason Detective Winter could track down Sam earlier in the film was with a rudimentary search engine that combs the digital world for traces of the footprint you’ve left through credit card uses among other variables. The film also had video-messaging, VR-like headsets, and devices comparable to large Ipads. I’d also like to take some time to mention that the audio in the film was something that was clearly, heavily, considered. Throughout the film there are a litany of songs used that not only reiterate themes resonant with the story, there’s also a huge amount of atmospheric tracks in the soundtrack that are big players in the overall texture of the film.

Max von Sydow as Henry Farber, a brilliant Scientist living off the grid in Australia to continue his experiments into extracting imagery from brainwaves.

“Until The End of The World” is a fascinating experiment in cinema’s history. There are parts of the film that I found quite charming, other sequences felt a bit too elongated for my taste however. There are stretches of the runtime that I found to be too meandering for me personally, but there’s enough unique choices to keep my own attention. The cast itself is certainly a major factor in choosing to check this one out, the performances were compelling, though I had a tough time understanding or relating to Claire and her decision making for most of the film. It was, however, quite nice to watch a movie with Max von Sydow in it the day after his passing, obviously he was a gigantic player in cinema’s history and he changed it for the better. This one was a very mixed-bag in my opinion, it was worth a watch to sate my own curiosity, but not everyone will appreciate this one though I’m afraid. “Until The End of The World” is just too long, too vague, and without a coherent sense of direction. Watch at your own risk.

Final Score: 11 Countries

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Old School Review: “The Running Man” (1987)

Written by Steven E. de Souza and directed by Paul Michael Glaser, “The Running Man” is a sci-fi adjacent action movie adapted from the novel of the same name by Stephen King. The novel, from what I can tell with some light internet research, is VERY different from this adaption with the core concept alone surviving the transition. Which makes perfect sense after giving this one a watch, casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as the main character of a Stephen King novel adaption in the 1980’s wouldn’t have made much sense unless you were going to drastically change the nature of the story. Mostly set during 2019 (appropriately) two years after a worldwide economic collapse, the United States has degraded into a totalitarian nightmare. The government uses TV game shows to keep the public pacified through violence and carnage. The most popular game show is ‘The Running Man’, where convicted criminals must evade armed mercenaries for a chance at parole- or a grisly death!

A police helicopter pilot by the name of Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is flying above Bakersfield, California, with his crew when he’s given orders from his superiors to fire into a sizable crowd of citizens engaging in a “food riot”. When he refuses, his crew members on board get their own orders to restrain Richards and to quell the rioters with a barrage of bullets. So the system committed a massacre, blamed it on Richards, and threw him in a labor camp for his revolt. After some time he escapes from the camp with two resistance fighters named Harold Weiss (Marvin J. McIntyre) and William Laughlin (Yaphet Kotto). They make it to one of the resistance camps, but Richards decides to seek shelter at his brother’s apartment not far from the camp. There he meets Amber Mendez (María Conchita Alonso), the new tenant that took up residence after Richards’ brother was taken for “re-education”. Richards then takes Amber hostage and tries to hop a flight to Hawaii, but she outs him to airport security and he’s quickly scooped up by the ICS broadcasting company. Having viewed the footage of Richards escaping the labor camps, Killian (Richard Dawson), the host of ‘The Running Man’, chooses to snatch Richards up before the government can have him- as he’s the perfect candidate for his game show.

Killian coerces Richards to play the game in exchange for his two resistance fighter friends’ safety, which is, of course, a lie. Killian has tracked down Weiss and Laughlin and made them game contestants as well. At this betrayal, Richards swears revenge before Killian sends them down the tubes and into the game. In the abandoned parts of Los Angeles that are the game zone, Richards and his friends keep moving as they’re pursued by the stalkers. Out in the world, Amber sees footage of Richards being captured for ‘The Running Man’ and realizes that the advertisement was doctored and begins to question whether Richards was telling the truth and investigates. After some sleuthing, she discovers that Richards was framed for the Bakersfield Massacre, but she’s quickly caught by the ICS security and thrown into the game for her punishment. After Richards, Weiss, and Laughlin kill Sub-Zero, the first stalker to be dispatched in the show’s history, they begin to search for ICS network’s uplink tech, which they believe to be in the area. Amber catches up with the three and shares her discovery, they then split up as two more stalkers are sent after them.

The majority of the film takes place in the game zone of ‘The Running Man’, and it’s a fairly entertaining time if you’re into cheesy action oriented movies from the eighties. There’s some fun one-liners from Arnold, gratuitous violence involving chainsaws and flamethrowers, and some genuinely fun arch villain acting from Richard Dawson as Killian, who was the first host of “Family Feud”- great casting with that part! The movie also correctly predicted several aspects of what modern society might be dealing with in the year 2019, though not nearly to the degree that the movie suggests. “The Running Man” predicted “deep-fake” technologies and correctly suggested that the people of 2019 would be having huge societal issues with the truth and misdirection due to ever-advancing technologies. It also predicted economic collapse, the disparity between the rich and the poor, and our collective obsession with “reality” TV. While this one may not be the most intellectually engaging, and not exactly the peak of Arnold’s action movies to come out of the eighties, it IS a fun time and a perfectly fine way to spend a rainy (or snowy) night in.

Final Score: 4 Stalkers & 1 Running Man

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Review: Gemini Man

Written by Darren Lemke, Billy Ray, and David Benioff, and directed by Ang Lee, “Gemini Man” is an Action oriented thriller with a dose of Science-Fiction thrown in for good measure. So, this one is a mixed bag. More so than any other movie this year, for me anyways. Will Smith has had a good year with the “Aladdin” remake and next year’s new installment of “Bad Boys” looks like a long awaited return to a ridiculous set of films that should be, if nothing else, a good time at the movie theater. That’s the mindset I was in after walking out of “Gemini Man”, having had a legitimately good time at the movies- even though there were some jarring aspects to the experience. Low expectations are to be sought out friends and fellow movie-goers, they will do more for you than any hype or word-of-mouth. Having heard that this one was a bit of a stinker at the box-office I went in seeing if this one would fall into the category of “So bad it’s good” movies. Not so, the film was well directed and the performances were competent enough for the story that this film was trying to tell. The writing however, was bad. That’s actually the worst part of the film, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Will Smith’s Henry is an aging assassin, and as the opening scene dictates, he’s still the best as what he does- even though he himself spots his skill slipping. After getting too close to a civilian death for comfort, Henry decides that it’s time to retire his trigger finger. As with all movie assassins that decide to hang it up for good- Henry’s pulled back into the action before too long. After getting a hint of some shady business surrounding his last target from a fellow former brother-in-arms, Henry’s off on the scent of conspiracy. From there Henry is pursued by his own agency for “knowing too much” and gets another old friend (Benedict Wong) roped into the search for answers when he quickly spots an agent (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) surveilling him nearby. Once they all agree to find out why their own agency is chasing them down with deadly intent, the three agents find themselves being pursued by a familiar face.

Which is where the action kicks up a considerable degree. The motorcycle chase scene in Colombia between Will Smith and his Fresh Prince-era clone is one of the most exciting sequences of the whole movie, it’s well directed and feels frantic and chaotic. This exemplifies the best asset of the film (aside from two Will Smith performances), constant pursuit with increasingly brutal tactics from the “Bad Guys” of the movie. The film wisely keeps the pace and speed of the film high, which is good because otherwise the writing would have stood out more than it already did. Which leads me to my biggest complaint about this film: it’s way too predictable. From the first moment you see Clive Owen’s Clay Verris in an office barking orders and threats, you know almost everything you need to know about him, he’s a brutal and efficient Villain- with a capital V. Everything about the “old man fights his past self and conflicts with him ideologically” theme of the film is surface level psychology and just a fun excuse to experiment with that shiny new de-aging technology. Which, by the way, was somewhat impressive in execution. I’m not quite sure how they filmed Will Smith grappling with himself on the ground- but some curiosity behind the filmmaking process won’t balance out your film when a more thoughtful script may have been a better solution.

“Gemini Man” doesn’t use all of it’s actors as well as it could have, and its definitely an easy one to plot out if you’ve seen enough movies, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my time with it. The plot and hook of the film may not be the most innovative or as memorable as they’d like it to be, but there’s some good fun to be had with this one as long as you’re okay with turning your brain off for a bit. Thankfully, the film puts all of its dramatic weight on the shoulders of Will Smith’s acting abilities, but it isn’t quite enough to distract from the flaws in the storytelling. However, if you’re just looking for some good escapist fun at the movie theater, you could do far worse than this one.

Final Score: 1 Person, made from another… person

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Review: Ad Astra

Written by Ethan Gross and James Gray and directed by Gray, “Ad Astra” is a sci-fi drama set in a not-so-far-off future that follows Brad Pitt as Roy McBride, the son of legendary astronaut Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones). Major Roy McBride is a member of Space Command, a N.A.S.A. inspired international organization that’s investigating a series of increasingly catastrophic power surges that have been rippling throughout the solar system. Early on in the film Roy is nearly killed by one of the surges while attending to some routine maintenance on the colossal space antenna. It’s a thrilling sequence as Roy falls from the heights of the atmosphere and calmly calculates how to survive the scenario, its a sequence of cold logic paired with intense visuals. The rest of the film may be slower over all, but its peppered with sequences that may catch you off-guard, and that’s part of the joy I found with “Ad Astra”. Yes, it’s a heady sci-fi with a huge amount of narration set mostly in space, but it’s also one that injects some compelling action and thrilling sequences throughout the course of the movie.

After surviving the fall Space-Com brings the dutiful former soldier in for what seems like a debriefing for the space antenna explosion, but is in reality a far more somber and urgent preamble. The brass at Space-Com inform Roy that they believe the source of the power surges fracturing the solar system to be originating from Project Lima, the exploratory vessel that his father Clifford captained out to Neptune’s orbit some years ago. It is a mission of utmost secrecy with deadly implications for Humanity if Roy fails to contact the potentially rogue Clifford- if he’s still alive. At every step of the journey Roy must take scheduled Psychological evaluation tests required by Space-Com, which act as strange confessionals that determine if he’s stable enough to journey farther. The mission, clearly a last ditch effort by Space-Com, is to send Roy to the Mars facility that houses the strongest signal generator left operational from the surges- to send a personal message to his father in the hopes of making contact with The Lima Project and her crew.

With this film and the summer’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”, this has become an excellent year for Brad Pitt performances. The two characters, Cliff Booth and Roy McBride, could hardly be more different though. While both are equally cool under pressure, Roy is a far more reserved character. He’s clinically cold to others and heavily contemplates his choices, actions, and past while on his journey. Which is why I so appreciated the efficient use of narration from Roy’s perspective, it can be tough to get narration down correctly without it over-staying its welcome, while also avoiding narrative redundancy. Here the narration serves to add depth, paired with Pitt’s minimalist performance, the film benefits from understanding how the character operates, especially as the story becomes intensely personal over time. The film excels at merging grand, expansive, visuals and score with a more intimate rumination on morality, duty, and the meaning of it all (i.e. Life). Which makes perfect sense as the film is almost wholly about duality and it’s many variations sprinkled throughout the runtime; faith and science, hope and despair, to name a few.

While “Ad Astra” may remind you of other films based on structure (Apocalypse Now), or visuals (Interstellar), it does a lot to make itself unique among fellow sci-fi or journey-based tales. The pacing may require a bit of patience at times and the supporting cast may not be used to their full potential (Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, and Liv Tyler), however if you’re a fan of a good space travel film or just enjoy similarly cerebral sci-fi like the “Blade Runner” movies, then I highly recommend giving this film a chance.

Final Score: 1 Father, 1000 Daddy issues

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Review Catch-Up: Upgrade

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, “Upgrade” is a revenge-thriller with a futuristic sci-fi setting not unlike that of “Blade Runner”s. My plan was to catch this one when it was in theaters this past summer, it just never materialized, but I am so glad I came back to find it after video release. This pulpy, body-horror, grindhouse, genre flick isn’t what I expected going in, but I immediately fell in love with the concept of the film after the hook.

Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is a simple man in a complex world. In a time of fully automated cars and advanced biomedical technologies Grey stands out. He’s a mechanic that works on classic American muscle cars with a deep-seated love for the analog ways of the past. With Laura (Belén Rueda), the love of his life, they lead a productive life together despite the technological gap between them. After putting the finishing touches on one of his sales cars, he brings Laura with him to drop it off to the buyer, a reclusive big-tech genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). While there, Eron shows Grey and Laura his latest project set to revolutionize the world, STEM. A computer chip the size of a beetle, STEM is an A.I. capable of lightning fast processing power and immense data crunching ability. Grey, being the analog purist that he is, isn’t impressed by the reveal while Laura ogles over the new possibilities. On the way home, their automatic car disobeys orders and takes them into dangerous neighborhoods before quickly accelerating into a pole and flipping the car, killing Laura in the process. A gang of people flood the streets and pull Grey from the wreckage and shoot him in the back of the head, paralyzing him from the neck down.

Fast forward to Grey immobilized in a hospital bed when, surprise surprise, Eron waltzes into his room to offer him an.. Upgrade. Again, Grey turns down the offer. Seeing his partner die before his very eyes hasn’t exactly motivated him to want to live, and especially thrive, by technological augmentation. After he hits rock bottom emotionally and psychologically, he reconsiders and accepts Eron’s offer. After the surgery, Eron informs Grey of the need for secrecy surrounding STEM as the experimental tech isn’t exactly legal.

With his mobility regained Grey immediately goes into detective mode to find Laura’s killers. It is here that STEM (Simon Maiden) chooses to introduce itself to Grey by helping him follow the clues. STEM is also handy for a good fight. After verbally giving STEM permission, the A.I. takes control of his body and efficiently, brutally, attacks any opponents. The fight scenes in this movie are a great deal of fun! They, cleverly, have an extra layer of visual comedy in play. When Grey is fighting, his face reveals his horror to the actions of his own body with STEM at the wheel. He smashes plates over assailants heads while his face recoiles from the creative violence at hand. That’s just brilliant. Eventually a local cop, Cortez (Betty Gabriel) starts to sniff out Grey’s suspicious activities. She was fun as a threat for Grey in the film but there wasn’t a lot of characterization with her.

This film was exactly the kind of sci-fi that I enjoy. Thought provoking ideas mixed with paranoia about a changing world, and some extreme B-movie violence thrown in for good measure. It was funny, it was dark, it was just a damn good science-fiction film. I highly recommend it, but especially if you enjoy other modern sci-fi flicks like “Annihilation” or “Ex-Machina”.

Final Score: 2 Muscle Cars and 1 talkative A.I.

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The Final Frontier

“Guardians of The Galaxy” Marvel Studios’ craziest risk factor that features a ragtag group of thieves in a pulpy science fiction adventure hit theaters a year ago and quickly became one of the most beloved movies of 2014. In light of this I’ve decided to focus on the science fiction genre for this piece. While personally I enjoy a lot of different styles, genres, and sub-genres, of movies science fiction is my absolute favorite kind of movie. I believe this to be so because its sense of imagination and wonder is boundless. What better playground to construct a story within than the universe itself. The possibilities are in fact, endless. Any type of story can exist with science fiction, romance, adventure, drama, horror, mystery and more!

Lets not beat around the bush here, I’ll dive in headfirst with the biggest nerd debate since Mac versus PC (The answer is Linux by the way), Star Wars, or Star Trek? Both franchises have earned their monumental fan bases at this point for their different perspectives on planet hopping, never ending, space/time adventures. I have to admit, I never paid much attention to Star Trek before JJ Abrams rebooted the characters back in 2009. Yup, I’m that guy. I will say that, however, that Abrams re-imagining of Trek is what hooked me to it though, I’d honestly just never sat down and watched any of the television series. After that movie I went back in time, courtesy of Netflix, and encountered a gigantic universe of space faring tales. From “Voyager” to “Deep Space Nine”, to the spectacular “Next Generation” I fully embraced the daring exploits of the Star Fleet crew in its different iterations. Star Trek is an excellent example of quality science fiction that embraced it’s serial expectations to its fullest extent by focusing on powerful ideas and themes such as authoritarianism, imperialism, loyalty, economics, racism, class warfare, religion, sexism, human rights, feminism, and the role of technology in the character’s lives. Merging the vast possibilities of imagination with real world conflicts and issues, Star Trek has successfully etched its own place in the history of science fiction.

Star Wars on the other hand has always been the big budget brother to Star Trek. Now that JJ Abrams has brought the Enterprize and her adventures into the limelight though the average moviegoer now has two major space faring sagas to consider. The Pepsi Starship to your Coca Cola X-Wing, so to say. Wars is about different ideas and structures than Trek though, it focuses more on the themes within political science with a favorable distinction towards democracy over the totalitarian order pushed by the Nazi-like regime of the Galactic Empire. In fact most of Star Wars is just an adaption of our own cultures and ideas, Jedi are simply Samurai in space with blades of light rather than steel, and Han Solo is the classic embodiment of a wandering western hero a la Clint Eastwood, granted with more of a verbal personality. It’s the edge-less boundaries of what Lucas did by making his saga a thing of its own that intrigues me most though. Star Wars is unique (in film) in that it truly stands on its own like a work of Fantasy. It has no connection to the Earth we all know and love, but rather exists within a galaxy all its own. It resembles the completely imagined setting of Middle Earth in its fully created environment, a true force of creativity.

Melding genres has always been exceptionally enticing to me, whereas Trek and Wars utilize human themes, issues, and ideals these next few entries mix science fiction with other genres to blend a unique take on both. Three series in particular have effectively morphed the horror, or monster subgenre, with the infinity of the cosmos. The Alien series is one literal hell of a time, cause who doesn’t enjoy the idea of something living inside you and then ripping through your abdomen? Apologies to all expecting mothers. The first Alien in particular is more horror than science fiction, but it reshaped both genres significantly and its set in space, can’t get much more sci-fi than that. Alien got a lot of recognition and critical response due to its sexual overtones and female empowerment. Plus how good was that pacing? I’ve only recently re-watched this classic and its tension still holds up quite well! The sequel continues the themes of female power in a masculine environment. Ripley is constantly being shut down by her male counterparts, but she is also partaking in misjudgment by exhibiting a sort of robo-racism against the android Bishop because of her previous betrayal by another robot named Ash during the events of the first film. This further continues the “android apartheid” seen throughout the entirety of the Alien series.

Predator, on the other hand, is akin to the alien series (lets forget the versus movies for the rest of… time) in that it shares monster brethren that hunt humans and mercilessly murder their faces. While the series might embrace more action than horror as far as sci-fi goes, it still offers a good time at the movies. Unfortunately while Alien and its sequels empower women, the Predator series hardly even gives them a voice to be heard. The focus here is more on the idea of a galactic hunt, the fear of being pursued, and the heart pounding thrill of hunting your hunter.

Vin Diesel’s Chronicles of Riddick series has had its fair share of tonal changes over the trilogy, but it’s most compelling entry, in my opinion, was the latest. Simply titled “Riddick”, the newest flick dropped the world building nature of the sequel in turn for a tighter, more character driven entry in the antihero’s planet hopping antics. Working as a spiritual successor to the first movie, “Pitch Black”, Riddick goes back to being a grimacing, shadow loving, murderer. The entire first act is essentially a slasher film as Riddick systematically toys with the bounty hunters that pursue him. Its sheer brilliance. Riddick is one of my favorite antiheroes because you can constantly see him calculating, manipulating people with his words and my god does he utilize his environments to his advantage. If you haven’t checked this series out yet, I highly suggest it, if anything else it’s just a fun way to spend a rainy day if that’s all it does for you.

Not all sci-fi has to be off planet though. My favorite original science fiction film of the last five years has to be “Looper”. This movie smartly utilizes one of my favorite storytelling devices, time travel. “Looper”, if you haven’t seen it (see it!) the film deals with the Mob of the future sending their marked victims back in time to be killed by specifically chosen executors known as loopers. These arbiters of death meet their victims at a certain time and place, kill their targets as soon as they have been sent back in time, get paid, and live the high life. That is until the future Mob sends the future versions of the loopers themselves back in time to the present looper who ends up killing his future self while getting a golden pay day. They then live out their days until the Mob comes for them. One looper in particular, dubiously named Joe, (who is excellently portrayed by both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis) gets into trouble when his future self comes back and subsequently escapes from his present self resulting in an extremely fun AND intelligent take on a man pursuing himself. The movie is about mistakes at its core, what we can do to correct them, or prevent them from even happening in the first place.

Lastly, if you enjoy this subject or material at all I can’t leave you without suggesting “FireFly”. I came incredibly late to the game here but this short lived space-faring series is truly a thing to behold. Joss Whedon’s intergalactic team of feisty underdogs is full of heart, superb writing, and a clear love of the genre. Imagine a western in space and you’d be close, it speaks for itself, but that’s a good way to approach it. It’s unique to itself and it was a tragedy that the series didn’t get more time for itself. If you’re only watching for fan favorite Nathan Fillion’s role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, then that’s well enough, but I’d be doing the series a disservice- all of the characters consistently shine through! Do yourself a favor if you haven’t seen this gem and knock out the 13 episodes and the film “Serenity” in a weekend, it’s well worth your time!

So, yes, I love science fiction, and I’m quite glad that it seems to be sticking around and caught in the current attention span of the masses, which isn’t always guaranteed. Even if it drops back into obscurity, as it once was, I’ll still be there to watch starships, time travelers, space samurai, and even face murdering aliens do what they all do best, entertain.