November 23, 2014

2008: The Year in Science Fiction.

Star Trek.

The site of a thousand bad scifi planets…Vasquez Rocks outside of L.A. (Credit: Paramount).

This year, the theme seemed to be zombies, zombies, (and more zombies), messiahs, and dirty, gritty, anti-futures. Add in a tight leather space suit or two, (which never seems to go out of style) and you’ve got a space opera flick. Warning; as this is the first in our yearly installment of this year in Scifi, expect some 2007-2008 overlap!

The Movies:

I Am Legend.

Save the Dogs…(Credit: WarnerBros).

- I am Legend: This years’ Will Smith offering was probably the top pick of the bunch. I know, it spawned (bad pun) a rash of zombie movies, (Didn’t Shawn of the Dead get the last word?) but it was a twist on an old idea, something the other flicks could take a cue from. Seeing deer graze in Central Park also brought up a very good question; what would the world look like without us? At very least, the ending leaves you guessing on this one.

Babylon AD

Gritty New World…(Credit: 20th Century Fox).

- Babylon A.D.: Not to be out done by Will, Vin Diesel made an appearance in a gritty-future world flick this summer… think Blade Runner with cage matches and teenage girl Messiahs. Not that this film is as ground breaking as the forementioned Harrison Ford original. I doubt that there will be “Babylon A.D.: Total, Final, Ultimate Director’s Cut!” twenty years down the line. There was a definite shortage of clean shinny Logan’s Run type futures this year. What does that say about our current collective outlook? In the world of Babylon A.D., folks don’t journey outside their heavily fortified suburbia’s unless they’re in an Armored Personnel Carrier. (hasn’t this already happened?) Its worth checking out, just don’t analyze it to closely!  

Clone Wars.

Check out the cool Vader-esque chest plate! (Credit: Lucasfilm Inc.)

- The Star Wars universe: This years’ offering from the Star Wars universe was the animated Clone Wars movie and subsequent Cartoon Network series. The animation sometimes runs towards the astonishing; I guess there are still plenty of Star Wars templates out there to play with. (Hey, it tops the terrible 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special that I actually remember watching as a kid!) But the humans such as Anakin and Ben look like a cross between the Lego Wii Star Wars characters and Toy Story… the plot line fills in between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It’s also a little short on the clever turns that made the original a hit, and it seems like one battle sequence after another… but it is Star Wars, right? 

- The Man from Earth. This one is a little different than the average; Vin Diesel-shoots-up-the- World, sci-fi as a means to produce the video game flick. Very little action abounds, and one gets the feel as if the plot treatment was originally meant as a play. The premise is simple; a man reveals to his intellectual friends that he is actually a 40,000 plus year old cave man. No, not the GIECO type. I was sorry to see their show get cancelled, by the way!  Anyhow, this mere immortal managed to insert himself at some crucial moments in history, including accidentally becoming a certain famed messiah. The film definitely would get the existential conversations flowing after a few vodka martinis. I only had two minor bones to pick; 1. I doubt we know our own history as thoroughly as we think we do. I would bet an eye witness could set us straight on a few surprises. 2. Contrary to a statement early on in the film, you could easily prove you were from the past; how ‘bout knowledge of say, a long lost city no one else was privy to? Or those extra commandments Moses forgot? Again, see point one.

Oh yeah, and is Mitt Romney really a Cave Man? That’s the theory we’d like to see addressed here at Astroguyz…

Caveman.Mitt

Mitt Romney; our first Caveman canidate? (Credit:NBC & AP Press).

- I am Omega. A moratorium on zombie-virus movies really does need to be in place, and we can only hope that the new president is working on that. This one was a low-rent rip-off of “I am Legend,” right down to the same action beats. Keep an eye out for the desert rock formations in some shots; it’s the same just-outside-of-L.A. desert scenery that seems to pop up in every bad sci-fi B-movie! You can almost see Capt. Kirk wandering over the bluff, phaser in hand (watch out for zombies!) Unfortunately, the rocks are all this film really had going for it. This movie was lucky that “Earthstorm” came out this year, otherwise, it would have made the bottom of the barrel… how ‘bout some shinny, happy futures, instead of all these dark, gritty ones?  

- The Last Sentinel. regrettably, this was another low rent Terminator flick (which was low rent to begin with!) It was too bad to see Kate Sackhoff (aka the re-imagined StarBuck) in what was otherwise a terrible piece, as she is swiftly becoming the new diva of sci-fi. The movie itself is low on brain candy and is like watching a 90 minute video game.

- The Andromeda Strain. This is a remake of the Michael Crichton classic, revamped and updated for our times. This presents a virus-apocalypse wipe out plot with a twist; the threat comes courtesy of the future, with a hope that we can stop it. Kinda like the “Save the Whales” motif in Star Trek IV. Have any Michael Crichton books not been made into a movie yet?  

- Highlander: the Source. A remake of the cult classic, this one kinda runs towards fantasy. Duncan McCloud once again returns to combat the immortal forces of evil. Sensitive pony-tail guys with swords abound. Don’t expect any heavy duty science here; at least they resurrected the Queen theme from the original cheesy TV series!  

Sunshine. 

Our Sun, our Enemy! (Credit: 20th century Fox).

-Sunshine: The name belies the darker movie within. The look (and even the spacecraft Icarus) has the feel of 2001. The premise is that fifty years into the future, the Sun is dying. A first mission sent to restore it disappears; a second final mission is sent pushing a “fusion bomb the size of Manhattan” to attempt to restore it. How this will work isn’t immediately clear; perhaps the proton-proton chain reaction will be restarted, but a chance to delve into the realm of solar physics is missed. Still, the look of the movie bothers to get things right. Not a lot of big names, but the film takes a bizarre twist when the first ill fated Icarus crew is discovered. I almost expected an exclamation of “It’s full of stars!” at the end. At least it wasn’t Armageddon-goes-to-the-Sun, as originally feared!

 Doomsday.

Rhona Mitra shoots it out. (Credit: Universal).

-Doomsday: With a nod to the Mad Max saga, Doomsday paints an apocalyptic world where Scotland has been effectively quarantined for thirty years due a deadly virus. Punk rockers have apparently taken over (hasn’t this already happened, too?), and Eden Sinclair (played by Rhona Mitra) battles her way to the top of the punk pecking order. The look and feel is that of a distinctly British production. After a long intro (virus movies seem hip this year), the action gets humming as Eden and her crew battle their way out of Glasgow. The action sequences run like all three Road Warrior movies mashed together. And it’s good to see Malcolm McDowell of Clockwork Orange fame working again! 

Books:

  -Red Moon: Probably one of the best sci-fi books we had a chance to review this year. Red Moon  posits an alternate, secret history of the Soviet Lunar program, one that’s more believable than O.J. Simpson in Capricorn One. Who really landed on the Moon first? Read Red Moon to wander what could have been!  

Dune.

Kneel before my Grease’d six pack! (Credit: Universal Studios).

-The Dune Saga: The Dune series took a sudden nose-dive, with the release of a new set of sequels that picked up where the late great Frank Herbert left off. Do yourself a favor, and reread the originals instead. On an upbeat note, we keep hearing rumblings of another movie remake of the original book, this time without Sting…

TV: Ah, television has long been the bastard step child of “serious” sci-fi lit… at least cable and the Internet have forced producers to begin generating thinking man’s sci-fi, instead of endless hours of Fantasy Island and the Love Boat;

Galactica.

Beyond Cool BSG! (Credit: The SciFi network).

-Galactica: The Scifi channels’ flagship series, Battlestar Galactica, re-imagined, has evolved into a great, must see series, far beyond the original. Like the Sopranos, it alone would be justification for cable. (Of course through, we get our fix online!) Overtones of 9/11 abound, and this years’ half season took an unexpected turn, with warring factions within the Cylons aligning with the Fleet, Starbuck and Baltar trying out the Messiah-hood thing, and of course, the locating of a shattered Earth. And don’t forget to catch the webisodes currently in progress. You know were we’ll be, come January and the conclusion of the series!     

-Eureka: Another Scifi original, Eureka has begun to offer some of the best Scifi writing out there. The town of Eureka is your normal suburban burg, except for the fact that it’s inhibited by techno geeks. Each episode is fresh and different, and has the feel of a futuristic Twilight Zone meets Leave it to Beaver… check it out!

-Big Bang Theory: The Big Bang Theory  continues to be the CBS comedy that you’re not watching but should be. In its second season, some solid science abounds! The Doppler Effect, Quantum Theory, and Pluto’s Planet hood are actually discussed in a prime time comedy format. Think of it as Friends with Particle Physics.

The Worst of the Worst: This summer, the wife and I had the regrettable honor of catching Earthstorm  on the Scifi Channel, which aired it as an original movie. It actually makes Armageddon look pretty good! Ah, there are a million ways to make a bad science fiction film… Stephen Baldwin and Dirk Benedict (aka the original Starbuck) must’ve really needed the work. There needs to be a moratorium placed on the writing and distribution of killer asteroid-like movies by Hollywood.

Blast from the Past: Recently, we here at Astroguyz HQ finished screening the entire Firefly first season and subsequent movie… we were highly impressed and disappointed that the show got axed. To our knowledge, plenty of “Feudal society in the future” (think Dune and Star Wars) have been done, but no one has juxtaposed a western in a Scifi universe as of yet. A second season could have made a good series great; a unifying quest or underlying theme running through the stories and a little more exposition on the characters and the Firefly universe would have went a long way. Perhaps someone will resurrect a “Firefly; the next generation” series?

-Upcoming: What will 2009 bring? How ‘bout a retro, young James T. Kirk flick, the Battlestar grand finale, and promised Caprica spinoff series, and perhaps a Green Lantern and yet another Dune movie? Here at Astroguyz, expect reviews of such Scifi opus(es) as Fast forward 2, Son of Man, Cyberbad Days, and Starship: Rebel, as well as Escapepod and whatever drifts through our transom. If you’ve got a fave coming up or any inside intel of works in the offing, drop us a line and let us know!

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