content by

Michael Moreci

The Fifth Element: Luc Besson’s Wild and Crazy Masterpiece

The more I think about The Fifth Element, the more I realize it’s a movie that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. It’s such a pastiche of different influences, from Blade Runner to Chris Foss to Akira to Star Wars to The Incal (so much so that Jodorowsky sued The Fifth Element writer/director Luc Besson for plagiarism). Yet never, to me, does The Fifth Element feel like a rip-off, or a second-rate version of something greater. Because while the movie wears its influences on its sleeve—with joyful exuberance, in fact—it also subverts every single one of them by refusing to take itself seriously. It’s like Besson took a sample of sci-fi’s greatest hits, put them all in a blender and hit frappe—while maniacally laughing the entire time.

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Starship Troopers: Paul Verhoeven’s Manic, Misunderstood Satire

My goodness, is Starship Troopers an under-appreciated movie. It’s also a strange movie, even by ’90s standards. It shares a space with Demolition Man, representing satirical sci-fi movies that, now, have more or less become a punchline. Demolition Man—while it’s admirable for what it was trying to do—suffers from poor execution. But Starship Troopers hits the exact mark it’s going for; it’s just largely misunderstood by audiences.

The thing is, if you watch Starship Troopers with a straight face, it doesn’t work all that well. It’s weirdly melodramatic, the performances aren’t all that good, and the antagonists are just giant bugs, amongst other things. It can be seen as “one-dimensional” or “immature,” as Roger Ebert, and other critics, have complained. But, as with all Paul Verhoeven movies, Starship Troopers is not meant to be watched with a straight face. Verhoeven makes movies with his tongue buried so deep in his cheek it almost comes through the other side, and that penchant for taking something very serious not seriously at all is one of the things that makes Starship Troopers so uniquely great.

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6 Books to Tide You Over Until Star Wars: Episode VIII

For most Star Wars fans, there’s one true thing that surrounds us, and binds us. Sure, we may squabble about which movie is the best and argue over who Snoke really is (it’s the angry resurrected ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, obvs), but we all agree that there’s no such thing as too much Star Wars. But the fact is, only so much Star Wars exists. Granted, when all’s told between movies, TV shows, canon novels, non-canon novels, video games, board games, and comics, there’s a lot of content out there. But as the dust is settling on the box office juggernaut that is Rogue One, a grim reality is taking hold: there’s eleven long months that separate us from our next cinematic Star Wars fix. And if you’ve already read/watched/consumed everything there is to consume, you’re going to need to fill your time with…something.

Well, if you can’t have Star Wars, there’s always the next best thing: Stuff that’s like Star Wars! Here’s six novels that can help tide you over until Episode VIII drops in December.

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How Rogue One Connects to the Star Wars Past, Present, and Future

Well, we now have it: the very first Star Wars anthology film (and, in my opinion, it’s an absolutely magnificent one). It’s the first of two anthology movies that are on Disney/Lucasfilm’s docket, the other being the Han Solo installment, covering his pre-A New Hope adventures and slated for a May 2018 release. Judging by Rogue One’s terrific $155 million opening weekend, there will be plenty more standalone Star Wars tales to come. Which is a good thing.

But, these movies don’t come without challenges. Particularly, it’s always going to be tough to get casual Star Wars fans to understand how the anthology flicks fit into the overarching story. Since 1977, the Star Wars story has been confined to the episode movies, and those have pretty much been all about the Skywalker saga. Sure, the Star Wars universe itself has long stretched beyond the episodes with the story spilling into books, infamous holiday specials, comics, TV shows, video games, and more. But to most Star Wars fans, the movies are what “counts,” and Rogue One has now broken the Star Wars mold—it has redefined that idea of what’s essential.

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Communication and Faith in Arrival

There’s a moment in Arrival where Louise (played wonderfully by the always perfect Amy Adams) is in the alien spacecraft and, acting against military orders, she removes her protective suit. The soldiers accompanying Louise’s mission to find a way to communicate with the aliens—dubbed the heptapods—don’t know how to respond. Do they stop Louise? Abort the mission? Something worse? Despite knowing the air is breathable and the atmosphere is harmless, the soldiers are still stunned by Louise’s decision, and they are absolutely unwilling to follow her lead. They don’t share her impulse or her willingness to take a risk.

But, most of all, they don’t share her faith.

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