If you’re like me, the best way to get ready for Jurassic World is not to binge-watching Parks and Recreation while wearing a Velociraptor mask, but instead to do some reading—while wearing a Velociraptor mask. But what are you going to do when you’ve finished re-reading Michael Crichton’s science-heavy page-turners Jurassic Park and The Lost World? Luckily there are still plenty of insane science fiction books with dinos running through them for you to devour and then blabber about about endlessly.
The Star Wars panel at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con made one thing clear: J. J. Abrams hates CGI now. If the word “practical” wasn’t being bandied around in geek discussions last week, it is certainly the buzzword of the moment. From “practical effects” to “real sets,” seemingly all anyone had to say about The Force Awakens is that Abrams and company are throwing their computers out of the window because they want to make something real.
But, does everyone really hate CGI as much as we think we do? And if so, why?
Early on in Mr. Holmes, Sir Ian McKellen’s 92-year-old version of the aging detective says “I was real, once.” This is funny, because if you know nothing about Sherlock Holmes you might think you are watching a biopic about THE REAL MAN BEHIND THE MYSTERY instead of a work of fiction based on a book, which in turn is based on other books. Bill Condon’s new film Mr. Holmes (adapted from Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind) imagines a “real” version of Sherlock Holmes who is more contemplative and nuanced than perhaps any incarnation before.
But is nuanced and contemplative what we want of Mr. Sherlock Holmes? Because when you eliminate the hyperbole of adventure, what’s left for the world’s greatest detective?
In the first Austin Powers film, Doctor Evil’s demand of one million dollars comes across as hilariously absurd, not only because he doesn’t understand economic inflation, but because we’re all used to super villains acting like idiots. Despicable Me further illustrates this tendency by having the plot of the movie center on the attempt to steal the Moon.
But what about supposedly serious (or at least not intentionally spoofy) villains with awful plans? Can we chalk up complications and ridiculousness to insanity? Perhaps. But there are some super villains who actually seem at least a little bit sane, and still somehow manage to enact schemes that are flawed to the point of being silly. Here are five of the most absurd super villain schemes, complete with my advice on what these big baddies should have done instead.
This weekend, Star Wars: Rebels launched its second season with a slew of familiar Star Wars characters, but perhaps the most familiar of all was the welcome return of James Earl Jones’ sonorous bass voice as Darth Vader. But what do you know about the history of the voice of Vader? It wasn’t always Jones!
Series: Star Wars on Tor.com
In the summer of 1993 I would have been 11-years-old-about-to-turn-12. My sister was two years younger and terrified to see Jurassic Park because she’d heard it was “scary.” Calmly, I explained to her (lied) that for most of the movie the park operated just fine and it was only at the very end when the dinosaurs got loose. I’m not sure if she’s forgiven me for this.
Now, 22 years later the dinos are running amok again in Jurassic World and the result is totally a movie seemingly aimed at kids. Today’s kids will be terrified and also totally in love with this new crop of dinos. Is that a good thing, generally? Yes and no!
If all the Jurassic Park films were embodied as famous monsters, then the original film would be the king lizard Godzilla, The Lost World would be the sympathetic and hulked-out King Kong, and the third movie would be Barney the Purple Dinosaur. In other words: it’s impossible to take 2001’s Jurassic Park III seriously, making it equally hard to get too worked up about its blatant terribleness. But I’ll try!
In the 1990s I was watching a promo documentary about Babylon 5—likely playing out its 5th season on TNT at the time—and in it J. Michael Straczynski related the best piece of writing advice his friend Harlan Ellison ever gave him, which was something to the effect of “stop sucking.” This might be one of those fuzzy memories where the meaning I derived from it is more real than the actual quote, but it stuck with me. Harlan Ellison inspired a lot of writers and provided a gateway for many of us into New Wave science fiction. And he did it with a lot of personality.
Today is his 81st birthday, and I’m sending him this birthday card.
Series: On This Day
In contrast with something like Marvel’s new Daredevil series, The Flash comes across a little schmaltzy—like the guy who is pretending to like hardcore rock, but who gets freaked out at a real mosh pit. In truth, I am always that guy in real life, so I like The Flash more than Daredevil even though I’d have to admit Daredevil is “better.” But The Flash is great at what it does: it’s a paradoxical throwback that’s more satisfying than maybe it should be.
In the second season of Simon Pegg’s excellent sitcom Spaced, we see his character Tim burning all of his Star Wars memorabilia just like Luke burns Vader’s body in Return of the Jedi. Pegg’s character Tim does this in response to his hatred of The Phantom Menace, but is Simon Pegg now doing the same thing with Spaced? Quoted recently in an interview for Radio Times, Pegg insinuated that our cultural obsession with sci-fi might be a bit “childish.”
So, Daniel Craig is going to play a stormtrooper in Star Wars: Episode VII. Pretty weird, right? Nope. The world of secret agent 007 and that galaxy far, far away is more tangled up than you might have thought. There are now going to be seven Star Wars movies and we all know James Bond’s number is 007. So, here are seven connections between James Bond and Star Wars that are for your eyes only and everyone else’s eyes, too. Uselessful minutia ahead!
We’ll never really know if it was the money or a mind-trick that convinced Han Solo to ferry Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids to Alderaan, and the riddle of the actor who played Solo for three movies is equally unclear. Fittingly, or jarringly, Harrison Ford’s relationship with Star Wars is exactly like his character; always picking “Should I Stay our Should I Go,” by the Clash as his karaoke song with one boot out the door. Ford almost wasn’t in The Empire Strikes Back and wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. When it was announced that he would appear in Episode VII, flippant rumors circulated that he was the co-lead, along with two of the younger actors.
But none of this should come as any surprise, because Han Solo has always been the lead of the classic Star Wars films.
Remember Star Trek? It was your favorite before you started freaking out about the new Star Wars movies. Sure, things have been a little bumpy since Star Trek Into Darkness made its googly-eyed way across the screen, and some have worried that it may have cast a dismal pall over the entire franchise, stalling it completely. The story of Star Trek 3‘s development didn’t help in that regard: one director left (J. J. Abrams) and the next got kind of fired (Roberto Orci), and for awhile nobody seemed to have a clue as to what would happen next.
But our faith holds strong! More recently, Simon Pegg was brought on as a co-writer for Star Trek 3 and things have started looking up. The movie now has a rumored-to-be-true title—Star Trek Beyond—which matches stylistically with Simon Pegg’s statement that the next Star Trek film will return the series to its explorative roots. What could all of this mean? Here are five predictions based on nothing but circumstantial evidence, hunches, and my own Trekkie excitement.
We’re all pretty excited now that Harrison Ford has actually reappeared as Han Solo in the latest Star Wars trailer. But this is hardly the first time an old-guy action hero has gotten back in the saddle only to declare in one form or another that he’s “getting too old for this sh*t.” Harrison Ford himself has made an action-comeback several times already (Hollywood Homicide, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and we all know that the Die Hard franchise has turned out to be even harder to kill than John McClane.
So, what’s the deal? Is there a bizarre cultural obsession with old guy comebacks?
Ben Affleck already has competition for the bat-cowl! In 2016, sometime around/before/after Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice premiers in theatres, another classic Batman will be returning. And this Batman isn’t dark and brooding, but he is really good at lecturing you about littering, germs, and his belief in criminal rehabilitation. That’s right! The most hyperbolic and deadpan Batman is back! Adam West and his faithful companion, Burt Ward, will play Batman and Robin again in a brand new animated film.
Over this past weekend, West and Ward announced the project at event called Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, NC. Holy unexpected treat! Few details are available, but the film will be a 90-minute length feature and will serve as a 50th anniversary special, commemorating 1966’s debut of Batman.
Never forget: West and Ward have done this before; back in 1977 there was brief cartoon called The New Adventures of Batman in which they also did the voices. No word yet on whether Bat-Mite will show up to “help” the dynamic duo in the new film.
Del Rey recently released the
second third new Star Wars novel in the line of Star Wars novels which will be crazily scrutinized because they have been deemed officially part of the “canon” of Star Wars. This started last fall A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, which is a prequel to the show Rebels. It was followed by James Luceno’s Tarkin. Now we get our very first “canon” Star Wars novel featuring characters from the original trilogy; Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne. And it’s told to us through the viewpoint of Luke Skywalker himself. Prior to this book, the most notable Star Wars novel told in the first person was Michael Stackpole’s I, Jedi, which was awesome but doesn’t put inside the head of any of the original trilogy characters, so Heir to the Jedi is something of a rarity. From power converters to pet phrases, here’s what we learn about how Luke really sees everything.
Undoubtedly, for a lot of contemporary younglings, Star Wars is something they first experience as a cartoon show, rather than a series of movies. And can we really blame them? Since 2008, there’s been hundreds hours of cartoon-Star Wars permeating the ether in the form of The Clone Wars, and now, Rebels. Years ago, this really bugged me, and occasionally, I still have a hard time taking cartoon-Star Wars seriously. But with the season finale of Rebels having just concluded, even a scoundrel like me has to admit that—like The Clone Wars before it—Rebels shaped up to be more powerful (and respectable) than we could have possibly imagined.
I feel guilty talking trash about the Wachowskis’ new film Jupiter Ascending. It feels like mocking a family member or old friend who has fallen on hard times. The sibling duo of Lana and Andy Wachowski have produced precisely one classic science fiction epic—1999’s The Matrix—which is something most people don’t even dream of doing.
Now they’re back and the reviews of their latest—Jupiter Ascending—are mostly awful. And yet, should we feel guilty about disliking it? If we don’t like Jupiter Ascending, we may be in of danger hating on the idea “original” science fiction films and making said kinds of movies extinct. But is this supposedly original movie original at all?
The 2015 Oscar nominations are out and everybody is delighted and upset. Some actors, like Selma’s David Oyelowo, were obviously slighted just as some actors, like Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, were honored. Meta-fictional genre-blending film Birdman also got plenty of nominations, which should make people happy who love movies about Raymond Carver and comic books. But there’s a planet-sized hole in the nominees list and that is the exclusion of one of the best and most heartfelt science fiction film in years: Interstellar. The reason why this movie didn’t get nominated for anything other than “Original Score,” is because mainstream media gatekeepers and a big portion of audiences still don’t really care for a science fiction movie about science fiction.
Not once in any Star Wars movie does someone pick up a book or newspaper, magazine, literary journal, or chapbook handmade by an aspiring Jawa poet. If something is read by someone in Star Wars, it’s almost certainly off of a screen (and even then, maybe being translated by a droid), and it’s definitely not for entertainment purposes. As early as the 1990s-era expanded Star Wars books and comic books, we’re introduced to ancient Jedi “texts” called holocrons, which are basically talking holographic video recordings. Just how long has the Star Wars universe been reliant on fancy technology to transfer information as opposed to the written word? Is it possible that a good number of people in Star Wars are completely illiterate?
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