Posts Tagged ‘Peter Cushing’

The Overlord on Rumours that Mark Hamill Has Sold Image for Hollywood CGI Clone of Luke Skywalker

August 8, 2020

‘The Overlord’ is another YouTube channel devoted to news and views about genre cinema and television. It’s hosted by Dictor von Doomcock, a masked alien supervillain supposedly living at the centre of the Earth. And who is definitely not impressed at all at the state of contemporary popular culture, and particularly the way beloved film classics like Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who and so on are now being trashed by producers who have no respect for these series and their fans. And in this video he talks about the bizarre next step in this process: the recreation of favourite film characters like Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker through CGI, completely removing the need for human actors.

A website, WDW Pro, has claimed that Disney are looking for ways they can break the pause in filming imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown. They are therefore looking at ways to do without human actors. They have therefore been looking at a technological solution to this problem, using the same computer techniques used to create the films The Lion King of 2019 and the 2016 film version of The Jungle Book, as well as the facial recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Rogue 1. Frustrated at the hold-up filming the third Guardians of the Galaxy flick, Disney will use the technology, Cosmic Rewind, to create a completely computer generated movie, but one that would be presented as using human characters. This is going to be an experiment to test the possibility of creating films without human actors and the need for their salaries. According to a rumour, which WDW Pro has not been able to confirm, the projected film is about Young Indy, and its effectiveness will be tested when a rollercoaster based on the film comes on as part of Disneyworld.

Lucasfilm has also apparently made a deal with Mark Hamill within the last 18 months in which he has signed over his image to them so that they can use it to create a CGI Luke Skywalker. This Virtual Skywalker may also be used in the projected Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars theme park. However, due to the project’s severe financial problems, this may not happen anytime soon. Disney are slowly moving towards using this technology to dispense with human actors so that they won’t have to suffer a similar pause in filming ever again, although they won’t move away from human actors altogether immediately.

Doomcock himself laments this development, and feels that it is inevitable in a world where Deep Fake technology has advanced so far that we don’t know if the people we see or the news we watch are real, or that the characters we see on the screen are brought to life by real actors using the skills and craft they have learned. He wonders what will happen to our civilisation – what we will lose – if everything we see on the screen is synthetic, and we are removed another step again from reality and anything that has ‘heart’. It might all be all right, but it seems to him that the more we remove the human element from art and culture and make it the creation of AIs, the more removed we are from our culture.

He also vents his spleen about the choice of subject for this putative movie, pointing out that there was a TV series about Young Indiana Jones years ago, and nobody wanted it. He recommends instead that if this grave-robbing technology is to be used, it should be used to recreate the mature Indy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom. He also criticises Hamill for what he sees as his poor judgement in making the deal with Disney. Hamill should know personally how a poor director can ruin a beloved legacy character, the actor’s own contribution and a favourite film franchise through his experience playing Skywalker in The Last Jedi. He famously wept on set during that movie and bitterly criticised the director’s decisions. He’s sarcastic about the respect Disney shows such legacy characters. It’s rumoured that George Lucas is returning to helm the Star Wars films, in which everything will be fine and we can look forward to a bright, new golden age. But considering the potential for abuse, Doomcock states that he is dismayed, flabbergasted and disgusted by Hamill’s decision and fearful for humanity’s future. As human culture becomes made by machines, hasn’t Skynet won? Who needs to launch nukes, when we have a CGI Skywalker dancing like a monkey in a bikini?

Here’s the video, but as Doomcock himself warns you, it isn’t for children. It has adult humour. Blatantly adult humour.

As you can see, there’s more than a little hyperbole in Doomcock’s argument, and some people will take issue at what he views as the humiliation of Luke Skywalker to push a feminist or anti-racist message, like Black Lives Matter. But his fears of the abuse of such technology aren’t unfounded, and have been around for quite some time. The possibility that actors would sell their images to film companies to recreate them Virtually, while making the flesh and blood person redundant, was explored a few years ago in the SF film The Congress by Ari Folman. This was loosely based on the Stanislaw Lem novel, The Futurological Congress, but is very different, and, in my opinion, inferior. For one thing, the Lem novel is hilariously funny, while the movie is grim and depressing. The movie is about a Hollywood actress, Robin Wright, playing herself, who makes precisely the deal Hamill is rumoured to have made. She then stars in a series of action movies, including one sequence that is definitely a tip to Kubrick’s Cold War masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove. But this is all computer animation. The Wright herself isn’t remotely involved in their filming. Indeed, it is a condition of her contract that she not act at all, and live the rest of her life in a very comfortable retirement. These developments are followed by the discovery of a drug that allows people to enter a vast, consensual Virtual Reality, in which they can be and do anyone and anything they want. The world’s masses abandon reality, so that civilisation decays into a very grim, dystopia of ruin, poverty and misery. At one point Wright takes the drug, which will return her to reality, only to find herself in a food queue in a burned out, abandoned building. Unable to come with this, she returns to the Virtual world to search for the son she lost while in a coma as a result of a terrorist attack on the Las Vegas congress she was attending at which the hallucinogenic drug was launched. As I said, it’s a depressing film in which such illusions really are bringing about the destruction of humanity. And there is no escape, except into the Virtual world that has caused it.

The film follows a number of other SF works that have also predicted similar dystopias brought about by the hyperreality of mass entertainment. This includes John D. MacDonald’s short story, Spectator Sport, in which a time traveller appears in a future in which all human achievement has ceased as the public live out their lives as characters in VR plays. Another, similar tale is Good Night, Sophie, by the Italian writer Lino Aldani, about an actress in a similar world in which people live harsh, austere lives in order to escape into a far brighter, more vivid fantasy world of entertainment. Rather less pessimistic was the appearance of the SF film, Final Fantasy, all those years ago. This was supposed to be the first film in which all the characters were CGI, and who were supposedly indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood reality. The fact that further films like it haven’t been made suggests that, reassuringly, people want real humans in their movies, not computer simulations.

We’ve also seen the appearance of a number of computer generated celebrities. The first of these was the vid jockey, Max Headroom on Channel 4 in the 1980s. He was supposed to  be entirely computer-generated, but in reality was played by Canadian actor Matt Frewer under a lot of makeup. Then in the 1990s William Gibson, one of the creators of Cyberpunk SF, published Idoru. This was a novel about a man, who begins an affair with a Virtual celebrity. Soon after it came out, a Japanese company announced that it had created its own Virtual celeb, a female pop star. Gibson’s books are intelligent, near-future SF which contain more than an element of the ‘literature as warning’. The worlds of his Cyberspace books are dystopias, warnings of the kind of society that may emerge if the technology gets out of hand or corporations are given too much power. The creation of the Virtual pop star looked instead as though the corporation had uncritically read Gibson, and thought what he was describing was a good idea.

But going further back, I seem to recall that there was a programme on late at night, presented by Robert Powell, on the impact the new information technology would have on society. It was on well after my bedtime, and children didn’t have their own TVs in those days. Or at least, not so much. I therefore didn’t see it, only read about it in the Radio Times. But one of its predictions was that there would be widespread unemployment caused by automation. This would include actors, who would instead by replaced by computer simulations.

Computer technology has also been used to create fresh performances by deceased stars, sometimes duetting with contemporary performers. This worried one of my aunts when it appeared in the 1980s/90s. Dead performers have also been recreated as holograms, to make the stage or television appearances they never made in life. The late, great comedian Les Dawson was revived as one such image, giving post-mortem Audience With… on ITV. It was convincing, and based very much on Dawson’s own live performances and work. It was good to see him again, even if only as Virtual ghost, and a reminder of how good he was when alive.

I don’t know how reliable the rumours Doomcock reports and on which he comments are. This could all be baseless, and come to nothing. But I share his fears about the damage to our culture, if we allow our films and television to be generated by technicians and algorithms rather than flesh and blood thesps. Especially as the rising cost of movies mean that the film companies are unwilling to take risks and seem determined to rake over and exploit past classics rather than experiment with creating fresh material.

CGI’s a great tool. It’s used to create vividly real worlds and creatures. But I don’t want it replacing humans. Even if that means waiting a few years for new flicks to come out.

 

Nazi Stormtrooper Publishes Book on Satanism, with Ideas Drawn from Horror Novels

April 17, 2016

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting things on here for over a week or so now. I’ve been doing other things, that have kept me busy. Thanks, however, to everyone who’s persevered with the blog in that time and kept reading, just in case. Your interest and support is appreciated.

I found this interesting little article by Matthew Collins over on the Hope Not Hate site. It seems Ryan Fleming, a member of the National Front has published a book, the Codex Aristarchus, on Satanism. Fleming is a member of the Nazi Satanist group, The Order of the Nine Angles. He also knows a thing or two about evil. In the book, he quotes extensively Ian Brady, the notorious Moors Murderer, and the book puffs itself as ‘coming from the blood-stained moors of England.’ He was also sent down by the beak for two years for forcing a vulnerable young man to perform a sex act on him.

So, this is a guy, who can be reasonably described as vile and sick.

See the article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/nazi-sex-offender-releases-book-4836

What struck me is that the book promises to teach its readers how they can turn themselves into an astral vampire, so they can feed off the human herd. Interestingly, the term he uses for ‘astral vampire’ is ‘wamphyri’. This should be familiar to aficionados of the British horror writer, Brian Lumley. It comes from Lumley’s own vampire novels, the ‘Necroscope’ and ‘Blood Brother’s series.

Necroscope Wamphyri pic

Lumley’s vampire novels are a strange mixture of the supernatural and straightforward science fiction body horror. The vampires – wamphyri – are humans infected with a pernicious symbiont, a tape worm-like creature that warps their minds and bodies. Those infected not only feed on blood, but they also develop the ability to warp and mould their bodies into any shape, rather like the demonic members of the upper classes in the Brian Yuzhna 1980s horror flick, Society. Or the mutating Doctor Praetorius in Yuzhna’s From Beyond. Back in their home dimension, the vampires’ lairs, their eyries, are made out of the mutated body parts of their victims, which they sculpt into the required shapes using their arcane skills in creating monsters. This element of the novels ultimately derives from the various mad scientists, and their experiments in manufacturing monsters from the ghastly fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. Which is entirely natural, given that Lumley started out writing horror and fantasy fiction within Lovecraft’s own Cthulhu mythos.

As for astral, or psychic vampires, I think this comes either from Aleister Crowley, or from Anton LaVey, the late head of the Church of Satan. The connection between Lumley’s vampires and Satanism is that in his book, Shaitan is the first vampire. It is, however, only hinted that the character is the fallen angel of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Lumley’s Shaitan has no real memory of who or what he was before he fell and turned up on the vampire creatures’ extra-dimensional homeworld, and his powers, although supernatural, are derived entirely from his infection with one of the creatures.

Lumley’s books are, however, straightforward works of Science Fantasy/ Horror fiction. They’re not remotely Satanic, except in the sense that they are set in worlds where supernatural evil is real. If anything, they’re more strongly influenced by Spiritualism – the Necroscope of the title, Harry Keogh, can talk to the dead rather like Spiritualist mediums. The last book in the series also shows a slight Christian influence, in that Keogh finally wins the battle against the vampires after they crucify him. But that’s it. There’s no great mystical teachings there, and the whole thing is purely for entertainment. Christopher Lee in an interview on Pebble Mill once described the Hammer Horror movies he was in as morality plays. Dracula rose from the grave to prey on the living, but after causing carnage and mayhem, good eventually won. Usually in the form of Peter Cushing with a stake in one hand and a hammer in the other. Lumley’s book are the same.

So, if you’re looking for a good book on vampires, I recommend Lumley. I read them about twenty years ago. They’re fun pieces of body horror, good wins in the end, and they don’t pretend to teach you any great mystical secrets of the universe. Although multidimensional mathematics is discussed with the disembodied souls of leading German mathematicians in the first book, Necroscope.

Or you could go to the all-time classic itself, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As for wanting to be a vampire, you’re far better off watching the classic Hammer films and listening to Goth tracks like Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Undead, Undead). Those won’t teach you any great mystical secrets either, but then, neither will Ryan Fleming, or A.A. Morain as he styles himself as the book’s author. But unlike Fleming, Lumley, Stoker and Bauhaus don’t pretend to.