Posts Tagged ‘‘The Phantom Menace’’

Blade Runner Sequel Teaser Trailer

December 20, 2016

I found the teaser trailer for the sequel to Ridley Scott’s SF classic, Blade Runner, on YouTube yesterday. The film’s entitled Blade Runner 2049, and is set 30 years after the events of the original movie. It stars Harrison Ford, who is reprising his role as Rick Deckard, and Ryan Gosling. It won’t be directed by Scott, but Denis Villeneuve. Scott was going to be the director, but I think he’s too busy with other projects. While I’m disappointed that he won’t be sitting in the director’s chair, from what little I’ve seen and heard of it, Villeneuve is an excellent choice. The movie is due to open in cinemas in June next year (2017).

As you can see, the trailer’s very short and doesn’t give very much away. It begins with Deckard’s line from the original film about Replicants being like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a problem. And if they’re a benefit, then they’re not his problem. It also seems to have the same run-down, towering cityscape of the first movie, but also adds what looks like a desert. The film’s score also seems to follow the original movie’s brilliant soundtrack, composed by Vangelis, in being played on synthesiser, though it has a rougher, grittier tone. And also there’s the same vehicles carrying adverts for people to move off world. Also the desert scenes have the same diffuse, golden light Scott used to create such a moody tone in the scenes Tyrell’s apartment in the original movie, but this time far brighter and more intense.

I’m really looking forward to this flick, but I do have some reservations about it. Blade Runner is now rightly recognised as one of the great SF movies of 20th century. William Gibson, one of the inventors of the Cyberpunk SF genre, said that he felt distinctly unnerved when he saw it. He was writing Neuromancer at the time, and was somewhat dismayed to find that the film had beaten him to portraying the same kind of future he was writing about. Grant and Naylor, the creators of Red Dwarf, have also admitted that it was Blade Runner that inspired them to create their own SF show. That was very obvious in the episode aired several years ago on satellite/ cable, where the crew of the Red Dwarf go in search of their creators on Earth, one of whom is a genetic engineer. ‘Noses’, the scientist says in answer to their questions, ‘I only do noses’. Which is, as fans of Blade Runner will recognise, a parody of the line the Chinese genetic engineer gives Batty and Leon when they pay him a visit: ‘Eyes. I only do eyes.’

My fear is that Blade Runner is such a classic, and the movie so perfect in itself, that the sequel will be unable to add anything new or match the original. Part of the reason many people will terribly disappointed with George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, apart from its many flaws, was that the original films had set the bar so high, and the fans had waited so long for it, that when it came out it was almost bound to fail expectations. I hope the same isn’t true of this attempt to revisit one of the greatest SF movies.

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RUR Performed by Lego Robots in Prague

October 24, 2016

Yesterday I put up a piece discussing the similarities between the humanoids in H.B.O.’s WestWorld SF TV series, based on the 1970s film of the same name by Michael Crichton, and R.U.R., the 1920’s play by Czech writer, Karel Capek, which introduced the word ‘robot’ to the English language. In both WestWorld and RUR, the robots are actually closer to the replicants of Blade Runner, in that rather than being machines, they’re biological constructs produced artificially through the processes of industrial manufacturing. Capek’s play has been produced many times, and its theme of a robot rebellion against humanity has been one of the dominant themes in Science Fiction. It’s most famous treatment has been in the Terminator films, in which a virus infects the Skynet computer system, causing it to revolt against humanity, unleashing an army of killer drones and humanoid robotic soldiers.

I found this short video on YouTube. It’s about a production of R.U.R. staged last year, 2015, at the Czech republic’s national gallery in Prague by Café Neu Romance, and directed by Christian Gjorret. Gjorret is a member of the group, Vive Les Robots, which has been set up to get the public interested in robots and robotics. The theatre company took the unusual step of performing the play entirely with robots, made out of the commercially available lego kits available in toy shops.

It’s an interesting approach, even if it means that the physical scale of the performance is rather small. I think there’s an opportunity to stage the play on a much grander scale, using life-size animatronic robots. There is, after all, a robot band called Compressorhead, which plays cover versions of various Rock and Heavy Metal tracks. The ABC Warrior, which appeared in the 1995 Judge Dredd film was also genuinely robotic. It also looked to me very much like a real robot was used to show C3PO’s mechanical nature, when R2D2’s metal mate made his first appearance being built by Anakin Skywalker in the first of the Star Wars prequels, The Phantom Menace. The problem with staging such a production would be the immense cost. Animatronics aren’t cheap. The operators of the Ry’gel puppet in the SF series Farscape said in an interview that the portable version of the character cost as much as a car, while the studio version was even more expense, and cost the equivalent of a house. Nevertheless, I think if it could be staged, it would be a fascinating and genuinely thought-provoking experiment. If nothing else, it would show how near we are to creating some of these machines, and how pressing and prescient some of the SF stories dealing with the issues of Artificial Intelligence, freedom, and the survival of humanity faced with machines, which may be its superior, are.

Here’s the video:

Vox Political on the Sun’s Two-Faced Support for the Conservatives and SNP

May 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has written this piece, Manipulation (clumsy, obvious and failed), on the rabid support for the Tories and the SNP respectively in the separate editions of the Sun for south and north of the Border. For England and Wales, the Scum proudly proclaims Cameron as the political titan leading us all into a new age of prosperity, and saving us all from those dreadful people in the Labour party and SNP.

The Scottish Sun and Sturgeon as Star Wars Heroine

Viewers in Scotland have their own programme, as the TV broadcasters say. There the Sun has portrayed Nicola sturgeon as Princess Leia from Star Wars, offering A New Hope. Presumably this reference to Star Wars means that they hope her term as political titan (Scots version) will be followed by five sequels. This metaphor could be a very mixed message for SNP voters and Sun readers, if it’s remembered that despite the massive affection for the films by Star Wars fans all over the world, the last three were pretty much panned by the critics. The first of the sequels, The Phantom Menace, was accused of racism and homophobia. Jar Jar Binks, who was clearly intended by Lucas to be a sympathetic comic underdog, instead managed to annoy just about everyone. To the point that one group of fans released their own, bootleg version, The Phantom Edit, which had the character edited out completely.

And the three sequels chart the gradual corruption of Annekin Skywalker from promising young pilot, robot creator and Jedi apprentice, to the Sith lord of evil, Darth Vader. Which could be a metaphor for the corruption of British politics from the 1970s onwards due to the pernicious influence of one Rupert Murdoch. There is a Chancellor Palpatine, and he’s in charge of New International and Fox News. It’s so much easier than a high profile political post.

Murdoch, the SNP and a Tory Victory

Mike makes the point that the Scottish Sun’s support of Sturgeon and the Scots Nationalists is a marriage of convenience, intended to ensure that the SNP destroy Labour in Scotland, and curtail wider support for Labour in the rest of the UK, thus ensuring an overall Tory victory. Mike writes of the Murdoch press that

They reckon that, with this pluralism, they can encourage enough Sun readers to vote Tory in England and Wales, while the Scots have been primed to vote SNP already – locking Labour out of office and putting Cameron back into Downing Street.

Rupert is banking on Labour sticking to its refusal to work with the SNP, leaving the way open for another Conservative-led Coalition government. That way, we can all look forward to another “It’s the Sun what won it!” headline in the south, and a “Never mind!” sop to the Scots, who’ll be locked into the union but with no say in anything that happens – because they voted for nationalism.

Voters in Scotland may find it hard to square the right-wing rag’s support for the SNP with that party’s own claim to be left-of-centre – but then, the SNP has found it impossible to square its claim that voters should avoid voting Labour in Scotland so the SNP can do a deal with Labour after the election, or to justify its refusal to ask voters south of the border to vote Labour (John Swinney refused to do so – what – seven times on a TV news report). The reason is that the SNP needs a strong Tory performance in England and Wales, otherwise Labour won’t need to make a deal with anyone. It’s a completely contradictory position that Nicola Sturgeon and her gang have glossed over with repeated – and often false – attacks on Labour.

The Sun, and Irish Nationalism and Ulster Unionism

In fact, this isn’t the first time the Sun has adopted a contradictory stance, supporting both Unionism and nationalism according to which side of the Border its editions are aimed. The Sun also has an edition for Eire, as well as a separate version for Northern Ireland. The actual content for both versions is put together in Wapping, and this has had highly amusing consequences when things have gone wrong. Such as an incident back in the 1990s, when someone pressed the wrong button, sending the contents of the two papers to each other. The result was that readers in Eire, suddenly found that the paper’s editorial stance had changed from being highly supportive of the Good Friday agreement to rabidly hostile. Loyalist readers north and east of the Border were also left wondering why the paper had ditched its opposition to the peace process, and was now supporting a united Ireland. Outrage and complaints followed.

Murdoch, Alex Salmond and the SNP

In Scotland, the SNP has been very careful to solicit the support of the Murdoch press. Alex Salmond himself met the Dirty Digger personally at least 12 times, more than the other leading politicians. All British politicos have in the past been very careful to get the power of the press on their side, including and especially Tony Blair. Salmond and Sturgeon have been no exception. The advantages to both parties are obvious. The SNP gets the support of the press, while Murdoch acquires sympathetic political support for his media empire. Remember: Murdoch is terrified about losing a fraction of his grip on the British press following a Miliband victory. As I’ve posted a few moments ago, he has told his journalists that his entire media empire is in jeopardy and could be ended if Labour gets in.

This support is not given freely. It’s very much a poisoned chalice, and the prices is high: continued support for Murdoch’s policies. Blair bought Murdoch’s loyalty as part of the New Labour project. This was his attempt to recreate the Labour Party as a centre-right, neo-liberal party with a slightly more benign attitude to welfare and workers’ rights than the Tories. And throughout his administration, Blair was always worried about his latest policies would be received by Murdoch, and the other press barons like Dacre and Richard Desmond.

Writers and commentators on Murdoch himself have stated that the press baron has pursued a consistent political line. He has always demanded privatisation and deregulation, including that of the NHS, attacked trade unions, workers’ rights and demanded savage reductions to welfare benefits and the infrastructure of the welfare state.

He is not a suitable bedfellow for the leader of any self-respecting left-wing party, whether Labour or the SNP.

I’ve no doubt that both Salmond and Sturgeon feel that gaining Murdoch’s support for the election need not lead them into further political indebtedness, or allow him to influence the rest of their policies. They’re wrong. The fact that Salmond met him so many times indicates how dependent he feels on gaining Murdoch’s support. And Murdoch will play on that.

Just like Palpatine does to Annakin Skywalker in the Star Wars sequels.

To go back to the Star Wars metaphor, Murdoch does not offer A New Hope, but The Revenge of the Sith.