“Avatar” by James Cameron

avatar-movie-poster A common joke about James Cameron’s Avatar is that it’s really just the lovechild of Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves and Cameron’s Aliens (or, depending on your age, FernGully and Aliens). In Avatar, a disillusioned marine joins a group of natives to fight against the white occupiers. Only in this version, the natives are blue-skinned aliens rather than Lakota and the occupiers are space marines rather than Col. Custer’s cavalry. There’s a lot to like about Avatar, but unfortunately the story never moves beyond those cliches. In this case, the joke contains more than a kernel of truth. Continue reading ““Avatar” by James Cameron”

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“Ready Player One” directed by Steven Spielberg!

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which I reviewed several months ago, is being made into a film. The novel is an extremely fun tribute to 1980s pop culture. Thus, it’s fitting that, according to Deadline, Steven Spielberg is set to direct. Spielberg of course was the driving force behind so many 80s classics, directing E.T. and Indiana Jones, and producing Back to the Future IIThe Goonies, and Gremlins, among many others. Cline actually references several of those movies in Ready Player One, so it’ll be interesting to see to what extent Spielberg uses this film adaptation to reflect back on his own work.

Summer 2015 Mythgard Institute Courses

Mythgard offers great online courses on sci-fi and fantasy. Check them out!

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In case anyone here doesn’t know, I’m pursuing a master’s degree with the Mythgard Institute at Signum University. This is a totally online institute that offers courses in fantasy, science fiction, and medieval literature for students and auditors. Things are getting along – I’m finishing up my last credit course this spring, and will spend the summer and fall writing my thesis. The course content offered and caliber of faculty associated with this program are consistently impressive, so I thought I’d link to what’s coming up in the near future.

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“Looper” by Rian Johnson

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Note: I saw Looper years ago, but am posting some brief thoughts because director Rian Johnson was recently selected to write and direct Star Wars Episode VIII

There’s a lot about Looper that I appreciate. Looper goes beyond the usual tropes about assassinating Hitler and finds a unique angle for a time travel story. In the future, criminal syndicates use time travel to conduct assassinations by sending those they want killed back into the past where they are killed by “loopers”, assassins paid with silver bars strapped to the victims. Continue reading ““Looper” by Rian Johnson”

Blomkamp “Alien” film

Like my new hat?
Like my new hat?

Neil Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi film, Chappie, hits U.S. theaters on March 6. Earlier this month, I reviewed Blomkamp’s breakout hit, District 9. Last week, I reviewed Elysium, his 2013 followup. In 2017, we have this to look forward to…

Neil Blomkamp has announced that he will write and direct a new Alien film. Blomkamp released some concept art for his vision (available here). We don’t know much except that Blomkamp wants to continue the story of Ellen Ridley and Corporal Hicks from James Cameron’s AliensContinue reading “Blomkamp “Alien” film”

“Elysium” by Neill Blomkamp

 

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Neil Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi film, Chappie, hits U.S. theaters on March 6. Last week, I reviewed Blomkamp’s breakout hit, District 9. Here I review Elysium, his 2013 followup.

Director Neill Blomkamp gained international acclaim with the underground hit District 9 (reviewed here), which combined convincing special effects and strong acting with a nuanced social commentary about interracial relations in Blomkamp’s native South Africa. Elysium continues many of the same themes, but also suggests that Blomkamp might be adopting the worst habits of Hollywood.

Continue reading ““Elysium” by Neill Blomkamp”

Rogue One & Star Wars: Episode VIII

Star Wars.com has just announced that the first standalone Star Wars film will be titled “Rogue One,” directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones. Meanwhile, Episode VIII will be directed by Rian Johnson and will be released on May 26, 2017 – 40 years after A New Hope.

Based on the title, it seems like the standalone film will focus on starfighter pilots. Could this be the Star Wars equivalent of Top Gun? I’d love to see a good dogfight. Even after 30 years, I don’t think anybody’s managed to top the space battle in Return of the Jedi.

I’m a bit concerned about Rian Johnson for Episode VIII. I saw Looper and, although I appreciated Johnson’s ambition, the storytelling was a bit convoluted. Hopefully he’s gotten more experience since then. Besides, Star Wars doesn’t have time travel.

What’s wrong with the economics of sci-fi?

Does Emperor Shaddam IV look like he cares about economic growth?
He who controls the spice, controls the universe!

Economist David Berri has an article in Time criticizing the depiction of economics in science fiction. In particular, he argues that sic-fi stories frequently depict technologically advanced galactic empires despite the fact that, in the real world, autocracy sniffles economic growth. Historically, empires have seized private wealth, making citizens more reluctant to invest in technology and innovation. By contrast, inclusive governments, such as democracies, allow people to reap the rewards of their investments, thereby encouraging investment in technologies that stimulate economic growth.

I know something about both political economy and science fiction, and unfortunately Berri gets both wrong.

Continue reading “What’s wrong with the economics of sci-fi?”

“District 9” by Neill Blomkamp

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Neil Blomkamp’s latest sci-fi film, Chappie, hits U.S. theaters on March 6. Here I review Blomkamp’s breakout hit, District 9. Next week, I will review Elysium, his 2013 followup.

Most sci-fi movies about first contact with aliens generally depict humans as either the heroes or victims – or both. First contact can be a chance for peoples of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds to make common cause against alien invaders (Independence Day) or a moment that inspires us to reach for the stars (Star Trek: First Contact). Continue reading ““District 9” by Neill Blomkamp”