Category Archives: science fiction

Westworld – Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy (series season 1 2016)

IMDb.com

I got these series as birthday present. It was also on my wish list, but not too high. The first season is alright, but as with most series that I see, not good enough to make me want to see season 2 or the announced third series some time soon.

Westworld is a virtual Wild West, an amusement park where people can submerge themselves in adventure. They can even go around killing people and go to the brothel, for most visitors the main attractions. Most people in Westworld are androids, robots that are almost exactly human, called “hosts”. When a host gets shot, it is repaired and sent back to the park to pick up their parts in their “loops” (part of a “narrative”) again. When ‘upstairs’ the hosts are usually clothless, an easy way to incorporate nudity into the series for an unclear reason. A host cannot kill a visitor.

In order to make them more and more human, the creators frequently update the hosts, even giving them some sort of consciousness. Then some seem to start to develop consciousness themselves. This leads to lengthy philosophical monologues about what makes humans human and what makes reality real. Of course it is in the development of an own will of the hosts that the series get their story from.

“Westworld” is an alright series that raises a few interesting questions. The events jump back and forth in time and the story is well-written with subtle references and a few surprises. Anthony Hopkins is great as one of the creators of the park. In the first episodes the score is interesting too, as it is often classical versions of pop songs.

All in all, “Westworld” made a nice watch, but like I said, I not nice enough to put the following seasons high(er) up on my to see list.

Mortal Engines – Christian Rivers (2018)

IMDb.com

The film has a nicely weird story. On a scorched future earth cities have been made mobile. The travelling city of London drives around the globe to literally eat up smaller cities in order to use their resources. In this film London symbolises the West with its greed and destruction. The face of this is Thaddeus Valentine, well played by Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in The Matrix).

There are also people who do not live in these mobile cities, but they are hunted by all kinds of rogue towns. One such person is Hester Shaw who  has plans for Valentine. Together with Tom she drops off London and falls into the hands of a rebel group who the two are going to help to prevent London (the West) to break through the wall guarding the East.

The weird cities themselves, but especially the weird machines bring memories of films such “Mad Max“. “Mad Max” is much rawer though. Especially the obligatory romance and jokes of “Mortal Engines” make it a too typical Hollywood film.

The only thing that is somewhat uncommon is that the West is bad and the East actually wins. Oops, I gave away the end.

“Mortal Engines” is an amusing dystopian sci-fi spectacle, but not a terribly good one.

Le Cinquième Élément – Luc Besson (1997)

So why had I not seen this film? A nice over-the-top sci-fi action comedy.

“The Fifth Element” begins as a somewhat corny mix between “Indiana Jones” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy“. Then we go fast forward to a weird future which could have come from the pen of Terry Gilliam. Well, the film is not as good as the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” or “Zero Theorem“, but it sure is entertaining.

Bruce Willis is amusing as taxi-driver Korben Dallas who literally catches a girl called Leeloo and then has to save her in order to save the world. Of course some bad guys are after her as well (Gary Oldman as Zorg) which results in space chases through weird cities and with odd characters.

95ers: Time Runners – Thomas Gomez Durham (2013)

The film looks older than it is. While watching I had the idea that I was watching an older sci-fi with an elaborate story, but the film is actually recent.

The story is fairly good. Told by Horatio (or rather: Horatio’s diary) we follow Sally who Horatio fell in love with. Jumping back and forth in time, we learn that Sally is an FBI-agent who candidly tries to investigate her husband’s death and the mysterious happenings afterwards. This is a bit of a Dana Skully (X-Files) type story.

There is more to Sally though: she is “a 95er” which I will leave the film to explain to you.

In some shoot-out Star Wars type future, people are looking for Sally. This is not entirely clear to me, but I think they try to prevent Sally from using her abilities.

All good and well, were it not that the acting is quite stiff and the CGI looks a bit cheap too. This makes the film look unconvincing. It seems that a bigger budget would have benefited the film.

The “95ers” in the title is not on the box, but it does suggest that some sort of film-series is (was) intended. IMDb.com has a “95ers Echoes” listed, but this title simply refers to the present film.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Ron Howard

Ah yes, a Star Wars spin-offs to keep the money flow going. As the title suggests, this film zooms in to the character of Han Solo. We learn how he got out of slavery, how he got his name, how he met Chewie and how he got his ship.

Of course that is but a hook to hang on a space adventure including a wonderful Woody Harrelson as space renegade and Emilia Clarke gets to show that she can play more parts than Daenerys Targaryen. The story is told without most of the known Star Wars characters or even being part of the ‘bigger story’.
Actually, the title may suggest that the viewer gets to know Han Solo, but some light is only shed on a small part of his life.

Still, the film is enjoyable. There is no need to watch it on the big screen, but I suppose people who like Star Wars will enjoy this little spin-off.

Looper – Rian Johnson (2012)

In this time-travel film a “looper” is a hired killer for criminals of the future who send back the people they want executed. Not too surprisingly one of those sent back has the plan to prevent being caught by killing the person responsible for his apprehension.

The film is alright. The story is not too original with all the time-travel films that have been released and there are no big surprises except for the obligatory one at the end.

Not a bad film, but it need not to be very high up your watch-list.

I, Robot – Alex Proyas (2004)

In 2035 mankind is supported by robots on many fields, from household to the design and development of products. Robots become more and more advanced and the driving force behind this development created three laws that, when they are lived up to, prevent robots from getting the upper hand over humans.

Then the professor dies and a troubled officer of the homicide department (played by Will Smith) sets out to investigate.

“I, Robot” is a hardly surprising, but decently made, film in which some main questions and dangers of robotisation and artificial intelligence are mentioned. Of course this mostly leads to an American moralistic action film, but that is hardly surprising too.

Immortel – Enki Bilal (2004)

Just like Frank Miller would a year later with “Sin City“, Enki Bilal put his own comic to film. Besides this fact, the two films have little in common.

In a fantasyfull future with magnificent 1950’ies looking flying cars virtually everybody had him- or herself manipulated. Lungs that look better, parts of the skull that have been replaced, etc. Also virtually nobody is ‘pure human’ since extraterrestrials have mixed with humans. The people in this film look pretty weird. So weird, that many characters seem to come from a computer. For a while I even wondered if I was watching an animation or a film. I do not like plastic looking characters on screen. Judging the list of actors and a couple of characters that do look (probably: are) real, “Immortel (Ad Vitam)” (as the full title goes) is ‘just’ a film with a lot of CGI. Then again, there is also an actor listed for “Horus”. I must add that the surroundings look amazing, so I do not but complain about the CGI, but people from a computer still are not my thing so to say.

So we have one alien-human-hybrid who is special: Jill. Another story is about a flying pyramid that actually houses three Egyptian Gods: Horus, Anubis and Bastet. Horus apparently needs a human body as host to conceive new offspring every now and there for he chooses Nikopol, a drop-out of the system. Very amusingly, Nikopol can talk to his inhabiting spirit, they can split from each other and rejoin and Nikopol can ‘use’ Horus’ abilities to fly for example.

All this does not really lead to surprising plot twists. Of course Nikopol and Jill meet. Jill is investigated by scientists, but this does not go as everybody hoped and she becomes a bit of a hero ‘in spite of it all’.

Story-wise “Immortal” (the international title) is an entertaining film. Visually it is wonderful too (safe the plastic people). It got some nice findings and humour. Not bad at all!

Red Planet – Antony Hoffman (2000)

Human kind has tried to create an atmosphere on Mars by shooting rockets with algae to the red planet. This worked initially, but when air levels drop, a crew is sent to investigate the matter.

In a story somewhat akin to “The Martian” a part of the crew gets stuck on the planet, trying to survive and ultimately: trying to get off again.

The box says that this is “the best science fiction since The Matrix”, but other than the presence of Carrie-Anne Moss there are not a whole lot of similarities. “The Matrix” is a futuristic spectacle, “Red Planet” is more of a possibly science based stories that are quite popular nowadays.

The film is quite alright too.

Blade Runner 2049 – Dennis Villeneuve (2017)

Either I do not remember much from the 1982 original of this film or Villeneuve made his own take with this revamp. I expected a hip, Hollywood, scifi spectacle, but “2049” has little to do with that.

We find ourselves in a dystopian future in which K (Ryan Gosling) is some sort of policeman and in which most (all?) of earth’s inhabitants appear to be robots of some sort. In the first scenes K kills a man, but this action proves to unearth some mysteries that need to be investigated and done away with.

Gosling finds himself in a mix between “Drive” and “Mad Max“, a very slow, dark, minimalistic and gloomy science fiction film. The dark and rumbling soundtrack is a bit overdone here and there, but usually very moody. The story is not very complex, but enough to add some interesting notions on.

Indeed, this is actually a wonderfully dark film.