Catching Up on SciFi Movies (Part 5)

As I’ve done in the past, here are my quick takes on the genre-related films I’ve watched in the last several weeks which admittedly was a little Vin Diesel heavy…


  1. V for Vendetta (2005) – I loved the way this complex Dystopian story about a totalitarian British governemnt unfolded, though near the end the film it was feeling a bit drawn out.
  2. The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) – What could have been a cool update of one of my all-time SciFi favorites was riddled with logic-defying decisions by characters and plot.
  3. Battle for Terra (2007) – Nice animation but clichéd and, therefore, unengaging. And what’s up with the nonsensical plot points? Falling from the sky is not really dramatic if you can fly. Just sayin’…
  4. Pitch Black (2000) – What could have been a good mash-up of SciFi and Horror was instead a long, drawn-out hodgepodge of no suspense and Vin Diesel.
  5. Chronicles of Riddick (2004) – This is a significant improvement over Pitch Black, offering a meatier story, more action and better characters.
  6. Babylon A.D. (2008) – The interesting post-apocalyptic setting was interesting, but the real reason for mercenary Vin Diesel’s quest fell short..

11 thoughts on “Catching Up on SciFi Movies (Part 5)”

  1. I realize I’m going to get blown up with fireworks for saying this, but I think V for Vendetta is my least favorite film ever made.  Not the worst, by far.  But it’s the one that gets me the most riled.  I think it’s false to the source material (which I don’t particularly love anyway) and hypocritical beyond parody.  The basic message of “Be open-minded and accepting, and if you dissagree with the filmmakers you are a Nazi who deserves a merciless death in flames” is… Well, it’s inchoherent to such a point that it would be funny if it werent so representative of the way people actually think today.

  2. PITCH BLACK wasn’t a flawless movie but still quite good—vastly better than the bloated trainwreck that was CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK.

  3. I have to admit, John, that most people that I’ve spoken with on the matter vastly prefer PB to Chronicles of Riddick.

    Me? I thought COR was dreck, until I saw the extended/director’s cut, which makes a hell of a lot more sense.  *That’s* a universe I want to see more stories set in. There are so very few original SF universes these days, that a new one that is halfway decent is something to treasure.  We can’t just watch endless ST and SW reboots and remakes.

     

     

     

  4. <i>Pitch Black</i> was an unpretentious little movie, with some good special effects and a solid character study–of the pilot Frye.  It’s one of my favorite genre films because it doesn’t try to be an epic, it’s not bloated and portentous: it just tells a suspenseful story well.

     

    <i>The Chronicles of Riddick</i> is a bloated mess, and a complete waste of a fairly talented cast.

  5. I’m going to second (or is that third?) the PB > Chronicles opinion.  PB was simple.  Monster vs. Badass with a bunch of innocents caught in the middle.  Excellent action without too much brain activity.

    SPOILER ALERT

    I really liked the fact that the Imam lived while the Pilot diet.  Did not see that coming!

    END SPOILER

    Chronicles on the other hand was bloated and made ZERO sense.  Necromungers?  Seriously?!?!  And what the heck was Judi Dench doing here?  That woman needs to get a new agent!

  6. I like both Riddick movies, but Pitch Black was probably the best.  At least in Chronicles they tried to create a new universe.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was decent.

    @ Luke

    How is V hypocritical? 

    The protagonist is essentially tortured as a child.  These same people then took power by killing 80,000 people with a virus they made.  They then “cured” it and used the good will to take power.  They then used this power to prevent themselves from being forced from power by a pesky election or something else annoying. 

    The protagonist then kills these people and incites a rebellion.  How is this hypocritical?  It’s not like he took over and oppresed the people, which would have been hypocritical.  He destroyed a totalitarian government to allow the people to rule themselves.

    Maybe the movie doesn’t follow the comic books, but that isn’t hypocritical.  Not following the books…is just not following the books.

  7. Chad:

     

    I don’t think you followed my argument.  The lack of honesty to the source material is one thing, but not a particularly big deal to me, because I don’t like the source material all that much anyhow.

     

    The hypocrisy has nothing to do with this, or with the internal plot, which I did see and understand, thank you.  The hypocrisy is that the filmmakers are pushing an agenda of open-mindedness and acceptance so hard that  it derails the story, and then they turn around assure the viewers that if they fail to comply with thier open-minded acceptance, said viewers can go f** thier totalitarian selves and die in an explosion.  Even the repentant doctor gets murdered in her bed.  It’s the very definition of hypocrisy.  “Accept those different from yourself, and if you differ from me I will kill you no matter what.”

     

    There are also the conflicting heavy-handed 9/11 paralells.   On the one hand, the government is responsible for it’s own big, evil, building-exploding disaster to use for its own ends.   Bad government!  How could you?  On the other hand, our hero lovably causes a big, fantastic, building-exploding disaster!  Hooray!

     

    It’s incoherent.  And it’s dishonest.  Speaking as a practicing Catholic in America, the “Faith” is not the thing opressing people.  Every atrocity “V for Vendetta” accuses “Faith” of, “V for Vendetta” subjects me to within it’s runtime.  It actually DOES the things it accuses it’s villains of.  The totalitarian government in that film is a straw man with a big sign over it that says “CHRISTIANS,” but that straw man looks uncannily similar to the filmmakers.

     

     

  8. You are correct I did not understand your initial argument.  However, your second try doesn’t convince me there is a lot of hypocrisy either.

    Because the evil doctor is murdered it’s hypocritical to the open-minded belief?  I could careless if she was repentant.  An open-minded belief doesn’t require the believer to allow everything, as that would fall under a belief in chaos.

    There are also the conflicting heavy-handed 9/11 paralells.   On the one hand, the government is responsible for it’s own big, evil, building-exploding disaster to use for its own ends.   Bad government!  How could you?  On the other hand, our hero lovably causes a big, fantastic, building-exploding disaster!  Hooray!

    Just so we are clear, all explosions, bombs, shootings, etc. are not inherently evil or bad.  The situation, intent, and reasoning behind the act is what defines the act as evil or good.  The act of shooting some random stranger on the street is evil.  The act of shooting a man holding others hostage is good.  In the V case the government willingly experiments and kills innocents (including their building explosion), so it is perfectly fine to blow them up…no hypocrisy.

    It’s incoherent.  And it’s dishonest.  Speaking as a practicing Catholic in America, the “Faith” is not the thing opressing people.  Every atrocity “V for Vendetta” accuses “Faith” of, “V for Vendetta” subjects me to within it’s runtime.  It actually DOES the things it accuses it’s villains of.  The totalitarian government in that film is a straw man with a big sign over it that says “CHRISTIANS,” but that straw man looks uncannily similar to the filmmakers.

    So, this is the real reason you dislike V.  It has nothing to do with the imagined hypocrisy in the previous statements.  You just don’t like that they made the bad guys religious…which is fine.  And, I suppose if one assumes the entire movie was supposed to paint christianity in bad light, even if they didn’t do heinous acts, then it would be somewhat hypocritical.  However, the government, which is supposedly christian, did do henous acts, so destroying it is perfectly reasonable.  Just like destroying it would be reasonable if it was an atheist, muslim, or any other type of government that performed heinous acts on it’s population. 

    The film and plot itself has little, if any, hypocrisy.  Maybe the filmmakers are hypocritical (I have no idea, as I don’t even know who they are), but the film itself isn’t.

  9. Chad, this is getting frustrating.  You are not hearing what I’m saying. Quit reading into my argument and try reading it.  I’ll try to simplify it a little further here, so I’m not repeating myself.

     

    The film says to us “Don’t do this!”  and then proceeds to do that.  “Don’t judge!” says the soulful prison montage, “Let the hot lesbians do their thang!  You don’t have to agree, just accept!”   Okay.  Fine.  Thanks, Montage.  But then then, the film turns it’s own message on it’s head by calling people who dissent with it’s message Nazis (red armbands and all) and saying the only way to deal with them is to execute them on sight. 

    “Don’t judge people who dissagree with you, and if you dissagree with me, I judge you worthy of no punishment less than death.”  Tell me that is not hypocritical.  That is practically the dicionary definition of hypocritcal.  It would make a good sample sentence, anyway.  It makes about as much sense as a movie about a masked jewish hero who goes around forcing bacon down people’s throats.  It is inherently incoherent.

    A person who tells people not to do something and then does that same thing is a hypocrite.  A film which behaves the same way is hypocritical.  That was all I was trying to say here.

    And, to address the other stuff you brought up:

    Because the evil doctor is murdered it’s hypocritical to the open-minded belief?

    That’s not exactly what I’m saying, but, kinda.  Yeah.  The murder of the doctor is only one symptom of the widespread bloodlust for idiological enemies V shows.  It’s not my entire argument.  But killing people who disagree with you is not exactly tolerant.

      I could careless if she was repentant.

    Here, I suppose, we simply disagree on moral grounds.  I believe the ruthless murder of a defensless woman in her bed for crimes she she was forced to commit decades ago and has clearly repented of in the mean time is wrong.  Call me crazy.  Hell, I think it’s wrong even if she revels in it.  Even if she writes mocking letters to her victims families every saturday.  That makes her a dispicable human being.  That makes her a loon who should be locked away.  It doesn’t make her deserve violent death in the night.

    Just so we are clear, all explosions, bombs, shootings, etc. are not inherently evil or bad.

    Okay.  I can dig.

    The act of shooting some random stranger on the street is evil.  The act of shooting a man holding others hostage is good.

    I think there’s a difference here, but it’s the difference between evil and a *neccesary evil,* rather than Good, exactly.  Shooting a hostage-holding wacko might be the best way out of such a scenario, but that doesn’t make the act of shooting a man into a Good Thing.  It’s still terrible and traumatic.  Lots of cops never get over the fact that they had to shoot someone, despite it being the morally requisite action in that particular situation.  The destruction of the parliment building in V for Vendetta harbors none of this regret.  Rather, it celebrates, revels in it.  Pretty fireworks!  Hooray!  Inspiring music!  Huzzah!  All the no-good scoundrels are burning to death even as the crowds stand by and cheer!  Waaaahooo!  You know, this has really been a lovely evening.

    In short, Ick.  You see that kind of disregard for life presented in cartoon form in lots of brainless action flicks, where I think it’s somewhat harmless.  But V is pretending to be deep.  It’s suggesting this is an actual solution.  Problem with somebody?  Blow up a building!  That’ll show ‘em!   The fact that this film even *got made* post 9/11 astounds me.

    In the V case the government willingly experiments and kills innocents (including their building explosion), so it is perfectly fine to blow them up…no hypocrisy.

    You’re talking about this like these are real people and events that actually occurred.  In reality, the atrocities the government committed were *created by the people who wrote the movie.*  They are props to be pushed around and help the story (or in this case, story-smothering agenda) along.  The government does terrible things to give V justification for murdering them all in cold blood.  He’s not reacting to them violently and justly.  They were written to make his violent actions look just.  They are Snidely Whiplash cartoons of the political Right, made to look just evil enough that it seems, in your words, “perfectly fine to blow them up.”

    Now, just to clarify, this bothers me because it is dishonest, not because I am a proud and card-carrying member of said political right.  I’m not.  The film is propagandistic and decietful, objectively and non-partisanly.

    As for “…no hypocrisy”  the destruction of the parliment building is just one of many, many examples of V’s bloodthirsty crusade for the lives of his enemies.  I have explained above, three times now, how this is contrary to the messge the film tries to put forward.  Read it again.

    So, this is the real reason you dislike V.  It has nothing to do with the imagined hypocrisy in the previous statements. You just don’t like that they made the bad guys religious.

    Egad!  You’ve found me out!  You’re right.  None of my previous completely logical arguments mean anything to me.  It was all a front.  I’m just a li’l old religous bigot hiding under the covers of my favorite opiate of the masses and, alternately, shouting at traffic.  Basically, you can just disregard everything I’ve said at this point.  Sorry to waste your time.

    In actual news, I mentioned that particular example of the hypocrisy demonstraded in V because I was looking for more examples to make my point clear.  I listed it alongside two other examples.  Furthermore, it’s not really a crazy point to bring up, buecause the villians in V don’t just happen to be religious.  It isn’t incidental.  They were deliberately written as foaming caracatures of the Religious Right in this country.  It’s not some small part of their character development.  It is the soul pourpose of their existence.  They were created for no other reason than to make Christianity look villainous and then get killed in cool fight scenes, or their showers.  If you can’t see this, you’re not looking.  Even Alan Moore, creator of the original comic and no lover of christiantity or political conservitism himself, disowned the film for this very reason.  It’s bad storytelling.  It’s propaganda, and not even particularly good propaganda at that.

    Anyway, as a Catholic SF fan and film student, I’m used to getting shoved around by artists I love.  Lots of my favorite writers and filmmakers think I’m a superstitious loon.  I’m used to that.  I can get over it.  I love Asimov.  I love Clarke.  I love Terry Gilliam.  I even think some of Alan Moore’s comic work is among the best ever written, despite the fact that I disagree with him on almost everything he believes.  I adore and respect a lot of artists who have no respect for my beliefs.  I can cope.  If I couldn’t, I’d miss out on heaping masses of the most beautiful art in the world.  I go to artists for art, not for beliefs.  I’m not so thin-skinned as to hate a movie because it bad-mouths Christians.  This film bothers me because it is dishonest, two-faced, and illogical as a result.  It is a badly constructed film, regardless of my faith.

    However, the government, which is supposedly christian, did do henous acts, so destroying it is perfectly reasonable.  Just like destroying it would be reasonable if it was an atheist, muslim, or any other type of government that performed heinous acts on it’s population.

    The PC police thank you for your equal-opportunity willingness to destroy fictional governments, but ask you to leave out references to Islam in future lists of hypothetical fictional evil.  That’s profiling, and we’ll have none of it.

     

     

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