Filled Under: sci-fi

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence

The director and his crew have done an excellent job in bringing into life the novel “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Usually movies that are adapted from books fail to stand up to the expectation and hype that is created around it. Often in such cases, if you have not read the book, you will not understand the movie well. But in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross has done his best to bring the essence and elements of the books into the movie. He has ensured that the true picture of brutality is clearly displayed in the main section of the movie which constitutes the game.

The elite domination over the world and its cruel consequences has been depicted in this dystopian novel. While you are watching the movie, you get the feeling that the situations that you face today due to the diplomatic government are more or less similar to the situations depicted in the movie. The movie is set in North America, 74 years after a revolution and the federal power is supreme with 12 districts under its commandment. As a punishment for a past rebellion, each district has to send compulsorily a boy and a girl to represent the district in the hunger games. The director, Gary Ross has done a great job in recreating this futuristic world.

The lead role in the movie is that of the bold Katniss Everdeen in her teens and has been wonderfully acted by Jenifer Lawrence. If you have read the book before watching the movie, you will be stunned to see that the same face, the same features are displayed by Jenifer in the movie. Jenifer Lawrence has imbibed each and even minute detail of the lead character Katniss Everdeen to bring the movie to life.

The opening of the movie has been well sculptured with a wonderful job done by the set designers. The first 90 seconds shows the luxurious and well established Panem, the Capital city and the discussion and proclamation of the Hunger Games for the year. The scene then shifts suddenly to the depressing view of District 12. The differentiating line between the have and the have not’s is clearly depicted in the introduction scene itself. The government lives in the Capitol with intense wealth and power while the surrounding 12 captured districts live a life of poverty and helplessness. Two young representatives from these 12 districts compete in the hunger games to survive, without any good reason, but they have to obey the rules set by the Capitol.

The book was most popular for the Hunger Game part which had 24 teenagers from the 12 districts hunting all competing for survival in a forest. And it is truly awesome to see these scenes come to life in a synthetic forest with all the minute details taken care of. All those harsh scenes like gushing blood has been completely avoided in the movie, yet the rage of the game has been well created with the quickly moving cameras, giving you a glimpse of every action and violence.

Watch this movie, you will have a great time.

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As this movie was released already a few months ago, gaining the largest box office ever at over 2 billion dollars worldwide and receiving numerous awards including three Oscars, you already know about Avatar and you probably saw it.

As this blog is about movies but my favorite genre is science fiction as the top logo shows, this post will simply be a list of remarks about the movie to avoid rehashing stuff.

First of all in my opinion this is the best sci fi movie of the decade, and it belongs to the list of the top twenty sci fi movies of all times. I believe the special effects in this movie are  the best ever made in any movie.

James Cameron was able to create a completely fictional world on the moon Pandora in Alpha Centauri star system. In this lush world, flora and fauna coexist in a gorgeous forest and this imaginary society seems totally real because of the marvelous special effects. Is it better to watch the movie in 3D (I tried both versions) which accentuates the power of the images. And the images are truly unbelievable.

There is also a population of tall human-like creatures called the Na’vi who lives on Pandora. This is the first time that alien features have been rendered with such a great realism in a movie. Star Trek, Star Wars or District 9 to name a few have all three had some of the best creations with respect to alien civilized creatures similar to humans, but not as good as the Na’vis. The Navis were computer generated but unlike most, they appear believable on the screen as creatures of flesh and blood.

The animals including flying dragons and wild dogs, the trees, flowers and plants all live in harmony in magnificent colors. The images of the rivers,  villages, mountains, cliffs and the aerial views project you in this imaginary world as if you were there.

The script also has some interesting and unusual concepts. The migration of the mind between different bodies (from two alien species) thanks to technology, rebirth into a different body, a sophisticated natural system that transcends each individual entity through a bio-botanical neural-network, the mental communication between different species through a physical lien.

This is a movie you will not forget so do not delay if you have not seen it yet.

Surrogates

Rosamund pike

Rosamund pike

Bruce Willis latest movies is an interesting sci-fi thriller, “Surrogates”.

In this not too distant future, a new technology has revolutionized the way human beings live their lives.

It enables them to control human looking robots from their home through the waves of their brains. They use these “surrogates” to act on their behalf while they stay comfortably laying on their couch.

This technology has many advantages. Accidents, murders and wars occur with minimal human casualties as it is the surrogates that are destroyed in case of an accident, not the human “operator” who is perfectly safe. Diseases do not spread easily. And people love to use these gorgeous young looking models instead of their own old skin.

Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer, who is not too surprisingly a cop investigating what appears to be a murder. It seems that by destroying a surrogate, the murderer achieved what was previously  thought impossible: killing its operator. This had never happened before and it put the entire surrogacy system at risk by nullifying its main advantage, protecting human lives.

The main players coming of this original sci-fi thriller are Canter (James Cromwell) the inventor of the surrogate technology and The Prophet (Ving Rhames) who is the leader of the anti-surrogacy movement. Tom Greer lost his son in a car accident and his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) has become addicted to her surrogate, never leaving her room herself in person.

Surrogates is a nice addition to the science fiction genre with its good storyline. The concept in itself is rather new, and is an extension of our current society’s trends such as automation, robotization and social networking. The movie is inspired by a five-issue comic book written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Brett Weldele.

For sci-fi aficionados and people who love Bruce Willis like me, you should check it, but it is not the most unforgettable sci-fi movie. The director is Jonathan Mostow who is a good but not great director.

Some of the interesting aspects of the movie are the depiction of a society where people use machines to act on their behalf, and when this social trend leads to unforeseen consequences such as addiction and dependency.

Not expected to be happening soon, this is nevertheless a possibility in human evolution. The surrogates are copies of their operators, but better looking, displaying less emotions and with extraordinary physical capabilities as can be seen in some of the races in the movie.

The message of the movie: Technology will revolutionize our society more then what we expect.

District 9

Nathalie Boltt

Nathalie Boltt

A sci-fi original.

The quality of this movie is guaranteed given that it is produced by Peter Jackson, the mastermind behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Even though this is the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp and there is no famous actor, this is going to be a memorable sci-fi blockbuster.

District 9 is the story of a starship that stops just above Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa and then stays forever above ground, immobile and obscuring part of the sky. After a few months, the humans penetrate into it, to discover a wavering population of aliens appearing sick, malnourished, without organization and who seem to have lost the knowledge of how to maneuver the spaceship .

The movie takes places twenty years after the spaceship initial arrival. As patience regarding this “alien situation” has ran out, the management of the alien population has been contracted out to the private company Multi-National United (MNU) which relocates them in a ghetto-like area called “District 9″.

District 9 is a scary slum where various types of traffic take place (weapons, food, etc) under the control of the Nigerian mafia. Aliens speak their own language and have their own culture and habits, making co-habitation very difficult.

This sci-fi masterpiece is original for a few reasons. First the format of the movie, which is shot like if it were a documentary. Many short interviews of witnesses commenting on their impressions are intertwined with action footage. And they talk and appear as if it was the evening news, including expert commentaries by sociologists such as Sarah Livingstone (Nathalie Boltt). And there is impromptu footage filmed as the real events occurred.

The lead character presented himself as a witness is Wikuss Wan De Merwe, the manager from MNU responsible for relocating the 1.8 millions aliens to a remote and quieter location. This is a difficult operation as the aliens may not understand the concept of relocation (as they have no sense of propriety) and they are unpredictable and possibly violent, causing occasional deaths on both sides.

It turns out that one of the aliens had managed to preserve the knowledge of his race’s technology and had been working on building a small spacecraft during the last twenty years since their unfortunate arrival. But while raiding the place, Wikuss Wan De Merwe gets contaminated by a substance used to fuel the ship, and starts transforming himself into an alien.

This is not a Star Wars movie as the action is shot in real South Africa as we know it, and the budget is only 30 millions. But the special effects are first class for this relatively small budget. The aliens have a realistic appearance, the mother spaceship, small spaceship and robots are perfectly rendered as if we were watching the news channel.

Also District 6 has a great human touch. We see the hero losing his humanity as he progressively becomes an alien and his body suffers a slow metamorphosis. In the face of that, he becomes a valuable object of science for human society and is treated as such, without compassion as an object of immense value. His wife is the only one left who cares for him.

As this movie is presented in a narrative format, each person expresses his feelings about this extraordinary situation, offering a wide range of views and human emotions. Finally, the choice of the country famous for Apartheid and its huge ghettos is probably not coincidental to carry a message about races and tolerance.

The message of the movie: be tolerant to others and keep an open mind.

Star Trek (2009)

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana

As the most recognizable filmed sci-fi icon, no one remotely interested in the sci-fi genre can miss this new release of a Star Trek movie.

Interestingly (but fashionably correct), this is a prequel to the entire Star Trek series. As we learn about the youths of Captain Jim Kirk and Spock before they became Captain and First Officer of the Enterprise. Also how was Vulcan, Spock’s planet, destroyed.

All the other characters of the original series have their younger versions, and they look so familiar even 40 years since the first Star Trek.

Uhura, the young charming black American lady is played by Zoe Saldana. McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) all are perfect reminiscences of the Entreprise crew as we used to know them.

There is always a bad guy and he is played marvelously by Eric Bana as Nero. Rarely will you see such a good looking bad guy.

The story takes place in the year 2387. Ambassador Spock has the delicate mission to consume a dangerous supernova. He pilots a ship carrying some so-called “red matter” that can be used to create black holes. But before he completes his mission, the supernova has destroyed the planet Romulus. Romulus is one of the inhabited planets in the original Star Trek galaxy, and its inhabitants the Romulans are related to the Vulcans.

Captain Nero, one of the survivors of the Romulan race attempts to exact revenge on Spock, whom he blames for the destruction of his homeworld and its inhabitants. Both ships, however, are caught in the black hole’s event horizon (a boundary in spacetime, most often an area surrounding a black hole, beyond which time as we know it to be does not exist).

As you can imagine, the special effects are top-notch (but to be honest not at the level of Star Wars). The space adventure runs its course in a marvelous way. It really feels like space travel really exists.

One element of success in Star Trek has always been its acting and its dialogues, with conflicting characters and a good sense of humor. This aspect is very well kept, in particular the struggles between Captain Kirk and Spock. Spock (Zahary Quinto) is a very likable character as we are the witness of his constant battles for controlling his own emotions, despite very difficult personal circumstances. The younger version of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is also a perfect fit for the role, with all its bravado and courage.

A nice touch is the appearance of the true original Spock (now 78 years old) Leonard Nimoy, as an older Spock coming from the future.

Overall an excellent story and excellent actors and direction.

The message of the movie: let us try to control our emotions, or they will control us.

Terminator Salvation

Moon Bloodgood

Moon Bloodgood

Terminator Salvation stars Christian Bale as John Connor, Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, Moon Bloodgood as Lt. Blair Williams and Bryce Dallas Howard as Kate Connor.

If will not hide that sci-fi is my favorite genre, I think the top logo makes it rather clear. And if I had to make a top ten sci-fi movie list, then “The Terminator” (1984) would probably make it. It find both the special effects and story line to be top of their class, and this is what makes most of a sci-fi movie.

This iconic movie more than deserves sequels. Terminator 2: Judgment day was almost as good as the first one. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, still good but a bit weaker. Now this fourth release Terminator Salvation is an improvement from the third one.

The sad thing is that we lost Arnold Schwarzenegger as he quit acting (action actors do not age well), but he appears in a small cameo in the movie, and that is excellent.

The best side of Terminator Salvation that all sci-fi fans and non fans will love is the special effects. There are robots in all sizes and shapes. The fast motorbikes, the giant human-shaped robots, the spaceships all are amazing.

The storyline focuses on the origin of the T-800 model of Terminators, which are cyborg-types of robots with human appearance made famous in the original Terminator. Skynet, the robotic ennemy of the human race, needs real human tissues in order to create these cyborgs. This is why they must capture human beings and this is what John Connor is trying to uncover.

Marcus Wright is the first ever cyborg. He seems to have appeared from nowhere, thinking that he is human. He was a prisoner on death row in 2003, and this is now 2018.  He meets the beautiful Ltd. Blair Williams after a heated battle against the robots, and she falls for him. But as he walks on a magnetic mine revealing his true robotic nature, he is captured by John Connor’s group.

He manages to escape and the question is which side of his human and  cybernetic nature will prevail to decide the fate of the human race in its war against the robots.

Overall an excellent science fiction movie. It was directed by McG who is not a very prominent director, but did a great job.

The message of the movie: “I will be back.”