The Last Sci-Fi Blog: Getting Lost 'In Time' and Pondering the Point of 'Prometheus"

The Last Sci-Fi Blog: Getting Lost 'In Time' and Pondering the Point of 'Prometheus"

Nov 10, 2011

The Sci-Fi News: Under the Dome of the Planet of the Star Trek 2 Casting

What do you think of the news that Brian K. Vaughan, he of Lost and Y: The Last Man fame, has been tapped to adapt Stephen King's epic Under the Dome for Showtime? Surely your response is something akin to "Wow! That's a great match! Surely he'll capture the scope and attention to character that made the book work while tweaking things here and there to plug up the flaws!" There's no solid word out there yet as to whether or not this will be an ongoing series or a miniseries, but the premise (which finds a small town encased in an unbreakable invisible dome by forces beyond their comprehension) suggests a miniseries. Vaughn's a smart, funny and truly exciting storyteller, the rare writer who knows how to stick a landing (the last issue of Y: The Last Man may be one of the great denouements in modern fiction). This makes him the perfect man to tackle a story originated by King, a man whose penchant for missing the landing is legendary.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm ready for Star Trek 2. By the time it hits theaters, it'll be three years since we saw JJ Abrams breathe new life into a franchise that had been driven into the ground by Star Trek: Voyager. Yes, I'm placing everything that went wrong with Star Trek in the past decade at the feet of Captain Janeway and her crew of Blandy McBlandersons. Even Star Trek: Nemesis. That one was your fault, Harry Kim! Anyway, the great Benicio Del Toro has been offered the role of the villain in in the next adventure of Chris Pine's Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Mr. Spock, a role so secretive, that even he doesn't know what it is. Oh, JJ! You little scamp! Naturally, everyone assumes the role is that of Khan, but that would be a terrible idea. I'm sure that Abrams and company have developed a compelling, entirely original villain for our heroes to face off against. I'm sure of it. Maybe. Not really. Please don't let Benicio Del Toro play Khan.

While we're on the subject of casting in science fiction franchises, feel free to stand and slow clap for Mr. Andy Serkis, who has landed a seven figure paycheck to return in the follow-up to the surprisingly fantastic Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If there's one actor who deserves that level of success, it's Serkis, whose work with motion capture performance is already the stuff of legend. They'll write books about this man.

Since you're riding high on the news that Andy Serkis has officially hit the big leagues, take note that Tron: Legacy prop Garrett Hedlund is the front runner for the role of Kanaeda in the mind-blowingly unnecessary American remake of Akira.

I don't know anything about Bloodwork except that it's a "...stylish thriller set in a medical research facility, where two college friends take part in a drug trial in order to earn a little extra cash. But as unexpected side effects start to kick in, it becomes clear that no one is safe." As you can see from the new poster to the left, it features the gorgeous Trisha Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame, a bunch of people I know nothing about and Eric Roberts, who continues his never ending quest to pay his rent and finally buy that new couch to replace the one the cat scratched up.

The Sci-Fi Reviews:

In Time: Andrew Niccol operates on two levels. Sometimes, he creates thoughtful projects driven by intelligent questions, a keen sense of character and an irresistible central concept, like Gattaca, Lord of War and his script for The Truman Show. Even when they don't completely work, they're noble films with something to say. Other times though, Niccol's earnestness and his desire to implant a message in his audience become overwhelming and cloying, resulting in a film that is thuddingly obvious and just plain dumb. For those examples, you can check out S1m0ne, his script for The Terminal and now, In Time, which is a special kind of stupid movie: it truly believes, with all of its heart, that it's smart.

The film asks us to buy an inherently silly premise right from the start: in the future, mankind has been genetically engineered so that no one physically ages past 25 and they can live indefinitely, provided they upload themselves with time, which is the sole currency in this world. The rich live for thousands of years while the poor literally get by from day to day, often going into days unaware if they'll have enough hours to make it to tomorrow. Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but not all science fiction has to. If a science fiction concept isn't based in a firm, scientific reality or theory, it has to justify its existence. Sometimes, it's as simple as "Laser battles and spaceships make for great action," but that's rarely commendable. What makes In Time such an oddly depressing misfire -- and a perfect entry in Niccol's increasingly hit and miss canon -- is that this wacky sci-fi trope is in service of big ideas and social commentary. Granted, those big ideas are presented without subtly and the social commentary is blunt and witless, but the film wears its heart on its sleeve, has something to say (mainly that the rich are too powerful and are destroying the poor and social equality for all and so on) and it says it. It just says it over and over again, treating what should've been subtext as dialogue. This is the kind of film where the hero explains the morale of the story to the flabbergasted villain.

Niccol could have remedied the film's self righteous bluntness if In Time had a sense of humor, but it doesn't. It's such a dour film and the increasingly moody, downbeat cast of characters serve as a constant reminder that we're supposed to take this wacky premise seriously. Justin Timberlake has proven himself to be a charismatic and hilarious performer on both television and film, but he's not and will never be a brooding action hero out for revenge. It's brutal miscasting and Timberlake spends the entire film struggling to keep his head above water. It's just plain unfair: he should have never even been considered for this part. Other actors acquit themselves better (Vincent Kartheiser stands out as the only young actor who manages to effectively portray an ancient mind in a young man's body and Cillian Murphy is his typically watchable self as a ruthless cop), but Timberlake and his lack of chemistry with his co-star and love interest Amanda Seyfried kill the film.

I've liked enough of Andre Niccol's work to give him the benefit of the doubt here. He's made good films before, but he's also made his fair share of junk. No one is perfect. I have no doubt in my mind that Niccol is a man with a lot to say and a great many stories to tell. However, that doesn't excuse the criminal lack of energy in this film. The action is small and cheap. This futuristic society feels like its populated by the same twenty or so recycled extras. If people didn't have digital clocks on their arms and the cars didn't give an electronic hum when they drove, you'd be forgiven for not realizing this was supposed to be a world that's in any way different than our own. Maybe that was Niccol's point. Maybe he wants to suggest that we've stagnated. Still, that doesn't mean that the universe of In Time is one of the smallest, dullest and least credible science fiction worlds I've seen in recent memory. This is a genre where you're allowed to break every rule and create a new world that is entirely unlike our own. Andrew Niccol has done that before and I hope he'll do it again, but he sure as heck doesn't do it here.

The Sci-Fi Horizon: What is Ridley Scott Up To?

The legendary filmmaker may be getting up in years, but he certainly isn't slowing down. After he finishes Prometheus, his mysterious sort-of-prequel to his 1979 masterpiece, Alien, Scott has announced his intentions to return to his other landmark science fiction classic: Blade Runner. Hollywood has been batting around a sequel to the massively influential (and to this day, still flippin' remarkable) for a long time now. Never mind that the original film was a critical and financial disaster and the film only found its following in the decades after it flopped: we're at the point where Blade Runner is hallowed ground for science fiction fans and a potential cash delivery system for a few Hollywood suits.

Which brings me to the question I've been asking myself for awhile now: do we want to see Scott return to the borderline apocalyptic noir of futuristic Los Angeles? Well, I didn't particularly want Scott to make a prequel that will supposedly explain the origin of the Space Jockey either, but here we are. Prometheus is happening whether I want it to or not. It's not that I'm opposed to an Alien prequel or a Blade Runner sequel: I just don't like seeing one of the great genre filmmakers of all time retreat to his old stomping grounds because his last couple productions have been flops (including the very, very expensive Kingdom of Heaven). How about you? Do you like the idea of Scott taking one last swing at the science fiction worlds he helped create or does this reek of desperation?

Enough of this prequel and sequel talk! If you haven't gone out and bought the Metropolis Blu-ray yet, you probably should. After all, I'm assuming you're a self-respecting science fiction fan who appreciates revelatory digital transfers. If you haven't yet, you'll soon have another option in the controversial form of the Giorgio Moroder edition, which coats the silent classic with color tints and adds a score that provides all of the evidence you'll ever need that '80s music if, more often than not, the worst kind of music. Although I'd only pick up this version if it was in a package with the definitive cut, this is the version that reintroduced the film to a new audience and helped save it from obscurity. The DVD and Blu-ray hit shelves on the 15th.

If a seminal classic directed by Fritz Lang isn't your thing, you can always pick up Roswell: The Aliens Attack, which came out on DVD this week. November 2011 is slim pickings for science fiction fans.

The Sci-Fi Miscellany: Science Continues to Prove That We're All Doomed

Why watch science fiction movies when science fiction is happening right outside your front door? First, the White House releases a statement claiming that the United States government has no evidence that extraterrestrial life exists...which is exactly what they'd say to hide the actual truth! Cue dramatic music.

The next day, a massive asteroid passed by the earth, getting even closer than the moon. This is a common sight in movies like Deep Impact and Melancholia. To know it happened in real life is disconcerting. And awesome. Completely awesome.

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