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  • Showing only topics with the tag "science fiction". Back to normal view
    1. My thoughts on Denis Villeneuve's Dune

      OK, well. Dune then. Sort of a live review, as I watch. Some more in-depth thoughts at the end. Mildly spoilery, but not if you know the story already. Fair warning, I will not be judging this...

      OK, well. Dune then. Sort of a live review, as I watch. Some more in-depth thoughts at the end. Mildly spoilery, but not if you know the story already.

      Fair warning, I will not be judging this film on purely it's own merits. It exists in the world and also in the world are Lynch's film (for reference I consider the spicediver fanedit, Alternative Edition Redux, to be the canonical version of that), the Sci-Fi channel miniseries and obviously the books. Yes, even the prequels - the first of which is one of the worst books I've ever read and I've read The Davinci Code. Anyway, on to actually watching it...

      Well, it's pretty. One problem is that no matter how good the design is - and the design is VERY good - it's just not as good as Tony Masters and David Lynch building on material from Mobius and HR Giger. This film is obviously heavily influenced by them though.

      In my head Caladan is a lush, fertile, welcoming world. It's been colour graded to grey and desaturated. Feels wrong.

      He's lifting both shots and dialogue from Lynch's film. That's good. My brain is filling in the missing bits of internal monologing.

      Nice implementation of Chakobsa. I like that.

      Hans Zimmer can just fuck off with that big stupid honking sound he shoehorns into everything. So annoying.

      This film is missing Roger Deakins. I mean you can say that about a lot of films but this one especially. It is beautifully shot but Deakins would have taken it to another level.

      Why are people whispering at each other over like ten metre distances? I hate that. Speak up, you're outside, it's windy and you're far apart! It's not moody if you obviously can't even hear each other. Yes, small thing, but things like that which upset your suspension of disbelief are jarring.

      You can't put a crysknife away without it tasting blood. Pffft. That's just ignoring lore for the sake of it. Five seconds would be all it took to do that bit. We could have had one fewer lingering shots on the knife itself instead. As an aside, the Shadout Mapes as a means to explain bits of Arrakeen and Fremen lore to the Atredies (and us!) is horrendously under-used.

      The ornithopters in this movie are badass. There is an in-universe reason for them that I can't remember.

      I wonder how much of this works if you haven't seen Lynch's version (which has much more internal thoughts of characters) or read the books?

      Stellan Skarsgard is channelling Apocalypse Now era Brando pretty hard and that is in no way a bad thing. His Baron is absolutely superb, probably the best part of the whole film. Piter de Vries is nowhere near weird/creepy/insane enough. Leaving out Feyd-Rautha is a mistake, he's the anti-Paul and even though Sting did a relatively terrible job in Lynch's film, that doesn't mean he's not important.

      Zimmer teasing elements of Eno's original theme is a nice touch as well.

      You know what's cool? What's cool is that at certain key moments I get lines from the book appearing in my head, from whichever scene is happening. That's a really good sign. I haven't read Dune for years.

      So OK, overall, it's not as bad as I was expecting. It's pretty. It's stylish. It's annoyingly colour graded but what isn't these days? But this film doesn't add much to the telling of Dune over the Lynch's film or even, really, the Sci-Fi miniseries. Villeneuve is obviously a fan of both books and Lynch's movie and what he has made is good. A lot of what he's made is basically just a remake of what Lynch did, and I don't just mean because both films are based on the same book - there are multiple direct lifts straight from Lynch's film, and that is perfectly OK. But it's not about what is here, it's about what isn't.

      Because it leaves a lot out - it's shallow where it should be deep, it's straightforward where it should be mystical, simple where it should be weird. It's 8-10 characters when it should be twice that and worst of all a lot of it seems to rely on viewers knowing the lore rather than having time to explain it: and all that is because film is the wrong medium for this story.

      It misses out on exploring much about any of the characters simply because nobody has enough screentime to go into their motivations, which are generally multifaceted and complex - I do appreciate Villeneuve not wanting to have characters stand around expositioning at each other (MCU, looking at you), or doing a voiceover of character's thoughts like Lynch did, but that means you really need to spend time with them so they can show us what they're thinking, not tell us. "Show don't tell" is good filmmaking but it takes time.

      For example, Paul and Jessica get most of the screen time but we don't really learn much about them. Because you need a lot of lore to contextualise their motivations - Jessica's actions and desires need to be placed in the wider context of her relationship to Leto and the Bene Gesserit and their plans and while Villeneueve does try to do that a bit, it's one or two lines with Leto and one rushed (literally, they're doing a walk-and-talk) conversation in which Helen Moahim mentions the Kwisatz Haderach and little more.

      The Guild are barely even mentioned. You see some lower level navigators but you don't know who they are if you don't already know who they are. The Guild's influence is so important to so much of what happens in Dune but if you didn't know they existed already I'm not sure you'd leave this film knowing there was a spacing guild at all. Same goes for the Emperor and the Landsraad, they hardly come up at all. The thing about Dune is that it's not just about Paul. Paul is important but he's really just the pointy end of a lot of long-game players and systems and their interactions. That doesn't really come over in Villeneuve's film. Also it's not really a structural issue but I'd have loved to have seen more of the Heighliners. A Navigation sequence would have been fun too.

      The thing is, Dune deserves a TV series. A high budget one like Game of Thrones. I want an hour on Caladan, learning about the Atredies. I want an hour on Kaitain learning about the Padishah Emperors and the Bene Gesserit. Same with the Harkkonens. I want to be 3 or 4 episodes in before I even see Arrakis. Movies are great for telling short stories, maybe novellas at best. But big, long, complicated books need to be on TV where they can spread out, take their time, develop characters and fill in backstory and motivations.

      Overall, 7/10 and I really hope the second movie gets funded because stopping here would be even worse. It's worth watching but don't expect a great deal underpinning what is still a very beautiful film. I could have written that same sentence about Bladerunner 2049, thinking about it.

      27 votes
    2. Cowboy Bebop Netflix series - links to some reviews

      The Cowboy Bebop live-action adaptation caught the attention of many users here, so I'll link some of the reviews I could find. The show is not yet available to the audience, but entertainment...

      The Cowboy Bebop live-action adaptation caught the attention of many users here, so I'll link some of the reviews I could find. The show is not yet available to the audience, but entertainment websites clearly had access to it.

      AV Club: Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop is a bloodless substitute for the real thing.

      EW: A colorful, campy attempt at live-action anime doesn't justify itself.

      The Verge: Netflix's Cowboy Bebop has heart, style, and some rough edges.

      Indie Wire: Netflix’s Live-Action Riff on Everyone’s Favorite Anime Is a Cosmic Disaster

      Games Radar: A Stellar Remix That Hits All the Right Notes

      Polygon: Cowboy Bebop turns a classic anime into a Saturday morning cartoon

      IGN: mixed

      Slate: Cowboy Bebop Is Netflix’s Latest Live-Action Anime Mistake

      Hollywood Reporter: negative

      Rolling Stones: The Live-Action ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Takes an Anime Classic Into the Stratosphere

      The Atlantic: What’s Lost When a Classic Anime Is Adapted by Netflix

      RogerEbert.com: Cowboy Bebop Fails to Find a Rhythm

      Time: Netflix's Live-Action Cowboy Bebop Misunderstands What Made the Original a Classic

      Vulture: Cowboy Bebop’s New Shine Can’t Replace Its Old Soul

      Collider: Netflix's Live-Action Show Is a Colorless, Soulless Copy of a Landmark Anime Series

      Vanity Fair: Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop Is the Rare Remake That Works

      Rotten Tomatoes: currently 41%

      Metacritic: currently 40, Mixed or average reviewsbased on 18 Critic Reviews

      10 votes
    3. Science fiction that presents immortality in a good light?

      It seems incredibly common in works of science fiction that touch upon technological immortality to focus on every possible way that such a technology could go wrong, create problems, or worsen...

      It seems incredibly common in works of science fiction that touch upon technological immortality to focus on every possible way that such a technology could go wrong, create problems, or worsen social dynamics.

      Among the negative outcomes that have attained trope levels of frequency, off the top of my head, I can name the following:

      1. Immortality becomes available only to the ultra-wealthy, allowing them even more power to abuse everyone else, leading immortal people to be antagonists in a pretty generic dystopian plot.

      2. Immortality subtly twists the morality of its beneficiaries, causing them to lose sight of "the real meaning of life" according to the author's worldview, and the protagonist usually fights for society to recognize how important death and endings are

      3. Immortality causes people to go insane, become monsters, or otherwise utterly lose their humanity (this is more of an extreme version of case #2, but I feel it's distinct in the way a story plays out)

      4. Immortality ultimately leads to the extinction of the human species due either to biological effects of the immortality technology in question, or due to cultural/societal shifts that lead people to stop reproducing

      I'm sure there are many others that I'd recall if prompted, but my point is that I don't think I can name any science fiction that involves immortality technology that doesn't also decry it as ultimately a harmful development.

      Are there any works of science fiction that any of you can think of that do more to celebrate the idea or look forward to it with some optimism?

      16 votes
    4. So ... The Expanse

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Looks like Tildes hasn't discussed this show for a year or two. I just finished binge-watching the first 5 seasons (I'm hoping there is a Season 6 in the offing), and of course, I now feel like discussing it. This thread is wide open to whatever anyone wants to bring up about the series. But my first question for people is this--

      Did anyone notice any significant change in quality after Amazon took it over? If so, better or worse? How?

      For me, somewhere around Season 3 or 4, it felt like the story quality declined. Not that it's "bad" in any way ... just that it got less original, more like traditional series plot devices. And that could just be me, or that--in general--even the best shows tend to lose some of their edge after the first few seasons ... or maybe they're just following the books (never read 'em) and this is how the books went.

      But, yeah ... it's turning into a nicer, more nuanced Stargate ... the Good Guys trying to save humanity from The Terrorist Mastermind ... the Evil Post-Soviet Empire conspiring to help said Terrorist, etc. They even had Snidely Whiplash tying the poor girl to the railroad tracks.

      I'm obviously over-simplifying here; it is still an excellent show ... just, like I said; it started to feel less original. I'm wondering if that's just my impression, and if not, do we know that it's an "Amazon" thing, or what?

      15 votes
    5. Recommendation: Person of Interest (2011-2016)

      I want to talk about Person of Interest. A CBS series created by Jonathan Nolan, more famously known for his work on Westworld (and brother of "that" Christopher Nolan, talent runs in the family)....

      I want to talk about Person of Interest. A CBS series created by Jonathan Nolan, more famously known for his work on Westworld (and brother of "that" Christopher Nolan, talent runs in the family). This is a spoiler-free post.

      Premise: An ex-military badass is hired by a rich ex-usgov genius who built an AI that is plugged into the NSA's spying supernetwork, and can predict crime based on all the datapoints.

      Strong similarities with: Westworld, Mr. Robot.

      Person of Interest is a series that really took me by surprise. I didn't really care for Season 1, which I left running in the background after it was apparent to me that this was a very run-of-the-mill CBS police procedural. I gave it a chance based on a friend's recommendation, and because IT/sec references were accurate and didn't make me cringe. It also had an interesting premise which was written pre-snowden and raised some interesting philosophical questions on privacy and crime prevention.

      Then towards the Season 1 finale, the music got pretty good, the scenes were very action-packed and the series started feeling like it was getting very entertaining. So I kept watching.

      Without spoiling: throughout Season 2, the series actually completely shifts genre almost unnoticeably, from "generic police procedural" to "long-arc Westworld-style tech scifi".

      I was stunned by how smooth the genre transition was. Of all the series I watched, it's something truly unique to that one, which is one of the reasons I rate it as one of the best TV series in my catalogue. It's also, from what I heard, Nolan's strategy from the get-go in order to get a very unique show greenlit on a "safe" network like CBS.

      By the end of the series, Person of Interest had inspired me. Made me extremely interested in AI and data. It affected my work and the way I think about the world. POI really toes the scifi line by taking concepts which are possible, but not there yet and explores the possibilities (again, Westworld); unlike most other Sci-Fi shows which take abstract ideas of what we may want to see in the future, regardless of how possible/reasonable they are.

      POI does require some suspension of disbelief. You have to accept the trope of a "supergenius" who can build an AI like this all on his own, for example. I think that's fine, and I found that the show was very rigorous at taking only practical shortcuts with very little fridge logic.

      I keep mentioning Westworld and that's no accident. POI predates WW and it feels that WW was a continuation of Nolan's ideas about the implications of AI, in a much higher budget setting. (And as an aside, if you haven't watched Westworld, you should)

      Tag spoilers in comments :)

      21 votes