Lying Media Bastards

October 9, 2005

Sci-Fi/Fantasy: It’s Not All Crap

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I was hoping that by this weekend I could be urgently telling you to go out and see an amazing new fantasy movie in theaters, to support it so that it didn’t vanish into obscurity.

But as it turns out, this particular movie was crap. Or, as I’ve been telling people, “MirrorMask is the prettiest boring movie I’ve ever seen.”

If you watch the trailers or look at some stills, I think you’ll see why I was excited about it. It looks like a gothy Neverending Story or Labyrinth meets a Tool video. And visually, the movie was stunning. But the story was slow, the characters flat, the dialogue forced, and much of the soundtrack was bad light jazz, for some reason.

So I’d highly recommend watching the trailers, and any “The Making of MirrorMask” specials you might come across, but not bothering with the film itself.

The movie Serenity was much better, but as I was a big fan of the TV series it was based on, winning my approval didn’t take much. The strength of the series was the characters’ relationships, and the sly, crackling dialogue. Sadly, the film traded in a lot of that for tension and plot velocity, but the end product was still fine by me.

Interestingly, the plot of the film can almost be seen as an allegory for the series itself; towards the end of the film, the heroes’ main goal is to get a videotape transmitted out to the people, while evil minions try to prevent them. But as a hacker character in the film says, “you can’t stop the signal.” The series aired, Fox cancelled it, fans saw it and loved it and bought the DVDs, and there was so much outcry that Universal agreed to release it as a film. I’ll bet the die-hards ate that shit up.

On top of that, one of the film’s themes is “the government is super evil”, and the director says that one of his goals was to show the impact of politics on regular people. Always worthwhile messages.

And finally, I saw the season finale of the Battlestar Galactica TV show (the newish one, not the 1970s one), and it was seriously disturbing. The series’ premise, basically, is that humankind has been virtually wiped out in a single stroke by robots that they created, and the survivors now travel in big spaceships, on the run from their would-be destroyers. However these robots (”Cylons”) have “evolved” to the point that they pretty much are humans (all organic, no machine parts, almost indistinguishable from human beings). And while most of the Cylons seem hell-bent on the annihilation of the human species, some individual Cylons like humans and want to help them– or at least seem to… So as one of the few thousand left of the human species, how do you react? Are all Cylons enemies? Are they subhuman and undeserving of rights or respect? Are they machines, or are they people? Do you treat them as individuals and equals, depending on the situation? The show doesn’t give you any easy answers there.

On the finale episode (*spoilers*), a New Ship joins the fleet of refugee humans, and it’s discovered that they have a Cylon prisoner (as does main ship in the series, the Galactica). Galactica treats their prisoner with unease and ambivalence, but mosly like a dangerous maximum security convict, occasionally interrogating her for information.

However, we find that the new ship treats their Cylon prisoner differently. She’s been essentially tortured and gang-raped into catatonia. The crew of this ship have obviously decided that their Cylon is just a machine, so it’s okay. Or that because the Cylons killed everyone they loved, it’s okay. Or, the show hints, simply because they want to, and that makes it okay. And in one scene, as the cocky male soldiers from New Ship cackle about the times they had “giving it to” their Cylon prisoner, the show cuts to a shot of some female soldiers from Galactica within earshot. They look shocked, and then scared, realizing that if these “comrades-in-arms” could justify one kind of rape, that they could easily justify others…

It’s not too often that mainstream sci-fi is willing to take on the rights of war prisoners, or rape culture. And they do so with a gritty, modern realism that I hope makes people think about it once they turn the TV off.

And then they go and end the episdoe with a cliffhanger, not to be resolved till next season, in January. Bastards.

Posted by Jake on October 9, 2005 12:57 am

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