Tag Archives: sci-fi

Terminator Salvation

I’m beginning to think I’m unsophisticated, easily led, maybe even a little stupid.  I read the reviews for Terminator Salvation and they say ‘doesn’t capture the magic of the original’ or ‘haggard, nothing new’. They say that it’s a tired franchise and that it was a confusing and fractured movie.  I know cinema is an artform, and in art there are as many opinions as there are people.  Everyone reacts differently, but still, I think about the movie I saw yesterday and I wonder what other people went in expecting?

The first two Terminator movies are similar in layout, in my view, to the first two Alien movies.  Terminator is a very personal story about a single machine trying to kill a single person and anything that gets in the way.  Alien is a claustrophobic story about a single alien trying to kill the crew which eventually comes down to a single person.  Both Terminator 2 and Aliens ramp up the action and move away from the heavier horror elements.  I’ve seen reviews complaining that Terminator Salvation doesn’t capture the glory or the originality or the heart of the first movies.  Well, I hate to break it to them, but Terminator Salvation isn’t trying to do that.  It’s trying to be a modern action-based continuation of the Terminator story.  On top of that, how much heart was there really in T1 or T2?  Yes, we get the emotional bond and relationship between Sarah and Kyle in the first movie and we get a bunch of cheesy surrogate-father activity in T2 but they aren’t the mainstays of those two films.

I loved T1 and T2, I think they’re fantastic movies.  I think T3 should have been different, but it had some okay elements.  Personally, I think T4 (Terminator Salvation) is at least as good as T2.  But the rush of bad reviews make me question my own experience, maybe I missed something they saw, maybe I saw something that wasn’t really there?  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s art, and everyone experiences it differently.  I think if you go in expecting something, and  you don’t get it, then it leads to disappointment, and I think too many people went in with too many expectations.  I’m not saying I lowered my expectations, but I went in prepared to watch MCG’s film, not my idea of what it should be, or my idea of how it should play out, but what he wanted to do and the film he wanted to make.

So with that said, here’s my actual comment on the film, and there are minor spoilers.

Continue reading Terminator Salvation

Dead Space

I’m really enjoying games on the PlayStation.  I have to say that it’s a much more engaging activity than playing similar games on a PC with the keyboard.  I didn’t realise how much I disliked playing things like Bioshock with the keyboard vs the PS3 controller (only the demo, but it still stands true).  After enjoying Resident Evil 5 (and still going back to it now and then to play through on a harder setting), I thought I’d give Dead Space a go.  I really wanted to play Left 4 Dead after hearing good things but it’s not available on the PS3 and due to my comments a second ago I won’t be getting it for the PC.  On a side note, this is one area where Microsoft and all the major console manufacturers really piss me off, but I may save that for another post (unless I already moaned about it in the past).

So anyway, saw Dead Space second hand and had seen a review on TV which looked cool, and some clips on the web so picked it up.  It’s superb.  The gameplay is engaging and the graphics are well done, but what really sets this game apart as an experience is the sound and music.  Oh. My. God.  The sound drags you in and sticks you in the middle of the game, ramping the tension and excitement levels through the roof.  We’ve got an as-cheap-as-you-can-get surround sound system, with badly located speakers, but the game still managed to freak me out completely.  The range of ambient sounds is huge, and they really fit the locations down to a tee.  When you’re walking down a badly lit corridor and you hear something scuttle overhead in the air ducts, you really, really, want to look up in the real world.

You can hear things bumping into others things, items being dropped, canisters being knocked over, foot steps, squelches and any number of ambient noises which really make you feel like the experience is that much more real.  The music is excellent and the non-ambient sound effects are pretty impressive too.   The most accomplished element of the sound though for me is when you’re character is in a vacuum.  Ok, vacuum’s should transfer no sound, but total silence wouldn’t be much fun.  The quiet whump whump whump of the pulse rifle instead of the regular gun noise was just so excellent.  The vacuum noises just increased the sense of claustrophobia that the rest of the game imposes.

Overall it was really enjoyable, and although the actual story is weak in places the action was engaging and the slightly different approach to combat made it more interesting (headshots are not your friend in Dead Space).  The sound made sure the game went from ‘fun’ to ‘adrenaline fuelled fun’.  If you like survival horror, sci-fi horror, survival sci-fi horror, shooting dead things, and being scared to go to the toilet on your own, Dead Space is for you.

Babylon A.D.

If your audience is expecting a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movie in which your beefcake hero runs around and shoots a bunch of bad guys, while protecting a mysterious young girl then really, it should be quite hard to screw it up.  Make it exciting, give it some funky dialog and some charismatic characters, give them something to deal with together to form some bonds, and reveal the back story as you go illuminated through the lights of tracer rounds and frag grenades.

I admit it’s not easy or we’d all be doing it, but there are some advantages to bringing a sci-fi action movie to the screen in terms of plot development and character depth.  Get it anyway half decent and the crowds will be happy.

Which makes it all the harder to excuse Babylon A.D. and to understand what the hell they thought they were doing.  Oh it starts out on a firm footing, Diesel still has enough on-screen presence and acerbic charm to pick up the role (essentially Riddick without the mirrored eyes) and he can cook!  We get a little back story, we get some evidence he’s bad ass, and we get to meet the other two of the trio as he collects them (in quite an amusing manner) from their little convent.  There’s something weird about the girl, and there are some people trying to capture her.  Perfect, now we just need a good solid set of action combat / chase sequences and a small twist near the end and we’re golden.

Maybe the girl’s female protector turns out to be a bad guy, maybe Diesel’s character turns out to be a double agent, maybe the whole world turns into tofu, just something little and twisty after all the action to make us look back and go ‘oh yes, I see now’.  That’s what a twist should be, not something out of the blue but something which makes you re-evaluate what you saw and assumed.  Just to remind you to pay more attention next time.  It shouldn’t be obvious before-hand, but it should be totally obvious with hindsight.  That’s the point right?   To suck us in and then whack us when we’re not looking?

Why then, why in the name of all the Norse gods, does Bablyon A.D. take a 345 degree turn 15 minutes before the end and tell a completely different story about which we had no warning.  No hidden messages.  Yes, the girl was weird, maybe psychic, maybe telepathic, perhaps just odd.  But if you have to tell us what happened before the movie started, with 8 minutes of monologue from a character we’ve only just met, so that you can then justify the last 11 minutes of the movie, you’re doing it wrong.

Come on!  Basically, Bablyon A.D. is two movies, everything you see up to the 15 minutes before the end, and then everything after that.  We listen to some exposition which explains why the girl is weird, who the bad guy is, what is really going on, and then we get a limp-wristed end sequence.  Really, I’ve not been left hanging by a movie as badly as this before and I’ve watched some crud.  It’s a true shame because it feels like Bablyon A.D. reached for something and failed and instead of that being recognised and aspirations toned down, they just hacked it together any way they could to deliver the story they’d tried and failed to shoot.  I’d rate the first three quarters as a passable and watchable action sci-fi movie and the last 15 minutes or so as pure shite.