Thursday, February 13, 2014

Movies of 2013, Science Fiction, pt1

Science Fiction
            I like Dystopias.  I have talked about this in the past and keep coming back to it.  I find it hilarious that in the 40's 1984 was considered the height of controversy because it depicted a future that was not bright and shiny because Orwell had the audacity to say Communism was bad (even though that book could just as easily be about Capitalism, not a lot of detail is put into the economy of a world in which the main focus seems to be a media retarding people through telling them what to think).  In modern society dystopias are all over the place and have been since "Bladerunner" became the most overrated movie in nerd culture.

Overall: 6/10
Also, boring, boring posters.
            I would not call director Neill Blomkamp's first movie, "District 9" subtle, but compared to this it was cloaked in shadow and obscurity.
            The bad guys are cartoonish in their evil... Actually that is a disservice to Ursalla and Cruella de Vil.  The bad guys are so evil that it kills your ability to buy into the movie.
            In Greek mythology the Fields of Elysium was a sort of heaven that existed beyond the horizon where great heroes went to live forever in legend.  And I guess this movie does sort of acknowledge that Greek mythology exalted "virtues" that were at best questionable, with greed, glory, and self aggrandizing being seen as noble... This movie gets that right.
            The science fiction element doesn't really make much sense because the metaphor is stretched past the breaking point.  They have humanoid robots with super strength that can comprehend complex tasks... Why is there any menial labor left on Earth?  Just have the robots do it.  Instead they have the robots doing the LAST THING YOU EVER WANT ROBOTS DOING, oppressing humans with violence.
            Moving past that the reason people on Earth want to go to Elysium isn't for work, or luxury, it is instead to get one use out of magical super beds that sure all disease and cure all injuries... Okay, I get it.  Universal health care.  Here is the thing, if such a device existed they would just set them up on street corners like phone booths, have you swipe your credit card, and charge you a fee for their use.  They have hospitals and a pharmaceutical industry on Earth, but why not just have a bunch of these magical super beds in the hospitals?
            Monetizing the magic beds is easy to figure out.  Take the cost of the machine, divide that by the number of typical uses you get out of the machine, then figure how much it would cost to pay a technician to maintain and operate the machine (which are household items that operate automatically on Elysium), add on a small mark up for profit purposes (10-15 percent) and then just have people use them.  No pill deliveries, or sorting, doctors and nurses would exist in far fewer numbers, no other medical devices of any type.  This movie presents a potentially post scarcity society and then pretends scarcity still exists.
            Then there is a radiation scene.  At one point Matt Damon accidently gets trapped in a chamber that irradiates him... What that chamber exists to do is unclear because all it seems to do is fill with radiation.  (Is it a giant microwave?)  Anyway, one of the villains of the movie is sees that the factory Damon is working in has stopped operations because of the accident, and the villain complains that things shouldn't stop and orders them to start cranking out more material.  This is sort of reminiscent of "The Jungle" in that on the job injuries happening during the Gilded Age would be met with a "back to work" by management (there is a reason Anarchism was a mainstream movement at one point), but this movie takes place in the future, in which lawsuits presumably still exist, shouldn't he be pissed that he is about to get sued out of his suit?  If anything Damon should be happy, getting irradiated would mean a lawsuit big enough to go to Elysium, get a cure, and live happily ever after.  But apparently Morgan and Morgan up and vanished at some point.
            The need of metaphor... Science breaks down as you approach the needs of the story.
            This is a mostly cool, and mostly miscast film.  Matt Damon seemed out of place and they probably stuck him and Jodie Foster in for name recognition, but neither seem right for the part, and since Foster is so evil and there is no complexity to the issue it just comes off as really dumb.

Catching Fire, or "We Are the 99%."
Overall: 9/10
Actually, there are dozens of posters for this movie, many are awesome, others are like a set of trading cards for characters fighting each other in the movie.
            The fact that this movie was good shocked me.  I thought the first film was at best passing with camera work that was so frantic that I found myself looking away from the screen (though I consider the book, "The Hunger Games" to be one of my all time favorites).  This movie totally fixes the problem of the screen shaking like Michael J Fox is the cameraman.
            Beyond that this movie has more scope, higher stakes, lots of cool characters with a great deal of visual personality.  There is a scene in which a guy is tied to a post and whipped by some military police, and guy with the scourge has flecks of blood on his face from the flipping the whip around.  Not to say all the violence is so poignant, the hero of the film shoots people with arrows, but there isn't a lot of blood.
            There is another instance in which a character curses out the audience for having to compete in the titular Hunger Games, and her swearing is censored... a world in which "vulgarity" is censored but in which teenagers are murdered by one another on live television and it is state policy that people must watch?  Wouldn't you hate to be in a world in which violence was okay, but speaking your mind is impolite?  I know such a world is one I wouldn't want to be in.
            Also, the main character of Katniss is great.  She is kind of a stand off bitch because she grew up in poverty, her Dad died tragically working a job that is miserable, and her Mom couldn't handle that shit; Katniss grew up too fast and in a world with too little love, which makes her emotionally retarded.  It is wonderful.  You never see women in this sort of role and they got probably the best actress of her generation, Jennifer "I'm kind of a weirdo and dingbat" Lawrence to play the character.
            There is one bigger break down in reality though that comes with all science fiction.  District 12 is a poor area that mines coal, no one else mines coal, and the coal goes somewhere and is used for something (presumably power).  This means that the economy has use or even need for coal.  So how can the Capital threaten District 12 (or any district) with annihilation?  Each district produces something that the other districts do not produce, so they are needed.  I guess they could just use something other than coal for power... Which makes me ask why they mine coal at all.  It is in a way the same issue that "Elysium" has, that there is technology with higher utility that isn't being used... for no reason.  But since that is not the thrust of the movie (violence and politics as entertainment is) the technical issues of the fictional economy is easier to ignore.

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