Archives for posts with tag: Star Wars

*Spoilers below *

In the unlikely event no one has seen it yet.

I was disappointed to miss Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theater, and hoping that would be where the disappointment would end. I love the original trilogy. A New Hope was on first viewing a transcendent experience. It marked the beginning of a new era in visual storytelling. From the scrolling words opening to the innovative FX to the characters and their struggles, joys, and triumphs, it was an event as no other movie had been before. Many instant fans didn’t even know it actually had a five word title. It was simply Star Wars, the most exciting movie of its generation, perhaps of all time.

It held up so well that The Force Awakens was able to slide into the mythology, with near perfect segue. The key to this was the inclusion of so many familiar faces, most importantly with their familiar actors, right down to the droids. In particular, the dynamic between Han and Leia made the transition intact. Not many movies can give the veteran viewer a jolt of pure joy, but I felt just that multiple times while watching The Force Awakens. First sight of the Falcon, Han, Chewie, R2-D2 and C3PO…and Leia, then Leia and Han together again at last. Star Wars fans dreamed of that moment, some for decades. It did not disappoint. It thrilled the way movies need to do a lot more often.

The new additions brought their own separate thrills. Tough and remarkable Rey, flawed hero Finn, dashing pilot Poe, and of course adorable droid BB8, all bring out memories of what has come before, even as they blaze new trails that belong to them. Kylo Ren is an admirable foe, bristling with his bitter darkside darkness, yet carrying the vulnerability of a struggling child.

Action is actionier due to 21st century FX, but the core of Star Wars tradition runs through The Force Awakens right down to Han’s shocking apparent death. Apparent? Of course. I have little doubt and lots of hope that the tradition of dead is not as dead as we think will continue throughout the new incarnation of the beloved series.

There’s an unspoken extra bit to the title…Star Wars: The Force Awakens A Newer Hope. This is the kind of storytelling that instantly becomes the stuff of legend, even as it continues the legend at its foundation. It brings a ray of light into the endless parade of franchise reboots and movie remakes. Most importantly of all, it is the Star Wars we love moved into the next millennium. How fitting.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer (Official)

I was sure the first Hobbit movie was my favorite. Even as I liked the second one. Still sure. Then I started watching the third. Again sure. Even moreso, at first. Really almost to the end.

I liked it, but suffered the CGI battle, after battle, after more battles fatigue. I really like Richard Armitage, but grew weary of his gold blinded Thorin Oakenshield going all Smaug on his band of brothers. I love Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, but even the noble wizard’s suffering grew a little tedious. Martin Freeman is so great as poor long, long suffering Bilbo, but long suffering has a shelf life limit.

Then once Thorin got his head straight, it was as if a logjam broke itself free like a bunch of bobbing dwarf filled barrels. Soon things were falling into place. Ends were being tied up in ways I’d waited for since Bilbo first set out on his great adventure.

By the end, once all the armies had done their thing, death was mourned, elves were emoted, and dwarves and Hobbit bantered themselves into a touching farewell, I was moved by all of it. The great spectacle of the little Hobbit and his grand adventure had become a wonderful story of courage and loyalty and friendship.

The very end going back to the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect touch, tying it all together as a six film series. I read that that’s how Peter Jackson thinks future viewers will regard The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

It’s interesting the way I put that. Back to the beginning. Because I watched LOTR first, my mind tried to think of that as the beginning. But of course chronologically within the structure of Tolkien’s creations, it starts with Bilbo as a young Hobbit.

It’s easy to get tangled up in the timeline, if you’re not paying attention, just as it is with Star Wars. No matter how secure I am in the knowledge that A New Hope is a middle child in the Star Wars universe, I always first think of it as simply Star Wars, the movie that changed everything. My personal Tolkien experience started when I read The Hobbit a long time ago, but I actually think of it as being when I discovered one of my favorite actors, Sean Bean, in Boromir’s death scene and was thrilled by meeting Aragorn and captivated on travelling to Rivendale. Regardless of where we started or what made us love Tolkien’s imagination, it’s cool that it’s now all laid out for us in light and sound and action.

While there are things I’m particularly fond of in each of the Hobbit movies, I think The Battle of the Five Armies emerged as my favorite, by a wisp of Smaug smoke. As swan songs for a dragon go, he met a thrilling end. Thorin finished a noble king. And Bilbo proved once again that the lowly Hobbit is a force to be reckoned with and a fine companion, whether snug in his Hobbit hole or off to brave and save some far flung corner of his world.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Teaser Trailer (HD)

Bridging the Gap Between Humans and Computers by Heather Kelly, CNN

I just came across the above article on CNN’s mobile site, and think it’s fascinating. It covers all kinds of scientific advancements in the works.  It seems we’re headed to a brave new world that will lie in wait across a continent or just down the street.

According to people in the know, in the not so distant future we’ll enjoy self-driving cars…or be afraid of them. I must admit I like the idea of a car that takes over in stop and go traffic, so I could read or dive into Twitter to kill the time. I’m not yet convinced I’d be comfortable sitting back to relax, while my car navigated a dangerous mountain switchback or raced along at breakneck speed. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather trust my not too shabby driving skills or just plain old human instinct for the dangerous stuff we all find ourselves tooling obliviously into on occasion.

Then there’s the potential for extremely life-like robots. I’ve been trying to decide how far I’d want that to go ever since I started reading, watching, and now writing science fiction. This article says there’s potential for robots so much like us that we might form relationships with them. This has long been the territory of Isaac Asimov, whose robots wreak consternation and fear, yet also acquire love among their humans.

Recently my own science fiction endeavors have focused on the creation of androids all but indistinguishable from human beings and the questions that arise about what makes humanity  human. Is it emotion, empathy, self-awareness, something more? Is it even definable?

I find this train of thought endlessly fascinating, but I must admit that once real life artificial humans arrive in our lives I am not at all certain how I’ll feel. I certainly don’t know how society as a whole will react. For every Data there is the potential for ruthless counterpart Lore. Friend or foe? Friend turned foe? The permutations are endless. For every good Terminator there’s Robert Patrick, metal melty machine man, arms and legs pumping like pistons as he chases his prey to the nonend of his endurance and the end of their frail human stamina. Some scenarios end as dystopian nightmare, instead of glorious future Utopian dream.

In one of my favorite TV series, Space: Above and Beyond, AIs were a formiddable human-like foe.When faced with the question of whether they must be treated in the same manner as the organic people they so resemble, our hero calls a spade a spade and treats them as machines. I fear that this question of just what rights and how much respect would be owed to artificial people almost indistinguishable from the beings after whom they are patterned would be a devisive one.

As much as my brain thrills to the possibility of seeing real life Alvins or Datas or Sharons come to be possible in my lifetime, it also quails a little at the prospect of the kind of ethical dilemmas such technological leaps will usher in. Can humanity rise above such negative and fearful instincts that would bear the potential to turn what might become a bright shining new future into a dystopian horror show with no end credits for centuries?

I choose to believe we can. Not without hellacious growing pains. Not without attitude and perspective adjustments on a global scale. But it’s possible. Mankind has risen above itself on occasion. When the day comes (and that possibility is becoming more real and more urgent than I would have thought a decade ago) that sees us walking this world side by side with people who are of us yet not us, I actually think the stories, movies, and TV shows we love so much will help to remind us of the better path.

Someday, when the impossible becomes reality, I know I would certainly choose the Jedi over the Toasters…the Federation over Sky Net. Every time. Wouldn’t you?

On its surface Fringe is highly imaginative, what iffing TV at its best. The kind I like best. It makes me think, while grossing me out and insisting that Walter desperately needs a hug. That’s quite a lot for an hour (give or take a few thousand commercials) of entertainment in tightly pixelated form.

However.

While it’s always had its darkside, Fringe has taken a decidedly darker turn. It’s slipping down the carefully graded slope into deep dystopia. The Observer invasion and occupation has again turned what we thought we knew on its head. I’m good with that…even as it scares the crap out of me.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I have possibly too much imagination. Present practically from birth, it makes me mentally time travel in historical settings, and of course sets me off into adventures in other lives lived in my head. Uh, talking about writing and screenwriting here, not mental illness! Sometimes the distinction is too easily blurred from the outside.

This überimagination can keep me awake at night, when it collides with a concept like The Observers. What iffing turns the inside of my head into its own pondered dystopia. What the heck if ideas generated by our incessant need to be entertained someday come to pass for real?

The Observers don’t bother me as a real possibility, so much as set me off into wondering what it would be like to have our entire world overtaken by something so chillingly other? The changes it would cause to our world, our lives, and quite likely our very humanity.

Another series scared me so much, in a subtle kind of way, that it literally did keep me awake at night.  I loved Alien Nation. First the movie, then the TV series. The blending of species and cultures and hearts. Slaves tasting forbidden freedom, while some of their hosts embraced them as others dredged up old prejudices and gave them a futuristic twist.

Then there were those few who in the age old double whammy of greed and power grabs decide it’s a good idea to sell out the former slaves, call out across the stars, and bring down the Overseers on the world’s collective head. How foolish can the quest for money and the soul crushing power it often drags in its wake make the human spirit? Very apparently, if you’re inclined to believe history.

That alone is scary enough, but it got me thinking about what would happen if we were discovered by  galactic slave traders for real. It couldn’t possibly turn out as relatively well as Princess Leia’s barely there bikini and potential life on a leash. There are no guarantees it would end in lifeless life oblivian encased in bronze like Han. No. Such a what if would most likely lead to a lifeless life of misery and pain. An eventual longing for the utopia called freedom, long reduced to vague genetic memory.

So, yeah, I thought about all that too much. The temporary obsession led to one of my Writers of the Future Quarter-Finalist stories, and eventually worked its way to the back of my mind. The place reserved for BEMs, things that go bump in the night, and the fear that Snooki clones will take over the known universe.

It became a mere whispery what if that gathered mental dust bunnies, until not so long ago when Stephen Hawking voiced the biggest what if dampener in recent history and brought it all back out into the light.
The man considered to possess the greatest mind of our time issued a warning.

He said it wasn’t wise to poke the sleeping giant with a stick. That’s the gist. It’s naive to believe there’s no other intelligent life. Out there. It’s even more naive to believe they’re all benevolent. The other evolent is the same one that’s worried me for so long.

Malevolence on a cosmic scale could be so much worse than Overseers and Observers. It could be on a scale we can’t even comprehend. And every time we send out a new invitation like Voyager and the ever more powerful signals we use to reach out toward deep, black, mysterious space, the bell can’t be unrung.

Do I think we should unring it if we could? Stop ringing it altogether?  That’s where I start trying to sweep the dustbunnies back into their designated mind corner. I do not know.

How do we decide to cut ourselves off from what could be unimaginable marvels? Or to continue to risk bringing down the dregs of the universe on our heads? The thing is that I don’t think there will ever be a decision to be made. Human nature demands that we reach. Outward. Inward. Everywhere there’s a question that won’t leave us alone.

Whether we acknowledge its importance or ignore it the fact is that we are seekers. If we think the truth really is out there, we won’t rest until we find it. If it brings joy and enlightenment, we’ll embrace it. Danger and loathing…we’ll fight it.

To. The. Death.

That’s who we are as sentient beings. It gave us Star Wars and Star Trek, the ISS and Hubble, Voyager and SETI. It gives us hope and courage and the indomitable spirit that sets us apart from the amoebas.

And it gives me the Observers and Overseers that terrify me in the dark of night and serve as counterparts to the Spocks and Luke Skywalkers that make me long for those shiny lights up in the darkness of space, and want with everything I am to explore them for myself.

That’s the power we really wield. The good kind. It lives in the place where Fringe and Stephen Hawking can collide and set off imaginings and fears and dreams. It comes from the most mighty machine in existence on this earth.

The human brain.