Monday, June 1, 2009

Sci-Fi Movies That Influenced Me, The 00's

And finally, my exploration of Sci-Fi movies that influenced me (and how they might work their way into a Star Wars adventure or setting) turns to the twenty-first century. 

Battlefield Earth
I remember laughing at some of the reviews I read of this. One said "Oh, the humanity!" another said "Positively Travolting". And those were probably two of the more positive comments. This is a bad, bad movie, folks. From premise to execution to acting. And plot holes big enough to drive a truck through: Like how the hell do people who are essentially cavemen suddenly learn to fly Harriers within a few days? Like how an advanced alien race with a lust for gold some how missed Fort Knox? Like how an entire planet can be destroyed by a chain reaction from one small tactical nuke? Like- oh, nevermind. About the only thing this movie had going for it were passable CG effects with the alien aircraft. And.. yeah, that's about it. I only bring it up because it IS so bad—probably the worst movie included on these lists, including Escape from LA.

Pitch Black
I don't particularly like Vin Diesel (or however you spell it), but this was actually a pretty well done sci-fi monster movie. I liked the fact that the characters and plot were unpredictable. You never knew if you really could trust Riddick. You gradually find out that the Marshall (who seems like he'd be the good guy) is really more of a bounty hunter—and one with a drug addiction. The spunky female 'hero' actually wanted to kill all the passengers at the beginning of the movie—to save her own skin. On its surface, it seems like it would be a pretty generic movie, but it turns out not to be—and that is a good thing. It is pretty directly translatable into a Star Wars adventure, too—just get the team on a transport and have it crash and there you go.

Red Planet
As usually seems to happen, two different 'mission to mars' movies came out in the same year. Of the two, I liked this one more, mainly because I still have a soft-spot for Val Kilmer (remembering him from his Real Genius days). Overall, though, I didn't really love this movie—mainly due to one huge plot hole—the damn killer robot dog. I loved the idea and the look of a robotic canine scout, but the whole idea of it having a switch you click on to make it into a killer... come on. Nobody thought this was a bad idea? I also liked the fact that there was a scientific explanation for the strange phenomena, rather than 'oh, its all powerful aliens'. And finally, I loved Kilmer's line before blasting off on the old Russian lander. He leans up and flips the bird, growling "F*ck this planet!" Yeah! Take that, Mars!

Titan A.E.
I liked this animated adventure tale, but I was also just a bit let down by it. I saw a lot of potential, but it never quite lived up to it. Plus, it suffered from that thing that seems to plague almost all animated flicks—the inclusion of 'wacky cartoony' moments, evidently to appeal to a younger audience. Now, I have nothing against children's cartoons or family oriented cartoons. There are some really great ones out there. But when a movie tries to straddle the line between 'gritty' and 'goofy' it looses a lot of its ability to be either. I just wish that producers would make up their mind whether or not they want the thing to be a kids flick or a serious movie—and stick with it. Rumor has it that Joss Whedon helped to pep up the dialogue in this movie and that seems plausible considering the kind of banter shown. Plus, I loved the part where they try to trick a guard with some lame con and the guard sees right through it—pointing out everything they did wrong. As one of the characters commented. "A smart guard.. didn't see that coming." At which point, they just knock the guy out. Good stuff.

Ghostbusters, only with aliens. I can see that's what the movies producers were going for here. Unfortunately, they just missed the mark a little. I don't know what it was, exactly. I can't point to any one thing as THE thing that made it bad. It just lacked the spark, and a lot of the humor, of Ghostbusters. I still enjoyed it, though—and did get a fair number of giggles. Loved the whole 'K-Kaw, K-Kaw! Tookie Tookie!" sequence and, what can I say, the whole 'Play that Funky Music' scene in the car made me grin, too. It must be the 80's music-video lover in me peeking out. 

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Awesome computer animation. Typically stupid and convoluted japanimation plot. Another movie I really wanted to like (and hey, Aki Ross was pretty hot for a CG character). But... gah. This movie is a showcase for what I don't like about Japanese storytelling. Everything is so unnecessarily complicated and over-dramatic. The story clubs you over the head with its 'message', even as they take a pretty gritty and 'grounded' story into a realm of... alien ghosts battling with the ghosts of gaia, the spirit of the earth and.. bleh. Its just freaking stupid. And is it just me? Or do the japanese have a fixation on apocalyptic stories?

Ghosts of Mars
Another John Carpenter movie, and probably my least favorite appearing on this list. It was one of those movies I liked the look of, but otherwise thought was stupid. Natasha Henstridge was in this one, and once again nice to look at (especially without the prehensile nipples of her 'Species' days). Jason Statham was in this—and I think he's a fun actor. Ice-Cube? Well.. bleh. Don't particularly like him. Overall, I thought there was some merit to the idea—of the 'spirits' of an ancient race locked away, then suddenly released to wreak havok. Had a pseudo-zombie-apocalypse feel to it, only quite a bit more dangerous, since the bad guys were non-corporeal and could just leave a body when it is killed and take over a new one. If I were the guys in this movie, I would have at LEAST tried to wear some kind of breath-mask. I mean, the things couldn't go through solid objects.. maybe they couldn't fit through air-filters? Worth a shot anyway. Could be an interesting adventure idea—investigating a remote outpost only to find it overrun. 

Jurassic Park III
I liked this movie more than Jurassic Park II. But then, that's not saying very much. This one at least didn't have the greenpeace overtones to it. But it just felt gimmicky to me with the inclusion of 'Spinosaurus', who is even MORE mega than T-Rex! Still, it was less of a 'who gets killed next' fest than JP II. Call me a romantic, but in this movie, it bothered me that Doctor Grant and Doctor Sadler were revealed to never have gotten together. Oh, I know they weren't an item in the books, but in the movie, it was suggested that they were. 

Planet of the Apes
The remake had awesome costumes and some pretty good special effects and even some good actors (minus Markie mark, that is). It even had a pretty hot looking Estella Warren. But I still wound up not liking the film all that much, in and of itself. And the twist ending was just stupid. I imagine they would have explained what happened in the sequel, but...there was no sequel. You strip out all the time travel aspects and this would be a pretty cool Star Wars adventure, just like the original movie would  be.

28 Days Later
Not exactly sure why this was listed as a Sci-Fi movie and not a horror, but.. oh well. I liked it either way. The scenes of a desolate and deserted England were very well done and the whole 'fast zombie' thing was scary as hell. Character development was handled well, too—a rarity in most horror movies. The build up to the climax had me on the edge of my seat. I'm just glad that I saw the three endings version first. I really hate 'downer' endings. The 'rage virus' would make a very deadly Star Wars adventure—and I'm not sure if it isn't just too dark a thing to use (unless it could be cured). 

The Adventures of Pluto Nash
So maybe it wasn't one of the best movies around, but the special effects in this one surprised me. Loved the vehicles and city stuff—and it was a reasonably cool 'caper'. I think that if this had been a low-budget movie, then it might have worked. But since it wasn't, people had huge expectations of it—expectations it just couldn't live up to. It was okay (at best). 

Cowboy Bebop
I'm speaking more to the series than to the movie in this case. I don't generally like Japanimation (see 'Final Fantasy, above). But this is one of the more tolerable series, mainly because it often deals with pretty straight-forward shoot-em-up type adventures. Oh sure, they can't help but delve into overly-dramatic BS and face-distorting anime cliches, but not ALL the time, so I can handle it. Love the whole feel of the setting, with a terraformed solar system and a demolished Earth. Good stuff.

Eight Legged Freaks
This one is something of a guilty pleasure. It isn't a good movie, but it really doesn't take itself seriously, and I have to respect that. It's a nice, tongue-in-cheek throwback to the old 'giant monster attacks desert town' film. Kari Wuhrer isn't bad to look at either. Had a few interesting action set-pieces, too—the dirt-bikers versus the jumping spiders and the whole invasion of the mall are both reasonably well done and interesting. As with most monster movies, its easily translatable to Star Wars, but a bit less impactful since 'monsters' aren't all that scarce in the Star Wars galaxy.

Reign of Fire
A movie about an apocalypse brought on by dragons. How cool is that? Well, the premise is a lot cooler than this movie turned out to be. I was expecting ID4, only with dragons. Imagine, Jets dog-fighting with them. Tanks being strafed by them. Waves of infantry trying in vain to hold off the onslaught of serpentine power. Cities in flame. Hell yeah! Only, you don't get ANY of that in this movie. The only thing you get is a few newspaper headlines and a Times magazine cover showing dragons burning a city. Lame. And don't get me started on the 'tactics' that they use to kill the dragons. It involves placing radio beacons and having three people skydive out of a helicopter for.. some.. convoluted reason. All the time, I was thinking to myself—you guys have a tank. You have a freaking tank. Just lure the dragon in and shoot it. I mean, it may have even been cool if this skydiving tactic had actually WORKED, but the one time we see it in the movie, it actually fails and the divers get eaten. What is the freaking point? And then this team of professional dragon-hunters, who somehow made it all the way across the Atlantic, allow themselves to get bunched up in a straight line on a road and get strafed and killed. It just...bleh. Oh, and throw in the fact I don't much care for Christian Bale or Matthew Mcwhateverhisname and double bleh. However, this movie DID provide me with the basis for my theory that in the event of the apocalypse, Supermodels actually seem to have a good chance of survival. I think its their ability to survive on so little food. 

Resident Evil
Not a huge fan of the game or of the movies, actually, but as far as zombie films go, it wasn't too bad. The laser-dicing room was pretty scary. Felt bad for the guy who made it all the way to the grid, though. Again, this could work as a Star Wars adventure, but it is pretty dark.  I could definitely see the Empire doing horrible experiments like that—or even post Empire, some cruel mega-corp could take the lead.

Treasure Planet
I still have no idea why this movie flopped at the box office. Maybe because it didn't have a 'princess' like just about every other Disney movie. I just don't know. I thought it was a fun take on a classic story—loved Long John Silver the cyborg. Just fun and imaginative all around. It'd be a little difficult to pull this off as a Star Wars adventure, though it could be a fun 'origin' adventure for a 'kid' character. 

I don't generally like Stephen king horror movies, but this one was alright. It had a truly memorable and horrible toilet scene in it. Ugh. When it has that, and the military in the movie refers to the aliens as 'ass-weasels', you know you're in for a rough time. About the only thing I didn't like was the recklessness of the military's attack on the alien ship. Helicopter gunships can fire at targets from over a mile away. I don't see any reason for them to swoop in at point blank range—especially when the Aliens are dangerous enough to take out several of them.

The Matrix Reloaded
I think I pretty much covered my feelings about the Matrix in the earlier post about the original movie, but I'll elaborate a bit further here—I started getting bored with the special effects in this movie. They kept using the same gimmicks. They introduced all kinds of interesting possibilities via the marovingian—who talks about ghosts and vampires and werewolves as 'anomalies' in the programming. Yeah, we get to see a couple ghosts, but nothing else. And then there was the whole ending of the film, where Neo suddenly gains superpowers in the real world. WTF? The only thing that would 'save' that for me was if the 'real' world was actually just another layer of the Matrix. Actually, I thought that would be kind of a neat twist. Unfortunately...

The Matrix Revolutions
...nope. The real world is real. Neo has superpowers—and with no explanation as to how. And my god is the human defense of their city idiotic. If they KNEW where the machines were coming. Why didn't they just 'dig in' their walkers—preferably close to a huge ammo supply. Or better yet, just do away with the walkers and mount a bunch of turrets. And if they had EMP technology, why wouldn't they have layers of those around the base to set off, or at least ONE in the dock to use as a last ditch effort. And was it just me? or were there only like.. 2 infantry people in the entire human army. Why weren't there rows of people with those rockets, just waiting for the machines to  break through. And then I'm back to the inefficiency of the machines again—why don't they have any ranged weapons? Why did they just fly around in circles and get shot at. Why didn't they just drop nerve gas down on the humans? GAH. I could go on for hours on how bad this movie was, but I won't. Suffice it to say that all the loose ends and cryptic pseudo-philosophical references made in the previous movies had absolutely no payoff. Boo.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The worst of the Terminator movies. But not a total stinker. It just felt 'flat' to me, compared to the other movies—it never captured the frantic energy of the previous two. I liked the twist with Skynet being a program rather than a computer. I even liked the whole thing with Connor not being destined to STOP the apocalypse, just to survive it. But overall? Meh.

Alien vs. Predator
Great special effects. And that's about all I can say that's good about this flick. Watching it, I started to get my hopes up that there might be something good about it, but it fell into the same 'bad habit' as most horror movies: it introduces people who might actually be interesting characters, then does nothing to develop them, then kills them all. The whole reason I got so caught up in Aliens was because I started caring about the various personalities: Hicks, Hudson,Vasquez. I got to KNOW them. They had moments to show them as people. I cared if they lived or died. But when you have one generic character sketch after another dying then it just loses the impact. In looking back at it, the whole premise seemed flawed. Previously, Predators were shown to like 'organic' hunting environments, not pre-arranged death-traps. But this was supposed to be a ritual of manhood or something, so... whatever. I would really have liked to see a more futuristic setting for this, maybe even in space or even following the plotline of the comics of the same name, but.. oh well.

The Chronicles of Riddick
Again. Not a big Vin Diesel fan. I liked pitch black better than this—mainly because Riddick wasn't superman. In this? He is. I was also thrown by the sudden shift in the look of the movie. The first one seemed gritty and realistic—like something out of aliens. This one had all kinds of 'organic' looking technology and strange, ephemeral alien beings and 'magic' of a sort. Oh, and it had a stupid name for its villains—Necromongers? whatever. Still, it wasn't all bad. In fact, other than their lame name, I kind of liked the look of the bad guys.

The Day After Tomorrow
A laughably implausible eco-horror movie. But it did have great special effects. It also had Emmy Rossum, whom I like. I was a bit perplexed by everyone's reaction to the cold, however—especially for people who lived in Northern climes, where snow isn't a complete unknown. This struck me in two spots specifically: First of all, in New York city—after the flood, the snows start up. Why in the HELL would anyone decide to go OUT into the raging blizzard rather than find some place to hole up and start a fire. Yes. I understand it is bitterly cold, but people could have lasted for DAYS through that kind of weather if they made an attempt to. The LAST thing I'd do is just march off into the cold.  And the same thing goes for the scientists in Scotland. Their generator dies, so they just give up and freeze to death. For god sakes. You had wooden furniture and paper. You could have insulated the room as best as you can, rigged up some sort of chimney and at least TRIED to stay warm. It was literally only a few days later when rescue missions headed out to help stranded people. But anyway, I digress. Could be a fun adventure to have adventurers caught in the midst of a disaster like this.

I, Robot
I loved the look of this movie—and of the robots in particular. They had a very iRobot Mac look to them. It was an interesting detective story as well as action, with some great scenes of Robots taking over the city. I couldn't help but love the heroic robot, afterall, he was voiced by 'Wash' from Serenity. As with other robot movies mentioned previously, this plotline could easily work into a greater story about a droid uprising in the Star Wars galaxy.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Though it was a pretty generic zombie-apocalypse movie, I think I actually liked this one more than I did the previous installment—if only because of the scale of the devastation. The action scenes were pretty over the top, but that wasn't really my favorite part, as it felt too 'superheroey'. I really enjoyed the scene where you had the SWAT team holed up inside of a storefront, taking out any zombies who got near. Was nice to see that someone other than the heroes was competent. That's what I would have done. And I like to see characters in a movie that do something smart. Alas, the poor team had bad luck when the evil corporation sent its monster mutant against them, but...until then, I was really rooting for those guys!

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Being a huge fan of pulp-era fiction, I was looking forward to this movie. But as it turned out, it was rather forgettable. I usually have a VERY good memory about movies and plots, but I honestly could not tell you what the main story of this movie was. And that really says something. The animation was...alright, but I think that ultimately the world was just too 'alien' for me to relate to. It was just too many steps removed from reality. It sucks that this movie flopped, though, as I understand that the director was going to go on from this to the Princess of Mars/John Carter series. Alas. No such luck.

A real stinker, but a stylish one. Another of those 'liked the look but hated the execution'. There were just so many cliches and plot holes as to render this watchable only for laughs. A reviewer I love pretty much summed up all the frustrations I had with this movie. His words can be found here.

I am a huge fan of the show and the movie. That having been said, I've only seen this movie twice. Why? Because it freaking makes me sad. Sigh. I love the characters SO much that to lose two of them actually hurt—even moreso since of all the crew, Wash was the one I could most relate to, the one closest to how I think of myself. That having been said, it frustrates me that such a superior show and movie could both flop so badly financially. Any of the Firefly episodes would likely make an awesome Star Wars adventure, especially for the crew of a tramp freighter or smuggling ship. 

War of the Worlds
I don't much care for Tom Cruise or Dakota Fanning, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this remake of the classic story. It was a truly terrifying look at an alien invasion through the eyes of a normal guy. This aspect brings the horror home more clearly than a 'top down' view of the thing would have (as in ID4, for instance). You never get the entire story of just what is going on, and that only helps intensify the fear and frustration as people just wander aimlessly, hoping to get away from death that seems to be on all sides. Even with this 'personal view', you don't entirely lose the spectacle of the destruction—there are lots of set-pieces that show the true horrific scope of the attack—and the complete ineffectiveness of the human defense. About the only criticism I have of the movie is the whole thing about the Martian ships having been buried 'millions of years ago'. Why add that extra wrinkle?

I love Nathan Fillion. Yep. I have a man-crush on him and I'm not afraid to say it. He is a great and truly funny actor. He was the main reason I watched this movie. He plays a small-town sheriff caught in the midst of an alien infestation. There really isn't a lot of originality to the overall plot, but it is well directed and often-times darkly humorous. Unfortunately for me, the gore level was just a few notches above what I can take. It was truly uncomfortable for me to watch this movie, and that makes me sad, because it has the kind of snappy dialogue that I enjoy, especially in a 'horror' movie. But GAH, way way way disgusting.

V for Vendetta
I am not an Alan Moore fan. I do not subscribe to his pessimistic (and frankly pretty messed up) world view. That being said, I was surprised that I actually enjoyed the movie. Oh, it was a bit too stylistically 'clever' for my tastes, but the overall concept was appealing. Part of this, no doubt, comes from the fact I never read the comics. And from what I have read ABOUT them, I know I would have liked the movie version better. That isn't to say I think this is a movie masterpiece. There are all kinds of problems I have with it (like why the talk-show host guy would think he could get away with mocking the bad guy openly). But none of that stopped me from liking it—or its central message that fascism is bad. Unfortunately, I think that Moor would probably come back that 'Anarchism is good', which it isn't.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
I only recently saw this movie on Cable. I am rather indifferent to it. Where I think it is a little better than the first in this sub-series, overall I wasn't impressed with the story, the character development (what character development?) or the direction. It was essentially just a string of stet pieces where people get killed in various gruesome ways by by Aliens or the Predator or the 'Predalien'. It is just the last in a long string of movies that don't live up to the originals they were based on. I especially disliked the Predalien's sudden ability to just implant eggs directly. But then, he had to be able to do that to fit the movie's plot of having hordes of aliens. I also did not understand the Predator's actions at all. He was evidently trying to contain the Alien menace, and yet for some reason, he strung up and skinned one of the deputies. But.. for what reason? They never showed him actually collecting a trophy? And then there was the scene where he strings up one of the heroes to use as bait for the Aliens. Only... there were like a half-dozen humans already in the building—in the next room. The Aliens were already coming to get them. Why would he even need to string one up? Gah. Nevermind.

28 Weeks Later
I only included this movie to contrast it with the original film—which was better in every regard. This was, to put it bluntly, a frustrating piece of crap. I didn't even have a problem with the overall story of trying to re-settle England or even with the idea of another plague breaking out (afterall, if a plague DIDN'T break out, you'd have no movie). What got me was the absolute stupidity of the military in attempting to contain an outbreak. Yes. That's right. You have an immediately contagious disease, spread by direct contact. So what do you do when it starts breaking out? You bunch ALL the civilians together in one, dark room, and then hope some stupid kid doesn't have access to the freaking DOOR to the place—and hope that same stupid kid doesn't let his obviously infected dad inside. Oops! All the military needed to do was have people lock themselves into wherever they were, individually. The zombies weren't superhumanly strong. Even if they COULD bash down doors, it would take some time. And in the meanwhile, the military could move in and kill any of the zombies that were on the loose. End of story. But no. That didn't happen. Movies are scary when you identify with the people suffering through the horrors. But when they bring it upon themselves through stupidity, it is impossible for me to be sympathetic. It's just frustrating.

I Am Legend
I wanted to like this movie more than I did. The visuals of a post-apocalypse and deserted New York were striking—stunning even. The look into the life of a lone survivor and his dog was great, too—sad and frightening. The slow realization that the Vampires were smart...or starting to regain their intelligence was scary, too. And yet, overall, I was kind of 'meh' about the film. And I don't know why. Part of it has to do with the dog dying, I think. It was too sad. Sniff.

Resident evil: Extinction
Another frustrating zombie movie! Still, I liked it a lot better than 28 Weeks Later. The post-apocalyptic convoy thing was pretty dang cool, as were the ruins and the like. But again, overall, the plot was just...bleh. At least most of the survivors were semi-intelligent in their actions. I really HATED the one black guy who got bitten, though. Selfish bastard. He KNEW he was infected. At that point, I would have just come clean and either had my friends kill me off, or I'd just head off on my own, so I wouldn't hurt any of them. But Noooooo. Jerk. 

I went into this movie with low expectations. Afterall, its based on a freaking kid's cartoon from the 80's. As far as I was concerned, if it looked cool and had explosions and car-chases and giant robot battles, I was going to be happy. And this movie delivered all of that—and Megan Fox. Not bad at all. Of course, it didn't hurt that I went to this movie with a bunch of my co-workers—most of whom were guys who grew up with the transformers cartoon like I did. It was good, mindless fun—and strangely enough, it seemed to have the same effect on me and several of my co-workers. We were so pumped-up after leaving the theatre that we all kind of 'lead-footed' it home that night. Heh.

I'll admit, I mainly watched this movie to look at Rhona Mitra. That aside, it wasn't a great movie, but it wasn't all bad, either. It reminded me a lot of Escape from New York, right down to the protagonist having only one eye. 

Star Trek
Already delved into this one in a recent post, so I won't belabor it here. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the movie a lot, despite its glaring plot holes. It was good enough to get my hopes up for the franchise—and that's something none of the other movies have been able to do since Star Trek VI.

Terminator: Salvation
While it was much better than T3, and much better than I thought could come from a hack director like McG, it still falls short of the high standard set by Cameron in the first two movies. Particularly annoying in the plot of the movie was the stupidity and inefficiency of Skynet. I mean, if it KNEW John Connor was coming to rescue Kyle Reece, why didn't it just have a bomb waiting for him. Or a hundred terminators instead of one unarmed one. For that matter, why didn't it just kill Kyle Reece, thus retroactively aborting Connor then and there. For that matter, how the hell did Skynet know who Kyle Reece was or what he looked like? Nevermind. The action was okay. I didn't hate it.


  1. Geez, so many of the movies on this list are prime "bot fodder." It makes me realize why I have not seen many movies in the last decade or so. They stink!!!! Darned near all of them! In an age where SFX are better than ever, terrible plots, characters and dialouge are still key to any film.

  2. You're just old-fashioned. Everyone knows that the key to a good movie is a cool car. You know...Superman should have a car... hmmm