maandag 30 september 2013

Today's Mini-Review: Borgman

Borgman: ****/*****

Alex van Warmerdam's darkest and most disturbing film to date is also his best, perfectly balancing black humour and psychological terror. After having been rooted out of their carefully hidden underground lairs, a group of strange vagabonds led by the calculating and enigmatic Camiel Borgman (fabulous performance by Flemish actor Jan Bijvoet) slowly but surely infiltrates the life of a well-to-do family. The titular character himself manipulates his way into the house of a rich but bored married couple (Jeroen Perceval and Hadewych Minis) by getting himself brutally beaten up by the husband, after which the wife, driven by both guilt and curiosity, secretly invites him into their lives. The stranger's mystique grabs hold of her more and more, until she begs him to stay when he tells her he is leaving. After that moment, there is no turning back for the family, as Borgman and his co-conspirators stop at nothing to take over, with deadly consequences. The result is an hallucinatory film that holds the middle between being an absurd comedy and a nightmarish horror movie about the seemingly familiar but ultimately inexplicable 'Other' permeating everyday life completely until it has utterly changed into something else entirely. It's 'them' versus 'us', the unknown world outside corrupting the familiar surroundings inside, but which side we are (supposed to be) on is never clear: do we go with this bizarre revolution of the dispossessed have-nots against the haves that live in luxury, or will we choose the side that lives a safe but dull life of complacent banality and conservative conformity? Bijvoet's Borgman is a terrifically played cold, unfathomable force of nature, a subtle instigator of change who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, though it's never clear just what his aim is. Equally compelling in her performance is Minis, who believably relays and builds on her character of a woman torn by a sense of dread and a burning desire for this strange man that can pull her out of her dull family life, while realizing there will be potentially devastating consequences if she lets him in. Opening with a citation we are to assume is Biblical – '…and they came down to Earth to replenish their ranks', which in the end is exactly what has transpired – the film suggests Borgman and his minions (which includes Van Warmerdam himself in a supporting performance) may be something other than human. You might even be inclined to think they may not even be there at all, existing only as cruel manifestations of the wife's psychological angst, but they are also destructively active outside of her direct environment as well (as her gardener and his wife discover, much to their dismay and our amusement). It's this surreal confusion about the protagonist's goals and existential status, combined with outrageous but thoroughly hilarious instances of dark humour and sombre witticisms that make Borgman an unusual but intriguing horror story, which despite its overly loose and offbeat third act is most definitely one of the finest Dutch films in many years.

zondag 29 september 2013

Today's News: turns out there are more horrible bosses out there

Here's some more MS news from mine own hand:

Apparently Horrible Bosses was so successful a sequel was warranted. I get why it made money, it was a fun comedy flick. Does it need a sequel, or does the audience want one? Not at all. But that doesn't stop Hollywood from ramming it down our throats, in the hopes of capitalizing on a name that makes us fondly remember one of the few worthwhile comedies in recent years that have come out of the studio system. It's The Hangover all over again. We get a good comedy and we award it by paying to see it. Afterwards the studio suits think we want more of exactly the same and they present us with one or more sequels that follow the precise same formula of the first movie ad nauseam, thus giving that good first film a sour aftertaste. Not every fine film ought to be turned into a franchise, but franchises are what keeps Hollywood alive these days. As for Horrible Bosses 2, though no official plot information has been released, so far it seems to be an exact carbon copy of the predecessor. The three oppressed employees are back (including, unfortunately, that terribly obnoxious Charlie Day, who ruined every attempt at comic relief in Pacific Rim) and so is the incompetent hitman offering them bad advice on how to terminate their employers. But who are the latter in this case? I'm hoping the writers will add some originality and turn the threesome of former wage slaves into bad bosses themselves as a nice little role reversal. But most likely some new employers will be found to terrorize our heroes, and they'll be played by equally surprising bits of casting (so not Colin Farrell again, but like him someone you wouldn't have expected to see in that particular role either). Though that too is to be expected now, as we're in all-familiar territory.

Horrible Bosses 2 is gonna happen, whether we want it to or not. If we're lucky, it turns out to be a pleasant experience after all. But don't count on that. If it is gonna end up a dud, best thing we can do is not spend our money on it in theaters so this would-be trilogy dies a quick death on its second attempt, sending a clear signal to Hollywood that this blatant enfranchisement needs to stop somewhere. And we ought to do the same thing when Bridesmaids 2, We're the Millers 2 or The Hangover Part IV hit theaters in the future.

zaterdag 28 september 2013

Today's News: Jurassic World's human casting underway, but still no word on dinosaurs

Did some news posting on MS last night:

You can expect a lot more tidbits of Jurassic World related news on this blog of mine over the next few years. Like any good and loyal JP fan, I'm following this movie's development more closely than any other film currently in production. So naturally the news flashes I consider worthwhile for posting on MovieScene I will post, unless one of my colleagues beats me to it which is always a possibility considering I can't be on top of JW 24/7. Nevertheless, the number of news posts concerning this movie and/or mentioning anything JP in general are suspiciously high for those that don't know me and my passion for this franchise.

Bryce Dallas Howard and David Oyelowo were rumoured to be in negotiations with Universal for this project earlier this year, but nothing materialized then due to new director Colin Trevorrow's wish to polish the script some more. Apparently Universal was serious about the both of them, as they've been approached again for Jurassic World, and this time Uni doesn't seem to take no for an answer. I don't mind if these two actors get the parts. Of course there has been no official plot information released or even leaked so far, so I have no idea just what characters they are supposed to play, but I've seen enough of them in action to know they can act and are not ill suited for a JP film. Howard I know from Spider-Man 3 as the previous cinematic incarnation of Peter Parker's love interest Gwen Stacy (not a very large role, but played well enough, especially compared to the other girl, Kirsten Dunst's obnoxious Mary-Jane) and more importantly as the main chracter from M. Night Shyamalan's hugely underrated thriller piece The Village, where she played a very convincing blind girl driven to travel through monster infested woods (or so she thought) out of her love for a wounded man. As far as I'm concerned that was her seminal role, the one-to-watch. Unfortunately her second collaboration with Shyamalan, in the rather silly semi-fairy tale Lady in the Water, proved less than stellar, but the blame in that case can be assigned to lackluster writing. Lastly, I also know Howard from a small role in Terminator Salvation that failed to impress me, mostly because of her very limited screen time.

Oyelowo I know from an equal number of roles, though in none of them he starred as the lead character. I've apparently seen him in A Sound of Thunder and The Last King of Scotland, but I can't remember him from either of those: in the former case because it was such a forgetful movie overall, in the latter because I only saw that film once and that was seven years ago (but I remember it was quite a good and disturbing movie). He played in a short but crucial scene in Spielberg's Lincoln (where the president is confronted with the plight of black soldiers in the American Civil War). I do remember him the most as the unscrupulous, profit driven CEO of the shady genetics company in Rise of the Planet of the Apes though, where I was pleased to see he rightly got his come-uppance at the hands of the simians abused at his command. He played a decent villain, grounded and realistic, not devoid of emotion and making a point that wasn't wholly wrong, but overall not a particularly sympathetic person. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play a similar type of baddie again, given that this movie deals with a similar subject matter and a previous version of its script (which was only adapted by Trevorrow, not discarded entirely) was penned by the same pair of writers responsible for that film's scenario. Either way, Oyelowo's stock is rising, not only in terms of an important role in Jurassic World, but also in the upcoming Interstellar by Christopher Nolan, plus he's increasingly rumoured to be featured in Star Wars Episode VII. Universal better get him now while he's still affordable.

Enough of this talk about humans though, when will we get some dinosaur casting news? Will T-Rex be the main dinosaur again? What will this new awesome beastie be that Trevorrow keeps hinting at? And will there indeed be marine reptiles involved? Good cast members are always a plus, but interesting dinosaurs violently ripping them apart are still a bigger draw for audiences me thinks.

vrijdag 27 september 2013

The Lost World Series 1: Triceratops

Year of release: 1997

-Two pieces of capture gear

Description: this four legged rhinoceros like dinosaur sports a predominantly dark green paint job. Most of the animal (flanks, head, legs, tail, parts of the back) is covered in a certain shade of dark green with slightly different shades occasionally mixed in (especially on the crest). On its back another, even darker, tone of green is found in two large blob shaped spots and several spots around it. The underside of its tail, throat and belly are coloured in a yellowish beige which gradually changes into aforementioned green. The horny features on its head (beak, spikes, stumps) are coloured in a similar beige paint job. Its eyes are yellow with black pupils and the creature has a pink tongue. The claws on its feet are not coloured unfortunately. On its right hind leg a JP Site B logo can be found, with the number .44 next to it.
This figure stands in a relatively neutral pose, though one might also say it stands in a defensive posture with its head lowered and legs braced for attack. The end of its tail is bent slightly to the left. The animal has an attack action: when his right hind leg is moved back, his head raises considerably upwards, as if the animal is giving a head butt with its spiky head. The figure comes with two pieces of capture gear which can be clicked together forming one head piece that can go around the Trike’s head yet stands on the ground, as if holding the animal’s head down.

Analysis: this is a decent Triceratops figure. It’s smaller than the JPS1 Triceratops model and its paint job is quite similar to the one that figure sports, so it’s often labelled a juvenile by JP toy aficionados. It’s a decent paint job (apart from the claws which aren’t painted) and it adds some consistence between the toy lines. Like practically every Ceratopsid action figure, this sculpt has the typical head butting feature: it may lack originality, but it works fine in this case, though the leg has to be pushed back quite far to make the head action look impressive enough.
This figure comes with two pieces of restraint gear that can be attached to one another forming one larger piece that can be shoved over the creature’s head. It stands on the ground however, and can not actually be attached to the figure. This is done to accommodate the dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraint-gear action: when activating the Trike’s head ramming action while the gear is in place, the animal will move its head and smash the restraints. This at least is the general idea, but often it does not fully work because the two pieces of gear are quite strongly attached, making it hard to smash them apart. It’s not the best capture gear or breaking-free action. It’s also a shame the inner workings of the mechanism are so clearly visible: when one looks behind the animal’s crest one can too clearly see the mechanism exposed. They could have patched it up better. But this does suffice.

Playability: well enough. All four legs are poseable, though they don’t get very far since the figure’s body gets in the way when the limbs are moved around too far. The head is also moveable, either with or without the butting action. The capture gear doesn’t really add much.

Realism: the Triceratops seen in TLW was a lot bigger, especially its crest which was almost gargantuan in size. But like stated above, this figure is often called a juvenile Trike, in which case size doesn’t matter. Still, the paint job is also a lot different, since the Trikes in the JP movies were more greyish brown instead of green. The head with its noticeable crest and three horns makes this creature unmistakably a member of the Ceratopsian family, though not necessarily a Triceratops.

Repaint: no. However, this figure would be repainted three times: once for JP Dinosaurs 1, a second time for JP Dinosaurs 2, and a last time for the JP III Wal-Mart exclusive Dino Tracker Adventure Set. The capture gear would only be reused for the former repaint.

Overall rating: 7/10. It’s not the best Trike, but it does what all Trikes are supposed to do: it has a decent head butting action which provides for some fun trashing action, and it doesn’t look all that bad either. It’s not rare in some territories, but a lot harder to find in others. Ebay usually provides the solution. You might check it out if you’re interested in this figure.

The Lost World Series 1: Cyclops Velociraptor

Year of release: 1997

-One piece of capture gear

Description: unlike most other TLW dinosaurs, this dinosaur stands in a very active pose, with its legs in a walking mode, left arm outstretched and right arm held back, its head raised upwards and its mouth opened, and the end of its tail bent to the left. The animal takes an attack posture and looks ready to jump on an adversary with an agitated overall look. It has seemingly every right to be agitated since its body shows numerous signs of near misses with larger carnivores: it has scratches and scars all over his body, some small and hardly noticeable, others large and plain in sight. The largest scars look like claw marks and can be found on its back, its tail and its upper left leg. Other noteworthy signs of abuse are the end of the tail, which isn’t just bent, but looks more like the bone has been broken and caused a deformity, as well as the left eye, which is all white and undoubtedly doesn’t work anymore, hence the nickname ‘Cyclops’ attached to this figure. Additionally, this figure has rather large feet to keep it from falling over (though it often does so regardless). Its sickle like claws are a bit small and the toe they’re on is stuck way too much towards the back of the foot.
The animal has a very simple attack action which has little to do with its attack posture. When the tail is moved from side to side, the head swings along (as well as the other way around) as if the animal is making snapping movements. The animal comes with a single long piece of capture gear (coloured silvery metallic grey, like most pieces of capture gear of this toy line), which can be attached to the right leg on one side and applied around the jaws on the other. Swinging the tail around should cause the animal trashing off its capture gear, though it’s harder to accomplish that than one might think at first.
The animal sports a somewhat unconventional paint job as far as Raptors go; it’s not brown or red like most other Raptor figures. This Raptor is mostly dark green and this colour can be found on its flanks, head, side of the tail, arms and legs. The underside of the creature (belly, throat, lower jaw, underside of the tail) is painted in a sort of yellow colour. Similarly, the upper parts of the animal (back, upper tail, neck, upper part of the head, as well as in a semi-circle around the upper legs) sport a beige paint job with stripes sticking out of it and running along its tail, flanks and neck. Its claws are painted white, its normal eye is brightly yellow with a red pupil, it has a large red tongue, and small white teeth. Additionally, a yellow JP Site B logo can be found on its right upper leg, marked with the number .13.

Analysis: though this figure has an interesting design, it has some major flaws. The paint job is very un-Raptor like and not overly appealing either. It’s feet are ridiculously large and it’s a shame its mouth can’t be closed. The attack action isn’t very impressive (though original enough) and looks a bit silly, but is quite fun to perform though. The dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraint-gear action doesn’t work properly, since the head swinging usually lacks the force to actually trash of the restraint. Also, the gear is badly designed, since in real life a Raptor would get it off easily (it probably would use his arms to pull it off since they’re not restrained).
Still, the history one can think up for this animal is quite interesting. How did this poor Raptor get so beat up and utterly ravaged? Is it an older Raptor who’s had a lot of run-ins with larger predators and so far was lucky to got out of it alive? Or is it an under appreciated member of the Raptor pack which has been abused by its aggressive brethren because it has an odd colour? You decide for yourself what this battle scarred carnivore’s background is.

Playability: not too great. Though he has the usual moveable body parts, as well as a moveable head and tail, the pose this animal takes on stands in the way of good playability options (like with most of Hasbro’s JP toys). Also, it’s annoying its mouth can’t be closed. The single piece of restraint gear doesn’t add much options either.

Realism: this Raptor doesn’t look much like the Raptors seen in TLW, mostly because of the difference in colouring. None of the Raptors in the movie (or any of the movies) had this amount of scarring, though it would be interesting to see in a future JP movie and is certainly a credit to the creativity of the designers. It’s not entirely anatomically correct: like most Raptor toys as well as the Raptors seen in the movie it’s oversized compared to the humans, since real Velociraptors were about half this size. This Raptor also has incorrect feet and the inside of its mouth looks rather phoney.

Repaint: no. However, this dinosaur would be repainted several times: once for JP Dinosaurs 1 (including capture gear), a second time for JP Dinosaurs 2, and lastly, a third time for the JP III Wal-Mart exclusive Dino Tracker Adventure set.

Overall rating: 6/10. The scarring design is undoubtedly the great redeeming feature, since besides that this figure hasn’t got much to offer apart from a funky action move. This figure isn’t hard to find in the USA, but wasn’t released in other territories overseas where it is substantially harder to locate. Usually Ebay provides the solution, though at mixed costs. You decide for yourself whether it’s worth the effort.

The Lost World Series 1: Dilophosaurus

Year of release: 1997

-Three pieces of capture gear

Description: this dinosaur sports a simple paint job. Almost the entire animal is grey, except for some of its upper body parts. The back of the head, neck, back and upper side of the tail are coloured in a light blue paint which gradually changes into grey. A total of 12 darker blue stripes run down over its back and tail. Its throat and lower jaw are painted in a light green colour, as are both his crests (though only on the outer sides). The animal has a bright red tongue, white teeth and yellow eyes with frog like black pupils. On its right upper leg a JP Site B logo is found along with the number .69. The three pieces of capture gear are shiny black in colour.
This figure stands in a very neutral pose: only the tip of the tail is bent somewhat, so that it fits in its package. Its mouth is open and can’t be closed. The dinosaur has a spitting action. When dipped in water it’s necessary to squeeze its flanks so it takes in water. When squeezing it again, a spray of water is released through the mouth, as if the dinosaur is spitting venom. The dinosaur has three pieces of capture gear: one to cover the head, one to restrain the limbs (both its arms and its legs) and a third one that fits on multiple body parts, but the pictures on the card shows it’s to be put around its right leg for some reason.

Analysis: of all the repaints done for the TLW toy line, this is probably the most disappointing. This Dilophosaurus sports a very lazy paint job – it’s basically all grey except for some parts of his upper body – which is definitely inferior to the quite movie accurate paint job the original Dilophosaurs of JPS1 and JPS2 featured. Though it’s appreciable this figure was repainted at all (otherwise it would be the third time this figure sported the same paint job) they could have come up with a more interesting paint scheme, since it’s rather dull. The eyes look odd with the Kermit like pupil and its crests should have been painted on both sides. Other than that this dinosaur is the same as the classic Dilophosaurus figure. It features the same spitting action which blasts a venom spray at any target. It still works fine, though due to the involvement of water it’s better not to use it when there are electronic figures involved, since it might damage those.
This figure comes with the same three pieces of capture gear as the JPS2 Dilophosaurus had, except they’re not just reused as is most common with capture gear, but also repainted. Still, considering the other repainted dinosaurs sported new capture gear it’s a damn shame the designers didn’t bother to come up with new restraints for this dinosaur too. However, the capture gear still works fine, and unlike most new capture gear for this toy line, does actually restrain the creature: one piece covers the head so there’s no biting or spitting, the second piece makes sure the animal can’t use his arms or legs so there’s no scratching or running away, and the last piece still is rather redundant and gets lost quite easily causing complete Dilophosaurs being harder to find.

Playability: though the figure takes on a very neutral stance, it’s less playable than most dinosaurs, since only its legs are poseable. However, the arms can be used to hang onto stuff (human figures, other dinosaurs), so they aren’t a total loss. It’s a shame the mouth can’t be closed, but it’s understandable, since otherwise the spitting action might be impaired. The capture gear is a nice addition, though nothing too special. There’s no dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraint-gear action here.

Realism: there were no Dilophosaurs in TLW, but one was seen in JP of course. Qua body structure this figure is very similar to that dinosaur, but the colouring is totally different. It’s a shame, since the Dilophosaurus from JPS1 had a paint job which was almost completely movie accurate. The spitting action is also reminiscent of the spitting the Dilophosaurus in the movie did. This figure is somewhat larger compared to the human figures, but since the dinosaur in the movie was hugely undersized, this size is more accurate.

Repaint: yes. This figure is a repaint of the JPS1 and JPS2 Dilophosaurus. The capture gear is a repaint of the restraints the JPS2 Dilophosaurus carried. This figure would not be repainted again.

Overall rating: 6/10. Though the paint job is a bummer, this is still a fairly accurate and fun figure. It’s harder to find than most TLW dinosaurs and wasn’t released in all territories, so if you want one you probably will have some trouble finding it (though Ebay often helps) and it may not always be cheap. But if you’re not a completist, stick to the JPS1 Dilophosaurus.

donderdag 26 september 2013

Today's News: Gotham City gets its own TV show... without the Caped Crusader

This just in from MovieScene:

With all the buzz surrounding Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it comes as no surprise other studios are looking to cash in on the continuing popularity of comic book adaptations on the big screen by exploring other potential venues for the universes their franchises are set in, like the small screen. If one studio can pull it off successfully, why not another after all? Not an illogical (or very original) line of thinking, but Gotham is gonna have a tougher time convincing the audience. After all, Fox may have bought the rights to the city, but not to the city's illustrious protector, which is of course what people want to see the most, and what many will expect to see. At least in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. there is the possibility to occasionally have major tentpole characters - like Iron Man, Thor or Captain America - that people are familiar with from the movies guest star on the show, though the odds of this actually happening are slim, since the actors playing them have likely grown too big to consider a quick telly appearance worthwhile. We may be in for a pleasant surprise somewhere down the road, but don't count on it yet. Not so on Gotham. Especially since the show also excludes the option of introducing Batman from a narrative viewpoint. The vigilante simply doesn't exist yet in the time frame this show will be set in. At best, we may get a cameo or something from a very young Bruce Wayne. Still, that would make us feel like watching Harry Potter without Harry, or Jurassic Park without dinosaurs. That said, even without the Dark Knight, someone is watching over this cesspool of scum and villainy and his name is Jim Gordon (but not played by Gary Oldman this time, obviously). He's been with us for 74 years, so there must be some interesting stories to tell about him. And there's still the chance we might get to see Bats' other acquaintances, both friendly and adversarial. There's a few of his allies already around in this period (Lucius Fox for example), and a notable bunch of baddies as well. Of course, just how their copyrights are settled will remain to be seen. Nevertheless, I'm quite convinced Gotham City can be a fascinating place without Batman too. Especially when it was written by the guy who brought us Rome! After all, that particular city was still very intriguing without Julius Caesar.

woensdag 25 september 2013

Today's Mini-Review: The Conjuring

The Conjuring: ****/*****, or 7/10

James Wan merrily continues to reinvigorate the horror genre to great effect in this spooky possession type scary flick. Though 'reinvigorate' may be said too much, as The Conjuring is driven by trite but true scare effects that have literally been employed thousands of times already. Nevertheless, Wan makes them work as if there's still a sense of novelty to them. Supposedly based on true events – with the end credits providing the necessary pictures to back up that statement – The Conjuring follows the married Warren couple specialized in demonology and paranormal investigations, which is confronted by the most shocking case of their already illustrious career. The Perron family recently moved to an old provincial house on Rhode Island, where they have been plagued by bizarre occurrences ever since their arrival, which swiftly seem to take increasingly aggressive turns. Doors slam shut on their own accord, unexplained sounds are heard everywhere, the dog died a mysterious death (even though it never even dared to enter the house) and their daughters are harassed and assaulted by unseen assailants all night long. With the balanced help of both hard science and religious ritualism, the Warrens discover the presence of several ghosts of folks that have died horrible deaths in the house over time (some of them actually sympathetic), the cause of which is a satanic presence with an appetite for child murder that won't let go of the Perrons until the blood of their girls has been shed. To put an end to this terror the Warrens must call on all their experience and lots of luck to get everyone involved, including themselves and their own kid, out of this gruesome mess alive. Naturally the evil spirit won't make it so easy for them. A synopsis like this reads like a repetition of narrative elements and age old horror themes that have been done to death. It cannot be denied that it is just that, and so are the effects Wan utilizes to scare the bejesus out of his audience. Surprisingly, it all works great nonetheless. Maybe it's his sense of timing (there's many a moment of small shocks followed by silence, which itself is shattered by a big shock), his careful employment of efficient, mood setting lighting and editing techniques, or maybe it's the convincing performances delivered by his cast, with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson making ghostbusting exorcists feel plausible and compelling. It's probably the whole. Despite this movie's failure to come up with wholly new concepts to the horror genre, instead embracing all the clichés people have come to associate withe the genre, The Conjuring proves a genuine scarefest from beginning to end, guaranteed to oblige both regular viewers out for an evening of thrills and die-hard horror lovers who gave up on Hollywood's tactics ages ago. Hopefully this movie will stay a standalone film, instead of soon being the victim of rapid enfranchisement as happened all too easily to Wan's Saw – to detrimental plot effects, though unfortunately not so much in terms of box office– which currently also seems to be the case with Insidious, to which Wan just released a sequel as well (it's a fruitful year for him apparently). The Conjuring is a good old-fashioned horror film which brings to mind all the similarly themed classics of old (though of course not getting anywhere near the shock level of, say, The Exorcist), but shouldn't be exploited ad infinitum as some of Wan's other movies have been, for its own benefit. You can only be reminded of how creepy a door can be so many times before the feeling of dread is getting stale.

dinsdag 24 september 2013

Today's Column: life and death of theatrical advertisement

Got another column up at MovieScene:

As usual I handed in my column weeks in advance, and it promptly got put online, even though it basically wasn't my turn to post a column this week. Case being the guy posting the columns mistook my column for someone else's. That'll teach me to wait with getting my columns up too early: my rampant punctuality is getting people confused.

A personal topic this time. It so happens building standees and unwrapping promotional material is the one thing that I really like doing at work these days. Everything else has become an excruciatingly dull routine, but this is literally new each week. You never know what's in store for you, it remains a surprise each time. Too bad I normally only do it on Thursdays. It goes without saying that is my favorite day of the week in terms of work. Incidentally, the part about the Jurassic standee that can be found under my bed is actually true (except it's from Jurassic Park 3D, not Jurassic World 2 (though if I stay with my current job for long enough, that one may end up under my bed as well)). I wish I had display space for it, but I don't. I also wished I checked all the components for silverfish better: there has been a remarkable increase in the numbers of Thysanura in my house ever since I got that standee home...

You'll notice the titles of the films mentioned in this piece are fictional, they don't exist. In many cases I wish they would (I so want a Batman VS Predator film!), in others I just put them in for a joke. The Matrix Rebooted, really? Then again, you never know. There actually is a Titanic 2... And Harry Potter and the Winds of Winter... I would watch that immediately! Kudos to those that get the gag behind Nicolas Cage and Superman Lives. They even made a documentary about that one, so it shouldn't be so hard to puzzle out.

Now for the next column. I have no idea what it will be about, but that's what I say every time, and so far I have no trouble delivering the goodies on time. Inspiration will find me. But it can stay in bed for a few weeks longer this time.

maandag 23 september 2013

Today's Mini-Review: The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring: ***/*****, or 6/10

Sofia Coppola examines the darker side of fame and celebrity worship in this tale based on true events. A gang of teenagers repeatedly break into the lavish homes of various celebs (victims include Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan) and steal thousands of dollars worth of clothing, jewelry and other assorted personal belongings (but at least they don't take Hilton's dog). This simple plot line is based around two notions that trigger both surprise and disgust in the viewer. Firstly, the ease with which these young robbers manage to sneak into their targets' villas: in many cases all that was needed was scaling a fence and climbing through an unlocked window, or locating the front key under the door mat. And in some cases the gang succeeded to pay return visits over five times, as if the celebrities they stole from either didn't notice their stuff was missing – which is likely the case, as they tend to be out a lot and own so much stuff they hardly seem able to keep track of it all – or they simply didn't care. You'd almost be inclined to think the stars literally invite the perpetrators to enter their homes and become part of their exorbitant life style, which, as the movie reveals, is all the teens really aspire to in their lives. Secondly, and even more mindboggling, is the fact the illegal actions of this 'Bling Ring' as it was called were met with praise and adulation from their peers all over the country and the teens became minor celebrities themselves. Yes, they got fined heavily and sentenced to serve jail time by the authorities, but many people, equally obsessed with living a similarly shallow life of fame and riches, applauded their actions and their nerve. Coppola is not so much interested in exploring the causes of this rampant fascination with banal celebrity culture that invites emulation amongst young people who seem to care about nothing else than expensive fashion, all-night partying with excessive drug and alcohol abuse and endless posting on various social media about their decadent way of life. She merely records and observes young adult obsession with lowbrow popculture spiralling out of control, as these youngsters find they want a piece of their idols and discover it's all too easy to get it, without really caring about the consequences. For this purpose Coppola assembled a convincing cast of young actors with limited motion picture experience, with the exception of Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame, obviously), who in many ways could be viewed as the type of celeb that might have fallen prey to this band of kleptomaniacs (luckily she lives in England). Watson delivers the most compelling performance of the group as a girl so devoid of social scruples, hints of intelligence and sense of consequence it's both hilarious and frightfully disturbing. Equally offputting is Paris Hilton's mansion, once a crime scene in regard to the movie's topic, now ironically serving as a location for much of the film. We are treated to a glimpse into Hilton's outrageous life style as we walk through her home as the protagonists are cleaning it out. A personal night club lounge with dance pole, huge closets filled with all kinds of expensive dresses, hundreds of pairs of shoes; you name it, Paris has got it. We can only hope those alleged saucy “private” photographs of hers the gang embezzles are meant as a joke. Coppola's neglect to delve deeper into the decadent teen copycat culture that allowed for these burglaries to happen – which she may have done intentionally so as to make the 'Bling Ring' equally as bland and emotionally boring as it was in real life – makes for a rather dull movie consisting of an intriguing topic but a rather poor execution, as we are basically treated to a bunch of despicable, flat characters going on an endless “shopping spree”, all the while talking about fashion, sex and drugs, but without having anything to say that makes them remotely interesting. Pretty soon you hope for the police to arrest their butts and drag them off to jail to lock these horrid teenagers up for good. The fact that this doesn't happen for over an hour of this 90 minute film, while the young criminals get moderately famous when it finally is time to pay for their actions, does deliver some sort of twisted punch to the piece, but it doesn't make the film easier to sit through.

zondag 22 september 2013

Today's News: Neil Marshall will hunt trolls after Game of Thrones

Posted this on MS the other day:

As with any successful European movie, the Americans are not far behind with their remake. Even though the Norse film The Troll Hunter (original name: Trolljegeren) was only a moderate hit, it was apparently good enough for a US studio to try its luck with it. It may not be a bad thing, since some American remakes of Euro-flicks end up rather good movies (Let Me In, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), even though I'm generally averse to the entire concept of remaking. In this case less so (call me a hypocrit if you must!), since I sadly missed out on The Troll Hunter when it was running its all too brief course in Dutch theaters. I wanted to see it, but it didn't do well enough here to allow it to run for more than two weeks unfortunately. Like I said, it was not a smash hit, only a minor one. I was actually surprised to see it at my local theaters at all.

As for Neil Marshall: great choice! First of all he's British, so we'll be getting a bit of that much needed European sensitivity in this US remake (only enhanced by the fact the original producers of Trolljegeren are on board as well). Second, Marshall makes my kind of movies. The Descent, Doomsday, Centurion; solid, dynamic action/horror flicks all, demonstrating great craftsmanship on a fairly low budget - and 25 million dollars could be labeled as such - to excellent results in terms of good fun. Plus, Marshall doesn't take his own movies too seriously, which is also a plus when dealing with the likes of trolls. Furthermore, the director who gave us Blackwater on Game of Thrones is a guy we owe the benefit of the doubt. Especially now that he's supposedly working on another epic episode of GoT: so far all clues point to the Wildling attack on the Wall, which under Marshall's direction is something I have no hesitations about in terms of final quality. It's gonna be awesome. And I am rather convinced the same will be true of Marshall's Troll Hunter in time. I won't miss this film a second time, that's for sure.

zaterdag 21 september 2013

Today's News: another 'Agent' series for Marvel?

Got a scoop in at MovieScene the other day, and here it is:

I doubt this will happen. Agent Carter currently stars in a Marvel (Cinematic) One-Shot because she is the stuff One-Shots are made off: a character that doesn't really fit into the presently running world of comics but is still intriguing enough to warrant a single solo adventure, just to leat readers know he/she is still around somewhere and might come back to the fold later on. Yes, she is smart, strong and sexy, but historically speaking (comic book history that is) there's not enough to Peggy Carter to base an entire series on. She played off well against Captain America, but that's not gonna happen again, since he got frozen in the Arctic and ended up in a future world (from his perspective), while she lived life on a naturally linear level, battling her way through the last phase of the Second World War and the Cold War.  Unlike other Marvel films and shows now in production or planning, an Agent Carter show would be a period piece, hardly connected to the rest of Marvel's universe at all because of the time difference. Marvel is currently weaving a carefully interconnected cinematic universe where all characters and films share the same time frame so as to allow various sorts of hints and references to one another, both for story purposes and for fun, always keeping the option of a good crossover open. Agent Carter, being active in the Fourties, Fifties and Sixties, would be a definite standalone character that hardly seems to fit in Marvel's present strategy. In fact, Carter got cut out of The Avengers, for which a scene was shot where Cap visited an old Peggy after he was defrosted to let her know he still loves her but time came between their romantic entanglement. Then again, you might argue this excising was done intentionally so as to make her storyline, whatever was planned at that point, feel less conclusive. Who knows, maybe she'll end up in the present herself somehow. Stranger things have happened in the comics of the House of Ideas after all.

I agree, an Agent Carter series could be fun, but I don't see it happening as a fullfledged, regularly running show. Maybe as a miniseries. Which in many ways is basically what a Marvel One-Shot is. Why not simply start there? It seems more logical to watch the results of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. first, and see how well Marvel's Cinematic universe branching off to home cinemas works for the studio and what ramifications it has story wise for the actually 'Cinematic' Universe. I bet that is exactly what Marvel is thinking itself. As Deadline states, this possible Agent Carter show is just one of various TV projects (the others all unnamed at this point) Marvel is playing with for potential future development. Nothing else is known about these, or Carter, at this point. For now, any notion of other Marvel TV shows (no matter how much I'd like to see them) seems nothing but speculation. But I daresay there's more obvious choices for a second Marvel television series than this.

donderdag 19 september 2013

The Lost World Series 1: Junior T-Rex

Year of release: 1997

-One piece of capture gear
-Healing leg cast

Description: this juvenile Tyrannosaurus has rather long slender legs, tiny teeth and a small head compared to adult Rexes. It does have the odd little two fingered arms one finds with larger Rexes though. The animal stands in a neutral pose except for its tail, which is bent to the left somewhat. Its lower right leg hangs loose (though still attached) and can be twisted around, as if it’s broken or damaged in some way. The leg cast can be applied on the leg by sticking the pin on its inside in the little hole in the figure’s upper right leg. That way the twisted leg will “switch” back and the animal’s leg is healed; at least, that is the general idea. The Rex’s mouth can also be opened and closed by hand. This animal comes with one piece of capture gear which can cover its head, like a muzzle. It’s coloured slightly shiny grey. The leg cast sports the same colour.
The Rex itself sports a light brown colour for the most part, which can be found on the tail, flanks, head and limbs of the figure. On the underside of the creature (belly, underside of the tail, throat, lower jaw, parts of the arms and legs) the colour changes from brown to beige in a very gradual way. The back of the figure is painted in a dark brownish purple colouring, running all the way from the snout to the tip of the tail. Stripes and spots in the same dark colour can be found on the flanks, tail, legs and head. The Rex has small black claws and bright yellow eyes with black pupils. On his upper right leg (above the dino damage feature) he has a yellow JP Site B logo with the number .42 next to it.

Analysis: this is a good and realistic Young Tyrannosaurus figure. It’s pretty cute (especially the adorable little head and arms), and quite movie accurate. His paint job also isn’t bad, and reminiscent of the paint jobs of earlier Rex models (though none of this toy line). His long legs do look somewhat unusual, but aren’t too ridiculous considering this animal is only a juvenile.
The dino damage feature – that’s what it basically is, though unlike with other dino damage features this figure sports no removable body parts – isn’t really impressive. It’s nice the leg can be switched around, but the leg cast just looks silly: it only covers half the leg for one thing. Another issue: the leg switches back by itself on many occasions. When you bend the leg back far enough to make sure this doesn’t happen, covering the leg with the leg cast doesn’t do anything. Also, the pin sticking out of the leg cast breaks off easily, rendering the cast rather useless. It’s an original and interesting damage feature, but it just doesn’t really work. The additional single piece of capture gear isn’t very special either, but covers the head well. There’s no dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraint-gear action for this figure.

Playability: quite high. The limbs are all fully poseable, and the right leg even more so because of the twistable lower leg. The neutral pose also helps. The mouth movement is a good extra feature, which most other dinosaur figures unfortunately lack. The leg cast and capture gear don’t add all that much options, but are a welcome extra feature.

Realism: this dinosaur looks a lot like the little Rex seen in the TLW movie. It has a very similar design with its cute little head and long legs. However, this figure is considerably taller compared to the human figures. The juvenile Rex in the movie was about half the size of this baby. The paint job is also a tad different, but not all that much. The leg cast is a bit different because it only covers one side of the leg, but considering the Rex in the movie also had a broken leg it’s clear the designers of this toy watched the movie closely. Unfortunately they didn’t come up with a more realistic muzzle, but this piece of capture gear does the trick just as easy. All in all, this figure is one of the most movie accurate dinosaurs of this toy line, if not JP toys in general.

Repaint: no. However, this figure would be repainted several times: twice for JP Dinosaurs 1, and a third time for JP Dinosaurs 2. The leg cast and capture gear would be featured with all three repaints too.

Overall rating: 8/10. Though the dino damage action isn’t really great, this figure is well done, very similar to its movie counterpart and just extremely cute. It’s not hard to find and can probably be acquired at not too great a cost, so I recommend you get one yourself.

The Lost World Series 1: Pachycephalosaurus (small)

Year of release: 1997

-Two pieces of capture gear

Description: this Pachycephalosaurus stands in a completely neutral pose. Its body is almost symmetrical, except for some small details, like the position of the fingers (notice Pachy has no less than five of them on each hand, more than most bipedal dinosaurs had) and the paint scheme. And of course there is the round button sticking out of the left upper leg. When pressed, this activates the dinosaur’s attack action: the head will move downward, as if it’s giving a head butt. The animal resembles a kangaroo with its large feet and arms: but it has a bizarre head covered with bumps and little spikes, and of course a bald large skull bone. A row of bumps can be found on the neck, while several more of them run over its back and tail.
This figure sports a very green paint job, with various tones of green displayed all over its body. Basically these green tones are divided in three sections: the first and lightest shade of green adorns most of the underside of the animal, namely his belly, legs, arms, most of the tail, the throat and parts of the face. A second, darker green tone is found only on the chest and flanks, and in one place also on the back. The third and darkest tone of green covers most of the back and neck, as well as the snout (around the mouth and nostrils), parts of the face (especially around the very red eyes), upper legs, and running in stripes on its tail. The button on its left leg is painted in yet another version of darker green, so it’s easy to spot. On its head it sports a large dark red colouring around the beige skull bone. Its claws are painted brownish green, and on its right leg it’s got a yellow JP Site B logo with the number .37 next to it.

Analysis: though a repaint of the JPS2 Pachycephalosaurus, this is a very cool figure and could even be considered an improvement over its predecessor. It’s paint job is rather spectacular and shows how much you can do with green. The red on the head and the fiendishly dark red eyes are also well done and add some variation to the paint job. The figure’s head butting action, though a Pachy cliché, works fine, though with some figures the button gets stuck easily, making the attack action harder to perform. It’s a shame the button sticks out so much, since it looks rather odd this way, like the Pachy has a deformity of sorts or some projectile sticking out of its leg.
This dinosaur comes with two new pieces of capture gear. Like with the Velociraptor of this toy line, it’s surprising Kenner made two new pieces, since they could also have used the pieces from the previous incarnation of this figure. Fortunately they didn’t, because the JPS2 Pachy had rather lame restraints. This figure’s gear is more elaborate, easier to attach, and also looks cooler. One piece goes on the creature’s back, while the other, attached to the first piece, covers the head. Together with the head butting action they make for a fun dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraint-gear action: moving the head back and forth long enough will cause the Pachy to throw off the gear. It works well and looks realistic enough. However, like with the Raptor figure, this gear wouldn’t stop the animal from scurrying off, since it doesn’t cover its legs.

Playability: this figure provides for some fine playability. It’s fully poseable, and stands in as neutral a position as you could hope for. The head butting action works well in most cases. The capture gear adds some fun breaking-free action, but other than that doesn’t really serve a purpose.

Realism: this figure is clearly recognizable as a Pachycephalosaurus, mostly because of its grotesque head. It looks somewhat different from the Pachy seen in the movie though: that one was a tad smaller, though it’s very possible it was a juvenile because real life Pachys weren’t small creatures at all. It also sported different colouring, more resembling that of the larger Pachy of this toy line. The capture gear this animal comes with was not seen in the TLW film.

Repaint: yes. This figure is a repaint of the JPS2 Pachycephalosaurus. It would be repainted again for JP Dinosaurs 1, in the ‘Pachycephalosaurus with Dinosaur Trainer’ set. The capture gear would not be repainted again, however.

Overall rating: 8/10. Though it’s a repaint, this is one of the better TLW dinosaur figures, mostly because of it’s cool new paint job, fine sculpt and good attack action. Fortunately it isn’t particularly hard to find, nor will it prove very expensive, so don’t hesitate to get one yourself.

The Lost World Series 1: Velociraptor

Year of release: 1997

-Three pieces of capture gear

Description: this Raptor sports a bright reddish brown colour for the most part, which is found on its flanks, head, arms and legs. Additionally, its underside is white, including the inner sides of its arms and legs. Its throat and the underside of its lower jaw however are light blue in colour. The upper part of the body (upper part of the head, most of the neck, its back and upper part of the tail) are black with additional black stripes running down over the reddish brown colouring. More black stripes can be found on its legs. Its claws are painted shiny dark brown and it has bright yellow eyes. A beige JP Site B logo can be found on its right upper leg, with the number .06 next to it.
This Raptor stands in a very neutral pose, except for its fingers which are bent in different positions to add some diversity. To accommodate the carding system used for the smaller TLWS1 dinosaur figures, this Raptor’s tail is bent downwards, so it fits in its packaging. The Raptor comes with a biting action: when pushing its legs together, the head moves forward and its jaws open, as if snapping at some unfortunate soul or prey.
The Raptor comes with three pieces of capture gear, which look more mechanic and elaborate than they actually are. The largest piece can be strapped on the Raptor’s back, with the long stick like piece being clamped in a hole in the first piece, and the third piece, which is like a muzzle, attached to the second piece, so it covers the Raptor’s snout (and more importantly, its ferocious jaws). All three pieces are painted in the same silvery metallic grey.

Analysis: this is a repaint of the classic JPS1 and JPS2 Velociraptor figures. The only differences between these figures are the paint job and the capture gear. This Raptor sports a more elaborate colouring, which is quite good except for the dull white underside. The biting action is also identical to that of the earlier figures and works just as good.
It’s surprising Kenner designed new capture gear for this figure, since they could have just used the gear that came with the JPS2 Raptor. Still, they felt it necessary to create new gear for this figure, unlike the Dilophosaurus of this toy line, which is also a repaint yet carries the same capture gear as the earlier model. These new restraints add some diversity to the realm of JP capture gear, but unfortunately are less practical than the original gear. It looks way more complex yet basically all it does is restrain the Raptor’s head: this is to accommodate a dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraint-gear action which works via the same principle as the biting action, except now the Raptor also swings off its head restraint. Its legs and arms are still free though, so it could just run off with the stuff on never to be seen again, or what’s worse, use those ferocious claws to kill some people first. Also, the front part of the capture gear falls off easily since it isn’t very well attached. Clearly the designers didn’t give this gear much thought.

Playability: this Raptor stands in a neutral pose which adds to the range of playability options. It’s a good thing the arms are arranged in two different positions, so the creature’s stance doesn’t feel too artificial: this way additional possibilities are added. Though the creature’s tail is bent, this doesn’t really hurt the overall playability much. The new capture gear provides for a breaking-free action but it doesn’t work all that well.

Realism: this Raptor figure looks quite similar to its movie counterparts and is easily recognizable as a Velociraptor. Its colouring is somewhat different from the colours the TLW Raptors had, though they too sported stripes. It’s also slightly oversized compared to the human figures, though not by much. However, looking at it from a palaeontologist’s point of view, it’s definitely too big, since Raptors only stood about one metre tall. The capture gear this raptor carries was not featured in the movie, since they didn’t use such restraint gear on animals but put them in cages. No Raptor was captured in TLW by the way.

Repaint: as stated above, this is a repaint of the JPS1 and JPS2 Velociraptor, though the capture gear is new. This figure would be repainted again for JP Chaos Effect and JP Dinosaurs 1, with repainted versions of the capture gear from the JPS2 Raptor figure, so this is the only Raptor to carry this particular capture gear.
Interestingly enough, the TLWS1 toy line originally was to feature a repainted JPS1 Raptor with a very neat paint job, which was called a Deinonychus (a species of dinosaurs similar to Velociraptor but of a different family). However, late in the design process this figure was discarded in favour of this repaint which was labelled as just another Raptor. A paint job similar (but certainly not identical) to the one the unreleased Deinonychus featured was applied to the larger Electronic Velociraptor of this toy line.

Overall rating: 7/10. This Raptor is a good enough repaint and still a great figure to have, but unfortunately carries flawed capture gear. It’s easy and usually cheap to find, so if you don’t mind repaints or simply don’t own any of this sculpt’s versions, you might get one yourself.

woensdag 18 september 2013

Today's Article: Destination God, Part 5

Hoofdstuk 5: Apocalyptiek: atoombommen en het Einde der Tijden

Zoals opgemerkt in Hoofdstuk 1 was angst een bepalend kenmerk van de Amerikaanse samenleving in de vijftiger jaren. Angst voor het communisme was alom tegenwoordig, vooral toen de situatie in Korea tot een werkelijke oorlog escaleerde. Maar sterker nog was de angst voor de bom. Dit was een geheel nieuw soort angst, een collectieve vrees voor een plotseling einde aan alles dat men kende. De bom kon zonder waarschuwing inslaan, waar dan ook in Amerika, en in korte tijd een groot gebied verwoesten. Sterker nog, in een atoomoorlog zouden kernwapens in een ommezien de menselijke beschaving van de aardbodem kunnen vegen, of zelfs al het leven op Aarde uit kunnen roeien. Hoe grootschalig een dergelijke vernietiging zou kunnen zijn wist de gemiddelde Amerikaan niet, maar dat het een reëel gevaar betrof was zeker. Ellwood verwoordt de angsten in dit tijdperk als volgt:

Many now living still remember that in those days, as children or young people, they did not expect to live to full adulthood. They would die in a nuclear holocaust, or be sent to some far-off battlefield where the cold war had become hot, like Korea, and die there.1

Vergelijkbaar stelt Brosnan:

Prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki talk of splitting the atom was, to the man in the street, just another esoteric subject for egghead scientists to indulge in, but after the war the general public quickly realized that atomic power could destroy not only cities but the whole world. Almost overnight the assumed permanency of life on earth had vanished, and people were forced to live with the traumatic awareness that total, worldwide obliteration was a strong possibility in the near future.2

Uiteraard haakte Hollywood in op dit thema van het Einde der Tijden, of in ieder geval het einde van de beschaving zoals Amerika dat kende. Hoewel het in sciencefictionkringen niet een geheel nieuw thema betrof3, was het grotendeels onontgonnen terrein in de filmindustrie. Desondanks, binnen enkele jaren ontstond er een diversiteit aan representaties van dergelijke Apocalyptiek, divers zowel in haar representatie per subgenre als binnen de subgenres zelf. In bijna alle gevallen van apocalyptische sciencefictionfilms speelde religie een rol, variërend van slechts sporadisch aanwezig tot nadrukkelijk in beeld. Eens te meer wordt bovendien de nadruk gelegd op de definitie van “vooruitgang”, technologische ontwikkeling die de mensheid veel goeds beloofd maar ook grote nadelen met zich meebrengt. 
Het sciencefictiongenre in de jaren vijftig toont verschillende maten van verwoesting, van ‘grootschalig’ tot ‘totaal’. In de meeste gevallen is wetenschap, direct of indirect, de boosdoener. Het geval van grootschalige verwoesting is terug te vinden in bijna het gehele ‘terrestrial creature’ subgenre en in de meer agressieve variatie op het ‘alien invasion’ subgenre dat de aliens als veroveraars toont. Vooral in het ‘terrestrial creature’ subgenre is de connectie met de atoombom expliciet: in het merendeel van de films uit dit subgenre worden de wezens ofwel gecreëerd door de straling veroorzaakt door atoomproeven (It Came from Beneath the Sea, Them!), ofwel gewekt door atoomproeven (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The Giant Behemoth, The Deadly Mantis). Dit subgenre is het duidelijkst in haar opvattingen met betrekking tot de atoombom: de bom brengt grootschalige verwoesting met zich mee die hele steden in de as legt. Minder concreet is zij in haar oordeel over de wetenschap die de bom heeft geschapen; wetenschap wordt in dit subgenre dan ook zelden eenzijdig gerepresenteerd. De films uit het subgenre maken doorgaans het statement dat wetenschap weliswaar zulke problemen voortbrengt, maar ze ook oplost, waardoor een tweezijdig beeld van wetenschap ontstaat. De wetenschap neemt verantwoordelijkheid voor het door haar aangerichte kwaad, en presenteert een plan of uitvinding om het kwaad weer uit te roeien. Het gaat niet om de wetenschap zelf, maar om diegenen die haar gebruiken, lijkt dit subgenre te beweren. 
Deze boodschap wordt verder benadrukt in het ‘alien invasion’ subgenre, waarin we voorbeelden zien van zowel het positieve gebruik als het misbruik van wetenschap. Aan de ene kant zijn er enkele wezens die aantonen dat wetenschap ten goede gebruikt kan worden en zelfs een Utopia kan voortbrengen (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Red Planet Mars). Aan de andere kant zijn er de buitenaardsen die hun wetenschap ten kwade gebruiken en de mensheid met geweld willen onderwerpen, wat opnieuw gepaard gaat met grootschalige verwoesting (The War of the Worlds, Earth vs the Flying Saucers). Ook dit subgenre levert een tweezijdig beeld van wetenschap, waarin zowel een beeld getoond wordt van de voordelen als de nadelen van verregaande technologische ontwikkeling (ofwel een vreedzaam Utopia, of een versmelting van biologie met technologie dat leidt tot ontmenselijking).

Naast de ‘grootschalige verwoesting’ is er de ‘totale verwoesting’ in het genre, die slechts in een paar films aangetroffen wordt. De films die hier als voorbeeld kunnen dienen zijn Day the World Ended (USA: Roger Corman, 1956), Five (USA: Arch Oboler, 1951), Target Earth, en On the Beach (USA: Stanley Kramer, 1959). In deze films wordt de mogelijke wereld na de ramp – de ‘Atomic Holocaust’, de ‘collective incineration and extinction which could come at any time, virtually without warning’4 waar men voor vreesde in de vijftiger jaren – behandeld. Een allesverwoestende nucleaire oorlog of soortgelijke ramp heeft een handjevol overlevenden achtergelaten, die met elkaar moeten leren leven. (Er zou hier sprake van een potentieel vijfde subgenre in het sciencefictiongenre kunnen zijn, ware het niet dat de twee films die zich niet onder één van de andere subgenres laten plaatsen, On the Beach en Five, een zeer laag gehalte sciencefiction omvatten, en zich beperken tot het afschilderen van de diverse gedaantes van het menselijk wezen en de psychologie van het omgaan met het einde. Hoewel zij een duidelijke afspiegeling van de angst voor de bom vormen, worden zij hier niet behandeld, door hun twijfelachtige status als sciencefiction.5)

Hoe verhoudt religie zich tot de verschillende visies op wetenschap in films die Apocalyptische vormen aannemen? Zoals eerder vermeldt in paragraaf 4.2 (p. 44) kan gesproken worden van de thema’s ‘wetenschap als religie’ en ‘wetenschap versus religie’. Opmerkelijk is de prominentie van ‘wetenschap als religie’ in deze Apocalyptische sciencefictionfilms. Hoewel wetenschap doorgaans de verwoesting heeft gecreëerd (via de atoombom), werpt zij zich in veel gevallen op als redder van de mensheid. In Day the World Ended heeft een wetenschapper, die de bui al zag hangen, zich verschanst in een fall-out vrije bunker waarin hij een paar overlevenden opvangt. In Target Earth, zoals in meer ‘alien invasion’ films, rekent de menselijke wetenschap uiteindelijk af met haar boosaardige buitenaardse tegenhanger. In zulke films redt “gewone” religie de mensheid niet (in tegenstelling tot in een film als The War of the Worlds), maar profileert de wetenschap zich als datgene wat de mensheid de Apocalyps zal doen overleven, waarbij zij zich elementen van religie eigen maakt. Zij beschermt de wereld (Amerika) tegen kwaadaardige buitenaardse “religies” (de verwoestende buitenaardse wetenschap als on-Amerikaanse ideologieën). De wetenschappers worden priesters, met eigen “rituelen” en een eigen taal die voor niet ingewijden onbegrijpelijk is. Wetenschap lijkt de functie van de kerk over te nemen en biedt een betere, comfortabele wereld voor iedereen die haar als autoriteit accepteert. Door middel van technologische vooruitgang levert zij het betere leven dat zij de mensheid belooft. Ook Vieth maakt deze vergelijking tussen wetenschap en religie:

The power of science lies in its ability to both provide answers and to control the fundamental (that is, atomic) forces of nature. Its practitioners are privy to that understanding and have power over those forces. The metaphor is similar to certain religious constructions, with science as revealed truth and scientists as priests. 6

De connectie tussen wetenschap en religie, hoewel thematisch frequent aanwezig, wordt slechts een enkele keer expliciet aangekaart in de films zelf. Zo beweert een wetenschapper in Invaders from Mars dat ‘Doctors are sort of like ministers, you can tell them anything’, wanneer een jongetje aan komt lopen met het verhaal dat zijn ouders door aliens zijn overgenomen. Evenals religie presenteert wetenschap een wereldbeeld dat een waarheid voor ogen staat en met deze waarheid de mens van dienst wil zijn. Echter, wetenschap baseert zich op de directe realiteit, niet op de vermeende gebeurtenissen van duizenden jaren eerder. Wetenschap concentreert zich op het hier en nu, net zoals haar resultaten (de verregaande technologische ontwikkeling in de jaren vijftig) afgeleverd worden in het hier en nu. De wetenschap is daardoor niet zozeer spiritueel, maar substantieel. Desondanks tracht zij eenzelfde geestelijke troost en vrede te bewerkstelligen als “echte” religies, door zich in te zetten voor een betere wereld voor de gehele mensheid. Ook critici in de jaren vijftig zagen een parallel tussen wetenschap en religie; vooral schrijvers in Godsdienststudies vonden een dergelijke vergelijking beangstigend. Ellwood haalt als voorbeeld Robert Fitch aan, die waarschuwt voor

[…] a “new priesthood of science”, with scientists as “a new sort of religious order”, set apart from the rabble by “a discipline, a language”, and an attitude” of contemptus mundi – disdain for the world of ordinary people – though their language was not Latin but the arcane hieroglyphics of mathematics. Their temptations, like that of any priestly class, were spiritual pride, and the desire to assume temporal authority, being ethical purists and devoutly believing that such power would be for the good of all.7

Zulke kritiek op wetenschap was niet geheel ongegrond. Evenals religie kan ook zij vervormd of misbruikt worden en ingezet worden voor doeleinden die haaks staan op haar bedoelingen. De impact van haar misbruik is echter groter dan religieus misbruik, zeker in het tijdperk van de atoombom. Bovendien, als wetenschap de mensheid al redt, dan nog is de wereld onherroepelijk veranderd, zo ingrijpend is haar invloed.8 In het sciencefictiongenre wordt dit laatste punt zowel bevestigd als ontkracht: verandering door de invloed van wetenschap kan catastrofaal zijn, maar ook positief of zelfs noodzakelijk. Het is hier gepast de blik opnieuw op het ‘man into space’ subgenre te richten.

De grootschalige verandering die wetenschappelijke vooruitgang teweeg kan brengen wordt zowel op positieve als negatieve wijze geïllustreerd in het ‘man into space’ subgenre. De positieve manieren, de mogelijkheden van ontdekking en verovering van de ruimte en de welvaart die dit de mensheid kan opleveren, zagen we al in Hoofdstuk 2. De negatieve kanten, naast het mogelijke conflict met religie waar het gaat om het domein van God, nemen ook in dit subgenre Apocalyptische vormen aan. In plaats van een Aardse Apocalyps maakt men hier echter gebruik van, zoals ik het noem, de ‘Alien Apocalyps’: de weergave van stervende of verwoeste buitenaardse beschavingen veroorzaakt door wat wetenschappelijke vooruitgang had moeten zijn. Zo tonen de films de wonderen van de wetenschap, het reizen in de ruimte, maar waarschuwen zij tegelijk ook voor het achterliggende gevaar dat misbruik van wetenschap kan vormen. Voorbeelden van de ‘Alien Apocalyps’ zijn te vinden in Forbidden Planet, waarin een technologisch geavanceerde beschaving een staat van Utopia had bereikt, om vervolgens ten onder te gaan aan haar eigen sluimerende primitieve driften: wetenschap kan een perfecte wereld opleveren, maar dit is zinloos zolang deze wereld bevolkt wordt door wezens die zelf imperfect zijn. This Island Earth toont een beschaving die in een staat van oorlog is met een naburige planeet, waardoor wetenschap slechts wordt aangewend voor het vervaardigen van wapens en de planeet zijn ondergang tegemoet gaat. Andere films houden het dichter bij de realiteit van de jaren vijftig en plaatsen de atoombom in deze context. Zowel Flight to Mars als Rocketship X-M tonen een post-apocalyptische wereld geschapen door een atoomoorlog. In het eerste geval heeft de beschaving zich gedeeltelijk gehandhaafd maar wordt zij nu geconfronteerd met tekort aan grondstoffen die zij vervolgens op de Aarde willen buitmaken (het exacte tegendeel van de situatie in Conquest of Space, waarin de mensheid zelf de ruimte intrekt op zoek naar grondstoffen). In het tweede geval zijn de overlevenden gedegenereerd tot blinde mutanten die in een staat van primitieve barbarij leven. De boodschap is in alle gevallen duidelijk: kijk wat de wetenschap deze beschavingen heeft gebracht en houd in het achterhoofd dat zij zowel voordelen als nadelen kan brengen. Het is aan de mens zelf ervoor te waken dat wetenschap niet misbruikt wordt.

Naast de ‘Alien Apocalyps’ toont het ‘man into space’ subgenre in enkele gevallen ook een menselijke Apocalyps. Daarbij is wetenschap de grote redder van de mensheid in plaats van de boosdoener: wetenschap helpt de mensheid overleven, zowel in minder gehaaste omstandigheden (het opraken van aardse grondstoffen in Conquest of Space) als in situaties van direct gevaar. Ter illustratie, het meest concrete voorbeeld van de wetenschap die de mensheid van de Apocalyps redt en naar een betere wereld leidt treffen we aan in When Worlds Collide, waarin wetenschap sterk de vorm van een religie aanneemt. Deze film vormt een geval apart in het kader van ‘totale verwoesting’, aangezien zij ‘totaal’ zeer letterlijk neemt en zich niet beperkt tot de verwoesting van de menselijke beschaving, maar van de planeet zelf. Daarmee vormt zij het ultieme voorbeeld van de noodzaak voor de mens om de ruimte in te trekken, zoals besproken in paragraaf 2.1. In When Worlds Collide wordt de hele Aarde vernietigd in een botsing met de ster Bellus. Haar satelliet, de planeet Zyra, scheerde enkele dagen eerder daarvoor rakelings langs de Aarde, en een klein aantal mensen weet in een raket naar Zyra te vluchten om daar een nieuwe menselijke beschaving op te bouwen. De (Amerikaanse) wetenschap had de Apocalyps voorspeld: zij zag de planeet als eerste naderen en waarschuwde de mensheid, maar werd niet geloofd door wetenschappers uit andere landen. Dankzij het kapitalistische Amerikaanse systeem – het persoonlijke kapitaal van een rijke grootindustrieel die de boodschap wel serieus neemt – kon zij een reddingsplan in werking stellen: de constructie van een ruimteschip dat, als de Ark van Noach (de film zelf legt deze link ook expliciet), een handjevol mensen kan redden. Uiteindelijk slaagt het schip erin gelanceerd te worden vlak voor de Aarde ten onder gaat, en komt het aan op Zyra. Eenmaal geland op haar oppervlak blijkt deze planeet een paradijselijk oord, een hemels landschap met groene velden, bloeiende bomen, zonnestralen en witte wolkjes. Zo redt de wetenschap haar getrouwen (immers, alleen mensen die bijgedragen hebben aan de bouw van het schip mogen mee) van de totale ondergang. 

Geproduceerd door George Pal blijft de film uiteraard niet gespaard voor religieuze connotaties (in grotere hoeveelheden dan andere Apocalyptische films), evenals de jaren hierop zou gebeuren met The War of the Worlds en Conquest of Space. De film opent met een shot van de Bijbel, waarin te lezen is (terwijl hymnische muziek klinkt op de achtergrond):

And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them: and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth…

Dit citaat impliceert dat deze Apocalyps een straf van God is. De verwoester, de planeet Bellus (wat een connotatie oplevert met het Latijnse woord voor 'oorlog' en als zodanig al een beeld van verwoesting suggereert) komt ook uit de “hemelen”, maar wordt in de film zelf verder niet aan God toegeschreven. In tegenstelling tot de andere variaties op het Einde der Tijden in het sciencefictiongenre uit deze periode is hier sprake van een natuurlijke verwoester, niet van een technologische verwoester die door de wetenschap is voortgebracht. Als God de mensheid inderdaad straft in deze film, doet Hij dat niet voor haar wetenschappelijke transgressies. Hij stelt de “sekte van de wetenschap” immers toe om het “paradijs” te bereiken en daar een nieuwe menselijke samenleving op te bouwen. ‘[…] we are hoping that with God’s help and guidance, a few may do exactly that’, stelt de wetenschapper die de Verenigde Naties toespreekt, en hij krijgt gelijk. Als het Einde der Tijden later in de film daadwerkelijk nadert en Zyra dichterbij komt, wat gepaard gaat met natuurrampen en grootschalige verwoesting, komt ook de rest van de mensheid tot inkeer.
Never before in the history of the world has humanity felt so close to God. As Zyra inexorably rushes toward us, perhaps to destroy the Earth, men and women of all races and creeds pause to think, to pray and to atone’, wordt over de radio vermeldt. Maar het is te laat voor de rest van de mensheid. De wetenschap heeft de noodzaak om maatregelen te treffen verkondigd, maar dat gebeurde niet. Alleen dat deel van de mensheid dat geloof had in de wetenschap (en dan alleen de ware wetenschap, want ook de wetenschappers waren verdeeld) zal gered worden.

Wetenschap en religie gaan hier hand in hand: niet voor niets zien we halverwege de film een close-up van een boekenkast waarin de Bijbel naast wetenschappelijke boeken (onder andere Anatomy of the Human Body, Practical Mathematics en Standard Agriculture) staat, maar wel twee keer zo dik is als de andere boeken. Ook de Bijbelse opening van de film wekt de indruk dat religie de overhand heeft: hoewel het niet als zodanig gesteld wordt in de film, gunt God het de wetenschappers (Noach) een Ark te bouwen, de ondergang te overleven en het Paradijs te betreden.9 God staat welwillend tegenover de wetenschap, maar Zijn macht overheerst nog steeds de macht van de wetenschap.

1 Ellwood 1997: p. 171
2 Brosnan 1978: p. 72
3 In geschreven sciencefiction werd het thema van grootschalige verwoesting dor technologische ontwikkeling al decennia eerder aangekaart, onder andere in het werk van H.G. Wells (Brosnan 1978: p. 72). In sciencefictionfilms was het tot dan toe slechts een enkele keer behandeld, onder andere in Things to Come (USA: William Cameron Menzies, 1936), een film die gebaseerd is op een boek van diezelfde Wells.
4 Citaat van Susan Sontag in: Sobchack 1980: p. 47
5Tegenover beide films valt Day the World Ended onder het ‘altered human’ subgenre, en is Target Earth een ‘alien invasion’ film. Het verhaal van beide films komt overeen met het uitgangspunt van deze Apocalyptische films zoals hier omschreven: een groep mensen met uiteenlopende achtergronden wordt door een allesomvattende ramp bij elkaar gebracht en moet leren met elkaar te leven, terwijl ze respectievelijk mutanten/buitenaardse robots van het lijf moeten zien te houden.
6 Vieth 2001: p. 180
7 Ellwood 1997: p. 188
8 Jancovich 1996: p. 27
9 Anton Kozlovich bespreekt When Worlds Collide kort in zijn tekst over Christusfiguren in film. Hij beschrijft een beschouwing van Glenn Erickson over Zyra als een ‘subtextual Jesus’. Persoonlijk vind ik dit te ver gaan, des te meer omdat Erickson’s argument niet onderbouwd wordt en Kozlovich het laat bij deze aanduiding die hijzelf ook afschildert als pretentieus. Daarom heb ik Zyra, de planeet als Christusfiguur, niet behandeld in paragraaf 4.1. Kozlovich, Anton Karl. The Structural Characteristics of the Cinematic Christ-figure.The Journal of Religion and Film, vol. 8 (september 2004): p. 9