zondag 29 juni 2014

Today's News times five




Anyone care for a bit of news? Even though some of it is days old by now...

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156322/teaser_hunger_games_mockingjay_online

I like this sort of teaser. The kind that could easily have been an actual part of the movie proper - maybe it still will be - and expends on the story as a whole, though it can as easily be missed (in defiance of the contemporary tendency of viral marketing campaigns to divulge certain plot information that would have been better served appearing in the film itself where the addressed matter is irritatingly left open (I'm looking at you, X-Men: Days of Future Past!)). Of course it works only for those who have seen the previous two installments of the saga, as those who have not can only wonder what all this is about, nor do I think this theaser convincing enough to tempt them into seeing the first two films pronto. Like all teasers, it serves to forewarn the imminent arrival of the film in question into theaters, while this one also hints up front at the fate of poor Peeta Mellark now that the sinister President Snow has his hands on him. The video shows us what we already knew (if we indeed witnessed the previous films), that the Capitol of Panem will not take kindly to rebellion. There's been enough Games, now it's time for war, as this intimidating speech makes perfectly clear. Unless those insubordinate districts get in line before their insolence rains destruction down upon them. Fat chance.



http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156323/predator_krijgt_reboot

This news has already seen an update since I posted it, in which Shane Black stated the new Predator movie would not actually be a reboot, but more of a soft sequel. In many ways, it doesn't really matter much, considering the differences between both terms are negligible. As the sequels Predator 2 and Predators, as well as the occurrences of the violent trophy collectors from outer space in the duo of Alien vs Predator spin-offs, already showed, there's only so much you can do story wise with extraterrestrials hunting humans for sport. Since it would have been unlikely this new movie would follow the events of the first movie directly, a reboot seemed the better choice, reintroducing the Predators as they go about their usual gory business, but not hunting the same people twice (though considering Arnold Schwarzenegger's interest in repeating past successes, he might very well be up for anouther round). It's pretty much a given a 'soft sequel' will manage the same type of story. In this day and age of post-postmodern hyperintertextuality, no doubt both ways would have contained their fair share of references to past installments (and probably dragged the Xenomorphs into this mess for a gag or two as well). Whatever you call it, it's the same thing. I do like the irresistable irony that the guy who, as an actor, was the first to get mauled on-screen (though not as explicitly as some of the victims that followed in his footsteps) by one of the murderous creatures in the very first movie from 1987, now is chosen as the director to breath new life into the franchise. I do hope that goes to show his heart is in it and he means to make this a kick-ass horror/action gorefest of a thrill hunt, like the franchise started out to be. So far his track record as a director isn't enough to convince me of his capabilities in that department. I for one thought Iron Man 3 was the most disappointing Marvel Studios' flick thus far. But I'm not ready to hang him high in a jungle three just for daring to tackle Predator for that. Unlike the evil alien did himself back in '87.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156317/eerste_trailer_oorlogsfilm_fury

A rather standard trailer for what appears to be a rather commonplace WW II movie. After all the initial fuss about this movie and Brad Pitt's lead role in it, I was expecting something more than this fairly basic war drama. All the usual ingredients are there: an isolated group of men on a dangerous, seemingly hopeless mission, a battle hardened, gruff commander who cares first and foremost about the troops under his command, a rookie soldier's first time into battle and the emotional distress that comes with this initiation into manhood, tension amongst the camaraderie when faced with increasingly insurmountable odds, etc. I don't see any stand-out elements convincing me of the need to go see this movie. Brad Pitt alone doesn't cut it for me. I already saw him fighting WW II the American way in Inglourious Basterds: another thing entirely of course, which was also what made it so memorable compared to more typical movies like this one. Of course, it's only a trailer, and trailers can be deceptive to say the least (like the trailer for, again, Inglourious Basterds, which made the movie look like something it ended up not being for the better part). There's no particular appealing names in the rest of the cast, while Shia LaBeouf's presence serves more as a deterrent from watching this film for me. Fury doesn't look bad per se, it just doesn't look furiously good.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156374/eerste_trailer_dracula_untold

Another trailer which doesn't look as good as it ought to be is this debut preview of Dracula Untold. A fairly good cast and a somewhat intriguing, though hardly novel, plot notwithstanding, this trailer screams 'B-movie' all over. The cheap Gothic imagery and the poorly executed effects work doesn't bode well for the Prince of Darkness' origin story as told by total newcomer Gary Shore. Coupled with the fact this movie will open, in IMAX nonetheless, in a month plagued by the absence of attractive features (IMAX or otherwise) in theaters, its themes cannot help but remind me of the dismal action adventure flick I, Frankenstein earlier this year. It's regrettable IMAX feels the need to turn to visually unimpressive substandard budget fare that is not suited to the excessively big screen experience it boasts, to ensure there's always some title available in the format, even in slow seasons. The moody posters gave me hopes for this movie, but the trailer takes some away. As said before, trailers are no fair indication of the completed movie viewing experience, especially when heavy FX work is involved. Undoubtedly some of the shots seen in this preview remain to be polished before the film's release, even though it's not produced on the most stellar of budgets. But aside from the visuals, there's still a thing or two to be said against this film based on what this trailer show us. Or is that indeed Charles Dance playing the demonic character? That would sure help pull me in a bit more!




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156372/releasedatum_pacific_rim_2_bekend

If Guillermo del Toro says he wants to make a movie, it gets made. Even though it's a sequel to a not all that profitable predecessor. It happened on Hellboy - thankfully, as Hellboy II was a heck of a lot more awesome than the already not so bad first installment - and it seems history is repeating itself on Pacific Rim. The fact overseas box office turned out far more lucrative than the disappointing domestic sums the movie garnered sure helped the studio suits to greenlight a sequel. I don't mind, as I like Del Toro - a nerd turned director is always something that agrees with me - and I generally like his movies, some more than others obviously, but so far he hasn't made a single one that I consider to be bad. Pacific Rim sure sat well with me as the ultimate hommage to the Japanese Kaiju genre, which outdid nigh all of the entries the Japanese themselves made into that phenomenon. Monsters are my forte, giant or otherwise, so another round between titanic creatures and ditto robots sounds neat enough. Can't say it's particularly inspired, but an hommage doesn't have to be. Though I would welcome something new in a second film, but I'm sure Del Toro can come up with something before the 2017 deadline that suits my desires for giant monster/robot mash-ups.

donderdag 26 juni 2014

How to build a bitchin' Transformers standee, Quicksilver style

video


I thought I'd post something else for a change. Something wickedly cool, naturally (though admittedly, the video quality when posted on my blog leaves a lot to be desired). Me and my partner in promotional crime recently built this giant standee for the upcoming movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. It took us just over three hours to complete this daunting task, though you would not guess so from this little 11-second video. This footage gives a decent impression of the activities I usually engage in on Thursday afternoons on the job. Of course, most standees aren't nearly as big or complex as this particular specimen (which is why they don't get spiffy timelapse videos like this one). I can safely say that building this standee was much more fun than watching the actual movie. Considering its running time of 165 minutes, it would take up an equal amount of time too. I doubt many people would have the privilege of building this one though, as it sets the distributor back a whopping 2,500 euros, so not many have been produced. Which is why there's only two of these in the Netherlands, though you can spot its small sized counterpart (only about half as big) in most other commercial theaters. As the climax of the video flashes by in mere milliseconds, below you'll find a picture of the final product so you can experience its splendid detail and admire the craftsmanship that goes into building these huge standees.

It's gonna be a damn shame to tear this one down when the times comes. But hey, it's too big to take home with me by train...



woensdag 25 juni 2014

Today's News: Turtle power!



Here's a recent news flash I posted online just yesterday:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156312/nieuwe_trailer_ninja_turtles

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156308/character_posters_ninja_turtles_online

These are not my turtles. What else can I say? They don't look like the turtles I grew up with, they don't sound like the turtles I grew up with. However, upon rewatching last year, the turtles I grew up with didn't seem that great as I remembered them. It was a painful tete-a-tete with my cherished childhood memories that suddenly left sort of a sour aftertaste. The early Nineties' cartoon was definitely targeted at kids, and just didn't seem so awesome as once it did as an adult. (At least the action figures still do, but that's a different thing.) As for these new Turtles, the phrase 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' immediately comes to (my) mind. If the trailer is any indication, this movies offers everything the cartoon used to offer in a (half) nutshell. All the core ingredients are there, including the hokey humour telling us we should not take any of these ludicrous situations involving mutated animal/human hybrids at all seriously. Like we were going to. The characters are largely identical, except Shredder doesn't seem Japanese (or at least the actor who portrays him, William Fichtner, doesn't). The quartet of reptiles and their rodent sensei, as well as dashing star reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox, take it or leave it) seem pretty much unchanged in nature.




More so in look, obviously. I can't deny giving the four titular protagonists more divergent styles of clothing instead of having them all dress the same except for their colours (and their signature choice of weaponry) isn't such a bad idea as it gives the characters more distinct personalities. Too bad these characters seem written around such overly archetypal lines. They always were of course, but you never noticed it that much because they all looked so similar, making one team of characters seem more dynamic than it actually was. I'll admit to the kids in the street these Ninja Turtles might very well seem like the next cool thing, as the studio and its partner-in-profits Hasbro get ready to groom them for buying movie tie-ins they don't really need, just like the cartoon made me do back in the days. I won't go in the typical cynical, whiney state of complaining Michael Bay (the producer, if you didn't know yet) raped my childhood, since voluntarily revisiting my childhood heroes, or at least their audiovisual equivalents, caused some emotional trauma in itself by my own hand. I do regret the choice of director in this case though, as Jonathan Liebesman has so far mostly made very bad movies driven by expensive but bland visual effects coupled with an abundance of American patriottism. It's likely this movie will therefore prove to have been just his cup of tea, then.

No evil transdimensional disembodied brain in this one? I guess they're saving that for the sequel.


maandag 23 juni 2014

Jurassic Park III: Military General & T-Rex


Year of release: 2001

Accessories:
-Bazooka-like gun (with missile)
-Tyrannosaurus figure



Description: the Military General figure wears a bright green shirt with darker green stripes, a silver utility belt, dark grey trousers and black boots. His trousers and shirt sport some slight tears, like he’s had a conflict with a small unpleasant dinosaur. He’s very blond and has a rather grim look on his face. The weapon is painted in a slight shiny metallic colour: it can be loaded with a bright red missile, which is basically a stick with a large oval shape with two round holes in it at one end. The Tyrannosaurus figure is brown with some grey tones mixed in, an almost white belly, black stripes on his back and a black JP III logo on his left leg. Its feet are supported by some extra plastic, so it can stand on his legs without falling over.

Analysis: the paint job of this figure is okay. The green colours aren’t very special, but fit a military character. Some neat extra details were added, like name tags and rank insignia, giving it more realism. Other than that you wouldn’t be able to tell this guy is part of a military organisation. The figure stands in an odd and clumsy position, making it a bit hard to let the figure stand up right. His right arm is hanging down a bit, which knocks this figure further out of balance. The tears aren’t really noticeable at first, but cover most of his chest. No skin is revealed, so the General probably wasn’t hurt that bad.
The weapon is not very impressive. It looks rather unrealistic: it has a small monitor screen on the top, maybe for logging onto dinosaurs or something. It also has a large cylinder shaped part sticking out on its lower part, giving it additional, unnecessary weight. It has got one grip at the back end, so the figure can hold it. Though the figure can hold stuff with both hands, this weapon doesn’t seem to be made for either hand. One hand is opened too wide, so the weapon doesn’t stay in place. The other, at the arm that’s hanging down, can hold it: when it does however, it looks like the General is dragging the weapon down on the ground. Holding the weapon with either hand further knocks the figure out of balance. The weapon also features a rather lame firing mechanism: the end of the missile sticks out of the back when the weapon is loaded, and you have to press on it to fire. Unlike the weapons from earlier JP toy lines, where you just had to press a button, this feels awkward and cheap. The missile also does little damage: it gets off course easily and just flies around, so when you try to hit a specific target this gun doesn’t really work. It doesn’t hit a target hard anyway: so far I’ve never managed to knock the Rex figure over with it…
The Tyrannosaurus is interesting. It certainly doesn’t look like a hatchling, but more like a miniature version of an adult dinosaur: the same goes for most of the JP III hatchlings. The colours of this dinosaur are pretty standard, nothing special there. The figure stands in an attack posture, like it’s about to jump on its prey. Its head is tilted up and looks pretty ferocious, one of his arms is outstretched and its tail is slightly curled upwards. The mouth is opened so it can hold a figure between his jaws. It’s a pretty neat figure, but it does have a negative point: some additional pieces of plastic are attached to its feet, so it can stand on two legs. If these pieces weren’t there, it would probably fall over, which would make it look silly. So though it doesn’t look very accurate, at least it serves a purpose.




Playability: not very high. Like stated above, the figure’s irritating pose compromises playability, and the fact that it can’t really hold the weapon very well further diminishes the level of playability. The weapon doesn’t work very well either unfortunately. The dinosaur has no moveable body parts and can only stand in this one attack posture: it might be suited for dioramas though.

Realism: though Jurassic Park III did feature military characters (soldiers, pilots) at the end of the movie, no Military General was there. This figure was made up, and therefore it can’t be judged on likeness. The bazooka like gun wasn’t featured in the movie either. The Tyrannosaurus is a decent and fairly accurate miniature model of the Tyrannosaurs seen in the Jurassic Park movies in both shape and colours, though its arms are somewhat too large for a Rex; in real life its arms were smaller, almost tiny.

Repaint: no. The General would be repainted for the JPD2 toy line though, along with his weapon (see Velociraptor with Dinosaur Trooper), and again for JP 2009, featured in both its own set and as canon fodder for the Deluxe Electronic T-Rex (in neither case it came with its original weapon, but was featured with weaponry from other JP III figures instead). The Tyrannosaurus figure would be repainted a record number of times, twice for the JP III Camo-Xtreme line (with a third one planned but unreleased), four times for JP Dinosaurs 2 and 3, and another four times for JP 2009. Apparently Hasbro thought it the coolest dinosaur figure around, worthy of endless repainting...

Overall rating: 3/10. This figure really isn’t very appealing. The weapon basically sucks, and the General isn’t something one would care for either. The only thing you might want is the Rex. Fortunately this figure is very common, so you can get it cheap easily, should you really want one.

zondag 22 juni 2014

Today's News aplenty




Guess who's behind on commenting on his own posted bits of news this weekend?:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156239/nieuwe_batman_mogelijk_in_2019

It would have made more sense to give a major character his own solo debut before throwing him in the mix with others, as Marvel did so successfully on The Avengers. However, Warner/DC are in a tremendous hurry. The superhero movie fad has been going on for over a decade now, the novelty will wear off and audiences will grow tired of all these superheroes saving the day ad nauseam soon. It's not unlikely we have already witnessed the height of the superhero silver screen craze by now. However, Marvel has shown its rivals the light and the financial rewards to be reaped, so a competing über-superhero blockbuster from that other major comic book publisher is in short order. And considering the success of the Dark Knight trilogy, plus the popularity of the Batman character in general for the last 70 years, it's safe to say audiences know the Caped Crusader well enough not to be in need of an origin story once again. Batman may really not need another introduction for a change. Let him meet Superman first and see how that works out for the both of them, and worry about retelling this particular take on the character later on. Of course, it's likely his background will be touched upon in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though probably not in so much detail. I'm sure it can be skipped for a film or two, as Justice League too is scheduled to beat The Batman, as is the solo film's dull working title, to theaters. It may actually be good for the character's air of mystique to keep his origins in the dark for a while longer than anticipated by the general audience. And since the Dark Knight trilogy turned out so well, we can still enjoy it to the fullest for a few more years before the mantle is passed to another director, another actor and another universe for Bats to play in.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156258/rian_johnson_regisseur_star_wars_episode_viii

The hunt for talented young directors to shape Disney's Star Wars universe continues! Not that I consider J.J. Abrams either young (age: 48) or talented (mucking up Lost, sacking Star Trek). But his co-directors Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and Josh Trank (Chronicle) sure fit that description. And Rian Johnson does too. His episodes of Breaking Bad were amongst the best of the entire series' run and proves he understands compelling characters and drama just fine, while Looper was simply a good watch (not flawless, but still a noteworthy Sci-Fi flick). Apparently Disney thinks the world of him, as he's not only directing Episode VIII, but also writing both that one and its successor, Episode IX. I bet there's a juicy, shocking cliffhanger involved that warrants the involvement of the same writer to make things run more smoothly from a plot point of view. So that makes five(!) Star Wars films currently being prepped, the greatest activity ever on the franchise. How much anticipation can the fans survive? And how much harder will the blow to them be if these films do not live up to the hype which is rapidly reaching insane levels? As all major film studios are, Disney is unmistakably in a hurry to capitalize on what it has. I hope it works out for everybody, studio and devotees alike. Fortunately, after the disappointment Star Wars' own creative father wrought on the franchise in the previous decade, most fans will know not to live in hope to much. But ever more of such promising names attached, the chances continue to rise we will be getting at least one good Star Wars movie in the near future.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156259/laatste_trailer_dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_online

As for Planet of the Apes, that franchise already experienced a successful reboot with Rise of the PotA. So far the trailers indicate the level of quality is maintained for its successor, Dawn of the PotA. Thanks to this latest trailer I'm even more stoked for this movie than I already was. Okay, so the image of a chimp riding a horse while firing twin guns is a bit on the side of campy excess, all else seems solid enough. You've got intriguing characters, a fascinating post-apocalyptic state of affairs, excellent visual effects and some damn fine actors (Andy Serkis! Gary Oldman!) to make it all come alive. And things are not too black and white, as there's villains and heroes on both sides and there's something to be said for everybody's motivations. Of course we root for the formerly oppressed apes, but thanks to the virus that wiped out most of humanity, the stakes have been balanced to such an extent that the humans are not much beter off, which makes them sympathetic underdogs in a clever role reversal. There's room for that gray area between man and beast to be explored, the trailer suggests, even though much of the movie obviously consists of acts of violence committed by both parties. And unlike in the original movies, the lines between the three species of apes - chimpanzee, orang-utan and gorilla, if you recall - are not so clearly delineated as before, so there is opportunity to make use of those differences too. It's not as simple as chimps good, gorillas bad, as in the Seventies. Nor is it apes good, humans bad, as was the case for most of the previous movie. As the trailer shows, and hopefully the film itself will too, everybody is still all too human and peace is our only option for mutual survival.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156264/sinister_regisseur_schrijft_outer_limits

Derrickson sure is getting busy lately. He still has to finish another horror flick, he's busy prepping Doctor Strange for Marvel, and now he's tackling The Outer Limits inbetween. I hope he does it justice, as his remake of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still didn't prove him to be a science fiction genius. The choice to base an entire movie off a single episode also is no cause for optimism, especially if it's a feeble one (no offense to Harlan Ellison). I question the choice to adapt this TV-show to the big screen, since the latter just doesn't fit its format all too well. The same can be said for its friendly competitor, The Twilight Zone. Anthologies are beter served in weekly succession on the small screen where viewers can grasp the concepts more easily than they can if they encounter them in theaters only every three years. After all, if a movie proves to be received well by its audience, it will expect a direct sequel in terms of story, rather than an entirely different story altogether. Imagine if I, Robot was the first Outer Limits movie and the sequel wouldn't deal with robots at all: would that have sat well with spectators? It just so happens that that particular tale was first used in the original TV series before Will Smith made it his own star vehicle in 2004. If there was no Will Smith in its successor, people might have been ended up disappointed. The only other workable solution is to fit multiple short stories into a single movie, as done in the Eighties' Twilight Zone movie, not to great effects despite the involvement of several notable directors for each segment (including Steven Spielberg). To me, the silver screen just doesn't seem to be suited to unrelated short stories packaged under the same title. Theatrical limits are just a little too far beyond the outer limits the show handles.

donderdag 19 juni 2014

Today's Review: Das Wochenende




MS posted this review of mine today (a day later than usual for reviews of new movies):

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156070/das_wochenende_-_recensie

Quite a dull watch in all honesty. It's not the subject, nor is it the acting. It's the poor dialogue and unrelenting petty squabbling that get the better of this movie. If you have nothing to do during the weekend, better watch something else regardless. There's better movies featuring the (German) RAF out there, as there are more appealing films involving family bitterness exploding.

woensdag 18 juni 2014

Today's News: scary posters and explosive trailers galore




Get ready for a nerdy newsflash:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156193/eerste_poster_dracula_untold

Looks atmospheric enough, particularly the international one (see above). That doesn't guarantee quality though, as plenty of B-movies know how to convey a Gothic mood without ensuring narrative fullfillment or an awarding viewing experience. Naturally this will never be even close to Universal's original horror classics of the Thirties and Fourties, but any movie at least paying hommage to those scores points with me. There's some good actors attached, while Luke 'Bard the Bowman' Evans surely isn't the worst choice for playing the notorious Vlad the Impaler. As for the 'Untold' aspect, it's basically an overt excuse to retell this tale that has been told countless times in countless shapes before. Doesn't matter really. There's certain ever fascinating fictional characters that are so firmly embedded in the human psyche they keep reappearing throughout time in hugely divergent guises to satiate the public's continuing love for them and spawn a meaningful reinterpretation that befits the current zeitgeist. Dracula is very much among those (while the likes of Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and Godzilla are other noteworthy examples). I doubt there's very much truly novel material Dracula Untold will add to the overall history of the most beloved bloodsucker of them all. But that doesn't stop it from delivering a thrilling rollercoaster of a period horror film per se, if executed properly. And if it isn't, there's bound to be another incarnation that is in the long run, or we can revisit the classic takes on the character instead. No need to yell bloody murder if this one fails to serve us what its title implies.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156211/eerste_trailer_the_expendables_3

Now that's more like it. The teasers were positively teasing and hardly showed any of the signature action and witty oneliners we were hoping for. This trailer certainly remedies that previous omittance. This is one hardcore romperstomper of a preview that acknowledges the fact this will be the final Expendables flick (though when lots of cash is involved, you never know) and suggests we may at last be getting that 100 million dollar explosion or excessively epic gunfight-to-end-all-gunfights the previous two installments just didn't provide. A few more expert tough guy actors have been added to make sure stuff gets blown up even bigger and more grandiose than before. The more the merrier, but it's still the duo of Stallone & Statham we love the most, as they also insert something reminiscent of a plot line and emotional attachment into the film (honestly!). And even if that element proves forgetful, there's still plenty of action heroes, throwing knifes and blazing bullets to look forward to.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156212/eerste_trailer_penguins_of_madagascar

What is it with the tendency of sidekicks to be awarded their own features? Sure, they're cute and lovable, but they were always intended as characters to play off other, major characters. Plus, they tend to be overused for often cringeworthy purposes of comic relief. Occasionally they do work better by themselves - ultimate case in point: the Smurfs - but more often than not, their spin-offs prove bland fare that never stands up to the material they derived from. Who remembers the Ewoks features compared to Return of the Jedi? Nevertheless, now that most computer animation series have run their course and people start to get bored by them, studios hope to milk these properties by exploring glorified background characters. Puss in Boots is already moving on to his sequel, while next year will witness a Minions movie. And during the winter Holiday season, we'll have the Penguins of Madagascar to look forward too. I didn't think these paramilitary penguins particularly entertaining to begin with, but I was clearly in the minority there. I'm still not convinced after seeing this trailer, sorry. Maybe it also has to do with the fact I'm just fed up with animated talking animals entirely. And I've always found penguins to be overrated. They've been featured in films over the last decade so often now, they're becoming dull. Why not do a movie about Kiwis, or Cassuaries for a change? Now those are some weird birds deserving of animated acknowledgment!

dinsdag 17 juni 2014

Jurassic Park III: Eric Kirby & Alpha Pteranodon



Year of release: 2001

Accessories:
-Pteranodon figure




Description: this somewhat smaller figure (it’s a kid after all) sports a red shirt (Beware the red shirts!), short blue pants and white sport shoes with red stripes on them. He’s got some nice details, like a brown backpack, a green belt, a silver flashlight in his hand, and what appears to be a Nintendo Gameboy on his hip. The figure has brown hair. One of his sleeves has a slight tear, like he’s been grabbed by something. The Pteranodon is mostly dark blue (almost black), with some black stripes, a white belly and brown colouring on his head and back. He’s got a JP III logo under his right wing. There are no accessories: no weapons like most figures have.

Analysis: the figure looks good, and is in fine scale compared to the other adult figures. The little details add some realism, but stand in the way of playability: the flashlight is attached to the hand and the backpack is not removable, unfortunately. The figure stands in an odd pose, with one hand stretched out and one leg in a forward move. Overall it looks like he’s looking down at something. He’s not able to move his legs, but he can move his torso, which is a poor substitute though.
The Pteranodon is at least twice as big as the Eric figure, which is unusual for human figures and their dinosaurs. It certainly isn’t a hatchling as it most common. The paint job is fairly decent, but nothing spectacular and different from the Pteranodons in the movie. This figure doesn’t have much moveable parts either. The wings are moveable in the middle, and its head can be turned round, but that’s it. This Pterosaur has long legs, and the idea is it can hold Eric in his claws. Sadly this doesn’t really work. Eric won’t stay in his claws and slips loose easily. Other than that these figures have no other action possibilities.




Playability: very little. Eric can only move his arms, which are in a weird position anyway, and his torso. Only his left hand can be used to hold things. The Pteranodon can move his wings and head, but nothing more. Quite disappointing.

Realism: this figure, despite its flaws, does resemble the Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan) in the movie. His clothes are not too different, and neither is his face. The Pteranodon doesn’t look like his brown counterparts in the movie. However, there was an Alpha Pteranodon planned to appear in JP III, but this idea was eventually scrapped. This figure does resemble the concept art drawings of the Alpha that got out, so it offers an interesting little glimpse into JP III’s artwork. Unfortunately, the Pteranodon isn’t anatomically correct: the claws on his wings are much too far removed from his body, and the large fingers holding the skin of his wings don’t run in a straight line like they should.

Repaint: no. The Pteranodon figure would be repainted for JP Dinosaurs 2 though, and used twice.

Overall rating: 4/10. It’s not a very good figure. It just doesn’t offer much playability. It might be good for dioramas, but that’s it. The Pteranodon isn’t great either: again, little playability, and the colouring is bland. This set isn’t really rare, so should you want one, get it cheap. It’s not worth a lot.

maandag 16 juni 2014

Today's Review: Edge of Tomorrow





Edge of Tomorrow: ***/*****, or 6/10

Remember Oblivion? Odd question, considering the meaning of the word, but chances are good you don't. It was a rather poor Sci-Fi blockbuster released last year, in which mankind has left the planet after a devastating war with an alien force, and now Tom Cruise is harvesting the last few natural resources. Or so he thinks, as things are not what they appear to be. Apart from Cruise, the movie co-starred Tom Cruise as several clones of the protagonist. That didn't save the movie from becoming overly convoluted. A cynic might be inclined to think Edge of Tomorrow repeats Oblivion's many mistakes, and he or she would not be fully wrong. Edge of Tomorrow, too, has a rather messy plot involving aliens in which Tom Cruise dies multiple times, at which point Tom Cruise takes over. However, Edge of Tomorrow utilizes a more tongue-in-cheek approach to its overall plot to, hopefully consciously, underscore the absurdity of the situation. Good thing too, as it is indeed all quite laughable and too serious a tone would not have worked in its favour. Too bad such a tone does creep in eventually, to the film's detriment.

Edge of Tomorrow is set in the not too distant future where a strange extraterrestrial enemy has rapidly conquered all of Europe and threatens to do likewise to the rest of the globe. Earth's human nations have banded together in an attempt to fight off the adversary together. All their battles have been lost, save for one, where metal armoured female soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) made the difference in defeating the aliens. By applying similar combat harnesses to every soldier available and sending them en masse to invade France, humanity hopes to retake the continent and annihilate the enemy for good. Of course, things are not as simple as they seem, and the aliens have a few tricks up their sleeve yet. For one thing, time loops.

Enter the much dreaded Tom Cruise, who does a most unusual thing here: he plays against character. In this film, Cruise is not starring as the monotonously brave action hero as is his wont, but instead as a cowardly marketing agent for the military, who suddenly finds himself accused of desertion when he makes it clear he doesn't feel like covering the invasion to a stern and gruff general's face (Brendan Gleeson). Thrown in with a bunch of ragtag recruits – a merry band of comic relief characters, angry loudmouths and assorted personas that wouldn't fit in any regular regiments – Cruise is dragged off to battle and there left to fend for himself. Of course, he quickly kicks the bucket in a close quarter skirmish with one of the vicious alien monsters. And then he wakes up back at base, and everything starts over again, much to his dismay as he doesn't do better the second time. Or the third. Try convincing your commanding officer – a distinctly over-the-top Bill Paxton, now given command of a similar batch of marines he once belonged to himself in Aliens – of being stuck in a time loop ad infinitum. Needless to say he doesn't, so Cruise must find a way to discover what has happened to him and how to use it to his advantage, instead of continue dying without end.



So far so good, as the notion of time looping, a trite but true concept few audiences will be unfamiliar with thanks to movies as diverse as Groundhog Day and Source Code, is handled with enough confidence and fun not to feel repetitive (no pun intended). In fact, repetition is cleverly avoided after the first few loops, as Cruise's character remembers events and tries to alter them in differently enough ways so as not to get boring. This approach too causes problems in the long run, as Cruise dies so many times (hundreds, if not thousands, it is suggested) that the plot soon trots along and seemingly ignores the whole concept, just to further the ever more intricate story. The reason behind the time loops and the method of fighting the sinister aliens that caused it soon start to become so convoluted and ridiculous that the ingredient of fun which at first characterized it is ever more lost. What's worse, Cruise resorts to playing a more typical heroic role as the film progresses, while it's the sleaze bag aspect to his part that initially made him interesting to watch. At least his chemistry with the tough but emotionally unapproachable Rita, who faced a similar ability in the previous battle but lost her looping powers, is watchable enough as long as the Hollywood romance looming in the background is kept at bay. In terms of acting, Paxton's cocky performance suits the tone of the film best, which makes it all the more regrettable that the moment he's out of the picture, Edge of Tomorrow schizophrenically feels the need to get serious. Naturally it includes an all too predictable 'what the F!' type ending that suggests you need to think things over to see if it all fits, but unfortunately doesn't make you care enough to do so.



Until that time there's enough to make the viewing experience passable at best. Aside from Paxton, Blunt too does her bit with plenty of pizzazz as the strong spirited yet haunted and not too morally correct power girl, rife with entertainingly flamboyant demeanour. Nevertheless, it's the grandiose battle scenes that demand the most attention, as Edge of Tomorrow makes it progressively clear it intends to be an action movie more than the self aware comedy it could at first be accused of being, until the comic elements are just thrown out the window entirely. The notion of a futuristic landing on the beach of Normandy – not coincidentally reminiscent of the actual D-Day Allied landing in World War II – where men in battle armour fight weird alien creatures, proves hard to resist, but its execution leaves a few things to be desired. In many cases it's not easy to make out what exactly is transpiring, mostly due to the extreme detail and chaotic camera work, which do make the mass fights seem more realistic. The design of the aliens also doesn't help, as they keep violently moving about which makes it hard to see them as something other than a shapeless bunch of tentacles rolling around. It enhances the sense of battle immersion, but makes it difficult to appreciate the digital craftsmanship that went into designing what otherwise might have been epic scenes of war.

Edge of Tomorrow is a definite step up from the thoroughly forgetful Oblivion, but still a far cry from, say, Minority Report, Tom Cruise's earlier venture into the realm of science fiction. The movie sadly switches tones halfway through, without successfully having secured the audience's allegiance to accept such change. Worse, the more the plot progresses, the harder it is for the audience to remain focused, as things have to be taken with too big a grain of salt eventually, while the good humoured use of time loops ultimately gets lost in the mess of an incoherent plot. Cruise, always hard to take seriously as an actor due to his larger than life star status, pleasantly surprises the spectator in the beginning, before reverting to his standard performance. In this regard, you could state his career is caught in a similar loop; minor variations do occur occasionally, but he always reverts to his established routine.


zondag 15 juni 2014

Today's Article: 'It's a mad house!': de dystopische sciencefictionfilm 1968-1977, Part 4



600th post, believe it or not.

Paragraaf 2.3: Technofobie in het sciencefictiongenre: 'Robot Films'

Een geval apart in het subgenre van de 'Computer Films' vormt de robot, of specifieker de androïde.1 De robots in de sciencefictionfilms van de zeventiger jaren zijn in principe hoofdzakelijk computers, maar dan in antropomorfe vorm, waardoor de grenzen tussen het menselijke en het niet-menselijke, tussen biologie en technologie, extra benadrukt worden. Daarom behandel ik de 'Robot Films' (zoals ik dit type sciencefictionfilm gemakshalve aanduid) hier apart van de andere 'Computer Films'. De term 'Robot Films' stamt van mijzelf, maar is gemodelleerd naar de term 'Computer Films' van Kozlovic.
Zoals vrijwel alle 'Computer Films' tussen 1968 en 1977 tonen de 'Robot Films' de angst van de mens om overheerst te worden door technologie. Robots, uitgerust met dezelfde logische rationaliteit die overwegend in de antagonistische technologie van de andere 'Computer Films' wordt aangetroffen, hebben de uiterlijke kenmerken van mensen gekregen, hetzij gedeeltelijk (zoals de met een arm uitgeruste rolstoel in Demon Seed), hetzij geheel (zoals de attracties in Westworld). Hun “lichamelijke” capaciteit, zoals snelheid en fysieke kracht, overtreft die van de mens echter in ruime mate. Dit geldt niet zozeer voor hun “geestelijke” vermogens: waar de andere 'Computer Films' technologie opvoeren die een zelfstandig karakter kan hebben, zijn robots doorgaans weinig meer dan hersenloze automaten die geleid worden door hun simpele programmering. De combinatie van veel lichamelijke kracht met weinig hersenen leidt tot een thema dat de leidraad vormt in de 'Robot Films' van de Tweede Golf: waar technofobie in het genre in deze periode als geheel waarschuwt voor onderwerping van de mens aan technologie, wijzen deze films ons op de mogelijkheid van vervanging van de mens door technologie.2

Door hun ogenschijnlijk menselijke kwaliteiten zijn robots (specifieker de 'menselijke variant', de androïden) inzetbaar als surrogaat voor mensen. De gelijkenis tussen mens en robot leidt zodoende tot een crisis in menselijke identiteit, als het moeilijk of zelfs onmogelijk wordt beiden van elkaar te onderscheiden. Immers, waar op het eerste gezicht sprake lijkt te zijn van warm menselijk vlees kan onderhuids een koud technologisch hart kloppen. Deze combinatie van biologische en technologische eigenschappen zorgt er echter voor dat robots nooit volledig menselijk zijn: het blijven automaten en zo worden ze in het merendeel van de sciencefictionfilms van de Tweede Golf behandeld; als exploiteerbare middelen, hoofdzakelijk voor vermaak. 
 
Door deze behandeling spreken ze ook op een ander niveau aan tot ons begrip van menselijke identiteit, namelijk 'humaan gedrag', de behandeling van deze bijna-mensen door echte mensen. Zo dienen de robots in zowel Westworld als het vervolg Futureworld (USA: Richard T. Heffron, 1976) als interactieve poppenkast, als bedienden in een pretpark die de bevelen van de toeristen moeten gehoorzamen. Aanvankelijk hebben de gasten moeite de robots als 'on-menselijk' te zien door hun realistisch menselijke uiterlijk, met als enige zichtbare verschil tussen mens en machine (en ook tussen de machines en de andere gasten in het pretpark) het gebrek aan details in de handen van de robots. Nadat gewetensbezwaren zijn weggeëbd en de gasten weten hoever ze kunnen gaan met het “personeel”, moeten de robots de excessieve lusten van de toeristen zonder verzet ondergaan, inclusief moord en seksuele uitbuiting. Deze films plaatsen zo vraagtekens bij de vermeende “menselijkheid” van de toeristen, gebaseerd op het wederzijds in toom houden van emotionele driften (geweld, seksueel verlangen) en rede, wat opzij gezet wordt als een menselijk uiterlijk als minder dan menselijk wordt beschouwd door te letten op fysieke details die verschillen van de heersende definitie van het menselijk uiterlijk. De robots worden gereduceerd tot object, ook al kan gesteld worden dat dat precies is wat ze zijn. Bovenal zijn het echter objecten die een menselijke rol toebedeeld krijgen, waardoor het ook mensen zijn die tot object gemaakt worden.3 Het is niet onbegrijpelijk dat Sam Appelbaum hier in zijn analyse van de film racistische connotaties bij trekt: immers, eenzelfde redenatie heeft ervoor gezorgd dat in het verleden minderheden door de heersende groep als niet-menselijk werden beschouwd en vervolgens onderworpen werpen aan “onmenselijk” gedrag.4 Zodra de robots echter natuurlijk gedrag gaan vertonen wordt er tegelijk minder en meer nadruk gelegd op de verschillen tussen de mens enerzijds en de 'menselijke machine' anderzijds. Minder in de zin dat het onderscheid tussen beide moeilijker op te merken is, want de robots zijn niet onderdanig meer en gedragen zich nu precies als mensen. De minieme uiterlijke verschillen blijven aanwezig, maar tegen de tijd dat deze duidelijk te zien zijn is het te laat voor de echte mensen. Tegelijk is er meer nadruk op het verschil juist omdat het onderscheid moeilijker te maken is: om in leven te blijven moet de mens weten wie vriend en vijand is. Maar hoe herkennen we mens en machine als de machine zich niet langer tot object gereduceerd laat worden? Deze vraag wordt een primair punt van aandacht in de tweede helft van de film als de grens tussen mens en 'menselijke machine' opgeheven is en het meer een conflict tussen mens en mens lijkt.5



Het reduceren van robots tot objecten ondanks hun menselijke uiterlijk gaat gepaard met het reduceren van mensen tot objecten, en vervolgens het vervangen van mensen door objecten (robots), waarbij de robots kunnen dienen als 'verbeterde versies' van de mensen wiens plaats zij innemen. Mensen hoeven niet per se vervangen te worden door technologie volgens de wil van andere technologie (zoals supercomputers), maar vaker in het genre volgens de wil van andere mensen. Het meest typerende voorbeeld is The Stepford Wives (USA: Bryan Forbes, 1975), waarin de chauvinistische mannelijke inwoners van het dorpje Stepford hun vrouwen door mechanische replica's vervangen die zij als 'beter' of 'acceptabeler' beschouwen dan de originelen, ten koste van hun eigen vrouwen. De mechanische versies worden geprogrammeerd om de “ideale huisvrouw” te vormen, geobsedeerd door huishoudelijke taken, altijd fysiek aantrekkelijk en bovenal gehoorzaam, in plaats van de rebelse feministen die het beeld van vrouwelijkheid dat mannen lang koesterden aantastten in de zeventiger jaren. Ook hier is sprake van 'objectificatie', wanneer de mannen mechanische vrouwen wenselijker achten dan hun eigen echtgenotes, omdat zij meer voldoen aan hun beeld van 'goede huisvrouwen'. Overeenkomstig worden de robots in Westworld tot objecten gemaakt omdat zij niet volledig voldoen aan het correcte beeld van mensen. 
 
Futureworld gaat nog verder met het thema van de vervanging van mens door machine, niet slechts op een beperkt regionaal niveau (zoals in zowel Westworld als The Stepford Wives), maar op globaal niveau: zo speelt de film in op de angst dat technologie, zelfs vervaardigd op kleine schaal, de mensheid op grote schaal kan beïnvloeden. De film draait om het gegeven dat wereldleiders vervangen kunnen worden door mechanische dubbelgangers, zodat de wetenschappers die hen controleren stiekem over de wereld heersen. De film omvat zodoende een combinatie van overheersing en vervanging door machines, maar achter de schermen heersen de wetenschappers, waardoor de robots in deze film slechts hulpmiddelen zijn voor de dominantie van de mens over zijn medemens, en de wetenschapper achter zulke technologie als vanouds als een gevaar voor de maatschappij wordt beschouwd (is het niet dankzij atoombommen, dan is het door robots). Desondanks claimen de wetenschappers het beste met de mensheid voor te hebben en dankzij de mechanische dubbelgangers een politieke lijn van vrede en voorspoed te kunnen volgen, in plaats van de vijandigheid tussen naties die de mensheid bedreigt. Deze gedachte komt overeen met dat van de dominante computers in de 'Computer Films', waarin de computer de macht grijpt ten bate van de veiligheid van het menselijk ras. Het thema robots-voor-zichzelf, de robot die de mens vervangt als natuurlijk proces door inschattingsfouten in zijn programmering, komt in Futureworld niet ter sprake.




In hoeverre zijn de robots in de Tweede Golf in staat tot menselijk gedrag? Dit is een belangrijke vraag bij de representatie van robots, aangezien het hebben van een karakter, van het ontwikkelen van een eigen wil of emoties, een menselijke eigenschap teveel zou zijn voor een automaat, die dan niet langer gereduceerd kan blijven tot object. Zo wordt de mogelijkheid tot ontsnapping aan menselijke onderdrukking geïntroduceerd, hoofdzakelijk door het geweld waartoe de robot in staat is dankzij zijn superieure kracht.
Opnieuw kan Westworld hier als voorbeeld dienen. De robots in deze film zijn geprogrammeerd om zo natuurlijk mogelijk realistisch, menselijk gedrag te vertonen, waardoor ze zich niet eens bewust zijn van hun status als robot. Echter, deze programmering is ondergeschikt gemaakt aan het commando om de toeristen te gehoorzamen en hen niet in gevaar te brengen. Immers, de toeristen betalen duizend dollar per dag om lol te hebben in het pretpark en willen niet geconfronteerd worden met robots die niet meegaan in hun plezier (zoals een robotmeisje dat de avances van een toerist afslaat), of sterker nog, robots die gevaarlijk zijn (zoals een desperado die kan winnen in een vuurgevecht). Door een stroomstoring wordt dit beveiligingsprogramma echter geblokkeerd; hierdoor veranderen de machtsverhoudingen tussen toeristen en robots, aangezien de robots niet meer gedwongen zijn zich te houden aan hun taak om het de toeristen naar de zin te maken. Het doel van de robots is veranderd, maar hun oorspronkelijke programmering blijft hetzelfde: zo natuurlijk mogelijk menselijk gedrag vertonen, inclusief een eigen wil en emotionele uitingen.6 Dit levert gevaarlijke situaties op voor de gasten, want ondanks hun gewonnen menselijkheid behouden de robots hun superieure snelheid en kracht. Door de fixatie op gewelddadige aspecten van de drie afzonderlijke pretparken in Westworld – naast Westworld zijn er Romanworld en Medievalworld – oorspronkelijk ter vermaak van de toeristen die er ongestoord hun lusten konden botvieren, verandert het park in een slachthuis als de robots hun voormalige plaaggeesten met gelijke munt terugbetalen. De desperado-robot, die in de tweede helft van de film de show steelt, wordt hierbij gedreven door een emotie, namelijk wraak (op de toeristen die hem eerder “gedood” hadden). De robot neemt zodoende de machtspositie van de mens over in het pretpark. 
 
De mens delft letterlijk het onderspit als alle toeristen afgeslacht worden en de robots, onbewust van hun mechanische status, hun plaats innemen. Het is als een vorm van evolutie, waarin de vrije robot de opvolger van de mens is en zijn plaats in de natuurlijke orde inneemt dankzij zijn superieure kracht, die hem een voordeel in zijn wedijver met de mens gunt. Maar is dit natuurlijk gedrag? Ja en nee. Het is natuurlijk, maar alleen omdat zulk natuurlijk gedrag in de robots geprogrammeerd is, wat het juist onnatuurlijk maakt. Volledig menselijk wordt de robot niet in de films van de Tweede Golf; hoogstens een surrogaat voor menselijk, en dat is juist waar de 'Robot Film' in deze periode om draait. De robot ontsnapt alleen door geweld aan zijn onderdrukking door de mens, want het volledige mens-zijn is hem niet gegund. Als hij vrij wil zijn (met de nadruk op 'wil') moet hij zijn vrijheid veroveren; het wordt hem niet gegeven, omdat het geven van mensenrechten aan machines vraagtekens bij de menselijke identiteit zou zetten.

Een speciale rol in 'Robot Films' is weggelegd voor de robots in de in de vorige paragraaf besproken futuristisch technocratische films (THX 1138, Logan's Run), waarin de mensheid in een toekomstige totalitaire maatschappij volledig bestuurd wordt door computers. Ook in dit type 'Computer Films' spelen robots een rol, maar ligt de nadruk niet op henzelf: hier zijn zij de dienaren van de heersende computer, als losse afsplitsingen van diens allesomvattende programma die directe interactie tussen mens en machine mogelijk maken in dit systeem. Zoals de robots in de overige 'Robot Films' ondergeschikt zijn aan de mens zijn de robots in dit type sciencefictionfilm ondergeschikt aan de computer wiens opdrachten zij zonder tegenspraak opvolgen als willoze automaten. In deze representatie heerst echter één significant verschil: de robots zijn voorgeprogrammeerd met emoties. Er is geen sprake van ontwikkeling van willoze machine naar wezen met emotie, de robots zijn hier van begin af aan uitgerust met een eigen karakter. Zo compenseren zij het gebrek aan emotie dat de mensen in deze technocratische films typeert. 



 
In THX 1138 zijn de mensen meer dan de robots de willoze automaten in het systeem, met vrijwel geen blijk van emotie: liefde en mededogen wordt onderdrukt door middel van drugs, en dit lijkt ook voor andere gevoelens het geval. De 'agenten', de robots die de mens in het gareel houden, worden echter getypeerd door een zorgzaam en behulpzaam karakter: tegenover de echte mensen in de film zijn de robots menselijker en levendiger dan de mensen.7 Hoewel zij de mensheid onder de duim houden doen zij dit niet op dreigende, agressieve toon. Mensen die verzet bieden proberen zij ervan te overtuigen dat wat het systeem doet in hun voordeel is. Als THX aan het eind van de film ontsnapt, roepen de agenten toe dat hij buiten niet veilig is en dat het voor zijn eigen bestwil is om terug te keren. Wie weet hebben ze gelijk: THX zet door en bereikt de buitenwereld, maar de film laat in het midden of deze buitenwereld beter is dan de ondergrondse technocratie.
In Logan's Run is niet zozeer sprake van een emotieloze mensheid. Deze technocratie draait om hedonisme en mensen mogen doen waar ze zin in hebben, volledig in staat tot het normale spectrum aan emoties. Desondanks is het menselijk gedrag in deze samenleving monotoon en apathisch, met uitzondering van 'Cathedral', een plaats waarheen mensen die weigeren zich aan te passen aan dit systeem gestuurd worden. Alleen de mensen in 'Cathedral' laten duidelijk blijken emoties te hebben, voornamelijk negatieve emoties als haat en angst. Het enige andere personage in Logan's Run dat evenveel emotie uitdrukt is Box, de robot wiens taak het was om voedsel in te vriezen in een ijsgrot. Het voedsel raakte echter op, waarna Box overging op het invriezen van mensen die de technocratie ontvluchtten. Hij is in staat tot zowel het interpreteren als het uiten van emoties, want hij is 'more than machine, more than man, more than a fusion of the two'. Als Logan hem aanvankelijk ontmoet is hij net zo ingetogen als Logan zelf, maar herkent hij Logans uitdrukking van verbazing ('Overwhelming, am I not?' zegt hij, bewust van het feit dat mensen nog nooit een robot hebben gezien). Als Box vervolgens probeert Logan in te vriezen, doet hij dit met een bijna sadistisch genoegen, vergezeld van een maniakale lach. Logan biedt verzet waarop de ijsgrot instort, tot afgrijzen van Box die zijn werk vernietigd ziet worden. Ook Box drukt voornamelijk negatieve emoties uit, met nog meer expressie dan de mensen in 'Cathedral'. Evenals in THX 1138 wordt deze expressie van emoties tegenover het gebrek aan emoties van de mensen in de technocratie geplaatst.
Mensen die volgens de wetten van het systeem leven hebben geen emoties nodig, blijkt. De computers hebben deze menselijke eigenschap overgenomen. In THX 1138 wordt emotie gebruikt door de robots die voor de mensen zorgen, en zorgen zij voor een ontspannen atmosfeer waarin de mens geacht wordt de robot te kunnen vertrouwen. Box is moeilijker te doorgronden: waarom hij emoties heeft is onduidelijk en wordt ook niet uitgelegd in de film. Hij lijkt 'doorgedraaid', na decennia lang zijn opdracht te hebben gevolgd. Zijn emotionele eigenschappen lijken zodoende een bij-effect, veroorzaakt door een gebrek aan contact met de rest van de samenleving. Dat hij echter in staat is tot het ontwikkelen van een over-emotionele persoonlijkheid wijst op de mate waarin robots menselijke eigenschappen overnemen in een systeem waarin zulke eigenschappen in de mens zelf niet tot bloei komen. Dat is wat deze technofobische films ons lijken te vertellen: in een wereld geregeerd door technologie verwordt de mens tot uitdrukkingsloze automaat, terwijl diezelfde technologie de menselijke kwaliteiten die wij koesteren kannibaliseert. De mens wordt machine, de machine wordt mens.



Technofobie beheerst het sciencefictiongenre in de zeventiger jaren. De mens laat belangrijke taken over aan de machine, maar is de machine wel te vertrouwen? Immers, de machine wordt niet in staat geacht tot het waarderen van de menselijke natuur, vrijheid en emotie. Teveel werk in handen van computers geven maakt hen te machtig, waarna zij niet langer slechts het hulpmiddel zijn dat de mens oorspronkelijk voor ogen stond, maar hun logische, koude “wil” aan ons opdringen. Zodoende leidt een exces aan machines tot een technocratie, waarin de mens zelf gereduceerd wordt tot machine, een vervangbaar radertje in het systeem: een willoze automaat die de dominantie van de machine als natuurlijk acht en zodoende de wil tot vrijheid verliest. Dit dystopia kan nog zo verleidelijk zijn dankzij haar geborgenheid en zekerheid, als het het inperken van onze definities van menselijkheid behelst is het niet de moeite waard. De technofobische films van de zeventiger jaren waarschuwen voor een samenleving waarin gemakzucht een overschot aan gebruik van machines tot gevolg heeft die ons op den duur afhankelijk maken van deze technologie, zodat de verhoudingen tussen meester en dienaar in de relatie tussen mens en machine scheef komen te liggen. 
 
Uiteraard ontkent sciencefiction ook in deze periode niet dat technologie wel degelijk voordelen kan hebben en de mens vooruit kan helpen. In een aantal films, zoals Silent Running, is technologie een goedaardig hulpmiddel dat de mens helpt benarde situaties op te lossen. Echter, meer dan een hulpmiddel mogen machines niet zijn. Geniet van de mogelijkheden van de machine als hulpmiddel, maar behoud bovenal de controle over de machine: dat is de boodschap van de technofobische sciencefictionfilm in de periode 1968-1977. Zoals Jeff Rovin zegt: 'never leave ourselves in a situation in which we can't […] pull the plug'.8



1Hoewel de term 'androïde', kunstmatige intelligentie gevormd naar het beeld van de mens, nog niet doorgedrongen was in sciencefictionfilms in deze periode waren bijna alle robots in het genre destijds androïden, met slechts enkele uitzonderingen (zoals het mechanische trio in Silent Running).
2Ook Kozlovic spreekt in zijn artikel over 'Computer Films' over de vervanging ('supplanting') van de mens door machines. Kozlovic 2003: p. 343. Hij maakt echter niet het onderscheid tussen 'Computer Films' en 'Robot Films' dat ik hier maak, en ziet niet in dat het thema 'vervanging-door-technologie' eigen is aan deze laatste categorie.
3Appelbaum, Sam, Gerald Mead. ‘Westworld: fantasy and exploitation’, Jump Cut, nr. 7 (1975): p. 12
4Appelbaum 1975: p. 13.
Het thema racisme kan niet alleen in deze context aan het sciencefictiongenre gekoppeld worden, maar speelde een aanzienlijke rol in het genre als geheel in de periode 1968-1977. Evenals voor de sociale thema's die ik in deze scriptie behandel geldt dat de tijdsgeest de representatie van dit thema in het genre beïnvloedde, naar aanleiding van de ontwikkelingen rond de 'Civil Rights movement' en hun effect op de Amerikaanse samenleving. Het thema is te vinden in diverse sciencefictionfilms, zoals The Omega Man en Rollerball, maar vond zijn grootste weerklank in de Planet of the Apes reeks. In de vijf Planet of the Apes films speelt het thema racisme een aanzienlijke rol, variërend van de representatie van de verschillende stromingen binnen de 'Civil Rights movement' in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (vreedzaam verzet (Martin Luther King), geassocieerd met chimpansees, versus gewelddadig verzet (Malcolm X), vergelijkbaar met de gorilla's in de films), tot de visuele representatie van 'race riots' in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Oorspronkelijk was het mijn bedoeling het thema racisme op eenzelfde wijze als de twee sociale thema's in deze scriptie te beschrijven met Planet of the Apes als casestudy. Tijdens mijn research stuitte ik echter op Eric Greene's werk Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race, Politics and Popular Culture, een boek dat de gehele reeks diepgaand analyseert aan de hand van het thema racisme, in meer detail dan ik het in deze scriptie had kunnen beschrijven. Ander onderzoek naar films die significant waren voor de representatie van racisme in de sciencefictionfilms van de zeventiger jaren (Logan's Run, Rollerball en The Omega Man) wordt al gedetailleerd belicht in Adilifu Nama's Black Space: imagining race in science fiction film, een eveneens uitvoerig werk dat bespreking van racisme in dit paper verder overbodig maakte. Ik heb er daarom, tot mijn spijt, vanaf gezien mij hier bezig te houden met het thema racisme. Ik kan de geïnteresseerde lezer beide boeken echter van harte aanbevelen.
5Appelbaum 1975: p. 12
6Appelbaum 1975: p. 12.
De uiting van natuurlijk gedrag blijft in Westworld niet beperkt tot androïden, maar geldt ook voor andere, minder opvallende robots in het park. Ook de dieren in het park zijn robots: in een scène bijt een mechanische ratelslang, bevrijd van de opdracht om toeristen geen kwaad te doen, een protagonist omdat hij zich bedreigd voelt door diens nabijheid. De vervanging door technologie beperkt zich als zodanig niet tot de mensheid, maar geldt mogelijk voor de hele natuurlijke orde.
7Desser 1999: p. 91
8Rovin, Jeff. From Jules Verne to Star Trek. New York en Londen: Drake Publishers Inc., 1977: p. 16