Category: Movies


Star-Trek-Into-DarknessAfter finally going to see Star Trek: Into Darkness last night, I cannot help but feel lost in its utter weirdness. I am no stranger to the idea of multiple worlds, or dimensions, alternate timelines and the like, but these Trek movies really don’t appear to be about that, yet are nonetheless.

Into Darkness appears to be an odd expression of cinematic art. Its not a remake, yet it isn’t a completely new and original movie.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and are worried about the plot, characters and what have you being ruined by spoilers, you should probably turn away now. There will be SPOILERS.

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There’s an interesting aspect to the thing referred to by fans as “Canon” with regards to the individual creations. Its forms a life raft, if you will, of information, upon which the imaginations of both the creator and fan (viewer, reader, player, etc) stays afloat. Without the idea of “canon” material, a creation cannot have its own fundamental identity.

Wikipedia defines the term “canon” as:

In fiction, canon is the conceptual material accepted as “official” in a fictional universe’s fan base.

By default, this is the set of information defined by the author(s), creators and other people working creatively on a specific. When writer Jimmy Joe describes his character smoking Indonesian Kretek cigarettes, that’s canon. When fanfic author Jammy Johns suggests he smokes Camels, its not.

Canon is what keeps the wolves and bears at bay. But it can also be a hazy, vague and infuriating thing to define properly and protect. Yet it is also the first thing to lay by the wayside when popularity hits and more and more people want to share in it.

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battleship-dvdLast year’s  movie “Battleship” seems to attract an unhealthy dose of ire from pretty much everyone I mention it to. It appears to fall into that strange category of art that people love to hate, even when they haven’t seen it, or taken the time to try to make sense of it. Most people can’t seem to get past one of these things:

  • It’s based on a boardgame.
  • It’s trying to be a Michael Bay movie – an empty summer blockbuster, devoid of imagination
  • Everyone says its crap.
  • It uses eye candy like Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgaard, Rihanna and Taylor Kitsch to put asses in seats, rather than engaging acting and drama.

Well, I’d heard all of these things and even grew fearful of what they might mean for a film before I’ve seen it, yet I walked away from the movie rather surprised and quite happy I’d seen it.

Now, this article isn’t about how I’m going to try to change the minds that are already predisposed against it, prejudiced or not, or trying to point out the redeeming qualities of a piece of art that balances on the threshold between mediocre escapism and dreck, or claiming that it is a misunderstood wonder of modern film-making because of x, y and z, but rather an examination, if not a thought experiment, about how it might make sense in terms of world-building. To try and suggests reasons for this and that – to put some science behind the fiction, as it were, or the missing piece to the puzzle.  SPOILERS ahead, in case you actually want to see the movie.

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There’s a saying that goes if you dwell on the past, then you are trapped within it, and its only those who look to the future who really live at all. With that in mind, I’m not going to reminisce about what made 2012 great or memorable, especially as on the personal front it was one of the worst years of my life: this blog and the things associated with it have been the only standouts of the year.

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Future’s so bright… (Click to play)

Culturally speaking, I was dwelling too much in the past to enjoy the present. Nearly every kind of media I consumed was from yesteryear. I read a lot of books from ten or twenty years ago (Pride of Chanur, Halcyon Drift), and one over two hundred years old (Vathek) and while I enjoyed most of them, each one meant I spent more time away from the fore-front – the present and future – of culture. But then, looking at what 2012 had to give us, I didn’t lose out on much.

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I remember a time when cyberpunk was the shit! Not just something that was cool, but something that dominated the landscape.

It seems crazy to say that now, since to a lot of people it has lost its edge and even disappeared from the public eye. Today, its themes of rebellion in a world of corporate control, freedom of expression and self-empowerment through technology are still relevant, if not more so, but are frequently used as part of trans-human stories. Humanity has moved on, shall we say.

The Cyberpunk ideal, 1990-ish

Back in the 80s and early 90s, the world was, obviously, a different place. There was no freely accessed Internet and the cultural impact that would come along with it. Computer technology was something at most people’s arm’s length, not even in the form of cell phones (as someone who painfully – and expensively – followed the trends of portable computing (from Psion Series 3, Palm Pilots all the way up to iPaQs and eventually iPhones), it took 16 years before I was satisfied that truly mobile computing had arrived.)  Cyberpunk at the time was less of a “it will happen” and more of a dream. It was us still being hopeful for the future, even though it was grimly dystopian – even if we were held under an oppressive force, we’d still have the toys and the will to use them.

For me, and perhaps many others like me, Cyberpunk was not just a SF movement but a zeitgeist, and perhaps even like the punk genre that inspired it, most of us didn’t realize that it was “over” until someone said “Cyberpunk? What’s that?” (and i for one would argue that its not over, but just that there aren’t many practitioners left.)    Cyberpunk not only encapsulated the future I thought would come to pass, but was also a reflection of who I was, or who I felt I was – something that I can’t really say about any other genre of SF. It was something I didn’t want to leave behind, nor have taken away from me, but suddenly it had transmogrified into a dead genre, which because of the perpetual churn of technology became too real, even mundane. We live in a world very similar to the Cyberpunk ideal: the Internet binds us all together informing and controlling us. Corporations rule lives: jobs, national policy, describing the future with their products, redefining ecologies. Technology has become part of civilized life: blogs, smart-phone assistants, AIs, the “Cloud”. There are the freedom fighters and the malcontents: Anonymous and similar groups having huge impact on the world around them, for good and bad.  Sure, the Steppin’ Razors, implanted sunglasses and some of the other cyberpunk bells and whistles haven’t come around yet, but they’re just around the corner. The thing is, we’re living Cyberpunk – the dream is real.

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