|The Matrix /
Wing Commander Video: Sawicki's Picks
SFRevu @ the Movies:
stories from the world of The Matrix: Excellent short stories have
been contributed by top names in the comic field for the Matrix website. They generally
take place in the world of or related to the film, but don't require having seen the film
Contributors include: Paul Chadwick (CONCRETE), Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN),
Bill Sienkiewicz (ELECTRA ASSASIN), Adam Hughes (WONDERWOMAN), Steve Skroce (GAMBIT),
Michael Kaluta (BOOKS OF MAGIC), Geof Darrow (HARD BOILED), Poppy Z. Brite (LOST SOULS)
Aron Weisenfeld (DEATHBLOW/WOLVERINE), Ted McKeever (METROPOL), among others.
"You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he expects to wake up. You're not far wrong...it is a world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."
The Matrix (Warner Bros.)
"You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he expects to wake up. You're not far wrong." - The Matrix
The Matrix has violence galore, a little spandex but no sex, romance, a high energy sound tack and lots of Kung Fu and Guns. It's lots of fun, and it's an extremely rare blend of Sci-Fi Action Adventure and Serious Science Fiction. I'm afraid the older SF audience may be put off by the energy of the movie...some may think it's too loud...a sure sign of aging. The whole thing is pretty dark, but the hero does fight for something - the freedom of humanity from cyberslavery.
On the way into the theater I was discussing VR Noir films with friend and "B" Movie Producer/Director Ted Bohus (Vampire Virus From Venus, SPFX Magazine). We both agreed that the technology had yet to find a story equal to the effects.
The Matrix is that story.
The film spends its first few minutes maintaining the illusion that the 1999 reality it starts out in is real, and I worried that the whole thing would fall apart if the audience knew that Keanu Reeve's character (Neo) is living in an elaborate VR simulation. Not a chance. The film delivers that coup de gras almost immediately, and then the action really takes off.
Action? Mega-action. Guns, Kung Fu, chopper crashes, robot attacks, everything. The movie is jam packed with SFX-driven action and the sequences are beyond exciting into simply beautiful. Especially the VR martial arts sequences. Dance choreographers, eat your hearts out.
Somewhere in the future, mankind has lost the war against the AIs (artificial intelligences) he created. Almost all of humanity lives in cyberslavery, plugged into an artificial reality that looks like 1999. Finding a captive source of biological energy handy, they plugged humankind into a VR world without end. Since it's just like the world you live in, you can be your own judge of how cruel that is.
The AIs are represented by Men In Black types that move faster than anyone else in VR. They are bound by rule-based behaviors and can't see outside the box. Since they can do everything in the VR world far better than humans, it's not much of a limitation. Until Neo comes along.
Someday there will come a man, prophesy says, who will be able to interact with the system directly, without going through the limitations of the matrix. Lawrence Fishburne (Captain Morpheus) is part of a resistance looking for that man. He thinks it's Neo. Neo isn't so sure. Finding out is what it's all about.
The special effects work is simply fantastic, and John Gaeta deserves kudos and awards for it. I love SFX, but without a great story, they're just overgrown screensavers. Here they are exactly what they should be - equally indispensable and beautiful.
It's the story that does it for me, and The Matrix has no shortage of writing talent in the writing and directing team of brothers Larry & Andy Wachowski. Beyond the film itself, there is a whole world of Matrix projects opening up with some of the best writers and comic book talent in the business (see sidebar).
For fans of written SF, especially if you've read any of the Vernor Vinge pieces in this issue (Focus on Vernor Vinge) notice that the end of the film comes very near his ideas about the future of man and AI.
Keanu Reeves redeems himself from his Johnny Mnemonic fiasco, saving humanity from the clutches of Evil AIs and moviegoers from lame bubble-gum Sci-Fi.
Bladerunner, move over. The Matrix is SF Noir's new top dog.
"They want the NavComp!" screams the Pegasus base commander as Kilrathi warships pound his starbase into space debris. Of course they do...
Wing Commander (Twentieth Century Fox)
By the year 2500, mankind has figured out how to cross intergalactic space using "jump" points. The earliest explorers, AKA "Pilgrims," are legendary for their skills as pilots as well as for their separation from the rest of humanity. Fortunately they were mostly killed off in the Pilgrim War. Now humanity's biggest problem is Killer Cats From Space the Kilrathi. Think Klingons -- with tiger ancestry. Fortunately, the movie starts well after first contact and negotiation is only a bitter memory. The Kilrathi only do business one way over our dead bodies.
"They want the NavComp!" screams the Pegasus base commander as Kilrathi warships pound his starbase into space debris. Of course they do. The NavComp is Earth's miracle of hyperspatial navigation. With it, you can pilot a fleet through jump points and be at humanity's front door in time for a quick bowl of milk. Without it, you could fly straight into a sun and that would end your adventure real quick.
A message drone makes it back to Admiral Tolwyn (David Warner), who realizes that the cats will be scratching on Earth's screen door two hours before he can bring the fleet into position. Only the deep space carrier Tigerclaw is in a position to intercept the hostiles and it's out of communications range. Tolwyn manages to get a message onto the Diligent, a supply vessel en route to the Tigerclaw, and the game is afoot.
The Diligent is carrying two fighter pilots: Chris Blair (Freddie Prinze, Jr., She's All That, I Know What You Did Last Summer) and his best friend, "Maniac" Marshall (Scream, She's All That) both fresh out of the Academy. Tolwyn trusts the captain of the Diligent, an enigmatic man named Paladin. However, the spit-and-polish First Officer of the Tigerclaw is not inclined to find a scruffy looking nerf herder like Paladin endearing or reliable.
Along the way, Blair discovers that he has a talent for jump navigation that exceeds the NavComp's own, thanks to his "Pilgrim" heritage. Marshall is relatively normal - for a fighter pilot. He has an ego the size of the flight deck and the skill to back it up.
Once on board the Tigerclaw, Blair has to deal with anti-Pilgrim prejudice and a Wing Commander (squadron leader) who has just been promoted to fill the boots of the recently deceased "Bossman." Marshal just has to deal with his ego. They all have to deal with finding a way to slow down the Kilrathi fleet and give Earth time to mount a defense.
I liked the movie's attitude. The Tigerclaw doesn't expect to stop the fleet, or even to survive. Friends get sacrificed for the mission, something Star Trek could never stomach, and the interior of the military ships look like the interior of military ships: gray, crowded, and nothing like a Holiday Inn in space. What's more, Marshal and a superior officer (female, black) cavort around in bed, something you rarely see in a genre where it's ok to have aliens burst out of your chest, but not to expose anything that might be sexy.
Yes, the science is lame. Either the science is lame, or the movie puts most moviegoers to sleep. That's Sci-Fi, folks. There is actually a fair amount of good Science Fiction in there. They show the force fields holding in the air on the flight deck as a shimmering blue curtain, rather than pretend it was something they had in mind after the fact. The writers remember the effects of faster-than-light travel on subjective time; characters talk about coming home long after all their friends are dead. Not that that actually makes sense considering the two hour time table for beating the Kilrathi to Earth, but it was nice of them to try.
The cast is anything but lame. David Warner (sort of a poor man's Alec Guinness) and David Suchet (well known as Hercule Poroit) play the senior male roles as Admiral Tolwyn and the commander of the Tigerclaw, respectively, with wonderful panache. Tcheky Karyo (Addicted To Love, Goldeneye) plays Paladin, the roguish freighter captain, and Saffron Burrows (Celebrity) plays Wing Commander Deveraux. Its a pity that Saffron isn't quite the central character, since she is the Wing Commander of the title.
The level of SFX is stunning, no small feat in today's CGI-heavy films. Nary a model was used for the exterior space sequences. They look extraordinarily good. Hyperspace jumps, ship explosions and wormhole vortexes are all at or beyond the current state of the art. The score, by Kevin Kiner, is good, though a bit heavy-handed in a "Victory at Sea" sort of way.
Chris Roberts directed and created the story for the project. He also created the original game for Origin, and directed Mark Hammill, Malcom McDowell, and John Rhys-Davies in the cinematic wraparound for the Wing Commander III: Heart Of The Tiger game sequel. Each project he turns his hand to raises the state of the art another notch. If a space-navy shoot-em-up is your idea of fun, here it is.
its the tail end of the winter or some kind of seasonal affective disorder or maybe
just an inherent crankiness...
...This film has its moments. Sure, most of them are bad, but they do exist...
|Video: Sawicki's Picks John Carpenters Vampires What Dreams May Come Space Truckers...but I haven't found a genre
video that made me happy this month. Sure some come close and sure, some have their
moments, and sure this is, after all, merely entertainment and therefor should not be
judged too harshly, but I still want some semblance of logic and honesty in story telling.
Contrary to what many of my editors may tell you I truly want to like every single video I
rent and every single movie I see and every book I read. That I am so often faced with
material that meets even my low standards is no fault of my own. Let me give you some
examples and perhaps some reasons to go to the movies instead of renting videos this
month. - Steve Sawicki
Staring James (Over the tree top) Woods as Jack Crow, Daniel (Yikes theres more of em) Baldwin as Montoya, Sheryl (Strip me naked and stake me to that bed) Lee as Katrina, Maximillian (finally back from that Black Hole trip) Schell as Cardinal Alba, plus more other cast than you can shake a stake at. Directed by John Carpenter, Music by John Carpenter, Written by (From John Steakys novel) Don Jakoby, Don Mazur.
This film has its moments. Sure, most of them are bad, but they do exist. The book upon which this film is based is great so definitely go read that. The script upon which this film was shot, should have been shot itself. Its terrible and Woods way over the top portrayal of vampire hunter Crow drives the final coffin nail in. Add to this the gratuitous nudity, the sloppy addition of information scenes (scenes which serve the sole function of providing information to the audience), and the two or three impossible things we are expected to ignore and youve got a formula for instant failure, which might explain the box office. I suppose it would be good to say how much I enjoyed some parts of this flick. I suppose I shouldnt mention the dozen or so major plot problems though.
Ah, though, what dreams may come of what could have been.
What Dreams May Come (Polygram) Rated PG-13, 113 minutes (116 in Spain), Starring Robin (I can be serious, honest) Williams as Chris Nielsen, Annabella (Boy do I pout good) Sciorra as Annie Nielsen, Cuba (next flick I get two names) Gooding, Jr. as Albert, Max (here?) Von (or here?) Sydow as The Tracker, Jessica Brooks (Too damn cute) Grant as Marie Nielsen, Josh (If I only had a good line) Paddock as Ian Nielsen. Directed by Vincent Ward, Music by Michael Kamen, Written by (book by Richard Matheson) Ron Bass.
Okay, heres the deal. Chris Nielsen has an idyllic life (or does he?) until his kids die in a car accident. He then dies in a car accident upon which time his wife goes nuts then kills herself. Frankly, this is not the family one would want to be born into. Okay, so we pretty much have nowhere to go but up from here. Nielsen (Chris) ends up in heaven with Cuba Gooding as his guide. Heaven it seems, is a place which we can individualize to our hearts content. Since we can do anything we want and get anything we need, Nielsen (Chris) decides he wants his wife. The only problem here is that shes on the downside of Heaven (some would call it Hell.) And, so, its off to hell we go, with Max as our guide. Since I never give away endings I will go no further other than to say that the story does drag a bit. This is a film that looks way better than it works. It is a visually stunning picture. Unfortunately, the director focused too much on the CGI and not enough on the story. The acting is pretty good and the plot is quite workable, if only someone had cared to see that it developed properly. There is one very awkward scene where Nielsen is teased by his daughter in adult guise and this scene has very incestual overtones. It is also obvious that everyone was so absorbed with the effects in the background; angels flying, people doing odd things, animals morphing, that no one paid it any heed.
Its quite jarring. This is a great example of a good idea gone bad due to too narrow a focus.
Space Truckers (Sterling) Rated PG-13, 97 minutes, Starring Dennis (Line stumbler) Hopper as John Canyon, Stephen (eye candy for the girls) Dorff as Mike Pucci, Debi (eye candy for the boys) Mazar as Cindy. Directed by Stuart Gordon, Music by Colin Towns, Written by Stuart Gordon and Ted Mann.
This is a flick that cant decide what it wants to be, Star Wars clone or indy outsider. This is best exemplified by the music which sometimes sounds like a military march and other times more like Oklahoma. The idea here is that Hopper is a space trucker, driving a shuttle that looks just like a truck. He hauls anything and is a loner/outsider. He gets in a bind and has to haul a nasty load and gets overtaken by pirates and then saves the Earth. Thats it. Hoppers acting is stiff and unconvincing, Pucci and Mazar struggle to show us they can act at all, and the basic plot is so full of holes and oddities that defies comprehension. There are some good visual effects and you have to like the pirate and the menace. Not enough to carry a film though.
Stuart Gordon has given us some good stuff-Reanimator is a best example. Its been all pretty much low budget stuff though and I think that here is another example of money ruining a picture. Hopper needed direction, the script needed re-writing, the plot needed, well, plotting and the whole thing needed some better decision making.