Thursday, 29 December 2016

What will happen to Fisher's role as General Organa

The sad passing of Carrie Fisher this week left much sadness in the world of scifi and literature, but also left some questions about her role in the Star Wars series.

In Rogue One she was seen as a twenty year old, thanks to CGI effects.

Although the use of CGI was criticised, it would be hard to understand how else the producers could have got around the important link of Princess Leia from Rogue One to the original Star Wars: A New Hope.

It would have been very unsatisfying not to see her face and would have been absurd to use a different actress since Carrie Fisher played the part both before and after the Rogue One timeline. So CGI it was, and was as mercifully brief as possible - just long enough to make the connection.

The continuing Star Wars series is a different question as there is reportedly a much larger role for her character - now a General - in Star Wars VIII which has now wrapped principal photography.

However, it is not understood if the producers will rewrite the movie to include her death, continue with her through CGI or have her die off camera.

But whatever path they take, many may grieve for Carrie Fisher, but many others will also grieve for Leia Organa.

There have also been suggestions that her daughter Billie Lourd will play a larger part in future movies.

In a further sad development, her mother Debbie Reynolds passed away a day after Fisher.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Atmospheric Blade Runner 2049 trailer shows Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling crossing paths

Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard is alive but in hiding from what we can gather from the first trailer for the Blade Runner reboot, which features Ryan Gosling's K searching through a dystopian wilderness.

A synopsis leak has given us more clues about the action, while the trailer provides the atmosphere, with a mix of Mad Maxian desert and original steamy Blade Runner LA.

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Blade Runner 2049 is being directed by Denis Villeneuve, and following the positive reception of his Arrival, hopes are high.

The script was written by original Blade Runner co-writer Hampton Fancher with Michael Green, who was behind the emotion-charged Wolverine movie Logan as well as Alien: Covenant (which recently wrapped in Sydney).

The first movie was based on Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, although it famously deviates from the novel. It will be interesting to see where the new story goes.

Original director Ridley Scott is in charge as executive producer.

Skyfall and No Country for Old Men cinematographer Roger Deakins will be creating the look. The cast also includes Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri and Barkhad Abdi.

It's due to land in October 2017.

Enjoy the trailer below.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Chiang’s circles of life shine in Arrival

Circles are key in Arrival, a thought-provoking movie based on Ted Chiang’s short piece, The Story of Your Life.

Chiang has been described as a literary science fiction writer; and Arrival as intelligent sci-fi. So what I expected to see was something that values science over fiction. But this is intelligent in a different way: ideas are the strength, but it has a strong backbone of beautifully realised story.

And while science is there, it is mainly the “science” of linguistics.

In an early scene the protagonist, eminent linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), squares off with number obsessed mathematician Ian Donelly (Jeremy Renner). To me, this suggested a conflict reminiscent of an Ian McEwan novel (Atonement, Saturday spring to mind) where two characters take up the mantle of either Science or the Arts, and fight a battle of left hand versus right ensues.

But with Arrival the conflict of ideas is a little fuzzier, and is more about the power of language, reminding me in some ways of two books about words creating their own realities, one by Iain Pears and the other by Marcel Theroux.

For me, the most engaging aspect of the movie and the script is its circularity, both a key theme and a beautiful story-telling device. The aliens (called heptapods due to their seven limbs) write in a non-linear, circular manner that resembles a tablecloth after a Sambuca party. The written language has no beginning or end, but must be read as a whole; and as Louise begins to understand this, her perception of time changes too.

This is based on a concept called linguistic relativity or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in which it is proposed that language actually determines thought, instead of how your average Joe would accept it, which is the other way around.

The execution of translating Chiang’s ideas to screen was superbly handled by Canadian Denis Villeneuve. He is due to direct the upcoming Blade Runner reboot, and based on this it will definitely be worth a look.

But first off, I’m going to dig out some more Chiang, started perhaps with his take on AI in The Life Cycle of Software Objects, or his exploration of fundamentalist religious beliefs in Hell Is the Absence of God.

If you’ve seen the movie or read Chiang’s stories let me know what you think on my Facebook page.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Who forgot to put the cover on the Death Star exhaust port?

Recently departed space pioneer John Glenn has many famous quotes.

The best perhaps was "I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts - all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract."

The orbits had to be cut short after a malfunction.

It made me wonder who tended for the Death Star? A higher bidder would probably have forked out a few more galactic credits for an exhaust port cover.

Below is a diagram of the Mercury craft. You see more on that mission here.

This is also fun:

Friday, 9 December 2016

Space pioneer John Glenn passes away aged 95

Vale John Glenn, aged 95, (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016), space flight pioneer and the first American to orbit the Earth.

He restored US pride after first Yuri Gagarin and then Gherman Titov had successfully put Russia ahead in the space race. And at the age of 77, after a career in politics he did it all over again, becoming the oldest person ever to travel into orbit.

Below is a short doco on his famous flight in 1962, flying the Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 for a space journey that would last more than four hours. During the trip Perth citizens flashed their lights so he could see the city as he passed over, for which he thanked them. He also saw weird flashing lights, like fireflies in space, but NASA seemed uninterested in his observations.

A malfunction occurred, so they forced an early splashdown after three orbits into the Atlantic.

He became so popular the president, John F Kennedy, allegedly refused to allow him to return to space the following year, lest he become a presidential contender. Instead, he became a senator in his home state of Ohio.