Friday 10 September 2004

The Guardian is wrong.

The Guardian's "expert" panel vote for the top 10 science-fiction films, and compile a list that is just plain wrong. Why they didn't consult me, we may never know.

Number 1 is Bladerunner, unsurprisingly. I really don't think it's all that great, myself. It's quite entertaining, but also quite dull in places. One thing The Guardian get dead right, though:

Debates rage on whether Deckard himself is a replicant.

Yes, exactly: the debate does rage on, so all those boring Bladerunner obsessives who go on and on about how "obvious" it is that Deckard's a replicant can please shut up: if it were obvious, the debate would be long dead. Don't talk to me about unicorns. I've dreamt about unicorns before, and I'm human (no, really). And, yes, the film does still make sense if Deckard's human. Feh.

Anyway, at least Bladerunner, while not as great as some make out, is a bloody good film. Number 2 is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Please. I don't care how good the bloody special effects are. Get a plot. This film is basically a lecture about technology and civilisation. Now, they're both dead interesting subjects, but — call me old-fashioned — I still want a story when I watch a film. If I wanted a lecture, I'd, er, go to a lecture.

Then, at number 3, one of my pet hates: they include Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back but pointedly exclude The Return Of The Jedi. Why do people do this? It's a brilliant film, every bit as good as its predecessors, and (I just know I'm going to get it in the neck for this) even better in places. Oh yes it bloody is. Just look at what it offers: the longest and best light-sabre battle in the trilogy; Han Solo being melted out of the carbonite; all the weird creatures in Jabba's place, and the monster in the basement; the Death Star looking really cool because it's not finished; more spaceships swooping around each other and fighting than ever before; an entire star destroyer plunging nose-first into the Death Star; the fights on the skiff over the desert; a really attractive forest; droves of scout walkers, which are just such cool vehicles; a new type of storm trooper with much more stylish helmets than the old type; Princess Leia in a bikini; blue lightning coming out of the Emperor's fingers (and remember how unexpected that was when you first saw it); the Millenium Falcon racing to the centre of the Death Star — and back out again, surrounded by flames; arguably the best soundtrack of the three; and the speeder-bike chase, for crying out loud. The speeder-bike chase is one of the best chases on any type of vehicle in any film ever. And what a cunning way round the limitations of the special effects: they couldn't stop the shimmering round the edge of things when they were using bluescreen, so they just made the background move so insanely fast that no-one can see the shimmering.

And the Ewoks. That film has so much going for it, and people whinge about the Ewoks because they're cute little round teddy-like things instead of, presumably, tall skinny killer robots or something. But a large part of the film doesn't make sense without them. The Rebels get help from the locals, but the only reason the locals are in a position to help is that they look harmless: if they appeared at all dangerous, the Empire would have got rid of them long ago. And the whole point of that part of the film is (a favourite theme of Lucas's) that you shouldn't underestimate people because of their appearance. Again, this wouldn't be possible if the Ewoks didn't look harmless and primitive and perhaps a bit silly. It's sad that so many people went to see a film with such an enormously unsubtle moral — "Don't judge people by their appearance" — and still managed not to pick up on it, even taking the exact opposite message — "I don't like that film 'cause some of the characters looked silly" — away with them. And these Ewok-haters, in my experience, think they're showing off how adult and sophisticated they are. Tsk.

The only real problem with The Return Of The Jedi is the whole "I'm evil and I'm going to kill you but if you kill me then that'll make you evil and then I win anyway" thing. Bollocks, more like. But if we're going to start nit-picking at pseudo-religious morally absurd mumbo-jumbo, then it's goodbye to all three films, not to mention a substantial portion of Hollywood's total output.

Alien at number 4, but no mention of Aliens, generally reckoned by most viewers to be a better film. At least they don't try the same stunt with Terminator, though, correctly including both. War Of The Worlds isn't up to much, if you ask me: a second-rate film based on a great book. Apart from that, the remaining films on the list are good, and probably deserve to be there. But what did they miss?

Well, talking about Terminator, they say:

One of a few films to deal with problems of time travel, such as the grandfather paradox: if you travel back in time and kill your grandfather, you wouldn't exist so wouldn't be able to travel back in time to...

So what about Back To The Future, then (which also features the best mad scientist ever)? Or Twelve Monkeys? Or, come to that, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure? Yes, the last is a really silly film, but these critics appear to be judging films based on the interestingness of the scientific ideas they raise, and Bill & Ted was the first film to take time travel to its logical conclusion: if you have a time machine, you never need to be prepared for anything, because you can always prepare in advance later, after you know what it is you need to prepare for. I'm convinced that it was a huge influence on Twelve Monkeys.

Is The City Of Lost Children science fiction? I'd say so: one of the characters is a brain in a vat, another has cloned himself multiple times, another uses machinery to sneak into children's dreams, and there's a cult of men who replace their own eyes with camera implants. And it's utterly brilliant. It should be on the list.

And what about Mad Max 2, eh? And The Fifth Element? And The Abyss? Eh? Eh? And another thing....


Anonymous said...

Hey Jo! Dropping in cause I havent in a while. I have posted about you on a forum called because I think your music is 'goth', but because I wanted to spread the word about Squander Pilots and thought my friends there would be interested.

per the Star Wars classification, I tend to side with the ESB choice because it has what you pointed out was a problem with Space Odyssey 2001 : it actually has a story. ROTJ disappointed me on several fronts, mostly with characters who suddenly became limp with emotion, and a Leia that didnt blink twice at the idea that Darth was her father too. That really bothered me, not to mention the lack of surprise or other additional emotions that would flash across *my* brain when discovering the person I planted a passionate kiss on two films back is now my BROTHER!!

Anyway, your one reason of having Leia in a bikini (*gasp* you are SUCH a GUY! LOL LOL!) reminded me of an article that a local newspaper published about the late 90s re-release and how the author used to write Star Wars of them stayed with me because it was so damn funny, it had a line in it something like this "Princess Leia in a bikini, te wanna wanga!"

I still laugh! Anyway, ESB is my choice for hormonal reasons myself, so I have no room to argue. The passionate kiss Han planted on Leia was enough to give me nice dreams for years.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry...forgot to include my name : Sharon Ferguson. Am posting at LiveJournal now under 'ladyaubrey' - was easier and less riddled with comment spammers. Ever restless am looking to move back to RSS stuff again...don't know why...

Anyway, hope all is well for you and your family!!

Squander Two said...

Hi, Sharon.

I guessed it was you. I shall check out your Livejournal place later. Sorry I haven't linked to it earlier, but my work don't allow access to Livejournal for some bizarre reason. (I could understand if they blocked all blogs, but just blocking one type is weird.) Not that I blog from work, of course. Never.

You've got a bit of a point about the characters going limp, but they don't do it much. Yeah, Leia responds strangely calmly to Luke's revelations, but she also throws stormtroopers off fast-moving speederbikes into trees. Go Leia!

Anyway, all the best. And thanks for the plug.

Andy said...

Debates rage on whether Deckard himself is a replicant.Yes, exactly: the debate does rage on, so all those boring Bladerunner obsessives who go on and on about how "obvious" it is that Deckard's a replicant can please shut up: if it were obvious, the debate would be long dead.My best friend is a Bladerunner bore, so I'm quite familiar with this debate. I don't understand why it rages on, since Ridley Scott said on the telly a few years ago that Deckard is indeed a replicant. Surely that should have settled the matter.

I completely agree about 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's basically a nine hour demonstration of the fact that there's no friction in outer space. (The physicist in me wants to say "negligible friction", but it doesn't scan so well.) I even made this declaration when on a summer school for astronomy PhD students. This provoked not only howls of outrage, but also of astonishment that I was prepared to stick to my guns in the face of unanimous opposition from about a dozen would-be astrophysicists.

Anonymous said...

If Deckards a replicant how come he gets his arse kicked so easily by Pris, leon and Roy Batty? Could it be he's an inferior model.

The notion of Deckard as a Replicant would have Philip K Dick spinning in his grave. If they hadn't cremated him.