Friday, March 17, 2006

Fantasy and Science Fiction Reviews

In the last few years there has been an outbreak of interesting new science fiction and fantasy movies/TV series. I have always loved these genres. My parents read Lord of the Rings out loud while my mom was pregnant with me. When I was eight we didn't have a TV but my brother and I compulsively listened to audiotapes of the The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and Star Wars. Sometimes I'm embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of other, more serious forms of literature. Luckily I married a man who is even more of a sci-fi geek than I am. I'm not 100% sure why I like these genres so much, but I think it has something to do with the freedom to explore various moral questions and strange yet familiar situations freely. It seems that the recent improvements in special effects technologies have resulted in corresponding improvements in the story lines of science fiction/fantasy programs.

I'm not sure whether to be happy because many excellent stories are being translated to the screen or upset because watching the story on the screen is always a poor substitute for exercising your imagination. Either way, here are some thoughts on interesting new developments...(Don't read any further if you don't want the stories spoiled!)

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe-Beorn and I watched the DVD of this a couple of nights ago. Overall the story was well translated from the book, but there were some disappointments. I thought the acting was excellent, especially the white witch, who was properly beautiful and terrible at once. The children, though, seemed too far apart in ages. I always imagined the four children being very close in age since arguing and rivalry was such an important part of the story. In the movie the actor playing Peter, the oldest brother is about 16 years old and the actress playing Lucy, the youngest, is about 8 years old. I don't think Lewis ever states in the books the children's ages but a gap of 8 years seems much too large. The story has also been sanitized for the big screen. One of the most important scenes in the book is Peter's first kill, Fenrus wolf, the witch's first lieutenant. After the fight Peter is sickened, but is reminded by Aslan to properly clean the blood from his sword (wow! young man, right-of-passage, the horror of being a man, all that). In the movie Peter manages to stab the wolf without any blood touching the sword. Throughout the movie there is not so much as a drop of blood, even though there is a great and terrible battle for the whole of Narnia. As much as I understand the urge to protect children from violence and death, this story is a Christian allegory about the crucifixion of Christ. Somehow it seems wrong to subject children to the crucifixion but take the horror out of it, but maybe that's just me.

The New Battlestar Galactica- I remember watching reruns of the original Battlestar as a child. The dichotomy between the heroic, persecuted human race and the evil robot cylons was not exactly brilliant, but there were lots of pretty faces and operatic drama. The new series turns the original on its head. Instead of a cliqued contrast between noble humans and soulless robots, the cylons have developed religion and become indistinguishable from humans through liberal mixing of organic and inorganic elements. The people in charge of saving the last bedraggled fleet of human refugees are all tragically flawed. Humans and cylons fall in love, torture their enemies, engage in espionage, and kill eachother. As the series progresses it become less and less a war of humans against evil robots and more and more like a war between two radically different human cultures.

The New Doctor Who-Classic Doctor Who is an acquired taste; you have to enjoy the cheesy special effects, strange costumes, sexism, etc. It was a BBC series that ran from 1963 until 1989. The amazing longevity of the original series relied on a clever ploy, which allowed the actor playing the Doctor to change while the series continued. The new series, which began last year in Britain, is a brilliant postmodern combination of ridiculous, silly plots and monsters and moments of deeply real emotional vulnerability. The Doctor himself is much more slick than in the original series and has developed a sexual side to his persona. (In the original the Doctor frequently ran around with scantily clad young women but was somehow forever asexual.) In the first episode department store mannequins controlled by aliens attack the Doctor. In the second episode the Doctor and Rose travel forward in time to witness the destruction of the earth. The best moment is a short scene between Rose and a blue skinned female space station plumber with a cockney accent. In a later episode Rose and the Doctor meet up with Jack Harkness, a bisexual (or perhaps pan-sexual since there are different species involved) con-man with a heart of gold.

Wow! I had no idea I liked writing so much about sci-fi/fantasy. Next up, my all time favorite sci-fi/fantasy books!

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