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Topic 31 of 69: Science Fiction Movies

Thu, Oct 29, 1998 (07:56) | Paul Terry Walhus (terry)
Sci fi movies

6 responses total.

 Topic 31 of 69 [movies]: Science Fiction Movies
 Response 1 of 6: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Thu, Oct 29, 1998 (08:01) * 188 lines 


Event-scene 68 98/10/21 Editors: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker

From Robodad to Biobitch

~Charles Tonderai Mudede~

Almost all sciences owe something to dilettantes, often very
valuable view-points. But dilettantism as a leading principle
would be the end of science. He who yearns for seeing should
go to the cinema... - Max Weber

Western science has given us two worlds: a Newtonian world and a
Darwinian one. And if we may hazard a broad definition of our last
century of scientific discovery it may be described as a series of
contests between these two doctrines: physics versus biology, the
machine versus the body, space exploration versus molecular
research; one leading us to the stars, the other to the cell; one
fashioned on inexorable laws, the other tending to statistical
probability; one pointing distantly to God, the other haunted by
Psyche; one indomitably male, the other undeniably female. And the
winner of this contest would win unlimited funding and the complete
loyalty of the masses.

For many years the Newtonian world had the upper hand in this
contest; its elaborate machines promised us answers to all of our
questions. Billions were funneled into robotics and space programs;
telescopes and probes launched into the sky. But when transmitting
back their findings, all they showed us were more bright stars, more
spiraling galaxies, more emptiness, more questions. Ultimately, we
lost faith in Newton and threw ourselves at the feet of Darwinian
science which, wondrously, had managed to grow a human ear on a
mouse's back and duplicate an unsuspecting sheep.

Over the past twenty years our change of faith, our transition from
the Newtonians to the Darwinians, can be traced in a series of dark
science-fiction blockbusters: the late 70s through the 80s being the
last days of Newtonian dominance, and the 90s marking the rise of
our Darwinian world.

~Alien~, 1979, Ridley Scott

This film is exceptional not only because it begins a cycle of what
James Cameron would identify as "tech noir" (~Blade Runner~,
~Terminator~, ~Robocop~), but, more significantly, for the first
time in blockbuster sci-fi history an alien is imagined not as a
being descending from a higher civilization organized by Newton-like
advances in efficiency and armed with sophisticated weapons which
neatly vaporize the enemy, but instead, as a bloodthirsty primal
creature engaged in some intergalactic Darwinian struggle for
survival. Here the battle between the doctrines is clearly
represented, and Newtonian science barely escapes defeat--only to be
lost in space, drifting among the endless stars.

~Terminator~, 1984, James Cameron

Though ~Terminator~ pretends to be a "human" story affirming the
honor and dignity of the emotional, freedom-loving human species, we
cannot help but notice its admiration and worship of the efficient
man-machine; the cyborg with its human flesh exterior and metal
skeleton. This creature has no emotions and cannot be confused or
distracted--its life has total meaning, total Newtonian function.

~RoboCop~, 1987, Paul Verhoeven

As a regular human, the police officer Murphy (Peter Weller) was
only a weak cop with a weak gun trying to enforce order in a city
that at all levels (from corporate boardrooms in the sky to small
businesses on the street) had spun out of control and become, as one
spectator in the movie puts it, "the heart of darkness." But as
a man-machine equipped with powerful weapons, he can take direct
action and return all the parts of society drifting, as it were, out
of their orbits like rebellious planets back into their proper
Newtonian places. (It is interesting to note that RoboCop is nearly
killed in the same decaying Fordist factory where, seven years
later, the T-800 model in ~Terminator 2~, the last man-machine, is
to die in a red-hot liquid bath.)

~Aliens~, 1987, James Cameron

Set on a planet colonized by Newtonian humans, who were quickly
destroyed by Darwinian aliens, it culminates in a deadly combat
between man-machine (Ripley fitted into a cargo loader) and the
alien. Again, the Darwinian world loses, but not for long, its time
is soon to come.

~Species~, 1995, Roger Donaldson

With the destruction of the last man-machine (Arnold Schwarzenegger)
in that sad farewell at the end of ~Terminator 2~, the stage is set
not only for the post-industrial era, but also for the she-beast in
~Species~. In this film it quickly becomes clear that the Darwinian
world is to be mastered by fecund women--the reproducers, the black
widows--and not by rational metal men, as was consistently the case
in the Newtonian world. The story is this: human DNA is mixed with
found alien DNA, and the result is the creation of an
ultra-attractive hyper-instinctual super-sensual human-alien driven
by the most fundamental (or funnaminal, as Joyce would put it)
Darwinian principle: fuck healthy males and produce healthy babies.

~Mimic~, 1997, Guillermo Del Toro

In ~Mimic~, a brilliant biologist (Mira Sorvino), who is infertile
and fails to produce children with her virile mate (who is also a
scientist, but a second-rate one) saves the planet from an
infestation of deadly cockroaches. But her fiddling with DNA secrets
results in her becoming the mother of a new breed of human-insects
who, again, are driven by Darwinian motives--they not only want to
survive but to dominate New York, the capital of the financial world
and mission command center for all of those satellites transmitting
virtual money.

~Alien: Resurrection~, 1997, Jean Pierre Jeunet

In this latest ~Alien~ installment, Ripley is transformed by way of
DNA experiments,into an all-powerful she-beast. In this condition
she is nothing like the clumsy man-machine she tried to become in
~Aliens~, instead, here she is perfection, perfection of nature,
perfection of motion, sexuality, instincts. In this higher form she
becomes the mother and queen of the aliens (she also bares a
resemblance to Queen Elizabeth I, or at least the drawings I've seen
of this mythic creature). And at the film's end we see her descend
back to Earth to rule the waiting mass and possibly ban space
exploration forever.

Though pockets of resistance to the Darwianian order still persist,
and many who "adore space" are gravely skeptical about a future
regulated by Biotech Corporations (which service human bodies and
not androids, as was the case in ~Blade Runner~), the end of space
is nigh. The official word from the 20th Century Fox studio
producing ~Alien 5~ says it all: "It will take place on Earth."
Consider recent sci-fi films like Paul Verhoeven's ~Starship
Troopers~ and Andrew Niccol's ~Gattaca~; both these films have made
it clear that the present social value of "spacers," "star-strips,"
and "galactic unions" (as Nabokov once contemptuously called them in
his masterful 1953 dissection of the sci-fi genre, "Lance") is no
more than the vapors of pure fantasy. (~La Gattaca~ the "genetic
future" posited in the 1990 Hastings Center report by Joanne L.
Finkelstein is realized. In this film, the Gattaca Aerospace
Corporation's space program to Saturn's icy and feral moon Titan,
functions only as a metaphor of the hero's inner desire to escape
the efficient reality of the bio-utopia on Earth.)

The Newtonian world no longer takes us forward or postulates a
credible future, but, instead, is useful only when one wants to look
back and, as with the myth of the Knights of the Round Table,
decipher the fears and dreams of a time long, long ago in a place
far, far away.

Charles Tonderai Mudede is a native of Zimbabwe. He now lives in
Seattle and, along with teaching literature through Seattle Arts and
Lecture, contributes film criticism and reviews to Seattle's
alternative weekly _The Stranger_.

* CTHEORY is an international journal of theory, technology
* and culture. Articles, interviews, and key book reviews
* in contemporary discourse are published weekly as well as
* theorisations of major "event-scenes" in the mediascape.
* Editors: Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
* Editorial Board: Kathy Acker, Jean Baudrillard (Paris),
* Bruce Sterling (Austin), R.U. Sirius (San Francisco),
* Siegfried Zielinski (Koeln), Stelarc (Melbourne),
* Richard Kadrey (San Francisco), Geert Lovink (Amsterdam),
* Lynn Hershman Leeson (San Francisco), Stephen Pfohl
* (Boston), Andrew Ross (New York),David Cook (Toronto),
* William Leiss (Kingston), Sharon Grace (San Francisco),
* Marie-Luise Angerer (Vienna), Hans Mohr (Howe Island),
* Alberto Perez-Gomez (Montreal), Robert Adrian X (Vienna),
* Deena Weinstein (Chicago), Michael Weinstein (Chicago),
* Patrice Riemens (Amsterdam), Andrew Wernick (Peterborough).

 Topic 31 of 69 [movies]: Science Fiction Movies
 Response 2 of 6: wer  (KitchenManager) * Fri, Oct 30, 1998 (13:19) * 1 lines 
Wow, and I thought these movies were just for entertainment purposes only...

 Topic 31 of 69 [movies]: Science Fiction Movies
 Response 3 of 6: Wolf  (wolf) * Sat, Nov 14, 1998 (08:07) * 3 lines 
The X Files: Fight the Future

gotta luv it!

 Topic 31 of 69 [movies]: Science Fiction Movies
 Response 4 of 6: Tim Guenther  (TIM) * Sun, Nov 15, 1998 (01:13) * 1 lines 
Science fiction has always been, among other things, a political forum.

 Topic 31 of 69 [movies]: Science Fiction Movies
 Response 5 of 6: Alexander Schuth  (aschuth) * Thu, May 20, 1999 (09:42) * 5 lines 
Anybody ever read Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac's books around here? Vintage ain't half the word for these early 17th-century space travel logs, which got him into many a good fight with the authorities, who thought they were ridiculed in these works (one completed, one uncompleted: The Journey to the Moon States and The Journey to the Realms of the Sun).

Cyrano actually picks a fight with everyone in these works. Social criticism covered in a Sci-Fi-fable, extremely hilarious.

And yes, he is THAT Cyrano, the legendary fencer with the renowned facial features, mathematician and poet, swordsman and philosopher. They made a movie with Gerard Depardieu based on a play written by, was that him? Rostand, late 19th, early 20th century. Not much in that play is based on facts, besides his looks and his fencing, aye, and his tempers.

 Topic 31 of 69 [movies]: Science Fiction Movies
 Response 6 of 6: Rob Glennie  (AotearoaKiwi) * Fri, Jun  7, 2002 (04:13) * 6 lines 
Hi all

A good science fiction movie I know of (and Julie)is Dante's Peak - the one about a volcano that erupts and you have lahars, pyroclastic flows and lava flows coming down the volcano all at once. Well, in real life you might have a combination of pyroclastic flows melting snow and thus triggering lahars, but lava flows and pyroclastic flows are not likely at the same time because the magma is either exploding or flowing.
This is a movie in which Pierce Brosnan starred, for those of you from Drool and the volcano upon which Dante's Peak was modelled is Mount St Helens.


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