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Tag: SciFi

Editorials

The Matrix: Twenty Years On

September 10, 2019

It has been twenty years since the release of the hugely influentially film The Matrix. It’s hard to overstate the impact it had on its release, it was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year and its effect was felt not just in films but fashion, speech and even mobile phones. But what was once the height of cool over time can appear dated and lacklustre, how does this film hold up?

The Plot

(pinterest.com)

For those who don’t know I shall briefly explain the plot – Thomas Anderson lived in late 90s America, working as a computer programmer but is secretly the hacker “Neo”. He was approached by sinister government agents asked him to work as a spy. Neo refused and is quickly picked up by the people he was asked to spy against. Their leader Morpheus explained to Neo that what he thought was reality was actually only a computer programme, in reality AI robots were draining his energy to survive. What follows is a spectacular two hours of gunfights, fistfights and metaphysical pondering on the nature of reality and destiny.

Great Expectations

Dodging bullets ( source: vulture.com)

There was a huge amount of hype surrounding the film especially with the talk of unprecedented special effects – what became known as “bullet time”. The famous “bullet time”. The Matrix was not the first film to use this technique but undoubtedly popularised it. Bullet time is a form of slow-motion photography that will often have the camera moving around the target. In The Matrix, this was used as characters dodged bullets using what would be super-human reflexes. While the technology has moved on a lot since the effects still look great to this day.

The film wasn’t stunning just because of bullet time. The hand to hand fight scenes, such as Neo and Morpheus fighting or the climactic fight between Agent Smith and Neo were amongst the first of the extremely choreographed fights that are the mainstay amongst recent action-films (with perhaps the most relevant example of this being in the John Wick films – starring Keanu Reeves).

The Internet, Computers & Technology

Understanding computers (source: pinterest.com)

The Matrix capitalised on computers and the Internet in a way few films had before. Neo was a computer programmer by day and hacker by night and you got the feeling that not only Neo understood computers but so did the Wachowskis. The fact that Neo goes by that name, his hacker alias, seemed to reflect an understanding of the Internet, a place where you could be whatever you wanted to be.

Storytelling

Keanu Reeves as Neo (source: maxim.com)

In many ways, the storytelling aspects of The Matrix were rooted in old ideas. Robot tyranny, virtual reality, sinister but vague government agencies had all been done before. The idea of Neo being The Chosen One again is nothing new but perhaps they made it their own, in an episode of South Park there is a search for a chosen one they refer to as “The Keanu Reeves child”. By the Wachowskis’ own admission the film is heavily indebted to Japanese anime and Hong Kong action films. But I think the Wachowskis deserve huge plaudits for pulling all of these aspects into one film whilst at the same time combining an over-the-top action-sci-fi blockbuster with an intelligent hard sci-fi drama. Apparently the Wachowskis had the main actors read relevant books on philosophy and science so they could comfortably explain the ideas thrown around in the film.

Culture

Neo & Agent Smith (source: variety.com)

The cultural impact was huge. Like A New Hope or The Dark Knight The Matrix launched a thousand copycats and its influence can be felt in many more. The Simpsons and Spaced both parodied it while The Onion could write about something being “Matrix-y” and people knew what you meant. Anyone who wore a long black leather coat was imitating Neo. The term “matrix” has been used a lot in sci-fi (in Doctor Who it’s the repository of Time Lord knowledge, it’s the name of a DC superhero and is the name of a 90s fantasy tv show) but if used today would only refer to the film. The choice of red pill or blue pill has become synonymous with choosing fantasy over – an often painful – reality and people can talk about odd events and coincidences as “glitches” in the Matrix, a moment where a person can see something is not right in reality. One such glitch is that the aforementioned Matrix tv show starred Carrie-Ann Moss, one of the stars of the film The Matrix. Weird.

The Matrix 4

The world recently learned that there will be a fourth film in The Matrix franchise. After the huge success of the first film, the two sequels were not well-received but there is already a lot of interest in this new film. Crucially Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss and Lana Wachowski are all part of the film. I think the years have been kind to The Matrix, with the sequels being forgotten about and the delight of the original still has a hold over people. I recently rewatched the film and despite knowing every twist, betrayal and cliffhanger still thoroughly enjoyed it, immersed in an interesting world that was glorious to watch.

Also Read: Horror-ibly Funny Movie Titles

Editorials

Five Sci-Fi Films To Watch Right Now On Netflix

April 15, 2019

Netflix has hundreds of films from blockbusters to indie gems to cult classics and it has no shortage of great science-fiction.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (comicbook.com)

The Plot – The film follows Jyn Erso a woman who has been on the run from the Empire since her childhood because her father is the man who designed the Death Star. Forced by the Rebel Alliance into a mission to extract her father from the Empire’s clutches and so disrupt their plans, Jyn becomes more and more involved in the civil war that is only just beginning.

Why It’s Great – In my opinion this has been the best of the new crop of Star Wars films. A self-contained story (more or less) that fixed perhaps the biggest plot-hole in all of Star Wars – namely, who builds a priceless weapon of mass destruction with such an easy Achilles’ Heel. The cast is sensational with Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as great leads, Ben Mendelsohn doing his Evil Scumbag routine in space and with great actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker taking on small roles.

Verdict – A wonderful addition to the Star Wars Saga.

Inception (2010)

Inception (hit.com)

The Plot – Leonardo Di Caprio plays Cobb, a very special kind of criminal who enters peoples’ dreams to steal information. Challenged to the seemingly impossible act of “inception” – implanting a new idea in a dream that the dreamer will believe to be their own Cobb puts together a crack team to accomplish his goal.

Why It’s Great – Christopher Nolan doesn’t make bad films. Or at least he hasn’t yet. Inception was the first film Nolan directed after Nolan makes blockbusters like no one else, making them as intelligent and original as they are a spectacle. There is a lot of the “one last job for a criminal” motif going on but that is just a great jumping off point. The special effects are truly stunning with the city landscape being twisted and folded as the high point and even if the writing and acting were terrible – which they aren’t – it would be worth watching for the effects alone. As frustrating as the ambiguous ending might be, I like a film that is brave enough not to give you all the answers.

Verdict – A dazzling and smart sci-fi blockbuster.

The World’s End (2013)

The World’s End (kino&co)

The Plot – Gary King wants to reassemble his school friends to complete the “Golden Mile” a pub crawl along twelve pubs in their home town. Sadly for Gary much has changed since school, the group is estranged and he is no longer – if he ever really was – their leader. As the friends reunite and start their pub crawl things in the town become increasingly odd leading to a sensational fight in a pub toilet that reveals what is going on in the town.

Why It’s Great – All of the Cornetto Trilogy are more than what a simple category can describe – all of them are excellent examples of their genre but excel in being films about people. The World’s End is a film about aliens slowly taking over the planet but it’s also about friendship, betrayal, dealing with disappointment in life, youth (and losing your youth), what is life about and more. I would say this is my least favourite of the trilogy but that still could put it in my top twenty films of all time. It has another feature of the Cornetto Trilogy in combining huge, over the top scenarios, in small unlikely places. Few films pack the emotional punch of The World’s End let alone comparing it to other sci-fi comedies.

Verdict – A triumphant end to the Cornetto Trilogy.

Back To The Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)

Back To The Future (npr.org)

The Plot – After accidentally travelling backwards in time teenager Marty McFly interrupts the meet-cute between his parents and thus will never be born. Recruiting the younger version of the scientist who sent him back in time, Doc, Marty seeks to set the timeline right and save himself. In Part 2 Marty and Doc travel to the future to avert a disaster for Marty’s son only to make things much worse everyone – well, nearly everyone. And Part 3…well Part 3 is set in the Old West for some reason ( just go with it, it’s fun).

Why It’s Great – I suppose it’s cheating to put a whole trilogy into one slot but it’s surely a crime to break up these wonderful films when they make such a satisfying collection. It’s hard to overstate the impact these films had on science-fiction and pop culture in general. For many these are the films that made time-travel (and all the paradoxes, dangers and opportunities that come with it) vaguely possible to understand, partly through literally drawing it on a blackboard in Part 2.

Verdict – If for any reason you have not seen these films prepare to watch three of the most enjoyable films ever made.

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation (midwestfilmjournal.com)

The Plot – Lena’s soldier husband returns mysteriously to their home but something is very wrong with him and it isn’t long before the government swoops in and takes control of the situation. It turns out her husband was sent on a secret mission into The Shimmer – a mysterious area of land where normal rules do not apply and her husband is the only person to return from numerous missions. Lena, a scientist and former soldier joins the next team determined to find out what happened.

Why It’s Great – While it does feel somewhat fitting to include a Netflix original film on this list doesn’t mean Annihilation doesn’t got a free pass – it’s a great sci-fi film, and in a way that few sci-fi films are. It has gunfights and monsters and all those things going on it has also has unusual ideas that make you think about the world and the universe. Science-fiction gets a lot of criticism but to me it’s always been the genre of big ideas – whether that’s time travel or space flight or what it means to be human. Written and directed by filmmaking genius Alex Garland and adapted from the successful Southern Reach book trilogy this film comes with exemplary sci-fi credentials.

Verdict – Bizarre mind-bending sci-fi epic.

Podcast

Episode 008 The Big Picture Film Club Podcast ft Mark J. Blackman

September 30, 2018

After a busy hiatus planning our last event and other projects which we’ll be revealing soon, we are back for another episode with our good friend, writer/director Mark J. Blackman.

One of only *three* directors to have screened two of their films at our Film Club events, we catch up on what he’s been up to since. Diving right into it, we explore the process of making feature lengths, the importance of cinema and his top 5 favourite sci-fi films.

Read about Mark’s Top 5 favourite sci-fi films here. Listen to the full podcast here.