Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Fun Scifi Tropes: Alternate Universes

Alas, Squiders, today we come to the end of our scifi trope series, and we end with alternate universes, which are a personal favorite of mine (which seems to be a trend). WordPress handily keeps track of blog posts I’ve started, and there’s one from, oh, six years ago that is entitled “Alternate Universes” and the entirety of the post is “ARE AWESOME WOO.”

Good job, me.

Related to this (and to be included in this discussion) are parallel universes, which are almost exactly the same thing.

An alternate universe is a universe existing alongside our own, usually with slight changes (or sometimes major changes). These can be accessed in some manner that helps the plot along (or, alternately, the alt universe can stick its nose into our universe, usually with disastrous results).

TV Tropes lists ten specific variations of alternate universes:

  • Alternate History (This is, as it sounds, where some major event in the past never happened, or happened differently. Germany winning WWII is a common example of this.)
  • Another Dimension (TV Tropes says this is actually the parent trope for Alternate Universes. In this case, this is any world next to our own, whether it’s the Otherworld of the Fey or some of the weirder planes in Dungeons and Dragons. There does not need to be a relationship between our universe/dimension and the other one.)
  • Bizarro Universe (Usually everything is opposite, though the name of trope makes me think of the bizarro episode of SeaLab 2021 where all the bizarro versions said “Bizarro” all the time.)
  • Dark World (Essentially our world, but everything is terrible. To link in with last week’s time travel, you can get one of these by accidentally messing up something in the past.)
  • For Want of a Nail (One small change creates a MAJOR change between universes. Also In Spite of a Nail where the differences are critical but the characters tend to be the same.)
  • Mirror Universe (a subset of the Bizarro Universe, but basically where everything is the same except good people are evil and vice versa.)
  • The Multiverse (There’s multiple universes to be bounced around across.)
  • Elseworld (This is essentially what fanfiction alt universes–AUs–are. Basically you take a familiar character and put them in a wildly different situation.)
  • Wonderful Life (How the world would be if you were never born/existed.)
  • Alternate Tooniverse (An alternative universe that’s animated.)

(As a side note, TV Tropes is a bit like Wikipedia and you can lose hours in there, so be careful.)

Like most of the scifi tropes we’ve looked at, alternate universes can be used pretty much any way you want. They can be used to explore aspects of humanity, causality, or history. They can be used as backdrops for adventure, romance, and exploration. You can have a new universe every week, or have a number of universes intricately connected.

What are your favorite uses of alternate universes, Squiders? I recently started V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, which deals with alternate universes in a fantasy setting. And, of course, Star Trek makes excellent use of this trope through episodes like Mirror, Mirror and even my very favorite Next Gen episode, Inner Light.

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Fun Scifi Tropes: Robots

Hey, guys! We’re doing this today rather than Thursday because we’ve got our Winterking discussion then. (Are you guys reading that with me? At first I thought it was better but we seem to be delving back into familiar confusion as we near the end.)

So today we’ll talk about robots. Who doesn’t love robots? Well, technophobes or people waiting for the Singularity, I suppose.

According to NPR, the word robot was created in 1920 for Karel Capek’s play, Rossum’s Universal Robots (RUR). In the play, robots are biological, but have no feelings, and are used to do all the jobs that humans don’t want to do. “Robot” comes from the Old Church Slavonic word “rabota,” which means servitude of forced labor.

That being said, despite the image that is generally rendered by the world–a futuristic machine that does various tasks–robots have actually been around for quite some time, mostly in the forms of automatons, which are machines created to do a specific purpose and are usually self-contained (i.e., they don’t need external control). Stories from ancient times often include automatons, and several from the 1700s-1900s still exist.

(Automatons gained some public interest from the success of the book/movie The Invention of Hugo Cabret.)

Automatons often feature fairly strongly in steampunk media (such as the webcomic Girl Genius) though the capabilities of various automatons are somewhat exaggerated past what is historically accurate (which is a feature in steampunk anyway).

Despite living in an age of robotics now, most people still get that 1950s-era Lost in Space Robot sort of image. Or the Cybermen from Doctor Who. Or Rosie from the Jetsons. It’s hard to look at a Roomba and see the connection.

(Speaking of Roombas, my partner and I recently kickstarted a robot by the same company called Tertill, who is designed to weed your garden for you. I am SO excited. I hate weeding. Anyway.)

And, of course, scifi has branched out from your classic mid-century robots. Androids are an especially large area of interest, because it allows us to explore questions such as what it means to be human, what constitutes as life, etc. If a robot looks human, acts human, are they human? Where is the delineation between man and machine?

(Actually, for a look at a world where AI are accepted as a lifeform, you might look at the webcomic Questionable Content. It starts off as a slice-of-life comic, but has added more and more AI characters and focused more on them and how they fit into the world as the comic has gone on.)

You really can–and scifi does–go over with this trope. I read a very interesting short story in one of those Best Of collections not too long ago, about a robot whose job is to keep the outside of a spaceship repaired. You can do more humanoid, or stick with more modern-day robots, where they have a single function, often something that humans won’t or can’t do. You can look at humanity through machines or just have them as background flavor in your space adventure. They can develop sentience or not.

You can have them overthrow their creators or be locked down by the laws of robotics.

(TVTropes has 47 subtropes under “Robot.”)

Who are your favorite robots? I’m partial to Data, Bender, R2D2 and K-2SO (I really like snarky robots it turns out), and Johnny 5 (…is alive!). Favorite book/show/movie that includes robots?

Thoughts on Star Trek Beyond

I’m sorry, Squiders, I know I promised you The Ancient One discussion today, but the fact of the matter is that all the electronics on my stove exploded on Saturday night and then caught fire, and it’s completely thrown me off my groove.

(Luckily, the fire burned out pretty quickly once power was disconnected, so the worst of the damage is that the wall is charred and a bit melty in a couple of places. Oh, and that I have no logical way to cook dinner. On the other hand, I did finally get my toaster oven out of the box. But you cannot cook a whole pizza at once, even. It’s like a tiny, useless oven that you only use to…I don’t even know. Probably why it’s been sitting in its box for two years.)

I’m finally starting to get back into things, though, so Thursday we should, hopefully, finally get on with our discussion. I would say definitively, but a tree will probably fall on my house if I make any promises.

So, instead, let’s talk about the newest Star Trek movie, which the husband and I managed to see on opening day (like, actual opening day, not midnight the day before). We went at, like, 5 pm and the theater was half empty, which was a bit odd, but hey, I got prime seats so I’m not complaining.

My overall thoughts are: I liked it? I think?

It’s weird. In terms of general Trek-ness, it’s no doubt the best of the three reboots. There were a lot of aspects that I liked a lot. Yorktown is super cool, as is the Swarm. There’s Spock/Bones time! Crewmembers that are not Kirk and/or Spock get to do things! Kirk and Spock do things with people who are not each other! Also, Jaylah is awesome and I liked her a lot. Also, I thought the way they handled Leonard Nimoy’s passing in the film was very well done. Intellectually, I like it quite a bit.

But I left the theater feeling somewhat underwhelmed, and I can’t quite figure out why. Something about my mood? I feel like maybe I kept getting distracted by other concerns. I also feel like every now and then people were out of character, and Uhura, for the most part, is still being sidelined as girlfriend/damsel. (Though, to be fair, I didn’t mind their relationship in this movie as much as I have in the previous ones.) Plus it’s hard to watch a film when one of the actors has just died. Anton Yelchin finally got to do things that weren’t just yelling and running around like a hyper puppy in this film, and we won’t get to see anything more from him.

I seem to be the odd one out on this lukewarm-ness. I have at least one friend who has declared it the best movie of all time. Beyond that, everyone seems to agree that it was a good movie and a decent Trek film (ranking it somewhere in the middle). And I feel like I should like it. As I said above, I liked a lot of it. There was just something missing overall. Some sort of…spark. I dunno.

Maybe I’ll like it better the next time.

I do want to say, though, that I totally dig the re-design on the dress uniforms. And the away team uniforms or whatever they’re supposed to be are also really neat. A+ to the costumer designer, you rock, except the neckline on the men’s on-ship uniforms go up the neck a little too far and it looks a bit wonky.

(I want to be clear that I mean “dress” uniform as in “uniforms that are dresses” and not “formal uniforms.”)

(Also, I went and saw Ghostbusters again yesterday and it’s still excellent.)

Seen Star Trek Beyond, Squiders? (Kind of a silly title, actually, and doesn’t have anything to do with the actual content of the story.) Thoughts? Want to talk about Ghostbusters? Because I will talk about that all day long.

Why I Loved Ghostbusters

Yay! Time for polarizing opinions!

Unless you guys have been living under a rock recently–and if you have, congrats, because this whole thing is ridiculous–you know there’s been a ton of controversy around the remake of Ghostbusters, mostly because of the decision to make the Ghostbusters women instead of men.

To which I say: sigh. Really? Is this really the worst thing that has ever happened to a remake? Have you seen some of the remakes that have come out lately?

Oy. People, your priorities are messed up.

But, anyway, let me say that I have seen the original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, enough times to recognize and make quotes from them, but not enough times that they haven’t kind of conglomerated into a single movie in my memories. The first one is the one with Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, yes? Gatekeeper, keymaster? Actually, looking on Wikipedia, maybe I’ve never seen Ghostbusters II, because that does not sound familiar at all. Okay! So I’ve seen the first movie a bunch apparently, and superimposed it into ideas for a second movie, which I apparently did not see or do not remember.

In my defense, both movies came out when I was very little. I was 1 when the first one came out, and 6 for Ghostbusters II. Most if not all of my nostalgic love for the franchise comes from the TV series from the late ’80s/early ’90s, which my sister and I watched religiously.

My thoughts when the remake was announced were basically along the lines of ugh, really? Must we remake every little thing that was ever at all successful? Couldn’t we at least remake things that were terrible and try to make them not suck instead of the other way around? And then I essentially wrote it off as a bad idea and forgot about it.

Then the announcement about the switch to it being a woman team came out, and of course the angry nerdboys of the Internet, most of whom probably hadn’t even thought about Ghostbusters in twenty years, came out in droves, which is always a bit sad, because, honestly, don’t these guys have anything better to do with their lives? Anything more fulfilling to worry about? If the worst problem you got is the diversification of a franchise from your childhood, man, something’s wrong with you.

I had a mixed reaction to the news. Part of me was intrigued, because we were at least going to try to do something different instead of just making the same movie over again for no good reason. But part of me was worried that they were going to do a terrible job, because most remakes are horrible, lazy things with bad writing and unnecessary action scenes, and if we were doing it just for a stunt, then it was a terrible, terrible idea.

But then the cast was announced. And then the first trailer came out. And it looked amazing, and I was onboard all the way.

Now, I will say that I am not someone who gets terribly invested in my media. I have never been one of those people threatening a studio making one of my favorite books or any of the crazy things people do. I like to evaluate everything on its own, without connections to previous movies/books/TV shows/video games, etc. So ragehating on something before it even exists is very foreign to me. (See above: don’t you have better things to do?)

So I went into the theater on Sunday expecting and hoping for a good movie, and that’s what I saw. A funny movie, with great chemistry between the leads, and some really cool bits, and at least one bit that actually scared me for a second (which was embarrassing, because I went with people I don’t know very well). It was what I hoped it would be. And I loved it.

Was it perfect? No. There’s a couple of throwbacks to the original movies that don’t really fit, and a character relationship subplot that’s a bit sloppy. Also, Kristen Wiig’s hairstyle just–I don’t know, I don’t like it. That’s a minor complaint. In general, it’s everything you need and expect a Ghostbusters movie to be. I cannot recommend it enough. I especially liked the characters of Holtzmann (which is an excellent name for an engineer, just saying) and Patty.

But, as you know, I exist on the Internet, and so I have also seen some reviews from people who really, really hated it. And I find myself wondering–did we watch the same movie? Are some of these people pretending to have watched it just so they can “legitimately” harp hate on it? Did they go in with low expectations and then spend the whole movie cataloging every mistake to justify their previously formed opinion? Did they watch the original right before going in and then fume about every difference?

I mean, I know people have differing opinions, but the wide divide between love and hate on this one seems very extreme.

Anyway, I loved it. I am plotting to go see it again if I can find babysitting, and I’m already planning on asking for it for my birthday/Christmas depending when it comes out on video.

Have you seen it, Squiders? What did you think?

Why We Love Reoccurring Characters

Amazon’s put Doctor Who (except for Season 9) back onto Prime, so I’ve been catching up. (I continue to have a “this show makes no sense and I’m not sure why I continue to watch it, yet there must be something because I keep watching” relationship with DW.) One of the recent episodes I watched had an occasional reoccurring character that happens to be a favorite of mine, and I may have gotten unnecessarily excited when she showed up.

That got me to thinking about reoccuring characters in general. It seems–and this may be generalizing–that people feel more strongly about their affection for reoccurring characters than main characters, in many cases. Everyone has that character that, when they happen to grace a show, book, movie, etc. with their presence, makes their day.

(Or, alternately, it could be a character that they love to hate. Or just really hate. I’m looking at you, Kai Winn.)

Why do we react stronger to characters we don’t see that often?

Well, my going theory is that we get used to characters we see all the time, so while we relate to them and may feel closer to them (or, for characters we don’t particularly like, just kind of accept that they’re there and deal with it). They lose their impact, to some degree. It’s like the friend you see every day. You’re comfortable with them, you love them, but they’re not necessarily exciting.

Reoccurring characters are like the friend you haven’t seen in a year. It’s an event when they come and visit! It’s something you look forward to. And even better if it’s a surprise, and you open the door one day to find them sitting on their porch (assuming they don’t think they’re staying with you unannounced).

It’s not that they’re better, per se. It’s just the absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I do find it interesting that when a reoccurring character becomes a main or side character for a period of time, it can go really well or really poorly. It really shows how complete of a character that character is when some of that shiny-ness wears off.

Who are your favorite reoccurring characters, Squiders? Any examples of a reoccurring character turned regular that went spectacularly well (or not)? Any experience with your own reoccurring characters?

An Unholy Alliance

Sorry, squiders, but I’m going to talk about Star Wars again. And Star Trek. We’ll get back to real content again on Thursday, when we will either talk about the fluidity of fantasy into scifi or antagonists, depending on how I’m feeling at the time.

But for now–Star Wars. Star Trek. AND THE UNHOLY UNION OF BOTH.

Sorry, overly dramatic. I’m going stircrazy. We’ve got at least a foot of snow outside and I’m going to have to try and drive in it soon.

Now, I’m sure you guys know by now that I am a Trekkie, and have been as long as I can remember. As such I occasionally dabble in the fandom community, usually in a “lurk and consume” manner, though I have been known to participate actively when time allows.

So it was from there that I learned that they were releasing the first trailer for the new Trek movie (due some time next year) in front of the new Star Wars movie this weekend.

While many Trekkies also like Star Wars, it might be the first time in history that the entire community raised its head with interest.

On one hand, it makes perfect sense. Star Wars is (arguably) science fiction. Star Trek is also science fiction! (And, in the current iteration, a lot closer to Star Wars than previous iterations have been.) On the other hand–is this allowed? Star Wars and Star Trek in such close proximity? (You can see my feelings on that whole debacle here.)

But then they went and released the Star Trek trailer online yesterday, so now some of the excitement has dissipated. (Trailer is here if you want it.) Unless it is a different (and hopefully better) trailer? Hm. Maybe! Doubtful, but maybe.

Anyway, two days til Star Wars, four days for me. Thoughts on the Trek trailer? Or showing it with Star Wars? Let me know, Squiders.

Taking a Look at Media

Hey, Squiders, hope you’re all having a lovely July. Mine has been too hot (hot damn), but I have been getting more writing done (mostly short stories, and also some on a joint story a friend and I are testing out) and I don’t really have too much to complain about in general.

I have several half-formed thoughts on books and movies I’ve watched/read lately, and I figured that I’d combine them into one post for simplicity’s sake.

  • Wreck-It Ralph

Have you seen this movie? This movie is a thing of beauty. Non-traditional protagonist, excellent twist ending, great care taken in the world-building and animation design (I love that they animated the main characters to look like their voice actors), great adult-level jokes. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this, you really should. It’s a nice break when the small, mobile one wants to watch this compared to some of the other stuff he likes (like Dinosaur Train, ugh). But in general he has good taste, like Lilo & Stitch or, as he calls it, the Robot Castle Movie (which is really Howl’s Moving Castle).

  • Jupiter Ascending

We finally got around to watching this after everyone said we should. It fell a little flat–felt like they tried to stuff too much into the movie for no good reason, and the big “twist” was pretty obvious from the beginning. Nice star power, though, and very pretty visuals. Whatever Eddie Redmayne is doing with his voice grated on me the whole time, though. Needed to develop their villain better too. Ah well, alas.

  • Deep Space Nine

A few years ago I decided I was going to watch DS9 all the way through because I never had–I watched the first four seasons when they were on, and then caught assorted episodes in syndication in the years that followed (in college I didn’t have class on Fridays, and Spike had five hours of Trek–2 TNG and 3 DS9–which ate a lot of my time). So I started watching, got to the third to last episode of Season 4, and then promptly got distracted by something else. That was probably two years ago. I’ve started up again now, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve done the exact same thing over again.

  • Out of the Silent Planet

I recently finished reading C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, which I enjoyed quite a bit. It’s a very straightforward scifi adventure, and there is still a tint of Christian religion, but not enough to bash you on the head (unlike another fantasy book I read recently called The Light of Eidon). I’d recommend it if you haven’t picked it up. I’ll see if I can hunt down the other two books in the trilogy.

  • Moonheart

Now I’m reading Charles de Lint’s Moonheart, which I picked up because I like the mythology spins Charles de Lint puts on his urban fantasy. It was written in 1984, and you can kind of tell because everyone smokes. Of all the things to date a story, right? But I find it really distracting for some reason. They do have computers which saves them. I don’t think we had a computer until the early 90s. I mean, my grandparents did before that, but it couldn’t have been much before. Anyway, it’s interesting because the lead up is much slower than I think you can get away with in a modern book, but I don’t mind that so much.

Seen or read anything good recently, Squiders? Or have opinions on anything?