We are told that “geek is the new chic”. I dont know how the word “new” comes into this description. At Chez ‘Abulous geek as always been in vogue. Dadabulous is a top gun software developer with a penchant for Dungeons and Dragons and space strategy games. Although I’m not IT savvy, I’ve put alot of work into my own geek credentials. I’ve read Greg Egan and Peter F Hamilton as well as sitting through the clunky low budget 1980s TV series Blake’s 7 (the joys of which could fill another post).
Today has special significance on the geek calender. It marks the 100th anniversary of sci-fi cinema. On this day in 1902 Georges Melies’ A Trip to the Moon was released. The 14 minute feature was regarded as one of the most technically innovative of its time.
In this era of cutting edge CGI and mind- blowing blockbusters like Avatar, its all to easy to smile at the quaintness of this pioneering piece. I’d like to pose the question “how far have we come really?” I know that the Fi in Sci-Fi stands for fiction. This stuff is not documentary film-making and as such audiences should suspend disbelief, relax and be entertained. However some of the story lines of recent years are so dumb as to make hitting the moon in the eye with a tin can rocket ship seem completely plausible. To celebrate 100 years science fiction movies here is a list of my Top 5 silliest Sci-Fi moments.
5) The Empire Strikes Back – Imperial Walkers
Upon discovering that the rebels are camped out on the ice planet Hoth what does the evil Empire decide to do? Does it efficiently nuke the be-jeepers out of the enemy base? No it decides to send down these awkward contraptions.
It’s a no brainer that these metallic elephants are going to get tripped up by a Rebel bungy cord. The dark side may be powerful but its certainly not pragmatic.
2) The Empire Strikes Back – The Death Star
There are innumerable issues with the Star Wars series but this one is beyond the pale for me. In the original Star Wars (Ep 4 A New Hope) the rebels locate a design flaw in the Death Star and Luke Skywalker, guided by the Force blows the floating bowling ball to smithereens. If you were an evil galactic warlord wouldn’t this make you stop and re-think your strategy? Apparently not. The Empire goes and re-builds the ruddy thing from scratch. I’d love to know how the project got financed. Was it an IPO underwritten by a conglomerate of investment banks or was it a PPP (Public, Private Partnership)? Either way its ultimate destruction in Ep 6 – Return of the Jedi would be enough to trigger a GFC – Galactic Financial Crisis. Moreover what was the insurance premium on that baby?
Sunshine – Kick Starting The Sun with A Nuke
This 2007 film directed by Danny Boyle (of Olympic Opening ceremony fame) is based on the mother of all stupid premises. In the not too distant future our sun begins to die out and mankind pools its resources to send up a team of scientist to re-ignite it with a nuke. If I have learned one thing from modern sci-fi its that nukes are the solution to everything! Its generally agreed that our sun has 5 billion years to go and if humans are still around there will be SFA we can do about it. This very silly film did have one redeeming feature – Cillian Murphy was particularly attractive as the long haired, rock star physicist.
2. Core – Nuking The Centre of the Earth
For reasons incomprehensible, the Earth’s core has stopped spinning and a team of scientists must drill down to give it the nuking it damn well deserves. This film is littered with absurd moments but the scene where Hilary Swank lands the Space Shuttle in the LA river will remain etched on my memory. Those who can bear the ludicrous plot will be rewarded with a 135 minute perve on the lovely (and in my opinion under- rated) Aaron Eckhart.
1) Independence Day – Alien space crafts accepts floppy disc
I’d like to think of this movie as being so cheesy its good but I can’t quite get there. I went to see it back in 1997 just for the scene where the White House is obliterated. My companion a chemical engineer insisted on commenting on every scientific inaccuracy hence I was subjected to a stream of chatter throughout. For me the film’s pivotal moment where Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum upload a virus infected floppy disc into the alien mother craft’s CPU is the ultimate in sci-fi stupidity. These aliens have traversed the universe leaving death and destruction in their wake. They have the technology to defeat the light speed barrier yet they have not even invented the USB drive! Furthermore their system security leaves alot to be desired. Perhaps they need to invest in a copy of Norton anti-virus ? Although my humble intelligence was affronted, it was worth the price of admission to see the White House explode. Also the cheering at the end when an alien ship is grounded next to Sydney Harbor lightened up the experience.
Sci-fi really is a sublimely silly genre but I guess that’s why we love it so much. I’ll be celebrating its 100th birthday with a glass of wine tonight (like I really need a lame excuse) and perhaps a little bit of New Scientist and/or Dr Karl.
Happy Friday and remember to suspend disbelief.