Arrival – A Case of Déjà vu

The Spectatorial

arrival-movie-poster

Walking into Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, I only knew a little about the movie. I knew that it was based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang which I have not read (it’s on the shelf). I knew that it was starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. I was pleasantly surprised to see Forest Whitaker around the ten minute mark. I knew this was going to be a movie about first contact with aliens. And yet as the movie began, I couldn’t help but feel I’d seen this all before. I mean that as the highest of praise, incidentally.

Twelve alien space ships land on Earth. Nobody knows why. Professor of linguistics “Louise Banks” (Amy Adams) is recruited by the US government and sent to the alien arrival sight in Montana, where she is partnered with “Ian…

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Ex_Machina – I am become Death

The Spectatorial

Somewhere in the wilderness of Alaska there is a house, and inside that house are four people. At least one of these people is not human, but a robot. Over the course of a single week, the occupants must determine if this robot is a living, thinking thing, or just an illusion of consciousness.

This is the barest plot description possible of Alex Garland’s Ex_Machina, a film with an incredibly tight cast including only four actors (only three of whom have speaking roles) who appear in only a single setting throughout the film. The film is not only entertaining, tense, intelligent, and beautifully shot, but it might also just be the best philosophical movie about robots since Blade Runner.

In the not so distant future, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is an employee of Bluebook, the biggest and most powerful internet search engine in the world. When Caleb wins a…

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The Flash Season One: “Run, Barry, Run!”

The Spectatorial

the flash photo

“Life is locomotion… If you’re not moving, you’re not living.”

So begins the famous motto of the comic book hero the Flash, and when adopting the story of Barry Allen for the small screen, it’s clear that this motto was taken to heart. With apparently no fear that it will run out of stories, The Flash ran through its first season at breakneck speed.

When Barry Allen was a little boy in Central City, he saw his mother, Nora (Michelle Harrison), be murdered in a yellow ball of light, and his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp) was charged with her murder. Barry goes to live with his parent’s friend, police detective Joe West (the amazing Jesse L. Martin), and Joe’s daughter Iris West (Candice Patton).

Fifteen years later, a bunch of scientists at a place called S.T.A.R. Labs blow up something called a particle accelerator, Barry gets struck by lightning…

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Almost Human: Synthetic Soul

The Spectatorial

ah-poster-sized Image from yvrshoots.com

Created by J. H. Wyman and J. J. Abrahams, Almost Human was a science fiction television show that lasted only one season on Fox—because if there is one thing Fox knows how to do, it’s cancel great sci-fi hits before their time.

The premise is as follows: In 2048, the uncontrollable evolution of science and technology has caused crime rates to rise an astounding 400%. To combat this, the overwhelmed police force has implemented a new policy that pairs every human police officer with a combat-model android.

The series follows John Kennex (Karl Urban), a police detective who lost his leg in battle and who wakes up from a coma to a world where having a robot partner is now mandatory. Extremely distrustful of robotics, including his own cybernetic leg, Kennex is first partnered with a standard issue logic-based MX robot, but after it annoys him, he

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God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

The Spectatorial

slaughterhouse cover (2) Image from amazon.com

“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”

These are the words that begin Kurt Vonnegut’s great 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, also known as The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. This is not Vonnegut’s only work of science fiction; indeed, it is not even his only good one. But of all his novels, Slaughterhouse-Five has perhaps best stood the test of time.

This is a book about a man named Billy Pilgrim, a soldier in World War II, who is time-traveling up and down his own personal timeline, from his childhood to his old age and his time as an optometrist; from being a soldier in the Second World War to his kidnapping by aliens. But even with all this mayhem of time travel and aliens, Slaughterhouse-Five never loses sight of what it is truly about: the firebombing of the city of Dresden in WWII.

Vonnegut…

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No Capes! An Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels of the Non-Superhero Variety

The Spectatorial

If you’ve read my previous articles for TheSpectatorial, you may have picked up on the fact that I like comic books. I think the graphic novel is a fantastic vehicle with which to tell or devour stories. But there is one thing that prevents a lot of people from being sucked into this great medium: capes. There is an idea that comic books are about superheroes, and superhero stories might not be for everyone. That’s okay! I’m here to tell you that there are entire worlds of books out there for you to explore! There are literary graphic novels! Independent, creator-owned comics! And they’re great.

The literary/alternative graphic novel is not exactly new, and whether you know it or not, has been seeping into the public conscious for years. If you haven’t come across the books themselves, then you have almost certainly come into contact with their small/big…

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Reach for the Stars! Or in Defence of Science Fiction Literature

The Spectatorial

“I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long—my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

These were a few of the words spoken by long-time science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin upon accepting the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

It was a throwaway opening to an acceptance speech that was ultimately about the battle of art and literature against consumerism and capitalism. It was an admirable, moving speech. But what truly struck me was this opening line.

I saw it as a rallying cry, a summons to battle against those who would deny the importance of science fiction as literature. Because the sad truth is, those people…

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I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts… But Flying Saucers Give Me Chills!

The Spectatorial

spec illustration - alien Illustration by Lorna Antoniazzi

Scary stories have been a staple of popular culture since there has been popular culture. To be spooked, thrilled, horrified, and afraid has been at the centre of fiction for a long time.

Scary stories have always been a reflection of things that we fear in the real world. This is why for so long scary stories were about ghosts, monsters, and the supernatural. People were afraid of monsters. Stories about ghosts gave us chills, vampire stories convinced us that we should eat more garlic, Frankenstein’s monster reminded us that science is terrifying.

But now? What are these monsters now that we’ve lost our fear of them? Classic monsters are now often represented as antiheroes or love interests. We see them as the underdog, with the trait that originally made them scary now being used metaphorically to represent real issues. Ghosts often represent isolation—vermin to be sucked…

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