10th: The Signal
The Signal is a disturbing and intriguing ride that will undoubtedly satisfy many sci-fi fans, but for those hoping for an emotional and satisfying tale you’re likely to be disappointed.
What we loved about The Signal was its ambitious exploration of a huge variety of sci-fi themes, often whilst dipping its toe into other cinematic genres. When we watched the trailer we anticipated it would be a pseudo horror-sci-fi-thriller type movie (Alien, The Cave, The Andromeda Strain, etc), but we were pleased to see the film pushed the envelope a little and broke the mould.
As a result there are some genuine moments of suspense and surprise dotted through the film, often mixed with some excellent visuals and cinematography. This builds well for a climactic ending, which we didn’t expect and was satisfying enough to justify the 97 minutes spent.
Unfortunately there are some negatives. Though the film’s short running time gives the movie a fast pace, there are many scenes which tend to hinder this momentum, including ambiguous flashback scenes that often jar with the scenes of action.
The first 15 minutes of the movie are unforgivably dull and could be thrown away or shortened. Understandably introductory scenes such as these are essential in establishing the film’s premise and its characters, but by and large they don’t add to this movie and fail massively in their attempt to engage the viewer emotionally.
The three main characters aren’t completely devoid of life, yet they remain somewhat muted throughout, due in part to the sparse dialogue between them. It’s a shame because the casting and acting aren’t bad, rather the film is let down by a script that appears to have been written with the action and story in mind. The characters and love-story on the other hand seem shoehorned in afterwards.
Movie Worth Watching
The Signal is a movie worth watching, memorable for its original story, tension and unexpected twists … just sadly not its characters. This ambitious, promising movie that manages to strike the right balance between innovation and creative use of traditional motifs still checkmates itself in the end, leaving one with a nagging feeling that one has somehow been duped. That would, of course, require a second viewing—and maybe this is what the producers eventually counted on.
One has to acknowledge the brave attempt of putting together an intelligent sci-fi thriller on a shoestring budget. The movie “Automata” boasts an international team mostly from Spanish-speaking countries, excellent atmosphere and special effects, and manages to pull off an intriguing stunt, tackling tried-and-true topic: in a dystopian society 30 years from now, the Earth has been reduced to a wasteland where only 0.3% of the population managed to survive, blithely enclosed in their sparse, walled-up cities, clinging to the illusion of a secure “civilized” life.
There are robots outnumbering humans to do the menial work, from acting as drivers and butlers to welding and reinforcing the city walls, kept under control by two “protocols” built into their programs: never harm life, and never attempt to repair or upgrade themselves or a fellow automaton. The robots are leased by a company that has insurance-claim problems, once one of the protocols appears to be broken. An insurance agent is required to investigate.
The premises are provocative: how much can humans rely on their own technology to clean up a mess they themselves had created by relying too much on technology? The robots are far from they are pitifully vulnerable clunkers, but have lightning-fast reactions when it comes to protecting human life.
What kind of a life are humans clinging to, now that the entire planet has become a searing desert soaked occasionally in acid rain and daily doses of solar radiation? At what point do robots cross the threshold of self-awareness, of self-reliance, and of self-determination, disregarding their programs? In other words, where is the line they need to cross in order to become alive?
8th: Blade Runner
This is a slow moving sci-fi film but it has great themes. It’s about a man in the police force who’s hired to kill 4 murderous replicants. It’s mostly slow-paced but its engaging climax and great production choices are what makes it such a masterpiece. Its themes require audience’s to think rather than experience. The voice overs are unnecessary but later cuts are devoid of them.
Ridley Scott has proved to be a visionary artist here by producing a bleak society where it’s always dark and raining. Its climax serves as an iconic portrayal of “man vs. machine”. Its climax is very moving and engaging and it’s one of the more memorable scenes from the 80’s. Then at the last shot, the movie pulls the rug out from under you.
I liked the cinematography. It made the movie look bleak and it made the society look like it was dwindling. The acting was strong on all parts especially coming from Harrison Ford. Because of this movie’s production choices, I can see why it’s as famous as it is today. Unfortunately, it failed at the box office probably because it came out 2 weeks later than E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. But it has become a cult classic and today it’s regarded as of the best sci-fi and neo-noir films.
The mise-en-scene of the film has a Gothic quality to it which really leaves us with an unpleasant taste in our mouth. It fits into the noir aspect of the film since it is so dark, but it also has a really creepy quality to it which the film does not need. In scenes revolving around Sebastian, the man creates these “friends” for himself, these living puppets in a sense, which underscores the motif in the film of playing God, or creating life.
The replicant Pris seems to blend in with these creations since she looks otherworldly, with white makeup covering her face, black around the eyes, hair almost as light as her makeup. It’s like she is from the circus, which does not belong in a movie revolving around city life.
Perhaps the mise-en-scene will grow on us over time; we hated it on first viewing, but I realize it adds to the dark tone of the movie and is fitting. In a final fight between the Blade Runner and Roy, Roy shows compassion and helps Deckard to live since he is about to die, but we have no idea when Roy is meant to die, just that his life is running out due to a four year lifespan.
While he gives a brilliant monologue, Roy dies with no preparation for the audience. We might have viewed Roy with more empathy if we knew he was going to die in a matter of minutes, but it is still a powerful death.
The movie has a brilliant ending in which an origami unicorn is placed in Deckard’s place. It is said that replicants have built-in memories, and earlier in the film he dreams of a unicorn. The cop knowing about the unicorn suggests that Deckard is perhaps a replicant himself, which is a brilliant ending which gives the film a whole new meaning.
7th: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The film revolves around astronaut Dr. Heywood Floyd (played by Keir Dullea) and HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain). The film begins with a bunch of apes discovering a black monolith which bestows them with the “ability” of intelligence, after that fast-forwarding 4 million years when humans discover another monolith under the lunar surface. I will stop here now, so I won’t spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it yet and IF you haven’t seen it yet, go and watch it NOW.
HAL was created by people whose self image is tragically like the Grand Canyon from their real violent selfish nature. HAL was programmed by people who have multiple personalities their public personas which sadly hide always the violent animals who need good consciences to sleep well at night. As revealed in 2010 by Chandra this is why HAL goes crazy not being able to satisfy both perfect information processing and imitating humans’ duplicity.
The film’s visual narrative is unparalleled; it is primarily a lesson in human nature as was Strangelove and Orange. Even Barry Lyndon focuses on the utter irrationality of ambition and greed; when Barry achieves nirvana he is bored out of his mind. Also the joys of managing all that wealth never entered his head.
He who possesses is himself possessed as Nietzsche said. The film will always stand alone as the one of a kind masterpiece that it is. I think it should close with the essence of the film as spoken by the master Richard Strauss is giving tribute to, it contains the whole film in a microcosm.