woensdag 30 juli 2014

It's raining news, hallelujah!



Comic-Con made sure there was plenty of news to post this last week. Here's some of my more recent contributions to MovieScene's ever growing archives:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156694/comic-con_laatste_concept_art_posters_avengers_2_

I already commented on these Avengers: Age of Ultron concept art posters before, so I'll skip that for these latest one-sheet releases, which finally complete the whole picture (see above). There's not much to say about these Hulk and Thor posters, as they add little of novelty value to the project as a whole. Save for the colour of the Hulk's pants maybe, which has finally traded in the dark blue of the previous movie for the iconic pink everybody associates with the character.

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156693/comic-con_gunn_terug_voor_regie_guardians_of_the_galaxy_2

This too comes as little of a surprise considering the overwhelmingly positive feedback in prerelease and press showings for the Guardians' first adventure, set to debut worldwide in two weeks. Of course it will remain to be seen whether enough audiences will connect with this oddball intergalactic team of rogues to make Marvel the big bucks as the studio is now preparing for. However, since there's little else of consequence released in theaters this upcoming month, I think it's guaranteed this next entry in Marvel's Phase 2 will do tremendously well at the box office. Which only works in director James Gunn's favour. At this moment, Marvel will stick to directors who have proven their worth and can smoothly work with the studio without creative issues, considering the woes which have befallen Ant-Man's production of late after its director resigned, which continues to have serious ramifications for the project. Stability is now Marvel's prime concern, and when that aspect is paired with profit there's no reason why a capable director shouldn't be rehired to make the second installment turn out as good, if not better, than its predecessor. So go, Gunn!




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156718/comic-con_toekomstige_tegenstanders_godzilla_bekend

It seems Gareth Edwards also aims for stability when it comes to his blockbuster success, the rebooted Godzilla. Fans praised the first film's take on the titular character, but proved less enthusiastic when it came to his antagonists, a pair of mutated prehistoric giant bugs invented solely for this film. They did their job serving as cannon fodder for the King of Monsters though, but now it's time to raise the bar. And what better way to do so than by also rebooting his classic gallery of adversaries? General audiences won't mind whatever creature gets hammered by the Big G (or the occasional vice versa), as long as they get enough bang for their bucks. If there's one thing Edwards showed with his first Godzilla feature, it's that he too is an avid fan of the original Japanese films. So it comes as little surprise that he opts to reintroduce everybody's favorite Godzilla enemies: the mythical giant bug Mothra, the humongous Pterodactyl Rodan (both characters got their own movies too back in the days) and last but not least, Gojira's prima nemesis, the three headed armoured space dragon King Ghidorah. Hopefully Edwards won't play all his cards all at once, but distributes the dose of retro monsters a bit evenly for the already announced pair of sequels, so as to prevent Kaiju overkill in Godzilla 2. As superhero movies have showed of late, there's such a thing as too many cool characters in a single film making a mess of the story. Of course, the Godzilla movies are all about characters making a mess of things while the story is subservient to such rampage, but it can't hurt to save your strongest assets for later.



http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156717/comic-con_kong_wederom_king

And with the renewed interest in giant monsters comes word that Hollywood doesn't mean to keep that other royal creature dead for long. King Kong too will soon be seen again on the big screen where he belongs, but not in another remake. Which is a good thing, as the last one was produced less than a decade ago and proved to be quite a memorable rehash compared to most of them, so there wouldn't be a need to retell that classic Beauty and the Beast tale just yet. So it seems a prequel is the route the studio chooses, which is also not the most exciting notion to my mind. Do we need to know how Kong became King of Skull Island? It kinda seems a given: it's survival of the fittest and Kong fits that description best, killing every sinister subject that defies his will. There doesn't seem to be much more to it. Of course you can introduce another group of people stumbling on the island and exploring its monster infested interior, getting into conflict with the giant gorilla. Heck, you could even throw another pretty girl into the mix. The result would be predictable though, as we all know how Kong came to his eventual demise, and we never cared as much about the human characters' plight as we did about the ape's. Even though I loved the various incarnations of Skull Island (as I'm a big sucker for monster movies), this project makes me hesitant. That said, it's produced by the same studio - not Peter Jackson's - as the current Godzilla franchise is. Do I smell a potential crossover here?



http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156733/comic-con_trailer_the_hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies

Speaking of Peter Jackson, he too has a little franchise in the works, and it is coming to an end. A dramatic and emotionally charged end, the new trailer would seem to indicate. Not to mention epic. Needless to say this trailer got me super stoked for the final Hobbit film, which I already was to begin with (yay, Hollywood hype effectively working its magic for five more months!). Parallells with that other closing chapter of a Middle-Earth movie trilogy were bound to be drawn, and the trailer capitalizes on that sentiment by adding just another link with PJ's Lord of the Rings films in the shape of Pippin's tearjerking Home is Behind song playing over the imagery. It's a nice touch, though it hammers the point home harder than might be wise. Nevertheless, what's to dislike in this trailer? Big battles, a giant dragon (bound to be killed off in the first 20 minutes of the film due to the way the book is adapted, but still), all kinds of intriguing cultures and creatures clashing and a top cast bringing it all to life. As I'm not a Tolkien purist, I won't complain about some of the additions the writers made to the story, like that car chase over ice. Keeps some surprises to the whole if you already read the book. But what do we have to look forward to when it's all over? When Lord of the Rings ended, we had The Hobbit still to come (though that took nine effing years!). But could this truly be the end of our cinematic adventures in Middle-Earth? What do we do with ourselves then?



http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156732/comic-con_tarantino_bevestigt_tweede_poging_hateful_eight

I knew it! You don't brisquely cancel a whole movie, pre-production already in progress, just because someone leaks a script. Screenplays get leaked online all the time. When any movie hits theaters, few people lack the chance to get to look the whole story up on the Internet if they so choose. Which most folks don't, because they want to see it in theaters anyway. When Tarantino first scrapped the project, he stated he might publish it in book form. That would have been the true waste, as we already have a downloadable written version of this story online thanks to that leak. But in Tarantino's case, it's the filmed version we want. Why read that book if the alternative is another one of his expertly written motion pictures starring a great cast determined to make it work? So it was a given Tarantino would decide to make that film sooner rather than later after all. Which makes me wonder whether his whole tantrum about the affair, or even the affair itself, wasn't just some big publicity stunt to create public awareness and interest for The Hateful Eight. Maybe it was just a hateful Tarantino getting in the right mood to direct the project.



zondag 27 juli 2014

Today's Article: 'It's a mad house!': de dystopische sciencefictionfilm 1968-1977, Part 6

 


Paragraaf 3.1: Milieuproblematiek in historische context

Een thema dat de gemoederen sterk bezig hield vanaf het midden van de jaren zestig is milieuproblematiek. Het was grotendeels een nieuw thema, hoewel het geïnspireerd werd door de werken van filosofen en schrijvers van eerdere eeuwen, zoals Thomas Malthus en Henry Thoreau, die al spraken over behoud van en respect voor de natuurlijke orde.1 De deplorabele staat van het milieu werd in het midden van de twintigste eeuw langzaamaan erkend, niet alleen door de ervaringen van burgers, maar ook dankzij toonaangevende academische studies, die wezen op de urgentie van het probleem: als er niet snel iets aan de milieuproblematiek gedaan zou worden, dan zou dit op den duur rampzalige gevolgen hebben voor de mensheid. Drie thema's, allen een kleiner onderdeel van de milieuproblematiek als geheel en onderling verbonden, speelden een prominente rol in de discussie over de staat van de wereld, zowel in de toekomst als in het heden: overbevolking, de toenemende schaarste van natuurlijke bronnen (inclusief voedsel) en vervuiling. 
 
Door alle ophef die in korte tijd ontstaan was over het milieu, is het niet vreemd dat ook het sciencefictiongenre zich met het thema bezighield, wat leidde tot 'environmental science fiction'. Dit subgenre toonde het publiek een uitvergroting van verschillende milieuproblemen die destijds veelbesproken werden en plaatste de staat van het milieu in een dystopische context. Het sciencefictiongenre sprong op de bovengenoemde thema's in, soms allen tegelijkertijd, om werelden te schetsen waarin het milieu dankzij de mens zodanig achteruit gegaan is dat ook het voortbestaan van de mensheid zelf erdoor wordt bedreigd (zie paragraaf 3.2). Immers, de verpesting van het milieu kan ook onze eigen leefomgeving schaden, zoals al decennia lang bekend was: eerdere incidenten, zoals de 'Dust Bowl' in de jaren dertig, wezen op de schadelijke effecten die menselijk ingrijpen in het ecosysteem kon hebben. Ondanks eerdere milieuproblemen duurde het echter tot de jaren zestig voordat men met een serieuze blik tegen milieuproblematiek aan begon te kijken.2 Deze blik was bovendien massaal: milieubesef speelde nu bij een groot deel van de Westerse bevolking, terwijl eerdere milieuproblemen en het besef hiervan hoofdzakelijk op regionaal niveau speelden.3
 
Wat veroorzaakte deze nieuwe interesse in het milieu en de staat van de natuur? 'Environmentalism' (zoals deze interesse aangeduid wordt) was slechts één van de vele uitingen van de enorme culturele en sociale veranderingen in de Westerse samenleving in de jaren zestig.4 In dit specifieke geval stuurden twee verschillende factoren de groei van milieubesef dat typerend is voor dit tijdperk aan. De eerste was economisch. Economie en milieu zijn van oudsher met elkaar in conflict geweest, waarbij de wil om het milieu te helpen overwegend ondergeschikt aan economische belangen leek (tot op de dag van vandaag). Het belang van het milieu is leuk en aardig, maar menselijke belangen en vooruitgang hebben voorrang (ook al zijn mens en milieu met elkaar verbonden). In de loop van de jaren vijftig en zestig had de westerse economie echter weinig te klagen. In tegenstelling tot de periode voor de Tweede Wereldoorlog ging het goed met de economische groei, wat leidde tot een niet eerder behaald niveau van welvaart. En ondanks de Koude Oorlog, inclusief conflicten in Korea (en later Vietnam), waren er geen grootschalige militaire conflicten of andere problemen die de aandacht van het publiek opeisten. In feite werd milieuproblematiek nu een issue omdat men er, letterlijk, 'tijd voor over had': want de welvaart zorgde voor meer vrije tijd en daardoor meer openlucht-recreatie, waardoor de mensen meer tijd in de natuur doorbrachten en zodoende meer interesse in de toestand van deze natuur kregen.5 Vergelijkbaar werd milieuproblematiek in de loop van de jaren zeventig als issue 'naar de zijlijn' geschoven, toen de aandacht gericht werd op nieuwe crises, zoals een toenemende economische recessie en de uit de hand lopende situatie in Vietnam. Echter, dankzij de basis die in de jaren zestig gelegd werd en de urgentie waarmee milieuproblematiek werd geportretteerd, zou het niet meer volledig verdwijnen, maar bleef het een belangrijk issue (hoewel gesteld kan worden dat het nooit de aandacht kreeg die het nodig had, aangezien veel milieuproblemen nog steeds voortduren). 
 
De tweede factor was sociaal en betrof het publiek dat het meest betrokken was bij milieuproblematiek, namelijk de jongere generatie, de babyboomers geboren in het decennium na de Tweede Wereldoorlog. In tegenstelling tot eerdere generaties hadden deze jongeren geen ervaring met economische depressies of oorlogen. Zacht gezegd ging het deze generatie voor de wind: ze hadden alles wat ze nodig hadden, inclusief toegang tot onderwijs. Via dit onderwijs kwam deze generatie sneller in contact met de veelal academische werken die betrekking hadden op milieugerichte issues. Bovendien zette deze generatie zich in de loop van de jaren zestig af tegen hun ouders, waarbij culturele stromingen ontstonden die andere waarden dan ouderlijk gezag en materialisme hoog in het vaandel droegen (de counter-culture), waaronder spiritualiteit en het hiermee gepaard gaande respect voor de natuur (onder andere de hippie-beweging).6 Tegenover de waarden van de maatschappij van hun ouders stelde deze generatie een nieuwe set waarden op, met een nieuw perspectief op de natuur dat zich niet richtte op het nut van de natuur voor de mens, maar de plaats van de mens in de natuur: Pat Brereton noemt het 'a culture of alternative values based in nature'.7 De staat van het milieu werd aangegrepen als een punt van demonstratie: de oudere generatie had de jongere een ongezonde wereld gegeven, de jongere generatie moest nu actie ondernemen om het tij te keren. Natuurlijk was dit niet het enige punt waarop de jeugd zich richtte, maar het was een belangrijk thema in meerdere jeugdculturen.8 Net als voor de vorige factor geldt dat ook hier milieu als thema qua publieke interesse ingeruild kon worden voor andere, meer actuele thema's (hoofdzakelijk Vietnam), en op den duur naar de achtergrond verdween, maar aanwezig bleef.




Het werk dat de toon zette voor de publicaties die erop volgden en de publieke opinie richting milieubesef stuurden, was een boek getiteld Silent Spring, geschreven door Rachel Carson, gepubliceerd in 1963.9 Het werk handelde over de schade die pesticiden aanrichtten op zowel de natuur als de mens zelf. Uiteraard was het niet het eerste werk dat een milieuprobleem aan de kaak stelde met de bedoeling mensen erover te informeren. Echter, het was wel het eerste werk dat op een dusdanig grote schaal gelezen werd dat het de publieke opinie ervan overtuigde om de overheid aan te sporen actie te ondernemen om het gevaar van pesticiden terug te dringen. Carsons werk werd gevolgd door verschillende andere invloedrijke studies, vooral vanuit academische disciplines, die de aandacht richtten op een hoeveelheid milieuproblemen, grootschalig en kleinschalig, en mensen ervan overtuigden dat onze wereld er niet best aan toe was: dit was ook het specifieke doel van zulke boeken.10
 
Hoewel dergelijke studies hielpen om aandacht voor milieuproblemen te vergroten, waren de oplossingen die auteurs na Carson boden niet altijd realistisch. In 1968 verscheen het boek The Population Bomb van Dr. Paul Ehrlich, dat handelde over de verschrikkingen die ongecontroleerde bevolkingsgroei zou veroorzaken. Ehrlich meende dat overbevolking op den duur zou leiden tot de ondergang van de menselijke beschaving, omdat het gebrek aan natuurlijke bronnen en voedselschaarste zouden leiden tot extreme hongersnood en oorlogen. Het boek hanteert echter een overdreven pessimistische, alarmerende toon, en sommige toekomstige situaties die Ehrlich schetst zijn te fantastisch voor woorden, zoals het wegens voedseltekort uitbreken van een nucleaire oorlog in 1979 die twee-derde van de Aarde zo verwoest dat alleen kakkerlakken overleven. Het leek in 1968 onwaarschijnlijk dat de wereldbevolking in tien jaar tijd zo zou groeien dat voedseltekort in 1979 een atoomoorlog zou uitlokken. Bovendien bood Ehrlichs werk rigoureuze, onrealistische oplossingen om overbevolking tegen te gaan, zoals het met militaire middelen afdwingen van het tegengaan van bevolkingsgroei in ontwikkelingslanden door machtige landen als de VS.11 In zijn poging om de oorzaken van overbevolking te duiden, schopte Ehrlich tegen een hoop heilige huisjes aan, inclusief religie, wetenschap en de Westerse regeringen: als de mens bewaard wou blijven tegen de effecten van ongebreidelde bevolkingsgroei, dan zou de internationale samenleving grondig moeten veranderen. Uiteraard bleef zijn boek niet gespeend van harde kritiek, zoals De Steiguer aangeeft:

The Population Bomb had quite simply savaged some of the most cherished values of western culture. Ehrlich was not asking the public merely for a little fine tuning to resolve the problems of population growth and environmental degradation. Instead, he was calling for a major societal restructuring.12

Het is niet merkwaardig dat Ehrlichs opvattingen onder vuur kwamen te liggen, hoofdzakelijk vanuit de religieuze hoek die hij aanviel, en ook door mede-academici fel tegengesproken werd. Ondanks begrijpelijke kritiek bleek The Population Bomb een bestseller, wat ertoe leidde dat de waarschuwing voor overbevolking verspreid werd onder een groot publiek. De boodschap, het waarschuwen van het publiek voor milieuproblemen, was de hoofdzaak voor dergelijke boeken. Zoals in de volgende paragraaf beschreven zal worden is deze situatie vergelijkbaar met milieuproblematiek in het sciencefictiongenre, waarin de getoonde doemscenario's ook niet allemaal even realistisch zijn, maar het publiek desondanks op de hoogte gebracht wordt van bestaande problemen. 
 
Naast Ehrlichs sensationele werk waren er ook meer wetenschappelijk verantwoorde studies over vergelijkbare onderwerpen die voor de nodige opschudding zorgden. Hieronder bevond zich The Limits of Growth (1972), een projectie van een wereldmodel in toekomstige jaren. Deze studie werd uitgevoerd door de Club van Rome, een internationale denktank (bestaande uit wetenschappers en staatslieden) die met dit onderzoek wilde voorspellen welke effecten bevolkingsgroei en de stand van natuurlijke bronnen zouden hebben op de menselijke ontwikkeling.13 De conclusies van The Limits of Growth waren zorgwekkend en kwamen op lange termijn grotendeels overeen met die van Ehrlich: ongeremde bevolkingsgroei en de hiermee gepaard gaande vervuiling en schaarste zouden verregaande nadelige consequenties hebben. Grenzen aan de menselijke groei waren onvermijdelijk en moesten een internationaal punt van zorg worden.14 Zowel The Population Bomb als The Limits of Growth gaven 'critical dystopias' weer: pessimistische toekomstvoorspellingen waarvoor het publiek moest waken opdat ze geen bewaarheid zouden worden. Inhoudelijk verschillen deze toekomstbeelden niet veel van de dystopia's die het sciencefictiongenre schetste, met het verschil dat de wetenschappelijke onderbouwing (zelfs in Ehrlichs geval) in deze boeken een sterker gevoel van urgentie leverden dan het werk van de filmindustrie. 
 
De werken van Carson, de Club van Rome en andere auteurs in deze periode hadden een blijvende invloed op hun lezers, bezorgde burgers die de overheid ertoe aanzetten actie te ondernemen om het menselijk leefmilieu niet langer geschonden te laten worden. In de loop van de zeventiger jaren werd er een aantal belangrijke wetten vervaardigd die het milieu moesten beschermen, zoals de National Environmental Policy Act (1970) en de Endangered Species Act (1973).15 Via de hierboven genoemde studies kreeg het publiek 'environmental awareness', wat niet alleen leidde tot verbeterde wetgeving omtrent het milieu, maar ook het ontstaan van organisaties die het publiek met hun activiteiten blijvend op de hoogte hielden van het milieu en de noodzaak ervoor te vechten, zoals de Earth Day festivals (eerste festival 1970) en Greenpeace (opgericht in 1971). 
 
Het is belangwekkend om de rol van technologie bij deze milieuproblematiek te betrekken. Technologie is immers in zekere zin verantwoordelijk voor het veroorzaken van milieuproblematiek. Technologische ontwikkeling zorgt voor een hogere levensstandaard en de welvaart die daarmee gepaard gaat, maar tegelijk ook voor het verlagen van de natuurlijke standaard, dankzij het in cultuur brengen van de natuur voor uitsluitend menselijke belangen. Hoewel technologische ontwikkeling en bevolkingsgroei niet per se samengaan – immers, de bevolking stijgt het snelst in de Derde Wereld onder bevolkingsgroepen die weinig technologie tot hun beschikking hebben – zorgt de hogere levensstandaard die technologie biedt voor meer consumentisme en industrie en de daarmee gepaard gaande vervuiling. Bepaalde technologie, zoals pesticiden of atoomenergie, vormt een grote bedreiging voor het mondiale milieu. Het milieu lijkt weinig baat te hebben bij de menselijke ontwikkeling.

Echter, sinds de jaren zestig is het milieubesef van de mens toegenomen, en daarmee ook diens bereidheid milieuproblemen op te lossen met behulp van technologie. Technische ontwikkeling kan immers ook ten bate van het milieu ingezet worden. Technologie helpt bij het creëren van schone energiebronnen of bij het tegengaan of opruimen van vervuiling. Dit 'technologisch optimisme' is echter frequent gebruikt als argument om niet te stoppen met vervuilen, aangezien technologie alles wel op zou kunnen ruimen.16 Wat dit betreft is het eens temeer een kwestie van hoe technologie gebruikt wordt, en kan niet de vinger naar technologie an sich gewezen worden: technologie is niet de boosdoener, de mens die haar misbruikt is dat. 



 
Het is niet verwonderlijk dat men vertrouwen plaatste in technologie, die milieuproblemen kon oplossen. Desondanks waarschuwden schrijvers het publiek dat er niet teveel vertrouwen in technologie geplaatst moet worden. Technologie alleen kan de problemen niet simpelweg oplossen, hiervoor is internationale bereidheid nodig, zelfs een algehele verandering in het denken over de menselijke rol in het mondiale milieu. Een factor die een aanzet gaf tot een dergelijke verandering in menselijk denken was de 'Blue Marble', de eerste foto van de Aarde gemaakt vanuit de ruimte (gemaakt in 1972).17 Deze foto is symbolisch voor de mogelijkheden van technologie, maar tegelijkertijd haar falen. De mensheid is erin geslaagd de ruimte in te gaan om de wereld in zijn geheel te kunnen overzien. De Aarde blijkt een afgebakend gebied, dat niet oneindig te exploiteren valt: zij is één geheel, en haar ecosysteem wordt in zijn geheel bedreigd door de mensheid. De wereld die de foto toont geeft aan dat er geen fysieke grenzen zijn op Aarde, maar toch kan de mens het niet eens worden over de internationale bestrijding van milieuproblemen. Technologische ontwikkeling is onvoldoende zolang het menselijk denkkader over het milieu niet mee ontwikkelt.18

Wat de milieuproblematiek immers zo problematisch maakt, is haar internationale karakter. De natuur houdt zich niet aan menselijke grenzen, maar is een wereldwijd systeem. Zodoende zal de mensheid op globaal niveau moeten samenwerken om milieuproblemen op te lossen. De verdeeldheid van de mensheid in naties of machtsblokken vormt daarbij een groot obstakel. Het is niet voldoende als enkele landen ecologisch gaan handelen terwijl andere landen ongestoord doorgaan met vervuilen. De bereidheid van landen om samen te werken tegen milieuproblemen liet in de jaren zeventig (en nog steeds) te wensen over, destijds sterker dankzij het antagonisme in de Koude Oorlog. Technologie kan in een dergelijk klimaat niet effectief genoeg de milieuproblematiek bestrijden.
De dystopische, milieubewuste sciencefictionfilms tonen werelden waarin technologie grote mogelijkheden heeft geschapen (ruimtevaart, robots, etc.), maar waarin technologie tegelijk gefaald heeft om milieuproblematiek aan te pakken. De in deze films getoonde problemen zijn grensoverschrijdend, wat erop wijst dat niet de techniek, maar de mens heeft gefaald: de mensheid kan niet samenwerken, waardoor de problemen aanwezig bleven en verergerden, en de hele mensheid hebben getroffen. 
 

1De Steiguer 1997: p. 4
2De Steiguer 1997: p. 1
3Pepper, David. The roots of modern environmentalism. Worcester: Croom Helm Ltd., 1984: p. 15-16
4De Steiguer 1997: p. 18
5De Steiguer 1997: p. 22
6Pepper 1984: p. 15
7Brereton, Pat. Hollywood Utopia: Ecology in Contemporary American Cinema. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2005: p. 26
8De Steiguer 1997: p. 19, 26 / Pepper 1984: p. 16-17
9Brereton 2005: p. 25 / De Steiguer 1997: p. 1, 29
10De Steiguer 1997: p. 3
11De Steiguer 1997: p. 82-83 / Pepper 1984: p. 20
12De Steiguer 1997: p. 84
13Pepper 1984: p. 22-23
14De Steiguer 1997: p. 138
15De jaren zeventig werden getypeerd door het uitvaardigen van een hoeveelheid wetten en de oprichting van verschillende instituties om het milieu beter te beheren en te beschermen, wat aangeeft hoe zeer het milieu in deze tijd een punt van zorg was. Naast de hier genoemde oprichtingen zagen onder andere ook de 'Environmental Protection Agency', de 'Council on Environmental Quality', de 'Federal Water Pollution Control Act' en de 'Wilderness Act' in de zestiger en zeventiger jaren het levenslicht. De Steiguer 1997: p. 153-154
16Dergelijke argumentatie wordt vooral ingezet door industrie en multinationals, waar financieel belang zwaarder weegt dan de staat van het milieu. Pepper 1984: p. 21
17Brereton 2005: p. 140, 151
18De 'Blue Marble' is een symbool voor de eenheid van de Aarde, inclusief de eenheid van de mens en het milieu, maar ook symbolisch voor de kwetsbaarheid van de planeet. Niet voor niets is zij het symbool van Earth Day: de milieubeweging gebruikte de foto om het menselijk denken over de plaats van de mens op de wereld opnieuw te conceptualiseren, zodat men meer bewust was van de grenzen van de wereld en de grenzen die aan het menselijk gebruik van de wereld gesteld moesten worden. Brereton 2005: p. 152

zaterdag 26 juli 2014

Today's Triple News: Comic-Con comes but once a year




With Comic-Con currently in progression, there's bits of news to post online almost every minute. Of course, not everything is breaking news, and I can't post it all by myself. But I post whatever I can whenever I can, like these few bits of news:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156653/eerste_fotos_en_poster_derde_hobbit

Now that's a damn spectacular teaser poster! While many teaser posters tend to take a rather minimalist (though often inventive) approach to get audiences aware of the impending arrival of the movie in question, this one goes straight for one of the highlights in the movie. It can afford too, since the scene in question, though of major importance and containing some hefty spoilers for those who haven't read the books, takes place early in the movie, with most of the story, including the titular battle, following in its wake. It doesn't give away the outcome of this particular fight - Bard the Bowman versus the humongous dragon Smaug - but makes the inquisitive viewer, especially those who have seen both previous installments, want to see how it ends. Of course, it would seem unlikely Bard stands a chance, but there's been enough small bits of information feeded to audiences in The Desolation of Smaug to let us know even this giant dragon is not wholly invincible. In the meantime, Lake Town burns, just as Smaug promised. That will have consequences, naturally. And that's when the story of this third Hobbit movie really kicks into gear. So expect another three-hour epic fantasy flick in typical Peter Jackson style, laced with neat-o effects and some lovely acting interspersed throughout. As for the first two stills also released here, they aren't nearly as eye catching, but examination of the characters suggests shifting alliances, which might cause them to contain more story information than this poster. It's just not brought in as exciting a manner.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156651/anthony_hopkins_in_hbos_westworld

Another major A-list actor has been added to HBO's repertoire. I'm not talking about Evan Rachel Wood, though I don't mean to negatively critique her fine abilities to act. But hey, she already was an HBO alum thanks to her role in True Blood as a spoiled and childish vampire queen. But Hopkins, one of the greatest and most distinguished British actors ever, a 'Sir' nonetheless... you can't get much better than that for any role, be it on TV or on the big screen. Ten years ago, nobody would have believed someone of such stature would ever bother doing TV. It signifies just how much television has changed in respect as a medium. TV is where the best writing and the best acting is found nowadays, few people will disagree. Hopkins sure wouldn't, considering the praise he put into a letter to Bryan Cranston, telling him how thoroughly impressed he was by his performance on Breaking Bad and admiring the series high quality overall. It seems Hopkins himself caught the television bug as well afterwards. Good for us, as grand actors are never a bad thing in any medium, plus it might balance J.J. Abrams' input on HBO's Westworld. Hopkins is playing a bad guy, something he does even better than anything else he plays (cannibal or otherwise). Wood however gets to play a sympathetic character, and an abused artificial one at that. I am hesitant about the love plot written in for her, but at least it adds a dynamic not seen in the original Westworld, a good but dated Sci-Fi movie in itself. The stakes just got raised for HBO. Fortunately there's money to spare soon, now that both True Blood and Boardwalk Empire are coming to an end. All good things must be replaced by other good things after all.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156689/comic-con_meer_concept_art_voor_avengers_2

No Comic-Con without a comic book movie, preferably one from Marvel. They call this 'concept art', but from the looks of it, all the concepts found in this poster had already been accepted into the movie as a whole. As we have seen in the various behind-the-scenes stills and official photos for Avengers: Age of Ultron, all the Avengers seen on this eight panel picture look almost exactly as they will in the film. With the possible exception of the Vision, as this is the first glimpse of that character we're offered. They stuck close to his looks in the comics, it would appear, though at this angle it's hard to say for sure. The overall shape and colour scheme sure seem to fit. By comparison, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch don't look nearly as trite-but-true to their comic book counterparts, though that's done to make them feel a little more realistic. This Quicksilver looks a heck of a lot different from the one seen in X-Men: Days of Future Past so as to minimize confusion between both incarnations. It's gonna be a hard act to outrun the previous take on Quicksilver, though the presence of his sister (and her eventual husband, artificial and all) will surely be helpful in that regard. As is the suggestion this poster gives this Quicksilver will be much more involved into the superhero action, fighting nasty robots and such. The X-Men Quicksilver just bailed out on that one and let his fellow mutants handle those Sentinels all by themselves...

vrijdag 25 juli 2014

Jurassic Park III: Pteranodon


Year of release: 2001




Description: a medium sized Pterosaur model with a wingspan of almost 40 centimetres. It’s mostly tan coloured, with some brown and green paint on the wings, including a JP III logo on the underside of its left wing. It’s got some black stripes on its back, as well as a dino damage wound: a red spot with some white points in it, making it appear as though this animal has been injured. The head has some orange and dark green spots on it, and its eyes are yellow. Three small fingers stick out of each wing, and it has a very small tail. This Pteranodon has two legs.

Analysis: this is one of the better Pterosaur figures of all the JP toy lines, and certainly one of Hasbro’s best models. It “stands” in a neutral position, unlike most of the Hasbro dinosaur sculpts, so it’s easier to play with. The colouring is good enough; not very detailed, but reminiscent of the colour the Pteranodons in the movie had. It has some moveable body parts, including the legs, but the wings get extra credit: they can move in almost any direction, so that the animal can take on various flying positions. There’s no flapping wing action like the previous Pterosaur models had, but with wings like this, that’s hardly a great loss.
The animal has a biting action: if you press on the crest on his head, the head will move forward and its beak opens, at which point the figure makes a screeching attack noise. A second sound can be heard by pressing the little white button in the middle of the dino damage wound on its back, allowing the figure to make two similar screeching noises.
Unfortunately the creature has a bit of a large belly, but that’s because it needs batteries to produce the sounds. Another little point of irritation is the fact the dino damage wound cannot be covered by a skin patch, like the Kenner dinosaurs featuring similar damage had. Both points are minor nuisances for such a good model.




Playability: the playability is quite high, mostly because of the almost omni-directional wings. The neutral pose it takes on is also a plus in this matter. One of his feet is oddly positioned though, making it appear this animal is pushing off on something. The other foot is positioned more traditionally, and it’s possible to have the Pteranodon clutch human figures with that foot. The two different sounds also enhance the playability possibilities, though playing too rough with this figure is out of the question if you want to keep the electronics working.

Realism: the Pteranodon looks a lot like the Pteranodons featured in JP III, both in shape and colour. It’s a little too large compared to the human figures produced for this toy line though, but that doesn’t really matter. Paleontologically speaking its also relatively accurate, but the legs might be a bit too big, and the arms certainly are too long: the hands (the point where the three fingers stick out of each wing) should be positioned closer to the body.

Repaint: no. This figure would not be repainted either. A repaint was planned for the JP III CamoXtreme line though, but it was unreleased.

Overall rating: 8/10. It’s a very good figure, and certainly one of the more realistic and playable Pterosaurs of the various JP toy lines. It comes recommended and fortunately isn't rare, so be sure to find one yourself, even if you’re not fond of Hasbro’s JP III toy lines, because it’s worth it.

woensdag 23 juli 2014

Today's News: more and more



News just keeps piling up. At times it seems like I'm the only one posting any on MovieScene lately. Which is one of the reasons my blog is witnessing a decrease in updates. Oh well, at least all this news means there is always something to post on my blog when there is time available.

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156615/marvel_voegt_nog_vijf_films_toe_aan_huidige_planning

Seems overkill, to announce movies so far ahead without anything to go on but a title (at least, I hope Marvel has some to fill in those release dates, though they're not spilling those beans just yet), and of course, a plan. However, this is not so much about the movies, as it is a show of strength and confidence. Marvel flexes its muscles to let the world know they're totally prepared to accept DC's recent challenge in annual cinematic universe crafting. DC has so far revealed they're planning ahead up till 2019, now Marvel does the same. You didn't think it was a coincidence this latest planning of the House of Ideas ran until 2019, did you? Plus, DC so far sticks to one movie a year, while Marvel eagerly doubles that amount, and in case of 2017 even triples it. With this slate of release dates, Marvel is making a statement they mean to stay the biggest player in terms of superhero movies. And backed up by the ever expanding might of Disney, they can make good on it. However, unlike DC, Marvel hasn't named any properties yet that can fill those slots. They better put their money where their mouth is soon, because (most) people don't remember release dates, they remember names. Like The Batman in 2019. I wonder what marvel hero gets to go up against that one, DC's strongest franchise still. Ant-Man 2 maybe?




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156632/nieuwe_comic-con_poster_jurassic_world

The first real Jurassic Park poster since 2001. And it's both beautiful and bad news. Of course, this is a great mix between the old - the thrashed Explorer vehicle, the beloved Velociraptor, the Isla Nublar setting - and the new - Jurassic World being built on the bones of the previous park in the background, but it also displays a disturbing, deeply rooted conservative attitude towards the JP dinosaurs. This is 2014. No respectable paleontologist will back that retro dinosaur as being an accurate representation of a Velociraptor. It worked in the early Nineties, but today's Raptors don't have arms like that and they are covered in feathers. However, Colin Trevorrow seems more adamant to recapture the glory of the first Jurassic Park film by reintroducing that vintage dinosaur look than by adhering to one of the elements that made JP great: making realistic animals of what otherwise would have been typical movie monsters. Say about Jurassic Park III's narrative quality what you will, at least it dared to show progression by adding feathered dinosaurs, and thus up-to-date science, to the mix. It would be a definite step back if Trevorrow chickened out on that just because audiences didn't think that much of JP III. Why? Because JP's representation of dinosaurs resonates strongly through popular culture. It's basically the dinosaur franchise that all others tend to copy. So if JP gets it wrong (and they admittedly have a few times), others will copy those mistakes and audiences are spoon fed the wrong notions about actual dinosaur looks and behavior. After two decades, Dilophosaurus is finally showing signs of ridding itself of that nonsensical neck frill and venom spitting action in the collective mind of the general audience. Does Trevorrow mean to reuse such silly concepts too, just because they look cool? If so, Jurassic World's dinosaurs are just that indeed: living theme park monsters, not actual animals. Maybe I'm just jumping to conclusions here though. I know that Raptor image on the poster is copied from a still of the kitchen scene from the first movie. It's probably too early to apply one of the final dinosaur designs for Jurassic World on any promotional material yet. So for now I'll keep my faith in Trevorrow. And I want one of those posters, but I'm not gonna get it as I don't care to visit San Diego just to pick one of these up.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156631/eerste_trailer_the_imitation_game

Benedict Cumberbatch adds another socially awkward genius to his repertoire. This time it's Alan Turing. And once again he excels in playing such a character, it would appear. This trailer makes me very interested about the actual movie. There's some terrific actors in there and a fascinating historical background to serve as a dramatic narrative. I'm not at all familiar with the director - the Norwegian Morten Tyldum - but this type of film seems to suit him. Or the studio's had some great trailer editors working on it, that's also a possibility. And already there is Oscar buzz generated around this film. Kinda obvious; solid actors, war story, gay emotional conflict, all typical Academy Award ingredients. I'm always put off by people dropping the word 'Oscar' around a movie that is still so far from its release date. It goes to show just what a political game the Oscars are. Then again, people suggested Oscar buzz for The Monuments Men well in advance too, but they haven't been doing that again since its release. Was it because it was a disappointing movie, or maybe because there was no homosexual aspect to any of it? Nevertheless, this trailer suggests a good film to me, so until I see it in theaters, that will suffice. But I'm not prematurely jumping on the Oscar bandwagon until the nominations are in. I am increasingly getting in on the Cumberbandwagon though. Ever since Sherlock, I developed a much more appreciative sentiment towards the man, and I'm even willing to forgive him his transgressions partaking in the further exploitation of the Star Trek franchise.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156643/nieuwe_trailer_star_wars_rebels

Speaking of exploitation, Star Wars has experienced that ever since 1978. And since Disney has bought the franchise, exploitation has been turned up a few notches. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Disney scrapped the then running animated series The Clone Wars and is now replacing it by Star Wars Rebels, which is... another animated series from the same creators! And it's set only a few years after Clone Wars, allowing the series to reintroduce some of that show's characters (like Obi-Wan Kenobi, as this new trailer shows). Other than that, the sense of adventure in a war torn galaxy remains the same, though this series does go for a slightly younger target audience. However, both this show and its predecessor feature a young Force sensitive protagonist, while the style of animation hasn't changed a bit. It basically makes you wonder why Disney didn't just pick up with Clone Wars where it left off. It makes little difference to me. I didn't watch Clone Wars, I have little interest in Rebels either. I prefer to stick to the big screen, even though I'm dreading what J.J. Abrams is doing to the franchise.


zondag 20 juli 2014

Today's veritable cascade of news



So much news, so little time to comment on it all here:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156573/lionsgate_maakt_film_over_boston_marathon_aanslag

A typical post 9/11 tale of inspirational courage and the folly of terrorism, if you ask me. Nothing wrong with that, just a fairly predictable event. We've seen movies like these before, and we'll witness them again after each attack on everyday America. I must say, they wasted no time on this one. The Boston Marathon bombing occurred just over a year ago and a movie is already in the works. Can you imagine how quickly the novel it was based on was written and released. By comparison, movies dealing with 9/11 took a lot longer to arrive in theaters, with the best known examples, United 93 and World Trade Center, both being released in 2006. That's a five year gap right there. No offense to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, but 9/11 was naturally a much more shocking and emotionally costly experience for the majority of the American population. Maybe Americans have since gotten used to this sort of thing - which nobody should, of course - and thus need less time to personally deal with the shock of the aftermath of such atrocities. Or maybe Hollywood just takes less time to capitalize on homeland terrorist attacks. For no matter how respectfully and sensitively they handle the subject matter, it's honestly not all about spreading the word of hope when movies like these get made. Money remains ever an objective.




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156575/brochure_jurassic_world_onthult_nieuw_park

Here I go again, spoiling a much anticipated movie for myself by posting new news about it online. Comes with the territory, I won't deny. I'd be pretty lousy at my job as a news editor (voluntary though it may be) if I skipped out on certain bits of news just because I don't want to know about them myself. Especially if they seemingly give away much of the plot of a movie many are anxious to see. Which appears to be just what this bit of marketing for Jurassic World is doing. You've got a list of dinosaurs that could - though not necessarily will - make an appearance, as well as various locations and set-ups that will be seen throughout the movie as the prehistoric inmates chase their human snacks around. And you have the final confirmation of Isla Nublar as the place where it all goes down, as such firmly establishing a link to the first Jurassic Park movie. It's now up to the fans to speculate what areas and species will and won't make it into the final product. I think it's safe to say Metriacanthosaurus won't make an appearance... again, as its existence was also hinted at in the original 1993 movie when Nedry stole its embryo: I'd say this is just a neat little nod to the original film on the writers' part. Similarly, Baryonyx and Suchomimus look so much alike, at least one of them won't make the cut (or maybe both, as each of them also looks a lot like JP III's Spinosaurus). The only species nobody can deny will be used in the final film is Mosasaurus, as the brochure also reveals it has its own underwater observatory, which is just too cool a notion not to make use of. Plus, marine reptiles is something none of the previous movies utilized, so it would make for an action scene the like of which has not been seen before. Of course you can complain about the logistics of acquiring Mosasaur DNA, which I won't (as I know a way they could have gotten hold of that, do you?). Compared to this Jurassic World Lagoon, it's likely we won't be seeing the Aviary, as that concept was already made use of in Jurassic Park III, which would make it repetitive in this scenario. This also makes it less likely we'll be seeing either Pteranodon or Dimorphodon. What we will be seeing is T-Rex, that's a given. Maybe eating rich tourists on the 18-hole golf course, that might be fun. For everything this brochure spoils about the movie, there's an equal amount of information that is left out. For one thing, the genetically enhanced theme park monster super predator - the 'Diabolus Rex', as it was called in previous rumours - discussed by director Colin Trevorrow on earlier occasions is not mentioned here. It's likely they try to keep that a secret for as long as they can, at least to those who have missed the director's notes of two months past. And where's our good ol' pals the Velociraptors in all this?



http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156583/eerste_fotos_ultron_voor_avengers_2

And there's another spoiler for you: the look of the titular villain in the second Avengers installment. Though, if you're a fan of the Marvel comics, it is not that much of a spoiler, as the cinematic Ultron apparently doesn't differ much from the one seen on paper since 1968. More surface detail has been added, making him kinda look like a Michael Bay Decepticon, though most anthropomorphic killer robots tend to look like that, but otherwise he appears to be similar in shape and size to his comic counterpart. Unless he's holding four additional arms or something behind Cap and Iron Man's back, but let's not run rampant in speculation about what we don't get to see based on just this one preview. For in Ultron's case, we'll have to make do with just this single picture for now (nevermind his minions in the background). A few more official movie stills were simultaneously released in this issue of Entertainment Weekly, but they contain little new noteworthy information. We already knew what Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver - the second one on the big screen, and admittedly it's gonna be hard to make us forget Evan Peters' fabulous take on the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past - looked like. We didn't know Don Cheadle was in the film though, likely not only replacing his role as Jim Rhodes, but also as his armoured alter ego War Machine. That's another Avenger to add to the mix, making for a confirmed total of ten. Coupled with at least two baddies (Ultron and Baron Von Strucker) and the continuing S.H.I.E.L.D. shenanigans of Nick Fury, it looks like this is gonna be another crowded superhero epic. But in an ensemble movie, that is to be expected. As long as this movie delivers the same amount of fun as the previous flick did, I can live with some characters taking a backseat. I'm more concerned of weaving the story of Von Strucker's HYDRA plots, which involves the Maximoff twins, seemlessly together with the otherwise apparently unrelated story about Tony Stark designing a robot to assume his mantle of Iron Man, with that thought seriously backfiring on both him and humanity. Which in itself is a fairly natural flow from the events in Iron Man 3 and adequately alters Ultron's origins, as there's no Hank Pym around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as of yet to design the genocidal android, as happened in the comics. I think the writers turned that story in the right direction though, as it now makes sense following on from Iron Man 3. And so far it looks like they're not gonna mess up Ultron as they did the Mandarin. Thankfully!




http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156585/nieuwe_poster_sin_city_2

Good new poster, keeping in touch in terms of style with its predecessors the way we like. Art is not the issue here, connecting the stories is. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is both a prequel and a sequel to the original 2005 movie. On the one hand it tells the story behind Dwight's facial alteration, which precedes his story line in Sin City, where his character was played by Clive Owen as opposed to Josh Brolin, pictured above. On the other, it deals with Nancy's quest for vengeance after Hartigan's demise. As you can see from above, Nancy already took a few hits killing her way to the corrupt top levels to expose the Roarke empire's crimes. At the same time, Hartigan is also seen on the poster, despite his death previously. Judging from what little we saw in the trailer, he's a spectre of his former self, plaguing Nancy's mental health. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is back as well, even though he too failed to live through the events of the previous movie, hinting he'll be part of Dwight's back story, or possibly his own. How to make narrative sense of this all? It seems tough, and as a result I think this movie will serve better as a compendium piece to the first movie than as a standalone film (sucks for new audiences). But hey, as long as the visual flair is as stunning as before and there's plenty of pretty dames and tough men doing some sinning, eh? Let's hope that will be enough. Remember a not so positively received little movie called The Spirit that seemed to think the same thing? You probably don't, nor should you.



http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156609/derde_deel_the_ring_aangekondigd

Do we really need this? Do we really want this? 'No' on both fronts, but does Hollywood really care what we think if there's the possibility of making a little bit more money out of the franchise? There's another 'no' for you. Besides, the Japanese original Ringu had three sequels, so we're still two behind. It's been nearly ten years since the last activity on the American Ring franchise, so it seems overly late for a sequel or a prequel. A reboot seemed more obvious, though I'm glad they didn't opt for that (though they still might). I would have been more glad if they spend their money and effort elsewhere altogether on something more imaginative, but sadly, studio executives always fail to ask me for my opinion first. So far, this has all the makings of a studio cash cow as opposed to an honest attempt of making a worthwhile successor (or predecessor, in terms of story) to the previous two movies. I'd be very surprised if we'll end up seeing Naomi Watts reprise her role for this one. Though that is probably why it's gonna be a prequel, so she won't have to. Smart thinking.

dinsdag 15 juli 2014

Today's News: Hellboy 3 has gone to hell



Sad news today, as this reached my ears and accordingly, my pen:

http://www.moviescene.nl/p/156560/del_toro_ziet_geen_toekomst_voor_hellboy_3

I really hoped a Hellboy 3 would find its way into production some day. Both the director of the first two movies (Guillermo del Toro) and its principal star (Ron Perlman) remained genuinely enthusiastic about making a third movie, which is not something you often see in Hollywood after two previous installments (when the creative novelty had decidedly worn off). But now it seems reality has caught up with them and those scores of fans who cherished the notion of giving this particular devil his further due. In hindsight it's kind of a miracle we even got a second movie (and what a great movie that was, surpassing its predecessor on every level!). The first movie didn't do so well in theaters, but made a tidy profit as a home cinema release. Didn't stop studio Sony from denying Del Toro a second go at the big red ape, at which point studio Universal took over the project which became the phenomenal Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  History repeated itself as once again profits were only reaped from the DVD sales as opposed to the theatrical release. And now that the safety net of the home cinema market has disappeared as DVD/Blu-Ray sales keep deteriorating, what studio would burn its hands on a franchise that proved a box office failure twice before for two different studios? The answer is: none. And Del Toro has come to terms with that. Even though he remains a popular director in Hollywood, he's not yet one of those grand director/producer big shots who can do as whatever the hell they please, like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson. In fact, the studio system is slowly but surely imploding, making it increasingly harder even for such big industry names to follow their cinematic dreams, faced with the financial realities as they ever more often are (case in point, Spielberg's Robopocalypse).

It's a damn shame a wonderful character like Hellboy has fallen prey to such depressing reality checks as well. Hellboy II: The Golden Army was a definite step up in every way from the first film, which I can only describe as 'good enough' in comparison. Plus, there was definitely an ungoing character story going on between the titular character and his highly flammable girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) on the one side and Hellboy's undeniably dark nature on the other, that warranted a resolution. It has been hinted on several occasions throughout the movies that Hellboy, despite all his intents and purposes to do so, could not escape his diabolical destiny and was forced to become a force of evil of sorts sooner rather than later. It would have been a great operatic, though admittedly unusually dark and depressing, turn of events for this otherwise fairly light hearted and good humoured series. Which of course entirely fits into Del Toro's oeuvre, riddled as it is with such ungoing dichotomies between both sides of the human moral condition. Plus loads of awesome monsters, both latex and digital, to grace the silver screen and freak the bejeesus out of audiences. Exactly what makes Del Toro's movies such fun, that ever intriguing combination of soulful, heartfelt human drama and moody monstrous atmosphere. Too bad we won't be likely to see Hellboy serve in such capacity no more. Oh well, there's still plenty of other projects on Del Toro's slate. Pacific Rim 2 maybe? Less story, more monster action. These days, we'll have to take whatever we can get.