Blade Runner: More Human Than Human

Blade Runner’s perspective on human nature is that we long to fully understand our purpose and meaning in life, and that we all are seeking some sort of truth about ourselves and our humanity as a whole. This was particularly evident with the noticeable amount of biblical imagery in the film, such as Roy inserting a nail through his hand and holding a white dove, symbolizing himself as a Christ-like figure.

We also are forced to question ourselves on what makes a human, human. If a man-made artificial being possesses the levels of emotional intelligence and cognition that are equivalent to a human being’s, are they not classified as a human because man created them?

Furthermore, do they deserve to be treated as slaves, beneath the foot of man? All of which are questions we are left to ponder throughout the film. Ultimately, I did not find it all that surprising that despite the overwhelming human like qualities the the replicants had, humanity as a whole still saw them as inferior and slaves to their will. The Humans in Blade Runner wanted to be able to control their technological creations; viewing them as mere tools and nothing more.

Blade Runner’s replicants are robotic entities that are indistinguishable from humans to the naked eye. These replicants, while created for a specific purpose, have an advanced artificial intelligence with cognitive reasoning ability, comparable to that of a human’s. The replicants are identical to humans in nearly every physical aspect. In fact, a replicant’s artificial intelligence and programming are so advanced, that they themselves do not know they are replicants. In the case of Rachel, she was an experimental replicant with implanted memories and was given pictures to reinforce these memories. While in reality, these memories were that of Tyrell’s niece. The replicants even bled and could feel pain, which makes the viewer empathize with their plight even more. These features fully reinforced the Tyrell Corporation’s motto, “More human than human”.

 

Placing the film into the historical context of the time, in the 80’s we had begun to see a wide scale emergence of Sci-Fi films and culture. The genre was beginning to become more popularized and accepted which lead to a convergence of new ideas. Couple this with the emergence of the personal computer and the ability for the common citizen to own such a revolutionary peace of technology for the first time in human history, it was evident that filmmakers would begin to create visions of the technological future. Sci-Fi culture produced a robot with artificial intelligence and combined it with biochemical engineering, effectively giving birth to the concept of a synthetic human. Naturally this brought about all the moral complications that would arise from such a creation, particularly the issue of what makes something human.

Naturally, the possibility that one-day the machines we created could potentially become self aware and even revolt began to sprout as a seed of paranoia within the 80’s culture. The culmination of this being the Y2K scare that by 2000, there would be a systemic collapse of all technology. Overall, it seems to be one of the qualities of human nature that when you cannot understand something, the majority will develop a fear culture around it, even work against their own creations seeking to have them banned or heavily regulated. This was particularly evident in the film when once the replicants became aware of their existence as machine, their use was made illegal on Earth and they were hunted down and “retired”. In the eyes of humans, it is much more efficient to put down a wild beast, rather than rehabilitate it.

Harrison Ford Shot First(In Blade Runner)

 

“Down here it’s our time, It’s our time down here”

I’ve heard many wonderful things about The Goonies, so I decided to give it a shot. I have always been a fan of films that are about a group of neighborhood kids who are best friends, like Little Rascals and Stand By Me. The bond that they have and the sense that they own the town is extremely exhilarating, and I feel pulled into their brotherhood and part of their family. The ending was predictable, but it wouldn’t be a teen 80’s film if it wasn’t.

One part I keep going back to over and over again is the beginning scene with Rosalita, Mrs. Walsh, and Mouth. Mrs. Walsh asks for somebody to help her translate Rosalita’s chores for around the house, and Mouth offers up his services because he took Spanish in school. When he volunteered, I thought it was going to be another one of those times where his translations just didn’t make sense, like “clean the dishes” would turn into “clean the bushes”. It was a huge surprise when he spoke fluent Spanish, and it was absolutely hysterical what he actually said to Rosalita. I wasn’t expecting him to actually know any Spanish, let alone the words “cocaine” and “heroine”.

Unfortunately, I had a strong feeling of annoyance towards Chunk. He didn’t have any redeeming qualities other than saving his friends at the end with the help of Sloth. At first I felt sorry for him, because I thought he was the kid in the group that everybody made fun of, like when Mouth made him do the Truffle Shuffle to get in. However, I began to understand why Mouth treated him that way. Chunk would never stop talking, and it was in a very nagging voice, like he was always trying to get what he wanted. He also wasn’t the brightest, and even that was annoying. When he got locked in the freezer with the dead body and he kept screaming, I felt like shouting at him to suck it up and GET OUT. He was extremely whiny, and my last straw was when he accidentally told the Fratellis everything when they were driving on the road. By that time, I really just wanted Chunk to go home. Despite how I felt about him, I really enjoyed watching how the other boys acted with him. They kind of used him, in a sense of they knew his tendencies and they used it to their advantage. Like when Mikey found the map in the glass, he called Chunks over and simply handed it to him, knowing that he would drop it. Also, when they were trying to get into the house, Mouth started talking dirtily about Chunk’s mother, which made him angry and he broke down the door. It was entertaining, to say the least, to see how all the boys treated Chunk, and I never really did feel bad for him.

Why’d It Have To Be Snakes?

How it took me 20 years to see Raiders of the Lost Ark, I will never know. Honestly, I tried a few years back and it couldn’t keep my attention and stopped maybe half-way into it. After watching it in full now, I think I understand why I didn’t enjoy it my first time through. The film has a pretty old school feel to it; the travel sequence is straight out of Casablanca, not to mention the use of shadows to show people’s entrances and their deaths. When I was younger I got no enjoyment out of old movies, so it makes sense I wouldn’t enjoy Raiders. But as I’ve come to like and appreciate the classics, I can finally appreciate the classic, if not a little cheesy, feel to this film.

What really cracked me up is the whole Clark Kent thing Indiana Jones seems to have going on. In class we began to discuss how the lighting in the opening sequence shows Jones as having two sides to his character; his costumes say the same thing. As a professor, Jones dresses in a nice suit, wears a bow tie, styles his hair all slick, and (my personal favorite) wears large glasses. With the exception of his stubble, there’s not much adventurous about this guy.

Somehow, when he’s out treasure hunting, jumping over large ditches and spotting booby traps, he suddenly has no need for his glasses. There is a clear dichotomy to his character, though we only see Clark Kent for a couple of scenes. Superman is the one selling the tickets after all.

The movie turned out to be exactly what I figured it would: a big budget popcorn flick, full of action and lacking in depth. And, while I’ve never been a huge fan of Spielberg or Lucas, I did enjoy Raiders, and I’ll definitely have to check out the other films in the series.

…Well, maybe not Crystal Skull…

One of the top movies of the 80’s

 

Top Gun has to be one of my favorite movies I have watched; not only because Berlin’s, “Take my breath away” is played like almost every 5 minutes, but because of the visuals. I’m just so amazed of the quality of those shots at a time like this. Today, it seems like those scenes would be so easy to film; I just can’t even imagine how difficult it was back then with their technology.

The Beginning for Tony Scott

The Navy fighter pilot scenes are so intense that I didn’t even have time to focus on the characters and their relationships. It was really cheesy, but managed to be really patriotic. This movie was also a great film for Tom Cruise to start out with; although it really didn’t focus on his character, he managed to grab the attention of the ladies at the time the film was released. And I will just never forget that opening scene… SO INTENSE!

There is no doubt that the director of this film is very talented. Top Gun really established his career as a “commercial director” and supported him in making television spots late into his career. Sadly, however, Tony Scott recently committed suicide by jumping off the L.A. bridge. There is no doubt, nonetheless, that he will forever be distinguished by the intense visual style he elicits into his films that allow viewers to be captured into his huge action scenes. I found it to be a coincidence that at the time I watched this film the director was being talked about all over the news; a rather upsetting coincidence at that (his story could be read at http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/19/local/la-me-tony-scott-20120820).

The sad tale of Tony Scott will forever go down in film history as a tragedy, but he will also be remembered for the huge success he brought about to Hollywood film. Top Gun still is an 80’s classic that would not only boost the success of action films, but will also bring about the big stars in the film industry.

 

 

A not-so lost ending

Today, the story of vampires is so popular. However, the circumstances are completely different. For instance, in today’s fiction novels, vampires sparkle in the sun, they fall in love and they don’t even cringe to the presence of silver or holy water. Instead, they just kind of look like this:

This is disturbing and just so weird.

Which is just, so very disappointing. The image of vampires has changed so greatly that people don’t fear them nowadays. Instead, they create crazed and obsessed fan clubs that fall in love with them. The Lost Boys managed to maintain the image of a real vampire in a fun and terrifying way (the way it should be).

The Lost Boys has a to be a great teen horror movie…for the 80’s. I may be biased now, because horror movies have come a long way in film, however, this movie really portrayed the talent and advancement the 80’s brought to film (and it didn’t even need good-looking, sparkling vampires to do so). Although it may not be the most frightening movie you have ever seen, it is still able to be funny and manages to contain some twists and suspense. Basically, it’s a hell of a lot better than Twilight. And it just sticks to the idea that vampires are supposed to seem dangerous and scary.

I mean, just look at this guy.

Vampires suck human blood, an act that I find to be disturbing and frightening;  not appealing or something I think would be fun to experience because the vampire’s good-looking.

The viewers are able to relate to some of the teenage characters that battle these vampires and sort of build this friendship with them that makes the film easier to watch (not to mention, some of these guys are very good looking).

The director is able to include some horror, comedy, teen romance, violence, and action aspects that make it a pretty great film to watch.

Here’s a fun reading about some of the difference between ways vampires are portrayed in certain films and why The Lost Boys is a fun to watch: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2012/08/17/before-twilight-lost-boys-made-vampires-fun/#/0

Bad Guys in Beverly Hills Have the Worst Aim

Beverly Hills Cop is essentially a tale of two cities. Director Martin Brest throws Detroit Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) into cushy Beverly Hills, and in turn pits the culture of the two cities against each other. Right away the film opens on Detroit, a city featured in many cop films, including the one I did my previous post on: Robocop. Like Robocop, this film portrays Detroit as a dirty city covered with graffiti, with poor/blue collar citizens hanging out in the streets. But Brest makes this Detroit seem a lot friendlier than the one Paul Verhoeven shows in Robocop. The citizens, both children and adults, are socializing with their friends and appear to be having fun. This set up during the credit sequence is necessary, as Beverly Hills Cop is a comedy first and an action film second; Brest wanted to create a fun and lighthearted atmosphere.

The audience is introduced to Axel as soon as the opening credit sequence is over, though he is not revealed to be a cop until after he botches an (unauthorized) undercover job and is subsequently chewed out by his boss. This introduction shows the type of character Axel is, and his cunning, not-by-the-book way of policing holds up after he takes his “vacation” to Beverly Hills to investigate the murder of his best friend.

Axel’s arrival in Beverly Hills mirrors the opening credits, and shows that Axel is a fish out of water. Driving into the city he is followed by a classic car, with palm trees lining the road. The buildings are gorgeous and gated, the stores are as ritzy as can be, and all of the cars put his “crappy blue Chevy Nova” to shame. The more obvious comparison comes when he meets the Beverly Hills police. Although he is a detective, Axel dresses very blue collar; the entire film he is wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Conversely all of the upper level Beverly Hills cops are stuffy guys in suits.

We’re taught never to judge a book by its cover, but the differences in how Axel and Taggart dress tells us all about their differences in character.

In the end though it’s Axel’s way of policing that saves the day. Detectives Taggart and Rosewood follow Axel’s lead into an enemy’s house without a search warrant, and even their Lieutenant lies to the Chief about what happened. This all comes after an hour and a half of the Beverly Hills cops telling Axel that they do things by the book, and do not lie about what transpires on cases. Their proper way of policing truthfully makes them look like fools; while being shot at Rosewood actually stands up with his badge in the air and proclaims, “POLICE! YOU’RE ALL UNDER ARREST!” The result though is deeper than telling the audience that the backdoor way of doing things trumps doing things the right way. Axel shows the Beverly Hills cops friendship. He shows them that being cops makes them brothers, and that they are allowed to bend the rules because it’s how they look out for one another.

The film also provides us with a legendary theme song, that 20+ years laters kids will recognize as the song from Family Guy that Peter dances to when he goes back in time…

You’re Gonna Be a Bad MotherF*cker

With the remake coming out next year, I figured it was about time to see the original RoboCop (1987). It did not disappoint, and it was actually more than I anticipated it to be. I went into it preparing for a sci-fi action movie, full of gun fire and explosions, and I did get that. In fact there was enough guts and gore to make one think it was a Freddy Krueger film. The action isn’t what made the film stand out though. That part was predictable; it used the same formula cop movies have been using for years: partners are chasing down the bad guys, coincidentally there is no back up available, one partner dies, there’s a huge shootout in a warehouse, then in the end one of the assumed “good guys” has been working with the bad guys. The only added aspect is that the dead partner comes back as a robotic super cop. What made this cop film stand out is how much the director had to say about culture in Detroit, and America in general.

Throughout the film there are random clips from a news station reporting on current events. Every clip seems to involve real life problems in 1980s Detroit, such as unemployment and uncontrollable crime. What makes it even worse is that the bad news is so common that the news anchors don’t even care; they don’t even blink an eye when they report on an accident where 113 people are killed, including two former Presidents of our own country. But along with every news clip comes a commercial concerning new technology. The movie even opens with a news story followed by a commercial for a mechanical heart made by Yamaha. The fact that the director would include all of these commercials shows that he is trying to inform his audience about the dangers of technology and consumerism, which is made even more clear in the car commercial for the “6000 SUX,” parodying the real life Pontiac 6000. That RoboCop defeats the film’s antagonists without his mask, embracing his human side, continues to confirm this reading of the film.

The themes of consumerism and industry really made this movie more than just another cop flick. But it makes me wonder about the upcoming remake: how are they going to modernize the news segments? As a culture we are still very materialistic, and technology has grown immensely since 1987, so what are we going to see now? Will people be waiting in line for days for the release of the iSux 5?

The only other note I have about RoboCop is that, as a fan of That 70’s Show, it was so weird to see Kurtwood Smith in a role where he doesn’t call somebody a dumbass. It does explain why Red was so bitter throughout the show though…

The whole movie I was hoping for, “Get back RoboCop…you dumbass!”

Akira

According to the internet and every anime otaku I’ve ever met at a convention, Akira (1988) was the animated film that launched a generation of the popular Japanese genre, giving way to the iconic works of directors such as Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke), and Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell).  Akira also went so far as to influence the style of live-action movies produced in America–The Matrix found its dystopian footing and famed visuals by leaning on Akira’s success.

The plot of Akira centers around a teenage biker gang whose favorite pastime is to terrorize the streets of post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, a city rebuilt from the ashes of World War III. The unsuspecting bikers somehow find themselves at the center of a top-secret government research project: experimenting with the psychic powers of higher beings known as espers.  One of the gang, Tetsuo, is discovered to have powers similar to the all-powerful esper known simply as Akira. Most of the film centers around Tetsuo’s struggle to maintain both his identity and his sanity as his powers–enhanced by government researchers using drugs–grow increasingly potent.

The animation itself is reason enough to invest a couple of hours in watching the movie–it was, to put it plainly, far ahead of its time. The visuals are particularly striking in the motorcycle chase scenes–in which the tail-lights stream behind the bikes in a very Tron-esque, eighties fashion–and in the hospital escape scene that has become famous among anime fans. (Come on guys, if Kanye West re-vamps the hospital scene in his “Stronger” video, you know it’s pretty popular.) As for the plot, well, let’s just say that if you aren’t accustomed to anime films–not animated, anime–you will probably be a little confused throughout this one. Although the film does concentrate on the effects of nuclear war–a popular topic during the Cold War era of the 1980s–and the consequences on a society when its government fails, it goes about it in a very disjointed, twisted, and trippy Japanese fashion that first time anime-watchers might find a tad bewildering.

All in all, Akira changed the face of animation in Japan and America–making the genre far more accessible and exciting than it had ever been before.

Robocop Reboot

 

Heating up the blogosphere is the new photo released above of the Robocop reboot and the suit worn by the half robot/half man police officer.

Many are complaining that it is merely an extension of the Batman suits seen in Nolan’s films.

Below a picture from Robocop from 1987.