Ridley Scott’s original “Blade Runner”, released in 1982, is an iconic science fiction film, ground-breaking in its striking sets and notable for some fine acting performances. It was therefore always going to be a challenge to do a sequel, and the task has fallen to director Dennis Villaneuve (who directed “Arrival” and “Sicario”). It has to be said that the visuals and sets are stunning, every bit as striking as the original and then some. Every bit of the rumoured $185 million budget is up there on the screen for all to see.
What a pleasant surprise. A third instalment in a blockbuster franchise remake that actually holds up to the original. I would even say that of all nine Planet of the Apes movies and remakes (yes, I have seen all of them…), this one ranks as number 2, second only to the 1968 original.
Scientists on the International Space Station are bringing back a sample from Mars, which turns out to contain -indeed- Life. It starts out as a single celled organism, but it doesn’t take long for it to grow into a complex creature. Not surprisingly, as it grows and develops, it turns out not to be too friendly and soon this newly hailed Life form becomes a threat to all on board, and beyond…
Ridley Scott returned to the Alien franchise that he started with “Prometheus” (2012), a prequel to the original movie “Alien” (1979). Covenant takes up the story at the end of Prometheus, with a spaceship full of human colonists in stasis en route to an alien planet; a small crew is also in stasis and the ship is run by its computer and an android, Walter. An incident forces Walter to wake the crew early into the journey, and a signal is detected that may be of human origin from a nearby planet. When the crew land on the planet they discover the relics of a dead civilisation and some familiar life forms…
The more a robot looks like a real human, the more empathy most people have for it. If a robot becomes almost ‘real’ in its looks, movements and interactions, many people suddenly experience a huge drop in empathy where it can even flip to extreme dislike – this stage of human replicas being almost truly lifelike, but not quite right, is known is the Uncanny Valley.
Noomi Rapace plays Renee, a divorced mother who one day finds herself abducted and taken to some secret facility. She soon finds out she is not the only abductee there, but why was she brought there remains a mystery. But she, like the others in this facility, is tied down onto a bed and before long her kidnappers start various ‘tests’ on her; following ‘protocol’, pushing her buttons, but why…? What are they trying to find out…?
A giant starship is on a century-long journey to a recently colonised planet, carrying five thousand colonists plus crew in suspended animation. The ship is highly advanced and is self-repairing and self navigating, so no human crew are required; this ship’s complement will be woken when the ship nears its destination. The film opens when one of them, an engineer called Jim (Chris Pratt) is awakened from his sleep, and quickly discovers that he is not only the only one awake but that there are still ninety years left in the journey. Needless to say, this is unwelcome news…
Lee Weathers (played by Kate Mara) is a corporate risk assessment analyst, which doesn’t sound a promising job for an action thriller until you realise that this is Hollywood, where considerable latitude to is given to job descriptions in big companies. She is tasked by her boss (played by Brian Cox) to investigate unsettling events at an isolated scientific laboratory where Dr Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones) and Dr Lui Cheng (Michelle Yeoh) and running an experiment into creating artificial life.
Arrival is a thoughtful science fiction film, about as far from “Independence Day” as it is possible to get, though the special effects are impressive in their own way. The basic premise is that aliens have landed around the world in twelve huge spaceships, but their intent is unclear. At intervals the ships open a gate and admit visitors, and the aliens show themselves behind a huge screen, but what do they want?
Ever since George Romero made “Night of the Living Dead” there have been films about zombies, but few manage to be worth watching. Directors have tried applying comedy (“Shaun of the Dead”) and even Jane Austen (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) to the theme, but most efforts plod along as ineptly as the zombies themselves. The Girl With All the Gifts takes a new bite at the cherry.