Sci-fi cliches

This is further to the post about Dr Who’s references to other sci-fi and some very knowledgeable comments, one of which pointed out that sci-fi movies owe a fair bit to Dr Who.

Spotting the refences and cliches makes up a good part of the enjoyment of sci-fi. There’s an inclusive list on cthreepio among other sites. Here are a few of my own favourites:

All alien races speak English. This is very convenient, of course. (Although, unusually, Klingons do have their own language.)

The most advanced computer can be completely confused into breaking, by being asked to process a contradictory statement.

Any high spec computer will become sentient. And homicidal. It can then only be defeated by making use of the surprising design fault listed above.

Non-humans usually look exactly like humans or exactly like humans with insect heads or with some wierd ear, nose, eye or forehead attribute.

About 70% of all non-earth civilisations are identical to those of medieval Europe. A further 20% are basically the same as Ancient Egypt.

The crew of any spaceship will happily mate with non-humans but there is less than 1% chance of crew members of different earth “races” ever getting involved with each other. Which is odd, given that space travel is only achieved when the earth becomes one big happy international family.

The holodeck is always broken in such a way that game characters will come to life and threaten the life of the crew, while the crew will never be able to end the game. Nevertheless, the holosuite is never dismantled. The crew will still go blithely into it. They will always choose Nazi Germany or an interplanetary war or some other blatantly dangerous setting.

Any Stargate crew member that you’ve never seen before who speaks a few lines at the beginning of an episode is doomed to die in the next few minutes. Being assigned to SG6 is a death sentence

McNulty from the Wire confusingly in the 300

The 300 is visually stunning and more than well worth watching.

I’ve got that out of the way. Now I’ll make a few random points, some of which conspired to distract me:

  • McNulty from the Wire is in it. I read in the Guardian on Saturday that he’s really English, otherwise this would have been even more of a shock.
    I’ve always thought he was the worst actor in the Wire. Now I can see he was labouring under the impediment of having to produce a Baltimore Irish accent, so I ve got more respect for his Wire performance. However, this doesn’t spill over to seeing him as a Spartan, so it’s hard not to keep expecting his chubbier well-dressed partner from Series one to pop up.
  • Similarly, the actor whose name I have no idea of but who so exemplifies the dorkish English lad in Mike Leigh movies that he’s in a good few is in there as well. Bringing to mind a few Mike Leigh movies.
  • The abs are uniformly amazing. OK, all the actors (male or female, leads or extras) are uniformly so perfectly muscled that I began to look for evidence of them wearing muscle suits. Then i realised that maybe they were digitally enhanced…. (well, d’uh)
    Cos I can’t conceive of any other form of enhancement that would achieve this level of perfection.
    I am pretty sure I saw McNulty with his shirt off in the Wire at some point and I don’t remember him having a chest that knocked your eyes out. (Human superficiality being so deep in me, I would probably have given more mental leeway to his acting shortcomings.) Has the new James Bond raised the bar so high? These people are physically utterly stunning.
  • I hope nobody does a Braveheart on this and takes it as a true version of history, despite it starting off as a comic.. The Spartans were bastards. Their whole society was so ultra-fascist that a fascist would have cavilled at it.
  • It’s filled with extreme comic-book violence, so stylised it looks pretty. The graphics are truly superb. The film uses the washed-out-with-one-dominant colour style – which is red in battles, unsurprisingly – pretty well throughout, I reallly like that. (If you are already bored with that style, then you may get rather annoyed. )
  • It has war elephants. They are great
  • It has mass battle scenes, mass court scenes, They are all great
    The music is great. – Think Black Hawk Down meets that bit in the Fifth Elemnent with the opera singer. Well, without the opera singing, then but you subliminally hear it. Bah, I guess that’s just me then
  • The characters are coompletely and utterly unengaging. These are comic book characters of course, so you can’t expect any different. I’m not saying it’s a fault, it isn’t. I’m just saying.
  • I couldn’t tell one superbly muscled actor from another – unless I recognised them from an old Mike Leigh film or the Wire – so I wasn’t always sure who was saying what to whom or why. Unfortuantely, I am very often incommoded in movie-watching by not being able to tell the actors apart, or follow the plots, so this is no insult to the movie either. Though, in theory knowing something of the tale, as most of us do, I should have made a better stab at understanding it
  • Obviously Film Studies 101 would suggest that Xerxes represents Bin Laden, and so on. (OK, he’s not Iranian, but the Persians in the movie aren’t very convincing Iranians. And how many people can tell the difference between Iran and any other middle-eastern country?) I suspect this is a spurious argument. I mean, what sane person would want to identify their country with Sparta?
  • Lastly, does there always have to be an evil woman to blame for everything? In Sparta, ffs? Sparta-wise, any woman would seem to have been really lucky to have avoided being left on the hillside to die for being a girl.

Oh blimey, these impressions are totally half-arsed.

Sorry, I’ve only watched it once and lost the thread a bit.

I’ll watch it again in a few days and you might get a coherent blog. (What are the odds of that, you say? Alright, slim.) It really is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen.
Go to see it, if you can.