Friday, October 11, 2013

John Carter * * *

Stories where Flash Gordon rushed across the galaxy in a rocket ship, or other stories where men met triple breasted green women on Venus, or commanded armies of alien swordsmen on Mars, are all before my time. Sometime in the mid 20th century, a sensible editor named John Campbell came to demand that science fiction actually have some science in it, and not be some ridiculous pulp fantasy.  Mr Campbell had a profound effect on the development of science fiction in the 20th century, and as a result we now have the science fiction that our more sophisticated tastes have become accustomed to.

But it makes you wonder, doesn't it?   A lifetime ago people actually enjoyed the pulpier space operas about princesses on Mars and bug eyed monsters.  And if they could enjoy it, why couldn't we?  This is the spirit of the movie John Carter, a 250 million dollar Disney flop that has a much worse reputation than it deserves.

John Carter is the protagonist of a series of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.  He is a civil war veteran who, while looking for gold, finds an alien artifact that transports him to the planet Mars.  There he gets involved in a planet wide civil war involving a couple of human looking races, and a couple of more alien races.  This is a complex story that is bigger on swashbuckling than it is on science.  Still, it seems like a good solid story done on a really grand scale.  It may not be very scientific, but it certainly is fun.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Sound of Thunder * * *

A Sound of Thunder is a sci-fi thriller about the butterfly effect:  If you could travel back in time and make one insignificant change, you would radically alter the present.   In this movie the radical changes occur slowly, which has the convenience of allowing the main characters to see what is happening and attempt to fix it.

About half of the special effects in this movie look real and about half don’t, but that is good enough for me to enjoy the movie.

Personally I think that if you made an insignificant change in the past that nothing would change in the present;  The effect of your change would diminish over time and be washed away by historical forces that lead to the modern world.   I think that you would need to make a major change in the past to affect the present.