I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.

I watched the movie Aniara on Hulu this past week because the description about a doomed spaceship caught my eye.

After watching it and seeing it was based on a book, I requested the book from the library. I was not fully prepared for the book I received and read. The book edition I read was the out of print 1963 Hugh MacDiarmid and Elizabeth Harley Schubert translation of the poem.

Yes, you read that correctly. the Aniara story in its original form is a Swedish language, scifi, epic poem written by Harry Martinson. Epic poetry, or really any form of poetry, is a text form I’d never considered for scifi. Fantasy use of the epic poem and the poem makes sense to me because of Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, but scifi never struck me as a poetry subject prior to encountering Martinson’s epic.

The stories retain similarities in poem and movie form. There are a few gender swaps of characters; however, the way the story progresses, these gender swaps actually serve to make the tragic tale all the more tragic.

The most startling part of this work is that I’d never encountered it in my readings across scifi and human nature considering the subject matter is so close and compatible to the tale of The Lord of the Flies and The Heart of Darkness. While both of those stories focused on behavioral reactions to removed supervision, Martinson’s story deals with the emotional and mental side of how people deal with the knowledge that they have no hope of salvation from their situation.

At times chaotic, at times primal, at times shocking, both epic poem and scifi movie first ask the reader/viewer how would you handle and endure in similar circumstances? Then they counter your positive answer with the question of are you sure?

This is a must-see and a must-read for any fan of scifi period. If you’re reading on evolutionary psychology and studies of human nature, this should be added to your parables of human nature set as Volume Three (the society/the species) after Volume One: The Heart of Darkness (the individual) and Volume Two: The Lord of the Flies (the group). For everyone else, I say just check it out in both forms. As far as movies go, it’s a fantastic film. As far as books go, how many scifi epic poems have you read?

I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.

I’ve always been a fan of monster movies, especially ones with the giant monsters sometimes referred to as kaiju. So I’m always looking for new movies and even sequels in this subgenre.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (GKotM) has been on my watch wishlist since I first saw the preview during my viewing of Avengers: Endgame. My only regret in watching this one was not getting a chance to see it on the big screen when it was out. There’s definitely some scenes that are made to be seen on the big screen, or even better on the IMAX.

It’s a sequel that’s not a sequel in the traditional sense. There are some characters who carry over from the previous film, but the focus of this one is a family who was tragically affected by the events in San Francisco during the first film. However, if you missed the first one, not to worry, a short catch-up clip is offered to demonstrate that this is the same world, but these are different reactions to the events that happened then.

All the big themes of Godzilla and kaiju movies are here. Mankind (read the military) panics and creates a worse situation for the humans. Scientists, who warned of the dire consequences of military action, pull an amazing solution out of their hind quarters to get things back on track. Cities are destroyed. Military vehicles crash. Humans scramble around on the ground as the big fight monsters duke it out in the big fight scenes.

My only real negative on this movie is I’m not a fan of Serj Tankian version of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla”. (Sorry Serj.) I’m just too much a fan of the original song, but even not caring for the song isn’t enough to make this a bad movie.

If you’re a fan of Godzilla, monster movies, or kaiju, this is one you don’t want to miss. Besides, you can’t go wrong with a movie that has a very promising post-credit scene, credits paying tribute to the creators of Godzilla, and listing Godzilla, Ghidorah, and Rodan in the credits as playing “himself” and Mothra as playing “herself”.

I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.

Captive State

When I first saw a preview for the movie Captive State, I had high hopes for this film. I was expecting something along the lines of Netflix’s film Extinction, or the USA series The Colony, or the TNT series Falling Skies but with a bigger budget.

Sadly, what I expected and hoped for is not what I got to see. The dystopian elements that the previews promise and used to sell the movie get lost in The Wire-style questionable grey-area cops verses questionable grey-area “terrorists” storyline. The result is Captive State has more in common with the Bruce Willis/Denzel Washington movie The Siege or the Will Smith film Enemy of the State, but not as well acted.

Captive State is not all bad. John Goodman delivers an excellent performance as William Mulligan in a performance on par with Jon Simm’s portrayal of Sam Tyler in the series Life on Mars. The big reveal of Goodman’s character is probably one of the worst kept secrets in the film, and once made, it makes the viewer’s feelings of dislike towards the character seem all the more justified.

My recommendation is read the synopsis of this one and move along in favor of one of the other tv series or movies mentioned above. You’ll feel more invested in the characters and actual care when bad thigns happen to them.

Doctor Who, Season 11, and Jodie Whittaker is The Doctor

I just got around to watching season 11 of Doctor Who and the New Years special Resolution this past week.

As a fan of the show from the days when Tom Baker was The Doctor and it appeared weekly on PBS‘ Saturday nights, I’ve been looking forward to every new regeneration and every new actor who’s taken on the role of The Doctor.

When the announcements were made that the show was getting a new showrunner in Chris Chibnall, that the newest regeneration of The Doctor would be a female, that woman would be Jodie Whittaker, I really wanted to see how the new Chibnall would handle the show and how Whittaker would handle the role.

I was familiar with Whittaker from her role as the nurse Samantha Adams in the movie Attack the Block. Thinking she was fantastic in that role and seeing that role as a sort of pseudo-practice for the role of The Doctor, I approached her time on the show positively. Unlike some viewers, the precedent set with The Master generation of Missy convinced me the casting would work.

I felt the season started strong and Whittaker quickly established herself as someone capable of filling the role of The Doctor. However, I also felt that as the season progressed, Whittaker was a victim of subpar writing by Chibnall and the individual episode writers and that the show was missing an overall season-long storyline that really bound the whole season together.

While the new episodic styling of wrapping up a single story in a single weekly episode can be a beneficial change in some ways, in the case of season 11, it made the stories feel rushed and incomplete. The absence of the usual suspects in the monster of the week role was definitely noticeable. The replacement of the Daleks, the Cybermen, and The Master with watered down predator knock-offs, time-traveling white supremacists, and an intergalactic survivor knock-off left the adversaries feeling unworthy of The Doctor’s attention.

The Resolution New Year’s special episode brings back the Daleks, or at least one, and presents that Dalek as monsters we all know and love. While the writing of that episode still felt a bit rushed, it offers hope that Chibnall is learning the ropes and that season 12 with be a marked improvement over season 11. In the meantime, Jodie Whittaker is The Doctor and season 11 is worth a watch to familiarize yourself with the newest actor to fill the role.

The War of the Worlds and Socio-Political SciFi

I’ve always been baffled by the complaints by certain groups in recent years that too much scifi addresses social and political issues. The verbal and voting wars over the scifi Hugo award stands out as one of the biggest fights over socio-political scifi. The complaints baffle me because scifi is always about socio-political issues!

To discuss this, let’s just take one example story, H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds (TWotW). From its original publication to the present, TWotW is always a socio-political (s-p) story.

When Wells first published TWotW, he was making a s-p statement about the British Empire and its imperialism and colonization program. Wells offers a look at imperialism and colonization from the perspective of the conquered, especially during the Victorian Era period of Empire expansion.

A few years go by then TWotW reappears in the form of the Orson Welles radio drama in 1938. The resulting chaos from public reaction demonstrates that once again, TWotW was making a s-p statement. This time, it was addressing the spread of Hitler’s Third Reich across Europe.

TWotW fades from memory for a while until George Pal’s 1953 movie version of TWotW emerges in theaters. This time, TWotW was making a s-p statement about the recent (at the time) Korean War and the larger Cold War taking place between the Soviet Union and the United States.††††

Again TWotW vanishes from the public consciousness until the 1978 album, Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of TWotW, appears. Appearing in record stores and on radio stations, this time the s-p statement continues the fears of the Cold War while also addressing the uncertainty of the non-victorious U.S. military after Vietnam.

Public interest in TWotW disappears again until the 1988 tv series brings TWotW into American homes. Once again s-p statements are made in a world where the Cold War is winding down, the Soviet Union appears to be collapsing under its own economic weight, and the U.S. appears to be rising as the new empire of the world.

TWotW once again drops out of sight until Stephen Speilburg’s 2005 movie version of TWotW. And again, the s-p statements are in forefront. Here the fears of terrorism in the post-9/11 world are addressed as well as the clash between parents and their children over the nature of duty and service on the part of children who want to fight the new evil in the world.

The War of the Worlds has once again been sidelined in the minds of the general public. In the current state of the world, I think it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable return of The War of the Worlds and its latest socio-political statements addressing the current chaos of the world. Until then, there’s a whole host of scifi stories making socio-political statements.