26/12/2012

The fascinating science of fiction




It doesn’t matter if the film is about robots, aliens, space or time travel, science fiction movies have a great influence on our culture. From the B-Movies in the 50’s to the hi-tech special effects of the 21st century, there is something about these stories that continues to amaze one generation after the other, specially teenagers and young adults, but why is that so?

To understand this fascination, first we have to try to figure out what is common to all good science fiction movies, and that has something to do with the main characters of the stories. Mainly, it is always the technology that somehow changes the world the character is used to, and it is how he deals with these changes that the stories are all about.

For instance, take such different movies as E.T. and The Matrix. One is about a little boy who finds an extra-terrestrial being that changes his life when he has to go on a quest to save his E.T. friend from the malevolent government’s agents. The other is about a young man who discovers that his entire world is a computer program and then goes on a quest to free and save all the people trapped in the program. Both become heroes after having to overcome their fears and weaknesses to help someone else.

The special effects are stunning in both films, but I believe they only play a secondary role in all good sci-fi movies. They are there to emphasize the alternative reality that the characters, and the audience, have to deal with. But what catches our attention is the fact that, no matter how strange and technological our world can become, we are human beings and we can overcome the most challenging situations if we want to. They also remind us of how inventive we are and how dangerous that can be. And young people simply love inventive and dangerous things, that’s why they love sci-fi movies.

16/12/2012

Be careful, the zombies are invading your TV!


Two TV shows have been attracting a great audience recently, featuring dead people coming back to life as zombies. Both drama series have won Emmy Awards and were nominated for the Golden Globe Awards as Best Drama Series this year, and they are really popular among young adults. “The Walking Dead” is an adaptation of the comic books by Robert Kirkman, and “Game of Thrones” is also an adaptation, based on the book series called “A Song of Ice and Fire”, written by the American author George R. R. Martin.

While “The Walking Dead” is set in a post-apocalyptic world, “Game of Thrones” has a background that is a bit more romantic, the mythical kingdom of Westeros. But that’s where the romance ends, for the knights and ladies are far from being noble and ingenuous. The plot includes adultery, sex, murder, incest, rape, have I said murder? It’s actually executions, sometimes. Although the themes are heavy, the way the screenplay is constructed really gets you going and some of the actors’ performances are amazing. That’s the case of “The Imp”, the character played by the British actor Peter Dinklage, who steals the show with his clever lines punctuated with a lot of irony and sarcasm. The third season of the HBO’s show is being produced, and so far we have only seen a few glimpses of the zombies, referred to in the series as “The Others”, or “The White Walkers”.

With a less intricate plot, “The Walking Dead” is essentially about a group of people trying to survive in a world where everyone is hunting someone for breakfast. Also in its third season, the AMC series has evolved and some of the wooden performances seen in the first season are now almost forgotten. The bloodthirsty drama series has major special effects and the zombies’ make-up is pretty convincing. Although sometimes the story may lack cohesion, the screenplay is getting better each season, and this last one has featured really impressive episodes so far.

In my opinion, although “Game of Thrones” is set in a fantasy world, it manages to be much more credible than “The Walking Dead”. George Martin’s characters are very realistic and it is easy to relate to them, so that and the fine art direction make “Game of Thrones” a far better choice than “The Walking Dead”. But for those who are thinking about watching either series I have one piece of advice: don’t get too attached to the characters, because sooner or later, most of them are going to die and, maybe, turn into zombies.