Forgotten Sci-Fi Films

By Carl Slaughter: Them! is a forgotten classic science fiction movie.  Despite a premise involving ants mutated into giants and spreading rapidly, this is not a typical creature feature.  The insects make few appearances and are on screen briefly.  Killings mostly occur off screen, happen quickly when they are shown, and don’t involve gore.  No, this is a true science fiction story.  Part detective, part exploration, part hunt.  The scientists provide scientific background through interaction with military and law enforcement personnel during strategy sessions and battles rather than resorting to info dumps.  The New York Times called it “taut science fiction.”  Variety called it a “top notch science fiction thriller.”  The closing line is, “When Man entered the Atomic Age, he opened the door to a new world. What we may eventually find in that new world, nobody can predict.”  Rotten Tomatoes approval ratings is 100%.  Nominated for an Oscar for special effects.

The Thing from Another World is another forgotten science fiction movie.  Based on “Who Goes There?,” a novella by John Campbell.  Scientists and soldiers discover a crashed alien with hostile intent and learn the hard way how intelligent, strong, and adaptive he is.  Turns out the alien is vegetable based and carnivorous, feeding on blood.  After several misfires, a few casualties, a failed attempt to establish a relationship, severe damage to the station, and numerous science-military agenda disputes, they finally outsmart him.  The alien shows himself to the crew only twice and briefly both times.  Instead, they have to follow his trail of activity.  Ends with, “Tell the world. Tell this to everybody, wherever they are. Watch the skies everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.”  Beat all other science fiction films at the box office, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers and When Worlds Collide.  Lester del Rey described it as “just another monster epic, totally lacking in the force and tension of the original story.”  Time Magazine chose it as the best sci-fi film of the 50s.  Dialog is rapid and crisp, so you might even want to watch a subtitled version.

The Thing is a remake of The Thing from Another World.  This screen version is closer to the print version.  After the success of Alien, Universal executives were convinced commissioning The Thing was a good call.  They miscalculated.  Alas, John Carpenter couldn’t compete with Steven Spielberg.

Gruff explorers couldn’t compete with the adorable E.T.  The hideous metamorphosis of the shape shifter couldn’t compete with phoning home.  Suspicion and paranoia over which member of the team is a camouflaged invader couldn’t compete with children bonding with each other and their alien friend.  The destruction of the outpost couldn’t compete with a bicycle flying in front of the moon.  The harsh landscape of Antarctica couldn’t compete with sunny suburbia.  Body count horror couldn’t compete with a main character being rescued from death.  Lack of female characters couldn’t compete with young Drew Barrymore.  Channeling Lovecraft couldn’t compete with channeling Capra.  R-rating couldn’t compete with family friendly viewing.  Nihilistic couldn’t compete with upbeat.  An ending left open about the survival of Kurt Russell’s character couldn’t compete with an ending in which everyone lives happily ever after.

If all this wasn’t enough, 1982 was a year cluttered with speculative fiction, including Poltergeist, Wrath of Khan, Tron, Conan the Barbarian, Blade Runner, and Road Warrior.

The fallout for Carpenter was severe.  Universal bought out his contract, thus he lost a chance to direct Firestarter.  The Thing was panned by critics, but has since been rehabilitated and has gained a cult following.

Fan Art Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: Click through to see the images.

Venom is returning to the big screen for the first time in 11 years this October, when Sony unveils their solo movie based on the antihero starring Tom Hardy as the symbiote-stricken Eddie Brock. While that’s cause to celebrate, unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll see Venom face off against his nemesis any time soon, due to Spider-Man having returned to the arms of Marvel Studios.

However, there’s nothing stopping fans from whipping up some inspired artwork which gives us an idea as to what a battle between Tom Hardy’s Venom and Tom Holland’s Spidey could look like. Case in point: this new piece seen in the gallery down below, which paints a picture of the villain totally besting the wall-crawler in a fight. As you can see, Peter Parker lies senseless in a pile of rubble while his enemy cuts a sinister figure as he lingers over him.

Twitter user UberKryptonian recently had a minute to kill and decided to spend those waning seconds creating a Fantastic Four character poster, in which he envisioned none other than Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic himself, Reed Richards. You can check out the clever bit of fan casting below, which follows on from several other pieces put forth by various different artists (also included in the gallery).

Coming from digital artist ultraraw26 on Instagram is a mock-up poster for Avengers 4 imagining what a team-up between Iron Man and Carol Danvers might look like. Considering the Q-Ship in the background, not to mention both heroes appear to be in outer space, it looks like the battle is set on Titan, Thanos’ home-planet. Interestingly, however, the Mad Titan cannot be seen in the frame, nonetheless, the prospect of seeing the aforementioned heroes banding together to fight a common foe is exciting for fans. Check it out below:

The urban legend of Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League grows even bigger today with yet another string of previously unseen concept art. Featured in the gallery down below, it depicts the could-have-been third act of Snyder’s version of the movie, and from what we can see here, he apparently planned for an epic, sky-based skirmish, a more Kirby-esque Steppenwolf, a larger role for Aquaman and, of course, a darker color palate than what we got in theaters.

The photos themselves are impressive and will certainly embolden fans who’ve been rallying for an official release of Synder’s version of the film.

Video Essay Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: That video essay contrasting Thanos in the comics with Thanos in the movies veered off into a contrast between Iron Man and Captain America.  Iron Man is a rationalist, trying to outmaneuver Thanos; Captain America is a romanticist, trying to overwhelm Thanos with raw power and courage; just as comic book Thano is a romanticist, trying to impress the woman he’s wooing, and movie Thanos is a rationalist, trying to solve an overpopulation problem.

Dave Cullen has some good insight into the betrayal of Star Trek main characters in J.J. Abrams films.  Abrams portrays Kirk as debonair, promiscuous, and crafty.  So I thought he nailed that character.  But Abrams also portrays Kirk as reckless and full of self-doubt.  Such a portrayal betrays the Kirk character as a natural-born leader.  Abrams portrays Spock as stoic, logical, and stern.  So, again, I though he nailed the character.  But Abrams also portrays Spock as given to emotional and violent outbursts.  The Roddenberry Spock struggles to control his human side.  The Abrams Spock is borderline psychotic.  The Roddenberry Spock makes an effort to understand people whose actions he disproves of.  The Abrams Spock just reacts to people.

Takes this reviewer a while to get around to it, but he finally points out that the sequels shift from exploration of dinos to hunt/exploit dinos.  Also, interesting trivia, the author of the novel sold the rights to the unfinished manuscript to the studio for 7 digits on Spielberg’s endorsement.

DC Postscript

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:

  • Marvel versus DC

The most important piece of information in this video is not about Gal Gadot, but about the DC/Marvel rivalry.  Turns out DC’s reputation for being dark and serious is deliberate.  They have a policy against humor.  It’s their way of distinguishing their characters from Marvel’s characters with their inclination toward quips and antics.

  • 10 Batman movies you never saw

In some parallel universe, Warner Bros. decided to carry on Christopher Nolan’s vision of Gotham City after The Dark Knight Rises concluded.

As you may remember, Bruce Wayne faked his death and passed the legacy of the Batman on to Robin John Blake. Of course, there was word on the street that actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt was being looked at for the next Caped Crusader at the time, but considering that the studio was all for a team-up with Superman, it’s for the best that the World’s Finest’s first meeting in live action involved Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, not the latter’s successor – who was created for an isolated trilogy.

Still, I find it hard to forget how many mock-ups of Gordon-Levitt as Nightwing were surfacing up until the time Ben Affleck was cast as the new Masked Manhunter in the summer of 2013. In fact, some still hold onto that sentiment, with this fan-made comic strip serving as a fine example of just that….

  • Why Tom Welling never wore the Superman costume