20170127_1603361This blog is dedicated to science fiction movies – mostly independent.

Funny, dark, psychological, deep, smart, weird, odd, low budget, gory, eccentric and created in first place not for cash earning, although some occasional exceptions for big budget sci-fi will be made.

Independent means under $15-20 mln budget. No trash – in most cases I don’t review trash (with that said, “Ex Drummer” is one of my all-time favourites). All the films are rated from 0 to 4 only within the sci-fi genre.

Why indie? Because since late 90-s indie movie production has been growing into something big, bigger than ever. So many awesome films with tiny budget and unknown names were made, most of them remaining virtually hidden in the shade of commercial sci-fi, blockbusters and YA franchises. More and more of the recent indie sci-fi is not about aliens, monsters, robots and stuff, but more about us, humans, our nature and psychology. This change is still ongoing and it’s great.

I watch all movie genres, so… it would be reasonable to ask why did I start this blog? Simply put, I haven’t found any other that concentrates purely on good science fiction. It lacks coverage. The movie that inspired me particularly in first place was probably ”Coherence”. Some all-time favourite movies of mine are “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Stalker“, “Mulholland Drive” and “Lost In Translation”. Welcome! On the right panel you can browse by categories, otherwise go directly to reviews a-z or reviews by category.

Robots get bullied!

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Found via Sam’s article on “Ex Machina” and “Westworld”.

Stephen Hawking said: “The short-term impact of A.I. depends on who controls it; the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”

Atlas Robot by Boston dynamics is learning how not to fall when being bullied:

This is how desperate it looked several years ago, when the robot wasn’t able to pick itself back up:

Atlas Robot 5

 

Alphabet Inc. (read “Google”) sold Boston Dynamics several months ago though, after owning it for 4 years.

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BFI London Film Festival 2017

While I am incredibly happy to see a Russian movie (of the same name as My Bloody Valentine’s epic work!) to win The Best Film Award at BFI London Film Festival 2017, Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ (“The Lobster“) “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” really make me wanna strain at the leash.

Both have awesome posters, by the way.

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Yesterday was the last day of the BFI London Film Festival 2017, which ran between 4-15 October 2017, and I thought I would comment on the Best Film Award winner, on some other nominees, as well as on some of the films that took part in various special galas. The films of the Festival reflected today’s global challenges, while also emphasising various nations’ peculiar traditions and highlighting truly personal stories behind broader themes.

I. Official Competition – Best Film Award: 

Winner – “Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Coming from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the man behind such critically-acclaimed films as “Leviathan” (2014) and “The Return” (2003), “Loveless” is another well-made film about a couple who lose their son during difficult time of divorce. “Loveless” has already made commotion (in a very positive sense) at the Cannes Film Festival, and all points to a…

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What Happened to Monday? (Seven Sisters)

Director: Tommy Wirkola. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close, Willem Dafoe, Marwan KenzariPal Sverre Hagen, Christian Rubeck, Cassie Clare. 2017, UK-Belgium-France-USA. Budget: unknown. Box office: $19 mln. IMDb: 6.7. My rating: 2.5/4. Dystopian sci-fi thriller about overpopulation.

monday-movie-poster-xl“Beyond an insult to intelligence.”
(zippersthemule)

“The film portrays a dystopian future where overpopulation has lead those in power to create a one child rule, with chilling justifications for abhorable acts in the name of protecting humanity.”
(denise-314 from the UK)

“Stunning Movie Exciting from the first minute.”
(Mahmoud from Egypt)

 

One. “What Happened to Monday” is a movie where Noomi Rapace performs 7 different roles – 7 sisters. Remember Tatiana Maslany and her multiple clone performances “Orphan Black“? It’s a tough role for any artist, so is Noomi Rapace good enough?

Two. If you ever wondered what will happen if you make a combined clone of Michael Bay & Roland Emmerich and make him become a director of a mid-budget movie, here’s your chance.

Three. Movies and plots are like jeans. The best examples look like this, solid and firm:

Think of “Children of Men“, “Ex Machina” or “Stalker“. Solid and firm.

Some others, like “Pacific Rim“, “Terminator: The Judgment Day” or “Star Wars” may have occasional plot inconsistencies, but it’s fine. They know it. We know it. It doesn’t matter. We can both get through it, still having strong orgasms watching the final result.

Other candidates, like “Armageddon” (miners learning to be astronauts? grass on the asteroid?) or “The Dark Knight Rises” (send all the police forces underground? why no! make them look perfectly clean shaven? fine!) may be pretty fucked up with plot holes and inconsistencies, but pretend like they aren’t and proudly try to masquerade them with quickly-paced action, CGI and other bollocks.

But there’s worse than that – some films (“Passengers“? Any Roland Emmerich film?) almost brag about their plot problems, proudly presenting them in-your-face as a newly discovered gem.

“What Happened to Monday” falls somewhere between the last two categories. But while Roland Emmerich’s films never take themselves too seriously, “What Happened to Monday” does.

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Here’s a quick autopsy – the film starts like a “Children of Men“-wannabe, then spends some time as a “Passengers“-like whiny melodrams about family values, then finally – thanks to the unknown xenomorph God – abandons any attempts to appear smart and converts itself a pretty straightforward sci-fi thriller. The overall feeling after having watched this Netflix-distributed dystopia was like observing the monster from “Frankenstein” – it moves clumsily, sometimes makes a sincere smile, but you can clearly see that it wasn’t seamed too accurately and is an extremely artificial creation.

I may sound overly sardonic and happy to crush the movie’s corpse body, but “What Happened to Monday” isn’t actually a bad film. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on. Seriously. The sci-fi designs are curious, like the mirror that tells your physical condition and skin problems or a self-programming punching bag.

The film has an excellent premise – how the society turns itself into a totalitarian regime state to protect the world from overpopulation. There weren’t too many films about it, in fact, and half of them are surely from the 70-s (with “Soylent Green” being the most obvious example, plus some elements from “Logan’s Run“).

The visuals are one of the films strongest points too.

It has a wonderful cast – Noomi Rapace (the original 2009 Swedish “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” – a very good movie, by the way; “Prometheus“), Willem Dafoe who needs no introduction (“Antichrist“, “Platoon“, 2002 “Spider-Man“) and Glenn Close (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1“, “The Girl with All the Gifts“).

So what went wrong? The details. From the first frames you dive into a fascinating world of Mr. Cliche. He is the boss in this dystopian world. The details completely ruin any credibility of this world, and for a dystopian movie that is crucial. That’s like teaching miners how to be astronauts when you can teach the latter how to drill.

In order to avoid the spoilers, let me make an example. All the people must carry an ID card. In any time of the day and night you must be able to prove that you’re the only child in the family. Even when you go to buy some meat, you still need to give your card to the butcher – why?! But I can swallow it. Okay. But if you’re a 35-year-old-woman, it means your mum is at least 50 years old, then what’s the point? If you were the only child yesterday, it’s obvious that tomorrow you’re still the only child because your mom can’t have kids anymore. That’s a big plot hole, but while watching the film I made a rough list and counted about 10 of them, and that’s just during the first view.

Where Alfonso Cuaron was subtle in portraying such a realistic dystopia, “What Happened to Monday” uses a far simpler approach. It’s like Michael Bay filming “Children of Men“. Need to portray an overpopulated world? Just show an overcrowded street 5 times in a row. Totalitarian society? O.K., who cares how it was created and who allowed it. Just show how the police taking away the kids from the angry parents! (…and why all the kids are between 5 and 10 years old? Why they don’t take infants?) Putting illegal children in a cryocam without letting the parents to visit them? Sure!

But if you manage to close your eyes on it, it’s not a bad flick. I was delighted to see Noomi Rapace performing the role(s) of 7 sisters. Noomi Rapace, the chameleon actress… I thought she will become a major movie star 5 years ago? I loved her roles in “Prometheus” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, but due to bad luck after 2012 she did 6 movies (mostly crime/thrillers), 4 of which had less than 35% on RT and pretty low ratings on IMDb. Only “The Drop” with her and Tom Hardy seems to be a good flick (7.1 IMDb and 90% RT).

Willem Defoe, a great American actor, was okay here – his role was limited (thanks to the script!) to a kind-but-severe-uncle cliche. Glenn Close, also a versatile and and talented actress, portrayed a very cliched villain that you want to punch in the face from the first frames… but I can’t blame her for that (thanks to the script!).

Worth watching? “What Happened to Monday” may easily satisfy young unpretentious veiwers (think “Surrogates” or various YA dystopias which I can’t stand), so I get it why Netflix stepped in. For everybody else… If you want to see what happens if Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich make a baby and then make him become a director and shoot “Children of Men” sequel… you’re more than welcome! Just don’t forget that these big-bada-boom guys can still do some nice stuff, especially if mixed with seven clones of Noomi Rapace, one Willem Dafoe, a dystopian setting and some chilling thriller.

Watch instead: choose any kind of dystopia you like! “Children of Men” for a modern, minimal and extremely relevant dystopia, “A Boy and His Dog” for 70-s black satire, “Moon” for a minimal low budget sci-fi awesomeness, “Dead Man’s Letters” for all Tarkovsky’s fans, “Version 1.0” for a Kafkaesque surreal cyberpunk, “THX-1138” for an arthouse film, “Sleep Dealer” as a smart illegal workforce Mexican dystopia – all much better movies. For a quick-paced action… ”V For Vendetta” (also by no means perfect movie) or bloody lovely ”Watchmen”?

Or be a sweetheart and help ”Blade Runner 2049” that is definitely struggling in the box office.

2.5/4

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Sunshine

“If this movie was American, it would doubtless be a bunch of American cowboys being sent up with fireworks and catch phrases.”

 

A wonderful review of this hugely underrated movie by Assholes Watching Movies. I can rewatch it endlessly. Like in case of “28 Days Later“, Alex Garland and Danny Boyle’s collaboration brought an incredible result. And why? Because – among all other things – they had a good solid script.

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Alex Garland’s second movie, “Annihilation“, will be out pretty soon. trailer was released recently and it looks absolutely hypnotic.  I really think in 20 years he may become what Villeneuve is now if he continues like that.

The cast is impressive – Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny and Sonoya Mizuno. Really looking forwatd to it.

 

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

50 years into the future, the sun is a dying star, and Earth will die along with it. We send a ship of astronauts to bomb the sun back into shining but the team goes awol somewhere out in the million miles of space. So we send another one, but this IS IT. Mankind’s last hope. We’ve officially mined all of Earth’s resources for this motherload. No pressure!

sunshine02The new team includes Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy. They’re clearly already under stress when we meet them several years into their trip to the sun, but shit’s about to get a whole lot messier. Just as they’re approaching the most dangerous part of the mission, they receive a signal. It’s a ping from the lost ship. It’s been 7 years since anyone’s heard from them…they can’t still be alive, can they?

The crew debates whether they should divert their…

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High-Rise / posters

4 bloody lovely posters for “High-Rise” that I must have missed when reviewing Ben Wheatley’s surreal film. The last one has some very curious details.

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High-Rise” a bloody mess of a dystopian movie based on a novel by J. G. Ballard, but it had its moments. And it also had Tom Hiddleston, Siena Miller, Jeremy Irons and absolutely beautiful although rather lifeless visuals.

 

Space Station 76

space_station76Director: Jack Plotnick. Starring: Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Marisa Coughlan, Matt Bomer. USA, 2014. IMDb: 4.9. Budget: roughly 1 million. My rating: 2.5/4. Retrofuturistic black parody, Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station.

– Warning. Dr. Bot must remind Misty not to become… too close to her therapist bot.
– I’ve gotta be close to somebody.
– We must keep this professional.
– Don’t be so cold.
– I must maintain objectivity.
– But I feel like…  I just feel like you and I have really been going through it here, you know? I feel like I have really been connecting with you. You know me.
– Emotion overload.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– I’m a leg man, you know?

(a discussion between 2 guys about newly arrived female crew member)

 

Can you imagine the future with corded telephones and colonies on orbital space stations, VHS cassettes and interstellar travel? If you can’t, Jack Plotnick did it for you. ”Space Station 76” is a 1970-s version of the future that never came. And “Space Station 76” has one of the best A.I. ever. Seriously.

 

What I liked. It’s actually easier to describe ”Space Station 76” by saying what it isn’t.

 

It’s not exactly a comedy – at least, not if you understand modern comedy only as ”21 Jump Street” or Seth Rogen-like comedy. It’s more of a Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station-like film. Deadpan humour. You never know when the characters are actually joking – well, probably except for the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot, the true gem of the film.

 

It’s not really a science fiction, or, at least, not in first place – the film mostly mocks its retrofuturistic sci-fi setting and ridiculous 70-s costumes, but in a nice and elegant way. It’s not a pure parody – the film really cares about its characters, never using them just as subjects of ridicule. It’s not an art-house movie – the film is not that experimental and distant from the viewers. Last but not least, it has R rating and uses it smartly – no dick jokes, but deadpan humour. The scene with the frozen dog was just nuts.

 

Combination of all this makes ”Space Station 76” pretty unique – and as it often happens with movies of  this kind, the audience hardly got it. ”I wanted to explore what it was like to be a child growing up in the summer of the 70s, which was my experience, but I wanted to tell it in sort of an artistic way by setting it in the future as we had imagined it would be in the 70s”, said Jack Plotnick in an interview.

 

There’s a weird funny episode when Liv Tyler’s character, Jessica (who just arrived at the space station) and Matt Bomer’s character, Ted (who has been living there for a while with a psychotic wife) are trying to approach each other and having a meaningful intimate conversation. Ted has an artificial arm that sometimes goes out of control. When Jessica, following her romantic impulse, puts Ted’s arm on her heart, the hand goes rogue and starts to squeeze Jessica’s left tit. All of this showed with in a deadpan manner, finishing with Jessica finally saying ”I think I should go now”.. If you like that kind of humour, you’ll find ”Space Station 76” brilliant.

 

Visually it’s a beautiful film. You may accuse it of anything but the style. It really squeezes most of its tiny budget, citing 70-s science fiction classic like Logan’s Run and Star Wars. And Dr. Bot, oh! That’s the quintessence of artificial intellect and a good parody. It reminded me of another oddball movie ”Dark Star”, the episode when Sgt. Pinback was trying to convince the Bomb N. 20 not to explode.

– I need to tell you I have just been feeling… so much better since we started treatment. I mean, like, even just my dreams  have just been better. You know, like, I haven’t been having all those feelings… and I’m just really feeling in the now.
-Feelings can sometimes pull one out of the now and put them in the then. Live in the now, not in the then.
– I don’t wanna be in the then. I wanna be in the now.
– Talking about the now can put one in the then.
– I don’t want to be in the then, I want to be in the now. I wanna move forward…
– Don’t move too far forward, you’ll be out of the now. Not too far forward.  Stay in the now.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– What are you thinking in the midst of this silence?
– Actually, I was thinking about smoking.
– Cigarettes contain carcinogens which may cause cancer in carbon-based life forms.
– Right.
– You are a carbon-based life form… therefore, cigarettes may cause cancer inside you.
– Thank you.
– You’re welcome.

(The captain visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

What I didn’t like. Space Station 76” is at times uneven, especially in the first part. The photography, the acting, the music – all is well-crafted and you feel the movie was made as a passion project, but it’s the screenplay that occasionally sags, running out of fuel – maybe because it was written by 5 different people? Some scenes intended as funny left me perplexed. Some felt really unnecessary. Some plot lines got lost in the middle and didn’t get the development. A more carefully crafted screenplay would really help the film. It’s especially seen in the first half of the film, with the second being more juicy and concentrated.

All the actors created memorable and bright characters – maybe, even too much, as at times they seemed little bit too monotone in their role, like playing the same note over and over. Of course, it was intended as a part of the movie’s style, but a little more versatility wouldn’t harm the film. Liv Tyler (superhero satire “Super“, sci-fi “Robot & Frank“, “Armageddon“) was a nice exception to that, as her character was actually alive, with doubts and flexibility. It was great to see Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl in “Watchmen“, “The Conjuring”) who added a weird touch to the film with his pseudo-sexist obsessions.

The production. The project was originated by Jack Plotnick at his house while experimenting with his friends and favourite actors. This is his debut film, but Plotnick is by no means a newbie – he is in first place an actor with 20+ years of experience (”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, ”Drawn Together”, ”Wrong”).

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. ”Space Station 76” is an interesting project, but definitely not for everyone. If you like weird and touching humour of ”Super”, ”The Lobster” or ”Defendor” combined with a retrofuturistic sci-fi look on the 70-s, definitely yes. I started to watch it with bias but learnt to appreciate it more and. Visually stylish and delicate, ”Space Station 76” still leaves weirdly good aftertaste, even far from being perfect. It’s an odd little movie that is trying to find its own tone.

2.5/4
Watch also: if you want too see a weird sci-fi comedy, have a look at “American Astronaut“, “Dark Star” or “Kin-Dza-Dza“.

Mars Explorers Wanted

Saw a graffiti when coming back home…

…and it reminded me of NASA posters I saw recently. They were originally developed for an exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in 2009:

NASA is currently planning to send humans to low-Mars orbit in the early 2030s (remember the probe that crashed there 1 year ago?). Here you can read more about journey to Mars overview.

And this gorgeous shot is not from the next “Alien” installment – it was taken on the Mars surface during the spring in the Northern hemisphere (May 21, 2017) by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Over the winter, snow and ice have inexorably covered the dunes. Unlike on Earth, this snow and ice is carbon dioxide, better known to us as dry ice.

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Harvey Weinstein & Hollywood’s Complicity

This is brilliant and must be shared. I’ve been following this topic, and it smells really bad, especially when you read the comments of other people on various places on the web.

Kate Winslet publicly criticized Weinstein and just because of that many criticized her (!) for staying silent for so long, like she is just trying to get away with the fact that all these things were well known. How can one react to this? I don’t know. And Winslet is not the only one who reacted to it in this way and was criticized for. The same happened to Ben Affleck and many others.

There is absolutely zero doubt about Weinstein and how stuff like this must be treated. I, as a man, am happy that people discuss it publicly now.

From the other point of view, there is a lot of hypocrisy in all this topic which I don’t know what to think about. Take Cara Delevingne. She was already successful as a model. She is not an actress, at least, not in first place. She comes from a wealthy family and know lots of influential people. What did she had to lose? I specifically searched if she mentioned about Weinstein before all this stuff started. Zero. Nothing. Why was she silent? Maybe I didn’t search well? Maybe. I am not saying I am 100% right on this, but it smells bad. And now she is posting stuff on Instagram, gaining 200k likes per posts that she is “not afraid”. If Delevingne did speak out before, maybe it would have helped somebody. But she didn’t. It is my assumption, but it’s pretty sure many will try to jump now on this ship of accusations.

It is obvious who is guilty and I am not trying to say something controversial. But there’s more that just one person guilty, and this more is the system. And if – if! – I am right about people like Cara Delevingne – it’s also these people too who contributed to this rotten system. Because Jay got it perfectly right – there are hundreds of Weinsteins out there, and they would have never done what they did without other people’s complicity.

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

So. This is a difficult subject to broach because of its sheer scope. Unless you’ve been hibernating under the proverbial rock, you know now that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of rape, sexual misconduct, and various kinds of inappropriate behaviour that are mind-boggling in their number. Harvey Weinstein is (was?) a producer and film studio executive who co-founded Miramax, which produced several popular indies, including Pulp Fiction, Clerks, and The Crying Game, and 24th-annual-producers-guild-pga-awards-backstage-roamiwon an Oscar for producing Shakespeare in Love. He was recently ousted from his own company because of these accusations, though it should be said that it was likely a form or self-protection for the company rather than any sense of moral obligation. Indeed, many people at said company will have had knowledge of, and helped cover up, the very reprehensible behaviour that got him ousted in the first place.

We know why women stay silent –…

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scifiinterfaces.com / sci-fi designs

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I’ve been a long-time follower of this amazing blog, “Sci-Fi Interfaces“. Its author, Chris, is a very humble guy…

“Scifiinterfaces analyzes the interfaces seen in movies and television show for fun and erudition. Its main author and curator and all around guy is me, Chris Noessel.”

…but in fact he does a very detailed and lentghy analysis of all type of sci-fi interfaces, from “TRON” and “Oblivion” (about 30 interfaces analyzed) to “Dr. Strange” and “Johny Mnemonic“. Together with Nathan Shedroff, Chris published a 348-page book “Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction”.

Here is one of my favourite posts by Chris about “Johny Mnemonic” (by the way, Keanu Reeves is doing “Replicas”, his new sci-fi movie): Cyberspace: Bulletin Board.

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So, “Replicas”… Here’s a shot from it with Keanu wearing a helmet that makes me think of the “Johny Mnemonic”:

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I must sadly admit I paused the trailer at the same moment ss it was written “from the producers of ‘Passengers‘ and ‘Transformers‘.” That is a bad sign. Really bad. How someone even dares to use it to attract audience? It’s not 2007 now. I cannot express how much I hated that movie even though it had some moments (actually I hated both, but at least Transformers never tried to pretend something it isn’t). The trailer of “Replicas” doesn’t look really good. For now, it looks exactly like a film influenced by the producers of “Passengers”, ha ha.

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And to end this post on a positive note, two ultracool GIFs from “Johny Mnemonic”, a movie with weird as never Dolph Lundgren and a cyborg dolphin.

 

 

A Trip to Mars (Himmelskibet) / posters

soviet-movie-poster-trip-to-mars-1925

This is not a Soviet film as you might have thought, but a Soviet poster for “A Trip to Mars” (“Himmelskibet“), a silent 1918 Danish film, one of the earliest productions in space travel sub-genre of science fiction. It’s interesting to note that Denmark didn’t make another science fiction film until the 60-s.

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This original poster was cool, but not as the Soviet one.

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Pay attention to the writings.

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I won’t review it since this oldie is mostly interesting for cultural reasons and cinephiles (I’ve already covered “Aelita“, a silent Soviet movie about, guess what, also a trip to Mars! It seems like people really preferred Mars to the Moon), but moviessilently.com did a terrific film analysis, here are some highlights:

  • “The spaceship is called the Excelsior but it looks more like a fat little airplane.”
  • “It seems that Mars was once warlike but then some guy showed up and said, “Hey, what if we make love and not war!”
  • “The performances are very… European, especially among the human characters. There was a tendency in European silent cinema to treat film acting as a series of poses, which leads to a choppy set of movements as the performers check items off the list. “Let’s see, I need to be excited then determined then indignant…”
  • “The first key problem with the film is that modern science fiction fans have seen this scenario before but always with a twist.”