Archive for June, 2008

HERE’S MUD IN YOUR AFI! (aka Our Own Top Ten Sci-Fi Films Lists)

June 24, 2008

As mentioned in our previous post, the AFI has returned again to anger and confuse the weary filmgoer.  In fact, it’s high time that AFI assemble their “Top 100 AFI Crimes Against Cinema in AFI Top 100 Lists” or something like that.  Don’t you think?

But, if they did that, then we wouldn’t get to participate in America’s new national pastime – correcting the AFI’s mistakes.  So, both of us (OG and EG to the uninitiated) have cobbled together our own top ten sci-fi film lists.  At first, it should be said, OG was convinced that the lists would differ wildly.  But, as you’ll see below, there’s a good reason the two of us have joined in bloggy bliss together.  (Ew.  That sounds a little gross.)

Now, we should preface this by saying that lists like these are obviously a pretty personal thing based on your own tastes and interests.  For instance, there are probably precious few sci-fi geeks who would quarrel with the inclusion of “Blade Runner” on the AFI list if not it’s placement on it.  But, as you’ll see, neither of us has included it.  As he said before, EG doesn’t like it.  And, if you’ve read OG’s lists of shame from a month or so ago, then you know that he hadn’t seen it.  (Well, he’s seen it since then and is working on his review.  He’ll only spoil that review a little to say that he liked it okay and might have even loved it if not for the barfy Vangelis score.  Ugh.)  

But, we come not to tear films down.  We come to praise.  And, with that, we’ll start at number ten… 

OG’s #10:  ROBOCOP

I’ll never forget begging my oldest brother to drive me down to the Toledo dollar theater to see this one and riding home in his truck afterwards just giddy, knowing I’d seen something completely new and amazing.  This particular dystopia, while much more grim than the wild west feeling of the Road Warrior pictures, probably hit home even more for me as it was set in a future Detroit that didn’t feel like much of a stretch at the time and, frankly, doesn’t seem like much of a stretch today.  The gore was probably what got me the most excited back then, but what continues to work for it is the melancholy performance of Peter Weller at its center as well as the hard-edged satire of the script.  (Not to mention “That 70’s Show’sKurtwood Smith in unleashed, foaming-at-the-mouth, maniac mode.  Something awesome to behold.)

EG’s #10:  THEY LIVE 

I love this film.  It’s social commentary, the limited effects, the fantastic fight scene over putting on a pair of sunglasses, and the fact that my favorite wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper, is the star.  It is definitely a throwback in style to the science fiction films of the 50’s, cashing in on the paranoia that still lurks just under the surface of modern America.

OG’s #9:  THEY LIVE

Heck yeah, I’m with you on this one bro.  Sure, it’s got a boat-load of flaws and is no where near as proficiently made a film as some of the titles in my below honorable mentions.  But, I can’t help it.  I love this movie like the “mutated puppy-dog left in the woods to die and only found because I was about to pee on it on a hiking trip” that it most certainly is.  “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick a**, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”  Oh, yeah.  One single, perfectly delivered line by our mutually favored kilt-wearing wrestler is all it takes to land yourself on a top ten list.  But, in all seriousness, this not only riffs, as you say, on the sci-fi films of the 50’s, it also adds in an extra level of humor and gut-punching action to the paranoia that makes it so much fun to watch and re-watch.

EG’s #9:  CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES 

My favorite of the Ape films.  This is the darkest of the films, chronicling the story of Caesar, who rises up to lead the revolt of the enslaved apes against their human masters.  But, it isn’t perfect.  The reason it is this low on the list is that it is another film that has a tacked on “happy ending.”  The speech given by Caesar at the end of the film wasn’t actually part of the original film.  Such a shame to cop out at the end, but the entire rest of it is so good that I can forgive.

OG’s #8:  THE MATRIX

Much like Empire Strikes Back, this is a movie that could have quickly dropped off of this list due to the films that have come after it.  But, despite the Wachowski’s self-immolation as masters of modern sci-fi, and despite the utter dumbness that pervades the sequels, this original film still stands up as sci-fi greatness.  Yes, it re-invented the modern sci-fi film. Yes, Keanu Reeves really is good in it.  And, yes, it’s the greatest Phillip K. Dick story that he never wrote.

EG’s #8:  THE MATRIX

I swear, I had my list already done before I looked at yours.  This movie gazed at the current landscape of humanity – the feeling of isolation and being an outcast despite the increased “connection” we all have with each other today – and gave a very science fiction reason for that continuing feeling of disconnect.  We aren’t wrong – the world is.  The rise of the machines in this movie, I think, is handled better than in the Terminator films… which is why this made the list and those movies did not.

OG’s #7:  JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING / THE FLY (1986)

So, I’m a rotten stinking cheater.  This is the first of two ties that I’m putting on my list.  Yes, I realize that it’s shameful.  But, this tie I’m less ashamed of than the one that comes later.  Because these two pictures really are uniquely entwined together for me and I couldn’t imagine which film would be above which. 

Both are remakes that outshine the originals, both are directed by men working at the very top of their craft, both are capable of making this jaded gore-hound put his popcorn down this many years later, and both are as much about the psychological breakdown of it’s human characters as they are about the evil science (from without and from within respectively) attacking them.  If this were a horror list they’d be in the top five.  But, so strong are they as sci-fi, they easily make this top ten.

EG’S #7:  INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)

Another great film that blends science fiction and horror.  The majority of the film is flashback to what has led the main character to his current state of mind – nearly stark raving mad.  The idea of near perfect copies of friends and family replacing the originals is more than disturbing, and creates a near perfect atmosphere of paranoia.  As I said previously, though, the power of the film is taken away a little by the tacked on “happy ending.”  But, if that is my only real problem with a film, it is one I can overlook.

OG’s #6:  THE ROAD WARRIOR

Oft imitated, the Road Warrior films, this one (and, the clunkier, but no less beloved Mad Max before it) in particular, are the gold standard in dystopia for me.  I even perversely enjoy the Tina Turner one.  Now, this film is an action film first, but because of all its imitators and because of its singular vision of a world gone to seed, I couldn’t not put this puppy on here.  Mel Gibson can verbally assault a thousand more cops and I’ll still love Max and this masterpiece forever.

EG’s #6:  THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

One of the finest crafted science fiction films of all time.  And, you know what?  My favorite aspect is something no one talks about – the film is touted as one with a message against the violence of the world… but every time I watch it, I’m struck with the fact that the “paranoid and xenophobic” people of the world are proven right in the film.  The aliens have come to inflict their will upon Earth… and despite the best intentions, it is still oppressive.  Just my thoughts.  Great film.

OG’s #5:  ALIEN

Don’t get me wrong, I love Aliens as much as any red-blooded American boy should.  But, that’s just it.  Even more than “The Road Warrior,” I always think of it (and the Terminator films, by the way) as an action film first.  A brilliant, chest-beating action film with great sci-fi madness dripping from the walls.  But, Alien is ultimately the one that sticks out to me as a MUST INCLUDE as I’m assembling my list.  I suppose it’s as much a horror film as Aliens is an action film, but I think what supersedes the horror is that Ridley Scott re-invented what space travel could look like in film and gave it a working-class grime that’s been copied ad infinitum since he did so.

EG’s #5:  ALIEN

See, I said this should be in the top five!  And, after much thinking, I concur that Aliens is more of an action film.  It is amazing, though, how often science fiction combines with elements of horror.  Here, it is done so well, though, that I’m still calling this one science fiction.  It was absolutely cutting edge, and there are many imitators, but they all pale in comparison.

OG’s #4:  BRAZIL

As much as it pains me that Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys” or “Time Bandits” are just edged out of my final list (definitely in the top 20 for me, though), this is the one that I keep coming back to.  I love the whole bizarre, brain-blending thing.  The first time I got to the end credits I stopped the tape, said “What just happened?” and then immediately re-wound it and watched it again without missing a beat.  I’ve been watching it over and over ever since.

EG’s #4:  STAR TREK II:  THE WRATH OF KHAN

Yeah, I’ll say it – I’m a Star Trek fan.  Still, this is the one film in the series that even non-fans look at and say, “Yeah, that’s a good movie.”  This is the one Star Trek film that all others strive to be… and too often fail.  The characters are written perfectly, the story is tight, and the acting (which, admittedly, might have been over the top in another movie) is perfect.  This movie transformed what was merely an extension of a TV show into the franchise it is today.  As for The Empire Strikes back (that other beloved second film in that other beloved sci-fi franchise) … I know I’m making enemies here, but it isn’t going to crack my top 10 in science fiction.  I still see the original Star Wars films as more fantasy (a retelling of the Arthurian legend) than science fiction.  Still, it is a great movie.  Oh, and Brazil?  Its not making my top 10, either.

OG’s #3:  THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK / STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

This is a cowardly attempt to appease two warring fan groups and I should really be ashamed of myself for not taking a firm stance on the matter.  Go ahead.  Call me a sissy, nancy boy.  But, I refuse to seperate the two, and if I did, how do you think that would make Robocop feel?  (He does feel, you know.  Robot or not.  Don’t you remember.  “What’s your name, boy?  (dramatic pause) “Murphy.”  (score swells)) 

Anyway, despite this tie and the cowardice it reveals in me, if I’m being completely honest, as much as I love Empire, Khan is secretly my preferred film.  (Don’t tell my brothers)  Both are the pinnacle of their respective franchises for me.  Both are basically flawless.  But, Khan, man. It’s just awesome all the way through, but then the final act comes and the epic conflict between the two Jupiter-sized personalities at the center of it along with the single most moving character death ever filmed just bring the whole enterprise (pardon the pun) up to the level of high art for me.  It’s like having popcorn with a nice bottle of chardonnay.  Wait, what?  That sounds disgusting.  But, you get my drift.

EG’s #3:  THE ABYSS

This is probably the most divisive film I’ve got for this list.  I think it a fantastic film.  The special effects are groundbreaking and the acting is top notch – something you don’t get often enough in science fiction.  In my head, it is a blend of Close Encounters and The Day the Earth Stood Still, but, even so, it manages to find its own voice.

OG’s #2:  CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

EG, you were so right to be incredulous at the AFI’s omission of this film.  It’s the only one on my personal list that can give an as yet unnamed film a run for its money.  And, while I do ultimately put it at number two, it’s nudging right up cozy to that number one slot.  There’s maybe just a Gundar’s hairs-breadth between them.  (That’s my vote for nerdiest sentence of this blog entry, by the way.)

EG’s #2:   CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

So much for our lists differing wildly, huh?  AFI not including this one automatically renders their list invalid, in my opinion.  And, we also agree – this is just barely out of that number one slot.  The hard science of then next film just edges it out.  Still, I can watch this one more often, if that counts for anything!

OG’s #1:  2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

This was not just the obvious choice for me, but the honest choice.  This movie never stops blowing my mind.  The first sci-fi movie without lasers that I gave the time of day to and the one that pretty much changed me as a film-watcher from that moment on.  I can completely understand why this might not hit your top 5 EG, but I also think that it doesn’t need me to sing its praises any more than has already been done by countless fans before me.  (Funny story:  In college I had read about a guy who stayed awake for 5 days straight and had hallucinations.  I decided I would do the same thing.  I was 48 hours into this experiment when I had the brilliant idea of throwing on 2001 for a viewing.  Yeah, I was flat on my face asleep in the center of my dorm room at the first appearance of a man-ape.  College does not make you smarter, kids.)

EG’s #1:  2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

2001: A Space Odyssey:  Surprised you, huh OG?  Yeah, me too.  My statement from the AFI posting holds true – not necessarily my favorite, but deserving of the spot.  As a matter of fact, after I posted that, I went and watched the film again (thanks Netflix!), and I couldn’t put it any lower.  It is probably the purest science fiction film ever made.  The extrapolation of modern science into a plausible future is amazing, especially when you consider that this film is 40 years old.  It is also a beautiful film to watch – from the early scenes in the wilds, to the docking of a space plane, to the psychedelic “travel” scenes near the end.  It also inspires discussion.  The film is very open ended, and while that loses a lot of people, it allows a lot of speculative dialogue from folks willing to accept that the film DOESN’T answer all the questions.  Now, is this one that I would want to pop in and watch everyday?  No, but if someone had me at gunpoint and demanded I show them the best science fiction film ever made, this one wins.  (OG’s NOTE:  I have not stopped crapping my pants from this revelation.  EG putting a Kubrick film at the top of any list!??!  As well as I know you brother, I would never have predicted this in a million years.  And, for this, I now love you with a boundless love that my heart never knew I was capable of!!!!)

And, with that, OG and EG joined hands and frolicked through the aisles of Blockbuster together, agreeing on every film that they laid eyes upon.  Two atoms smashing together to spark the beginning of a new, more perfect universe!

Um, er, this blog is getting uncomfortable.

So, let’s end this on a less disturbing, more triumphant note. 

TAKE THAT, AFI!!

We sure showed you!  Yeah, maybe we didn’t have the likes of Jessica Alba and Morgan Freeman singing the praises of our choices, but we have the truth on our side.  These are perfect lists and you would be wise to revise yours accordingly.

Oh, we almost forgot.  Here are the films that just missed our lists…

OG’s HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

E.T. (kept off due to the same “family film” caveat EG employs), The Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes, Delicatessen (don’t be scared by the French speaking.  See – This – Now), Children of Men (give it another 10 years and it’ll probably creep into the top), Gojira, and Gattaca

EG’S HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Alien Nation (I wanted this one to make the list sooo bad, but I feared my love of the TV show made this one better than it really was), Westworld (would there have ever been a Terminator had there not first been a Gunslinger?), Robocop (Weller was amazing in this movie), Logan’s Run, Fantastic Voyage, E.T., and Forbidden Planet.

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AFI: 10 Top 10 – Science Fiction

June 18, 2008

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So, the American Film Institute (AFI) once again made a list.  That seems to be what they do.


On Tuesday, June 27, 2008, The AFI: 10 Top 10 was broadcast.  Basically, they took ten genres (TEN?!?  Really?) and declared the top 10 movies in each genre.  And, as usual, they were wrong.


I don’t want to go into all of the various lists, but since this is The Steve Austin Book Club, I thought we’d take a look at what the AFI is calling the top 10 science fiction films of all time.


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10 – Back to the Future – Okay, I liked this movie a lot… but putting it on a top 10 list for science fiction?  Seems a little much.  When I think “science fiction,” I gotta say – I don’t think, “Back to the Future.”  Yes, I know, it does revolve around time travel… it just doesn’t leap to my mind.  Still, for mass appeal and movie quality, I suppose I can go along with this, especially since it is this low on the list.


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9 – Invasion of the Body Snatchers – This one should be in this list.  Maybe even a little higher.  My only complaint with this film is the sorta cop-out “happy” ending – which was tacked on.  But, without a doubt, I think that this one does belong on the list.


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8 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Yeah, I’ll go with this.  At first, I was thinking that the original film should be here, but I can’t deny how much better overall this sequel is to the original.  This one seems right, and probably about this spot.


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7 – Alien – Now, some would argue whether this one or the sequel, Aliens, really belongs here.  I won’t get into that, but I will say that this seems a little low.  I would’ve thought this film would be in the top five, but I could be wrong.  At least it is on the list, right?


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6 – Blade Runner – At the risk of losing more geek-cred, I don’t like this movie.  I know I’m in the minority here, but I can’t help it.  Despite that, given the popularity of the film, I can see it in the top ten… I suppose… but certainly lower than the sixth position.  Like I said, though, my personal taste is factoring in on this one.


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5 – The Day the Earth Stood Still – I would’ve made it a little lower, but the 5 spot is perfectly acceptable.


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4 – A Clockwork Orange – I don’t know that I can adequately express how much I hate this film.  As such, and regardless of the way others feel about it, I can’t believe this is on any top 10 list, especially when I factor in the ridiculous number of other science fiction films that could have been on this list.  I… I have nothing more to say on this.


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3 – E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial – And as much animosity as I have for the previous film, I have an equal amount of love for this film.  Great movie.  That said, I don’t know that it would’ve made my top 10 for specifically science fiction films.  I probably throw it more in with family films.  And, if it had made my list for science fiction, I think it would’ve been a little farther down.


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2 – Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Of course a Star Wars film was going to be on this list.  I’m just surprised by two things – which one, and how high it is on the list.  I suppose A New Hope, being the original film and essentially self-contained, could make the list, but in my experience, most people seem to agree that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films overall.  As for position, I would’ve put the representative of the Star Wars films somewhere in the fourth to sixth position.


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1 – 2001: A Space Odyssey – Not my favorite science fiction film, but I can absolutely understand it being on this list, and why it is 1.  If there is to be a flagship for science fiction film, this one fits the bill.


My biggest complaint with this list are the things that are missing.  I’m not positive that films like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan, Twelve Monkeys, Planet of the Apes, Total Recall, or Robocop would’ve made my top 10 list for science fiction films, but they would certainly have been more likely to be on this list than some of these offered by AFI.  And what about films like Forbidden Planet and Fantastic Voyage?  Or even The Running Man and The Matrix?


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Without a doubt, though, what makes this list most suspect is one ommission that is completely unacceptable in my mind – Where is Close Encounters of the Third Kind, AFI?  How can there be a list for the best science fiction films of all time that doesn’t include Close Encounters?!?


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Bah!  AFI, you have failed again.  Hang your head in shame.

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION: CYBORG by MARTIN CAIDIN

June 4, 2008

It’s finally here! Herein is contained the Book of the Month review of Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, much delayed, and sent out with the heartfelt apologies of the two tardy losers who post this blog, EG and OG.  As always, beware! There are SPOILERS within! If you haven’t read the book and want to and don’t want to know anything about it yet, now is the time to bale! 

 

If you’ve read the book and want to participate, we’d love it if you left a comment or 12 at the bottom of the post. Now, if we are all set, please settle down, sit a spell, kick your shoes off, and let’s take a look at Cyborg! 

 

SYNOPSIS:

 

“Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive.  Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.  We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” 

 

And, so goes the original opening of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the TV series based on this month’s book, Cyborg by Martin CaidinCyborg is indeed the tale of Steve Austin, but a different one than most of us who watched the series are used to. Not completely different… but different enough. 

 

Air Force Colonel Steve Austin is a former astronaut who had become a test pilot. During a test flight, there is a catastrophic accident, leaving Steve Austin barely alive. As a result of the accident, he loses his left arm, both legs, and his left eye.  But he survives. 

 

Dr. Rudy Wells, Austin’s physician and friend, is approached by Oscar Goldman of the Office of Strategic Operations (OSO), with a proposition. Using the cybernetic breakthroughs of leading researcher Dr. Killian, Steve Austin could return to a relatively normal existence, not a crippled shell of the former man.  Wells, knowing that Austin would rather die than live in his condition, decides to allow the procedures.  We follow as Austin is implanted with his cybernetics and given a great amount of detail about how they work, their advantages, and their limitations, as Steve Austin becomes the first true Cybernetic Organism (or Cyborg). 

 

As Austin recovers from the procedures, we also follow his mental state, from his feelings of less than a man, to freak, moving toward acceptance of his state, and even to a place of gratitude for the advantages he has.  The reader is treated to the testing of the cybernetics of Austin, as he learns his abilities and limitations.  Before long, the OSO decides that it is time for Austin and his new cybernetics to serve their country, and begin sending him out on missions. This first is simply a recon mission, but an amazingly dangerous one, infiltrating a secret Russian base near the southeastern perimeter of the United States. 

 

Shortly after a successful completion of that mission, Austin is sent into the Middle East to steal a Russian MiG-27. 

 

On with the discussion! 

  

DISCUSSION:

 

EG: This is the first book we’ve taken a look at that has some “hard” science fiction elements to it. That is, it has really in-depth scientific description and explanation, focusing on theoretically accurate possibilities for the future of real science. Not simply, “Yeah, we gave him robot legs!” OG, I’m really interested in your reaction to this book, since you’ve admitted to having less experience with science fiction in book form. 

 

OG: You’re right, I have.  And I’ve really been looking forward to bringing some hard sci-fi into my diet. I love reading about new developments in technology and other futurist type writing, so I think I’d enjoy that stuff within the context of a greater work of fiction. That said, in a novel, I think I can only truly enjoy it if it’s been woven seamlessly into the narrative. My problem with Cyborg was that it didn’t handle that balance properly. My understanding is that before writing fiction Martin Caidin was an aviator or aeronautics engineer of some sort. That doesn’t surprise me in the least because many of his science-based passages were so dry that they chapped my lips.

 

That difficult reading (and, as short as this book is, I really did have a hard time slogging through it) only had a real payoff in terms of narrative as Steve began to deal with the psychological implications of what he’s become and his upgraded body. And, while that character stuff was much darker than I expected from the source material for “The Six Million Dollar Man,” (at least I don’t recall any scenes where Lee Majors attempts suicide!!!) it made the earlier stuff worthwhile because Caidin really forces you as the reader to understand how the “bionics” would work in conjunction with the body and therefore puts you squarely inside Austin’s head. 

 

EG:  That is true.  As for the character, no, in the TV show, Steve Austin never attempted suicide.  I’ve read some articles that refer to the Steve Austin in the book as “bloodthirsty,” but I don’t think of the character in that way.  To me, he is what I would call more “militaristic.”  He has a job to do, he has been trained and prepared to do that job, and he does that job.  In that frame of mind, in those situations, moral debate is left for a later time, perhaps by other people entirely.  And, the description of the cybernetics, to me, actually helps fill out Steve Austin as a character a bit.  Instead of seeing the cybernetics as an arm and legs, they very much became more “tools” in my head.  For example, when they talked about the limitations of the legs in side to side movement, or when they described the arm as a piston-like sort of battering ram, I saw them more clearly as tools of the man, rather than a part of the man himself.  Steve Austin was being equipped.  Modifications are even made from mission to mission.  The science-based passages helped cement that in my mind. 

 

OG:  Well, I can see that.  I did like all of that stuff, but it could have been done so much more fluidly by another writer. Caidin, to me, seems like the prototype for Michael Crichton, someone I feel does a better job of mixing the sciency exposition with the story and character. Well, from what little I’ve read from him, that is. 

 

EG:  I can’t argue with that.  It was infinitely easier to read through, for example, Jurassic Park (you did know that was a book before it was a movie, right OG?) than it was to get through Cyborg.  I gotta warn you though, my friend – a lot of hard science fiction suffers from this same problem. 

 

OG:  Well, yes, Mr. Smarty Pants, Jurassic Park and The Lost World happen to be two of the Crichton books that I have read. 

 

Anyway, what might have worked better from a storytelling point of view would be to start the novel in first person following the surgery as Steve begins to deal with what has happened and then, through third person flashbacks (better) or through conversations with one of the three exposition-mad characters in this book (worse), we could slowly learn about the accident and the technology that was integrated into his body. That way you dole out the science in bite-sized chunks that also serve the greater story. Instead of what you have now, which is kind of like drinking a gallon of NyQuil prior to eating a delicious piece of cake. 

 

EG:  Yeah, I went in expecting something closer to the TV show, but instead I got a hard science fiction book that turned into a spy thriller.  And, being totally honest, I’ll admit – I was very happy once we moved beyond the hard science fiction and into the spy stuff. I didn’t dislike the hard SF, it is just that, as you mentioned, long sections of pseudo-science technical explanation and testing can become…tedious. Getting to the application of Steve Austin’s cybernetic enhancements was much more interesting.  Perhaps Caidin could have focused on each of the cybernetics as they were about to be used, giving the explanation, and then immediately going into an application. 

 

OG: I think so.  And, I too welcomed the fact that this wasn’t just a big hunk of American cheese with dubious “science” on top.  I mean, the TV show is cool for what it was, but had that been all the book was, it might have been easier for me to get through, but wouldn’t have been as interesting. That said, I wouldn’t have minded in the slightest if Caidin had dropped the dusty realism just long enough to give our boy that cool telescoping eye from the show. A camera is fine and all and perhaps more plausible. But, come on! We’d all gladly suspend some disbelief in favor of a telescoping eye!  By the way, do you recall Steve Austin having a dart-shooting finger in the show? 

 

EG: No, Steve didn’t have the dart-shooting finger.  I also found the science-based book version of Steve Austin more interesting than the Steve Austin of TV.  I liked that  he couldn’t run at super speed or bend steel girders.  I was even fascinated by the explanation of his endurance abilities – that the heart and lungs that supported him when he was all man actually supplied much more for him after his accident, since they didn’t have to “feed” one arm and two legs.  I honestly didn’t miss the telescopic eye at all. 

 

OG: You didn’t miss the telescopic eye!?!?  Oh man, I don’t think there’s a single book I’ve read in my life that wouldn’t benefit from a telescopic eye or two.  I mean, imagine if Atticus Finch had had one.  Well, I don’t know what he would have done with it, but it probably would’ve come in handy when he had to shoot the rabid dog.  Of course, he did all right in that regard without it.  But still.

 

Okay, so I majorly digressed. 

 

Anyway, yeah, I also started to turn the pages at a faster clip once it became the spy thriller that it became. Again, it reminds me of another writer and, based on the characterization of Steve Austin that Caidin gives us, it’s a writer I wouldn’t be surprised to find he was an avid reader of. That would be Ian Fleming. And, this is not just because of the obvious comparisons to James Bond in terms of secret missions, cool gadgets, etc. Fleming also began as a technician in the field he later wrote fiction about and also wrote about a dark, manly man character that dispenses with human life without passion and views his employer with more than a smidgen of cynicism; a character who seems to hate himself while being simultaneously confident in his ability to do the job at hand. I will risk beating the proverbial dead horse here to point out that the primary difference between Fleming and Caidin is that Fleming made the transition from practitioner of spy-craft to fiction writer much more smoothly and entertainingly than Caidin did from aviator to sci-fi novelist. 

 

My hunch is that Caidin’s following three Steve Austin novels improve without having to do all the heavy lifting that’s taken care of in this one. Do you have any interest in reading any of those? 

 

EG:  I think we can plan on putting those on a list for a future date. 

 

OG:  Shonuff!

 

EG:  Maybe we’ll get through one in less than two and half months! 

 

OG:  ‘Nuff said.

 

EG:  For this book, though, despite the dry portions of theoretical science, I enjoyed it.  And, though it seems somehow a sacrilege to give the inspiration of this little club a less than 5 Running Steves rating, I’m gonna have to go with 3 1/2 out of 5 Running Steves

 

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OG: Yes, it does seem like a sin, but I’m gonna go just a bit lower and give it 3 Running Steves

 

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Hey, I don’t know if you caught any of NBC’s “Bionic Woman” re-tread debacle, but I kind of wonder if the makers of that show read Cyborg prior to putting it together. Now, they were hampered by some bad writing and not great casting. Also, they went a little too “Battlestar” on the thing and basically drained any fun out of what should be a little fun on principle alone. That said, they did try their hand at injecting some of the melancholy and moral quandary of becoming a cyborg (against your will) that you only really get from this book and not from the previous TV incarnations of these characters. And, while they failed completely, I can see better what they might have been attempting and it makes me wonder if it couldn’t have worked, or if a “Six Million Dollar Man” remake would be worth a thought. NBC certainly won’t be trying that any time soon. But, it makes me wonder.  Maybe some day. 

 

EG:  I did see the first four episodes of that series.  I don’t know if the book inspired it at all; I would say it was just the writing staff infusing a common “angst” into the show for the purposes of conflict.  (Get ready, because I’m about to go all geeky trivia here!)  I would say that the issue of melancholy and moral quandary was actually handled pretty well in the TV film “The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman,” in which Steve Austin’s estranged son was in a similar crash to his father, and his father asks OSO to implant bionics in him. 

 

Afterwards, he deals with the issues of not wanting the bionics, particularly because of his feelings toward his father.  He even has to be counseled about it.  I remember liking the movie… but it has been 20 years since I saw it.  To further my geeky cred, though, there was another reunion movie a couple of years later called “Bionic Showdown,” and it starred a bionic Sandra Bullock.  I remember it stunk though, a lot, in spite of my crush on Sandra Bullock.  And, I don’t think the near 20 years since my last viewing will change THAT opinion at all. 

 

OG:  Wow.  “Return of…” sounds like a Netflix candidate for me.  Awesome. 

 

In that vein, I must say I’m excited at the forthcoming “$40,000 Man” about an astronaut involved in a terrible accident and is then rebuilt by the government on a shoe-string budget. Could be some comedy gold in there and maybe distract Jack Black away from any Green Lantern project he may have been thinking of in the past. 

 

EG: Uh… yeah.  You know, I have not been thrilled at the thought of any of these comedies that have been proposed over the years, be it the Jim Carrey “Six Million Dollar Man” or this one.  Then again, there haven’t been all that many comedies that have looked good to me in recent years.  But, if it keeps Jack Black away from Green Lantern, well, I’m all for it. 

 

OG:  Well, I think that just about does it.  Onward and upward.  And, dear readers, you should know that we here at the SABC are working feverishly to make sure we get “Dune” read and discussed in time for the end of June, beginning of July. 

 

We look forward to that and hope to see you in the comments section on this one or the next!

  

Well, they got my eight bucks now…

June 2, 2008

I had pretty much resigned myself to just saving the upcoming “Incredible Hulk” film on my Netflix queue for its eventual DVD release months from now.  But, then I pushed play on the latest trailer (apparently shot from the inside of someone’s trenchcoat at a trade show or something) and I am trying to figure out how to get a sitter so I can see this thing in the theater.

For anyone who remembers the opening of the original TV show, this trailer is the perfect shot of nostalgia and an excellent tonic for anyone wanting to wash away the taste of the previous version by (you wouldn’t like me when I’m) Ang Lee. 

Take a look…

What’s funny is that this trailer has been cut together from most of the footage I’ve already seen in previous trailers that left me underwhelmed.  But, somehow, the addition of the music and the attempt to connect this flm more directly to the TV show has won me over in a big way.