Sunday, March 6, 2011

The 2011 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part I

Yes! Once again it is that wonderful time of year when nerds from all over compile in the beautiful but uncomfortably-seated Somerville Theatre to partake of 24 hours of straight sci-fi. It is at once the best and most painful thing ever, but totally worth it. We were prepared with many pillows, blankets, snacks, and of course toothbrushes. I was pissed that the "bottomless coffee" deal didn't extend to tea (seriously, what the fuck? Why is everyone so prejudiced against tea-drinkers all the time. It's cheaper, people.) Also there was no geeky burlesque, which is too bad. But OTHERWISE we were set for a radical adventure! This year's 'thon has the distinction of showing a lot of films that I'd already seen, but luckily they were all ones that I liked and now I had the chance to see several in a theater for the first time.

So in case this is new to you, I will be breaking down the films I watched in 3 posts, with short reviews of each. You can check out my coverage of the 2009 event and the 2010 event. Also check out the fantastic poster/mug design from my super-talented boyfriend!

1 Star Trek (2009) (title links to my original review)
Great start to the 'thon with a funny, action-packed crowd-pleaser. As you may or may not recall, I saw this movie three times dubbed in German before finally catching it in English. And I dug it each time! Chris Pine is really attractive, Zachary Quinto is eyebrowingly awesome, John Cho is surprisingly badass, Winona Ryder uses her old person voice, and Anton Yelchin is supremely adorable (as is his wont). I still feel the sting of Abrams' under-use of the excellent and capable Zoe Saldana, who spends the entire movie hanging out in the background in a miniskirt while her male counterparts are fully clothed and taking care of business, but I guess it was more true to the show? (Which I've never seen.) Anyway, fun times! Loud times! SCI-FI TIMES!

2 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
This was sort of the big deal of the marathon: a rare theatrical print of a silent classic with live musical accompaniment. The thing is, it's not actually a very good movie. The story combines aspects of Jules Verne's titular novel along with his later book The Mysterious Island, resulting in an awkward, scattered plot structure and stilted script. There's some impressive underwater photography and filters and effects coupled with a lot of brownface and exaggerated acting. And no giant squid, so... that was disappointing. The music performed by Jeff Rapsis was awesome though, and that's where most of my positive feelings stem from.

3 Metropia (2009)
This was the main film I was looking forward to, primarily because it's animated and sounded really weird. The plot follows a sullen office drone named Roger living in a smoggy future in which a giant company has taken over by making a huge interconnected subway system to link all of Europe. He hears voices in the subway and eventually feels compelled to team up with mysterious model Nina (voiced by Juliette Lewis!) to try and uncover a massive continent-wide conspiracy. The animation is strange and beautiful, with an uncanny but fascinating realism tinged with exaggerated faces, clipped movements, and a murky color palette. As a whole the movie is interesting and imaginative, but loses itself towards the end. I liked it, but I think a lot of other people were not into this one. Oh well. Also the program for the 'thon said this was co-written by "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo author Stieg Larsson"... uh yeah it was actually co-written by Stig Larsson, a different Swedish writer who is totally alive. Nice one guys.

4 Battlestar Galactica (1978)
AKA Star Wars: This Time With Stupid Characters. I've never seen the show and I'm still confused as to what this is exactly- some sort of combination of the pilot for the original series combined with new footage to make it movie-length? Or something? I can't even find a proper imdb page for it. Anyway it's basically about evil aliens called Cylons who want to Destroy All Humans and the ragtag group of fighter pilots who try to save the remains of the human race so they can escape to a distant planet known as "earth", where their human ancestors landed a while ago. It's got spaceship battles and classism and 70's haircuts (or lackthereof. Ha!) and gambling and crazy aliens and a guy who isn't quite Han Solo but might as well be (totally played by Faceman from The A-Team!). Anyway, it's not a bad movie, but it feels derivative and the characterization is very poor. I still have little interest in the show, even though many people tell me to watch the new one. Eh. Maybe later.

Ok so four down, nine to go. Whew. Time for some dinner!


  1. Star Trek is one of those movies where almost nothing works (save for some performances, esp. Chris Pine's overwhelming charisma; he is going to be a star) yet it's so damn fun I don't mind. The direction is awwwful, the writing stale, and most of the actors are a bit too quick to start plunging forks in the scenery, yet it works. I couldn't tell you how if you held a gun to my head.

    As for BSG, I know I'm one of the ones who's already pressed you to watch the new show but it really is fantastic. It shares absolutely nothing with the original save character names (but not traits, and in some cases not even genders) and it has the strongest female TV characters I've ever seen outside a Whedon show. However, the reboot pretty much starts where this hacked-up movie does, with Cylons breaking peace and destroying nearly all the humans. But it almost instantly breaks from the Destroy All Humans angle into something much deeper. But it is time-consuming with mythology and spiritual elements (to me, it's a more cohesive space) so I understand not being gung-ho about jumping in.


    That's all.

  3. I took part in a 24 hour sci-fi marathon once and had a blast. Glad to see you did as well.

    I drink tea too! I like the smell of coffee but not the taste. Never did.

  4. Jake: Haha yeah as I watch Star Trek I see things that are wrong with it, but I totally don't care because it's so much fun. As for BSG, I'm always really slow about getting into new tv shows (how long have I been making my way through Doctor Who?), so something as long and involved as BSG would take me ages to deal with. I'm sure eventually I will, though!

    Simon: Yay! Glad someone else likes it!

    Rich: That's awesome you've done a marathon too! Where was yours held? And yes tea all the way. The smell of coffee actually makes me feel a bit ill, as does its taste.

  5. Mine was in Columbus, Ohio, back when I was still living there; specifically in the suburb of Bexley. There's a wonderful neighborhood theater there that does a 24-hour con every year (though if memory serves they also offer a shorter 12-hour version for those who don't wanna go the distance). One of the films I saw was 'Logan's Run':