Thursday, January 31, 2013

Refreshing science fiction

Most sci-fi I see is either insufferably militarist, or hopelessly naive, and besides, most mainstream entertainment is boringly unambiguous. Not so with C 299,792km/s. You should probably not read further if you want to see the movie, there are spoilers below. But watch it again after reading the rest; I understood some things better only the second time, after I'd read some comments on the movie's vimeo page.

Here we have a grave, almost reluctant Malleck leading a mutiny on the Kestros IV, clearly a space warship. While certain in her conviction that her act is just, she is not merely juxtaposed as The Captain's moral opposite. The Captain seems like a reasonable man who merely does not (yet?) share Malleck's ideology: that humanity can do better than build space warships to blow stuff up and wreck planets.

My favourite line of the movie is "That's alright, I don't need them" - in response to the Captain's warning that he can't give her his "launch codes" (presumably for some superweapon). It's the first in-story hint that this is not the usual evil-terrorists-commandeer-superweapon trope-tripe that Hollywood loves dishing up. Immediately after, the film cuts to the retro-style Beyond the infinite "documentary" that's woven into the in-space arc hints at this beating-swords-into-ploughshares theme by negation, when Dr Harold Newman laments, "Since Man has been building tools, he has used them as weapons". It becomes clear with time that Malleck seeks to use the weapon as a tool, exactly as Newman vainly hopes (about untold amounts of energy), "or, to reach new [worlds]."

No doubt there are some hidden treasures in the film I've missed. There is a scene where Operator Hale searches for Lieutenant Kai, and a screen scrolls a list of names with short blurbs, some of them a bit bizarre. For example, there is "Unresolved conflict has led to extreme silliness" and "Bread crumbs are not as healthy as once [blurred]." No doubt some in-jokes among the film crew - and perhaps a nod to some of the Kickstarter campaign's funders?

Overall, I love the film. I wish there was more of it. Some people seem to be troubled by the acting, but it doesn't bother me. In fact, to me it adds authenticity - the characters are technocrats and soldiers, not orators and superheroes. The only scene I find a bit fake is where Kai figures out that something fishy is going on - that the ship is not awash with radiation but is, in fact, hijacked.

Even soldier Kai is human. There is a delightful scene near the end where he figures out what Malleck's motive is, and cracks the slightest smile, as if to say, "Yes, I like this script better than the wargames I signed up for!"

Watch it now, and then figure out a way to subvert your environment so that the world can become a better place.