IMA Robot (See What I Did There?)


Author’s Note: Original Post Date: January 27th, 2012

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Of all the books that were published in 2011, high on my list of favorites was “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. Being the nerd that I am, it came highly recommended on the Interwebz, Twitterz and even the Facebookz. Seeing that the audio book version is narrated by super geek extraordinaire Wil Wheaton was another plus. Naturally, I did a bit of research before deciding to check out the book. It seems Mr. Cline is a pretty cool cat: He wrote the screenplay for Fanboys (2008). He wrote a fan screenplay for (the non-existent) Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Oh, and Back to the Future lovers? He also bought (and drives) a 1982 DeLorean. Great Scott! Doc Brown would be proud.

The book itself is a love letter to both retro gaming and the 1980’s.  USA Today has referred to it as “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” The story takes place in the year 2044, where life has become pretty depressing, all things considered. Teenager Wade Watts, along with most of the free world, spends almost all of his time plugged in to the OASIS, a fully interactive virtual reality simulation that allows someone to be anyone (and go anywhere) they wish. Think of World of Warcraft, except you’re wearing a visor & gloves…and you’re actually experiencing the action firsthand. Wade’s (relatively) ordinary life changes when James Halliday, the reclusive creator of the OASIS, dies…leaving behind a mysterious contest. Halliday has promised his entire fortune to whoever can solve the intricate riddles and puzzles he has installed into the OASIS. Halliday spent his life obsessing over 1980’s pop culture, and anyone who is going to obtain the ultimate prize needs to have a thorough understanding of the music, movies and (most importantly) the games of that time period. Armed with his collection of “ancient” television programs, movies and albums, Wade is ready to meet this challenge head-on. But what happens when he meets people who are willing to kill in order to claim Halliday’s legacy for themselves? Danger, excitement and possibly love await Wade…but he may need to reexamine his notion of reality in order to achieve his goals.

Why am I spending so much time talking about a book, you ask?Isn’t TitanTown supposed to deal with movies? Well, yes. But I’m getting to that. A successful book should, in my opinion, spark your interest in something. In other words, it should fire up your brain and get you thinking, inspire you to research something you don’t know much about and motivate you to try something new. Speaking for myself, I was born in the 1980’s, so I was already familiar with some of the references in “Ready Player One.” Still, there were plenty of nods to old cartoons, movies, songs and games that even had me scratching my head. In Wade’s case, he had been pouring over 1980’s pop culture nonstop for at least 5 years before the events of the novel really kick into gear. I, on the other hand, am not so fortunate. After reading the book, I’ve begun sort of a mini-campaign of my own….and I’ve found that there is literally not enough time in the world for me to absorb all this knowledge.

Still, I do what I can. While reading the book, every time I encountered a reference I wasn’t familiar with, I jotted it down in my mental notebook. Before long, I had a laundry list of things to check out. Games, movies, music, etc. How many people do you know that are still driving around, listening to Oingo Boingo? How many times have you watched The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)? What was the name of Spider-Man’s robot in the Japanese series? Do you know what to do when you run into a troll in Zork? And what the hell is a Lich? Exactly. If you’re Wade Watts, knowledge like this is essential in your quest. If you’re DirectingTitan, you may not win anything… but it’s fun, and you’ll definitely get some interesting reactions and sideways glances.

For this week’s movie, I decided to check out something from the year 1982. I remember it well, because I was a spry -2 when it came out. Still, whenever classic movies are discussed, this one seems to appear in the conversation again and again. Nominated for 2 Oscars and winning countless other awards, I present:

“Blade Runner” (1982)

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 “Chew, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes!”
 – Roy Batty

“If only I could understand what I’ve seen with my own eyes…”
 – DirectingTitan

Hey, DT! Convince me! So why…: Blade Runner?

Imagine a society where humans and robots are living together. These organic robots, called replicants, look exactly like you and me. But, there’s a catch. These replicants are stronger and faster than you. In some cases, they may be smarter. Many times, better-looking. And, in extremely rare cases, they may even be more human than you are. Scared yet? You may want to consider it.

This is the case in Blade Runner, which is set in a “possible” Los Angeles in the year 2019. This version of LA is dark, rainy and crowded. Oh, and there are flying cars, also. And spaceships and things of that nature. Many major companies are genetically engineering replicants, the largest of these companies being the Tyrell Corporation. But, don’t think that humanity is gleefully working hand-in-hand with these replicants. Rather, these would-be humans are used to perform tasks considered to be too dangerous for humans to attempt. You know…nice, safe activities like exploring space and serving on off-world colonies. And, unsurprisingly, many replicants aren’t really thrilled with this deal. After one particularly brutal uprising, replicants are banned from planet Earth. Those who ignore the ban are sentenced to be hunted down and “retired” (AKA terminated) by a special police group known as Blade Runners.

Enter our hero, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an expert Blade Runner who has been out of the game for a while yet is pressured into action. It seems 4 renegade replicants are loose on Planet Earth, looking for a way to extend the 4 year lifespan inflicted on their kind, and only Deckard has the experience and skill necessary to retire them. This group of replicants involves oafish Leon, deadly Zhora, sultry Pris and, the most dangerous of all, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). But, how can you stop a superior enemy force when you don’t know where to look? Especially when they can easily pass for human beings? Along the way, Deckard will have to examine both himself and his moral code. He certainly has his work cut out for him, and his growing attraction for Rachael, a Tyrell Corporation employee, certainly doesn’t make his job any easier.

If you’re a fan of science fiction and/or film noir, Blade Runner might be right up your alley. The film performed poorly at the box office, but has since been considered a classic by critics and fans alike. When I decided to watch this film, I grabbed the first version I could find. This happened to be the “Director’s Cut” edition, which featured some altered scenes and a brand new ending. Apparently, theatergoers weren’t pleased with the original ending (which was a bit forced) or Harrison Ford’s “private eye” voice-over narration. In this newer edition, both the original ending and Ford’s narration are stripped. What remains, however, are some major questions raised in the film that still inspire debates to this day. I’ll let you figure those out for yourself…

Now that you’re here, check out:

Blade Runner is based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick. Although, interestingly enough, director Ridley Scott claimed to have never read the original source material. Despite this, Dick was pleased with the finished product, and you probably will be, also. Fans of science fiction may be familiar with some of Dick’s other works, which were also brought to the silver screen..films such as… Total Recall (1990), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), and many more. If you’re interested in science fiction, I definitely recommend checking out the works of Philip K. Dick. Check your local library, perhaps. #shamelessplug

Who brings a DVD to a gunfight? You do (If it’s Blade Runner):

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Having never actually been to Los Angeles, I can’t presume to know much about it. My one and only trip to California was to the always classy San Diego. In Blade Runner, however, I can tell you that Rick Deckard’s LA is a dangerous place. With countless criminals and humanoid replicants going bump in the night, what’s a person to do? Stay home and cheer for LA’s newest football team, I guess.

With that said, there’s a fair amount of action to be found here. When Deckard tracks down a replicant, he’s not there to read them their rights. His purpose, as he is reminded countless times, is to “air them out.” This, I suppose, is a less offensive way of saying “BLAST THEM, YOU FOOL.” So, yeah….you can expect a lot of shooting. And punching, chopping, strangling, etc. Also, some inappropriately tight pants. The final showdown between Deckard and the replicant ringleader, Roy Batty, is also something to see. Watching it late at night from my undisclosed location, it was actually starting to give me the creeps.

This is the end…

Blade Runner has carved itself a unique niche in the much broader fields of science fiction and detective fiction. What results is an interesting blend of both genres that is definitely worth a viewing. It took me two separate evenings before I began to grasp the finer aspects of the film, and I’m still noticing new things now. Loyal reader Kelly informed me that, upon watching, Blade Runner would instantly become a part of my Top 10 list. Bold words, but there is a lot of truth there. I’m not prepared to confirm or deny this statement yet, but I can certainly understand where the sentiment comes from. What do YOU think?

Hopefully, if you enjoy science fiction, pop culture and reading…you will check out Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Since its publication, Warner Bros has purchased the rights to the movie. Whatever comes of this project, it is practically guaranteed to be epic. Meanwhile, my whirlwind tour of the 1980’s will probably continue in future installments of TitanTown. You, however, are welcome to take a break and enjoy Blade Runner. My flying car and I will send you a postcard from wherever (or whenever) we end up. – DT

*Note: In his spare time, DirectingTitan is not a replicant. He promises. Honest…*

 

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