Sunday, 17 June 2012

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury died last week, on the 5th June, age 91. The news knocked me because Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books I've picked up so many times, meaning to buy, but has always remained on my "to read" pile. So the news caused me to get it and finally read it.

Fahrenheit 451 is the story of Guy Montag, a fireman. But in this world, a fireman's job is to locate and burn books, which usually means burning the entire house - even the owner.

The language is a bit of a hurdle. It is so colourful and loaded with metaphors that, at times, it strangles the story, and I had to struggle to get back on track. But I persevered and the story opened up. It's not the best novel I've ever read, but it certainly made me think, and that is the reason for this post.

More than anything, Bradbury's view of the future made me think about Facebook and Twitter and the way they can soak up huge amounts of time. In the story, books have been outlawed, but only because society has naturally moved away from them, wanting more immediate entertainment and boiled down versions of stories. Most people have huge, wall sized TVs, some have all four walls converted, but the only programmes are endless feeds of chatter of family and friends - and none of it having any real substance. The result is that they have no time for independent thought. They don't think; they don't question. All they care about is that they are entertained and kept happy. They have no idea they are being controlled, don't realise how doped up they are, don't even realised that other nations hate this future America and there is a war going on right above their own heads.

But Montage begins to question. Montag wants to know why he has to burn books. He realises that there is something wrong about subduing an entire nation like this, turning everyone into mindless zombies.


But what are the Facebook and Twitter addicts? There are too many times I've got up on a morning to write, only to waste all of that time reading feeds of people I don't know talk about stuff I don't care about. I've even found myself responding, laughing and nodding when people post anti-Facebook/Twitter messages, or merging the names as a parody of what an utter waste of time it is... and yet the first thing I did this morning was check for notifications and any new posts.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Prometheus - short review, no spoilers

Back in 1979, Ridley Scott shocked the world with Alien, a film that burst science fiction out of its shell and splattered horror all over the sci-fi genre. The movie remains a classic, and although the sequels were box office successes, they never managed to capture the disturbing atmosphere of brooding horror that Ridley Scott gave us. And so, with Prometheus promising to be a prequel, and directed by Ridley Scott himself, it poses the question if he work the magic himself.

Short answer: yes he can.

I'm not going to give an outline of the story because I went into the cinema knowing this was a prequel to Alien and nothing more. It started slowly, with breathtaking scenery and shots that give a fantastic sense of scale. Unlike the splatterfest action sequels to Alien, Prometheus offers a gradual, cumulative and atmospheric horror on a sci-fi canvas. There are moments that are genuinely creepy and scary rather than holding out for shocks and jumps (although there are a couple of these, delivered very well).

The casting isn't fantastic, and I totally disagree with other reviewers who say that Michael Fassbenger, who plays an android, steals the show. I thought he was overly robotic - especially when you compare him to the creepier, much more lifelike android, Ash, played by Ian Holm in the original Alien. And while I understand that the point of Ash being humanlike was the shock revelation, Fassbenger was so OTT that he might as well have a flashing light, arms held out straight while he repeats, "I AM A RO-BOT"

Noomi Repace, however, plays a belter as Dr Elizabeth Shaw. I'm dying to give examples and talk about scenes but daren't. Just go see it. Wooden android aside, Prometheus was otherwise brilliant. A fantastic prelude, but it also stands on it's own merit as a damn fine sci-fi thriller.