Monday, August 20, 2012

Epic Space Battles: The Five Most Over The Top Movie Premises:

Disclaimer: This list trashes the premises of five science fiction movies I own on DVD or Blu Ray, so I hope it comes across that I did it in good fun.  Please no comments on my taste, or lack thereof, in sci-fi entertainment.

5) Star Wars - The Phantom Menace (1999):  Anakin Skywalker defeats the evil Trade Federation WITHOUT using the Force.

Anakin Skywalker, a small boy who has never flown a spacecraft, unintentionally joins the battle over Naboo.  Forget about the Force, or that his future son Luke Skywalker uses it to take out the Death Star.  Anakin relies on a power much more fun -- luck.  By a stroke of pure luck he lands inside the Trade Federation control ship and launches torpedoes at its generators, thus knocking out its shields.  The Droid army on the surface, controlled by the Trade Federation, powers down after the ship is destroyed.  Skywalker has saved Naboo, but to no one’s surprise he doesn’t get the girl.  It seems that Queen Amadala isn’t interested in dating a child.  Anakin will have to wait for the sequel.  Can someone please tell me how the Trade Federation failed to stop Anakin from penetrating its shields?

4) The Last Starfighter (1984):  Given a host of intelligent species in the Rylan Star League, they have just ONE base where every starfighter is killed in a single attack.     

A teenager, Alex Rogan, is rather good at playing the Starfighter arcade game in which he learns how to master the targeting system of a Gunstar.  Unknown to him, this game is actually an advanced simulator.  Hmmm.  When Alex breaks the Starfighter record, he’s abducted from his trailer park by an alien named Centauri, then is taken to the asteroid base of the Rylan Star League where he finds out about Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.  Evidently, Xur can broadcast his shiny head anywhere he wants, and he shows the torture of a spy.  Alex wants to get the hell out of there so Centauri reluctantly takes him back to Earth.  Through treachery the base’s laser turrets are immobilized and so the only Rylan Star League military installation is defenseless from an asteroid attack.  All the fighter pilots are killed, and their Gunstars destroyed.  Now the teenager from Earth is the Rylan Star League’s only hope.  The pilot Grig takes the last starfighter on the one remaining Gunstar.  Except this ship is armed with a secret weapon.  And with the amazing press of a button the “Death Blossom” is activated.  The Gunstar spins in every direction and launches devastating laser blasts.  The Ko-Dan Armada is wiped out but Xur survives to fight another day.  How exciting.  But could someone please tell me why a human being is needed for manual targeting if the Rylan Star League has the Death Blossom?  And, not to belabor the point, but why aren’t some of these Gunstars located on populated planets so they can, you know, defend the planets?

3) Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979):  Starship combat computers in the twenty-fifth century DO NOT LEARN new tactics.   

Rogers is launched from Earth in 1987 on Ranger 3 and is frozen in a freak space storm.  He drifts back to Earth 504 years later in 2491.  The Earth is devastated from a nuclear holocaust but humanity survives in cities like New Chicago.  They have advanced technology, but the Earth’s defense forces are a joke.  Pirate ships outmaneuver the Earth’s starfighters who rely on combat computers.  Buck Rogers to the rescue.  Using his twentieth century dogfighting skills (forget that outer space has no atmosphere) Rogers spins, flips, and chases down every last pirate ship.  Before the movie has ended, Rogers seduces Princess Ardala onboard the Draconia in order to sabotage their pirate ships and thus avert an epic showdown with Earth.  When the Draconians launch into space, their ships explode.  It’s amazing how innovative twentieth-century humans can be.  It boggles the mind how such innovators destroyed the Earth with nuclear weapons.  Perhaps all the radiation messed with the brains of the twenty-fifth century programmers.  How else can you explain the robot Twiki and its “eba eba” speech impediment?  Or why the A.I. Dr. Theopolis is housed in an analog clock with computer chips replacing the clock hands and numbers.  Oh, and the circuits light up like a face.  Some might think this a lame intersection of technology and the humanities.  If only Steve Jobs had been in Ranger 3 and unfrozen in the twenty-fifth century.  Certainly he could think of adding A.I. to the combat computers so they could learn, innovate, and adapt as only Rogers seemed to do.  

2) Starship Troopers (1997):  Bugs can EXCRETE surface to space projectiles. 

“The only good bug is a dead bug.”  That refrain doesn’t help the human invasion of the Arachnid’s home world.  Giant monster bugs poop out comet like projectiles that obliterate the orbiting fleet, leaving the troopers on the ground to be sliced into spaghetti.  Why didn’t Doogie Howser, M.D. ever think of using a pesticide? 

1) Star Trek - The Motion Picture (1979):  Space junk can EVOLVE into a planet-destroying A.I.  

What more can I say?  Three Klingon K’t’inga-class battle cruisers get their asses kicked by Voyager, an A.I.-evolved U.S. satellite launched in, you guessed it, the twentieth century.  If Kirk and Spock don’t figure this out, then Earth is doomed.  Voyager must be fixed or it will destroy the Earth.  All that is required of our heroes is to reconnect a broken wire.  Just think of the possibilities if a short-circuited iPhone gets launched into space...

These premises all jump the shark because they ultimately exceed the limits of plausibility.  Even though this is the fiction of the impossible, some standard of believability must be maintained.