Sci-Fi Tech, Then and Now
Calfgrit13 has an Xbox. His favorite game, (the game he plays most often), is Halo — he has three games of that series. I tried playing Halo with him once just after he got it for Christmas last year, and I just couldn’t get the hang of the controls. Friday night I tried again, and still, using a console controller for a first-person shooter game leaves me flopping around dead, quickly and repeatedly. I’m hopeless trying to aim with a controller. (I’m great with a mouse and keyboard on a computer game. Game designers: make games that can be played multiplayer across platforms!)
But while playing with him, and listening to him regale me with his knowledge of the Halo universe history, technology, and aliens, I remembered that I have the movie Aliens in my DVD collection stored in the cabinet under the TV. He’s 13 years old now, so I wanted to show him this classic sci-fi movie of my generation. I explained that not only is it a classic flick to watch, it has some great one-liners he can quote while playing Halo.
“They mostly come at night. Mostly.”
“Game over, man! Game over!”
“I like to keep this handy, for close encounters.”
“We got nukes, we got knives and sharp sticks.”
Saturday midday would be our best opportunity to watch the movie, as Calfgrit9 would be at a friend’s house for a birthday party. We dropped CG9 off at the party, and on the drive back home, I told CG13 the story of Alien, the predecessor of Aliens. I explained, in detail, how Alien is a horror movie based in space, in which one alien wipes out a whole crew of a space cargo ship. CG13 doesn’t like jump scares, and so I know he wouldn’t like watching Alien at all. But one needs to understand the story of the movie to really get the most enjoyment out of the sequel.
“And then Aliens starts out with Ripley’s escape pod being discovered 57 years later,” I finished. He saw similarities between the Alien story and the Halo story, and he told me more about it.
At home, we settled into the den to watch the DVD. Throughout the run, he wanted me to give him a heads-up about upcoming scares, and I gave him several seconds warning for each one I could remember, (which was probably 90% of them). I’ve watched this movie at least four or five times in my life, and I seem to pretty much have it memorized — I surprised myself with how well I remember every detail.
This movie really is very good. It well stands the test of time with regards to its story telling. The way it builds from the anti-climatic tension during the initial “assault” by the colonial space marines, to the action-satisfying battles later and the climatic end fight with the alien queen. Great stuff. Great writing, great directing, great setting. But two things stand out — one was noticeable as an error, or fault, from the first time I saw it, and the other is only noticeable now, after 30 years of technological advancement in the real world.
The error/fault that I noted way back as a teen in the mid-80s is: why is there no crew on the orbiting spacecraft? CG13 noted this problem when the plot came to the point where the characters had to get the second drop-ship to come pick them up. It’s one of those plot errors that I often complain about in movies I find bad. Fortunately for Aliens, though, I can get over one plot problem hump and still enjoy the movie. It’s when there are numerous plot problems, throughout the film, that ends up making the whole thing really, really stupid and bad.
The other thing we both noted during the movie, and then discussed after the movie, was how sci-fi/futuristic equipment ideas have advanced so much over the years. In Aliens, the colonial space marines are wearing and using gear and weapons less “futuristic” than what our modern-day marines and soldiers are wearing on real world battlefields. A (non-Kevlar) helmet, a rigid and thin chest plate, and a 10-millimeter “pulse rifle” — the only thing even a little futuristic of these things is the digital ammo counter on the rifle.
Modern movies and games take a longer technological leap with imagining future military equipment. The armor in the Halo games not only covers the entire human body, but essentially gives the man inside super powers. This difference in how creative people thirty years ago and now think about and anticipate what the future will look like is so vast that it makes me wonder just how wildly short of reality our current sci-fi predictions will be.
Fortunately, regardless of how pathetically under-teched the future seems to be in the Aliens universe, Calfgrit13 still liked the movie. And he says he’s looking forward to using the cool quotes while gaming in Halo with his friends. I’m going to get such a buzz the first time I hear him say, “Let’s nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
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