Rihanna and Sia previously penned a smash-hit tune about glittering objects floating in the infinity of space. So it’s a natural fit that they’d return to collaborating for the new “Star Trek Beyond” film acheter cialis. Rihanna has released a new single, “Sledgehammer,” from the sci-fi epic’s soundtrack. The song is in a new trailer for the film,… Continue reading
Paul Rudd knew some people would scratch their heads when they heard he would be Ant-Man, Marvel’s newest superhero. After all, his stock-in-trade had been to play a lovable goofball in comedies such as Our Idiot Brother (2011), Knocked Up (2007), the Anchorman movies (2004 and 2013) and the television show Friends. But he got a… Continue reading
Hall H of the San Diego Comic Con went bananas when DC showed a teaser of Suicide Squad featuring scenes with Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, Will Smith as Deadshot, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, and more. Of course, DC made sure… Continue reading
Franchise reboots using alternative time lines are currently all the rage, blurring the lines between sequels and prequels on screens across the globe. JJ Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek is both an alternative time line prequel to the original and a sequel to 2002’s Nemesis. Meanwhile, X-Men: Days of Future Past is something of a reboot of 2000’s X-Men, and a sequel to 2011’s X-Men: First Class prequel. This can get confusing. Lacking a catchy term for alternative reality sequels and prequels, let’s call them “alterequels”.
Terminator Genisys takes the alterequel to a whole new level. Having your alterequel deliberately contradict its original source is one thing: but Terminator Genisys lands slap-bang in the middle of its source, and blows it all away. After a prologue set in 2029, Genisys revisits the original T-800 Terminator’s nude landing in 1984. But this time around, another T-800 (played by an older and fully-clothed Arnold) shows up and biffs its past self. Rather than Kyle Reese rescue Sarah – as in the original Terminator film – this time Sarah rescues Kyle. Not the original Sarah, either, but an alternative Sarah who was orphaned by one Terminator and raised by another.
Much alterequel hullabaloo ensues. Skynet – humanity’s artificially-intelligent nemesis – now seeks birth in 2017 via the oddly-spelled (and vaguely-described) “Genisys” app. The usually formless antagonist even has its own body in 2029. A liquid-metal T-1000 – originally sent back to 1995 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day – turns up in 1984, while 2017 boasts a nanomachine-Terminator, which changes into fog when roused. Adding to the chaos, each of the settings – 2029, 1984 and 2017 – has its own time machine.
Time travel fiction offers you three options: either you can have one constrained history, many histories or one contradictory history. In the first option, you can go back in time, but you’ll find that there are some things you cannot do there: for instance, you won’t be able to kill your grandfather, because that causes a logical paradox. The second option will allow you to travel to a time which is different to your own, but not necessarily back in time: so, instead of landing earlier in your own history, you’ll end up in an alternative reality.
Both of these options are logically consistent; one and the same world never contains anyone who is both alive and dead at the same time. In contrast, the third option allows you to travel back in your own history, over-write events and laugh at logic as you go. Inconsistent though it may be, this option seems to fit Terminator Genisys best. But fiction notwithstanding, it’s worth examining if any of this has a factual basis.
Of course, ultimately, Genisys is fantasy with a light dusting of references to “quantum fields”. But physicists have actually speculated that later events can not only affect past events (consistently help make them what they were) but can even over-write them (inconsistently make them different from what they were). Unfortunately for Genisys, though, scientists overwhelmingly favour the “one constrained history” or “many histories” options.
The former received a big boost of support, following some remarkable results in “postselection” quantum tunnelling modelling, which eliminates problems like the grandfather paradox. And no less a person than John S Bell (of “Bell’s Inequality” fame) suggested that – if we accept the idea that there are many worlds with different histories – then “there is no association of the particular present with any particular past”. If this is the case, then perhaps no event is final or safe – in theory, it may all be flux.
Aspirant history changers beware though: there may be no way to control or predict what shape which any revised history takes. Human or cyborg, physics will likely treat you as just one more object in the flux. Unsurprisingly, time travel stories usually make their point-of-view characters the people who make changes to history, rather than those who suffer them. Try picturing what historical deletion might feel like for the deleted: it’s difficult to imagine what, if anything, is it like to be made such that you never were.
But once inconsistency gets in, it’s difficult to correct: maybe revisions to events never end, and everything is provisional. If you are (even partly) what befalls you, and what befalls you is fluid, maybe you’re fluid too. I devoutly hope that reality follows consistent rules, but perhaps history, identity and consistency are just local. A classic Zen parable suggests that when we see a flag blowing in the wind, neither wind moves nor flag moves – rather, mind moves. Maybe we should conclude that neither human moves nor T-800 moves but rather, mind moves: from Terminator to Zen via quantum physics?
Overall, this new incarnation improves markedly on the third and fourth Terminator films, which wobbled between graveyard slapstick and Christian Bale’s grumpy stubble. But alterequels threaten diminishing returns – as a shaky first weekend at the box office can testify. Genisys’ Skynet taunts its enemies that its existence is inevitable, and it may be right – at least, fictionally speaking. A slightly perfunctory mid-credit sequence ensures that Genisys well and truly clears the way for any future films. While cinema can remould fictional histories ad infinitum, audience patience may be finite. The worry is that history-changing franchises will start to seem (forgive me) interminable.
It’s been just over three decades since The Terminator (1984), wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger first declared “I’ll be back”. In the latest chapter in the franchise, Terminator: Genisys (2015), he continues to make good on his promise. He’s back (again) – and he has a new catchphrase: “I’m old, not obsolete.” Not his most menacing one-liner, is it? Even Bill Shorten could do better! Doesn’t it sound a little pathetic, even laughable?
But laughable, ridiculous one-liners have always been part of Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood career. He came to prominence as a prolific world champion in bodybuilding. His impressive physique was his ticket to stardom.
It landed him his first big role as Conan the Barbarian in 1982 and then as the Terminator two years later. Schwarzenegger was one of several muscle-bound action stars to emerge in the 1980s. The dominant physical profile of the action hero – tall, slim figures of grizzled masculinity such as Clint Eastwood or John Wayne – gave way in the 80s and early 90s to a more muscular frame.
Film scholar Susan Jeffords – in her 1994 book Hard Bodies: Hollywood Masculinity in the Reagan Era – links the emergence of these “hard bodies” to the socio-cultural climate of the time. The Reagan presidency, American ascendancy in the wake of the crumbling USSR, the reputed weakness of the previous Carter administration and popular obsession with fitness all contributed to Hollywood heroes transitioning into big, muscular metaphors for a reinvigorated United States.
While his bodybuilder’s physique was important for embodying larger than life, “All-American” action heroes, what made Schwarzenegger distinctive was his peculiar vocal performances in those roles. American action films often employ the wisecrack, the one-liner, or the pun after dispatching an enemy in a particularly creative way. But the vocalisations are invariably performed with an American accent, delivered with the confidence and fidelity of a native English speaker.
Where do we place Schwarzenegger in this tradition? Film and Women’s Studies scholar Chris Holmlund – in her book Impossible Bodies: Femininity and Masculinity at the Movies (2002) – suggests Arnie’s accent ensures a perception of “foreign ethnicity” that “is a plus in a country where, for the first time since 1930, one in ten people is now foreign born”. But one wonders whether this can fully account for Schwarzenegger’s mass appeal, particularly outside of the United States.
His heavily-accented delivery of snappy, pun-filled dialogue is often not quite right, just a little askew. The cadence or the inflection is frequently off. This, coupled with his generally low register, constantly reminds us we are watching Schwarzenegger rather than the character he is supposed to be playing.
This paradoxical demand to be the quintessential American hero while sounding “less American” than any of the other contenders is part of what endears him to his fans. It’s a sort of unintentional subversion of the Hollywood action hero. This appreciation for that artificiality is especially evident on the internet, where Arnold’s cumbersome vocal performances can be enjoyed with a kind of camp appreciation.
To be clear, camp, first popularised in Susan Sontag’s essay Notes on Camp (1964), is a term that suggests an ironic devotion to heightened, over-the-top style or artificial emotion – cultural product that is just “too much” or excessive, not measured or austere or subtle.
It has historically been associated with pop cultural icons adored by gay men (think Judy Garland), but the internet has enabled camp to become a far more common way of approaching culture. Many memes, quizzes, listicles, and “content” encourage an ironic perspective on celebrity and pop culture that’s awfully close to camp. Perhaps because of the association with homosexuality, camp has rarely been applied to action film, a notoriously heteronormative genre. But Schwarzenegger’s films tick all the boxes: over-the-top, heightened and artificial emotion, “style” over substance. So it’s no wonder this sensibility carries over into fandoms online.
Online fan activities that engage with Schwarzenegger’s vocal performances can be grouped into two broad tendencies: imitation and reiteration. Imitation is obvious enough. People on YouTube, and other platforms that allow recording, produce their impersonations of Arnold. There are even tutorials on “how to do Arnold”:
Reiteration is where most of my research has been focused, and includes video montages of Schwarzenegger’s greatest quotes as well as soundboard pranks. These are prank calls that are made using a selection of voice clips recorded from movies onto what is known as a soundboard, which the prankster uses to interact with a victim on the other end of the phone line.
These soundboard pranks are accompanied by a montage of images from Schwarzenegger’s films and other media stills, usually with him pulling an amusing facial expression or looking ridiculous:
Much of the “comedy” of these pranks derives from taking Schwarzenegger’s dialogue out of its cinematic context and re-purposing it to bizarre ends. These pranksters find a kind of nefarious joy in subjecting people on the other side of the phone to the strange directions Arnold’s recorded responses can take the conversation.
Another practice that can produce strange results is the phenomenon of Arnold-themed Twitter accounts. One of the most interesting was an automated tweet bot from a few years ago that scanned all of Twitter for account names that began with or included “Sarah Conner” or some similar variation.
The entire Twitter feed of this account was the bot simply asking every one of these accounts “Sarah Conner?”, referencing the first Terminator film where Schwarzenegger’s character goes to the house of every Sarah Conner in the phonebook and executes each woman after asking for them by name.
In his book Texual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (1992), American media scholar Henry Jenkins described this kind of behaviour as”textual poaching.“ Fans appropriate aspects of their favoured texts and will redeploy them in various interesting ways. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s online fans have his prolific filmography to play with, but seem especially preoccupied with textually poaching aspects of his vocal performance.
This would seem to suggest that for most fans of Arnie, and despite much commentary focused on his “hard body,” his voice is paramount. For many of his fans, it doesn’t seem to matter how old and obsolete his once fantastic body becomes. He’ll be appreciated and celebrated as long as he can say things like “I’ll be back,” or my personal favourite, from Commando (1985):
I eat Green Berets for breakfast and right now I’m VERY hungry.
Thirty-one years and counting, and the Terminators keep rolling off the assembly line like new iPhones, upgraded with shape-shifting abilities, rebooted Sarah Conner assassination levels and, one presumes, better selfie cameras. “Terminator Genisys,” directed by Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”), is the fifth entry in the series begun by James Cameron and a naked money… Continue reading
She ruled the hearts of Game of Thrones fans with her impeccable and meticulous portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen and now, with the upcoming release of her latest action film Terminator Genisys, Emilia Clarke says she takes her time before choosing a role. The 28-year-old actor is embodying Sarah Connor in the forthcoming film and will be… Continue reading
Jurassic World is shaping up to be a monster success, to say the least. The fourth instalment of the Jurassic Park series has become the first film to take more than $500m (£330m) in its first weekend (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows set the previous record with $487m in 2011). And there seems a good chance this will continue: audience and critics’ ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are north of 70%, good numbers at a time when ever-more-cynical moviegoers have endless summer blockbuster CGI-spectacles to choose from.
Yet one group seems resolutely determined not to catch Jurassic fever. Step forward, my fellow palaeontologists. Of those who have been asked their opinions on Jurassic World, some have been positive, others lukewarm, but the vast majority have spawned articles along the lines of “palaeontologists slam Jurassic World”.
I suppose it’s a headline that gets people clicking. But they make palaeontologists look like grouchy whiners, disparaging a film because of nitpicky inaccuracies in the dinosaurs. The raptors hold their hands wrong, the mosasaur is too big, the T.rex moves too fast, the colours of the dinosaurs look too much like crocodiles and not enough like birds. And that’s just a taster.
The contradiction is that palaeontologists are usually some of the giddiest, happiest, most enthusiastic people I know. We study the most fantastic, stupendous creatures that ever lived in the 4.5bn-year history of our planet, so cynics need not apply for our jobs. We love our dinosaurs, love talking about them, and love it when we can share our passion with others.
The power of Jurassic Park
Personally I think Jurassic World is a great thing for my discipline. I saw the film this weekend and loved it. It was a good monster movie. I was able to suspend my paleontologist’s brain for a few hours, forget about the scientific flaws, and have fun.
I kept thinking back to 22 years earlier, when I saw the original Jurassic Park in cinemas in 1993. I was a nine-year-old kid, frittering away a humid summer in the mid-western US, spending long days playing baseball with my neighborhood friends. I didn’t care much for science. It was my least favorite class in school. But I remember being awed by the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. I didn’t become obsessed with them right away – that came about five years later – but the film brought science to life in a way that no book, museum or classroom lesson ever did.
For youngsters of this generation, Jurassic World will be a cultural milestone – just like in 1993. It will get people talking about dinosaurs, thinking, reading, doing web searches about them, asking their teachers, going to see them in museums. In my eyes, anything that gets people thinking about the world around them, the deep history of our planet, and the relationship between man and nature is a good thing.
Jurassic Park and science
Movies like Jurassic World can also have a great influence on science and scientists. The first Jurassic Park was probably the single most important thing that happened to palaeontology over the past half century. It inspired a huge number of people to study dinosaurs. Many palaeontologists of my vintage (aged 25-35) will say that it set them on their career path. This will undoubtedly be the case with Jurassic World as well, and it may even boost the take-up of other sciences. Maybe the person who eventually cures AIDS, discovers a new type of renewable energy or solves world hunger will have been hooked into science by Jurassic World.
The first Jurassic Park also led many museums and universities to hire dinosaur experts, and catalysed a burst of funding for palaeontological research. Some of the proceeds from Jurassic Park even went to fund original science, through the Dinosaur Society and the Jurassic Foundation. The latter is still active and bankrolled two of my projects as a student: a trip to China to describe the wacky meat-eater Monolophosaurus and fieldwork in Portugal discovering and excavating the “super salamander” Metoposaurus. My career may have never gotten off the ground if it wasn’t for these grants. If any of the executives from Universal or Amblin happen to be reading, I really hope that some of the staggering box office haul from Jurassic World can be pumped into research this time around.
Movies and scientific accuracy
Yes, some of the scientific inaccuracies in Jurassic World are a little annoying. I wish the dinosaurs were feathered, for instance, as we know many would have been from spectacularly preserved fossils. But Jurassic World is not a science documentary, and we shouldn’t expect it to be (unlike the recent T.rex autopsy that I was involved in).
This is entertainment. They make it very clear that the dinosaurs they feature are movie monsters quite unlike anything that actually lived during the Jurassic period. The film’s villain, Indominus rex, is a genetic mash-up of tyrannosaur and raptor and all kinds of other stuff. To even begin talking about this creature’s scientific accuracy would be like a bat specialist discussing the fine points of Batman’s anatomy and biomechanics.
To colleagues who have been bugged by all the inaccuracies, I ask: does it really matter that many people will think dinosaurs were a little bigger or toothier or scalier than they were in real life? Does it matter that the original Jurassic Park incorrectly showed T.rex sprinting at highway speeds or Velociraptors that were larger than the real thing? To those of us who study dinosaurs for a living, these matters may seem important, even existential. In the grand scheme, they’re noise. When a film has the potential to both inspire and entertain people, to the point of changing lives, I say, bring on the sequel.
Like many moviegoers this summer, I plan to watch Jurassic World. And because I’m a paleontologist, I’ll cheer for the movie’s protagonists (the dinosaurs) and jeer at the villains (the humans).
But no matter how thrilling this movie may be, one question will plague me throughout: where are the dung beetles?
Dung beetles – which are beetles that eat and breed in dung – would be only one of many ecological necessities for an actual Jurassic World-style theme park.
Yes, cloning long-extinct dinosaurs is impossible. But even if dinosaur genomes were available, the animals couldn’t simply be plopped anywhere.
So for the sake of argument, let’s say an extremely wealthy corporation did manage to create a diverse bunch of dinosaurs in a laboratory.
The next step in building a Mesozoic version of Busch Gardens would be figuring out how to recreate – and maintain – the dinosaurs’ ecosystems. Accomplishing this goal would require a huge team of scientists, consisting (at minimum) of paleontologists, geologists, ecologists, botanists, zoologists, soil scientists, biochemists and microbiologists.
Such a team then would have to take into account countless interacting factors for the dinosaurs’ recreated habitats. And perhaps they could take a page from rewilding efforts that are currently taking place throughout the world.
The issue of food
In a memorable scene from the original Jurassic Park, paleobotanist Dr Ellie Sattler examines an impressive heap of an ill Triceratops’s feces to look for digested remains of a toxic plant.
Here, the filmmakers touched on a key challenge for recreating an environment from a different geologic period. Many modern plants have evolved defenses against herbivores, which include toxins that can swiftly impair any animal that hasn’t adapted to them.
Consequently, a time-traveling Triceratops would be taking a big risk with every visit to its local salad bar. Paleobotanists could try to solve this problem by cataloging fossil plants that lived at the same time as plant-eating dinosaurs, before picking out descendants of those plants that are still around today. Still, plant lists will never be good enough to say whether or not a Triceratops, Stegosaurus or Brachiosaurus ate those plants or if they could eat their descendants.
The same might hold true for carnivorous dinosaurs, which – for all we know – may have been picky eaters. For instance, although some Triceratops bones hold tooth traces of Tyrannosaurus, there’s no way to be sure a genetically engineered Tyrannosaurus would eat an equally inauthentic Triceratops (even if it were organic and free-range).
So despite a century of dinosaur flicks portraying tyrannosaurs and other predatory dinosaurs gratuitously munching humans, one bite of our species – or other sizable mammals – might make them sick. In other words, there’s no accounting for taste.
Animals that do the dirty work
The lack of dung beetles in that same scene with Dr Sattler also may have explained why the Triceratops’s feces were piled so high. We know from fossil burrows in dinosaur coprolites (fossil feces) that dung beetles fed on dinosaur droppings at least 75 million years ago. Similarly, Late Jurassic dinosaur bones from nearly 150 million years ago hold the traces of carcass-eating insects.
Kay-africa/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
This makes sense: wastes, bodies and other forms of stored matter and energy must be recycled in functioning modern ecosystems. Accordingly, to maintain the productivity of these dinosaurs’ ecosystems, animals that perform essential services to the ecosystem would need to be introduced.
These include pollinators, such as bees, beetles and butterflies, as well as seed dispersers, like birds and small tree- and ground-dwelling mammals. Thus Masrani Global – the imaginary corporation tasked with creating Jurassic World – should have added entomologists (insect scientists), ornithologists and mammalogists to the career opportunities page on its mock website.
‘Pleistocene Parks’ a realistic possibility?
Can we learn anything useful from such fanciful reconstructing of long-gone ecosystems, where large animals once roamed? Sure.
In so-called “rewilding” projects, imagination meets real science. These projects, which attempt to restore ecosystems by closely mimicking their previous iterations, often include reintroducing locally extinct animals.
Perhaps the most famous and successful of such rewilding projects began just after the release of the original Jurassic Park.
In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Although admittedly not as exciting as releasing a pack of velociraptors into the woods, the reintroduction of wolves – which had been extirpated from the area earlier in the 20th century – had a dramatic restorative effect.
After the wolves gorged on elk – which, without predators, had overpopulated the region – riverine foliage grew more lushly. This prevented erosion and expanded floodplains, which gave beavers a better habitat to get to work damming rivers.
A similar experiment is taking place in Europe, where increased numbers of large carnivores, such as wolves, bears and lynxes, are reshaping their ecosystems closer to their original states.
Bolstered by these successes, rewilding proponents have even proposed reintroducing elephants, lions, cheetahs and other animals to parts of North America as ecological proxies to mammoths, American lions and American “cheetahs” that lived only a little more than 10,000 years ago in those areas.
Public Library of Science/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY
Given the much shorter elapsed time since their extinction, enough similar species today and no need for genetic engineering, a “Pleistocene Park” – Pleistocene being the geological epoch that was about 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago – would be far easier to achieve than a Jurassic World (while also being more alliterative).
So to any corporations out there that are thinking of making such a park, do us a big favor: whatever you do, don’t forget to include dung beetles.