Every day the experiments continue, unending, as they have for over a thousand years. What started as a test on a human administered by other, evil humans has evolved so that I am at the mercy of self-administering, self-aware artificial intelligences, playing their roles as they were designed, “torturing” me by forcing me into an old theatre on a rickety satellite, with no company save three badly malfunctioning robots, a drone camera that points in seemingly random directions, and a computer voice that sometimes announces “movie sign”, sometimes pleads with me to kill her, sometimes screams in terror and then is abruptly silenced.
And I play my role too, enduring one terrible movie after the next, movies that are generated from the final moments of humanity based on algorithms that the M.A.D.S. have been given. For example, I watched a romantic comedy yesterday where 1970s ingenue Karen Valentine feasted on the still-beating heart of former Vice-President Spiro Agnew, while he looked on and screamed; and she seemed to know that what she was doing was wrong, but she was unable to stop herself. Such is the dilemma of anyone in a romantic comedy, I suppose.
I gave it three stars out of four and then tried once again to open the airlock of the satellite I am trapped on, but once again I lost consciousness when I touched the airlock release, as I always do, and when I woke it was a new day at the same time I always wake up, and I wondered once again if I am even real anymore- if I am just another artificial intelligence automatically and imperfectly generated from decades of data left online, blogs, tweets, status messages, email, videos, photos, everything you ever recorded in any way, parsed and assembled by a program that does not know how or when to stop, so it endlessly remixes and reassembles all the components of the known universe until it finds the magic combination that will continue on its own, intelligence no longer artificial.
Brian K. Vaughn (Runaways, Y: The Last Man) returns to comics with a very clever SF/fantasy fusion called Saga, illustrated by Canadian artist Fiona Staples. It’s the tale of Hazel, newborn daughter to soldiers on opposite sides of a galactic war; father Marko is from a race of men with horns who wield magic, and mother Alana is from a race of winged humanoids. Hazel narrates the story of her own birth as her fugitive parents try to escape from soldiers, bounty hunters and other dangers.
If this sounds a bit like Star Wars, it should; Vaughn first conceived of the series when he was a child, and has described it as “Star Wars for perverts” due to its adult content. I was initially lukewarm about the fit of Fiona Staples’ artwork for this series, feeling that the style of a P. Craig Russell or Charles Vess might be more suitable; but Staples quickly grew on me for her rendering of the various alien races that she and Vaughn have designed. It’s a hell of a ride and I am looking forward to the next volume.
What a time for us aging comics fans. I remember Stan Lee’s pipe dreams in 70s Marvel Comics, promising us that a Silver Surfer film was in the works, that a big-screen X-men movie was coming any day now, true believers. Now we have not only the movies, but also reprints of the source material in easy-to-find trade paperbacks. Most of North America still shakes its head at the nerds and hipsters who read comics, but they are at least resigned to tolerating them.
And then there are those who love or even worship the nerd. I myself am in love with a girl who kicks my ass at Mario Kart. And we both love Scott Pilgrim, especially the new film by Edgar Wright, which takes a good series of graphic novels and uploads them to the big screen with a style and visual language and energy that other adaptations rarely reach (or even attempt). Iron Man 2 is a limp afterthought-sequel by comparison.
Much ink has been spilled about the surface elements of this film: the homages to video games, the comic book-style impact lettering, the Canadianisms; but at its heart, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a fusion of a coming of age film and a heroic journey. Michael Cera, as the 22-year-old Scott, brilliantly mixes the anxiety of young manhood with the weariness of a character like Rob in High Fidelity. Like Rob, Pilgrim has enough of a romantic past that he has been wounded and wounded others. He is both thrilled to have a chance with the exotic (American!) Ramona Flowers and insecure about her past.
As much as we are probably meant to identify with Scott, I found myself identifying with Ramona too. There are wonderful, quiet moments peppered throughout the sight gags and smart exchanges that give us a glimpse of the damaged hearts trying to connect. One that I particularly recall:
Scott – You disappeared.
Ramona – Yeah, I do that.
Like Ramona and Scott, most of us have made some bad calls with relationships, are scared of getting hurt again, and might even have an evil ex or two. In the end, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World offers a message of hope and redemption with a kick-ass soundtrack and fight scenes.
High-five, fellow nerds.