Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Alien Worlds & No Imagination

In the movies, people spend lots of time on other planets. It doesn't matter if it's because the Earth has gone through some sort of crisis, humans are mining Unobtanium, or maybe the character was just born on a distant planet's moisture farm. The point is that now we're hanging out on some God-forsaken Volcano Planet.

Or Desert Planet.

Or Jungle Planet.

OR Planet of the Apes. Wait, no... that last one WAS Earth. You blew it up. You... maniacs. Damn you all to hell.

Looking at a map of the Earth today, I noticed that all of these "typecast" planets stem from a lackluster scarcity of imagination. Think about it:

Earth has volcanoes.

...and deserts

...and jungles

...and really, really cold places.

...and cities.

Hell, Earth is about as diverse a planet as they come. Granted, other planets might not be. Mars is pretty much red, lifeless, and dusty. Venus is covered in toxic gas. And most of the other planets in the solar system are uniform in their terrain. But the ONE planet that we know sustains life nurtures all SORTS of life. In fact, if anything, Earth is an ocean planet, not a... err... land planet... since the Earth is over 70% covered with sea water.

Looking at the life-sustaining planets of fiction, you get a completely different picture:

Dune: Planet Arrakis

Dune is a great book that explores space-aged politics in an oligarchical, interstellar society. But dammit... the planet Arrakis is a giant desert covered with giant sand-worms. The book has some vague references to the thought of terraforming the planet, but those are mostly pipe dreams.  This place just so happens to exist as a naturally life-sustaining planet even though it rose up with no water, no oceans, and no real explanation on how a complete is going to lead to the creation of life at all. I want a Slurpee now.

Star Wars: Tatooine

Take away the giant worms. Replace them with "Dewbacks" and Mark Hamill. Replace Dune's Fremen with Sandpeople. Add some crappy prequels. And now we have Tatooine, home of nothing but desert and terrible child actors to play Anikan Skywalker. So, so, so disappointing.

Star Wars: Coruscant

This one might be a little more lost on the less nerdy: In Star Wars, Coruscant is the Old Republic's capital planet (yeah, that's right. A planet is the capital) where the Galactic Senate meets, and some other stuff happens that may or may not fit into crappy analogies for Western Political Philosophies. These political revelations are then mused by more terrible actors. I'm looking at you, Hayden.

The point of including this one is simple: A whole planet that is a city. Are we seeing a theme here? Maybe Coruscant is supposed to be some "cleverly hidden" metaphor for Washington D.C.: it is completely dependent on other planets to sustain the fat cats who live there spending tax dollars. It also is remarkable how almost anyone can breathe there, no matter what species they are.

Avatar: Pandora

Although this movie is sort of crappy, I must admit that Avatar shows a fair amount of a) biodiversity and b) different terrain. It goes from jungle to floating mountain jungle, and there are rumors that Avatar 2 will have lots of scenes in the oceans of Pandora (without having to go to an "ocean planet"). Thank our lucky stars.

But since I'm at risk of speaking kindly about Avatar, let me make fun of it for another (related) reason.
Why the F%$# is everything blue? The people are blue (Ok, fine, the Na'vi. We have to be politically correct about our fictional races now too???) The wild dog-things are blue. The giant iguana-dinosaur is blue, and the cow-deer-hammerhead-sharks are blue.

The F%&*ing planet is covered with green plants. The laws of nature might make more sense on Earth, but shouldn't survival of the fittest mean that camoflague would work best making people GREEN? But then you wouldn't have pretty contrast.

If some smart ass says that lots of the Pandora jungle lights up blue at night, guess what? No one cares. And you're still wrong, because the Na'vi aren't nocturnal. That's how Jake Sully woke up with a Bulldozer on his head or something... they went to sleep after having freaky hair-braid sex. That might take care of the wild-dogs, but everything else is awake during the day.

There are plenty more planets, and I might attack them like a Death Star later for their completely absurd uniformity. Don't think I've forgotten the forest planet (oh, excuse me... moon) Endor with its silly Ewoks.

Am I crazy here? What PLANET am I ON?

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