Starship Troopers (1997): Overview

Release date: 27 June 2008, United States

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Starship Troopers follows Johnny Rico and his friends Diz, Carmen, and Carl, from humble beginnings together at school, into their participation in a war against the super evolved insect race called the Arachnids, or “Bugs.” Johnny, who is excellent at sports but poor with verbal and math skills, enters the infantry with Diz. Carmen’s scores and skills lead her to being a pilot aboard the war ship Rodger Young. Carl shows nascent psychic ability and winds up in military intelligence. In these roles they travel to the bug home planet of Klendathu to not only score a major victory in the war, but come of age in dealing with life and love.

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WALL-E (2008): Overview

Release date: 27 June 2008, United States

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Humanity’s materialistic society has left Earth uninhabitable. A powerful mega-corporation – Buy-N-Large – offered resort-like spaceships for humanity to live on while they left behind an army of solar-powered trash collection robots to clean up the mess. Fast forward seven centuries, and Wall-E is the only surviving trash robot left. He continues to do his job, kept company by a cockroach who has also managed to survive the end of civilization.

Wall-E’s life is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Eve, a BNL (Buy-N-Large) probe meant to search for any signs that life is returning to Earth. After becoming emotionally attached to Eve, Wall-E shows her a plant he found during his trash collection. She “freaks out”, collects the plant, and leaves the planet. He follows her back to her home and what may be the last surviving outpost of humanity: the Axiom, an all-inclusive lifeboat and pleasure cruise that has been waiting to return to Earth for 700 years.

Aboard the Axiom, Wall-E opens the eyes of people who have become so accustomed to having every wish granted to them by BNL that they have stopped doing anything for themselves. Eve and Wall-E fight the Axiom’s autopilot and security systems for the plant, and draw in the humans aboard the Axiom to the fight.

After the people on board the Axiom realize that they need to start doing things for themselves, they are able to deactivate the Axiom’s deceitful autopilot and trigger the ship’s return mode to land back on Earth. Wall-E, Eve, and the other robots of the Axiom then help people rebuild civilization on an Earth that is beginning to heal.

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Logan’s Run (1976): Overview

Release date: 23 Jun 1976, United States

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In a self-contained hedonistic society, the enforced maximum age is 30. Lifeclocks implanted in citizen’s hands register their ages. Once their time is out and their lifeclocks are blinking, citizens are killed in a public ritual known as “Carousel,” in which they hope to achieve “”renewal,” a form of rebirth.” Logan 5 is a Sandman, whose job is to catch “runners,” people who try and escape this fate.

On the body of one of the terminated runners, Logan encounters a mysterious ankh. When he reports this object to the central computer, the computer prematurely ages his lifeclock and sends him on a mission to learn more about an underground resistance movement and a mysterious place called “sanctuary.” Now a runner himself, Logan gains the trust of resistance member Jessica 6 and escapes the city and the pursuing Sandmen. At the edge of the city, they meet one of the robots that maintain life within the city, and beyond that, the ruins of Washington D.C. There in the outdoors they meet an old man and come to realize the possibility of a life beyond 30.

Returning to the city to try and share their message of liberation, Logan is captured instead. Hearing that Sanctuary does not exist, the computer suffers a meltdown and explodes, ruining the city in the process. Citizens escape to meet the outside world and a new future of age and liberation.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): Overview

Release Date: 28 Sep 1951, United States

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In 1951 a mysterious spaceship lands in a Washington, D.C. baseball diamond in broad daylight. From it a man named Klaatu, clad in a concealing space suit, appears. Misinterpreting his actions, a soldier wounds the man. A robot emerges from the ship armed with a disintegration ray that destroys weaponry and tanks. The alien tells the robot, named Gort, to stop, freezing it in its place. Klaatu is apprehended and taken to a hospital under guard. Out of his spacesuit, he is quite human-looking, and escapes the hospital to spend a few days among the human populace, learning about the way of life on Earth and befriending a woman named Helen and her young son. The U.S. Army catches up with him and kills him as he flees. Following Klaatu’s instructions, Helen issues an alien-language command to Gort, who sequesters her in the spaceship before retrieving Klaatu and reviving him. The revived Klaatu dons his space suit again and speaks to a gathering of scientists outside the spaceship, explaining that his research has uncovered the aggressiveness of our species, and issuing a stern warning against bringing our violence to any other planet. Having passed his judgment, he enters his ship and flies away.

Ghost in the Shell: Overview

Release Date: 18 November 1995, Japan

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Sometime in the “near future,” a cybernetic assault team who works for a mysterious government agency called Section 9 is hot on the trail of a hacker known as the Puppet Master. Their lead officer, Motoko Kusanagi, leads the team to chase down a garbage man who has had contact with the Puppet Master. Unfortunately after the garbage man is captured, they learn his memories have been erased.

Elsewhere, a facility is hacked to produce a robotic female body, a gynoid. A consciousness is downloaded into the gynoid “shell” and it escapes the facility. When it is accidentally run down by a truck, Section 9 recovers the gynoid to learn if it contains the Puppet Master. Before they can do so, a competing agency called Section 6 storms in and takes it, explaining they had the shell made to lure the Puppet Master in. Section 6 agents load the gynoid into a car and speed away.

Suspicious, Section 9 investigates, only to discover that the Puppet Master is not a person but an artificial intelligence created by Section 6 to conduct illegal activities across the internet, including “ghost-hacking” into people’s minds. Kusanagi follows the Section 6 car to a hangar, where she confronts a powerful R-3000 “spider tank” guardian. She is almost killed, but survives to face the Puppet Master via a brain-to-brain link. In conversation with the Puppet Master, Kusanagi learns that it envies human mortality and the ability to reproduce, and that it wants to merge with her to create a new being. As they begin the process, Section 6 assaults the hangar, killing most everyone inside. One of Kusanagi’s team, Batou, manages to survive, rescue Kusanagi’s severed head, and escape, later attaching the head to a new robotic body, that of a female child. In the final scene, Kusanagi tells Batou that she has become, in fact, a blend of her former self and the Puppet Master AI.

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NOTE: In the book Make It So the authors had deliberately eschewed reviewing hand-drawn interfaces for reasons that are explained in the first chapter. Though a full-scale foray into anime is not yet planned, this is a first step towards branching out from live-action and 3D-animated sci-fi to include more of it here in the online database.

The Fifth Element: Overview

Release Date: 7 May 1997, France

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In 1914 an alien race called the Mondoshawan visit a pyramid in Egypt to retrieve and secure four sacred stones, which are part of a weapon to defeat Ultimate Evil. Jump forward to the year 2263, when the Ultimate Evil has formed again and comes to threaten the Earth, partly through coercion of an evil corporatist named Zorg, who is ordered to capture the stones and thereby disable the weapon. A Mondoshawan spaceship coming to help Earth crashes, killing all aboard. Federation scientists use some of the remains to reconstruct one of the aliens, to discover that it is a strikingly powerful and beautiful woman named Leeloo. She escapes the facility to crash into the taxi of Korben Dallas. At her request, he takes her to a priest named Cornelius who belongs to a sect that serves the Mondoshawans. Cornelius recognizes that she is a prophesized “promised one.” Leeloo tells the priest the whereabouts of the four stones.

Dallas accepts an undercover job from the Federation and flies with Leeloo to a vacation spaceship liner called Fhloston Paradise. There he defeats an uprising of Mangalore aliens and unlocks a mystery to find the four sacred stones in the abdomen of the Diva Plavalaguna. Zorg arrives to lay a bomb, attempt to destroy Leeloo, and steal the stones, but fails at all three, dying instead from a Mangalore bomb. Dallas and Leeloo escape back to Earth, where they discover how to use the stones and activate the Ultimate Weapon that destroys Ultimate Evil in the nick of time.

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Barbarella: Overview

Release Date: 10 Oct 1968, USA

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Barbarella, since she is a ““5-star double-rated Astro-Navigatrix,”” is enjoined by the President of Earth to find the lost scientist Durand-Durand, who knows the secret to the Positronic Ray and thereby threatens intergalactic peace. Barbarella crash lands on the planet Tau Ceti where she meets an eclectic cast of characters including the winged Pygar and the Resistance fighter Dildano, who help her find Durand-Durand in the city of SoGo and defeat him, letting him sink to his doom in the belly of the evil creature Mathmos.

Prometheus: Overview

Release Date: 15 April 2012, USA

In 2094 a team of scientists follow anthropological clues across the galaxy to the Earth-like moon named LV223. On arrival, the scientists discover a huge, ancient complex with urns of a strange black material. The android David sneaks some of this material on board the ship and infects the scientist Halloway with it to see the effects. Halloway has sex with Shaw, who becomes pregnant with an alien aberration.

Returning to the alien complex, David breaks free from the group and discovers that one of the aliens is still alive in a statis chamber. After Halloway is consumed by the infection, the crew returns to the ship, and Shaw uses a MedPod device to manually extract the aberration growing in her womb. Despite the chaos, the believed-dead corporatist Peter Weyland comes out of hidden stasis on the ship, to reveal that the whole enterprise was arranged to let him make contact with the aliens and try to meet his makers and achieve immortality.

Back in the alien complex, David is decapitated and Weyland and his retinue killed by the furious, reanimated alien. The alien launches a spaceship from within the complex to complete his mission of heading to Earth and infecting it, but Captain Janek and crew crash Prometheus into his ship to save the Earth while sacrificing themselves. Shaw, the lone survivor, returns to an ejected life support pod only to find her alien spawn has grown to monstrous size. The furious alien, who has escaped his crashed ship and found the pod, tries to kill her, but she unlocks the MedPod room and escapes with the alien and the aberration locked in mortal combat. The decapitated but functional David contacts Shaw through radio, and informs her that there are other ships by which they can abandon the planet and return home.

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The Cabin in the Woods: Overview

Release Date: 15 April 2012, USA

Five teenagers take a road trip on a long weekend to spend time at a cabin in the woods, only to stumble upon creepy and mysterious objects in the basement. Reading Latin found in an old diary, they unwittingly reanimate a family of pain-worshipping zombies, who immediately begin to assault and kill the teens one by one. Marty, one of the teens, escapes death and leads the only other survivor, Dana, into a hidden underground complex he has found. There they learn that their road trip experience has been engineered behind the scenes—and that they have been constantly and subtly manipulated—by an unnamed organization that annually perform this rite, causing archetypal victims to suffer and act as sacrifices that keep ancient evil beings, called the Old Ones, asleep. By releasing containment mechanisms that cage nightmarish monsters, Dana and Marty create gory chaos, allowing them to make their way to the heart of the complex, where they must choose to die for the world, or with it.

Forbidden Planet: Overview

Release Date: 15 March 1956, USA

The crew of the military vessel C-57D travels to planet Altair to investigate the fate of the Bellerophon expedition. Ignoring warnings radioed from the surface, they land on the surface where officers Adams, Farman, and Doc meet Morbius, his daughter Altaira (aka “Alta”), and his domestic servant robot Robbie. The same invisible terror that had killed every other member of the expedition begins to threaten the military crew. Adams and Doc confront Morbius, only to learn that he has been hiding the secrets of an ancient alien technology beneath the surface of the planet. They discover that it is Morbius’’ use of this Krell technology that created and controls the monster. Morbius faces the monster and dies, but not before instructing Commander Adams to destroy the planet and save humanity from the temptation of using it and repeating his mistake.