Sunday, December 07, 2008

DITMTLOD Special: Robot Ladies of Interest Part 2

So... looks like we got derailed with the whole Matrix discussion last week. That's all right. It's probably an important movie in a lot of ways, and the discussion it engenders is probably a sign of the movie being better than I give it credit for.

But we're not here to talk about the Matrix today. We're here to puzzle over that oddest of topics: The Robot Ladies of Interest

Alice Krig as the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact

I'm sort of on the fence with this one. ST; First Contact isn't one of my favorite movies, and I think Krig's character was more interesting as a special effect than as an actual character. But if you were a fan of the Trek series, her character added a new dimension to both The Borg and Data.

Technically, Borg aren't really robots. They're organic beings being piloted by robotic intelligence in a hive mind. I figure there's enough intersection on the mental Venn-Diagram that it's okay to cover our friends, The Borg.

But, really, if we want to talk Borg, we want to talk Seven of Nine.

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine on Star Trek, Voyager

ST: Voyager was struggling in the ratings on the fledgling UPN network (now defunct). The show was a bit dull, from some perspectives (mine), as its primary conceit was leaving behind the very rich environment of the Star Trek corner of the galaxy. This was problematic. Star Trek: The Next Generation was the best rated syndicated show in history, and UPN executives had expected their new show to carry their network until other shows caught on.

Producers seemed to have decided that the primary reason the show wasn't doing well was that the show was missing a certain element.

Three guesses what they thought the show was missing prior to Ryan's arrival.

I can't talk too much about Voyager, Ryan, Seven of Nine, etc... I didn't watch the show and saw the move to drop in a character in a shiny, skin tight suit as suspect at best (no, seriously). But Ryan's arrival on the show did, in fact, boost ratings. So say what you want about Sci-Fi audiences, I guess. They're an easy enough read.

Battlestar Galactica Reboot

In college I became nostalgic for a show I remember watching as a very young kid, Battlestar Galactica. For its time, and certainly for 1970's TV, it was a pretty awesome show. However, by 1997, when I watched it again... not so much.

After decades of attempted reboots, about five years ago someone finally re-did BSG and added what the original had been sorely lacking: really attractive Cylons.

Enter: Tricia Helfer as "Six". A robot seductress who tricks a top earth scientist into helping the Cylons wipe out the outerspace colonies.

an understandable error

Well, apparently that wasn't enough.

The show went on to introduce several models of humanoid Cylons, including Grace Park as Sharon, and Lucy Lawless as D'Anna.

If this is the doom that awaits me by steely, robot hearts... I am okay with that.

BSG is a surprisingly smart show, and unlike your average syndicated sci-fi program, there's a point to the Cylons' human appearance. I came in to the show too late to keep up, but what I have seen, I've really liked.

Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell

Yes, she's animated, but Motoko Kusanagi is a terrific character in a phenomenal movie. Just don't ask me what the hell's up with the ending.

It's a dark future in Japan (is there any other kind?) and the Japanese military/ police force has created a cyborg unit to keep up with the level of crime their having to deal with.

I saw this one on my own in the theater one night in college at The Dobie. It's a hell of a movie, visually, if the story is a bit muddy. I guess they've turned it into a whole franchise, but I haven't kept up.

The manga and anime of Ghost in the Shell would go on to be highly influential to the genre. It's tough to point to specific examples in American film where they've managed to evoke the same design, exploration of AI, etc... If anything, I'd say Blade Runner had a huge impact on the look, tone and issues of this movie.

Here's some music video that used Ghost in the Shell animation. Beware, non-sexual nudity is included.

Terminator 3 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I'm, like, legally obligated to mention Terminator 3, because it did star a woman as the base form for one of the shape-shifting sort of Terminators you saw in T2. But I really didn't like T3, so I don't want to talk about it (can you tell I was a little disappointed?).

I don't care

The lady Terminator was played by... you know what? It doesn't matter. She's gone on to be in a bunch of really goofy and forgettable stuff I hope you haven't seen. The producers felt T3 was so irrelevant that they used a neat narrative trick in the pilot of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to render T3 completely irrelevant.

Speaking of T:tSCC, remember 90's band Garbage? No? Well, you guys missed out. They had some good tunes. Anyway, their singer, Shirley Manson, has hung up her mic and moved on to play Catherine Weaver, a cyborg who has taken the place of a millionaire industrialist in order to further the evil, robot agenda.

Only happy when it rains...

The Sarah Connor Chronicles demonstrates the richness of the Terminator franchise once its been divorced from the star wattage of Governor Arnie. Look, I love Arnie as much as the next child of the 80's, but if he was attached to the franchise, the promise of time travel + robots just wasn't going to be fully achieved.

And now, we have Shirley Manson creeping me out.

PLUS, we have Summer Glau as Cameron Phillips/ Baum, a Terminator unit reprogrammed by future John Connor to go back in time and protect modern-day John Connor. Glau might be recognized from her work in Whedon's Firefly series where she played "River Tam". She was also in a spectacularly bad Sci-Fi original movie "Mammoth".

Wouldn't be Terminator without a steely stare and a messed up face

The show is using the long format of a weekly series to look into the actual character of a Terminator as it continues to learn as it lives among humans. The cast is very good, even the younger players.

Plus, the show features lots of robot fights. Nigh weekly. And, also, Glau is foxy.

That's it for this post.

If you guys have any robots I might have missed, pipe up. We'll do a Leaguer special!


Anonymous said...

Hey, that's interesting about Shirley Manson.

Manson seems to have prefaced this role by playing a robot version of herself in the music video for "The World is Not Enough"

Anonymous said...

By the way, I also think that song is one of the best Bond tunes of the past 20 years.

Anonymous said...

Seven of nine was more than a sex symbol though. She was basically the "Data" of Voyager. So, they were going for a sexy Data who could question her own humanity, just like Spock and Data "struggled" with this idea. And they also used Seven of nine to soften Captain Janeway's character, just like Data and Picard's dynamic. Voyager was underrated. As opposed to Enterprise, ugh..

The League said...

tjeff, I share your disappointment with "Enterprise". I was, at best, a casual viewer of Voyager and can't speak authoritatively on the topic. I do recall Jeri Ryan taking the role in surprising stride, despite the unitard and heels.

I kind of liked Captain Janeway. I wish they'd done more with the character sometimes. I was actually less thrilled with the rest of the cast.

The League said...

And my favorite Bond tune of recent years is probably GoldenEye. I felt Casino Royale's tune was, sadly, one of the worst.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the GoldenEye song is good, and Tina Turner rocks it.

I also like the Sheryl Crow song from Tomorrow Never Dies.

But you're right, Casino Royale the song blew. As did Die Another Day. Haven't seen the new film, but from what I've read, the Jack White-Alicia Keys duet is atrocious.

J.S. said...

Hey, I actually watched Voyager, and Seven was in no way a robot. She was a human child who was kidnapped and turned into a borg, and then rekidnapped by the humans and turned back into a human, with most of her borg stuff being removed (although there was a really good two part episode involving both Seven and the Borg Queen). Anyway, not a robot. And you still left out Winona Ryder from Aliens 4, who clearly was a robot.
Also, I catually really like the Jack White/Alicia Keys song from Quantum of Solace and think it's one of the better bond songs in quite a while. I think people were just pissed off that there weren't naked girl silhouettes during the opening credits (understandably, perhaps).

The League said...

Like I said, I never watched Voyager. She had that cell phone bluetooth thing on her face and HAD been a Borg. So sue me. Explain to me the catsuit? I am sure there was some reasoning.

I did forget Winona Ryder in Aliens 4. Perhaps I shall follow up if we get another example or two. I hesitate to do a whole postjust about Ms. Ryder unless we're talking about her legal troubles, but if other people have examples...

J.S. said...

If you can't understand the inherent value in Jeri Ryan's catsuit, then I'm not sure how I can explain it to you... (seriously, though, I think her gadgets and her special suit and all that were supposed to help her compensate for hacing spent the better part of her life with Borg equipment replacing half of her body parts- she still had little Borg microbes in her blood and stuff like that). Not sure Winona Ryder deserved a whole post of her own- just pointing out that she was a robot, and robots make up a big part of the theme of the Aliens movies. I did manage to remember the Fembots from Austin Powers, though, and apparently Angelina Jolie played a robot in Cyborg 2 (which I saw, but don't remember- I found that little tidbit on the interwebs). And aren't you forgetting Mary Pat Gleason's Ida from Middleman? (ok, maybe not a sexy robot, per se)

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the humans give her a normal name, instead of "Seven of Nine"?

Maybe the Admiral and KareBear should've named Ryan "Two of Two".

The League said...

...but I don't want to be known as #2...

Yeah, I think you'd last all of about a day before people shortened your name to "Sev" or "Seven".

I think this is enough examples to get a third post brewing. I feel compelled to discuss my love of Ida at length and this is a good forum in which to do so.

Anonymous said...

She may not have been a robot, but she was not completely human at that point. She had tendencies to be perplexed by people's emotions, much like Spock and Data. And she constantly felt the "pull" of the borg, throughout the show. Which made her fellow shipmates skeptical of her loyalties if I recall correctly. And Janeway was her staunchest defender. Seven of nine was probably the most interesting character on the show imo.

The League said...

I think tjeff loves Seven of Nine and wants to kiss her.

Anonymous said...

I actually preferred Ensign Hoshi Sato, but I hate Enterprise so much, I had to let her go... but yeah I'll let Seven of Nine take over my brain any day.

The League said...

I just Googles this Hoshi Sato person, and: hubba hubba. Sadly, outside the scope of RLoI.

J.S. said...

I agree that the show got better after they added Seven (and I agree that she definitely had some Borg-ish characteristics). She was probably the most compelling character on the show. I always wanted to flush Ethan Phllips' Neelix out of an airlock.

I actually watched a lot of Enterprise and thought that it started out okay, but just got away from them. I still prefer Captain Archer to Captain Janeway any day of the week.

The League said...

Yeah, I don't know what the hell they were thinking with Neelix. I remember that guy solely for being annoying. Didn't they eventually kick him off the show?

As someone who occasionally enjoyed Quantum Leap, Scott Bakula is a likeable actor, and was a good casting choice for the style of show.

I just felt Janeway brought something totally different to the bridge, but I also didn't watch the show that much.