Posts Tagged ‘film’

As part of his BBC Maestro course, Alan Moore asks us to watch a film and to examine it for its ‘texture and cohesion’, by which Alan means the cultural and other artefacts within this fictional world that help establish its existence beyond the bounds of the film, pages of the book or the bounds of the comic frame. These include newscasts on in-world television, fake shops, fake products, etc.

I chose to examine the French black-comedy film ‘Bigbug’, which seemed to have an interesting world and vision, highly stylised and visually arresting in a way only the French seem capable of.

We are almost immediately introduced to the world through TV (or projected holovision as it turns out to be). We see a show called ‘Homo Ridiculous’, where cyborgs (reminiscent of RoboCop in style) walk their human pets and engage in somewhat comedic behaviour. This excerpt is one of many, and seems to be a cruelly sadistic joke at the expense of humanity, played upon them by the ‘Yonyx’, a transhuman group who appear to be slowly taking over the world, with increasingly dystopian hints dropped through the film from Yonyx-Human bullfighting to human foie gras.

Ironically, there don’t seem to be a lot of actual animals in the show besides Toby-6, a cloned terrier belonging to a neighbour. In place of meat, people are eating bugs, and we’re presented with a commercial example of this, ‘Kreekit’, roasted crickets in a can. It’s doubtful that any successful marketing of insect protein would be done this way, but it helps world-building and presents this as perfecting normal.

We find that we are in a lovely suburban home. Despite the French setting and origin of the film, this is a retro-futuristic building in the style of the ‘Gernsback Continuum’, a 1950s American vision of the future with chrome refrigerators, finned cars, bright colours and motifs and flourishes from right out of the Jetsons. These artistic cues are combined with more contemporary ideas about the future, an ‘internet of things, screens on everything, voice-activated home-help, innovative house technology and always-connected internet.

The one preparing the crickets, and other snacks, is a gynoid. This gynoid is humanoid in shape but does things like removing her finger to power a whisk and moving at an inhumanly fast speed when grating. Her colour scheme and angular clothing suggest classic appliances such as the KitchenAid standing mixer.

In our tour of the house, courtesy of the camera, we are treated to odd juxtapositions. The house owner keeps paper books, writes by hand and has ‘antiques’ (items familiar to us from our lifespans) such as a Rubik’s Cube or a rotary telephone presented under glass. Later, we find the daughter of the house also has a bunch of antiques, old computers on shelves and cupboard spaces in her room.

Through the eyes of the gynoid, we discover that everyone else in the house is putting up a pretence and a mask; they are as false in their way as the gynoid is. We know this because she can analyse their body language, voice and other cues to provide emotional probability read-outs. This device allows subtext to become text and gives us insight into the powers and capabilities of the robots.

Even the kitchen is like one big appliance, with the various surfaces able to rotate and turn about, almost like being inside one of those mixers, a further expression of the house’s automation. It incorporates ludicrously specialised devices, such as an egg cooker that rotates eggs and slices off their tops with a laser, ready for breakfast. It needs to be clarified whether this means that this is a particularly well-off household or whether everyone lives in such luxury. Still, given the extent of the suburb and the gadgets and other devices that everyone has, this is an affluent society, if not a post-scarcity one (given the lack of normal food).

Not all of our context comes through objects, robots or television; some is dropped in through conversation. Since the people in the house all have tangled relationships, and given that one man is there attempting to seduce the woman of the house, it makes sense to have introductions in conversation, which is where we learn that the dog is cloned and that the daughter of the house is adopted from the flooding of the Netherlands.

We also pick up other details like banning cheeses (which must hit differently in France). We are constantly interrupted throughout the movie by giant floating adverts that personalise themselves to the situation and the people in the house according to what is happening. It’s an obvious satire but exaggerated to an absurd degree. We learn that cybernetic implants can be repossessed (and that the ‘bug’ also extends to these prosthetics).

People are so utterly dependent upon their machines, even the antique-obsessed woman of the house, that one woman in the film almost suffocates because her meditation app glitches and doesn’t tell her to breathe out. We all know people who cannot unplug, even for a moment. All that’s missing is the social media aspect. However, people are encouraged to make fools of themselves online (Homo Ridiculous) or to subject themselves to more advertising from their appliances in exchange for free updates.

All very climate apocalypse and ‘live in the pod and eat bugs’ a very current paranoiac trend and very much in our current zeitgeist of the future. These homes are fortresses, climate-controlled pods of armoured glass where even the scent can be tailored. We get the idea that this sort of thing is typical, and even through an advert for ‘Isola Paradiso’, we learn that there are ‘pools of distilled water’ and ‘hypoallergenic beaches’. The increasing rate of allergies has been extended into the future to an even higher degree, a symptom of an artificial lifestyle.

Through news reports, we learn that traffic jams are afflicting the air and ground area. We are also shown more sinister antics of the Yonyx and their prejudice towards humanity and learn of their fleet of robot drones that they are set to deploy. It’s never outright stated, but the impression is very much that the Yonyx are staging a full-on coup over the world and are behind the in-house imprisonments and all the chaos outside.

Ultimately, the Yonyx are undone by their hubris, and destroyed by their drones due to an error. Frankenstein was undone by his creation, but in this, it is the monster’s creation that undoes him. Besides the point, but interesting nonetheless.

The film might be limited to a single house, but through the items in the background and on display, through the news items, conversation and products (some of which are also characters), we do get a sense of the wider world, outside the lines, the very thing Moore was talking about.

Read Full Post »

1353061_142275_largeBlack Panther is a strange concept. A high-tech, ethnostate. Isolationist, racially pure, founded on the idea that that is a path to greatness (albeit not a new idea, high-tech lost cities being a trope in old pulp fiction). Somehow we accept this uncritically, despite it being essentially what white supremacists are arguing for. Yes, there are contextual differences, but it is still a highly racialised and even dangerous concept. One need only look at the racism, triumphalism and exclusionary practice around the release of the film, not to mention Black Supremacists acting as though Wakanda is – or was – real, to see the dangers in indulging this kind of racial ideology, for anyone.

Would we tolerate it the other way around? It’s a stereotypical question to ask, but still, one worth exploring. As well as asking why we would not.

Thule is a nation appearing in American comic books, published by Wonder Comics. It is the most prominent of several fictional European nations in the Wonder Universe and home to the superhero White Wolf. Thule first appeared in Fabulous Five #52 (July 1966) and was created by Enitan Adebowale and Onyekachukwu Kirabo.


Thule is located north of the Faroe Islands, between Iceland and Norway. It is an actively volcanic island, which artificially warms its climate and prevents most air travel to and from the island.


Thule’s royal line began with Fenrir Badger-Beard, an ancient Viking who discovered this oasis of warmth in the frozen north and founded a settlement, gathering the proudest and most renown warriors to colonise his new kingdom.

In the distant past, a massive meteorite made up of the Asgardian metal uru crashed into Thule, creating the volcano and disturbing the seabed, throwing up the further extent of the island and bringing a great deal of mineral wealth to the surface. Fenrir and his descendants jealously guarded this wealth and the kingdom’s mystics and soothsayers soon uncovered the magical mysteries of the uru deposits, working the metal in the heat of volcanic forges.

As the world began to change around them with the rise of the Christian god and the power of the other European nations increasing, another king of Thule, Hrafen Long-Beard, made a change. He began to turn his nation into a trading nation, releasing small amounts of their wealth to educate their best, to develop their island and to form good relations with these other powers – while staying neutral. Staves of enchanted uru were planted to hide the island from navigators and to prevent the proselytisers of the Christian god from bringing their beliefs to their shores.

As the age of science dawned the educated class of Thule began to work to combine the wonders of the new technology with the powers of their ancient magic, to great success. Cannons and guns of uru were stockpiled and jealously guarded, further to defend Thule from an increasingly alien and dangerous outside world, knowing they must keep their true wealth and power secret.

Myths and legends of Thule had long spread around the world, especially given Thule’s punishment of exile (if not execution) for most criminals. Most did not take these legends of caverns of gold or ‘magic metal’ seriously but during WWII an exiled traitor returned with a U-Boat full of Nazi commandos, first attempting to cut a deal and then attempting to steal uru to feed the Nazi war machine. The fight was savage and showed that the outside world’s technology had almost caught up with the uru-enhanced innovations of Thule’s people. The king and many warriors were killed, the traitor and a small cadre of officers got away, forcing the people of Thule to enter the wall in a small way, though the uru jump-started the Nazi wonder-weapon and rocketry programs and caused a ‘Spear of Destiny’ to be forged.

With the advent of nuclear weapons by the end of the war, Thule doubled down on its paranoia and protectionism. So far as the outside world was concerned it was a small oil and mineral producing nation in an inaccessible and frozen sea. Hardly anyone knew about it and that was the way they liked it. Post-War investment in technology and weaponry, training in an already prevalent martial tradition went through the roof with commensurate advances and innovations as characterised by other insular, marginalised nations from Israel and South Africa to Professor Calamity’s Verlatia.

Thule has an unusually high rate of mutation due to the magical properties of uru. The more severely mutated work with Erik Drepnor, a Thulian subversive who wishes to return the land to pure magic and ancient ways of human sacrifice and total isolationism.

In more recent times Thule has been forced to emerge a little more from the shadows. The rise of their new king and his alter-ego the White Wolf to the ranks of heroes has forced this to be the case. The revelation of the existence of Earth-bound uru has also piqued interest, though White Wolf is thought to be a single hero, not representative of a whole land of magi-tech hidden in the north.

To this day Thule remains an isolated nation, hostile to foreign visitors, however diplomatic, secretive and traditionalistic with a strong native, pagan religion, strict gender roles and a total ban on immigration. While friendly to outsiders, when abroad, they have a ‘nobility’ and arrogance that comes from believing themselves better than those they are fooling.

Technology base

Due to its intentional isolationism, Thulian technology has, until recently, developed entirely independently of that of the rest of the world. As such the design philosophies and methodologies are different and often incompatible with conventional equipment. Thule is one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries. For example, Thulian computer technology is more powerful than that of the rest of the world, forming a magical bond with its user and having a limited sense of self-awareness. This renders it completely immune to outside hacking, while simultaneously being able to hack outside systems easily.

Uru has been used extensively in Thulian weapons technologies, armour and vehicles. The physics-defying nature of the metal and its magical sympathies have allowed for the development of all manner of technologies that would normally be impossible, as well as allowing the user to form a supernatural bond with their equipment. This unique magi-tech would allow Thule to punch well above its weight in any conflict.

The White Wolf

The current king of Thule, Hvitr Scar-Hand is the public face of the country, an affable, friendly, white-blond man who also dons the armoured uru suit and persona of the White Wolf. He has been trained in the warrior tradition of his people, as well as being infused with colloidal uru, something that makes him naturally magical, preternaturally self-aware, resilient and better able to magically bond with uru.

Hvitr has had the best, international, education that money can buy in addition to training in the unique aspects of Thulian science and mysticism. He carries a pocket Thulian supercomputer and wears a suit of high-tech ballistic armour, woven with uru thread. It is armed with a pair of ‘fangs’ (uru blades that spring from the forearms). The White Wolf also carries a huge uru revolver and the masked suit can deploy a pair of magi-tech ornithopter drones to give it even greater situational awareness and combat readiness.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »