Friday, 28 February 2014

The Pacing of Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris" vs. Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"

I have voiced my opinion on this matter before. I could not stand the tediously slow pacing of the 1972 Russian science fiction film Solaris, and in fact prefer the 2002 version with George Clooney. I still stand by that opinion, but it does leave me somewhat curious, especially in light of a conversation I have recently had with a friend regarding this movie. He still said that there was something he found interesting about Solaris, and it led me to wonder what it was that the film was saying to him but not to me.

My main criticism of the film. the needlessly slow pacing, was pulled off well in several other movies, like 2001: A Space Odyssey. This leads me to wonder what it is about the pacing that works for me in 2001 but not in Solaris, since it seems a lot of people see something in there that I don't.

So I guess a good place to start is by confronting the main issue: the pacing. Both films make use of slow pacing, but why is it that I find it tedious in Solaris yet beautiful in 2001. I complained that a lot of scenes in Solaris went on much longer than they needed to, but so does 2001. For instance we have the docking sequence that goes on for five whole minutes to "The Blue Danube". Theoretically speaking this could have been done in a much shorter time: they could have just showed the shuttle landing on the station and Floyd getting off, but they opted to show its complete journey, even though very little happens along the way.

I suppose it may have something to do with the content of these scenes and how they are being done. In 2001: A Space Odyssey we get a variety of beautiful sweeping shots of outer space as we follow the shuttle to the Space Station V. Of course, while this scene certainly goes on longer than would be necessary to get the point across, it is still showing us something interesting.

Taking this into account, it could be that part of the problem I have with the pacing of Solaris is there really isn't anything interesting to be done with the slow pacing of the first hour. My biggest problem with this was the violation of "show, don't tell". We spend a lot of time hearing a bunch of people talking about this mysterious planet of "Solaris" and how it affects people, but that's kind of it. This whole conversation could have been much shorter and to the point (which it was in the 2002 Clooney version). Whereas in 2001 we're seeing some interesting shots of space to keep us going, in Solaris we're mainly seeing men sitting around and talking.

The riveting early scenes of Solaris, an intriguing philosophical science fiction story of a group of bearded men in a room talking about an alien planet you'd rather actually be seeing.

Okay, so this seems like a straight forward explanation. While the long and drawn out scenes of 2001 had some interesting things to show, particularly the technology and at one point the vast lunar landscapes, many of the scenes of Solaris were set indoors and focused on people talking in ways that could have been much faster. That sounds simple enough, right?

Hang on, aren't we forgetting something?

Oh yeah, 2001 does take its time getting to the space scenes. In fact we start by spending a fair bit of time following a group of apes running around a desert and hitting stuff with bones. This part does take a little while to get going and could be frustrating to a first-time viewer. So it turns out that both films seem to take their time getting somewhere. In a movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey you have to sit through an extended series of sequences centered on a group of apes, while in Solaris we spend a fair bit of time with our protagonist on Earth.

So this raises the question of what makes 2001 different? Part of it may be that while it takes its time the "Dawn of Man" sequence of 2001 takes full advantage of the fact that it is being presented in a visual medium. Not a word is spoken, and while in both films we get some scenic views there is a bit more visually interesting material to be found in 2001

As I've pointed out, a lot of the opening of Solaris is people talking, with scenes that don't really go anywhere. Special mention goes to the extended montage of POV tracking shots of various automobiles roughly 30-40 minutes in, where we simply have the camera looking through the front window of various cars as they drive along different roads. Really, the entire opening could have been done in a single scene with a short exchange: 

"Hey Kris, I hear you're depressed about your wife dying and I thought maybe I could offer you a job to help keep you occupied."

"Okay, what's the job?"

"There's this space station around another planet and the crew have been acting weird. I'd like you to go evaluate them and see what's going on." 

"Alright, I'll go."

DONE, then Kris goes to the space station and the plot gets started. Instead, we spend an hour watching automobiles drive along roads, Kris walking through fields, and listening to people lecture us about the alien planet.

By contrast, 2001's "Dawn of Man" sequence does offer a lot more than just people talking. While we spent a fair bit of time watching a bunch of apes running around and shouting, there is a sense of progression in the apes' intelligence as they gradually learn to find new ways to survive using the first tool: a bone turned into a weapon.

We also get some intriguing design elements. In particular is the monolith. The design is simple enough: a large black rectangle, but the way it clearly appears out of place in the natural world around it helps to arouse the curiosity of both use the viewers and the apes (our ancestors). The haunting music also helps to draw our attention to its incomprehensibility, something that makes us curious and builds up a sense of mystery for the rest of the film. It builds our intrigue when billions of years later, a group of scientists encounter an object whose shape we recognize from this early scene, and then of course there's the famous graphic match of the bone being thrown into the air and turning into a spaceship.

So it seems the problem stems largely not from the slow pacing itself, but what is done with it. It is clear that Solaris seems to speak to other people in ways it fails to do so to me. My friend mentioned that he liked the fact that the opening scenes gave off a meditative state, and though I did not feel it when watching the movie, on some level I can see how this might be the case (a lot of the shots of Kris being alone with nature, for instance). In 2001 many of the longer scenes are those which serve to show the technology of the future, while the character interactions are usually quite brief. In Solaris many of the long scenes are those which feature people talking, with less interest in the visuals. 

I still stand by my opinion that the George Clooney version of Solaris is far better than the Tarkovsky version, and I won't pretend to like the latter film any more by analyzing it, but I thought it might be worthwhile to examine closely what I consider to be its main problem.

What do you think? Is there is there something about the Tarkovsky version that speaks to you, but evidently not to me? Perhaps you're in the same position as me, or perhaps you're in the reverse. Maybe there is something about 2001 that doesn't speak to you the same way it does to me yet something you find oddly endearing about Solaris

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Look a Hard Science Fiction


As you may have gathered from reading this blog, I am a huge fan of science fiction, but one area in particular that I find interesting is the genre known as hard sci-fi. This is a very unique kind of brand, and one which is not commonly explored. I myself have even made a few efforts to contribute to this especially fascinating genre.

So let's look at what exactly defines hard science fiction. In short, it is a science fiction story like any other, but one which actively makes an effort to be as realistic as possible. Films of this sort attempt to incorporate actual science and when speculation is required they attempt to provide the most plausible version of how a scenario could play out.

Now one of the most famous writers of hard science fiction is Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote a variety of novels and short stories, many of which incorporated the most accurate science available when trying to envision the future. It is only fitting therefore that Clarke went on to become a technical advisor on arguably one of the best examples of hard science fiction in film: 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Speaking of sci-fi writers, it would also be worthwhile to bring up another case: Robert A. Heinlein (the original author of Starship Troopers), who also served as a technical consultant for one of the first hard science fiction films: George Pal's 1950 blockbuster Destination Moon. This was one of the first efforts to realistically envision the future of space travel. It might not be perfect, especially in light of the actual moon landings, but a lot of the basic scientific concepts still hold up surprisingly well.

This of course brings us to George Pal's other hard science fiction movie, the 1955 box office catastrophe Conquest of Space. This one also may be in no way perfect, but as an early attempt it does make a reasonable effort and may well have paved the way for later science fiction movies. I have previously analyzed this one in greater depth on its own, but here I can point out that this is one of the first to introduce the concept of a wheel-shaped space station, and idea that would later be popularized by 2001: A Space Odyssey.

To help round out the selection of films, we can look at something a bit more recent, and there are a few options to choose from. One of the best science fiction films in recent years is Carl Sagan's Contact, starring Jodie Foster. Though it deals with an age-old question (are we alone in the universe?), it is noteworthy both for providing realistic circumstances by which the discovery could be made, and also exploring the social and political consequences that realistically stem from finding solid evidence of extra-terrestrial life.

To finish off the comparison, I also have three other movies from more recently. The first of these is the recent movie Gravity, a very thoroughly-researched science fiction movie centered on astronauts trapped in orbit after their ship is destroyed. I also have Duncan Jones' 2009 film Moon, along with the more recent independent film Europa Report.

Now a full comparison is a tricky task. I can say it is very likely some of these films have had a major influence on one another, as you can see similarities upon close examination. A simple example would be to compare Moon's GERTY and 2001's HAL 9000.

You might notice a strong resemblance between both. In particular is the distinct "eye" and monotone voice. Also an interesting case in that Moon works this to its advantage. The fact that GERTY so obviously resembles HAL throws us off somewhat, especially with clues towards him having a hidden agenda. It makes it all the more surprising when GERTY turns out to be extremely helpful.

In both cases, it was a fault in programming due to human error (conflicting orders in the case of HAL combined with fear of being disconnected, and an unforseen loophole in GERTY's programming that allows him to act against his superiors), but while the outcome of one was frightening the outcome of the other was actually quite emotional.

On a related note, we can also look at how the Moon has been depicted over time across various works of hard science fiction. Destination Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Moon all aimed to present realistic visions of the lunar surface. In Destination Moon, we get an idea of what seemed like a reasonable idea of what the lunar surface might have looked like before we had actually launched anything into space. You can see some mistakes in the cracked ground and jagged mountains, however.

2001: A Space Odyssey was released only a year before the first moon landing. You'll notice its vision is far closer to the reality. Some of the jagged mountains are still present, but not as strong.

By the time we get to Moon, we have much clearer pictures of the lunar surface. The shots of a mostly smooth plane with small hills and craters is probably the closest to the photos of the actual moon.

However, far more interesting is to look at how the moon is treated in each of these films. Destination Moon was released before the moon landings, 2001: A Space Odyssey only a year early, and Moon a great deal of time afterwards.

In Destination Moon, the lunar surface is seen as an undiscovered country, the successful journey to which would be the greatest triumph of humanity (certainly the mindset during the Apollo Missions). In 2001: A Space Odyssey, we get to see a possible vision of where humanity could go after landing on the moon. The characters act as though living there is an everyday occurrence, but Kubrick still aims to impress us with the technology available in his world.

On the other hand, by the time we get to Moon, there's a very different outlook on living there. Sam Bell displays none of the excitement of sense of adventure felt by the heroes of Destination Moon. Instead, working on the moon is treated as a dull and boring job, as well as one that is excruciatingly lonely. To sum up simply: in Destination Moon, the protagonists start off on Earth and want to get to the moon. In Moon, the protagonist starts off on the moon and wants to get back to Earth.

On a related note, we could also compare similarities in plots. I have previously reviewed both Europa Report and Conquest of Space favorably, but when I was watching the former there were moments where I began to wonder if there was influence from the latter.

One area where I couldn't help finding this was a little trick used in both to create a sense of disorientation (though a little more sophisticated in Europa Report). The launch sequences of both films use an interesting series of shots to create a sense of disorientation within the weightless environment of their respective spaceships.

With these two cases, you get an interesting composition. For most of the film, the part that is usually the "bottom" relative to the camera during scenes on these ships is the back of the vehicle. This, however, creates an interesting effect when we see the "bottom" appearing to be the background, while the crew members in the foreground appear to be the right way up. 

Also, if you look closely there are details that help to indicate this (you may notice the seemingly horizontal ladder in the still from Conquest of Space, while in Europa Report you can see four of the crew sitting on what appears to be the background) 

Also interestingly, though this may be little more than coincidence, I couldn't help noticing some similarities between their endings. In both films, there is a problem with the mission that leaves the protagonists stranded at their destination for longer than originally planned (sabotage by the commander in the case of Conquest of Space, technical problems in Europa Report).

Still, what was more interesting was the efforts to get off. The outcome is very different, but the basic set-up is surprisingly similar. The climax of Conquest of Space has the heroes finally reaching a possible launch window and attempting to take off. Unfortunately, there is a sudden, really inconveniently timed Earthquake which causes the ship to tip over, with the danger of possibly falling under the ground. Fortunately, they are able to re-stabilize and take off.

Europa Report had a somewhat similar predicament in its climax. The remaining crew attempt to relaunch only to crash down onto another part of Europa, this time with much thinner ice (also an area where they already lost one member of the crew). Like Conquest of Space, there is danger in the remaining members of the crew having to figure out how to get off the moon before their ship sinks under the surface. 

The difference is that unlike the previous film, the crew fail to accomplish this. Two of them fall under the ice while trying to repair the ship outside and the third crew member presumably drowns when the ship is flooded, but in her final moments she is able to record proof of multicellular life under the surface of Europa.

On a similar level, we can also compare the climactic sequences of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact. Both are incredibly realistic interpretations of scientific discoveries, but there is a peculiar quality to the climax. Both films see their respective protagonists being sent on a strange journey through space by way of some form of dimensional gateway, at the end of which they experience a surreal encounter. Out of these two, Contact's is arguably the more straight forward as some explanation is offered, in contrast to the more ambiguous nature of 2001 which has baffled many a first-time viewer.

In both cases, we do get a sort of meeting with the aliens discovered in each film. However, neither one opts to actually show the aliens. Instead, both Dave Bowman and Ellie Arroway are transported to a strange world seemingly created specifically for them. Most likely this is done by the aliens to allow the human protagonists some degree of comfort in an otherwise unfamiliar environment. In Contact, Ellie is brought to a recreation of a drawing she made as a child based on her imagination of what Pensacola, Florida might look like. In 2001, it is depicted as a stylized hotel room. 

However, the actual confrontations are notably different in both films. In neither case do we see the aliens, but in 2001: A Space Odyssey, they seem to be more interested in observing Dave, while in Contact they are willing to confront Ellie directly (though appearing as a replication of her father). 

Throughout the final scene of 2001 you can hear strange ominous voices (possibly the aliens), and it appears Dave is being kept under observation. It is hard to tell precisely what is happening to him as we see him encountering increasingly older versions of himself, but in the end, as he lies dying, he finally gets a direct interaction with the aliens: he sees the monolith and it transforms into the next stage of human evolution.

This brings an interesting contrast in the motivations of the aliens despite their similar methods. Those of Contact are interested in... well... contacting humanity but wish to take it in steps. Those of 2001 are harder to explain, but while they seem to be interested in humanity, they are less willing to confront us directly so much as observe and to an extent guide our evolution from a distance.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this long-winded ramble about random facts comparing various hard science fiction films released between 1950 and 2013. Perhaps you have some hard science fiction films you've noticed some interesting things about. Maybe you'd like to compare something else about some of the films I've discussed or you've noticed something interesting about some other hard science fiction film I failed to reference. If you do you can share your thoughts in the comments.

I was hoping to find something to say about Gravity. Since I haven't been able to work that one in, here's a good picture I found from that movie. I can let you compare the film's depiction of weightlessness to several other hard science fiction films:

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Europa Report: A Little-Seen Science Fiction Film From Last Year

2013 saw the release of a lot of great films, but when discussing science fiction films of this particular year, it is likely that the two to immediately come up will be either Elysium or Gravity. You might not immediately be aware of another science fiction film during that year, Europa Report.

I first heard of Sebastián Cordero's film Europa Report when I received a tip towards a special one-time screening. Unfortunately, the screening was only happening once and was timed so perfectly as to ensure there was no way I could make it. I subsequently vowed that one way or another I would find a way to see it. Unfortunately I was never able to find it on DVD, but after discovering it to be available on American Netflix I finally have had a chance to watch it, and it is really something.

If you've been following my blog (assuming you didn't just stumble across this article through a Google search or something), you probably know that I'm a big fan of science fiction. I've already reviewed the older, earlier attempt at hard science fiction Conquest of Space from 1955, and I've voiced my passion for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and discussed Gravity in minor detail. This is the kind of film that ranks alongside those (among other hard sci-fi classics like Destination Moon, Contact, and Moon)

Much like the aforementioned movies, Europa Report is an effort to realistically envision the first mission to Jupiter's moon Europa while also exploring the long-discussed possibility of life existing under its surface. The story centers around a crew of six astronauts who are sent on this mission, but along the way they face unforeseen problems and extreme dangers that could cost them their lives.

Interestingly, though, unlike those films, Europa Report opts for a documentary-like style similar to District 9. I'm not normally a fan of "found footage" movies (if only because it's a bit cliche now) but here it is actually executed surprisingly well. The acting is fairly solid and the documentary style adds a level of authenticity to what we're seeing.

Of course the visuals and the science are incredible. The affects used to simulate weightlessness are solid and the design of the ship is also really impressive, with an appropriate sense of disorientation due to the environment. Then of course there's the shots of Jupiter and the impressive shots of Europa itself (which I dare say are on par with those of 2001: A Space Odyssey), both from orbit and the landscapes on its surface. That's not even getting into the incredible underwater scenes.

Above we have the landing sequence from Europa Report, below an actual photo of Europa.

The take-off scene of Europa Report (2013) has the two pilots appearing to be in front while the area that is usually treated as the "floor" (relatively speaking) appears in the background. Compare that to a similar trick used for the launch sequence in Conquest of Space (1955)

Europa Report is an excellent film. It is a brilliant piece of science fiction that sadly went unnoticed last year and is definitely worth your time. If you'd like a creative science fiction film with some emotional drama, incredible scientific realism, a few tense sequences, and a plot dealing with some intriguing subject matter, it is almost certainly worth checking out.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Why I Love Westerns

I've been saying a lot of negative things lately and doing a few hateful reviews, so I decided for this one to do something a bit more positive and look at something I like. As you may have already figured out I'm quite fond of the science fiction genre, but I've decided here to look at another area in which I have a certain appreciation for. That area is the Western.

It's hard to say just what it is about the Western that I enjoy. It's a genre that can be simultaneously formulaic and unpredictable. Usually you have some idea what you're getting into. You know there's probably going to be a showdown of some sort, though you can't be sure if it's going to be a one-on-one shootout between the hero and the villain (as in For a Few Dollars More, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Blazing Saddles, and Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead), a three-way Mexican stand-off (the famous climax of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, helped by the incredible music of Ennio Morricone), a survival course past numerous outlaws in order to get to the station before your train arrives (both versions of 3:10 to Yuma) a tense fight that goes on to include most if not all of the main cast (the shootout near the end of Rio Bravo), our heroes are going to be hopelessly outgunned but go out in a blaze of glory (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) or they're going to subvert your expeditions and skip any kind of showdown all together (as in No Country for Old Men and Red River, although both by very different means).

One of the most memorable showdowns in any Western.

Despite being a very formulaic genre, the Western does also seem to lend itself to a variety of memorable and lovable characters. From Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name" to John Wayne as Chance in Rio Bravo to Bart in Blazing Saddles and his best friend Jim (most people call him... Jim) to the mysterious heroine of Raimi's The Quick and the Dead, not to mention Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross in both versions of True Grit.

How could we discuss Westerns without bringing up Clint Eastwood's "Man With No Name"?

John Wayne in Red River memorably shifts back and forth between hero, anti-hero, and villain.

The Dude in an eye patch. What's not to love?

It's not just the heroes either. For every good Western you need not just a great hero but also a great villain to stand in their way. There's plenty of those to go around: Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Henry Fonda as Frank in Once Upon a Time in the West (a role cast specifically to surprise audiences expecting him to play the hero), Harvey Korman as Hedy Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles, and John Wayne as Tom Dunson in Red River.

The interactions between Hedley Lamarr and his right hand man Taggart are a source of comedic gold in Blazing Saddles.

I can't understand a word this guy says, but dang it his rousing speech in Authentic Frontier Gibberish is just so inspiring.

Then of course we've often got the impressive landscapes to enjoy. They vary between movies but usually in a Western you can expect to see plenty of desert, which allows for some excellent scenery. 

The very first shot of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly we get an impressive landscape shot only for some outlaw to shove his ugly mug in front of the camera.

Even a modern Western like No Country For Old Men can't avoid the incredible desert landscapes.

Perhaps the interesting thing about Westerns is the fact that they play a significant role in film history. After all, one of the most significant early motion pictures was Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first motion picture to tell a story (that area had already been explored by Georges Méliès, most famously in A Trip to the Moon a year earlier). However, it was significant in being one of the first to explore then-revolutionary editing techniques such as crosscutting.

This scene might not look like much now, but when audiences first saw it 1903 they thought they were actually about to get shot.

Of course naturally it should hardly be a surprise that some of the biggest directors have made Westerns at some point. John Ford's name became synonymous with the Western, Howard Hawks is know to have done at least two great ones (Red River and Rio Bravo). Even one of my all-time favorite directors, Sergio Leone made a career primarily of making Spaghetti Westerns. In the present day we have people like The Coen Brothers (most memorably No Country for Old Men and True Grit, with some Western influence clearly present in The Big Lebowski). Another of my favorite directors, John Carpenter, even made his 1998 film Vampires because the script seemed to resemble a Western and you can certainly see that in the film's frequent use of desert landscapes and ghost towns.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity': Is there a Chance that a Science Fiction Film Could Finally Win a Major Award?

Recently the Oscar Nominees are announced and unusually a science fiction movie, Alfonso Cuarón's critically acclaimed film Gravity was among the nominees for several major awards. This is an interesting development as science fiction has never been hugely popular with the Oscars. It is very rare to see a science fiction movie nominated for any Oscar, but we have yet to see one win anything higher than "Best Special Effects".

Once in a while we do see a science fiction film get nominated for one of the big Oscars such as best actor/actress, direction, or even best picture. These contenders include movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Star WarsE.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, StarmanAliensDistrict 9, Avatar, and Inception. So far, none of these movies have won anything higher than Best Visual Effects.

The greatest cinematic achievement of all time by one of the greatest directors of its age... not even nominated for Best Picture and lost Best Director to Oliver.

This brings us back into the present with a film like Gravity. When it was released it was a huge hit and a sensation among critics, but then again so was E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time and yet only won Best Visual Effects (which, incidentally was also the only Oscar won by Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest directors who ever lived). It's also being pitted against various other movies that have also received a great deal of praise and perhaps would be preferred by the Academy.

So what is the likelihood that perhaps this could change. Is there a chance at all that Gravity could break the cycle. Back in 2004 we did see The Lord of the Rings clean up at the Oscars, so it is possible for a genre film to win a major award, but that was fantasy and we're discussing science fiction.

One of the greatest achievements since 2001: A Space Odyssey, but can it succeed where its predecessor failed?

Though it is probably little more than optimistic thinking, I'm personally hoping that there is a chance of Gravity becoming the first science fiction film to win Best Picture. My guess is, however, that the Academy would give the award (along with Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Director) to 12 Years a Slave or any of the other nominees first before allowing that to happen.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville: A Lazy Incoherent Mess of a Film

I've already voiced my opinion several times on Jean-Luc Godard. If you've been following my blog you probably already know that I can't stand his works, and the only reason I still find myself watching them is because I'm studying cinema and can't seem to escape from him since no matter where I go my teachers end up subjecting me to his work sooner or later. Since I've brought it up a few times I thought maybe it would be worthwhile to do a piece specifically focusing on him.A general overview of his work would be harder for me to write, so instead I've decided to focus on a specific film of Godard's that a lot of people like but I consider an embarrassment to the science fiction genre. That movie is Alphaville.

Our hero, Lemmy Caution. Yes, that is seriously his name.

I had the misfortune of seeing Alphaville as part of an otherwise-quite-enjoyable science fiction class. For those of you who are (fortunately) unfamiliar with this film, it's supposed to be centered around a secret agent named "Lemmy Caution" (seriously) who is sent to the futuristic city of "Alphaville" to stop an evil scientist named "Dr. Von Braun" (I'm not kidding, they don't even try to make the reference subtle) who has built an evil computer that outlaws all human emotion.

I suppose I'd better start by jumping into the heart of the movie and pointing out why I consider its vision "lazy". You remember how I said that Alphaville is supposed to be "futuristic". Well, behold, Godard's incredible vision of a dystopian future:

Supposedly there's some absurd stylistic reason for this, but Godard presents us with a science fiction movie set in the future... and he makes absolutely zero effort to actually show us any kind of future. The extent to which he does so consists of characters offhandedly mentioning the word "galaxy". I'm not a huge fan of the stereotypical Jetsons-style future but even a flying car or two might have helped a little bit, especially since the way they use the word "galaxy" (i.e. "things are a lot different in this galaxy") seems to imply that intergalactic travel exists in this world and yet everything else resembles 1960's Paris. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

An actual galaxy: billions of stars across 100,000 light years. It makes you wonder if Jean-Luc Godard actually knew what the word means.

That there is really the biggest issue I have with the film. You can't just throw in the word "galaxy" and suddenly have a perfect vision of the future. That's not how science fiction works. Aside from his absurd depiction of the future, the plot really makes no sense, the characters aren't very interesting, and there just really isn't anything I found that I could consider a redeeming feature of any kind.

If you're a Godard fan and you disagree, fine. That's your opinion, but for everyone else, if you'd like a good dystopian science fiction film with an interesting vision of the future, you're not going to find it here. I'd advise you to instead stick to Blade Runner, Escape From New York, Twelve Monkeys, A Clockwork Orange, Metropolis, or even The Hunger Games for a film that actually makes an effort to create its own future world beyond mentioning the word "galaxy" once in a while.