|Ever since I was about 8 years old, I have been pushing myself on these quests. I call them quests because there is no other appropriate word. My first one began when I was in the second grade. If you recall, there was once a show on TV where they would read snippets from novels for young people, and sketch pictures to go along with them. Well, I was watching that show and they were talking about a book called The Witch of Blackbird Pond. That book struck me as being a good book, and I swore that I would read it some day. Years passed. I would constantly scan the card catalogue at the local library, looking for it. My eyes were peeled for that book. Then, as the sixth grade was drawing to a close, I spotted it there in the “new releases” area of my school library! I read that book, and it was a good book.There have been other quests since then. One that sticks out in my mind was wanting to see Ducktales the Movie. I wanted to see it when it first came out, but I didn’t get to see it until I saw it at Video Update in my first year at university. Obtaining my Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini action figure was another. The longest quest was trying to get my hands on a copy of Transformers: The Movie soundtrack. I wanted it when I first saw that movie on video in 1987, and I wasn’t able to get it until my second year of university 10 years later. I have since compiled a list of movies I am “questing” to see, and when I see them in the video store, I have no choice but to snap them up and see them. So, imagine my delight when I was at Video Superstation in Drayton Valley, and discovered I would be able to complete not one, not two, but three of my quests! There, I was able to rent: an episode of that classic, forgotten 80’s cartoon Visionaries, the sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner, and Disney’s infamous sci-fi film, The Black Hole.
Of that list, The Black Hole is the one I’ve been wanting to see for the longest time. When I was six, a friend of mine had the read-along storybook version of The Black Hole, and images from that book stick out in my mind to this very day. Now that I have become a bit of a film buff, I’m fully aware of the sordid story that brought The Black Hole into existence. It was the late 70’s, and the 70’s were a time that wasn’t kind to Disney. Since Walt’s death in 1967, the studio had been plagued with bad decisions, and the Disney studios spent most of the 70’s just barely avoiding bankruptcy. Then, in 1977, with the release of Star Wars, everyone in Hollywood was making science-fiction films. Disney felt that salvation was at hand, and sunk every penny they could spare into a sci-fi film of their own. The result: 1979’s The Black Hole. Sadly, the film bombed and the critics weren’t kind. Disney was driven deeper into debt, and they didn’t attempt another sci-fi opus until 1982, when they released Tron.
Now, my review of The Black Hole. (WARNING: I pretty much give away the whole movie) The story goes like this: we meet the crew of the U.S.S. Palomino, as they are out seeking new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no one has gone before. They come across the long-lost U.S.S. Cygnus, which is sitting dangerously (and impossibly) close to an enormous black hole. They venture closer, and discover the Cygnus is sitting in some kind of anti-gravity pocket. Our heros board the Cygnus, and discover it is completely run by robots. They soon meet the only remaining human, Capt. Reinhardt. Reinhardt has been working alone for years, and believes that he has developed a way to enter the black hole. . .and survive. He is now preparing to test his theories by taking the Cygnus into the black hole. But, what happened to his human crew? Is Reinhardt a genius or a madman? And thus our story takes off.
When we were flooded with all those sci-fi films in the wake of Star Wars, so many of them seemed focused on special effects and zappity-pow space battles. But not so with The Black Hole. It tried to be more of a character study. It poses the questions of Reinhardt’s sanity, and our heros. One of the crew is seduced by Reinhardt’s experiment because of Reinhardt’s genius, and he believes that he will witness Reinhardt create scientific breakthroughs. One of those characters wants to be a hero, but sadly in the end shows his true cowardice. This movie tried to analyze where the line between genius and insanity should be drawn. And for the most part, it pulls it off beautifully.
The film also has some intriguing ideas. Like I read on the Internet, the concept of what happens to something in a black hole is something that mainstream sci-fi has left untouched. We also have robots that are outfitted with “ESP circuits,” allowing them to communicate telepathically with humans. And the climactic revelation (it turns out the robots are the human crew; Reinhardt turned them into cyborgs so they would quit questioning his orders) is a good 10 years before the Borg did it on Star Trek. Sadly, though, you can see the influences of Star Wars. Our heros are assisted by a robot named V.I.N.CENT, who appears to be an R2-D2 clone with the cuteness factor turned up a little too much. And, Reinhardt’s sentry robots do come across as being a little Stormtrooper-ish. And, it can’t resist a zappity-pow climax, as the ship is pummeled by a meteor storm and everything starts getting sucked into the black hole as our heros attempt a daring escape. Don’t worry, the effects are pretty good for 1979.
This movie is crying to be re-made, if nothing so we can get a version where the characters are fleshed out a little more. Get Stan Winston to design some brand new robots. And they can elaborate on that ending a little more. In the end, everyone gets sucked into the black hole, and Reinhardt has visions of hell and our heros ascend to heaven. Elaborate on those visions a little more! This movie deserves justice. It’s not as bad as history has led us to believe. If I have one complaint, it has to be the film’s music. The music was done by a man named John Barry, whom many attribute with establishing the musical style of the James Bond films. His main theme for The Black Hole sounds too much like a leftover James Bond villain theme. Don’t believe me? Watch The Black Hole, paying close attention to the music, then watch Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice. You’ll pick up the similarities. (For an even closer match, watch The Black Hole, then watch Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. The Black Hole‘s main theme and Dr. Evil’s theme music are almost identical.) But, all in all, it’s good, and not as bad as history would have us believe. Rent it should the opportunity arise!
And that brings us to Blade Runner. I’ve been wanting to see it since 1992, and Blade Runner: The Director’s Cut was released to theaters. Firstly, this sci-fi film has one of the most fanatical cult followings in film-dom. Secondly, I think it’s one of the most re-edited and re-interpreted films of all time, following Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It first came out in 1982, and then not one but two alternate versions circulated art house theaters until 1992, when director Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma & Louise) finally got the go ahead to do his official Director’s Cut. Since this Director’s Cut, I think one other alternate edit got a limited engagement run at an art house in LA. I guess this would be a good time to point out that what I rented (and what I’ll be reviewing) was the 1992 Blade Runner: the Director’s Cut, which most of those fanatical fans say is the best version of the film.
The plot is a little something like this: in the year 2019, society has been greatly advanced thanks to “replicants,” highly sophisticated androids. But, replicants are too real. After a while, they begin developing emotions and going insane. So, they were outlawed on Earth, being restricted to off-world colonies, and as an additional safeguard, they only live for 4 years. A group of these replicants, with the end of that fourth year coming quick, hijack a spaceship and return to earth with the goal of somehow getting a life extension. Enter Dekkard, played by Harrison Ford. Dekkard is a Blade Runner, an elite detective whose job it is to track down and retire (i.e. execute) replicants. Along the way, he questions the morality of what he’s doing and begins falling in love with another replicant named Rachael. Or something like that.
The best word I can think of to describe this movie is weird. Half the time, you are unsure of what’s going on. Dekkard’s motivations are never made clear. As the movie starts, he’s quit the force, but he’s enticed back, and I think at the end of the film he quits again. But why? And then there’s the replicants. We really only get to know two: the leader, “combat model” Roy (played by Rutger Hauer) and the “pleasure model” Priss (played by Daryl Hannah). But even then, we’re not sure why they returned to earth, or even if a life extension is their true motivation. Maybe they are just crazy. The plot, I found, was a confusing mess. I think it tried to tackle the same subject matter as the very fine anime Ghost In the Shell, but with less success. You know, questions of what is alive and what is dead, and what exactly can you call a soul? Was that the point of Blade Runner, or was it an allegory of the preciousness of human life like one of the fan reviews I read online said? I have no krunking clue.
But there’s one thing this movie does have: eye-candy. This must have been quite the effects achievement for 1982. We are presented with sprawling vistas of dreary, overcrowded LA in the year 2019. I now know what the “Blade Runner style” that a lot of movie critics talk about is. How can I describe it to you? It’s like Batman, only. . .futuristic. It’s like Ghost In the Shell, only. . .darker. It’s like Batman Beyond, only. . .taken up to the nth level. The sets are amazing. The effects (like those flying police cars) are spectacular. But there’s not much else I find redeeming about this film. See it for the effects, not the plot.
Maybe I should seek out the original version now. Apparently, the original version has Dekker narrating the whole proceedings, so that might help to fill in the gaps. Maybe I should see it with a group of those fanatical fans. Maybe they can tell me what I’m not seeing. Or maybe I should quit obsessing on this film and get on with my life. I’ve been told there are people out there who don’t like Star Wars, so maybe I should accept the fact that I’m one of the many who didn’t like Blade Runner.
And the Visionaries episode! I summarized the whole thing in great detail, so just scroll on down to it. This was one of my favorite cartoons in 1987, so every time I get a chance to see an episode, I don’t bad mouth it too much. I’ll let you read my summary and make your own decisions. I was hoping I could illegally copy the episode, but I couldn’t get my hands on a blank tape. Next time, then. I discovered that Video Superstation had that Visionaries episode back in March, and I think it’ll be waiting for me when I go back.
When the quest ends, I’m always amazed at how things ended. Because of the history of these two films, I was expecting to hate The Black Hole and love Blade Runner. But, the opposite happened. And now, I’m sure you are asking, what is my next quest? Where do I go from here? Well, here’s the short list of films I’m still questing to see: 2001: A Space Odyssey, because like Blade Runner, it’s a sci-fi classic I’ve heard so much about but never seen. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, because it’s the film the phrase “cult classic” was coined to describe. And finally, Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Many Mel Brooks fans say that these two are his greatest, yet I’ve never seen them. And now, with this behind me, my journey continues!
Visionaries episode #4: The Power of the Wise
Written by Douglas Booth
Summary by me, Mark Cappis
The Spectral Knights, our heros:
Leoric, the leader. Possessing the totem of the lion, and the Staff of Wisdom
Arzon, the imaginative. Possessing the totem of the eagle, and the Staff of Knowledge.
Witterquick, the speedster. Possessing the totem of the cheetah, and the Staff of Light Speed.
Cryotek, the strong man. Possessing the totem of the bear, and the Staff of Might.
Feryl, the youth. Possessing the totem of the wolf, and the tank called the Capture Chariot.
Ectar, the policeman. Possessing the totem of the fox, and the vehicle called the Lancer Cycle.
Galladria, the token woman. Possessing the totem of the dolphin.
The Darkling Lords, our villains:
Darkstorm, the tyrant. Possessing the totem of the mollusk, and the Staff of Decay.
Cindarr, the compassionate. Possessing the totem of the gorilla, and the Staff of Destruction.
Lexor, the coward. Possessing the totem of the armadillo, and the Staff of Invulnerability.
Cravex, the warrior. Possessing the totem of the phylot, and the Staff of Fear.
Mortredd, the bootlicker. Possessing the totem of the beetle, and the jet called the Sky Claw.
Reekon, the mercenary. Possessing the totem of the lizard, and the tank called the Dagger Assault.
Virulina, the token woman. Possessing the totem of the shark.
Merklyn, the wizard who gave out the totems and staffs. He is neutral in the battles between the Spectral Knights and Darkling Lords.
|It is a time when magic is more powerful than science, and those who control the magic control destiny. They. . .are the Visionaries.
The episode opens with our heroic Spectral Knights picking magic roots for the wizard Merklyn. Conversation soon turns to their enemy, the Darkling Lords, and their magic staffs. Witterquick confesses a fear of their power of Destruction. Feryl says the one that scares him is the power of Fear. Leoric, leader of the Spectral Knights, confesses that the one that frightens him the most is the power of Decay. The Knights agree, who really wants to become old before their time? With their task complete, the go to give the roots to Merklyn. But, unknown to them, the Darkling Lord Reekon has been spying on them in his lizard form. He turns back into a human, and runs off to report to Darkstorm, leader of the Darkling Lords.
Merklyn meets the Knights in a forest glen. Arzon asks if Merklyn might have some form of counter-measure to Darkstorm’s power of Decay. Merklyn says that there is magic to counteract it, but he will not give it to him, for it is a magic still too powerful for them to understand. Cryotek tries to withhold the magic roots and negotiate with Merklyn, but Merklyn easily takes the roots and leaves the Knights, calling them “immature whipper-snappers.” Arzon comes to the conclusion that they don’t need Merklyn to tell them where to get the magic, for he can simply use his power of Knowledge. He uses his magic staff to call forth the Bearer of Knowledge, and the Bearer tells them to go to the Eternal Spring on the slopes of Shadow Mountain. They will know it is the right spring because of the Rainbow Flowers that grow next to it. There, he says, the water can restore youth. So, the Spectral Knights climb aboard their vehicles, and set forth to Shadow Mountain.
The trip to Shadow Mountain seems to be going OK, until the Darkling Lords ambush them! A battle breaks out! Cravex tackles with Leoric! Cryotek unleashes his power of Might! Lexor unleashes his power of Invulnerability to protect the Darkling Lords! And, in all the confusion, Darkstorm grins and says that it is time for Leoric to live his nightmare. He unleashes his power of Decay, and turns Leoric into a withered old man. The Darkling Lords quickly return to their vehicles, and head off to Shadow Mountain, intent on destroying the spring before the Spectral Knights get there.
The Knights continue on, despite this setback. Leoric is having a tough time adjusting to his aged state, and saying that they got in this mess only because they were trying to find a way to prevent it from happening. Feryl suggests that perhaps Leoric should use his power of Wisdom for advice on this situation. So, Leoric summons forth the Great Owl of Wisdom, and the Owl tells them that there is a power in wisdom in which age has no dominion, but for the time being they are just young and stupid. Feeling that that was a waste, the Knights continue forth.
The Darkling Lords, enjoying their head start on the Knights, soon find a baby monster that seems to have fallen from it’s nest; a cave high atop a cliff. Cindarr, being the compassionate Darkling Lord, turns into his gorilla form, and climbs the cliff to return the baby to its home. But, at the cave, he runs into the mother, who attacks him and pushes him off the cliff. Cindarr makes the comments that the mother must have been afraid that he would attack the baby. At the mention of the word “afraid,” Darkstorm begins to hatch a plan.
It’s not long before the Spectral Knights reach this place. The Darkling Lords remained behind, and cleverly hidden. Darkstorm has Cravex unleash his power of Fear, and cause the monster to feel an intense fear for the safety of her child. The monster, fearing the Knights will harm her child, attacks them! The Knights put up a valiant fight to defend themselves, but it seems hopeless. Then, Leoric hatches a plan. He morphs into his lion form and scales the cliff. In the cave, he finds the baby. Then, he gets the mother’s attention by throwing rocks at her. The mother, seeing one of these Knights so close to her child, turns her back on the other Knights to go after Leoric. When the mother is breathing down Leoric’s neck, Leoric morphs back into a lion, and tries to scale down the cliff. But, the mother gets in a good blow, and Leoric is stranded on a ledge. Arzon quickly morphs into his eagle form, and flies up to save Leoric. The mother gets in another good blow, and Arzon is thrown for a loop. He recovers, and manages to fly Leoric to safety. He morphs back to his human form, and they continue to the spring.
It’s about this time that the Darkling Lords arrive at the spring. They confirm that it is the Eternal Spring by watching a deer drink from it and turn back into a fawn. Cindarr unleashes his power of Destruction, and the Spring is decimated. The Darkling Lords leave, not wanting to accidently be caught in the carnage. The Spectral Knights show up just in time to watch the last of the spring dry up, and the Rainbow Flowers turn black.
The Knights sit in the ruins of the spring, wondering what to do next. Leoric suggests that perhaps he should resign as leader of the Spectral Knights, for he is no good in this elderly form. Galladria dismisses this as nonsense, saying that how he saved them from the monster shows that he is still a good leader. Ectar chimes in, saying that he is still strong as long as knights like himself and Cryotek still stand by his side. Leoric agrees to these terms and stays on as leader of the Spectral Knights. At this point, Arzon spots something at the opening of a cave on the mountain slope above them. Witterquick morphs into his cheetah form and climbs up for a closer look. It is a Rainbow Flower! Perhaps the source of the spring is in the cave and managed to survive! The knights begin climbing up to the cave, but Leoric can’t make the climb in his elderly state. Feryl says that he’s tired of all the climbing that they’ve done today, and opts to stay back with Leoric.
The Darkling Lords continue their descent down the mountain. They gloat over how they wish they could have stayed to see the look on Leoric’s face. Cravex decides to do just that, and morphs into his phylot form to go back and see. There, he sees the Spectral Knights going into the cave, and Leoric and Feryl standing around. He attacks Leoric and Feryl, and succeeds in knocking them over a cliff! Fortunately, they manage to grab onto a ledge. Cravex decides that he’d better go get the other Darkling Lords, so they can finish what he started.
The Spectral Knights continue through the cave. They soon come to the end, with no spring in site. But, there is a crack in the cave wall, and they can hear running water on the other side. Ectar morphs into his fox form and continues forth alone. While the other Knights wait, they are ambushed by the Darkling Lords! The Knights are overpowered, and Darkstorm demands to know what they were doing in the cave. They say how they thought the spring’s source may have survived, and they ventured forth into the cave in search of it. Leaving Ectar behind, they all march out, the Spectral Knights as prisoners of the Darkling Lords.
Feryl and Leoric manage to climb up to the ledge they were dangling from. Leoric says that at last he understands the words of the Owl of Wisdom, and that he should quit fighting his disability, and look for the advantage hidden within it. They can’t climb up, but his wisdom tells him that they should climb down. Leoric has a plan.
The Darkling Lords continue down the mountain to their vehicle, the Dagger Assault. The Dagger Assault has a magical dungeon that can remove a person’s totem, and they hope to use it to remove the totems of the Spectral Knights. But, unknown to them, Feryl is hiding in the Dagger Assault, and Leoric is on the cliff above. Feryl manages to give a signal to Cryotek, letting him know that things will soon change in their favor. As Darkstorm opens the magical dungeon, Leoric musters up his last remaining strength to set off an avalanche and block the Dagger Assault’s escape route! In all the confusion, the Spectral Knights turn on the Darkling Lords, and Feryl jumps from his hiding place to shove Darkstorm into the magical dungeon! Feryl then states that if Darkstorm uses his power of Decay to reverse the spell on Leoric, he will let him and the other Darkling Lords go free. If not, Feryl will remove his totem! Darkstorm surrenders, and uses his power of Decay to reverse the spell on Leoric. Leoric, again a healthy young man, allows the Darkling Lords to go free. At this point, Ectar returns from the cave! He did find the source of the spring in that cave, and managed to get a flask full of the magic water, but he notes that he arrived a little late. Leoric says he didn’t, and that he has plans for that magic water.
The Spectral Knights return to the forest glen where this adventure began. There, they offer the flask of magic water to Merklyn, so he can make himself young again. Merklyn thanks them for their generosity, but pours the water on the ground, turning a nearby oak tree into an acorn. Witterquick asks why Merklyn did that, but Leoric pipes in, believing that he knows the answer. Leoric states that he discovered that there is a power in wisdom that only comes with age, and the inexperience of youth is no match for it. Merklyn says that perhaps there is hope for the younger generation, and teleports himself back to his shrine. Leoric says it’s about time they get underway themselves, and they board their vehicles and ride off into the sunset.
May the light shine forever! (Battle cry of the Spectral Knights)