Update to the Evolution of the Human Race – Rampant Mutation

Anyone else notice something about some of the most recent sci-fi movies to come out this summer?

Having been weaned on X-Men comics, I’ve waited for the arrival of the next stage of human evolution for some time now, but the use of heightened human evolution is bleeding into other science fiction screenplays of late and I want to know why.

Both Looper & Dredd contained unexpected human mutations as a key plot point or character development, whereas Total Recall actually eschewed this point from its preceding film starring Ahnold.  The two movies starring some mutant power are borrowing heavily from Jean Grey here, the phrase used in Looper is actually “TK” for telekinetic.  The TP part, although the correct X-abbreviation for telepathic, was not used in Dredd, thank goodness.

I really enjoyed these two movies, I want to put that out there up front, but there’s a subtle shame here, I think, for either a lack of creativity or a missing appreciation of where these movies are borrowing from and how it affected their movie.  Even the introduction of these abilities somehow rubs me wrong.  The whole element of human mutation is explained in an offhand way by each narrator/hero(well, I guess anti-hero fits better for both) near the exposition of these movies.  Looper gives it a humorous element. Dredd appropriately deadpans.  However, the first element the audience reacts to in each movie is how visually these are represented.

Looper’s TK is introduced by a side-character floating a coin around his hand and the narrator gives us a “whoopty-doo” moment as this is the extent of human TK in this world.  Just a few in the near future can manipulate small items that weight less than a pound and only within their general vicinity.  You almost forget that this element exists in this world by the time it comes back into the movie and plays any importance whatsoever.

Dredd’s psychic mutation comes in the form of a rookie cadet Dredd’s been assigned to evaluate.  She gives a hint that she can read Dredd’s mind and that there is some thing in there he locks away – some dark, deep secret that keeps him going through every fight – but the moment is short-lived.  The actual portrayal of the psychic events look like the cast & crew went to Famke Janssen boot camp to learn how to touch your head just so and allow for a slight ringing in the ears when a vision is passing through like a rogue subway train.  Just load up the X-Men DVD and learn how to be a telepath.

Actually, I think my entire problem with these mutations comes down to the issue that human mutation and the development of “super-powers” are not even the coolest things in each movie.  Looper is a time-travel movie – my better half and I discussed this at length and decided its the best treatment of time-travel since the Back to the Future trilogy.  The issues of travelling through time to make contact with your younger/older self and the brutal nature of mob affiliation trump any explanations of human evolution in this movie.  It is a time travel movie first, a crime drama second.  No X-Men.  Dredd is an action thriller with no apologies for its violence and brutality.  Rated R for blood and that’s all to expect.  Those experiencing the evolution of the human mind are just poor saps who lost the genetic lottery – which is mentioned in passing as people growing extra limbs or ears, but never shown once except our telepath sidekick – so there’s very little to use there.

Looper’s a much better movie, I think the makers of Dredd would even agree, but the fact that genetic mutation takes not even the back-seat – it’s standing outside the car – in terms of a genre and dramatic tool makes me wonder why even use it?  The treatment this evolutionary phenomena gets in the last third of the movie is spectacular and surprised me, but I felt overloaded with the amount of futuristic and sci-fi elements being used all in one script.  Dredd was so wide open that it wasn’t necessary to use psychic powers, its cool enough just watching someone be a bad ass like Judge Dredd(I actually liked Karl Urban in this), leave the mutants at home unless your art department wants to use some new disfigurement masks and is tired of doing zombies.

That’s a bit of a rant there, but had to put something new up   😉  I very much enjoyed those two movies, so you should see them too.  I’ll admit that both Total Recall and Dredd made me wish for Arnold and Sylvester in the first 10 minutes of each, but Looper is a complete and different movie.  I walked out of that one needing a cotton swab for my brain…

Final grades on Summer Sci-Fi

Total Recall:  6 face transplants

Dredd:  8.5 dead gang members

Looper:  9 bars of gold


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About recalcitrant041

Andrew Babcock has manifest destiny on his mind. The road west is paved with basketball, psychic dreams, passable egg-toast, Dungeons & Dragons, and haiku.

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