Weapons of Sci Fi-Fantasy: Part 2 – Armor

On the battlefield, the invention of a better tool of death has always necessitated the invention of the countermeasure against it. Invented around 1,400 BC as a countermeasure against the sword, the Mycenaean Greek Panoply is the earliest Western suit of armor. Forged from bronze, it offered full protection from impalement, decapitation and severed arms due to thick metal collars around the wearers neck, shoulders and trunk. sauron-helmet

The suit worn by Sauron in the The Fellowship of the Rings prologue, designed by Alan Lee, Peter Lyons, Warren Green and Stu Johnson, looks like it could belong in both a Sci Fi and Fantasy context. Lee, who contributed the helmet design, remarked that every inch of it’s surface was worked over endlessly, and remains one of Weta Workshop’s proudest achievements. A much lighter weight armor that would also VampireHunterD-armor-medfit in either genre is the black leather of D, the vampire hunter. Half-human, half-Dracula, he rides a cyborg mount across a landscape where, “demons and mutants slither through a world of darkness”.

In the case of Marvel’s Nomad (Ian Rogers) as seen in Captain America Vol. 7 #23 from 2014, designed by Carlos Pacheco, the opposite also holds true. Forged from lightweight alloy of high strength, Nomad’s armor design would fit perfectly in a Sci Fi or Fantasy setting. nomad-armor-suiteUnfortunately, Nomad’s armor was changed to a much less impressive design in the All-New Captain America and Hail Hydra runs that followed. The Asgardian Destroyer from the Thor comics also represents Sci Fi-Fantasy armor design with statuesque presence.

Sauron-Destroyer-armorsThe Dread Doctor Doom’s armor also fits into both Sci Fi and Fantasy genres. This archfiend’s suit is locked and booby trapped in case someone tries to remove it against his will. It also features a life support system built to withstand the immense vacuum force of outer space. Other features include a robust sensor array, a force field, flight power and powerful offensive weaponry. Originally formed by Tibetan monks out of enchanted iron, Doom’s armor is now composed of reinforced titanium. Jack Kirby, designer of Dr. Doom’s armor, intended for the mask to resemble a scull.
doom-armor

The countermeasure of armor on the battlefield led to the development of counters to the countermeasure.  First came the lance, a polearm wielded exclusively on horseback, followed much later by the advent of the rifle.

Star Wars 7: ‘Lords of Dark and Light’ Review

star_wars_lords_of_dark_and_light-image1(Editor’s note: this review is of a version of the film that everyone wanted to see, not the actual film. ‘The Force Awakens‘ was genuinely awful; a hurried afterthought of a script nervously directed and rushed to screens by a greedy production monster totally unconcerned with making great cinematic art. As a result, I’m now living in an alternate reality where it never happened. One where The Force is always awake…)

The first Star Wars film in 10 years, “Lords of Dark and Light” accomplishes the impossible. Surpassing expectations of mythic proportions, the film delivers in all the ways we wanted it to and more, stylishly drawing us even further into the Star Wars legend. “Lords of Dark and Light” is a Cinderella story which plays out across a gritty space fantasy backdrop, lovingly curated in a way we haven’t seen in 30 years. Spoiler alert: There are NO CG characters or sets. Everything actually look real. (Really? No CG characters? No Jar Jars?) Really. More on that later.

After the standard word crawl explaining how 30 years after Episode 6 the Dark Lord Darth Agar is searching for the child of Luke Skywalker, we follow a Republic droid (the adorable BB-8) to Tattoine. Darth Agar sends a bounty hunter to track it because he believes it will lead him to young Skywalker. A scene where Agar speaks to the Dark Side of the Force on an altar with the melted Darth Vader mask as the centerpiece echos the ancient tradition of ancestor worship. The film has many such passages where the screen feels like a rich fabric artfully woven together from the materials of space fantasy and classic mythology in a way that is equally familiar and totally new.

We then pan across space and land on Tattoine, seeing young Rey Skywalker scavenging wreckage from the fall of the Empire for daily survival. She visits with her scavenger friends who tease her about being 16 and still playing make believe star fighter pilot and Jedi. Ren is unflappable, eyes gleaming as she gushes legends of the Force and the heroes who brought about the Fall of the Empire.

Later, in the Tatooine desert Rey rescues a captive BB-8 from a group of Sandpeople, who are kicking the spherical droid around like a ball. Rey proves to know how to fight, showing a fierce, cunning side of her character while she dispatches the gang of Sandpeople. She takes the damaged BB-8 to Mos Espa in hopes of selling him and taking a few days off from scavenging. One of her friends tells her the best price she’ll get for it is at the Cantina. The scene where Rey goes there to find a buyer felt just like the original Cantina scene, effortlessly sidestepping the alluring taint of banal fan pandering. Rey encounters Agar’s formidable bounty hunter and is rescued by Chewbacca. Awed by the presence of the legendary Wookie, Rey and Chewy escape in the Millennium Falcon. “Where’s Han Solo? Is this not his ship”, asks Rey. Chewy falls silent.

Chewy takes Rey to Jungo the Hutt, a longtime ally of Chewy and Han Solo. With C3PO translating, Jungo reveals to Rey that she is the daughter of Luke Skywalker, hidden on Tattoine since birth to protect her. Rey’s reaction is played beautifully; we experience her feelings of being swept away by limitless wonder into the center of her fantasy come true. Jungo gives Rey Luke’s lightsaber with a hologram message inside. She plays it and Luke introduces himself as her father, explaining that she had to be kept safe from Darth Agar because of his intention to turn her to the Dark Side. Luke has sent Chewbacca for her now that she is old enough to know the truth and begin her training as a Jedi.

star_wars_lords_of_dark_and_light-image2

Rey and crew leave Tattoine on the way to meet Luke on the Jedi home world. Before they reach lightspeed, Darth Agar captures them and travels hyperspace to the Sith home world, a red and black realm of dark forests, ruins and monsters. There Agar has amassed an army of next generation storm troopers and a fleet of Star Destroyers using his powers of mind control amplified by a crystal in his mask. Motivated by a twisted obsession with the Force, he intends to leverage Skywalker to complete his training. He tells her the story of how Kylo Ren Solo, her cousin, turned to the Dark Side during his Jedi training after The Force spoke to him and asked him to bring it back into balance. Taking the name Darth Agar, he saw Rey’s birth as a sign that she is to be his Sith apprentice. Agar tries to turn her to the Dark Side, but finds that The Force is strong with Rey and locks her in the dungeon. Rey, Chewy and crew are freed by Fin, a storm trooper defector who is sympathetic to their plight. They escape for the Jedi home world and take Fin with them.

As they come out of hyperspace at the Jedi home world, the film builds to its climax when they are recaptured by Agar who confronts Skywalker on the planets surface. When they all meet face to face, Luke tells Rey the horrid truth of what happened to Han Solo, Princess Leia and his wife, Rey’s mother. In the final battle scene Luke, inhabiting the elder Jedi look much the same as Obi-Wan did in the original Star Wars, struggles with his own rage and feelings of revenge as he duels Darth Agar. Overcoming both inner and outer conflicts, he frees Rey and the others, turning Agar back to the Sith home world. Father and child are united at last and Luke starts Rey’s Jedi training.

Congratulations are due the director for exercising remarkable restraint and shooting a film that’s consistent with the first three in the original trilogy in terms of being the story of a single main character. His camera lens calls no undue attention to itself, allowing the audience to be absorbed in the sharp ensemble performances of his cast. His humble, mature filmmaker’s eye coupled with brilliant production decisions like using computers to make and control real life characters with 3D printing and next-level animatronics make “Lords of Dark and Light” a cinematic achievement that will span time with the other films we all know and love. Like the last shot of The Empire Strikes Back, I was transported back to 1980 again and felt the same frantic anticipation for the next Star Wars film.

Weapons of Sci Fi-Fantasy: Part 1 – The Sword

sword-blog-illustration1A mythic weapon common to both Sci Fi and Fantasy genres, the sword was probably invented as an improvement on the caveman’s club. Requiring several blows to defeat an enemy, the club lacked the swords bladed edge which could dismember or slay in a single blow. From Ogami Itto‘s Dotanuki to Luke Skywalker‘s lightsaber, the sword continues to be a remarkable topic.

The invention of the sword dates back to around 3,500 B.C., when the nomadic Kurgan peoples of the steppes of northern Europe and Asia Minor first learned metal working techniques from the Transcaucasians, who inhabited the border region between Eastern Europe and Asia. The warlike Kurgans, based on archeological evidence left behind in their early cave drawings, worshiped the life taking power of the sword like a god (from The Chalice and The Blade, by Riane Eisler, pp. 45-48).

weapons-past-present-future
Past, Present, Future

Today we see the sword brandished by warriors in films, books and video games ranging from Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to the Star Wars and Gundam franchises. While modern day combatants prefer the gun (“a coward’s weapon”, according to the Dark Knight, Batman), the sword remains THE battle instrument for champions both heroic and villainous. Perhaps the blade is making a comeback based on the hyperpopularity of contemporary fictional characters such as Deadpool, Wolverine and Psylocke.

 

 

Dr. Doom Portrait Auctioned for $57.3 Million

basquiat-untitled
Untitled, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1982
basquiat-untitled-dr_doom_comparison
A Portrait of Dr. Doom?

Last week, a painting by 1980’s artist Jean Michel Basquiat sold at auction for $57.3 million US. The name of the artwork is ‘Untitled’, but we at Sci Fi Fantasy Blog propose it is actually a portrait of none other than the iconic Victor von Doom. Dr. Doom embodies the perfect harmony of sci fi and fantasy styles, and makes it look easy.

Although Hollywood seems incapable of making a decent movie with him as the villain, Sci Fi Fantasy Blog reveries Doom unto the highest. Here is some background information for those readers unfamiliar with the legend of Dr. Doom.

Doctor Doom first appeared in comics in 1962. According to The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition, published in February of 1985, Doom’s motivation to take over the world stems from a tragic incident in his childhood. Following the mysterious death of his mother Cynthia, his physician father Werner was hunted by Latverian authorities for failing to cure a Baron’s wife of terminal cancer. While Doom’s father froze to death evading capture, young Victor survived and later inherited a chest that belonged to his late mother. The chest contained herbs, medicines and items of Gypsy magic. Young Doom realized his legacy, and vowed to leverage witchcraft and his brilliant scientific mind to make the whole world pay for the death of his father and communicate with his mother from beyond the grave.

After learning advanced science in the U.S., Doom went overseas to learn both magic and martial arts from Tibetan monks. doomoriginThere he designed a nuclear powered suit of iron armor with flight power, a force field, super strength and gauntlets which fire lightning bolts. He later went on to conquer and rule Latveria, his throne in a massive 110 room castle first built in the 16th century. Other early accomplishments include independently discovering the molecule-shrinking Pym particle and inventing a platform for travelling backward, forward or sideways in time.


Dr-Doom-Morgana-Le-Fey
He would later use his time platform to travel into the distant past and increase his skill in Black Magic by learning from Morgana Le Fey, sorceress of Arthurian legend. His psychic powers include hypnosis and the ability to transfer his consciousness into the body of another human at will due to training by the alien race known as the Ovoids.

Dr. Doom’s most formidable asset is his super-genius intellect and indomitable willpower. Doom himself theorized that his Gypsy mother’s communion with demons caused his mind to develop earlier and faster than an ordinary child. The mystic arts Doom studies are thought byDoom_casting_spell some to be based in a highly advanced science. This brings up a subject of much interest and ongoing discussion here at Sci Fi Fantasy Blog, the relationship between science and magic.