“The Girl with All the Gifts,” a novel by M.R. Carey, caused quite a sensation when it was first published in 2014. I have read it and quickly found it to be inventive, something of a game changer to the zombie genre. Well, the movie adaptation became a smash hit in the UK when it was released in 2016. And now it invades its way to a wide release: on DirecTV January 26th and in select theaters and On Demand February 24th.
Kudos to Mike Carey for writing the screenplay to his novel!
Melanie (Sennia Nanua)
The near future: humanity has been all but destroyed by a fungal disease that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh eating “hungries”. Only a small group of children seem immune to its effects. At an army base in rural England, this group of unique children are being studied and subjected to cruel experiments. But one little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), stands out from the rest.
When the base falls, Melanie escapes along with Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) and two other soldiers. Against the backdrop of a blighted Britain, Melanie must discover what she is and ultimately decide both her own future and that of the human race.
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is directed by Colm McCarthy and written by Mike Carey. The distributor is Saban Films, Lionsgate. Visit the movie’s Facebook page right here.
“How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” by Prentis Rollins
I want to share with you a book that really speaks to me as an artist and storyteller. I’d been meaning to write a review of it for quite some time and then it struck me last night as to what to say here. This is one of those books with the goal of art instruction that really gets it! And it is considerably helped along by its niche focus! Are you into science fiction? Would you like to draw work that perfectly fits into that genre? Well, then, here’s the book for you: “How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” by Prentis Rollins, published by Monacelli Press.
This is the ultimate guide for illustrators at all levels on how to fine tune their sci-fi imagery. You get the very best advice from Prentis Rollins, a DC Comics veteran (Rebirth, Supergirl, and Batman: The Ultimate Evil). Given the opportunity, I would love to pick his brain. But, let me tell you, this book is the next best thing as Rollins takes a very accessible and conversational tone throughout his instruction filled to the brim with examples. There are 32 step-by-step case studies in all created and imagined especially for this book.
Whether you are attempting to create a compelling utopia or dystopia, it all comes back to basics. Here is a book that goes through the building blocks all the way to sophisticated techniques to really rock your world. Rollins is certainly not alone in stressing a need to master the fundamentals before veering off to pursue your own thing. In fact, he implores you to not rely too heavily upon emulating the work of others. However, he also emphasizes the very real need to be inspired by others.
For Rollins, he has two main influences: American artist Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Star Trek: The Motion Picture); and the Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger (Alien). As Rollins is quick to point out, these two artists could not be further apart from each other. Mead is logical, clean, and rational. Giger is morbid and nightmarish. You could place one in the utopian camp and the other in the dystopian camp. And that falls well into the theme that Rollins pursues: a close look at science fiction imagery, both utopian and dystopian.
A utopian scene
Consider these examples, among the many you’ll find in this book. One shows you a scene more in the vein of Syd Mead.
A dystopian scene
While the other shows you a scene more in the vein of H.R. Giger. And, yet, both resonate a certain way of doing things that is all Prentis Rollins. And that, my friend, is the whole point of the book. I hope you’ll get a chance to pick up a copy for yourself or for someone you know who would get a kick out of such an impressive art instruction book.
“How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias” is a 208-page trade paperback in full color. For more details and how to purchase, visit Monacelli Press right here.
Oskar Werner as Guy Montag in François Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451”
François Truffaut, the champion of children and misfits, was the perfect writer/director to lead the way in bringing Ray Bradbury’s classic, “Fahrenheit 451,” to the screen. If Bradbury had tapped into the anxiety and conformity attached to the dawn of the television age with the publication of his novel in 1951, then by 1966, Truffaut was making the case with all the more evidence. To make the point in a fresh way, for the time, we begin with various close-ups of TV aerial antennas superimposed upon brash colors.
Writing high concept sci-fi, with its vast potential, can be a challenge to pin down into a cohesive narrative. One false move with jargon or a rant, and you can lose your casual reader, sucked into a void never to be seen again. With “Gonzo Cosmic,” a new comic book series, Garry Mac has created something with plenty of twists and turns but with a solid narrative and cast of characters that will keep you grounded and, more to the point, hooked.
Brian Wood’s “The Massive” takes on Manhattan in Issue 13. And we are off to an awesome start with cover art by J.P. Leon.
I saw “World War Z” over the weekend and, while I hesitate to make much of any comparisons, it is safe to say that “The Massive” is going to deliver for you that dystopian fix in a more substantial way than this movie. Now, I did enjoy the movie but it was more about action than delving into a world on a deep level. As is too often the case, I assume you’ll find a more coherent plot in the novel. “The Massive” manages quite nicely to geek out a fully realized world in a comic book format and leaves you ready for even more details.
You can say that Mr. Wood has taken these dystopian tropes around the block a few times already but he seems to always be good for a new take on them. “The Massive” has so far been moving along steadily and convincingly. It’s doing what its reader base expects and it won’t disappoint new readers.
In the first of a three-issue story, “Americana,” we find the crew of The Kapital, the ramshackle vessel on its valiant journey in a post-everything world, on the heels of a baddie in a submarine. He’s made his way to what is left of Manhattan, which is nothing. The Kapital’s captain asks the punk chick on board for advice, since it is assumed she’s a city rat steeped in secret knowledge. She asks him if going to see a show and then crashing on some guy’s couch qualifies as valuable intel and then gives him a kindly smirk.
Garry Brown does a beautiful job of bringing out the gritty reality of seeing one of the great cities on the planet reduced to a heap of flooded and useless junk. Grim and intense coloring, by Jordie Bellaire, and urgent and blunt lettering by Jared K. Fletcher, punctuate the data that ensues throughout, urgent news like the nation’s capital has been forced to relocate to higher ground in Denver. Cut off from the military, vital intel, and basic infrastructure, the nation’s capital is on very shaky ground. Yeah, this is geeked-out dystopian fun.
“The Massive #13” is out on June 26. If you’ve been considering checking out “The Massive,” this is an excellent jumping on point. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics.
There are two movies, just released for home viewing, that deal with the sticky subject of, what some call, “The Magical Negro,” which is something that is discussed in the social sciences and certainly has its place. One movie seems to just roll with it and the other emphasizes that point with a decidedly heavy hand. The one that rolls is “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a movie that feels like a cross between “Where the Wild Things Are” and a dystopia set in New Orleans. The heavy handed one is “Butter” which goes to great lengths to be social satire.
“Beast of the Southern Wild” is the sort of seemingly hot mess that would attract the likes of Werner Herzog or Terry Gilliam. You have all these things going on at once in a vague, presumbably post-Apocalypse, something like New Orleans, post-Katrina, but worse, or perhaps just about the same. The main characters are a five-year-old girl nicknamed, Hushpuppy, played by Quvenzhané Wallis, and her father, Wink, played by Dwight Henry, who, at turns, displays flashes of anger which are due to frustration with the knowledge that he’s dying.
“Butter” is a very different sort of hot mess that might attract the likes of Ben Stiller or Christopher Guest. It is about a power couple (Laura, played by Jennifer Garner; and Bob, played by Ty Burrell) who have dominated a rather strange niche, competitive butter sculpture! Laura has gotten herself so worked up about their notoriety that she envisions them parlaying their status into politics, maybe all the way to the White House. Garner does a wonderful job of channeling Michelle Bauchman but her go for broke performance is still missing that something special that Parker Posey brings to the table. It’s still a good performance but it’s that sort of misfire that works its way throughout the movie. In this one, the magical little girl is named, Destiny (how could the writer’s resist?), played by Yara Shahidi. The twist is that the little girl is on it, she knows about playing the race card and she’s not there to be anyone’s noble savage.
It’s “Beasts” that pits Hushpuppy against the odds which, at first, may resemble the “magical negro” in American cinema where you have the downtrodden black character with mystical powers minus any real humanity. But Hushpuppy isn’t there to help white people anymore than Destiny is. Hushpuppy, half the age of Destiny, has pure innocence working in her favor. She is also a very symbolic character in a movie full of dystopian symbolism. The poor and forgotten people thought they had gotten a handle on their fate, foraging for food and living out of rusty old discards. And then the waters began to rise some more and flushed them all out. They are all carted away by the powers that be and placed in some quasi-hospital which leaves them all ill at ease. It leaves Hushpuppy in the lurch as she prepares for life as an orphan.
In “Butter,” Destiny is also an innocent bystander, a foster care child who doesn’t think she’s good at anything until she happens upon the Iowa state butter competition that Bob and Laura have dominated for so many years. Destiny discovers that she’s a natural at sculpting butter. She makes only one specific request of her new foster parents, who she deems as “too white.” She asks them for 200 pounds of butter. In no time, Destiny is well on her way to butter sculpting stardom. Destiny will show up all the white people by mastering the relatively simple butter sculpting techniques and using it to create sentimental work tugging at their guilt: a tribute to Harriet Tubman and, later on, a homage to an African American mother and child that even moves Destiny. When the pressure becomes too much, Laura pleads with Destiny that butter sculpting is all she has and, to that, Destiny tells her to think again. The point is well taken but comes across as belabored. It’s fun to note, that in comparison, Olivia Wilde’s performance as a whacked-out prostitute, with no agenda but her own survival, provides the most laughs.
“Beast of the Southern Wild” is such a wild and wooly affair that it manges to avoid being pinned down too easily. It is playing its own race card but more deftly. It also has a genuiely magical feel to it having nothing to do with race. Keeping to its dystopian theme, it is just as concerned about global warming and the like as it is with any white man’s guilt. It packs a unique mix of unexpected imagery and situations and never feels forced. The direction by Benh Zeitlin (from a screenplay by Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar) is so spot on that you assume that the main actors are professionals. At age five, it’s understandable not to be surprised that this is Quvenzhané Wallis’s first film. But Dwight Henry could be easily assumed to be a seasoned actor and yet this is his first role ever. Like the rest of the cast, Zeitlin and his team had set out to create something very organic, tilling the movie’s cast from the soil of its location off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. It is a delicate process to get right but this movie manages to do it and provide us with an authentic work.