It never fails. (Soundtrack affirmation.)

I am listening to the Star Trek movie soundtrack albums as I type, and I once again felt shivers run up and down my spine as I listened to ‘Stealing the Enterprise’, a track from James Horner’s original score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). You can listen to it here, and the bit that gets the shivers going starts around the 6:13 mark and lasts for about a minute. Both the movie and the soundtrack album are an odd mix of strengths and flaws, but man, the moment represented here — the moment before Captain Stiles tells Admiral Kirk that he will never sit in the captain’s chair again if he goes ahead with his plan, and Kirk very deliberately ignores Stiles and goes ahead with it — always gets to me. I think the music at this point captures very well that sense of fateful choices being made, of intense loyalty causing friends to act outrageously on each other’s behalf, of people facing life-and-death matters that are so important they are prepared to suffer the consequences for their decisions. Overall, of course, I prefer Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) — both the film and the soundtrack album — but there is something about a person openly disobeying his own people that is inherently more dramatic than a person fighting for survival against an enemy. As the late, great Albus Dumbledore once said, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” And for what it’s worth, the only single bit of movie music that gets to me as consistently as this is ‘The Map Room – Dawn‘ from John Williams’ score for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) — which is kind of funny, because the scene in question is only about a map; the really mystical stuff in that movie comes up in other scenes.

These are the Kyle Reeses I know, I know …

Warning: There be spoilers here.

Four months ago, I created a collection of photos depicting all the actors who have played John Connor in all the various timelines covered by the Terminator movies and TV episodes produced so far. Yesterday, I finally caught up and finished watching the entire first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I discovered that multiple actors have begun to play some of the other characters too. So here is another photo archive — for Kyle Reese, Dr. Peter Silberman, and The Photo.

First, Kyle Reese.

In the first two films, we were led to believe that, in the original timeline before all the time-travel began, the nuclear war began on August 29, 1997 and Kyle was born some time after that. In other words, he lived his entire life under the rule of the machines — until John Connor sent him back in time to protect Sarah Connor and thus become John’s father. But by the end of the second film, Sarah and John had succeeded in averting the nuclear war, at least temporarily.

Now, in the TV show, we are told that the nuclear war is going to start anyway — on April 21, 2011 — at a time when Kyle is already eight years old. It is exceedingly unlikely, of course, that the circumstances that led to Kyle’s conception in the original timeline would have been replicated in the new timeline — and it is even more unlikely that the Kyle who was sent back in time to father John Connor in the original timeline would be all that similar psychologically to the Kyle who is sent back in time from the new timeline — but hey, let’s run with these ideas, for now.

So, here are the various actors who have played Kyle, from youngest to oldest. Note that there is a slight complication in that, according to the movies (timeline 1), Kyle was sent back in time from 2029, whereas in the TV show (timeline 4), he was sent back in time from 2027 — yet we are apparently supposed to think that the Kyle who was sent back from both timelines is one and the same. And while the TV show indicates Kyle was born in late 2002 or early 2003, I don’t believe the movies have ever specified how old he was. Finally, just to be a completist, I am including Kyle’s cameo appearance in the dream sequence from the “special edition” of the second movie.

Kyle Reese, age 5, timeline 4 — ?, age ?

Kyle Reese, age 8, timeline 4 — Skyler Gisondo, age 11

Kyle Reese, age 15, timeline 3 — Anton Yelchin, age 19

Kyle Reese, age 24, timeline 4 — Jonathan Jackson, age 25

Kyle Reese, age ?, timeline 1 — Michael Biehn, age 27

Kyle Reese, age ? — Michael Biehn, age 34

Second, The Photo.

In the first movie, Kyle is motivated to come back and rescue Sarah partly because John gave him a photo of her. Kyle tells Sarah he always used to wonder what she was thinking about when the photo was taken — and then, at the end of the film, after Kyle is dead and Sarah has become pregnant with his child, it is revealed that Sarah was thinking of Kyle himself, and pondering whether to tell John about him. (In the end, she does — so John knows exactly why he has to give Kyle the photo of Sarah.) Thus, the first movie follows a closed-loop view of temporal mechanics: You can go back in time, but you can only fulfill what has already happened.

The sequels have messed with that idea in multiple ways, to the point where each new branch of the franchise seems to exist on a separate timeline. And there is certainly something to be said for the idea that many timelines can branch off of a single moment in time. The paradox here is that The Photo persists as an essential element in the Terminator mythology — appearing in the second movie and also in the TV series — yet it represents the very antithesis of multiple-timeline dynamics. It serves as a constant reminder that John Connor would not even exist if the series had been following the open-loop view of temporal mechanics from the beginning.

Anyway, you could almost say that The Photo is, itself, a character in these films, so here are its various depictions, arranged chronologically — that is, following the lifespan of the photo, rather than the precise dates that any film or TV episode might have assigned to any of these moments:

The Photo — fresh out of the camera, 1984

The Photo — in John’s possession, 1995 (film) or 1997 (TV)

The Photo, timeline 4 — as seen by Kyle, 2027 (TV)

The Photo, timeline 1 — as seen by Kyle, 2029 (film)

The Photo, timeline 1 — destroyed as Kyle watches, 2029 (film)


The Photo, timeline 4 — discovered after the fire, 2027 (TV)

Finally, Dr. Peter Silberman.

Dr. Silberman is the only character who appears in all three films, and a version of him appears in the TV series as well. (Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in all three films as well, but he plays a different Terminator in each film and is thus a different “character” in each film.) In the first film, he is a skeptic who does not believe in the Terminators — but in the second film, he personally witnesses a confrontation between the T-800 and the T-1000, and he deals with this in different ways, depending on which sequel is telling the story. In the third film, it is clear that he has spent the past several years trying to deny what he saw; but in the TV show, he has gone to the exact opposite extreme and has become a fanatical, even religious, believer in the Terminators.

Dr. Silberman, in 1984 — Earl Boen, age 38

Dr. Silberman, in 1995 — Earl Boen, age 45

Dr. Silberman, in 2003, timeline 3 — Earl Boen, age 56

Dr. Silberman, in 2007, timeline 4 — Bruce Davison, age 61

And that’s it for now. If even more actors tackle these roles in future movies or TV episodes, I will update this post accordingly.

MAY 17 2009 UPDATE: I have added an image of Anton Yelchin as the teenaged Kyle Reese from Terminator Salvation.

Canadian box-office stats — March 9

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Step Up 2: The Streets — CDN $5,810,000 — N.AM $53,004,000 — 11.0%
The Other Boleyn Girl — CDN $1,530,000 — N.AM $14,612,000 — 10.5%
Semi-Pro — CDN $2,420,000 — N.AM $24,835,000 — 9.7%
Juno — CDN $13,420,000 — N.AM $137,969,000 — 9.7%
Jumper — CDN $6,400,000 — N.AM $72,537,000 — 8.8%

The Spiderwick Chronicles — CDN $5,360,000 — N.AM $61,721,000 — 8.7%
Vantage Point — CDN $4,030,000 — N.AM $51,681,000 — 7.8%
The Bank Job — CDN $442,891 — N.AM $5,710,000 — 7.8%
10,000 B.C. — CDN $2,490,000 — N.AM $35,730,000 — 7.0%
College Road Trip — CDN $622,921 — N.AM $14,000,000 — 4.5%

A couple of discrepancies: Juno was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #13 in North America as a whole), while Fool’s Gold was #10 on the North American chart (it was #12 in Canada).

Indiana Jones — behold the crystal skull!

At last, we no longer have to rely on leaked photos to confirm the alien rumours — the newest poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, posted last night at USA Today‘s website, puts the titular artifact front and centre!

(Hat tip to ComingSoon.net.)

Everything I know, I learned from 10,000 B.C.


Well, not really. But one thing I love about the movies — even the really bad ones — is how they can stimulate interest in subjects that we might not otherwise have looked into. For a history buff like me, it can be especially fun to fact-check movies that are set in the past. If a movie gets something right, great; and if it doesn’t, there is still educational value in figuring out where it went wrong. (See the book Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies for dozens of examples of this sort of quasi-affectionate nit-picking.)

So as bad as a film like 10,000 B.C. might be, I have to admit that it got me curious about a number of subjects — though admittedly not so curious that I bothered to look them up in anything more authoritative than Wikipedia, for now. Below is a list of some of the “facts” that I found — and if any of these claims are in error, feel free to correct them, whether here or at Wikipedia itself.

But remember, this is all in fun; as a moviegoer, I don’t mind the historical inaccuracies in 10,000 B.C. anywhere near as much as I mind the fact that the film isn’t all that entertaining.

So, on to the list:

In my review, I mentioned the fact that sabre-toothed tigers lived in the Americas — and went extinct around the time this film is set, if not a few thousand years earlier — whereas this film features entire tribes of people who appear to be African.

In my previous blog post on this film, I said I was distracted by the eye make-up worn by Evolet. The earliest known evidence of cosmetics usage “is found in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BC.”

Evolet has blue eyes, which is treated even within the film as something new and unusual — as well it should be, since the genetic evidence suggests blue eyes are a mutation that “may have arisen in a single individual around the Black Sea region 6,000-10,000 years ago,” i.e. between 4,000 and 8,000 B.C.

In an even earlier blog post, I alluded to the fact that the earliest known city — Jericho or maybe Damascus — dates to between 8,000 and 10,000 B.C.

The first pyramids, built in Egypt or Mesopotamia or possibly even Greece, date to the 2,000s or 3,000s B.C.

The domestication of horses might have begun in the Eurasian steppes (around Ukraine) as far back as 4,000 B.C., but it didn’t really take off until the 2,000s B.C.; prior to that, horses were hunted for meat.

The woolly mammoth “ranged from Spain to North America” but died out around the end of the Ice Age c. 9,600 B.C., though “A small population survived on St. Paul Island, Alaska, up until 6000 BCE, and the small mammoths of Wrangel Island became extinct only around 2000 BCE”.

Metalworking “predates history”, and “The end of the beginning of metalworking occurs sometime around 6000 BCE when copper smelting became common in the Middle East.” So the villains’ use of swords and gold-plated ornaments might or might not be all that out-there.

Of course, the filmmakers can always claim the villains brought some of the more technically advanced stuff from outer space, or Atlantis, or wherever it is they supposedly came from.

Meanwhile, on a related note: Just think what fun we will have with all the anachronisms next year, when Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs — the third film in the popular Ice Age series — comes out. (The photo below is taken from ComingSoon.net‘s report on the ShoWest convention currently taking place in Las Vegas.)

MAR 14 UPDATE: Pat Graham of the Chicago Reader isolates some of 10,000 B.C.‘s other amusing anachronisms.

His Dark Materials — not quite dead yet?


Last week, I speculated that New Line’s absorption by Warner Brothers might not mean the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy, even though The Golden Compass‘s underwhelming box-office performance in North America has been widely cited as one of the reasons for New Line’s demise. Yesterday, Variety published a long-ish column by Adam Dawtrey on this subject, and his speculations dovetail with my own — while adding a few new wrinkles:

After its strong start in Japan last week, “The Golden Compass” is on course to make box office history as the first film to gross $300 million in foreign while failing to reach $100 million in North America.

That’s an appropriately ambiguous record to mark the end of New Line as we know it. Some might argue it sums up the dysfunctionality that led Time Warner topper Jeff Bewkes to decide enough was enough.

As producer Deborah Forte points out, with a global gross heading for $375 million-$400 million and an Oscar to its name, “Golden Compass” counts as a success by most yardsticks — just not necessarily for New Line.

As with all its films, New Line sold off the international rights to “Golden Compass” to a patchwork of foreign indies plus a couple of local Warner arms, in order to pay for the $180 million official budget. So it will reap little reward from the international success, while retaining maximum downside from the pic’s paltry $70 million domestic gross.

With a downsized New Line set to become Warner label, the intriguing question is now whether Warner toppers will see past the domestic flop and greenlight the second and third installments of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy — “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass” — based on those boffo foreign grosses.

Indeed, Warner, the studio behind “Harry Potter,” may turn out to be a better home for the Pullman franchise than New Line ever was. . . .

Bewkes has cited the foreign upside of “Golden Compass” as one justification for channelling New Line’s pics through Warner’s global distribution in future. But a less ambitious, less independent New Line might not have embarked upon a project as bold and risky as “Golden Compass” in the first place. New Line turned to Pullman’s trilogy of British bestsellers to feed the demand of its foreign partners for something spectacular to follow “Lord of the Rings.”

In fact, the foreign-friendly nature of “Golden Compass” makes it a glaring exception on New Line’s recent slate. Since the “Rings” trilogy, its overseas distribs have had to suffer three years of very American comedies, horror and urban pics, with little value in the overseas market.

It’s hard to imagine the folks at Warner Intl. rubbing their hands at the prospect of more of the same from a downsized New Line. But they might welcome “The Subtle Knife,” the second book in Pullman’s trilogy, for which Hossein Amini has already written a script, and the final installment “The Amber Spyglass.”

New Line’s foreign distribs would certainly snap up the sequels, if offered. If Warner gives the greenlight, the overseas indies won’t get a look-in, but should Warner put the rest of the trilogy into turnaround, there’s a ready-made independent market for the pics.

One way or another, Forte won’t give up the fight. “I will make ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass,'” she vows. “I believe there are enough people who see what a viable and successful franchise we have.”

I wonder… if the sequels were produced by some company other than New Line or Warner Brothers, would the actors who signed on to do the entire trilogy still be obliged to take part in those movies? Or were their contracts specific to the New Line productions, only?

There’s a lot more in Dawtrey’s column about the differences between the North American and foreign marketing schemes for this film, and how those differences might have affected the box-office performances in those respective territories. For example:

Take Italy, a heavily Catholic country where the pope himself blasted “Golden Compass” as “the most anti-Christmas film possible.” The movie nonetheless overcame a weak opening to gross a perfectly decent $15 million.

Italian distrib 01’s marketing topper Gaelle Armentano says, “By having a dialogue with the Catholic press we were able to limit the controversy and all that anti-clericalism that was so devastating in the U.S.”

I think there may be something to this, though how much, I don’t know. What I do know is that it always struck me as kind of odd that New Line didn’t even seem to be trying to reach out to the religious market the way that Sony did — with some success — for the similarly controversial The Da Vinci Code (2006).

Meanwhile, on a related note, Variety also posted a story yesterday on the fact that nearly every fantasy movie seems to do a lot better overseas than in North America — even the so-called “duds” like Stardust and, well, The Golden Compass.


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