Things you only see at Comic Con
1. A table of elves lunching at The Old Spaghetti Factory
2. R2D2 making catcalls
3. Marvin the Martian at the ATM
4. Trolley signs in Dothraki
5. Predator just hanging out in the corner of an exhibit booth
If you enjoy having big questions woven into your entertainment there are two things – one on TV one in the theater – for you to watch for this year. And I mean questions of existence, meaning, faith and ethics, not just “How’d they do that?” More on those in a minute.
A busy Friday included panels for SyFy’s Defiance, TNT’s Falling Skies, Riddick, strange science videos, new book releases from Penguin, and a preview of the CW’s new fall show The 100.
This new teen drama from The CW has the same feel as The Secret Circle. 100 years after humanity fled an irradiated Earth, a group of 100 delinquent teen prisoners is sent back to Earth to see if it’s habitable. Early on we learn of the politics that lead to the decision as well as the dangers facing the teens on their first trip to Earth.
If it can build smart, full characters this one should be popular with the younger set of Hunger Games fans.
I love this show, which stands out in a TV landscape littered with post-apocalyptic shows these days.
Geek god Wil Wheaton hosted this panel with cast and crew, delighting fans with his patented Wheaton charm. At the end of the Q&A he said “Last question. All of you in line make your sad face and get out.” I’m starting to understand why Sheldon Cooper hates the guy.
Falling Skies cast and writers shared their appreciation for their solid fan base, paying heed to the difference between fans of a show and the kind of communities that some shows are blessed with. It took a while for this show to grow its fan base and you can sense their gratitude for those who have spread the word.
They showed a clip from this upcoming Sunday’s episode that makes this one a MUST SEE. If you follow the show, just know that the entire room erupted into extended cheers and applause. You’ll know the moment when you see it.
Someone asked recently what one book I’d give to everybody as required reading. My answer was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Written in 1985 it’s been through years of false starts in Hollywood largely due to Card’s tight grip on the material. And he’s holding on to it for good reason. Card knows what he has in this important work and how easy it would be to screw it up in our current culture of filmmaking. As a battle story, any director with a set could turn this into a war movie, which would rob the material of its intent and the audience of the story they deserve.
Set on future Earth, Ender’s Game is the story of bright children taken from their homes to train to defend the world. The story is rich and satisfying, by turns moving between global, interpersonal and family politics.
Just a few of the themes include choice and consequences, the greater good, and how the ends justify the means. As a reader it left me content yet bothered, happy with the payoff of a good story while wanting more concrete answers from my own heart about mankind.
Orson Scott Card is well known as an outspoken conservative Mormon and his faith beliefs underpin the all his work. (The LGBT community is actively protesting the film.) Not through preachy moral lessons but in the way he asks big questions. He doesn’t always answer them, but presents smart options and opinions as thought through by the characters.
Summit Entertainment hit the jackpot when they landed this film in a completely different way than with Twilight. They scored an all star cast including Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley,and Asa Butterfield (Hugo) as Ender.
From the footage I’ve seen I have high hopes for the quality of the film and am crossing my fingers that they’ve left the material intact. Look for Ender’s Game in theaters November 1st. And please, please read the book first.
If you’re looking for TV that means something, Helix is a new SyFy show entering production this week, set to premier early in 2014. Produced by Ronald D. Moore, the story takes us to the Arctic Circle where a virus has locked down the staff of a remote biologic research facility.
The story was written by former development banker Cameron Porsandeh, who has scored a dream producing team of Steven Madea (LOST) and Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) for his first show.
Porsandeh grew up in an ultra conservative home with a Jehovah Witness mother and Iranian father. He didn’t come to pop culture until later in life when LOST and BSG became two of his favorite shows.
He knows he’s living any writer’s dream and says that while he loved the work he did with the World Bank, he believes there are many ways to contribute, storytelling being one he wants to try. He describes the show as a story that starts with infectious disease as the first layer of the onion. So much more is happening on the research station that goes deeper and deeper.
Ron Moore is arguably the best writer/producer working today with themes of life, meaning, faith and humanity. His work is meant for mature audiences, not only because it usually contains some provocative moments but because it asks the viewer to invest thought and wrestle with uncomfortable questions. These aren’t Sunday School stories. He never goes overt with his own beliefs but crafts stories with mass appeal across a variety of value systems.
And for all these reasons he – even more than Joss Whedon, Carlton Cuse or JJ Abrams – is the writer/producer whose projects I wait for impatiently. It’s worth the time and effort for a show that makes you think about your own big questions.
Helix has locked in Billy Campbell for the lead and will be announcing more casting news soon.
If you’re not watching SyFy’s Defiance, consider giving it a look. Another show set in post apocalyptic America it has a completely unique look and feel from Falling Skies or Revolution. In this next season the show will continue delving into the origin stories of the eight alien races and the dance of their communal existence.