Tag Archive: The Cloverfield Paradox


Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ll find a lot familiar about the journey in the new sci-fi thriller Underwater, but it’s certain to keep you on the edge of your seat, trigger your claustrophobia, and get most of the beats of the survival thriller genre right.  Most of that is thanks to Kristen Stewart, who stars as an engineer named Norah, working in an oil drilling facility seven miles down at the bottom of the ocean.  Stewart makes our own recent tour of isolation seem pretty tame, as her world literally explodes due to some deep-sea fracking that causes an earthquake, breaking up the facility and severely minimizing the opportunities to leave for the surface.  If that weren’t enough, the earthquake releases some kaiju-inspired beasties.  It all allows Stewart to create a character as tough and heroic as Alien’s Ellen Ripley with a modern homage to the original sci-fi survivor.

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code-8-robot-cop

Review by C.J. Bunce

What appeared via advance marketing like it was going to be another film from the back side of the video store rack or film school-level sci-fi movie actually ends up as an acceptable sci-fi/superhero B-movie.  Code 8, which just arrived on Netflix, began back in 2016 as a short film project by Canadian cousins Stephen Amell, famous as CW’s Arrow, and Robbie Amell, who played CW’s Firestorm.  The project then went on to accumulate nearly $3.5 million of crowd-funding to make this feature length film, from first time writer-director Jeff Chan.  Ambitious is a fitting description of the film, which has overall low production levels, yet at points it offers some quality sci-fi tech via android cops and superpowered humans.  But its best feature is the promising young lead, as the more popular Stephen Amell takes a backseat to his cousin, Robbie Amell (ARQ, The Tomorrow People), whose charm and authenticity have him upstaging everyone scene after scene, including his cousin.

Robbie Amell plays 26-year-old Connor Reed, one of a rare breed of superpowered humans in a near-present day alternate Earth, with the story set in the fictional Lincoln City, some 90 years into a world of X-Men-inspired superhumans, all with varying types of powers.  Connor is a Class-5 “electric” meaning he can wield incredible jolts of power to use as a carpenter or to defeat high-tech security in a heist taking the form of android cops.  Connor’s mother, played by the versatile Kari Matchett (A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Leverage, Wonderfalls), is dying, and so he makes the decision to use his powers for evil to earn tens of thousands of dollars in gang money for a needed operation.  Class struggle is a theme handled here similar to District 9 and Elysium, with the discrimination beats of AlienNation and Bright, and the superpowers presented here bring out the vibe of Brightburn (minus the horror).

code-8-movie

The town has its own gangsters, centered around a drug called Psyke, including a mid-level, up-and-comer played by Stephen Amell named Garrett, who takes on Connor when he needs the extra power (literally) for a job.  The real-life cousins’ chemistry is instant, and Connor joins a crew of characters, one with the power to melt metal played by Locke & Key’s Laysla De Oliveira, a deaf superhuman with incredible strength played by Vlad Alexis (X-Men: Apocalypse), and a young woman with the power to heal played by Kyla Kane (Channel Zero).  Levels of crime lords mean power plays, and that makes everything messy for everyone.  Crime requires crimefighters, which sets the stage for the second best part of the movie, The Fast and the Furious’s Sung Kang with his always cool vibe, this time as the key cop on the case.

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The truth.  Truth is the only way forward.  Lies and misinformation can destroy any plan, even a good one.  Created by writer Daniel H. Wilson in collaboration with the Michael Crichton estate, The Andromeda Evolution arrived last year 50 years after The Andromeda Strain was first published, the book that launched Crichton’s fame as master of the technothriller.  The Andromeda Evolution has all the components of Crichton’s best works–the trademark structure of a team of unique experts colliding to prevent catastrophe, the integration of cutting edge science to both inform the reader and carry the plot forward, and the surprising juxtaposition of the improbable and the unimaginable.  The ripped-from-the-headlines timeliness was eerily creepy last year, and here in March 2020 with a real pandemic threatening the planet, it’s even more so.  It all begins with a disaster in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, complete with lies–government clashes and misinformation campaigns–and ends with a surprise also ripped from last year’s headlines.  The Andromeda Evolution is now available in paperback here at Amazon from HarperCollins.

The influences and now, unfortunately, familiarity for readers will harken back to many other fictional tales with virus or pandemic components in sci-fi, conjuring callbacks to Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor, Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage II, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Cloverfield Paradox, 2017’s Life, or Crichton’s own novels Sphere and Congo.  More recent fictional touchpoints for addressing virus crises include zombies as in Netflix’s Kingdom, and The Living Dead, both reviewed at borg this week, and even aliens: Who now doesn’t feel like Donald Sutherland–suspicious of everyone who walks by–in Invasion of the Body Snatchers simply visiting your local grocery store?  More fantasy accounts can be found all over the origin stories of superheroes, like the Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Fantastic Four, Deadpool, and in DC’s Swamp Thing series, where the environment itself fights back.  Add these to attempts at more realistic stories, the modern, mainstream pandemic thriller, like Outbreak and Contagion.

But can we learn anything from science fiction to help us in the real world, right now?

Those watching the news, working in healthcare facilities, and sheltering at home can certainly find shared experiences as a starting point.  But there may be even more.  Like how not to handle crises.  How the human condition delivers all kinds of different personalities, some who help, some who contribute, and some who hinder.  Reading The Andromeda Evolution or revisiting any of the above books, movies, and TV shows may be something you’re not ready for yet.  If you are ready, they also may provide ideas.  Like anything we might be forgetting.  They also may illustrate that no one can say “we never could have planned for this” or “nobody ever figured this could happen.”  Those assertions may be said aloud, but science fiction proves them as falsehoods.  And if you have kids at home, maybe the superhero stories listed above could help explain how viruses work in real life.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s as good as it gets for Michael Crichton fans.  Not only is The Andromeda Evolution a new thriller being released more than a decade after the author’s passing, it’s a sequel to a Crichton classic novel–his original science fiction cautionary tale The Andromeda Strain.  Created by writer Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse) in collaboration with Crichton’s estate (CrichtonSun LLC), The Andromeda Evolution is nicely timed to arrive 50 years after The Andromeda Strain was first published, the book that launched Crichton’s fame as master of the technothriller.  The Andromeda Evolution has all the components of Crichton’s best works–the trademark structure of a team of unique experts colliding to prevent catastrophe, the integration of cutting edge science to both inform the reader and carry the plot forward, and the surprising juxtaposition of the improbable and the unimaginable.  And the ripped-from-the-headlines timeliness is eerily creepy–it all begins with a disaster in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, complete with government clashes and misinformation campaigns, and ends with a surprise that will stop you in your tracks.

Nothing defines Crichton’s storytelling as much as his interaction of characters, always an unlikely grouping of personalities that some far-off puppetmaster thinks is the right team to solve problems.  A  mix of the wise, the pragmatic, the cerebral, the sensitive, and the reactionary, common to the Crichton elite team are individuals who must struggle to get along like any group trying to complete a project in the real world.  Everyone has a piece of the puzzle, but can everyone survive long enough to contribute their piece?  In The Andromeda Evolution that first means introducing us to Dr. James Stone, son of The Andromeda Strain bacteriologist Dr. Jeremy Stone.  The son is a late addition to a core unit assigned to investigate and prevent the spread of what appears to be that dreaded, fast-moving viral strain his father faced so many decades ago that almost destroyed Earth.  Haunted by a lifetime of living with the threat of the virus’s return, Stone has acquired expertise under his father’s wing.  With the alert of a new threat, on a moment’s notice he’s dropped at Ground Zero with only hours to collect data with other similar elite minds to try to save the world again.

In The Andromeda Evolution, everything you think you know about the constructs of modern science and technology was a lie, dating back to the original Andromeda Strain virus, documented in Dr. Michael Crichton’s original account (recall Crichton was in medical school when he began his career as author).  Hidden by world governments, never losing ground as the world’s primary threat to security and survival, the Andromeda Strain was real.  NASA, the Center for Disease Control, all the framework for technological initiatives we think about every day from the 1970s forward have been preparing humanity for the return of the dreaded AS-1 and AS-2.  And the biggest secret is staring us all in the face.

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