Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Virtuality", Peter Berg's pilot, anticipates similar, larger sci-fi films to come

Peter Berg’s 2009 film “Virtuality” also (like my own novel and screenplay, discussed on these blogs elsewhere) plays with the idea of layers of reality and plotting.  The overview anticipates “Interstellar” in that there is an inter-solar-system voyage, but this is a much smaller film, originally made for TV (NBC and Fox). And I can play word games with old Army buddies on the suffix “uality”.
Twelve astronauts ride the Phaeton as it approaches a point of no return, the orbit of Neptune. The idea is to go into hyperdrive and explore a possible new home for Earth at a planet around one of the Gliese stars 20 light years away.  (It would probably by tidally locked, which suggests the idea for a sequel, although this film gives no hint as to how this would be done;  look at “Evacuate Earth”, Aug. 30, 2013, on my “cf” blog.)  The film had  been intended to become a mini-series (Wiki .)  Two of the astronauts may be a male couple. 
The journey is shown back Earth (with a speed-of-light time delay) on Fox reality TV, and the crew is “entertained” with a virtual reality series (viewed by putting on “Strange Days” goggles) that seems to emphasize secondary plots strung together from the past, in a “Cloud Atlas” fashion, the most important of which is a Civil War-era western (a scene with which the film opens).

The spaceship’s doctor (Omar Metwally) tells the commander Pike (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that he has early Parkinson’s, and that it could be necessary to scrub the mission to save him from eventual dementia.

Pike runs the ship like an autocracy, and wants to make the decision as to whether to go on his own, but eventually the crew will demand a vote.

But in the meantime, little resentments and jealousies among the characters show up in the parallel virtual reality experience (a kind of “Second Life”), including plots against the captain in the western.  Eventually, there is an “accident” that takes out te commander and jeopardizes the crew, and the crew suspects it is related to possible malware in the virtual reality program.

Now the idea of manipulating someone’s alternate-reality life (equivalent to lucid dreaming, even as in the movie “Inception”) with a computer virus or malware sounds almost facile.  But this is not the only movie to try this.

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