On that subject, there was a thing on the radio this morning (I really must switch to wake-up music) about an initiative to send women to the moon. Okay, great, but if we’re making this another men:women thing, my comment on behalf of men everywhere is: been there, done that. I realise that the England cricket team and the England football team are far more successful than the England men’s cricket team and the England men’s football team, and I’m really not going to say anything about “women drivers” (a phrase used disparagingly, children, in the middle years of the twentieth century) and moon buggies.
But here’s an idea. How about dropping this out-of-context interest in each other’s gender-specific attributes, and sending people, just people, to somewhere new and/or to do something new? The title of a 1992 book by the author and relationship counsellor John Gray hasn’t even crossed my mind at this point, but how about sending both men and women to make homes on Mars and Venus – or, more realistically, to build a little house on the moon? Sorry, a big tough space station. Cross between a Tonka Toy and a Lego fortress, only bigger.
What I’m saying is, it’s nigh-on forty years since we sent people with, er, between their legs to the moon. Instead of getting all excited about sending people with, er, between their legs to the same place to, at a wild guess, plant a flag and jump around in non-gravity – couldn’t we send people with pants on to do something original? [Sandra Bullock, Gravity (2013), pristine white undies after several days in a space-suit; of course the plot requires that she take her kit off and show us.]
We couldn’t, could we? Go to the moon, I mean. But what is it that they had, that we don’t have? Serious question: what have we lost? That generation decided they were going, built the rockets, and with about as much computational power as you’d find in a washing machine today, went. We would get no further than a studio discussion about everything else that we could do with the money. It’s all about money now, not technology; money and a lack of direction. So: no moon landing.
Although come to think of it ... with all the computational power at our disposal today, if we harnessed the power of technology, blah blah, our conspiracy to fake a moon landing would be a thing of beauty. Worthy of VR, even. I’d buy a headset for that.
Anyway. Every now and then, in the games my XBox plays, we come to a 'cut scene'. This is a bit where the gaming stops and the characters walk through a scene that takes the story forward. It's a mid-game film clip. And I had an idea. Why don't all films do this? In reverse, I mean. Why don't we buy movies that have game sections that take the story off in a semi-random new direction? Harness the power of gaming technology to make unpredictable movies, I mean, that are never the same twice in a row. [Aside: I prefer the word 'movie', but 'movie clip' sounds silly.]
I never play (or rather, join in playing) games on my XBox because I can't operate the little handset quickly enough (or somehow, find time to practise). But I would like to play a game that mostly plays itself with a little nudging from me. As if I was watching a film with the plot-flexibility of a game. If I remember my younger-than-I-am-now parenting days, the characters in The Sims keep on going to work and coming home, amassing money and swearing in little symbols about how much they need the bathroom, if you leave them to it, and in Iain Banks' Complicity (1993), there's a game that seems to play itself alongside the action of the story.
I've enjoyed the few iMax films I've seen, and I'm sure I'll be hugely impressed, in due course, by virtual-reality headsets (although see above; I wrote this post first). But if we're talking about the content, and not just the means of looking at it, I really would buy a film that was different every time I watched it. In the sense, the plot's unpredictable because there's an element of gaming technology mixed in with the hi-def picture, crystal-clear sound, blah blah, so that you get a <random> option in the start menu, and perhaps the choice between the adult and family versions. Happy ending: yes/no?
You get, say, a version of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) in which Charlize Theron gets a flat tyre at a key moment. Or there's a murder on some Orient Express somewhere, and you can watch it twice after all because second time round, the clues are different and, er, somebody else did it. I think the aliens really should have won in Independence Day (1996), and I would have like to extend the closing scenes of 2012 (2009; spoiler alert), so that when the West's leaders, industrialists and plutocrats land in their grey ships on the one African plain that is the only land left above water, we get to see how the locals greet them.
That is the happy ending? As the film is now? And what about a rom-com in which we see the later lives of the protagonists in the version where they never got back together after the near-the-end big argument? Getting carried away with this, I'd love to see the prequel to You Only Live Twice (1967) in which Blofeld hollows out a volcano for a headquarters and launches his own space program without the locals noticing. Or - back on topic - the version of any Bond film in which they're not expecting him and unfortunately the restaurant/casino/hotel's fully booked this evening.
Virtual reality, huh! Why bother, unless it's storytelling? And if it is storytelling, it's not really innovation if it's just another way of watching a screen. There must be a huge market for films in which, every now and then, the baddies don't magically lose their ability to hit anything in the final shoot-out. If electorates deliver protest votes these days, wouldn't they watch protest movies, in which the obvious good guys, with their heroic angst and their clever one-liners and their lovable (sic) quirks - protest movies in which those guys got flattened?
Never mind alternative history; I want alternative film.