Monday, August 19, 2013

And A Star To Steer Her By

Please, no poop. I've got 3 breasts.
In considering the notion of geek tech, I suppose that there are a few tempting choices--but tempting in ways that will ultimately be a bit of a let down. Heck, a good chunk of them come from Back to the Future, Part II: the self-fitting, self drying jacket ("your jacket is now dry!  Eeeeeee!"); the hoverboards (I'll take the Mad Dog variety, thanks); or even the 2015 version of the Kinect (which, of course, they had; afterall, the young Frodo-ish boy decried the Wild Gunman game as some lesser thing which required "you to use your hands).  I also considered Star Trek's holodeck, but let's face it: all technology ends up being used for porn at some point, so the limitless possibilities of the machine would end up simply being various types of alien poop being shat on three breasted cat women. 

This is an AWFUL drawing.
Yet all of these technologies are for leisure--for sitting around and "doing as little as possible all day," to quote Lee Adama of BSG fame.  The sentiment that he shares in the series finale is perfect: "I want to explore!" Thus too do I.  And thus my piece of geek tech would not be some small toy that would simply make life more fun, that would help me wallow away the day.  No, I would want myself the ultimate in exploration: the Trimaxian Drone Ship from the planet Phaelon... also known as Max from the film Flight of the Navigator.

Now first, a few caveats.  This film was exceedingly profound when I first saw it on VHS around the age of 7.  Not only does the character of David have some true life roots (dad is gone, which tends to be rare for a family film), but the central problem is fundamentally terrifying to a child: having taken a small fall down a meager hill, David hops right back up and goes home... to find that everyone he loved is gone, has moved out, and moved on.. because 8 years have gone by.

1986 3D rendering into an environment. Amazing.
That would be bone-chillingly shocking if it happened to anyone in real life, but to see it suggested in a "kid flick" brought it into stark contrast with happier stuff.  As the plot goes on, David discovers a small, silver, sentient spacecraft is not only looking out for him, but is also the source of the problem: a four hour hop, skip, and a jump at near-light speed back to Phaelon has resulted in those missing eight years.  (Look it up, Einstein.)

Now, aside from all this drama, what a way to explore!  The ship is the ultimate in conveyance: fast, adaptive, humorous.  (An adult rewatch makes it painfully clear that Paul Rubens is the voice of Max, particularly once Max becomes "silly" and sounds exactly like Pee Wee Herman.)  The film has its limitations: the third act is slowly mired in kid frivolity despite the first two acts being and feeling perfectly serious for an 7- or 8-year-old.  Yet it presents such a feeling of wonder and exploration: a ship to call your own, and a star to steer her by.

As a side note, Flight of the Navigator had liquid metal morphing effects in 1986.  Astonishingly amazing morphing effects in 1986--effects so good that many look near flawless and most require only the smallest grain of salt.

The plot, for those who haven't seen it, turns out alright: after exciting chases and a brief capture by big, bad NASA, David makes his way back to the ship who returns him to 1978.  Fireworks explode, and Max the ship goes zooming by, declaring, "See you later, Navigator!"

See you later?  Pish posh: for those who haven't seen it, see it soon.  Heck, see it now: apparently Disney doesn't care enough to pull rank with its copyright, so you can watch it on YouTube, right now... Navigator!

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