Science-Fiction Weekly – Observer, Phasma, Neuromancer, The Terminator, The Last Jedi
I was expecting today's big science-fiction release to be Agents of Mayhem, but all eyes should instead be on Observer, a cyberpunk horror game from Bloober Team. While Agents of Mayhem sounds like it delivers silly fun in a similar vein to the Saints Row series, Observer is a legitimately interesting science-fiction experience with a hell of a payoff, both for people looking for deep cyberpunk lore, and those in the market for a terrifying descent into the mind.
Observer takes place in the year 2084, and follows a neural detective (or Observer) named Daniel Lazarski. He is tasked to hack into and invade a subject's mind. As he searches for answers, he's forced to become a part of the subject's darkest fears and thoughts, which is where the horror angle comes into play. Game Informer's Javy Gwaltney reviewed Observer for us, giving the game a glowing 9 out of 10 score. He nailed the experience in his critique:
"Observer makes the most of its fusion of cyberpunk sci-fi and terror. Where stories like Blade Runner, Snatcher, and Shadowrun usually have the urban sprawl of a futuristic city to work with, Observer trades that in for the narrow, cluttered halls of a broken-down apartment complex filled with tenants cowering in fear of a totalitarian regime (and something else that lurks in the basement). This creates an experience where the most interesting aspects of the genre – terrifying and cruel corporations, the messy politics of body augmentation, the impact technology has on one’s psyche – are all funneled into a concise and terrifying experience.
Make no mistake: Observer is about as pure horror as you can get, despite its grimy sci-fi wrapper. Along with a high number of effective jump scares, there’s a constant sense of dread that hangs over this five-hour odyssey thanks to how it uses its Cyberpunk elements, like its particularly twisted take on hacking. Lazarski is one of the eponymous Observers, which are special police units, half-human and half-machine, who can jack into the mental implants of individuals and explore their minds to recreate crimes and obtain secrets stored far away in the subject’s memories."
You can get a taste of Observer in action in this hour-long playthrough of the introductory moments:
If September 1 isn't circled on your calendar yet, grab a marker and make that day stand out from the rest. Why? Because it's Force Friday – one of the most significant (and expensive) merchandising days of the year. Along with a slew of new collectibles, shirts, and remote-control ships, Lucasfilm is releasing books that lead into Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The most interesting novel is penned Delilah S. Dawson, and at long last gives us an idea of the person beneath the glistening stormtrooper armor. Dawson's Phasma is follows an adversary who is determined to find out who Captain Phasma is. What secrets does this mysterious and intimidating figure hold? We'll need to read the book to find out. Here's the official synopsis:
"Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution,
a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of a
crimson-armored stormtrooper – Cardinal. But the information he desires
has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against
the First Order.
What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past – and with it whatever long-buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order. His prisoner has what Cardinal so desperately seeks, but she won’t surrender it easily. As she wages a painstaking war of wills with her captor, bargaining for her life in exchange for every precious revelation, the spellbinding chronicle of the inscrutable Phasma unfolds. But this knowledge may prove more than just dangerous once Cardinal possesses it – and once his adversary unleashes the full measure of her fury."
We'll learn more about Phasma a week later in a four-issue comic-book series called Star Wars: Captain Phasma, which reveals how she escaped the trash compactor before Starkiller Base was destroyed. The comic series is written by Kelly Thompson (Hawkeye), with art by Marco Checchetto (The Punisher, Gamora).
Stores are beginning to receive shipments of the merchandise for September 1. While the boxes clearly state the product shouldn't be stocked until that date, some stores are putting them out anyway. One of the biggest items contains one of the biggest spoilers: our first legitimate look at a full-bodied Supreme Leader Snoke. We knew he was horribly scarred and adorned in gold, but we had no idea he was so tall. He must stand in at nine- or ten-feet in height. The box also gives us a look at a battle that will supposedly occur in the film, showing Rey, Rose, BB-8, and Poe aboard Snoke's Star Destroyer. The red figures around him are his personal Praetorian Guards. Yes, there are plenty of spoilers in this image, but this is something that will be on store shelves everywhere in just a couple of weeks, or may be there now.
William Gibson's 1984 novel, Neuromancer, is destined for the silver screen, thanks to Deadpool director Tim Miller. Neuromancer is one of the fathers of the cyberpunk genre, bringing a hacker named Henry Dorsett Case into a virtual dataspace called the Matrix. The book has been tapped for a movie script before, and almost starred Mark Wahlberg as Case, but ended up falling apart. Miller seems like a fine choice for this beloved first book in Gibson's trilogy.
Let's keep the topic on 1984, the year The Terminator released in theaters. James Cameron is somehow going to make new movies for this series, even though he has four Avatar sequels in the works. He recently talked to IGN about the future of the franchise, which he thinks is partly unfolding in our world today. Here are his thoughts on returning to this series:
"Well look, I got out of the Terminator business after Terminator 2 because I didn't control the underlining IP. I had sold it off very early on when I was a nobody – not a director, nothing – and I was just thrilled to be working on a movie. When I became aware of the fact that I could get back into a control position on the rights then I started to ask myself 'artistically, is there anything there, is there anything to be said that I haven't already said and that would even be relevant in the 2020's, when these hypothetical films would come out?' I thought 'Well, let's look at that.' I mean of the things that were science fiction in The Terminator are now around us, from Predator Drones and actual discussions on the ethics of having a robot have its own kill decision possibilities; things like that. I mean it's actually happening, so okay maybe there is room for a film that examines these themes. It just has to be retooled for an audience's expectations."
When The Terminator released in 1984, it was 100-percent science fiction. The only aspect that is still far-fetched is time travel. We have the drones. We have the robots. We have advanced A.I. (that thankfully doesn't want to kill us yet). It'll be interesting to see what Cameron does with this property from the science-fiction perspective, especially with the time-travel element. I would not be surprised if that aspect of the story is completely reworked to accommodate scientific breakthroughs that may come to pass in the near future.