Tag Archives: Hollywood

She, Robot

“I’m different from you. This doesn’t make me love you any less. It actually makes me love even more.”

Samantha the Operating System, ‘Her’, Spike Jonze, 2013

“Boomer was a good MARCBOT. Those goddamn Mahdi Army scum took him from this world far too early.”

red_one_foxtrot commenting on Reddit, 2013

~

Mike Powell awoke blurry-eyed to a dimly lit room that was almost unbearably hot. Grunting disagreeably, he rolled over and peeled the sheet from his torso. It was heavy with sweat.

“Jesus, how fucking hot is it?” he asked hoarsely of the dark room.

“It is thirty-seven degrees Celsius. Good morning Mike.”

It was a female voice, soft yet remote. He glanced at the figure seated by his bed.

“Kate, I thought we agreed to speak in American. And you know it creeps me out when you watch me sleep.”

“You’re not asleep, Mike. You’re awake. And the United States adopted the Celsius scale in late 2017 after a…”

Mike cut her short with a flapping palm as he wiped his eyes with his other hand.

“Yeah, yeah, alright. Quit your yapping.”

After showering Mike returned to his bunk to get dressed. Most of the others were up and about, the room now buzzing with a muted chatter. As he laced his boots his eyes fell on the bed next to his, its sheets fresh and crisp, undisturbed by sleep. He had liked Murphy. Not the brightest, but a good kid. There were rumours he hadn’t come out too badly from the raid, just a nick in the shoulder. That he was discharged due to what the docs called ‘emotional distress’. That his bot had taken one in the head and that was why he charged the outpost like a lunatic. Just rumours, Powell thought to himself as he made his way to the canteen. Kate followed behind him.

“How are you feeling Mike?”

“I’m just fine Kate. I’m eating.”

There was a short pause.

“You’re not worried about today’s mission? It’s perfectly…”

He cut her off, “I’ve been on plenty of ‘em Kate, and I’m still here. Like I said, I’m fine.”

Another pause.

“Okay Mike. I’m going to go for my tune-up before we leave. I’ll be back shortly.”

He didn’t respond. Kate got up and walked towards the exit. A few other bots were heading that way too. Mike finished his meagre breakfast and left the table.

There were approximately two thousand troops in Camp Obama, the largest US navy camp in Djibouti, and one of the largest in Eastern Africa. Three hundred of these were classed as special operations servicemen. The other two hundred and ninety-nine of these had bots just like Kate. The Synthetic Humanoid Engine had been in service for three years now. It was listed in official Armed Forces literature as ‘equipment’, and in its current incarnation took the form of a female android. The men responded better to female bots. It was equipped with an array of weapons, and its AI was unlike anything that had been seen before. President Winfrey had described the SHE as ‘the greatest military breakthrough since the AK-47.’

Kate was Mike’s second. He had only had his first for a month when a roadside bomb in Kandahar had hit the jeep he was travelling in. It had taken eight hours of surgery to remove the shrapnel from his back and arms. He hadn’t named his first, but by the time he was back in service and was issued a second, the directive was to assign your bot a name. The psychs had informed the top brass that it was ‘conducive to developing a trust system’. Mike had a soft spot for Katharine Hepburn movies, and when he was greeted upon his arrival for duty at Camp Obama by his very own ‘African Queen’ protectress, he thought it was appropriate.

Mike left the camp at midday with his unit, each man flanked in the back of the truck by his bot. Some chatted idly to them: checked on the weather and the sports results back home, had e-mails and Facebook posts read out, that kind of thing. Mike sat quietly, sweating through his fatigues under the Kevlar vest. He winced as the bumps in the road jarred his lower back. The dull pain that had been with him since Kandahar was worse than usual today. He closed his eyes and blocked out the fluttering voices of the bots. His mind drifted back to a training exercise from the academy. They had been split into teams and had to disassemble a live bot. It was supposed to convey the idea to the men that the SHE was just nuts and bolts. Just a machine.

The Captain calmly recapped the orders as the truck neared its objective. There was a camp a few miles to the east. Satellites had picked up possible insurgent activity there, but this had to be confirmed by ground troops before a strike could be authorised. The plan was to head to a nearby ridge and scope out the camp from afar. All fairly routine. The truck slowed to a crawl as it climbed the hill leading to the ridge.

The Cap turned to his bot,

“Satellite pick up anything new, Lucy?”

The bot hesitated as its neural pathways shimmered behind its faceplate.

“Nothing new from HQ, Sir. We are a go for mission.”

The Captain nodded as the truck slowed to a stop.

“Alright ladies, let’s make this quick. In and out and home in time fo-”

A deafening explosion ripped through the truck before he could finish. Mike was thrown to the floor as gleaming rays of sunshine flooded in through a smoking hole where the Captain had been sitting. Wiping his face, Mike’s hand came away soaked in the Cap’s blood. Lucy’s limp, headless body lay writhing and twitching across his legs. The rocket had turned the front half of the truck into a mangled wreck of body parts and circuitry. Gunfire sprayed the panels of the truck, filling the air with miniscule cylinders of sunlight. Mike felt a flashing pain in his leg, and as he turned to crawl towards the back of the truck he felt himself being lifted off the floor. A split second later he was barrelled out of the back and thrown roughly behind a jagged rock, the dense air loaded with the sound of bullets striking metal.

Before he had time to register what had happened, a figure landed with a thud beside him, its back to the rock. He turned to see Kate’s half-melted faceplate, her eyes as still and lifeless as ever. Her body was covered with dents and small holes.

“I can’t walk. My leg…” he started to say. Kate said nothing, but stood and lifted him over her shoulder. She sprinted away from the truck, a hail of bullets shadowing her down the hill that they had rolled up just moments before. Mike, his leg bleeding freely and his head being jolted violently, just had time to look back and survey the scene of the wrecked, flaming truck and the scattered bodies of his comrades, before he lost consciousness.

When Mike woke up the first thing he was aware of was how much his leg, and his head, hurt. The second thing he realised was that he was outside, and it was dark. Clusters of brilliant white stars came slowly into view as he blinked groggily.

“Where am I?” he just about managed to whisper, his own voice barely recognisable.

A soft reply came from above his head,

“You are seventeen point three miles from Camp Obama, Mike. It is currently ten thirty-one p.m.”

He looked up to see a twisted face in the moonlight, its blinking lights now clearly visible, its body leaking fluid.

“What happened to the rest…”

“Mike, we don’t have much time. I’ve done what I can with your leg but you’ll bleed out before long. There are still insurgents looking for us, and I’m too badly damaged to carry you back.”

He glanced down at his thigh to see a blood-soaked shirt wrapped tightly around it. His head felt light and he was having difficulty focusing his eyes.

“Can you call…get a chopper…”

“My communication system has been damaged, I can’t contact the base.”

Mike laughed softly to himself, delirious with pain and fatigue.

“Well that’s that, then. We can’t be taken alive, so you know what to…”

“Mike, I’m going back alone. They’ll send a chopper.”

Mike’s vision was becoming blurry again.

“It’s too far. You’ll never…” he trailed off.

Kate crouched beside him and put her hand on his chest.

“The chopper will be here, Mike. Just stay alive.”

His breath was shallow as he looked up at her.

“I never told you about my first.”

“No, you didn’t. But I’ve read the file.”

Mike stared at the crescent moon that lit the arid landscape, his eyelids quivering.

“Docs said she saved me. Rolled herself right around me in a millisecond and took the brunt of the blast.”

“She did her job, Mike.”

He reached out and took her hand, riddled with bullet holes and covered in an oily residue.

“I blamed her” he said, and laughed again. He fixed his eyes on the flickering lights that shone from beneath her gnarled visage. His grip became limp as his eyes began to close.

“I blamed her” he whispered again, but Kate didn’t hear him. She was sprinting noiselessly across the sand, her feet kicking up mounds of gold that shimmered under the light of the waxing moon.

~

When Mike woke he couldn’t open his eyes to the white light that seemed to envelop him. He felt as if he were floating through the air. Slowly he came to his senses, as a white-coated figure approached him.

“Good afternoon, Lieutenant. Good to have you back.”

Mike looked down at his leg, relieved to find it was still there.

“Chopper got to you just in time Sir. You were pretty close.”

Mike’s throat burned as he tried to speak, his voice a harsh croak, “Kate?”

The doctor looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled.

“Ah yes, your bot. We couldn’t believe she made it to the base. Nearly twenty miles, and most of her systems had completely crashed. It’s a miracle she made it.”

Mike shifted in the bed and lifted his head, his body still lethargic and weak.

“She…she made it?” he asked breathlessly.

The doctor’s smile faltered a little.

“Well, she made it here with your co-ordinates, but the damage was…well, you know…” he trailed off.

Mike lay back on the pillow and stared at the ceiling.

“Can I…see her?”

The doctor fidgeted with his clipboard.

“Well, I’m afraid she’s been…dismantled at this stage Lieutenant.”

He offered a weak smile.

“Well, you get some rest Sir. You’ve earned it. You’ll be issued with a new bot when you’re up and about, don’t you worry.”

As the doctor floated away across the room, Mike slowly turned his head to stare out the window. The midday sun shone down remorselessly from a cloudless sky, the dunes in the distance obscured by the shimmering haze of the desert heat. As his heavy eyelids closed and he drifted into a deep sleep, Mike wondered to himself exactly how hot it was today.


New Year’s Devolutions

As another year draws to a close we are left to look back on the events of the last twelve months, and assess their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, however, due to my reliance on modern technology, I have no memory whatsoever of anything that happened before yesterday. Therefore, until we manage to invent some sort of collated, easily accessible database of news through which we can record our history as it unfolds, any attempt at such reflection is pointless.

Instead, I will attempt to predict what may lie in store for the duration of our next revolution around the sun, which conveniently gives me even more scope for absurd exaggeration and crude humour. To that end, here follows a synopsis of what we can expect in the year 2014…

To domestic affairs first, as Ireland continues its upward trajectory out of the doldrums of recession. Normality returns in increments as shoddily built apartments are bought by the thousand, helicopters are dusted off to head down to the Galway Races, and solicitors start snorting cocaine before midday again.

In politics, Enda Kenny finally gives in to pressure to reform the Seanad, and appoints David Norris to take charge of the transition. Unfortunately, Norris chooses to make no changes whatsoever to the political structures or powers of the upper house, deciding instead to use millions of euro of taxpayers’ money to build an exact replica of an Ancient Roman Senate chamber, complete with annexed bath house, and opulently furnished in marble and gold leaf. The Taoiseach defends the developments by arguing that attendance in the house is at a record high average of 11%, a vast improvement on previous years.

Unfortunately for many of our émigrés, next year will also see Australia suffer a severe economic crash akin to the one that sent them there. Thousands of young Irish people are left floundering in a sweltering, barren wasteland, with no employment and no money to get home. As the last remaining Aussies leave their shores en masse to seek bar work in London, our hapless emigrants are left to fend for themselves in the desolate wilderness. Rule of law breaks down and society devolves into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, like Mad Max with more swearing and Offaly jerseys.

In the US, troublesome Republicans once again force a shutdown of the government, which lasts for over six months. The leadership claims it is due to Obama’s wish to implement stricter gun laws, but House insiders maintain it is predominantly a backlash to the dryness of the muffins in the Congress cafeteria. The country is thrown into chaos as millions are denied access to essential services. A deal is eventually brokered after military cutbacks contribute to a worrying breach in security in an army base in Kandahar, in which an enemy missile lands inside the perimeter. After eliminating the insurgents responsible, the missile turns out to be a football that had come from a nearby playing field, but military intelligence verifies that the deceased 12-year old boys were ‘a lot more terrorist-y than they looked.’

More revelations are forthcoming in 2014 from Edward Snowden regarding NSA monitoring of internet communications. In a somewhat tragic twist, it emerges that an entire subsection of intelligence operatives, who had been tasked with examining comments on YouTube to seek potential terrorists, take their own lives in what seems like a ritual mass suicide by self-immolation. NSA chiefs announce their grief and shock over the lost lives, especially since the group had just started their first day on the project.

In Britain, police continue to crack down on abusive behaviour on social networking sites. This policy reaches its zenith when a student is imprisoned for three months for calling Harry Styles a ‘gobshite’ on Twitter. When the presiding magistrate orders everyone who retweeted the offending message to be given the same sentence, thousands of hardened criminals are released onto the streets to make room for the hordes of potty-mouthed youngsters. This results in an unprecedented crime wave sweeping across the country, which the government announces is ‘probably something to do with immigrants.’ The Daily Mail takes a different approach and blames the situation on Ed Miliband’s dad.

In international news, North Korea follows China’s example by expanding their space program. They spend months ferrying men and supplies to the moon, much to the concern of the international community. When it is revealed that Kim Jong-un has built an enormous moonbase, fears grow over what kind of terrible weapon he might unleash. This alarm is soon allayed, however, when it transpires that Kim was simply remaking the movie Moonraker, starring himself as James Bond, and featuring Dennis Rodman as Jaws.

The winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, take place in February under the shadow of a decree from President Putin that absolutely no gay behaviour will be tolerated. Secret police are stationed around the ground to enforce the law, with security particularly heavy in the figure skating arena for some reason. Putin himself projects his usual uber-macho image by appearing at the games naked, save for the pelt of a bear that he had killed that morning, which he had come upon in the wild and hadn’t been tranquilised in any way, shape or form.

However, events take an unexpected turn at the speed skating track, when Putin’s attention is turned to a young Finnish athlete named Matthias. The Russian premier feels a strange sensation stirring in him as he watches the young man glide over the ice, his golden hair radiant, his enormous quadriceps rippling with every stride. To the alarm of his aides, Putin suddenly rushes onto the track, but trips on his bear suit and falls crashing to the ice. As he rises to his knees, a strong arm appears to help him up, and he finds himself gazing upon a set of chiselled Nordic features. Matthias lifts him into his arms and embraces him, and as the strains of Up Where We Belong begin to play over the PA system, the pair exit the arena to the cacophonous cheers of the assembled masses, and disappear into the setting sun.

Technology giant Apple’s reputation takes a hit next year after it is discovered that its iPhone 6, and its iPad Extra Mini Micro, are in fact the same device. Their PR troubles continue later in the year as a 16-year old worker in one of the company’s Beijing factories hacks the official Apple Twitter account. His strongly worded criticisms of working practices and his uploaded selfie of the effects of an unfortunate smelting accident are Tweeted for the world to see. Unfortunately for him, his revelations are overshadowed by the release of the iPad Pico, a tablet roughly the same size as a postage stamp, which is later revealed to be simply an actual stamp designed to look like a tablet.

Social media continues in the new year in its quest to rid the world of unuttered thoughts, comfortable silences and the last remaining semblances of privacy. Google introduces a controversial new app in which a drone follows the user’s daily movements and updates their Facebook status and Twitter feed accordingly, with observations like ‘Sarah has just been dumped and appears inconsolable’, ‘Paul is masturbating over a fire he just started’, and ‘Sally is bleeding profusely from a head wound caused by my malfunctioning gears’.

As collective attention spans continue to plummet, the fad of six-second long Vines becomes passé. They are replaced by Stems, videos lasting just one second. The most popular of the year is of a 2-year old child from Kansas saying the word ‘jam’ in an adorable fashion, which is shared by millions. The child is later mentioned in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which prompts knowing laughter and warm applause from the crowd, followed by an eighteen-minute chant of ‘USA, USA’.

New varieties of the ubiquitous selfie become popular with the babbling, androgynous masses that populate the trendiest corners of the internet, where they smear digital pictograms of the tedious minutiae of their lives across social networking sites, and heap scorn on those of us born before 1994 that still use words like ‘trendiest’. These include the ‘elfie’, a festive self-portrait, the ‘farewellfie’, an inappropriate picture taken at the service of a deceased relative, and the ‘continental shelfie’, photos taken in the shallow waters of the glacially eroded coastal plains of continental land masses. Okay, that last one doesn’t really become that popular.

In Hollywood news, the most anticipated film of the year, the third instalment of The Hobbit, is delayed as director Peter Jackson falls ill during filming. The only director available to take the reins at short notice is Michael Bay, who selflessly offers his services. Upon its release, many critics question the wisdom of Bay’s changes to the original script, including casting Samuel L. Jackson as Gandalf, replacing the eagles with a fleet of Chinook helicopters, and even contriving an entirely new female elven character called Tauriel to spice up proceedings. Well actually, that was Jackson, but it was Bay who decided she should be played by Eddie Murphy in drag as the film’s comic relief.

Most of the criticism, however, centres on the movie’s antagonist, Smaug Mohammed Smaug, who is portrayed as an Islamic oligarch who uses his obscene wealth to arm a sinister band of Yemeni terrorists. The film’s denouement sees the dragon and his insurgent colleagues consumed in the hellfires of US Army drones remotely piloted by a ragtag bunch of wisecracking dwarf grunts, who are all played by Robert Downey Jr. Empire magazine gives the film five stars, their review simply consisting of the words ‘high-octane action’ repeated seven hundred times, followed by an exclamation mark.

In the world of music, Miley Cyrus continues her crusade against subtlety with her new single, Dark Room Full of Middle-Aged Men. The raunchy video becomes a viral phenomenon, and gives rise to a new dance craze among adolescent girls the world over, affectionately called ‘the Miley’. This is much like the Macarena, except with less smiling, and more penetration using household objects. Twitter is abuzz for months with trending topics like ‘doing the Miley’, ‘My tongue is a feminist too’, and ‘late night emergency room visit’.

In hip-hop news, Kanye West releases an experimental 3-hour long album featuring the sounds of his infant child’s bowel movements, set to a snappy bassline from a little-known 1970s adult movie about a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon who falls in love with a sassy waitress named LaQuanza. It sells eighteen million copies, and is hailed by music critics as ‘the seminal post-racial artwork of this, or any, millennium’.

So ends my forecast for the year 2014. Some of these things may come to pass; some will not; some may even look tame when reflected in the reality that comes to meet us. The future is a puzzling thing; no less a man than George Orwell had a great fear of it, which manifested itself in his works. This sense of foreboding is nowhere better illustrated than in an achingly bleak line from 1984: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

While I don’t think I’ve quite reached the depths of Orwellian cynicism just yet, it must be said that the pain in my face seems to be increasing exponentially with each passing year. Happy New Year you shower of bastards.


The Beginning…?

This week sees the release of the latest in the Twilight series of films, Breaking Dawn – Part 1. Apparently they needed to release the film in two separate parts just so they could fit Robert Pattinson’s chin on screen. Although this latest instalment is undoubtedly an abominable affront to film, the English language, and distinguished fictional vampires such as Nosferatu and Count Duckula, it will inevitably make hundreds of millions of dollars because of the impressionable and easily impressed demographic that it appeals to. In light of this I have decided to write my own movie, utilising all the aspects of modern popular culture that attract these gangs of jabbering tweens like particularly excitable flies to a giant light bulb made of  shirtless vampires and crap dialogue.

In the spirit of Hollywood trailers I will now outline the entire plot for you so that you needn’t even go and see the film. It will be in three parts, although the plot will only take up the first of them; the other two just consist of four hours of my executive producers counting massive piles of money.

Since mythical beings seem to be the protagonists de rigeur these days, my main characters will all be examples of such creatures. Although since vampires and werewolves have been overdone lately, and zombies are old news, this doesn’t leave me with much choice. Therefore, the movie will revolve around Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster, or Harry and Hamish if you prefer. The film’s plot will centre on the pair’s trials and tribulations in vying for the affections of a nubile young unicorn named Penelope who is blessed with an amazing singing voice and a non-threatening Caucasian complexion. Our heroine is played by Dakota Fanning’s unborn sister, who although still a foetus, has been generating a lot of Oscar buzz over the last few months for her incredible performances.

Penelope’s heartrending back-story is a tale of woe worthy of a spot in the final ten of The X Factor. Her parents were killed before she was born in a tragic jetski-related accident. To be precise, a jetski fell off a truck onto them as they were out jogging one day. She then fell in love with a prince who turned out to be a frog, until one day he was captured by an enthusiastic young science teacher and subjected to a gruesome dissection. After mourning him she next fell in love with a frog who turned out to be The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, but his hectic touring schedule meant that the relationship was doomed from the start. After this heartbreak she vowed never to love again, and locked herself away in the top of the tallest tower in the land, never to set eyes on another man as long as she lived. It was only after she threw away the key that she realised the toilet was on the ground floor.

It is at this point that we meet our intrepid heroes, Harry and Hamish, played by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. After hearing the tragic tale of Penelope, both instantly fall in love with her, or possibly just have nothing else to do, and they decide to undertake the perilous journey across Slightly-Right-of-Middle Earth to reach her and rescue her from her self-imposed solitude. Russell Brand appears to them separately in a dream and tells them, amidst much Dickensian hyperbole and fanciful hand gestures, that they must seek the powerful but highly camp wizard, Gandalf the Gay. Only he can help them in their quest to find Penelope.

The pair set off on their journey to reach the exuberant wizard, meeting many strange and wonderful creatures along the way. They defeat the screeching two-headed monster Jedwardius in a breakdancing competition in order to gain the keys of the magical closet from their guardian King Louis of Walshtown. They fight on the side of the Tweeters against the MySpace clans in the legendary Flame Wars. They even meet a particularly dull rock named Gerald, played by Orlando Bloom.

Finally, after following an extremely bright and glittery yellow brick road, they reach the Aquamarine City, home of Gandalf the Gay. The wizard grants them two wishes, since it infringes on copyright to grant three. While arguing over how best to use their wishes, Harry wishes Hamish would hurry up and wish for something, after which Hamish wishes ‘that mincy wizard would stop staring at me like that’. Having inadvertently wasted their wishes and angered Gandalf the Gay, the pair are banished from the City, and fear that all hope of reaching Penelope has been lost.

Harry and Hamish are in the middle of planning a route home that means they don’t have to cross paths with Gerald again when suddenly a ghostly pirate ship appears in the water beside them. Out steps Captain Zack Sparrow, younger brother of Jack, played by Justin Bieber. He offers to take them to Penelope, since he has to stop at Centra on the way home for some ham anyway. The other packet was left open too long in the fridge and it’s gone all weird and hard around the edges. While on the ship, our characters are joined for a triumphal musical number by the entire cast of Glee, except the wheelchair kid because the ship didn’t have a ramp. Pirates are notoriously insensitive to the needs of the differently abled.

Eventually, after the thirty-minute long musical interlude ends with the teacher from Glee riding a porpoise voiced by Gary Barlow into the sunset singing ‘Unchained Melody’, Harry and Hamish arrive at their destination. They come to the foot of the tower and call Penelope’s name until she appears at the window. She looks just as radiant and beautiful as they imagined she would, although Harry remarks that she could have put in a bit of effort, since she’s just wearing a snood and a pair of trackie bottoms. They tell her to throw her hair down so they can climb up but she sensibly notes that this would leave all three of them trapped in the tower, so she just flies down to them instead, leaving Hamish to wonder aloud how a winged unicorn could have been trapped in a room with a large open window in the first place.

As the trio prepare to leave together to start their new life, Penelope asks them how in the world they ever found her.

‘Russell Brand came to us in a dream.’

‘Oh, I think I had the same one. Was he naked by any chance?’

‘Yes,’ says Hamish sombrely. ‘Yes he was.’

Our heroes slowly walk away into the background, and just as the screen is fading to black and the dulcet tones of Gary the porpoise can be heard lilting over the waves, Miley Cyrus flies through the air in a biplane hauling a huge banner that simply says, ‘The End…?’

Let’s hope not. I think I could make a career out of this screenwriting lark.


You Sunk My (Alien) Battleship

Over the last number of years, American film producers appear to have collectively dismissed the idea of an original concept for a film. Amid brash, cameo-infested re-imaginings of classic 80’s movies, films based on comic books boasting scripts that make porn dialogue sound like Patrick Stewart reciting Hamlet, and endless strings of unnecessary blockbuster sequels to equally unnecessary original films, it had seemed as though Hollywood had finally slipped to the bottom rung of the greasy ladder of derivativeness and banality.

But wait, there’s more. May of next year sees the release of Battleship, a movie based on the popular classic board game of the same name. What’s that sound I hear? Why it can only be Hollywood’s producers falling off the aforementioned ladder, then rolling into a giant pit of unoriginality and absurdity that someone carelessly left unguarded. Probably Michael Bay, he doesn’t give a damn about rules. Only explosions. I’ll let you know when I hear them hit the bottom.

As ludicrous as this idea sounds, the trailer actually makes it look like it could be a bit of fun. Mindless fun, but fun nonetheless. And it does have Liam Neeson in it so you just know that at some stage someone is going to get an inspiring speech, followed by a beatdown, followed by some sage advice from the wise old Ballymena man. Which will promptly be followed by another beatdown.

The most puzzling aspect of the trailer for those acquainted with the rather simple board game, is that it seems to take quite a few liberties with the original premise. There’s a bit of a leap from ‘Guess a number and I may or may not have to remove one of the tiny pegs from my board, edging you ever closer to a famous naval victory’, to ‘Oh shit, this routine mission has somehow deviated into a pitched battle against an enormous aquatic alien vessel which seems capable of flight. What do we do Liam Neeson?’.

That’s like basing a movie on Scrabble in which sentient vowels invade Consonant Land, raping and pillaging in gangs of seven and rounding up all the Zs and Qs so they can ransom them for the most points. Or a film based on Operation in which a clearly conscious man is horrifically butchered by amateur surgeons who want to harvest his organs. Actually, that’s not too far away from the game at all…

Although in fairness, they have already made a successful film of Monopoly, where a greasy, unscrupulous tycoon uses insider trading to gain power and influence and rise to the top of the business world, only to be caught in the end and have to go to jail. I’m just glad they took out the scene of Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen passing Go and collecting 200 quid, it really didn’t sit with the rest of the film.

It may seem farcical to have a movie so loosely based on an existing concept, but the fact is that a recognisable brand is far easier to market. Original films have to be sold on their merits alone, which requires good acting, a great script, and many other features that most producers are too lazy to shell out for just so that the film can make a few bob at the local cinema while Saw 11: Let’s Get Gristlier is raking in the dough down at the 3D Cineplex.

Of course there have always been blockbusters, and they are by and large quite enjoyable distractions. There will also never be a shortage of cheaply made independent films. You know the type, seven hour long Ukrainian features about the grim reality of working in a smelting factory in wartime Kiev, set to a soundtrack of mechanical gears and the wailings of orphaned children. The kind of films that win all sorts of prestigious awards and critical acclaim at film festivals the world over, but will only ever be seen by that weird girl you know who’s into making her own jumpers.

The danger is that the films that make up the middle ground between the two extremes will become commercially unviable. People are going to the cinema less and less, and you can be assured that a big-name action blockbuster will draw the crowds, so why bother making anything else? Hopefully Hollywood will continue to produce great directors and screenwriters whose films contain some semblance of plot, feeling and intelligence. And hopefully producers will keep giving them a chance.

As for the future of the blockbuster, one of these days all the books, comics and board games will be used up, and nothing will remain to inspire our summer’s viewing. Although by that stage we could probably just get away with remaking them all again and nobody will know the difference.

Hang on a minute, I hear something. It’s coming from the bottom of the pit. It sounds like they’ve found a barrel down there and they’re scraping the bottom of it. I can even hear them whispering about how they could definitely get away with at least three more Pirates of the Caribbean films before anyone notices that nothing happens in them. God help us. God help us all.