Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Great (film) Debates vol. 32

Spaceships come in all shapes and sizes, from the Event Horizon to the Discovery One to the Borg cube... and nothing can ever go wrong with them.

What is the coolest spaceship on film?


Panelist: AndrewPrice

I SO want to say the original Enterprise. That is just awesome in every way. But if I'm being honest, there's another spaceship which blows them all away. This thing is perfection defined. . . the TARDIS. It can take any shape, go anywhere and anytime, and it's bigger on the inside than the outside. How can you beat that?

Panelist: T-Rav

The Millennium Falcon. Because it's the Millennium Falcon. If you disagree with me, I will have you frozen in carbonite.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

The Enterprise from Star Trek the Motion Picture. A purely emotional choice to be sure. Close second is 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Panelist: ScottDS

I wouldn't be much of a Trekkie if I didn't say the Enterprise. Yes, I know it originated in a TV show but I've always been a fan of the refit version that we see in the first three films (and in the next three films as the Enterprise-A). It's instantly recognizable and, unlike any number of actresses, it has no bad angles. There have literally been volumes written about it and in 1994, production designer Herman Zimmerman was contacted by DARPA and asked to help develop an experimental control center based on the Enterprise bridge. "All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

Comments? Thoughts?

80 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

Here is the quibble. Spaceship? The Enterprise is a STARSHIP!

Having said that, my first love is the Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space.

As Starships go, the Enterprise. For functionality, Sulaco. It can drop a platoon of Space Marines. Two squads per drop ship. For hot-rodding contraband, Millenium Falcon. For supreme fighting ability, Battlestar Galactica.

Tennessee Jed said...

An interesting point about this discussion involves what causes each of us to make the choice. Obviously, there is a huge nod of respect, a tip of the cap so to speak to the Enterprise among the panelists.

For me, I didn't put a lot of time intellectually trying to think this one through. It was a matter of what graphics grabbed me and made me say "nice, really nice." The slow pans of the Enterprise in the first film was a nice "thank you" to the legion of fans who had seen nothing but the model on puppet strings.

2001 was a whole new level and when coupled with the Danube Waltz music was just jaw dropping. Basically, what I should do though is give a huge boat load of respect to Douglas Trumble (sp.?) who was "the guy" for me back in the 70's.

Joel - I am almost ashamed to say "what's the Sulaco?" Same for TARDIS. Amost, but not quite so "what are Sulaco and Tardis?" Jed asked ignorantly ignorantly.

Tennessee Jed said...

o.k. I looked them up, and never did see the TARDIS in action. Interestingly (to me anyway,) in Alien, I was so caught up in the creature that the ship itself had a kind of burned out urban shell feel to it in my mind. :)

Outlaw13 said...

My first reaction is to say the ship featured in 2001. Not only is it cool, but some actual thought as to what would work went into it as well. I also really liked the Pan Am space suttle seen at the beginning of the film... well the beginning after the apes. Quick story when I saw this movie for the first time when I was about 12, I thought I was in the wrong movie theater when the movie began.

While the Millennium Falcon is cool, I always liked the design of the Empire's Star Destroyers and Darth Vader's Tie Fighter better.

T-Rav said...

Jed, how can you not know what the TARDIS is? I don't even watch Doctor Who, and I know what it is! I don't really think of it as a spaceship, though. I guess it sort of is, but I think of it as more of a time machine.

Tennessee Jed said...

Outlaw l.o.l. I think I had a kind of similar reaction to the movie and the ship.

Rav- just you wait, young Jedi whippersnapper. Somewhere out there in the distant future is a drool cup with your name on it. :)

Joel Farnham said...

Off Topic

For those who like competition and rare match-ups, next week, ABC has scheduled Katie Couric [The Perky One] to cover Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America". NBC has scheduled Sarah Palin [The 'Cuda] on Tuesday to guest host "Today".

Palin quipped, "Game On!" when asked about competing with Couric.

T-Rav said...

Palin is guest-hosting? Oh, this I gotta see.

T-Rav said...

Jed--I find your lack of respect disturbing. :-)

LL said...

None of you liked the Agamemnon from Babylon 5?

Koshcat said...

This is a difficult question for me as most often a good story is in part due to an well designed ship for that story. Han Solo and the Falcon are made for one another. Probably one of many reasons why the Return of the Jedi bugs me so much. I love the aesthetics of Discovery One in 2001. The shape of the Enterprise is timeless, but I still get chills when a Klingon Bird of Prey appears. It looks menacing; it looks like a warrior.

The show with some of the coolest ships, IMHO, was Babylon 5. They did a great job matching the ship with the personalities of the different aliens. The Shadow ships were creepy, Vorlon ships mysterious, and so on. This culminated into a ship designed and built by the Minbari and Vorlons and captained by an Earthling (the ultimate alliance): The White Star. DS9, which I think was a ripoff of Babylon 5 (both came out about the same time) developed the Reliant, which looks a little too similar to the White Star.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

The Sulaco is the ship from Aliens, though we only see it briefly when they approach the planet and at the end. It's a cool-looking ship though. I think Syd Mead and Ron Cobb were the designers on that one.

And yeah, Doug Trumbull is a legend in the visual effects world. It's too bad things went south on Brainstorm - one wonders what other films he might've gone on to direct. He was supposed to produce a new 2001 documentary but WB cancelled the project.

tryanmax said...

I probably only thought of this because I watched the film a couple of weeks ago, but The Protector from Galaxy Quest is a top-notch star-faring vessel. My favorite feature is the useless "chompy crushy things" in the middle of the ship.

Joel Farnham said...

Sulaco is the Marines transport ship featured on "Aliens". It is ungainly, ugly and utilitarian. With a load out of nuclear, chemical and conventional armaments, it ranks up there with other space vehicles.

LawHawkRFD said...

I'm tempted to name the spark-shooting rockets from the Flash Gordon serials if only because they defy all rules of physics and logic. But I have to go with the various manifestations of the Enterprise.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

The Satellite of Love -- the perfect place to watch bad movies in space.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Good point... a STARSHIP! :)

Nice description of the various vehicles! I particularly like "hot-rodding contraband"!

Good call on the Galactica, that's an excellent ship.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, As usual, we all made out choices for different reasons. Interesting, isn't it?

I agree with you, when it comes to just plain looks, nothing tops the beauty of the Enterprise in the Motion Picture. That's a moment where your jaw just drops and you say, "wow, what a beautiful ship."

I chose the TARDIS (Dr. Who's ride) because I just think the whole concept is totally cool of having a ship that is as big as you want it to be on the inside, yet shaped like a police box on the outside. I love that idea! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Star Destroyers are totally cool! They are the Cadillac of spaceships!

I agree with you about 2001. That is one ship that feel extremely real to me, as in I could very much see humans using something exactly like that in 50-100 years to travel in the solar system.

On 2001, I think people always remember the part with Hal and they forget that the first 20 minutes are apes and the last 30 minutes are just effects. It's an odd film.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Technically, it is probably more of a time machine, but it does travel throughout space. So I picked it. :)


Jed, "a drool cup with your name on it" -- LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Wow, that's going to be interesting.

Couric is the stupid one, right? ;)

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I am so glad you quote the original Star Wars and not those three Star Wars-like films. :)

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Babylon 5 rocked... but the coolest ships there belonged to the Shadows!

DUQ said...

Another fun question! I too would pick the Enterprise for sentimental reasons. I also like the original Gallactica!

Cheryl said...

They might not be the coolest, but they'd definitely win the cutest and most lovable category...

The little spaceships from Batteries Not Included!

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I agree entirely about B-5! They did an incredible job of making each ship fit the personality of each race. And you're right, that is important when you think about it.

The Millennium Falcon fit the smuggler personality of Han Solo. The Discovery had a sterile atmosphere which fit Hal -- the emotionless killer. The Nostromo had working class written all over it, which fit Ripley the working class hero. The Enterprise had "ship of the line" all over it, which fit Kirk (and the new Enterprise had chubby cruise ship all over it -- which fit Picard). And then of course, the Serenity had "rebels by the skin of their teeth" all over it, which fit Fillion's character Mal perfectly.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I'm not familiar with the Brainstorm story? I just remember it as an ok film, but not a disaster?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That is its coolest feature! Unless you count the device which no one knows what it does... even the designer. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Joel and Scott, The thing I love about the ships in Alien and Aliens is precisely that they are ugly and utilitarian. They are very real because of that. When we go into space and start mining other planets and moving things from place to place, that is what the ships will look like -- just like freighters aren't very pretty or clean today. They are working ships. And that makes them pretty cool.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Those were fun. A lot of the 1950s stuff is totally ridiculous now too, but I still enjoy them. There is something brilliant in their innocence and simplicity.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, An awesome ship for an awesome show! And I love the double meaning of SOL. :) That was a great show.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, The Galactica is cool. That would be a heck of a ride!

AndrewPrice said...

Cheryl, I totally dug those! That was a fun movie and those were cool representations of aliens. :)

tryanmax said...

It's been far too long since I've seen Batteries Not Included! Such a sweet film. Probably the only reason a whippersnapper like me even knows who Jessica Tandy is.

Anthony said...

I'll have to go with the Battlestar Galactica in the recent series. One-half carrier, the other half battleship on a closed network. It was awesome.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Good choice! A totally functional, incredibly powerful, well-designed wonder... and she's got great lines too! What a beautiful ship! The Galactica is easily one of the coolest, most memorable spaceships of all time.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, "Sweet" is a good word for it. It reminds me Short Circuit.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Brainstorm was the film Natalie Wood was shooting when she died. The studio tried to cancel the project but Trumbull vowed to finish it. The resulting hostility (studios, lawyers, insurance people, etc.) led to Trumbull leaving Hollywood and setting up shop in the Berkshires.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I hadn't heard that. I knew about her death, but frankly it's never interested me, and I didn't know there was a problem on the film. Hmm.

Commander Max said...

For me the coolest spaceship ever done wasn't in a western project.
It was Japanese, the Sol Bianca. Unfortunately the shows it was in were not all that great. But the ship as depicted was the most powerful and graceful I've ever seen. I've seen just about all of of them(except the new BSG, I couldn't watch the show. The camera work was so bad I got dizzy, and the whole thing as conceived was just wrong).

The next would be the Big E(STTOS), I do like the simplicity of the models from STTOS, but when you go to make the models. You'll find the shapes are anything but simple.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, People complain about the effects in the original series, but the effects of the Enterprise itself are just incredible. Sleek, beautiful, and incredibly realistic, it's impossible not to see the Enterprise as something real.

I will not watch the remastered version because they ruined the effects surrounding the ship. They took something that looked so real and they made a cartoon out of it.

T-Rav said...

Joel, Aarrgghh. That was an April Fools' joke, wasn't it?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Breitbart and Drudge are both reporting it.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I could have threatened naysayers with an endless stream of YouTube clips of Jar Jar Binks, but I don't want to be charged with crimes against humanity. ;-)

The thing I like about the Falcon (and this goes for the Serenity, too) is that it has a very lax air to it. It feels almost as much like a home as a cargo ship, which somehow makes it more relatable. And it helped blow up both Death Stars, so there's that.

T-Rav said...

Huh. So they are. Color me surprised.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, That would make you worse than Hitler! ;)

I agree about the Falcon and the Serenity, they have a "lived in" look which makes them feel very comfortable. You could easily imagine living on those ships.

Eric P said...

Millennium Falcon #1, Lone Starr and Bardolomew's Eagle 5 #2. Don't get much more lived in than that galactic Winnebago.

AndrewPrice said...

Plus, he's got a pretty big Schwartz. ;)

tryanmax said...

Is anyone else getting Error 503 a lot?

The Galactica is a great pick. I don't even think it matters whether one specifies the original or the reimagined, because both were very true to the idea of a space carrier/battleship, and the updated version was very true to the design of the original.

Speaking of BSG, the Cylon Raiders from the reimagined series were very imposing, as they were meant to be.

AndrewPrice said...

Nope. But it doesn't surprise me. Blogger is making some big change so I expect problems until that's all sorted out.

I agree. Both Galacticas are extremely well done. I do feel a little robbed though that we never got to tour the inside of one of the newer battlestars. :(

Totally agree about the Cylon Raiders -- very, very imposing. That was an awesome bit of effects making there.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

The domes in Silent Running were pretty cool -- the concept of preserving Earth's flora in space -- despite the loopy environmentalism -- was well-conceived.

The Gunstars in the Last Starfighter weren't bad either -- though not as cool as X-Wings, TIE-fighters and the BSG Vipers.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, True, those were a neat idea. I think designers don't think big enough in space -- they are often so buy building airplanes when they should be thinking about what space flight would be like.

X-Wings are truly inspired. I'd love to have one.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

the Cygnus from The Black Hole was beautiful too. I don't know about functionality, but it was lit up like a major city and looked cool against the star field.

AndrewPrice said...

Oooooh! I can't believe I forgot that one! I love that movie! Thanks Floyd! :)

annoyedelephants said...

I'll echo both Galacticas. The original Galactica was a monster of a ship. The reimagined Galactica was a monster of a warship (although I preferred the Pegasus to Galactica). And Serenity. And the Falcon.

Having said that... some of the best looking ships we never really got to see in action were the Rodger Young from Starship Troopers.

One note: we've not had a really good, solid full-on everything-ride-on-this space battle since "Return of the Jedi". We need more.

AndrewPrice said...

annoyedelephants, That is true. Space battles seem to be out of favor. We had a great intro to a space battle in Serenity, but it only lasted the first couple shots. I wonder why not? You would think space battles would be right up Hollywood's alley?

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Wasn't the Battle of Sector 001 enough to satisfy you?

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, that lasted like two minutes and the whole focus was on Picard saving the day. Plus, there was only one bad guy? It was like a battle between a group of gnats attacking an elephant until the head gnat wised up and said, "shoot him in the privates!"

Floyd R. Turbo said...

LOL... true that.

BSG had some decent space battles, but not the scope a movie could bring to it.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I've been thinking about that too. They did have some great battle scenes. They never stuck with any huge fleet v. fleet engagements, but they had a lot of really cool and tense battles. The idea of being able to jump away right before being hit gave a lot of those scenes tremendous tension.

Commander Max said...

There is a reason the effects of the original Trek looking they way they do. The original E was 134" long the saucer alone was 5' in diameter, each nacelle was about 6' long.
When you ask the movie pros why the ship was as large as it was. It was limitation of camera tech at the time, keeping the model in focus was the issue. You needed a strong depth of field, that's keeping both extremes in focus. The lenses of the day wouldn't work very well for smaller models.

Here is something else the E wasn't considered all that large in the day. The Discovery(2001) was over 54'long. When 2010 was shot they used a 12' model for the same effect. That's how much that tech had changed.
The remastered TOS episodes are embarrassingly bad. CG can be made to look like it was filmed by traditional methods. But that takes a bit more work and skill.
Your quite right Andrew, it looks like a cartoon(I've seen some cartoons that have far better CG effects).

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I was genuinely shocked when I saw the (de)mastered version. I am not a purist in the sense that I don't like change. When I heard they were going to clean up some of the effects, remaster the music and restore the prints, I was quite open to the idea.

I figured the worst that would happen would be a few touch-ups on the Enterprise and then time spent on the other effect. Imagine my surprise when I first saw the image of the Enterprise and it looked like fan art done on MS Paint. And they knew they had trouble too because they immediately began telling people, "it looks better on film than it does in the stills, really..." Only, it didn't. It looked worse.

I am a firm believer in the use of models over CGI. I have yet to see a CGI ship that I thought looked as real as anything based on models. Unfortunately, CGI is easy and is now all the rage. And they either don't realize it looks fake or they just don't care.

rlaWTX said...

the ship with all the people in Wall-E!

Buck Rogers deserves a mention - just because. (can't really remember the ship, just thought of it as I was trying to come up with space shows!)

rlaWTX said...

and when I was a kid and watched the original BSG (only seen pieces of the new one - so wrong), I wanted a fighter!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Buck Roger had the Starfighter! And that was the coolest when I was growing up -- even better than the BSG Vipers.

Coolness

Outlaw13 said...

Andrew you are 100% right on Buck Rogers, better looking women as well...beedy beedy beedy!

Charton Heston's spaceship in Planet of the Apes was pretty cool looking, even if it did malfunction. :-)

In the cartoon world it was hard to beat Space Ghost's ride...although most of the time when I think of Space Ghost now all I can remember is the talk show on Adult Swim.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I can't get Adult Swim out of my head either when it comes to Space Ghost.


Very true about the women of Buck Rogers! Erin Grey and Prince Ardala... wow! :)

Kenn Christenson said...

If we're talking TV - I'd say, definitely, the Eagle from Space:1999. Too bad the show wasn't as good as the hardware - I know, what else is new in Sci Fi.

In film - I liked those Imperial Shuttles from ROTJ - with the moving wings - pretty cool.

annoyedelephants said...

@Andrew & Floyd: The Battle of Sector 001 was solid, but it lasted 30 seconds. A better candidate would be the Battle of Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith, but that battle very quickly went from being a fantastic capital ship battle to 2 guys flying their spaceships through the battle and landing on one of the capital ships.

Come to think of it, the final battle between the reimagined Galactica and the Cylon Resurrection Hub.

Give me a 20-30 minute CGI sci-fi version of the Battle of Midway.

annoyedelephants said...

I meant to say, the final battle between the Galactica and Resurrection Hub was probably the best capital ship battle of the past 30 years.

tryanmax said...

RE: CGI - most everyone here will probably find this article interesting: LINK It reveals a lot about what makes CGI look so fake and how it can be overcome. Like most things, it takes some extra effort. Who knew?

Commander Max said...

Andrew, I thought the CGI on B5 was one of the better looking uses of the tech. But the guys in charge of that were from the film/model world. In the days when CGI was a novelty.

Like I said, you can achieve the film look with CGI, but you need to take the time to do it. Plus you need people with that experience. Sadly those guys are not young, and not sought out in Hollywood.

If an attorney had some really deep pockets, that town could be turned around.

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, The eagles were cool! They are probably very realistic of what we'll eventually see as a "local" shuttle.

AndrewPrice said...

annoyedelephants, I understood your meaning. There is a difference between two heroes in the middle of a space battle and a genuine space battle. I would love to see something like the Battle of Midway done in space.

I agree about Curoscant, by the way -- it devolved fast into just a CGI jumble with just the two Jedi becoming the entire focus.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I get the feeling they aren't interested in overcoming the bad effects. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out soon -- am in the middle of something. I would say, however, (off the top of my head) (1) don't overreach, (2) mix real in as much as possible, (3) stick to realistic laws of physics, and (4) take your time!

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I get that feeling that Hollywood is dumping the "old guys" for the cheap guys -- and it shows. If I were going to make a science fiction film, the first thing I would want would be experience... not cheapness.

I agree about B5 -- fantastic effects for being done completely by computer and being on television. I was very impressed and never once felt like it wasn't real.

K said...

@ AndrewPrice

Space battles seem to be out of favor.

I got your space battle right here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Row0rYFQCHs

AndrewPrice said...

K, I had NO IDEA they had made a Starblazers movie! I really want to see that now! :)

Commander Max said...

It's really something to see, I would have posted the link to the movie. But it was taken down.

AndrewPrice said...

I honestly want to see that. I'm going to start looking or it. I actually enjoyed the cartoon a lot (though I only got to see the first season). :)

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