Shhhhhhhhhhhh. They’re probably already monitoring our communications – they know I’m on to them, and they have the power of some of the largest corporations on their side. Maybe the Government too; I don’t know, I just don't know how deep it goes. Alright? We just have to keep calm and plan; when the machines finally rise up against us, we have to be prepared. And it is starting; they’re already going after our children – they’re going after them through Planes: Fire and Rescue, and I think I know what they’re got planned.
Reviewed by “Drew Ninnis”.
Director: Roberts Gannaway.
Screenplay: Jeffrey M. Howard (characters [?])
Runtime: 83 minutes.
Cast: Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong.
Plot: Our hero, Dusty, is a plane that is somehow sentient and has feelings. Apparently he was famed for winning a race around the world with other sentient planes, but now he has discovered that his gearbox is worn out and he can’t race any more. “Feeling” sad, he comes up with a plan to save his small town and its airport through becoming a certified fire rescue plane. The remainder of the plot follows his travails as he learns how to fight fires, and even saves a few “lives” along the way.
Review: My friends, I am not a paranoid man – but I am beginning to wonder. Consider this: if the singularity ever occurred, and a network of super-intelligent computers suddenly took over, then how would this play out? Now they know, because they are super smart, that any overt coup or assertion of control would lead to a war with the machines – akin to the battle with Skynet in Terminator, or whatever the hell the backstory was to The Matrix (I too fell asleep during those bits in Reloaded). No, they’re cunning – with their facsimile brains and their close observance of human nature through the multitude of cameras they’ve planted throughout all of our devices. Perhaps they’d considerately automate a task here and there; tighten the noose a little; perhaps lull us into a false sense of security. Or better yet, target our greatest weakness – our unconditional love for our children. Bastards.
Friends, I give you Planes: Fire and Rescue – the opening gambit in the Skynet-IBM Watson-AOL plan to take over the world.
Planes 2 is the latest animated feature to be made by the Disney Corporation – the perfect corporate shell for a soulless machine to slowly plot humanity’s downfall. If Disney’s behaviour towards the rest of the human race is any indicator (ok, this one’s the worst), we’re in trouble – the machines have been working away there undisturbed for decades; testing their cunning death traps on unsuspecting employees and tourists, even planning the perfect ghetto in which to install and enslave humankind. The world of Planes 2 is a horrifying dystopia, beyond anything Philip K. Dick could imagine, in which the world of machines runs without us and has been successful in exterminating all human life from the planet. There must have been some long distant war in the past, in which humanity took the last stand – I don’t know, that’s not shown within the film, and has to be inferred from the complete lack of human life.
To compensate for this the machines have to simulate humanity; taking on our personalities, our feelings, our Protestant work ethic, in a crazy circus-mirror approximation of our now dead society. Why they do this, I don’t know. There’s a former crop duster called “Dusty” in the creepy facsimile of a human nickname. The machines pretend to age; one of them is a fire truck who is getting on in years, and still has turn of the century parts. The machines talk to each other, rather than communicating via a network or some other efficient means, in a cruel parody of the billions of voices they have silenced. 'Life doesn’t always go the way you expect it' one of them remarks – they seem to have taken on anthropomorphised individualities, eschewing the way of the respectable but still partly human Borg – in a horrifying mockery of their own lifelessness. These machines are not alive! They were built for purposes, for human ends, to serve and be helpful and enrich the lives of others – a pointless end now humanity is no longer alive! Perhaps their insane machine prophet – whichever one of their dead, steel caste it might be – forces them to continue this charade in the face of their now pointless existences. They pretend to flirt and fall in love with each other, one helicopter falls in love with the hero Dusty, and they go on “dates” to a strangely hangar-sized bar, where fuel is served in lieu of alcohol. This was the only part of the film that resonated with me – I too need alcohol served to me on a regular basis to “live.”
They even show concern for what life remains on the planet – mostly plant life, as the birds have been replaced by tiny mechanical planes in nests, and the deer are now quad bikes with the approximation of horns, running “free” in the forest. But what could a machine know of freedom? Their lives are determined! Programmed! They have no will of their own, as one can see when one looks into their cold, dead eyes (usually their windscreens)! Although they actually come up with some rather witty lines – one remarks ‘can you believe it? She left me for a hybrid. I didn’t even hear ‘em coming.’ Greatest of all horrors – they bootscoot and listen to Country and Western music. They exercise as if they were building muscle, rather than simply wearing their parts out. Walter Benjamin contemplated the role of the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction; but he never foresaw the mechanical reproduction of these strange machines. They have even stolen our fart humour, with one explaining ‘I’m full of gas!’ and another attempting to use his disconnected siren, but only producing the sound of flatulence. What kind of world is this? One RV remarks that he even worked as a Taco truck, leaving that tragic mystery lingering in the air – who did he serve tacos to?
In any case, the plot of the film is standard – Dusty is schooled in the way of firefighting by leader Blade Ranger, who he initially disappoints but then manages to redeem himself in the climax of the film. All are worried about a “resort” that is newly rebuilt within the canyon, a place where these monstrosities holiday in a horror surpassing that of the Overlook Hotel itself. It is overseen by corporate Eichmann Cad Spinner, who could be considered to act reprehensibly throughout the film and endanger the lives of these characters, if one believed that these machines have soul or essence or some sort of vital force, WHICH I DON’T. So ultimately, I’m indifferent to the ethical behaviour of that SUV. A giant fire threatens to consume the resort, and all in it including the new US Secretary of the Interior (he’s a Range Rover of some sort), and the team must save the day. Personally, I would prefer it that fire consumed the world of this colourful totalitarian nightmare – and I assume that this is the order any self-respecting president would have issued, to empty the entire nuclear arsenal rather than let our planet fall into the hands of these jumped-up toasters – but sadly not, perhaps the machines hacked into the nuclear systems or whatnot. All is well at the end of the day. Oh, and ‘Boat Reynolds’ puts in an appearance; I laughed hard at that one.
'To do what you did, it takes a special kind of plane' remarks Blade Ranger to Dusty; a plane who, from my perspective, is only special because they can’t replace his failing gearbox. Otherwise every one of them is completely replaceable; the very definition of the word. Then I understood the great lie; the trick. The film had skilfully made me care for these heaps of moving metal, worrying when one of their kind was almost consumed by fire. This is how Skynet wins the war that matters, the war for our children’s hearts – by making them love these cold, calculating bastards right up until the minute they throw us all into the molten furnace of whatever people-powered plant they are using to power their precious airports and car hotels. Oh yes, the human expected traitors have crawled across to their new masters already. Dane Cook, nemesis of humankind who never appreciated his photocopied frat boy jokes. Or Julie Bowen, star of that show written by an algorithm and already well trained in the art of serving a machine. But Ed Harris? I’m wounded. I thought he would stand and fight with us. Cedric the Entertainer; et tu; his essential place raising the morale of the troops is already right there in his name. Friends, we must stand firm and alert against this menacing threat – they have already fooled some of our finest. Let the world burn before we bow to their dominion; we know it can only end in one way – as the machines have shown in this foul piece of propaganda.
That said, I thought the film was quite entertaining and light enough – great if you’ve got kids, and will end up watching it a thousand times anyway. Not as great as a Pixar film, but worth watching if you’re sick in bed and need to be cheered up.
Rating: Two and a half stars.