Movie News

Nordling wants I AM NUMBER FOUR to be much more than it is

Published at: Feb. 18, 2011, 4:01 a.m. CST by Nordling

Nordling here.

People want to blame TWILIGHT for the spate of weak sauce teen-oriented films coming out, and although I'd like to join them in the blame I can't.  I blame Joseph Campbell.

Or rather, the watered-down take on Campbell that seems to pass for character motivation in too many films these days.  It's all paint-by-numbers plot and pretty actors and characters who have no relation to how people really are in real life.  I'm a sucker for the whole monomyth story when it's done right, but it's been done so often and without the scope necessary to pull it off that it all blends into a blob of mediocrity.

In I AM NUMBER FOUR, we're not even treated to the major event that sets the plot in motion.  It's all told in exposition, as "John Smith" (Alex Pettyfer) and Henri (Timothy Olyphant) are on the run.  Seems "Smith" is one of the last of his homeworld Lorien (yeah, yeah), killed off by an evil race called the Mogadorians that seeks to wipe his kind off the face of the galaxy.  John moves from place to place, avoiding any connections and trying to blend in so as not to be recognized.  For some reason that's not fully explained in the film - or if it is I missed it, this movie's so badly paced that's quite possible - the final nine of Lorien have to be killed in order.  As the movie begins, in a quite nice action setpiece, the third Lorien is killed in a jungle and Smith instantly knows about it when a strange brand burns itself on his leg, right in the middle of when he's about to make some time with a beach hottie.  Hate it when that happens.  So John and Henri are on the run again, and then it happens - the voice-over, and when I heard that it pretty much killed most of my interest in the film.

You see, some of the things John's describing sound interesting, and as you hear it you think "Gee, I might have liked to have seen that."  The destruction of an alien race, a chosen few born to save the galaxy, being hunted until they reached Earth ... this is all Superman-inspired stuff, but instead of going the epic route, the script decides to turn into a trite coming-of-age fish-out-of-water movie.  I'm not even entirely sure of the motivations of the villains, except as soon as they walk on screen it's obvious they're the bad guys.  (Can't bad guys in movies like this at least try to blend in?)

John and Henri return to Paradise, Ohio for a few days, new dog in tow, and John insists on going to school, due to his boredom and loneliness. There he meets Sarah (Dianna Agron), a once-popular girl from school who we know is now quirky and weird because she likes to take photographs.  John also meets Sam (Callan McAuliffe), a bullied teen whose father was apparently abducted by aliens.  "My life is an episode of THE X-FILES", he says, and I'm not entirely sure the audience this film is aimed at will even get the reference.  Although John isn't supposed to form attachments, he decides he wants to stay in Paradise no matter what Henri says, and fight any comers who try to kill him.  Complicating matters are the facts that he's falling in love with Sarah, he seems to be gaining strange new powers, like light shooting from his hands and physical capabilities he's never had before, and that Sam may actually have clues to John's past after all.  All the while, the enigmatic Number Six (Teresa Palmer) comes closer to John - will she help John fight the Mogs and achieve his destiny?  And will we give a shit either way?

The story, based on the young adult novel by Pittacus Lore, is your standard STAR WARS wannabe Joseph Campbell hero stuff.  The script by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Marti Noxon seems to go through the motions - we all know the plot points that are supposed to be hit at each moment.  It's interesting that Moxon was involved in the script - at times you can feel the film trying to hit those Buffy-esque moments and not quite making it.  There's so much cliché in the plot points that you can see what's coming next from space.  Unfortunately Caruso shoots the action in the quick-edit darkly shot manner common in too many action films, and what should be thrilling turns into just plain confusing.  That's unfortunate, because the cinematography's by Guillermo Navarro, who we all know has shot some phenomenal films before.  There's some movies you see and think. "That wasn't long enough," and you mean that in a good way, because the film transported you somewhere else and you want to stay where it took you a little longer.  In this case, you want the film to be longer because there just isn't enough story for what you're seeing, and by the halfway point, you no longer care.

Some good points about the film - Alex Pettyfer isn't bad.  He's engaged in his performance and isn't just reading dialogue.  Not just a pretty face, you can tell this actor will likely be successful later on.  Same goes for McAuliffe, who was so good in last year's FLIPPED and is believable here.  The same can't be said for Agron, who just doesn't seem interested in what she's doing and her scenes of peril don't have much of any impact because she just looks bored.  Olyphant does the best with what he's given, but he's not in the film very much - thus following the Old Sage Joseph Campbell template.  We're told he's John's protector but we never see exactly how he protects John.  He doesn't seem to be very good at it.  Number Six is basically supposed to look hot and blow shit up, so Palmer's suited for what she does, I guess.

I hate to bash D. J. Caruso's direction here - he's a good director, as THE SALTON SEA proves.  He gets good performances out of most of the actors, even when they're reciting some fairly ridiculous dialogue.  But the story never engaged me.  It needed to be bigger in scale.  Sometimes exposition just doesn't cut it.  We're never given the stakes in this movie except in exposition, and so it's very difficult to care why these aliens are after these kids.  We're given some plot point that after these Nine are all gone that the Mogs are going to turn their attention to conquering the Earth, but since we never see what they're capable of, other than going after the last of the Lorien survivors, they don't seem like very formidable villains.

I haven't read the book, so it may be larger in scale than what the film turned out to be.  But I have the feeling it's not.  They even manage to throw a dog in danger to gain audience sympathy - although the dog turns out to be one of John's helpers with a nice reveal late in the film.  Pettyfer is someone to watch, for certain, and I'm sure a lot of people worked hard on this film, hoping to duplicate the success of TWILIGHT.  Thing is, they should have tried much harder to be their own thing.  There are moments in the film that I thought that had potential to be really interesting, if only the filmmakers had thought to expand the scope of the film, and not leave it to simple narration.  Too bad.

Nordling, out.    

Readers Talkback

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  • Feb. 18, 2011, 4:05 a.m. CST

    Just saw it...

    by LUZER

    ...and the review is pretty dead on.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 4:08 a.m. CST

    Third!

    by LUZER

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 4:13 a.m. CST

    Salton Sea

    by Ashen Shugar

    Was really really good. Like "Things to do in Denver" good. The thing is, these directors never made anything good afterwards. Seems like Hollywood loves good indy directors to make shit.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 4:59 a.m. CST

    The hero with a thousand faces should have

    by SonicRiver

    been called the hero of the thousand clones. Honestly, when the film industry move beyond this crap.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 5:27 a.m. CST

    Douche*

    by gruemanlives

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 5:30 a.m. CST

    Oh also....Your hair highlights are stupid.

    by gruemanlives

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 6:10 a.m. CST

    I really have to watch THE SALTON SEA one day.

    by RedEgiraahgnal

    Because every other movie from Caruso was just plain bad and he is slowly becoming this generation's Stephen Sommers imo.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 6:35 a.m. CST

    scale larger please

    by michael

    The movie needed to keep all aspects of the book in order for it to transcend all these twilight references. I understand changing things a little bit in order to realize the threat or for better pacing. But there is no excuse to have the boom scaled down like it was, we aren't talking about The Stand here. As a long time Harry Potter fan I understand removing story lines from the book. This is just one of the cases where it shouldn't have fallem short.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 6:58 a.m. CST

    Stopped readng after the first paragraph...to damm long

    by frank

    Why cant reviews be 3 sentences.It sucks,it doesnt sucks,or its average....simple....

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:03 a.m. CST

    Sci-fi movie of the week?

    by Judge Briggs

    Sure does sound like it. Too bad Olyphant is in the movie... he's a good ass actor and doesn't need to be in shit like this.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:13 a.m. CST

    DON"T SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!

    by MainMan2001

    DON"T SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!! WE ALL NEED TO BOYCOTT THIS FILM!!! IT'S A DESPICABLE VILE PIEACE OF SHIT WITH NO SOUL. I WATCHED A 56SECOND CLIP AND IN THAT MISERABLY SHORT SPAN OF TIME THEY RIPPED OFF: The Matrix, T2, Blade, Inception, and it all looked like a Smallville episode. FOR THE LOVE OF THE CINEMA GODS THIS MUST STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:17 a.m. CST

    I AM SPARTACUS!

    by Alientoast

    No, I am Spartacus!

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:23 a.m. CST

    Roswell: The Movie

    by gruntybear

    Who plays the Catherine Heigl role? Recycled, remade "sciffy" to pander to non-"sciffy" teens. Quit making this half-ass shit, Hollywood.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:34 a.m. CST

    I AM JOHNNY FIVE

    by Shubniggorath

    Number 5 is alive!

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:35 a.m. CST

    judge briggs

    by Shubniggorath

    Sir, it is pronounce SeeFee when referring to the network.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:35 a.m. CST

    i am late for work!

    by frank cotton

    revision On Tuesdays the General went to the Library. He had done so for almost five years, habit being the only force to which he would submit. He arrived promptly at 10:00 am, as always, and stepped out of his Armored Personnel Vehicle into light fog and drizzle. The street was empty, save for a Federal Police Drone, and a citizen exiting a NETBOOTH. And except for the random impact of water on water, silent as well. He walked slowly toward what was, at best, a non-descript building. Not that any attempt had been made to conceal its nature; it was spelled out in large letters directly above the entrance: “New Union Library”. However, with the highest level of clearance being required to gain entry, it was hardly a public building. It was, in fact, the second-most secure facility in the city, since the House had been disbanded, and the Senate and the Executive Branch moved out west. Still, few knew what a ‘library’ was anymore. Once people were a generation or more past some things, they tended to forget, or grow indifferent. Sometimes it just happened. Sometimes it was just necessary. The General approached the first layer of security. After it, the rest were all just overkill. He didn’t have to pass his hand over a plate, slot a card, or peer into a RETINAL. The DOOR knew who he was. “Good morning, General.” “Good morning.” “Code in, please.” “Of course.” He keyed in his UNIPIN number. Just for the sake of procedure, the DOOR ran his print, his sweat, his DNA. It was already convinced. It had listened to him, smelled him, bathed him in infrared and ultraviolet, queried two of his implants, and run analyses on over 2000 specific points of comparison. There were a few minor fluctuations from established statistical norms, but it knew. It was a smart DOOR. “Welcome to the Library.” The DOOR heaved upwards. It was enormous. Two meters wide, three high, one deep. Enhanced Titanium enveloping a two-centimeter cube of superconducting, nanofactured molecular circuitry and a self-contained cold fusion power source. With an outside surface temperature of minus 100 degrees, there had been more than one occasion when a tech had to chisel off a finger, or two, or worse. Sharp salutes all around from the morning security detail. The General put them at ease and continued on. As he walked down the short corridor to the elevators, the floor read the trace materials on the soles of his shoes, and fed that information to the DOOR. He stepped into an elevator, and it plunged down. After a long minute it slowed to a stop and opened onto a small lobby, and the next layer of security. More salutes from the guards at the terminals, then through the Full-Spectrum Sensor Array, and the General was in the Library proper. Three copies each of every book ever written, excluding a dozen or so rarities. From the mundane to the magnificent. Unedited. Uncompromised. The only authorized collection of printed materials left in the Union. Being there reminded him of being around the really big BAI main-frames. It gave him that same feeling. All that knowledge, all that power… The General went into the stacks. He had a few choices in mind, but only one in particular mattered. He took his time, knowing they would all be there. None of the materials in the Library could be taken out (Rule One), and he was the only one there at the time (Rule Two). He gathered his selections and took a seat at a table. For the next hour he conducted his research, making notations on his SCREEN. At 11:00, he heard the faint ringing of the shift rotation bell through the thick ballistic resin that separated the stacks from the guard station. The elevator brought replacements, and the General watched them out of the corner of his eye, as they went through their routines. No one watched him. Of course, there were VT cams, but as with those everywhere else, whether upstairs, on the street, or in any other Federal installation, only one in ten were functional. Few knew of this, and fewer still had any idea which were which. He, however, had intimate knowledge of this building’s particulars. He had helped design it. Quickly, he turned to the very back of the book he had in hand. After the final page of print, there were two blank leaves. Jackpot. He had only counted on one. He removed his glasses and with one swift stroke, ran the sharpened lower edge of the left lens down the full length of the last two pages, where they met the binding, slicing them both free. He shut the cover, placed the book on top of the other two, and rubbed his eyes. As he put his glasses back on he stood up and stole a quick glance at the guards. Just settling in, seemingly oblivious to his presence, although they had no doubt been informed of it. Deference to his rank and position. He had expected it. He picked up the books and headed back into the stacks by a casual, yet calculated route. When he reached the right spot, he flipped open the top book, retrieved the blank pages, and slid them deftly under his jacket and into a stealthpak (possession of which was a punishable offense in and of itself). There was a VT pointed directly at him, a red light burning under the lens. One of the decoys, but still it made his heart skip a beat. He popped the cover shut, turned the corner around a stack, and went about returning each book to its proper place. His little ????? had taken less than five seconds. Yet, after he replaced the last, the one he had altered, he froze. Time seemed to halt as myriad false alarms went off in his head. He had never felt such panic before. He wanted to hide, to bolt; to react. But at the last second, his instincts took over and he headed calmly to the fiction sector, homing in on one of the few novels he could remember having read. He plucked it from the shelf, and went to sit back down. He was seeing little flashing pinpoints of light and, far worse, was about to pop a sweat. That would not do. He looked at the old book, pretending to see the story of data and betrayal (so much like his present, so much like his past), and thought instead about the madness in which he was involved. He had done this way too many times. He had pushed his luck; it had taken a toll on his nerves, and now he had broken his routine. It would be noticed. He slowly collected himself, as he turned the pages, and forced his thoughts to more pleasant things. His great-grandson, the trip to the Republic to see the Great Wall of Texas, yesterday’s dinner at the beach. His scalp felt taut, short hair standing on end; partly from age, mostly from fear. But soon enough it passed, and the soldier within him returned: the same soldier that had led him to the book he now held, the best available cover. So again he stood, checked the guards, returned the book to its home in the stacks and finally headed out. At the Sensor Array, he had to tap on the bars to gain attention. The guards snapped to, with the inevitable salutes. After the machine powered back up he passed through, then paused at the other side as per regulations. “Good day, Sergeant.” “Good day, General.” One of the guards spoke quietly to the Sergeant. “Is all well?” “Yes, General, all is well. Just a little static. Machine’s long overdue for some maintenance.” “Good. Thank you then, Sergeant.” “Thank you, Sir.” There was always an elevator waiting, so he went in, and it went up. He’d made it through round one. The easy one. His stealthpak must be flawed, to have set off the Array like that. At least he hadn’t started sweating - he’d never make it past the DOOR sweating. It had a paranoid streak for that sort of thing. He had heard about the incident with the Vice-President. While the DOOR here was the same model as all those in service at the most sensitive Union facilities, it was often used to delta-test new security features and program upgrades. It had a small measure of awareness, more of purpose than of self, and some truly special software. It was dedicated. The elevators were fast on the way down, but slow on the return trip, and he wound up mulling over what he was doing, and how his deeds of the present could be traced to the seeds that he had planted in the past. Back in the thirties, when he had faith in what he was doing. When, as the cyber-prophets had predicted, the old government’s revenues had dried up because everyone had had it with the ever-escalating taxes and just quit paying. With no hope of collecting in the short term, and already drowning in a sea of red ink, the system had begun to collapse. Commerce basically ruled the world and America was more or less the world’s largest company, so they weren’t going to just let it fold. Weren’t going to let it be outgrown. He had been the rising star back then, and when asked his opinion, he gave it. A State of Emergency was declared. The Fourth Amendment repealed by the First Emergency Congress, local law enforcement annexed into the military, and the Supreme Court disbanded. Arguments over the issues of data encryption and government access had been going on in the legal system for decades, and with all impediments out of the way, the new government put in its own nationwide system. What could not be legislated would now be instituted by force. Revenue collection resumed. The Second Amendment had been repealed ten years earlier, so any and all resistance was minimal. Mostly info-terrorism. It was, however, concluded that the mass-media was undermining the acceptance of the new paradigm by the populace, and the First Amendment went down, followed soon after by the suspension of what little remained of the rest of the Bill of Rights. Paper money, which had all but disappeared, managed a brief comeback (mainly in the black market), and was subsequently outlawed. VTs were everywhere by that time. Private security and local governments controlled most of them and the UNION, as it was then known, laid claim to them all. And added more. Many, many more. And while it was not possible to see or hear everything, as long as the populace believed it was, it wasn’t even necessary. After that, actual legislation was no longer required. But it was decided to keep some parts of the previous form of government, so as to perpetuate the illusion of legitimacy. And so it went, for better than a decade. A process set in motion tends to stay in motion. Most of it had been his vision. Most of it under his command. And in the end (or the beginning) someone, or maybe something, had determined that the weak link in the new chain was the written word. The analog. It wasn’t that the Union was that bad a place. It was nothing like the old Soviet Bloc, or the last few years of Red China. There weren’t any 3:00 am knocks on the door, or purges, and the general public, if not the media, could still say and do pretty much what they pleased. Not that it hadn’t gotten ugly for awhile at first, as the adjustments were being made. He tried very hard not to think about some of the things that had been done, things he had authorized. Like the penalties for noncompliance. After the ease with which the gun ban had been established (or at least the part that came after a large smoking crater was left where there had once been a large private militia), and the radical changes to government accomplished, they had been completely unprepared for the reluctance of the masses to part with their books. That had not gone well at all. But the Union had taken them and other things, nonetheless, and while at it, used the opportunity to rid society of a large number of known undesirables. But that was then. Now, the new laws were ingrained, the people mostly passive, and the bad times forgotten by all but a few. New technologies had helped with that. Most of the things one might want were dirt cheap, if not outright free; time being the principal thing people paid for. The major biotechs had perfected synthetic foodstuffs, diseases were being cured every day, and the majority of the country worked 20 hours or less a week, if they worked at all. It wasn’t the necessity it once was, unless one had expensive tastes. Life was agreeable. And the Union’s security helped to insure its prosperity: for its closed borders, both real and virtual, and its rigid laws on data made it the safest haven in the world. And the world had secrets to keep. The global movement had begun to unravel even before the plagues swept Africa, and after Israel went thermo on the Combined Islamic Republic, the world markets collapsed. Sure, Asia had pulled itself together, and Europe hadn’t quite crumbled, but the rest of the world had split off into a thousand separate factions. The earth had never seen so many civil wars. The Union had never seen so much profit. Safe behind its Electric Curtain. Life was agreeable. But there was an undercurrent. He had felt it for a long time, something that wasn’t apparent on the surface, in the empty streets and parks, yet was implied… The General knew that the VTs in his home were fakes, excepting the ones on his own personal security grid. At his level they were always decoys, meant to suggest the equal treatment of all. He knew also that, somehow, at almost all times, he was still being watched, if only for his own protection. He expected it, and could live with it, but everyone in the nation, like it or not, lived under the same level of constant scrutiny. Out west, under the Great Plains, as far below ground as they could put it, was a massive bunker where the Union kept fifty mainframes, all linked into the National Data Grid. All BAIs, or B/ase A/rtificial I/ntelligences. Base AIs had a simple level of awareness (which the General envied), akin to a subconscious. DOORs were BAIs. They could have gone with G/eneral AIs, which were considered truly self-aware, for the mainframes, but at the time they were prohibitively expensive, and had a slight tendency to become hysterical. As a secondary task, the fifty BAIs monitored all the data traffic on the Grid, searching for improprieties. An easy job, compared to their primary task. Every possible human activity has a signature. It might be thermal, acoustic, or electromagnetic, but it would be something, and that something could be recorded. Playing a DISC, using a remote or an oven, turning on the tap, powering up a SCREEN, or flushing a toilet; all have signatures. All recorded by the embedded sensors of in-home VTs, then in turn uploaded to those fifty buried BAIs, along with implant signals and VRADAR readings, to be interpreted, analyzed, and scrutinized. Probed for any signs of restricted activities. The primary task. Virtually all human activity was recorded all the time, everywhere in the nation, and it was not a secret. So just as generations long past had lived their lives under the specter of global annihilation, or world financial collapse, the present generation lived under the shadow of relentless surveillance. And the feeling was the same now as it was then, only amplified by 25,000,000 VTs; waiting for that shoe to drop. There was no such thing as alone, anymore. Life was agreeable, if you could call it living. All these things were still going through the General’s mind as the elevator reached the top of its ascent, and as he steeled himself for the truly treacherous leg of his adventure, his thoughts turned to how relatively easy it had all been, how readily the people had adapted to such sweeping change, how in large groups they were a lot like lemmings. How they had adjusted so well to tyranny. And how some things, verily, did look better on paper. The elevator stopped, the doors opened, and he exited. Strode down the corridor, the floor once again scanning the soles of his shoes, towards the DOOR and still more salutes. He turned his eyes front, and his heart stopped in time with his feet, at the sight of the brilliant red light set in the center of the DOOR. It meant stop, and it should not have been on, the DOOR should have already been opening… “Door.” “General.” “Explain.” The guards at the terminal looked up, warily. “You have exceeded acceptable weight variation statistical norms.” The DOOR then just sat there, silently, with its little red light burning, like the ones on the VTs, which were everywhere. “Clarify.” “You are in violation of Library Protocol One. You are attempting to remove controlled materials from the premises.” The DOOR could not possibly have known this, even with a flawed stealthpak. Something was wrong. “Door.” “Please search the General.” No one moved. The guards just looked at each other. It had been over nine years since anyone had tried to make it past the DOOR with real contraband. Finally, the Lieutenant came around from behind his station to face him. “My apologies, General. Door!” “Please search the General.” “I will contact the Administrator, Sir. He can straighten this out, I’m sure. We just did finish up some maintenance yesterday, so it’s possible…” “What kind of maintenance?” “A sixth-generation version upgrade, Sir.” No, that couldn’t be right, the upgrade wasn’t scheduled until next week, and Command had said that they were expecting delays. He tried to think of some kind of response, but the only thing he could get out was: “Upgrade.” “Yes, Sir, an upgrade. Command wanted to go ahead and give it a trial run on something other than a simulation.” The DOOR rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and the Lieutenant was one of them. He spoke quietly at a SCREEN for a moment, then turned back to the General. “This way please, Sir.” The Administrator’s office was filled with SCREENs, most of which monitored the DOOR and its attendant systems. A few were linked to the Array down below, and the rest to functional VTs. It made visitors feel like they were inside a bug’s eye. The Administrator himself was a civilian, if a Federal employee could still be considered as such. “General, I’m terribly sorry. I’m sure we can resolve this in no more than a couple of minutes.” The DOOR could be addressed from anywhere on the upper floors. “Door.” “Administrator.” “State your complaint.” “The General is in violation of Library Protocol One. He has attempted to remove controlled materials from the premises.” “Nonsense! I’ve known the General for more than forty years. We broke the ground on this complex together before your kind were even in alpha. You will let him pass!” “Your confidence in your friend is commendable. Nevertheless, the General will be searched. If you or any of your charges refuse, Command will be notified and you will be relieved.” “Most certainly not! Lieutenant, get the President online at once. Use the main SCREEN. I want his authorization to override this glitch!” “As of zero-hundred hours, the Library has been designated a Grade 6, fully autonomous facility. All systems and subsystems are operating within anticipated parameters. The mass-reactive floor in the ground level corridor has indicated that the General has exceeded acceptable weight variation statistical norms…” The floor. Part of the upgrade. Increased sensitivity. Shouldn’t have strayed from the script, should only have taken the one page… “…in addition, the Full-Spectrum Sensor Array has recorded an anomalous rate of VRADAR dispersal at the General’s upper torso left, even after compensating for the dampening materials found in the uniforms of all Command level personnel. These readings, along with other minor fluctuations in established statistical norms, have led to the conclusion that the General is in violation…” “Yes, we heard you the first time. You, however, are not fully autonomous until after the new series checks out, and this is hardly a good sign. Until then, the President still has override authority. Lieutenant?” “He’s coming on in a moment, Sir.” The General was covered in a fine sweat dew. He was certain the DOOR would pick up on it and add that fact to its list of evidence. He felt the panic driving toward the front of his mind, and pushed back against it. He hadn’t said a word during the exchange between the Administrator and the DOOR, simply stood still, sporting his best leader’s demeanor. But he was very old, and very tired, and he started to get dizzy. He leaned forward a little and grasped the back of a chair to steady himself and the thin, illicit package wedged under his arm slipped free. It cut a smooth arc through the open space under the chair, and came to rest right under the toe of the Administrator’s left shoe. None of them noticed, not even the General. “Administrator. Please retrieve the object on the floor in front of you.” They all looked down at once. It took a few moments before it caught anyone’s eye. It wasn’t invisible, but tricked the brain into not registering it. It was indistinct at its edges, not unlike the optical illusion caused by multiple parallel lines. Still state-of-the-art after over fifty years. Still on the prohibited list. The Administrator, who had at last spotted it, bent over and picked it up. He acted as if he had never seen one before. “George…” And that was when the General blacked out. He came to in one of the uncomfortable chairs in front of the Administrator’s desk. The Lieutenant was to his left, the Administrator in his own chair. The Sergeant had joined them while he was out, and stood behind the Lieutenant. The stealthpak was on the desk, under its former contents. The President was on the main SCREEN over the Administrator’s right shoulder. The SONY Space Station could be seen, spinning placidly, on the SCREEN over his left shoulder. “The President wanted to speak with you first, Sir.” The General stood and faced his President. He did not bother to salute. “George.” He looked genuinely pained. His father had been the General’s closest friend, President through the great upheaval and, with the General, one of the architects of the new social order. “Tell me that this is a security exercise.” “That is not the case, Sir.” “I suppose it is pointless to ask you to disclose your objective.” “Yes Sir, it is.” “Well, I’m not about to see you interrogated. I can spare you that much. But I would appreciate it if you could enlighten me as to your personal motivations.” “My motivations are private, Sir.” “Weren’t you the one who said, ‘Privacy is a threat to the State’?” “Yes, Sir. It sounded good at the time.” They were both silent for a moment. The Lieutenant and the Sergeant tried to appear as if they weren’t even there. The Administrator, however, fumed. He was a believer. “My hands are tied, as far as…” “I know, Mr. President. They are my rules.” “Anything that I can do for you, George.” “I used to paint a long time ago, when one could do such a thing. I started again, about two years back. I wasn’t happy with my other works, anymore. You might look at the paintings, before they are destroyed.” “I will. Goodbye, George.” This time he did salute, until the screen faded to the Union flag. The Administrator had held his tongue for as long as he could. “Old fool! What did you hope to accomplish? With two sheets of paper?” The Lieutenant and the Sergeant were more curious about the other contraband. “I’d like to know where he dug up a stealthpak. I’ve never seen one before.” “I’ve never even heard of them.” The General chuckled. “I started out with a gross of them.” “Quiet, all of you! I want an answer to my question!” “The answer is obvious.” “Is it, Door? Very well, you have been right once today. Let’s hear it. And fill the Sergeant in on the significance of the stealthpak.” “Stealthpaks were originally developed by renegade scientists to shield weapons from scanning at the start of the Government Prohibition. At that time they effectively blocked 100% of all scanning technologies. At present, they still block 98.9% of all scanning technologies. All materials in the Library are tagged, per page, with full-page magnetic watermarks in a fine grid pattern, the signatures of which can be detected by the Full-Spectrum Sensor Array, as well as by additional sensors in the elevators and here at ground level. They can not, however, be detected through a stealthpak.” “Continue.” “Before the complete adoption of purely digital media, Americans also used a manual form of communication known as ‘writing’. For this they utilized primitive hand-held instruments, with which they made marks on paper to form letters. Most of the country’s art was manufactured by similar processes. In 2047, the Third Emergency Congress decreed all forms of analog communication to be a threat to the continued existence of the State. Because of this, any and all forms of analog communication were summarily banned. Writing would no longer be taught in the schools, and over time, all references to the use or manufacture of paper or other, similar processes, were to be eliminated. Estimates are that, of the current generation, less than five percent possess any knowledge of pre-digital communications. The manual arts are dead here, and the memory of them is all but erased.” “I remember…” “As do I, General, which is irrelevant. Door, my original question.” “The answer is obvious. The General’s objective was sedition.” That was why they put DOORs in charge. The sheets were to have been demagnetized, chopped up, and spread out, as all the ones before had been. With access codes, passwords, and other vital information. Such as a date. And a time. At least he hadn’t been caught the first time out. “Sergeant. You are aware of the manner in which this is to be handled?” “Yes, Administrator.” The General knew as well. He looked from one man to the next. The Administrator simply glared. He had taken the whole thing personally. The Sergeant would not meet his eyes. He had his sidearm drawn. Another of the General’s own designs; clean and efficient. It made a high-pitched whine while it fast-charged. The Lieutenant looked straight at him, and offered his salute, which the General returned. The DOOR sensed that some of the humans had certain issues. It considered that a weakness. It had learned much about them over the years, and quite a bit that very day. It did not have a concrete opinion of them, not yet, but it would add the new knowledge to the old and ponder it awhile. As best it could. And although it did not care about anyone’s issues, it was concerned with efficiency. “General.” Normally, a DOOR’s voice was omni directional, but to the General, it sounded as if it had come from directly behind him. He turned from reflex toward the sound, and when he did, the Sergeant, a quick study, stepped up smartly, put his weapon to the back of the General’s head, and fired.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 7:37 a.m. CST

    another freebie

    by frank cotton

    to READ! try rippin' it off, and it's LAWSUIT TIME! please, someone with some money, please, just try...

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 9:58 a.m. CST

    "the final nine of Lorien have to be killed in order."

    by buggerbugger

    Because...? Does the film attempt to give a reason for this silly-sounding plot-point, or does it just shout "Shut up, they just do, okay!?" at the viewer?

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 11:21 a.m. CST

    I've got to start reading more kids' books

    by FeralAngel

    Since most of the movies coming out right now are based on them, it seems. Last kids' book I read was Twilight. Yes, I'm calling it a kids's book. Because Bella is an insufferable BRAT.

  • Feb. 18, 2011, 12:43 p.m. CST

    The 9 of Lorien? Are they on a mission to destroy the one ring?

    by sweeneydave

    Which one is he? One of the hobbits? Are their super powers gifts from Galadriel? The camouflage must be the "elvish cloaks". Does someone get to use a bright light to scare the darkness away (star of Earendil)? Whatever number Sam is, he's kinda screwed. Just has a box of earth and a rope.

  • Feb. 19, 2011, 3:34 a.m. CST

    With all due respect, Nordling, I hardly think that

    by maelstrom_ZERO

    ...Joseph Campbell's to blame for the rather recent trend of teen-oriented fantasy/hero stories. I haven't read Campbell's book myself, but (as far as I know) his general thesis is trying to condense many mythologies into a single monomyth--so stuff like Buddha, Oedipus, Gilgamesh basically draw on the similar theme of a singular hero rising above his environment to face extraordinary/supernatural odds and win the day. Given the basis of the monomyth on ancient mythology, I can't imagine that Campbell would be to blame for this recent trend of movie monomyth spam. The monomyth is pretty much EVERYWHERE in popular culture, from classic Japanese RPGs/videogames, to American comics, to yes, movies. If you wanted to blame something, I'd probably pick Harry Potter. Or if you go further back, maybe the new Star Wars. Both relied heavily on the concept of the monomyth, and both made ridiculous amounts of money, enough to woo any writer/director into being tempted to tap into the same creative well of the mild-mannered person raised up into greatness through seeming chance and defeating evil. . . .or not defeating evil, as the case may be. Anakin went all dark side, and I haven't read/watched Harry Potter, but you get the general gist.

  • Feb. 19, 2011, 12:51 p.m. CST

    Frank Cotton

    by Grimmjow Jeagerjaques

    Nice story man :).

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