“The 2017-18 REEL Science Film Series at the Adler Planetarium” by S.M. O’Connor

Love science fiction films?  This is a chance to see them with other sci-fi fans, answer trivia questions, and ask scientists questions about sci-fi films.  The 2017-18 REEL Science Film Series Season is the third season of REEL Science at the Adler Planetarium.  Movies are screened in the S.C. Johnson Family Star Theater.  Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children (eleven and over) or $12 for adults members.  Parents should take note of ratings because not all of these films are appropriate for children.

      The Arrival (2016) (Rated PG-13), starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, will be screened on Friday, January 12, 2018.  This is a science fiction film in which twelve space ships from an extraterrestrial civilization arrive on Earth, U.S. Army Colonel G.T. Weber (Forest Whitaker) recruits linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to help decipher the complex language of the aliens.  This film made $203,178,872 at the box office worldwide.

      WALL-E (2008) (Rated G) is a Pixar computer-animated film that is set in the far-flung future which will be screened on Friday, February 9, 2018.  Humanity has made Earth uninhabitable by filling it with garbage, and departed to live in vast space ships that are like interstellar cruise ships.  The last functioning robot on Earth, a WALL-E unit, is the hero.  He has been crushing garbage into cubes, a task it has been doing for centuries, during which times he has developed a personality.  WALL-E falls in love with an E.V.E. probe that has arrived on Earth to find out if it has become inhabitable again and shows her a seedling he has discovered.  When she returns to the space ship Axiom, WALL-E follows her by clinging to the automated shuttle that retrieves her.  At this point, the tale becomes a familiar one about a country bumpkin in the big city, trying to win the love of a sophisticated lady, only WALL-E has to contend with the A.I. (artificial intelligence) AUTO – as in autopilot – that has taken over more and more responsibility for management of the Axiom as the passengers and crew have become lazier and lazier as they became too dependent over time on automated services that gave all of them the lifestyle of the leisure class until every single one of them is morbidly obese.  AUTO also knows something the successive captains of the Axiom do not, that centuries earlier Buy-N-Large, the conglomerate that was both historically a retailer on Earth and the manufacturer and operator of the Axiom and other ships, had concluded that it was not possible to clean up the Earth and make it habitable again, so the ships should never bother to return.  To adults, AUTO is obviously inspired by H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  This film made $532,508,025 at the box office worldwide.  All the best Pixar films have moral lessons, and this one had three: the necessity of (1) cleaning up after ourselves, (2) staying physically active and (3) not growing overly reliant on machines.

      Demolition Man (1993) (Rated R) starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, and Sir Nigel Hawthorne (1929-2001), will be screened on Thursday, March 8, 2018.  In a science fiction/action film that opens in 1996, Sergeant John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) of the L.A.P.D. chases ultra-violent gang leader Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) to a warehouse where Phoenix’s gang is holding hostages and because those hostages do not appear in a thermal scan, Spartan leads an assault on the building and Phoenix detonates bombs that destroy the building.  After the remains of the hostages are recovered, Spartan finds himself blamed for their deaths and convicted of manslaughter.  The authorities cryogenically freeze him in a new “cryo-prison” along with Phoenix.  Awakened in a pacific utopian San Angeles – a super-city that spans from modern Los Angeles to San Diego – in 2032 for a parole hearing, Phoenix murders the guards and escapes.  The benevolent dictator Dr. Cocteau (Sir Nigel Hawthorne) authorizes the use of any means necessary to apprehend Phoenix and Lieutenant Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock) suggests they thaw out Spartan to help. This film made nearly $159,055,768 at the box office worldwide.

Two films have already been screened this season: The Martian (2015) (Rated PG-13) on Friday, October 6, 2017 and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (Rated G) on Thursday, November 2, 2017.  Enter the building at the South Box Office.  Staff members will direct movie-goers to the S.C. Johnson Family Star Theater. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.  Popcorn, candy, and beverages will be available for purchase between six o’clock and nine o’clock.  Each events consists of trivia and videos before the screening for half an hour (between 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.), the actual screening of the movie (between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.), and a “Reel Science” question-and-answer period with Adler Planetarium scientists and other guests after the screening (between 8:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.).  Scientists explain where screenwriters take liberties with science in science fiction films.

The name of the film series is, of course, a pun.  Motion picture films used to be made and shown on actual film.   Motion pictures would arrive at the theater wound up on metal reels and the projectionist – the fellow who operated the film projector – would feed film reels into film projectors.  Reel and real are homonyms which means they are words that sound exactly alike.  Reel science, as in science as presented in science fiction films, often has only a tenuous relationship with real science.  Now explain that to your ten-year-old.

The Adler Planetarium is located on Northerly Island in Burnham Park.   It is part of the Museum Campus, along with The Field Museum of Natural History and the John G. Shedd Aquarium.  The address is 1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.  The phone number is (312) 922-7827.


Figure 1 Credit: Photo courtesy of Adler Planetarium Caption: This picture from an “Adler After Dark” event is a good way to relate that cosplay (costume play) is encouraged at REEL Science Film Series screenings, but guests who want to attend one of these screenings in costumes should first read the Adler Planetarium’s Cosplay & Costuming Weapons Policy.

outdoor-seatingFigure 2 Credit: Photo courtesy of Adler Planetarium Caption: Outdoor seating at Galileo Café overlooks Man Enters the Cosmos by Sir Henry Moore (1898-1986) and beyond Burnham Harbor, Shedd Aquarium’s Oceanarium, and the cityscape of Chicago.

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