So that’s it? We just step on that machine and whizz back to 1357?

Timeline (2003)   Oof. I’d studiously avoided this later Michael Crichton adaptation, also Richard Donner’s penultimate movie, based on its crippling reviews. In contrast to another time-travel box-office bomb of the period, A Sound of Thunder, there’s virtually nothing to recommend in this dodo (A Sound of Thunder’s greatest shame is its shonky/unfinished effects). A creaky, moribund premise, a mostly ghastly selection of mismatched actors, a director with no feel for the sci-fi (less still, medieval epics) and worst of all, zero sense of fun, energy or zest leave Timeline flailing in the 14th-century mud. Of which there’s very little,

We are going to stimulate your electrodes sequentially and see what happens.

The Terminal Man (1974)   An early Michael Crichton adaptation, and one that makes the error – in this case – of a too-clinical account of its title character’s malaise, such that there’s little way in to feel for his plight. George Segal’s unnuanced performance doesn’t help at times either, but The Terminal Man veers too close to The Andromeda Strain’s stark lesson in the perils of science taking up the tools of God, when it could have better done with dosing itself up with a little more humanity. By the final act, you feel you’ve strayed into something closer

The world is just a story. I’m the storyteller.

Westworld Season 4   There are, of course, no illusions about the game being played with Nolan brother Jonathan’s transhumanist paean. This is a world where, following in the Blade Runner line, the machines have the most heart and soul, and to underline the point, humans themselves are no more than the sum of their memories, redeployable years after their deaths, encased in fast-decaying physical vessels. Even the genuinely living ones are exactly as malleable and programmable as your average computer. There is, essentially, no difference. Except that, on balance, the machines are probably a little more durable. Bernard: We

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978)   Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, an adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-then and the present, but Coma, despite the occasional lapse, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient,

It can turn any domestic computer into a killing machine.

Runaway (1984)   About the biggest takeaway from Runaway: so that’s where Spielberg got his Minority Report robot spiders. In a very crude, clunky, 1980s Mechano set kind of way. Likewise, the bullet POV tracking shots may have got the drop on – what, Sniper? – by eight years, but they’re nevertheless the premiere, crude, clunky 1980s STV version. Crichton’s early successes (Westworld, Coma), benefited from a spartan – shall we say, generously – directorial approach, emboldened as they were by strong core concepts. But he was on less solid ground as the ’80s arrived, with considerably more talented visual technicians outmatching him at

Don’t encourage the President to think scientists are wizards, Jeremy.

The Andromeda Strain (1971)   Robert Wise’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s alien-invasion fantasy plays things entirely straight, which undoubtedly helps to sell its mile-high absurdities. But then, Crichton was a master of legitimising official science under the guise of airport fiction, boosted as his novels were by his authoritative status as qualified doctor. All that’s really proof of, of course, is that he’s able to parrot what he’s been taught. Which is very handy when you’re making a living from selling the excitingly plausible. The Andromeda Strain relates and celebrates the wonders of modern science with diligent, unquestioning, reverent awe, and Wise’s

First, have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?

Westworld Season One   The debate over whether TV should be consumed in bite-sized, weekly chunks or gorged in box-set style season binges occasionally gets a jolt when one of the enthroned architects of the medium vouches for the former (Joss Whedon, Damon Lindelof), but it’s most especially pertinent when a show itself creates a “water cooler” atmosphere. The irony of Westworld is that the waves it has created, fuelled by Lost-esque speculation over what was really going on amid its multiple timelines and potential identity crises over which humans were really robots, has been somewhat dampened by the stark realisation that its creators

They’re killing all the girls that are perfect.

Looker (1981)   Edgar Wright’s recently revised, gargantuan list of favourite movies (a more interesting and economical rundown might have detailed what didn’t make it on) included many I haven’t seen, and a good few I thought “Oh, I must revisit that”. Of the latter, one such was Michael Crichton’s uneven science fiction thriller Looker, which typically for the author includes prophetic warnings of technology allowed to rampage unchecked. It’s also loaded with satirical swipes at the beauty myth, TV addiction and our capacity to be influenced by advertising. The movie arrived at the perfect moment, predicting a decade that would wear shallowness

Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbour? Hell no!

1978 – Top 10 Films    Dawn of the Dead   I ummed and ahhed several pictures for the 10 spot on this list: Alan Parker’s Midnight Express; Fred Schepsi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith; Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven; and Robert Altman’s A Wedding (which Pauline Kael, generally a big advocate of the director, called “a busted bag of marbles”). In the end, I decided to fill it with a horror movie, that least respected genre, and it was a toss-up between Halloween and Dawn of the Dead. While Carpenter is one of my favourite directors (most of his post-80s output aside), Halloween has never been in my top

Oh, yeah. “Oooh, ahhh”, that’s how it always starts. But then later there’s running, and then screaming.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)   There isn’t a lot of love to go around for the sequel to Jurassic Park. On the one hand the level of vitriol it provokes is a little surprising. On the other, it is easy to see why it is less than celebrated. It is caught in the trap that befalls many sequels, and awaited Jurassic Park III; The Lost World is a virtual repeat of the original. However, as something of a naysayer of the first movie (I don’t regard it an unassailable classic), perhaps I am a little better disposed towards its follow up. And, given