Facebook Memories has served up the hack job I did on Star Trek: Beyond when that trailer came out. I’ve run across it more than once now, enough times that I feel I should at least mention how wrong I was about the film somewhere on the blog. The trailer I saw on Facebook, shared on Facebook, was not the first trailer, but trailer number two. This trailer.
When I shared the trailer I simply paraphrased from Abramantions Multiply: It is still an Abramanation. The possibility of suckage is high.
The damn trailer has the Bad Robot logo on it. I consider that to be fair warning of impending suckage after the disaster that was LOST seasons 4 through 6. I suffered through all of LOST, the Abramanator will not trick me into liking his work again. I tried. I really did. I tried to make sense of those last seasons of LOST. I tried watching the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Then I declared Trek dead. The Nutrek reboots are bad in many ways, as I and others have gone into great detail to describe in the past. Details that long-time readers of this blog will know about. They are bad in ways that a lot of popular movies are bad these days (Star Wars 7. Mad Max 4) but also bad because of the disconnect with the universe that Gene set out to create.
Simon Pegg penned a decent little story when he wrote the script. The actors playing the parts delivered their usual best work; and since they weren’t working from the Abramantors crap scripts, the resulting blockbuster spectacle is pretty watchable from just about any perspective that you might come to it. It’s not even bad Trek, per se. There are some points that I might object to from a purist standpoint, but those points can be overruled by watching any number of classic episodes that diverged from Gene Roddenberry’s strict guidelines for how the Trek universe manifested itself. At least one of the episodes that breaks his rules is one he wrote himself. So there are flaws that a purist might take exception to, but anyone trying to watch it with disbelief suspended and a willingness to let the story progress unprotested (how to approach watching any film) will probably walk out of a showing counting it as time well spent.
So, apologies to the cast and crew of Star Trek Beyond. For the first time since First Contact they produced a show that was truly worth watching. They produced a payoff for all the fans who have hung on through decades of bad filmmaking. The characters we’ve loved since the sixties finally felt like they might actually be the same characters that we fell in love with, even though they were portrayed by different actors.
Paramount should try to make sure that Abrams’ company logo does not appear on any more Star Trek properties if they want to win fans back to the show. Abrams has burned too many bridges among the fan community to be welcome even producing films that have any kind of fan following. This should have been clear after the failure of Star Trek: Into Darkness. When he screwed up Star Wars after screwing up Star Trek, it has to be painfully obvious that he screws up everything he touches.
But when all is said and done, it’s just another summer dark ride. Lots of great stuff to look at, lots of things exploding, lots of spectacular FX, and when it’s over, you get out of the chair and go pee. There’s not a lot here to argue about. There’s no moral dilemma.
What attracted me to classic Trek is that the show was about something. Every episode had a chunk of idea in it, big enough to chew on for a while.
Too much of what passes for entertainment today is about justifying cruelty to someone else. Not enough is about sitting down and finding a way to avoid the violence.
And I wonder if that’s a reflection of what we’ve become … or one of the reasons we’ve become what we’ve become.
Stormtrumpers can’t like Star Trek. It would be a causality violation if any of them are caught in the act of enjoying Star Trek. If you do like and watch Star Trek, you can’t vote for the Orange Hate-Monkey. This is simply not allowed per the rules of the time-space continuum.
We will be stopping by to repossess your collector’s items after the election if you do vote for the Orange Hate-Monkey. Remember, we have a time surveillance agency on our side. We’ll know who, where and when you are. Just be prepared for our visit.
It doesn’t matter if it premieres the resurrected Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, I won’t be going to see this film in a theater. This will be the first film in Star Trek history that I’m actually hostile about before I’ve even seen it, and one of three that I loathe ever having been created (FYI, it’s the last three) I cannot express the level of revulsion that I feel when I contemplate what kind of depraved acts will be enacted on the corpse of one my most cherished memories from another time. Better to just pretend it isn’t happening, I guess.
I did catch a “edited for television” version recently. It was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, and then some. Somehow the internet haters really failed to communicate just how ridiculous this farce of a film was. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it is. Magic blood. A Khan that isn’t South Asian. Starfleet officers engaging in conspiracies, taking the lives of their own people when they fail to submit to aggression.
That Khan failed to pervert the crew of the Enterprise in the TOS episode “Space Seed” because future man is no longer susceptible to terroristic threats of this kind is a philosophical achievement lost on the creators of nutrek and the Abramanator himself.
The number of violations of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future are almost uncountable. They will remain uncounted by me. It was enough for me simply to confirm that the film was bad and not just bad Trek.
My apologies to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry for having witnessed this narrative of depravity.
I give the film half a star on the Rotten Tomatoes 5 star rating system. I can’t rate it lower than that or I would. Having failed to keep up my end of the bargain and actually never watch the film as the first paragraph of the review goes into, I felt I had to come clean and admit to my transgression after having watched Abramation II. However, this article isn’t just about Star Trek: Into Darkness. I haven’t been a Trek fan for quite a few years. I quit following the show or hanging around with fans of Nutrek ages ago, not long after declaring Star Trek dead in 2009. I have no interest in being an internet hater. I have even less interest in spending time in the presence of people who like things that I think are unforgivable violations of the intellectual property of a long-dead inspiration.
I am quite happy sitting here alone in my office. I am forced to revisit this subject because the abramanations continue, and the general movie-going population remains vacuously enamored of J.J. Abrams’ tripe. I sat down and watched Star Wars VII a few weeks ago with the Wife. We had planned on watching that film on the big screen and we missed it because it left theaters within a month of coming out, it left screens and moved to video release quicker than any other Star Wars film in history. I distinctly remember saying, when it was announced that J.J. Abrams would write and direct, that Given what George Lucas has done to Star Wars, I can hardly imagine how J.J. Abrams could fuck it up more than he has. Having now watched Star Wars VIII can honestly say I owe George Lucas an apology.
I owe George Lucas an apology because Star Wars VII is just Star Wars IV told even more poorly as a story, while millions upon millions more are spent on meaningless effects sequences. It is a marvel to watch from an effects standpoint (much like Mad Max 4) while being almost incomprehensible from a plot and story perspective (also like Mad Max 4) And since George Lucas filmed Star Wars IV with less money and with no example to script by, I have to conclude that his is the superior intellect when contrasted with the abramanator.
It is nice to be proven wrong on occasion, even when the proof takes a few hours out of my life and a few yards out of my intestines due to the indigestion caused by stress. Stress caused by having to watch bad filmmaking being rewarded so lavishly.
I never did do a post series write-up on that show, even though (as the link illustrates) I was quite the fan, following all the crumbs and clues and waiting for the next episode and the next season with breathless anticipation. Until the story stopped making any sense at all, sometime during season four. I doggedly continued to catch every episode even then, and bought the DVD collections for each season, trusting that somehow it would all make sense in the end.
Except it really never did. LOST is singularly the worst written story arc ever to be completed in a television show. It is the only show that, having gotten to the end, I really wanted all my invested time back. Not only does the story not make any sense, but the finale attempts to make every possible fan prediction about what the island was, and how the characters survived, be true simultaneously. It is the series that best manifests the truism trying to make everyone happy is the surest way to piss everyone off.
Every season following the third season became harder and harder to watch. Far from being the finale that ruined the show for me, it was the reliance on tropes and heuristics to ‘sort of’ move the show along to the conclusion that most of us saw coming years before the confirmatory finale; the finale which so deflated everyone’s expectations about the meaning of it all.
Why season three? Remember the season three cliff-hanger ending? (I despise cliff-hanger season endings. Loathe them. What happens if the stars die or back out of their contracts? Just pretend the viewers weren’t left hanging?) Charlie’s big sacrifice? Didn’t mean anything. It might have meant something if the Oceanic 6 hadn’t then gone on to… What? Go home, become helpless invalids? Fail to raise children and then return to the island? Return to the island in the past (a past that the smart guy in their midst says can’t be changed) Return to the island and be blown up by a nuclear explosion (an event that historically didn’t happen) which traps them in a time bubble. For all eternity. With people they hate as well as the friends they love.
I hate to break it to this guy, but if you have to explain what the ending meant in order for people to get it, then it really wasn’t closure of any kind, much less a good ending for a series. The only reason people still talk about LOST is because J.J. Abrams is Hollywood gold for some inexplicable reason, and so people feel obliged to say nice things about the series that launched him to success.
I watched in disbelieving horror when Damon Lindelof was paraded out a few years back on The Nerdist, which was airing on BBC America at the time. Damon Lindelof paraded out and held up as some kind of authority on time travel stories, horrified as I watched him taking apart what were, in my estimation, more interesting stories that used the story-telling vehicle in question.
Damon Lindelof? An authority? An authority on time travel? An authority on time travel as a storytelling vehicle? An authority on stories about things which most scientists will tell you are theoretically implausible, which is about as close to impossible as you can get a scientist to go. The mind boggles.
Let me put it this way. My reading of time travel stories and watching time travel movies, my being obsessed with the concept of time travel for as long as I can remember. My discovery of Doctor Who in 1972 on a hotel television screen in Denver, Colorado (on a channel called PBS that I’d never heard of) makes my left testicle more of an authority on time travel than Damon Lindelof or J.J. Abrams himself. They so screwed up time travel as a story vehicle in every episode of LOST and in the Abramanation, making the story vehicle a distraction from rather than the method of telling the story that I can’t even begin to explain how they might fix it other than to tell them to go talk to actual speculative fiction writers about what they did wrong.
Which brings me to the real reason I started this post. I ran across a clip on Youtube (see, I said it was bad news) advertising an HBO series that riffs off of another movie and story that I grew up on. That would be Westworld.
This is one of those rare films I was allowed to go see as a child. What is most interesting to me looking back at it is this; Westworld and Andromeda Strain mark the beginnings of my exposure to Michael Crichton, a lifelong dance which ended with his death in 2008 and the novel State of Fear, a novel which many people mistake for non-fiction. In the middle was Jurassic Park as a high note and the poorly adapted Congo as a low note (the novel was much better than the film) it seems that his imagination has served as punctuation marks along my journey through science and speculative fiction.
I liked the original film. It is quite campy now and probably barely watchable. I don’t know for sure. I haven’t rewatched it in at least thirty years. What I do know is that J.J. Abrams is highly touted as having a hand in the HBO series.
J.J. Abrams having a hand in the series creation spells doom for the series from the outset, in my less than humble opinion. I doubt that most people will agree with me since most people think that Star Wars VII is a good film. However, I’ll stand by this equation,
The watchability of any media offering will be in direct inverse correlation to how much actual control J.J. Abrams has over it.
Westworld could be a good series, but I won’t be holding my breath. I won’t be able to watch it anyway until it hits Netflix or some other third party site since I don’t pay for HBO any longer. That is one fine trailer though. Gunshots and partial nudity. Deep bass vibrations in the music to amp up the fear. Lots of famous actor cameos. It hits all the marks that advertising executives require. Just like the trailer for Star Trek: Beyond. Haven’t seen that Star Trek either, but I might watch it. I might even pay to watch it. Someone else wrote and directed it, so it might be OK as an experience. Remember, an inverse relationship to Abramanator control. The Star Trek trailer sports the Bad Robot logo, though. Not a good sign.
HBO is riding the crest of a wave that they hadn’t expected to be on. Who would have thought that George R.R. Martin would hit it big on television, with HBO as a backer, creating the adaptation of his long running A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series which only people who live in caves without the internet won’t recognize as Game of Thrones. I am now obliged to offer an apology to George R.R. Martin as well as George Lucas. Not just because I’ve first mentioned him in this article about the dreaded Abramanations; but also because, unlike the rest of the family and probably the rest of Austin if not the entire US, I haven’t seen, read or listened to his stories. I can’t name one title of his I’ve read even though I distinctly remember sharing a table with him at an Armadillocon somewhere in the murky past. For that, and for mentioning you here, I truly am sorry George.
But HBO is the channel riding the wave now, as AMC was riding the wave of popularity following Breaking Bad and the first few season of The Walking Dead. We’ll just have to see if AMC continues to ride the wave with the next seasons of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul (which I like more than Breaking Bad, but my liking things is usually bad for their continued existence. Just a word of caution) After the lackluster reception for the cliffhanger ending season 6 of The Walking Dead, they’ll just have to keep their fingers crossed.
Since Westworld isn’t likely to include nuclear weapons or time travel, it is probably a safe bet to watch it. A safe bet for HBO to back it. I’d be on the lookout for the Abramanator to find some way to include those devices in the show, if I had money on the line. If he does, take your money, run and don’t look back. You’ll thank me for it later.
I need to stay away from Youtube. That’s what I’m learning. Just FYI, 100% of this is !spoilers! if you haven’t watched the films in question. Consider this fair warning.
I disagree with Verhoeven and quibble with most of the other answers given here. I hated Lost in Translation. I was Lost. In Translation. Actually I was lost in the crypt keeper having a fling with a high school student and it supposedly being romantic. But that is beside the point. I really don’t care what was whispered to the young girl at the end. I just wanted the old guy to leave her alone. I love you Bill Murray. This is not directed at you specifically. I had the same reaction watching Havana. Old men and young women. Yuck.
Verhoeven may think he knows what the ending to Total Recall means, but there really is no answer within the content of the film. The light comes from the sun in the film, not the blade of a knife. Like most of these explanations, if the film doesn’t contain it, the interpretation is open to question no matter what the director intended. In the same vein, Donnie Darko ends with him killing himself in much the same way that the director’s cut of Butterfly Effect ends with a very bad ending that is supposed to be interpreted as good for everyone except the protagonist. Too bad that the suits at corporate headquarters were right and made the director change the ending. It is a much better film that way.
Star Trek 2009 is not Star Trek, nor do NuSpock’s notions of logic or ethics actually equate to anything Gene Roddenberry filmed or wrote about Vulcans. Nothing about that film made sense to anyone aside from the Abramanator. Same with the second film.
If you really have unanswered questions about obscure films, blame the director. The art, the film, should contain all the relevant information needed to understand it in itself. If miscommunication happens it is the artist’s fault, not the fault of the viewer.
Better than blaming the director; if this frequently happens to you, take someone with you to walk you through the film afterwards. Audience makes all the difference. Most comedies are targeted to a specific audience. Take a member of that group with you to watch the film, preferably with an audience the film is targeted at. The comedy might actually be funny that way rather than just striking you as stupid or cringe-worthy.
This is going to be a bit like stream of consciousness to the reader. My apologies in advance for this if you find it impossible to follow.
I clicked a Youtube video link not realizing I was going on a journey that would take all day.
This kind of slapstick comes across as too funny. Too funny as in 90 minutes of this would kill me with stupid. I might watch it. I might not. I can’t say. It is billed as featuring 40 previous iconic “Star Trek” actors so I might have to see it. But then that is what the filmmakers are counting on when they make these kinds of movies.
While I’m sitting there contemplating whether to hazard my diminishing quantities of brain cells watching so much stupid at one time (like a Marx Brothers film) the dreaded Youtube autoplay kicked in. First it was this short.
Camera motion, blood effects. Chopping one’s own arm off. Yeah, I can see walking out of all of these (I haven’t watched any American Horror Story. It’s just not my style. I am surprised the wife hasn’t wanted to watch it) which is why I haven’t seen some of them. Infrasound would explain a lot of things about certain horror films and my reactions to them.
Crap. Autoplay kicked in again while contemplating Tree of Life (Should I, shouldn’t I? Have I already? Is this me thinking?) What the hell will be next is anybody’s guess.
I’ve seen all but three of these (those three are now in my Netflix queue) Two or three of them are on my “must see” list when someone asks me what to watch next (hint; I have a soft spot for Bruce Dern, Roy Scheider and Sam Rockwell) For the inquiring minds, Heavy Metal was a movie about an adult comic book which apparently nobody ever admits to reading, not about the rock music which may or may not have been either inspired by or the inspiration for the magazine. The artwork in the movie is drawn directly from the various illustration styles in the magazine. Yes, I will admit to reading a few copies in my youth. Regrettably I don’t own any of them anymore.
Had Pitch Black made it on their list, it would have been four movies. I am once again victimized by autoplay.
Not sure all of these films are worth watching, much less being best films you should watch but haven’t. Foreign language films are not for everyone, so I don’t generally recommend them to people I know who won’t be up for reading subtitles, even if I might watch them myself.
I would personally recommend A Boy and His Dog. This is where the list starts to go sideways for me. This and the list that follows this one. It starts with the still image that introduces the list.
Don’t get me wrong, I think 2001 is a fine film. I think you should watch that and 2010 back to back. But 2001 is a snooze-fest. It is glacially slow as a movie. I don’t think a lot of people watch that movie over and over. They remember watching it as a child, but haven’t tried to watch it recently. I have, several times. Like the 60’s it was created in, it takes the right kinds of drugs to appreciate this film properly.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Stanley Kubrick. He has three films at least that I would put in the category of best science fiction films. Not just 2001 but also A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Strangelove. Most film critics will speak highly of Stanley Kubrick and his films. He is an auteur, his films bear the indelible mark of his authorship. But few of his films are light or fun to watch. You don’t just pop in A Clockwork Orange for a bit of light afternoon entertainment.
If they can recommend Strange Days without a caution (and I wouldn’t do that. Be prepared for murder and rape scenes conducted in the first person) then A Clockwork Orange is a walk in the park to watch.
No top ten list of science fiction (SF) is complete without Metropolis and Forbidden Planet. You cannot be a SF film fanatic without having seen those two films and recommending those two films. They can’t be on a list of films you haven’t seen; and if they are, your fan credentials will be subject to revocation.
Metropolis is arguably the mother of all modern SF, a film that has been revisited and reimagined in nearly every tale of dystopia, every film that questions who we really are, any film that posits the difference between man and machine. In the same vein Forbidden Planet is the forebear of Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. Those two films have to be on the top ten list or the list is invalid, in my opinion.
Especially any list that credits The Empire Strikes Back as the best SF film of all time. I doubt very much that anyone who wasn’t raised on Star Wars will think that Empire Strikes Back (much less any other Star Wars film aside from the original) should be on the list, much less topping it. Well, perhaps the original Star Wars; not the now-titled Episode 4, but the film which aired back in 1977, the film that may single-handedly require my maintenance of a functioning laserdisc player in my home. You remember, the movie where Han is the only person to fire a blaster in the famous bar scene? That film goes on a top ten list, if I could ever settle for ten.
I’m lying by the way. I won’t maintain the laserdisc player just for Star Wars. I will do it for the making of disc for The Abyss, for Tron, for the pressing of Highlander 2 Renegade cut and the copy of 1776 with the bits Jack Warner personally cut out of the film spliced back in and the splice marks still visible. I can link the version of 1776 that says “director’s cut” but there isn’t any way to watch the version I like other than on laserdisc. Same for the making of the Abyss which goes into the ordeal of constructing a set inside of and then flooding an abandoned nuclear reactor vessel so that real underwater shots could be pulled off with that deep water feel. The Abyss (special edition only) is one of the many, many films I would have to include in any list of SF films worth compiling.
There are a lot of good films included in their list, but I disagree with most of the films in the top five. I like them but they are all modern films. Derivative works of derivative works, unless you are talking about the Matrix or the Terminator (Not Terminator II. It’s good and a decent rewatch, just not as good as the first movie which it is derived from) both of which should be way up the list, higher than the Matrix actually appears.
Ten through six are all good solid films. I need to rewatch the War of The Worlds. I haven’t seen it since the 70’s on broadcast TV. I have the box set of all the original Planet of the Apes films. They all rewatch well aside from the last one.
Children of Men was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but I have little doubt it will survive as a cautionary tale of meddling with mother nature. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still was almost unique in its time period with the portrayal of aliens as not being hellbent on destroying us (a fact that the equally good but not as memorable remake decided to change) which lends it the credibility to withstand time. Children of Men is actually one among many films which portray humans as our own worst enemy.
Jurassic Park is showing signs of age, despite their insistence that it isn’t. Maybe it is the weight of the miserable sequels that colors my impression of it. Can’t tell yet. But Aliens? Really, Aliens but not Alien? I agree the sequels that follow are best forgotten, but how do you watch Aliens without first watching Alien? Can’t be done.
Which is the problem with derivative works and especially sequels. Without context the film is divorced from most of its meaning and has to survive on its own merit alone. This is why The Empire Strikes Back will not be remembered as the best SF film ever. Because without the first film (1977 Star Wars) you don’t know who the Empire is. Why the villain being Luke’s dad is a problem. Who the hell Luke is in the first place.
If we’re just going to recommend sequels, movies that you have to have watched the previous versions to be able to appreciate, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for Terminator Genisys (deja vu if you’ve read my last post carefully) As I’ve noted when recommending previously, the first 10 to 20 minutes of the film (after the first time jump) is a shot for shot tribute to the original film. It is the most beautifully made and scripted film that I’ve seen for awhile now, and it builds on established previous entries into the film canon, builds on them then knocks them all down, in ways that the viewer will not see coming. If you want to watch a good sequel, this is one for you to enjoy.
If I was going to make a list of ten films you probably haven’t seen recently (if ever) but speak highly of, 2001 is going to be top of that list. In fact, most of the Top 10 list that WatchMojo put together are films that I guarantee the compilers have not rewatched recently.
If you surf over to the WatchMojo website you will notice that they do an awful lot of top ten lists. Way, way more of them than is healthy, quite frankly. In fact, I can’t even find the films-by-decade lists that are mentioned in the Top Ten list just to see if the films I think are relevant are on those lists. I think that creating these endless list films that they produce keeps them from taking the time to enjoy the life that they rate in top ten increments several times a day.
I appear to have stumbled upon the kind of site that internet surfers loathe. The dreaded clickbait. The site that sucks up all your life and time, without giving you much in return. This explains why their films list is mostly modern films, or films recently remade with modern versions, like War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not an in depth analysis of any real kind at all. And I’ve written how much on this subject now? Several pages, at least.
So what about a real Top Ten List? The ten best SF films ever made? I don’t think I can create a list of only 10 of them. I tried to create one of those kinds of lists ages ago on Flixster. I soon found out that limiting the list to ten films requires that I eliminate films that are essential to understanding the artform. Films like Metropolis and Forbidden Planet.
The profile link for my list says I have 15 films on it. I can’t see them because their website enters an error when I go to click on my own created content. The web 2.0, more broken than the web 1.0 and now featuring more advertising. Luckily I copied a version of it off and posted it to this blog. I have no idea if it is the last one or not, but here is at least one of my lists.
Avatar should be in the top five. We can start with that. A lot of people love to hate on Avatar, but it is the film that inspired the resurgence of 3D and it wasn’t the 3D in the film that was remarkable. It is the fact that you cannot tell the animation from the real images in the film that makes it so remarkable. That you can have such a realistically animated film and not cross the uncanny valley in the process. It is an amazing film, soon to be a series of 4 films.
Top Ten worthy films produced since Avatar? I can offer a few.
Ex Machina. Highly rated and very watchable, it explores the boundaries of what is or isn’t human better than any film I’ve seen on the subject. A film worth mentioning that is also in the vein of Ex Machina is Transcendence, one of those poorly received for no good reason films, consequently not a film that would make a top ten list.
Why won’t Transcendence be a top ten listed film? Because commercial success figures into the calculation of what is or isn’t good, what is or isn’t preserved, what is or isn’t watchable by people who pick up the material to watch later. If the film was highly rated and it made a lot of money, then it is also still a valuable experience to have, even though I don’t know who Luke Skywalker is (spoken figuratively, from the future) if you want to make lists that don’t make you sound like an idiot, you have to take all of those metrics into account. And since future prediction is something we humans suck at, most of our lists will be utterly worthless.
Take, for instance, Gravity. This is a fine film. Highly rated. Made lots of money. Probably won’t be remembered (my apologies to Sandra Bullock) because it deals with current technology and doesn’t do that really well, even though the cinematography is excellent an the acting is nearly faultless.
In the same vein of discussion, the mainstays of current cinema, the sequel, the franchise, none of those films survive without the other films in the series, just like the Saturday morning serials of old. Consequently no Star Wars, no Star Trek, no Mad Max, no Alien will go down in history as worthy of mention, unless the first in the series merits it, or there is established a place for serial media (like television) to be consumed in the order it was produced. This gives the viewing experience context, gives it meaning it doesn’t contain within its own constrained run-time.
That is why Alien appears at number five in my old list, and Aliens at number 10, and those are the only sequelized films on the list. Because films that are part of another genre, that can’t hold their own alone, will not be remembered. This means most of the comic book movies will also not be on any lists, if we can call those SF and not Fantasy. And whether they would be considered SF is an open question, so don’t dismiss it. If we’re talking fantasy films, we’ve opened an entirely different discussion. A discussion where the film Legend figures prominently.
Continuing the SF list. Blade Runner would also have to be on the list. It is iconic. Worth mentioning is Dark City a twisted little film with the same feel and a completely different storyline. Both of those border on fantasy, so I could see how they would be excluded from a hard SF list. That is, if anyone actually knew what hard SF was, could meet others who thought they knew and that group could then agree on what the term meant. I consider that presumption fantasy in and of itself.
As I go down that old list, I can discard several films as being temporarily relevant. Films like Serenity. I still love it, but I am reconciled with the show never returning now. I keep hoping the Firefly online game will release, but I’m beginning to suspect that is also not going to happen.
Vanilla Sky and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really are hard to rewatch. The Truman Show is still watchable, but really not surprising in the current age of reality TV. You can easily see someone pretending not to be on camera, deluding themselves into thinking the illusion is real. Sadly, it is all too believable now. Truman not knowing he was on camera? That is hard to believe.
I think A.I. should still be on the list, but it may fall off soon. We are just now getting to the point where robots are real things, much less making them capable of passing for human. The singularity that futurists are still fascinated with is portrayed loosely in that film, making it still relevant. Once the robots are among us, there is no telling what will happen next.
The last film that I’ve seen that should probably be included in any top 10 list is The Martian. Worlds better than Red Planet or Mission to Mars(Hollywood is so incestuous) both of which I paid money to see (Red Planet is good fun, just not good SF) The Martian holds up to the most intense scrutiny of scientists (other than the storm at the beginning) making it the most solidly science based fiction film since 2001.
Worthy of mention is Interstellar. Almost a time travel story (almost!) it mixes science and fantasy and comes up with a decent little film exploring the near future and what we might be facing soon if we aren’t careful.
Which brings me to the last great film that Robin Williams was in before he died, the movie The Final Cut; the story of a man afraid to live his own life, so instead spends his time authoring the stories of other people’s lives.
What else would be on the current list? I’m still working on that.
I haven’t mentioned this on the blog, but I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since 3rd season rolled around. I dismissed the concept when it was bandied about before production started, because I didn’t think you could do a television series that could be kept interesting throughout its run based on the the general idea of a post-apocalyptic setting.
The Wife has worked on zombie films in the past. Our garage has been turned into an effects studio and art studio more than once when the demands for getting effects completed for the films she has worked on grew larger than could be completed on set; if the film even actually had an official set they were shooting on.
So when The Walking Deadwas proposed as a TV series, it crossed the radar here at the house simply because of the subject matter. When the series failed to disappear as I predicted, I decided to give it a viewing just to see what it was about. I binged-watched the first two seasons on Netflix, paid for the few of the third season episodes I had missed on Amazon, and started watching the show live after that.
I’d say I love the show, but really I’m just there for the characters and for Greg Nicotero‘s excellent effects work. The storyline has been inconsistent over the seasons and really could do with some long-term plotting in advance of shooting, in my completely amatuer opinion. If there is storyline plotting across seasons, it isn’t apparent in the progression of the story. However, it is one of the few things I do watch on television these days, my tastes ranging to the truly eclectic corners of rarely watched channels available on cable television.
I used to watch a lot of programming on BBCA, having a long-term love of a wide range of BBC programming including the recently relaunched series of Doctor Who and the even more recently canceled Top Gear. I was forced to give up BBCA last year because of costs increases phased in by my local cable provider. That and the Science channel (which I wish had more actual science on it) and several other channels I watched more than the more normal fare available on basic cable were priced out of my reach in the latest price increases rolled out by US cable providers.
Rather perversely, most of the cost that I pay for my cable subscription goes to fund the incredible price tag placed on live broadcast of sporting events. The last time I ever watched a sporting event of any kind on television was the first Superbowl that the Seattle Seahawks qualified for, because the Wife loved the Seahawks when fantasy football first appeared back in the 1980’s. She never watched a game in her life before that Superbowl, and I had to explain the most basic facts about gameplay (4th and ten? What is that?) to her in order for us to get through the game. That was also the game that was stolen from the Seahawks with a bad call by an umpire, reminding me precisely why I hated sports in the first place; that arbitrary interference by non-players on the field can alter the outcomes of games in ways that are patently unfair. So that was the first and last game ever watched in this household, and the common joke that my TV is broken it won’t display sporting events has held sway ever since.
We are in the midst of yet anther cable war, with the various parties attempting to get more of the piece of the pie than they are currently getting, and I really don’t have time for any of them. I am unconcerned about the profits of the various corporations who want to prove to their shareholders that they have the clout to get what they want, so buy our stock. All I want is to be able to watch the programming that I am interested in, however that content is delivered. KeepAMC or TV on my side(one of the worst programmed sites on the internet, hands down) a pox on both your houses.
I have been threatening to cut my cable and get all my entertainment directly from the internet for a couple of years now. If my cable company really was on my side as their website claims, I would be able to watch the shows I wanted to watch without having to pay extra for programming I don’t watch. The cost of providing me access to old and independent films and even well-produced television series runs about $8 for Netflix, why do I have to pay upwards of $100 dollars to my cable company for virtually the same menu of items? If AMC really wanted me to watch their programming, they’d make it available directly from their website and not force me to subscribe to a cable provider.
Those are the facts of the case, not the crap that they offer as excuses through their proxies. If AMC is priced out of my ability to pay for it as the rest of their network currently is, I will be cutting the cord like so many other Americans have done. I have no use whatsoever for continuing to pay for cable access that is limited to programming that I don’t watch anyway. Paying too much for that already.
Typical of my attempts to title things, this brief blurb’s title largely misses the mark. Another one of the things I wrote on those dead DanCarlin.com boards, perhaps even one of the last things I wrote. I’m sure I had some deeper point I was planning on making; but like most of my plans this one also went nowhere. How to distinguish what I wrote then from what I’m writing now? Hmm, that is a puzzler. How about the quote I selected from The Federalist article that thrashes Star Trek and liberalism? Yes, that shall be the demarcation point. What juicey bit of bullshit should I select from that piece, though? That is the question.
This was a critique of a critique that attempts to show the correlation between the decline of liberalism and the decline of Star Trek as a franchise. The postmodernism allusion was probably in reference to the now well-known belief that we live in a post-truth world. As if truth, reality, causality, really cares about human problems, a hallmark of my issue with everything postmodern. Reality continues being exactly what it was before, while the people living in it tell themselves different lies that explain it and believe that their lies change the existence of reality. but I digress.
Over nearly 50 years, “Star Trek” tracked the devolution of liberalism from the philosophy of the New Frontier into a preference for non-judgmental diversity and reactionary hostility to innovation, and finally into an almost nihilistic collection of divergent urges. At its best, “Star Trek” talked about big ideas, in a big way. Its decline reflects a culture-wide change in how Americans have thought about the biggest idea of all: mankind’s place in the universe.
In Timothy Sandefur‘s defense, he actually understands the degradation of Star Trek as a philosophical looking glass into mindless action-entertainment. This is why I haven’t considered myself a Trek fan since the Abramanation aired. I deemed Trek dead on the day that film released. However, like nearly all things conservative, the author oversimplifies to prove his point. As an example, Star Trek 6 aired after Roddenberry died (and is one of the worst Trek films ever made. Weirdly Star Trek 2 by the same director is one of the best) but the multi-year rehabilitation of the Klingons that preceded his denouncement of their portrayal in Star Trek 6, starting with Worf on The Next Generation Enterprise is completely left out, because it complicates the point he’s trying to make.
As usual the intent to decry the ideology of another while uplifting one’s own leads to hypocrisy on the part of the writer. This is a serious problem with most conservatives these days. The real culprit here is not liberalism, but postmodernism. An ill that affects all modern ideology, philosophy and politics alike. Not just Star Trek and not just liberalism.
…and that is where I left it. For two and a half years. Why? Because I always aspire to knowing more than I know, and then the realization that I really don’t know that much brings the entire edifice crashing down. Postmodernism is an active ill in society, of that much I am certain. We can know things about the world around us, and not everything in existence is dismissible as the delusions of a weak mind. How we can know these things is a task for epistemology to figure out. That we do know them (existence exists) is not really in question here.
“Postmodernism, the school of thought that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only interpretations’ has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversations’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.” – Daniel Dennett
Leonard Nimoy’s death represents a figurative passing of an age in a way that so many other’s deaths cannot. When I heard of Robin Williams death at his own hands a few months back, I burst immediately into tears. It was such a shocking event, it was so hard to imagine a man who was so alive being able to take his own life like that. I was prepared for the news of Leonard’s passing because of his announcement of suffering from COPD.
To be honest about this subject (which is what I try to be on the blog) his star was tarnished for me when he agreed to appear in the Abramanation. Had he died before 2009 I would have mourned his loss as heavily as the Wife did. She adored the man and his works in ways that made me look like a passing fancier. I couldn’t possibly compete with her devotion to him and Star Trek fandom in general. I’ve never felt that strongly about much of anything aside from architecture and archeology. I was and am so conflicted about this subject that I started this entry to commemorate Leonard’s death a week after he died, and then didn’t finish it until two and a half years later (the date I’m typing this at now) I thought at the time let’s see what the effect of his death is before making a big deal about it, but in my heart I just couldn’t speak ill of the dead so soon after their passing. So I left the paragraph above sitting all that time, and refused to delete it when I scrolled past it for two years running.
I can’t help but wonder what Leonard Nimoy (whom I will hold blameless) saw in this film to recommend his tacit approval and his venerable image to it. Spock prime stands in sharp contrast to the new cast, carrying with him into history a mantle of respect this revisioined Star Trek will never achieve. Because unlike Star Trek and it’s 42 years of history, the Abramanation is just entertainment.
But I’m pretty sure what he saw was money. And why not? He’d never gotten the wealth or admiration he deserved from Hollywood or his peers. Never received the acknowledgement for creating a character so adored by people everywhere that even today, fifty years later, few actors can even come close to achieving. Every attempt at a portrayal of the emotionless Vulcans Gene Roddenberry originally envisioned looks silly compared to Leonard Nimoy’s Spock. Writers don’t even know how to write those kinds of characters, as exampled by every single series since Gene’s death. Stories in which Vulcan society is morphed into some kind of vindictive hellhole that looks a lot like humans trying to paint an alien world devoid of emotion, and failing at it spectacularly. I’ve read a lot of Star Trek novels over the years, few of them come close to imagining the kinds of Vulcan that I saw hinted at in Gene’s canon.
The problem is that the world went somewhere else between 1967 and today than where it went in the future that Gene painted back then. Emotionlessness has become synonymous with sociopathy, with dark plottings of revenge, as if T’Pring was actually representational of all of Vulcan. Never mind that revenge is an emotion, too. We are so bathed in emotion as human beings we don’t even know what it is to not have them; which is the genius of Nimoy’s portrayal.
On the positive side of future history departing from Gene’s vision, we didn’t destroy ourselves with eugenics wars in the 1990’s; on the negative side, we can’t seem to recognize the ghost of eugenics when it raises it’s ugly head and calls all Mexicans rapists. On the even more negative side, we still don’t have a moon colony much less warp technology and transporters, which were always trappings of story-telling and not actual predictions of future technology. But not having a Moon colony yet? That’s just blind human stupidity. There is absolutely no reason for that not happening aside from our inability to see our own impending doom.
Like a man happily puffing away on a cigarette for most of his life never realizing that he’s destroying his own life-support mechanism and bringing a too early end to his own life in the process, humanity doesn’t realize that all life on this little ball of mud can be snuffed out in an instant. Nature doesn’t care about our petty little problems. The pale blue dot can be wiped away in an instant by some minor space collision or other, and the universe would never notice. Not even an artifact of humanity left over aside from a couple of probes we’ve managed to send beyond the influence of our sun. Is that our future?
For some reason I ‘liked’ Star Trek on Facebook (an error I intend to correct shortly) so I was jarred out of a fanciful daydream when this image appeared on my wall. Yes, that is a nacelle, coming up out of the water.
For those who may not remember, we’ve covered my rejection of Abrams’ work on Star Trek in the past (the label Abramanation is assigned here) as well as my long term unhappiness with where the franchise has been going dating back to before the series Enterprise was rolled out. This is not a sudden separation from Trek on my part, but a well thought out and gradual withdrawal from the fan scene. I simply don’t have enough in common with current fans to have an interest in the ins and outs of fandom any longer.
As the comments followed on the image I was appalled to note this entry;
“If you think about it a submarine is very much like a starship. It makes sense that to hide a space vessel waters like a large ocean or lake. It is completely sealed and pressurized. Why not hide it under water?”
This is why Star Trek and science fiction in general have become so dumbed down. There is absolutely no engineering resemblance between a space vessel designed to hold air in, and a submarine designed to keep water out. Not similar, at all. But to the layman it’s a “woo-woo” moment. “Look, it’s underwater!” (eyeroll) Oh, really. Before fans of the franchise pop up with objections, I’d like to offer the following list of observations;
I don’t accept the premise that “any Trek is better than no Trek” voiced by some of the commenters to that thread, and by fans I’ve talked to in the past. I would specifically prefer no Trek to continuing Abramanations, which is ultimately why I no longer refer to myself as a Trekkie or a Trek fan. The franchise has gone somewhere I do not wish to follow.
I don’t “hate” the abramanations. On some levels they are quite enjoyable as most eye candy is; the problem is that Star Trek has never been simply entertainment to me. I don’t become a 20 year fan of things that are simply entertaining. I’m not a fan of Gilligan’s Island, although I laughed while watching nearly every episode. Consequently when Star Trek crossed over into the “just entertainment” category, I stopped being a fan of it. Like it or not, I don’t care.
There are specific problems with every single SF venture that Lindloff and Abrams are involved in; generally it amounts to not paying enough attention to established factual science (like the engineering issue I pointed out previously) not developing believable characters because of lazy story plotting (“Isn’t it cute?”) and not enough research into established canon. When combined, you have a final product that is nearly unwatchable to the technically educated, ridiculous to the trained storyteller, and offensive to the hardcore fan.
This is why there are so many vocal objections to the latest iterations of various franchises that the average popcorn chewer will dismiss as a hater. It’s not hatred to offer valid criticism for what is a weak effort from people who are being well paid (over paid, from my perspective) and provided with lavish budgets to produce what could be very high quality artistic works, if only they took the time (see James Cameron) to do the due diligence that an undertaking of this magnitude requires.
In Other Words, promoters of the current Abramanation, don’t ask for opinions if you don’t want opinions.
I believe the point that this film was shamefully sexist, religious, ignorant, inconsistent, and poorly written in ways I never would have imagined… …all have been made sufficiently by the detailed qualitative assessments in each segment.
I haven’t done an exact count, but the number of minutes with women speaking or appearing in this film amounts to less than a quarter. Considering that the only ‘person of color’ in the film also happens to be the only woman with a significant speaking role is just a further indictment of the film.
I stand by my original assessment. RIP Star Trek. I won’t be wasting any more money participating in fannish activities that would force me to acknowledge this horribly flawed film.