Bottom-line: STID is a fast, action-filled movie that's surprisingly dull and stupid.
I had the exact opposite reaction to ID that I did to the Trek reboot (hereinafter "Trek '09" or simply "09"). I went into 09 planning on hating it and being mad about all the changes (the Enterprise is built in space, not in Iowa; Kirk can't drive stick, as we know from "A Piece of the Action", etc.). The only think I've ever shouted out in a movie theatre was during a trailer for 09 when I said, "I withhold judgment!" Which got a big laugh. But it walked out of 09 in love with that movie. The alt timeline was a brilliant idea, the fan nods worked. Brianna and I spent hours discussing whether this or Wrath of Khan was the best ST movie of all time.
Opposite reaction for ID. Thought it would be fun, left disappointed and confused, a little angry and befuddled. There is a GREAT movie in there, struggling to get out.
The best part of some shows (I'm looking at you, UFO and Space:1999) is the opening credits, with exciting music and quick edits and lots of explosions and action. So why can't they make the whole show out of that stuff? Because Star Trek Into Darkness.
There simply isn't enough mortar between the action pieces to hold it all together. Ok, so why are our guys being chased by spear-throwing aliens on some planet? I dunno. There's no more explanation for this in than in the trailer. In fact, the whole sequence is barely longer than the trailer and thus provides no plot or substance. I am a fish and this movie is dangling the hook in front of it, but never sets it.
When I watch a movie, there's a moment - hopefully - where you forget you're watching a movie and become emotionally involved. I didn't get emotionally involved into ST IV (the one with whales) until Kirk said "Double dumb ass on you." I didn't get into the second AvP movie until that horrible pregnant lady scene - by which point the movie was almost over. Hopefully that falling in happens early - like the first moments in Predators when Adrian Brody wakes up - and he's dropping like deadweight through the air. Wow. This never happened in ID. In fact, I felt like ID was consciously trying to push me away several times.
Example - this next bit is mildly spoilerific but isn't really, because if you're reading this you've already seen a Trek movie. (Almost) every Trek movie is about Kirk becoming captain of the Enterprise. Again. TMP, where he takes command from Decker. Khan, where he takes command from Spock. III, where he steals the decommissioned Enterprise and then blows it up. IV, where they give him a new ship because they took away his old ship because he was rash and impulsive and couldn't take directions and then somehow saved the day because he was rash and impulsive and... You get the picture.
The fun of watching Kirk is getting to see a ten-year-old in charge of a huge war machine doing crazy non-sensical stuff and getting away with it.
So when a big part of the emotional center of ID is whether or not Kirk will (a) grow up and (b) get back his command, Is there really any dramatic tension? Really?
(In contrast, 09 did this really well, because Chris Pike sold it - Kirk, your dad saved hundreds of lives in fifteen minutes, I dare you to do better. Great line.)
Enough about heroes. Now villains. Why is the main villain (see how I am carefully not revealing who it is, if you don't know) fighting Kirk? After watching the movie, reading some reviews and spending hours discussing this with Brianna, I am still not sure. There was one scene in the movie where the action stopped and the villain gives a half-hour lecture to explain why he's pissed off and it made no sense. Villains drive the plot. Their motivations and goals need to be clear. And here a villain causes a lot of death and destruction in the last five minutes of the movie... Why? No idea. Motivations and goals, people. You left me on a dead planet. You killed my father. There's no personal enmity from the villain toward Kirk so... Hum.
No personal vendetta between the main villain and Kirk but there *is* between Kirk and the villain, because the villain hurt someone Kirk cares about. And then Kirk goes from being really pissed off about that to not really caring in ten minutes. And really horrible crap happens at the end of the movie and no one really cares - it's just background noise to the main fight. Horrible crap and five minutes later we have a happy ending. Mental whiplash. I mean, 9/11 happened and our country is still seriously f&&ked up a decade later.
All summed, this was an exciting, action-filled movie. I just feel no emotional connection to this movie whatsoever.
Do I have any desire to see this movie again? Not really. But I would like to see a version that's half an hour longer wherein they explain some stuff.
How does it rank?
Great Trek: Khan, 09, First Contact Good: IV (whales), ID, III, Generations Eh: VI, TMP Omg no: remainder
What is there to be said? Sadness, sadness, nothing but sadness.
He was an inspiration to me. I've tried stop-motion-animation a couple times in my life because of him, none with great success. But... but... the key phrase I associate with Ray Harryhausen's work is "body plan". Because his work was stop-motion animation, rather than, say, "suitmation" (a guy in a suit), you could have monsters and creatures which didn't look... like a guy in a suit.
You could have creatures with snake-like bodies or arms. Or octopi. Or caterpillar-like. Or creatures with no abdomen (like a skeleton warrior). Or lots of heads. Or extra arms which moved just as believably (or unbelievably). Or bodies so skinny no human could fit inside.
His work opened my mind to the idea of different, non-human body plans. Which makes it even more sad that, after he opened the door to creatures which weren't human, even decades later, few have followed, and we still have aliens who are aliens only because they have bumpy foreheads.
Maybe the reason I find non-human creatures (I've just ordered some books on pycnogonids) fascinating is because of Ray Harryhausen.
keeping the main thing the main thing. (Or something like that.)
So goes a quote from Coach A.L. Williams, for whom I briefly (one month) tried to sell life insurance back in the 80's, before I saw the light. (Apologies all around, but, hey, it was the 80's.) There's also some thoughts about storywritingfor you writers out there.
(MILD OBTUSE SPOILERS AHEAD, which don't really reveal much of anything)
This week in "Mad Men" writer Matt Weiner finally got back to the main thing. The lead character around which all the chaos swirls - and cause of much chaos himself - is Don Draper, and this whole season up to now has been Don being the incredible shrinking man. Not saying a word for the first ten minutes of the first episode. Reacting to events, not causing them. Even his most basic skills in adsmanship are faltering as he comes up with one dumb idea after another. Everything we loved and admired about him was vanishing.
But not this week, wherein Don does not one but two completely ballstastic things, the details of which I won't tell you. (END OF MILD SPOILERS)
This season of "Mad Men" was becoming like that season of "30Rock" when the story shifted from Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin to characters appearing in the opening credits who've since proven so boring that whole episodes fly by without them getting a line. Sure, at some point the Simpsons will have an episode about Willy the janitor, but when this happens again and again... Really, do we benefit from knowing about Frank's on-going affair with his ex-teacher? Whoopee. It also felt like that season of "Malcolm in the Middle" when they lost the mom due to contract disputes - she drove the plot, people!
Yes, yes, minor characters can be a great way to introduce the background - Shakespeare did it all the time. But could you imagine all of "Romeo and Juliet" being about those two guys biting their thumbs? Ugh. What if they took Darth Vader or the Sith out of Star Wars? Oh, wait, they tried that, and every time they did a Sith-less scene in the prequels, IT SUCKED RUNNY EGGS. Let's cut off more limbs, people. THAT makes a good Star Wars movie.
So, anyway, thanks, Matt Weiner, for bringing us back Don Draper, swinging wildly from vine to vine. Because, well, we didn't tune in to watch Betty trying to talk to hippies.
In a few days, we will be filmed for a documentary about sexism in the videogame industry. I suspect that sexism in the videogame industry isn't much different from sexism in the science fiction industry (though I could be wrong about this). (e.g., the fanbase skews male, there are fewer females than males in places of prominence as writers, directors, art directors, etc.) With one exception: There are more avenues for really cruel and horrible comments to be sent during gaming than, say, while sitting on a sofa by yourself watching a movie or reading a Scalzi book. Do you think there are other differences?
But I wanted to get input from other people on this:
What's the most horrible sexist incident or comment you've experienced/heard about?
A lot of guys like me think of themselves as "enlightened" or "not part of the problem" - people who would never say something sexist or grab someone's body part without permission - but what can we do to make the situation better?
OK, Saturday, which means Making Revolution 60 geometry day. I need some awesome tunes to help me through. But they need to be long, ridiculously, over-the-top long. Because I don't want to be interrupted every three minutes to have to pick a new song.
As background, back many years ago, a 45 would be less than three minutes - if you take every Motown number one song from the 1960's, each one is between 2.5 and 3 minutes long. Every one. Until the Beatles realized, there's no reason songs have to be that short to be on a 45 - and they asked, what is the longest song you can put on a 45? And they discovered it was over 7 minutes. So they took a three minute song and added a four minute outtro to it, and voila, "Hey Jude" at 7:11. (And, of course, album tracks could be even longer.) But even "Hey Jude" is really short compared to some classics. And that's what I'm looking for today - really long songs to accompany me as I grind out some art.
I mean, "Slip Inside This House" by the 13th Floor Elevators would be great, but it's only 7:51. Doesn't cut it. Nor does "Won't Get Fooled Again" or "Stairway to Heaven", being at over 8 minutes.
Now... "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus (9:34), there we go. Or a live version of "Inside Looking Out" by Grand Funk at 13:43. Even better, "Sister Ray" by the Velvet Underground at 17:27 - with that song on repeat, I can get an hour of art done, only hearing it 4 times. I just got "Whipping Post" by the Allman Bros. (23:04) - an hour of art, only hearing that one song three times! Yeah!
Any other suggestions for awesomely propulsive but really really long, propulsive songs that will help us make video game art?
This last week hasn't been very productive, with all that's going on. But there are deadlines coming up. Those patents aren't going to write themselves.
To shake the blues (to lance the wound?), I walk the two blocks from my building to the site of the MIT shooting. There's a small memorial to officer Sean Collier there.
"Thank you for your service." "End of Watch, April 18 2013." "We love you, Sean." "God bless you, Sean." "We will miss you." "MIT STRONG."
I didn't know Sean Collier, never met his family, but I cry.
A block away is the 7-11 that the bombers stuck up before shooting Sean Collier [CORRECTION, as per Kevin's comment below: the 7-11 that someone else was robbing around the time that the bombers were bringing their carjack victim to a local ATM]. There's a new checkout girl being trained by her manager. Sheryl Crow music quietly plays. The Sports Illustrated on the newsstand has the marathon bombing on the cover. There's no overt sign of what happened a few days ago here.
In the block between the 7-11 and the site of the MIT shooting, we have a small cluster of buildings. Through the windows I see that my colleagues are back at work, developing new cures for cancer and treatments for liver disease.
Back to work.
We stop, we mourn and cry, and then we move on and remember.
As I mentioned earlier, one of our buildings is right at the corner where the MIT shooting happened and a cop was killed. This is a building I go into all the time to talk to scientists about patent stuff.
So tomorrow... as part of the healing process, there is a three-hour window where they're having a free ice cream truck and free massages in the building to lure us back, and replace the bad memories with good.
Also, please note: Boston's official slogan is now "Boston Strong", not "Yankees Suck".
Of whining about Hollywood movies, no matter how good they are. (Aren't we spoiled? Everything is awesome and yet we're all a bunch of whiners.)
Today I will be whining about the new Tom Cruise movie "Oblivion," which was quite awesome and visually spectacular and well-acted and full of fun twisty plot points. Not that that would stop me from niggling about one incredibly inconsequential point (but don't worry, NO PLOT SPOILERS HERE).
Herein I will beg and plead for Hollywood to please do something for me:
Please stop pandering to me.
Yes, I am the quintessential person who can't let go of his love of the sixties and seventies. (I mean, really, has there been a truly classic rock album released since "Quadrophenia" (1973)? OK, maybe "The Wall" (1980). But since then?) And if I could go back in time and buy any car I wanted... well, it would be a mid-sixties Corvette.
Just like the one Jim Kirk inexplicably crashes in the 23rd century. But if you are pandering to me, please get it right - I would have preferred my Corvette to be a 427, four on the floor, blue shading down to silver as you hit the ground (so it looks like a shark, you know), with gill slits on the sides, and a hard-top not a convertible, without the split in the rear window. Not that I've thought about it at all.
Yeah, that's the kind of car I'd have. Or maybe a 1971 Dodge Challenger. Just like Hal Jordan drives in the 2011 "Green Lantern."
And so in "Oblivion" we see Tom Cruise's character Jack Reacher Harper, in the year 2077, happily listening to music a century old. He has a pile of LPs (LPs! Where did he get those?), including "Exile on Main Street" (1971) and "The Wall" (1980); the most recent seems to be Duran Duran. And his favorite song is Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967). And then he puts a record on the platter and plays the first song - and it's Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" (1969). I mean, come on, you Hollywood doofus! Anyone who knows that song - the exact audience you're trying to pander to - will know that neither side of "Led Zeppelin II" starts with "Ramble On" - it's buried in the middle of side two! If you're going to pander to me, please don't simultaneously insult me with your ignorance.
My point - and I do have one - is that even though I LOVE this stuff from the sixties, it is increasingly non-sensical (not that it made sense decades ago when Zefram Cochrane was playing Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby" (1956) in Star Trek: First Contact) for characters in the far future to love stuff from the sixties, just because Frank Wu does.