Come on Yori, all the guy’s asking for is a little beheading, is that so much?
So Joe caved in and subscribed to CBS All Access to watch his precious Star Trek, allowing me to reap the benefits of his lack of willpower! We watched the first three episodes of STD (that’s Star Trek Discovery‘s unfortunate acronym), and my feelings are decidedly mixed. On the positive side, it looks great, with plenty of slick, high budget effects that feel right in line with the new Abram films.
Thankfully, STD is a bit more smartly written than those films, but it’s also not THAT smartly written. The acting is strong, the directing and cinematography are top notch, but the plot is all over the place and is working overtime to be ‘not just another Star Trek show’. It’s the Stargate Universe of Star Treks, trying to be darker and edgier in an attempt to appeal to a larger potential fanbase; the kind that love raw, violent dramas like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Certainly STD isn’t that level of grim, but you’ll see far more explicit gore in its first three episodes than you’d ever expect in Star Trek. The contradiction here is that CBS has made it far more difficult for those potential new viewers to watch the show by locking it behind its subscription streaming service. Likely the only people ready to fork over money to see STD are hardcore Trek fans, who will then be dismayed to find that the show is not a true return to form but a major formula mix up.
In terms of how it fits into the canon, well, it really doesn’t. The technology seems significantly more advanced than what we’ve seen in any of the Prime Universe shows and yet it takes place 15 (?) years prior to The Original Series. It’s really more of a Star Trek soft reboot than any sort of continuation. The main character is Sarek’s adopted daughter (geez, Spock, how many siblings did you have??), and her apparent struggle to control her emotions in the face of almost certain death at the hands of a monster-like Klingon Empire.
The Klingons in STD are less cultured and individually diverse than what we’ve seen in the TNG era. The old shows had Klingon characters with many different personalities, grappling with a warrior culture that expected them to fill a roll. They felt nuanced. Not that I expected to get that same nuance from STD’s two episode premiere, but this new version of Klingons definitely come off more animalistic and bloodthirsty, with relatively simplistic internal politics (someone shined a bright light and they all went to war). I’m hoping/guessing that will change as the show goes on, but right I’m willing to give the new Klingons a pass. I honestly don’t care much about canon as long as the story is well structured with satisfying character arcs, and I do have some issues with those aspects of STD.
Specifically, the first two episodes are bloated with a massive amount of drama and action, and yet only have two characters, maybe three, we’re supposed to care for (the science officer has some endearingly quirky dialog but is mostly observing the conflict between the captain and first officer). By the end of the two part opener, the captain is dead, and the first officer is labeled a mutineer and sentenced to space prison. The lead up to that outcome is a confusing mess involving an away mission of ONLY the captain and first officer. They beam over to a Klingon flagship to capture their leader in the hopes of turning him into a symbol of failure, as opposed to killing him and turning him into a martyr for the Klingons to rally around. Why only these two go on this mission is a big fat mystery, the only reasonable answer being that they’re kind dumb. The captain gets stabbed by the klingon leader and then the first officer kills him with her phaser. I don’t know why she didn’t use stun and complete her mission, maybe she couldn’t control her anger. Either way, it seems to be the catalyst to the show’s main ‘redemption’ plotline for first officer Michael (her first name is Micheal, they acknowledge that’s an odd name for a woman so maybe we’ll get an explanation for it).
I almost wish the first two episodes had been completely skipped in favor of revealing those backstory elements in flashbacks. It might have been a more clever way to dramatically reveal Michael’s story while jumping straight into the show’s actual premise. The third episode sees Michael transferred from prison detention to the advanced science ship Discovery, where she’s put to work assisting with some very shady science projects to potentially help win the war against the Klingons. This leads me to believe the show’s structure will be episodic ‘science projects of the week’ where Michael works to figure out how whatever she’s working on will be used in war, and then grapples with the shady morality of the crew and their ultimate goals, and whether she should sabotage Discovery’s efforts in the name of moral principle, or work toward a fast end to the war they she feels personally responsible for starting (which, honestly, would’ve started even without her).
Many of the old Trek shows have had some very weak pilot episodes, if not all of them, and I don’t even think STD’s is the worst of the lot. The setup has a lot of potential for great television. I’m specifically reminded of Fringe, which also had an episodic ‘science project gone horribly wrong’ structure to it for the first couple of seasons, and they were great.
So STD has potential, and yet I can’t help but feel this is not what Star Trek’s themes have always been about. The Trek Universe has always favored political allegory, and asked us to question the normalcy of our modern world when compared with the idealism on display in its vision of the future. From the originals series’ commentary on race with “ Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” to TNG’s questioning of gender norms in “The Outcast”, this has always been Star Trek’s greatest strength. And, considering the world we live in today, where injustices have become so nakedly visible that they’re no longer shocking, don’t we need that Star Trek commentary more than ever? But who knows, maybe STD is revving up to blow us away with insight.
PS. I also saw Blade Runner 2049 and loved it, but maybe I’ll talk about that next time.
I just finished Samus Returns, and it’s so great. It’s the Metroid I’ve been waiting for, THE FULL PACKAGE! I was on such a high, I immediately started a new game in Fusion mode (somehow I managed to acquire the new Metroid amiibo from my local Toys R Us, even though their site said they had no stock)!
I feel like Samus Returns does for Metroid 2 what Zero Mission did for classic Metroid, a great re-imagining which re-enforces and builds on existing canon, making a continued narrative between the games more palatable. The ending of Samus Returns adds a lot more visual narrative that links it to Super Metroid, and I love that! Heck, it even throws a bone to Metroid Fusion, which I also love. Not that the Metroid franchise NEEDS a coherent canon, but that sort of light world building wired into all the games has always appealed to me.
One thing that is really silly, though, is that the entire Galactic Federation council had a unanimous vote to send one for-hire bounty hunter on a mission to wipe out the most powerful genetically engineered race of sentient weapons in the galaxy. Like, they didn’t think it’d be a good idea to send at least an armada as backup or something? Maybe everyone else was too busy with other ‘galactic stuff’. Not that they needed to over complicate the story, but having some sort of Chozo barrier around the planet that will only allow Samus to land unharmed might’ve helped with the logic of that setup.
Yori takes a bloodless victory! Or maybe not!
Sorry about the missed update last week! I went on a family vacation to northern California to see the redwood forest. I posted some photos in the news post below this news post, which most people probably didn’t see because our site has a weird way of prioritizing posts. I don’t have much to say! I’ve been chipping away at Metroid: Samus Returns, and it’s great! It’s pretty much everything I like about Metroid, although I’ll have to wait until I finish it before I compare it to AM2R, which was incredible (or maybe I just like the soundtrack better).
I went on a family vacation in the California Redwoods along the coast this week. Due to some poor planning on my part, it kind of ruined the update schedule, so there’s no page this week. I will share some of my favorite photos from the trip, since I’ve got nothing else to show! I also played a lot of Monster Hunter Stories during the trip. I randomly decided to download the demo just before the plane trip, fell in love with it, and ended up buying the full game. It’s super cool.
Seeing the Redwood (sequoia sempervirens) forest is a surreal experience. It’s the forest that you see over and over again in movies because it looks so alien and prehistoric. Our tour guide pointed out areas that appeared in Jurassic Park: Lost World, which I found highly entertaining, because, if you think about it, redwoods wouldn’t have even been possible on Isla Sorna due to the overly warm and humid climate (the redwood forest maintains a temperature range of roughly 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round), and because all the wildlife put on the island to accommodate the dinosaurs wouldn’t have had enough time to grow into something that looked like a centuries old giant tree. But maybe I’m over thinking Lost World.
I did have a lot of Endor nostalgia while walking through the forest. In fact, I went on the trip with the simple goal of locating an Ewok. Despite my best efforts, though, I was unable to find a single Ewok reference in any local shop or building we visited, which was very disappointing (but I’m sure the Ewoks are out there somewhere). Apparently it’s scientifically impossible to determine the exact age of a redwood, because they grow genetic clones of themselves off of the shallow roots at their base, so a 1000 year old redwood tree may actually be a continuation of a previous 1000 year old rewood tree, but still technically the same organism. Even when a rewood falls over, it doesn’t die, but instead will sprout new vertically growing trunks from its horizontal position. As long as their in their preferred habitat, redwoods are surprisingly hard to kill. I only bring this up because it sounds wild enough to actually be Star Wars lore, but it’s the REAL DEAL.
Oh man, it’s a SAMURAI SHODOWN!
I watched this movie Gantz:0 on Netflix because some trailer I saw for it at some point looked interesting. Turns out it’s narratively incomplete, a tad misogynist, and totally bonkers. I know it’s based on a manga also called Gantz, and all I’ve ever really known about the series is that people who have just recently died are mysteriously resurrected by a black orb in a non-descript Tokyo apartment and told they have to put on tight black scifi catsuits and fight ‘aliens’ in a sort of life or death game where you earn points by killing the most enemies. The movie manages to completely fail to explain the motivation behind these aliens, or why they all look like creatures out of Japanese mythology, or what the black orb is or why it makes people who have recently died fight these aliens in a point based game format. Nor does it explain how this black orb or its creator provides the main characters all the high tech weapons they use or even how it brings them back to life. Basically, it’s an infuriating movie with lots of mysteries and no answers. On the flip side, it is a pretty darn good looking CG film where the characters feel very vulnerable (you don’t quite know who the plot armor is protecting until the very end), with some great effects and animations (outside of the obnoxiously ludicrous jiggle physics on the women). It’s a movie that runs almost entirely on predictable cliches utilizing a bunch of mostly one note characters and a lot of ham fisted melodrama, but if you’re looking for some eye candy that’ll leave you scratching your head, along with some fairly creative action scenes, maybe it’s worth a watch.
Gantz: 0 actually reminded me quite a bit of another Netflix anime movie based on a manga that I watched. BLAME is also a narratively incomplete story driven almost entirely be cliches and ending with almost every question posed by the film unanswered. The basic plot is that a bunch of generational survivors living in a superstructure that’s so huge no one knows how big it is make contact with a travelling guy who apparently is looking for a human with some gene that would allow them to control all the hostile robots in this super city. The movie fails to explain the origins of this mysterious traveler, or why everyone keeps calling him human even though he is very clearly a cyborg with re-attachable limbs, or what the ultimate purpose of the superstructure is, why it became hostile toward humans, and why dart guns are apparently a more effective weapons against murder robots than, say, an automatic rifle. At least its female characters aren’t treated like dainty, vulnerable eye candy, though.
Maybe these movies are meant to be the beginning of franchises, or maybe they’re just meant to be supplementary material to their respective manga, although I find it hard to believe these fairly high budget films aren’t made with the express purpose of being able to stand on their own and increase these franchies’ popularity! I’ll give both these movies points for only being an hour and a half each, though.
And while we’re talking about film adaptations of manga, the trailer for the upcoming Blade of the Immortal film looks gloriously accurate to the source material, which has my hyped. And although the Bleach manga ultimately turned into one of the most overstuffed, over confused shounen franchises of all time, its initial setup was wonderfully unique and compelling, which gives me some hope for the live action film adaptation. On the other hand, as much as I love Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, and am currently reading through the manga, the live action trailer for that movie looks laughably cornball. Maybe keeping Al’s suit of armor design identical to the manga was not the best idea, as Al looks like a walking cartoon in world of competent cosplayers. Actually, ‘a world of competent cosplayers’ pretty much describes every live action anime adaptation I’ve seen, so maybe it’s fine.
A TRIAL BY FIRE! Clearly Hirotomo’s favorite sort of trial. He’s a harsh mistress. Err, mister. Well, a harsh dad. At least he can count on Tadashii to put Yori through the wringer, OR CAN HE? He probably can.
We just spent the weekend at Matsuricon 2017, chillin’ out, hosting panels, and having a good time. Joe, who’s well into the three digits (and working towards four) of numbers of hours played of Breath of the Wild, hosted a BotW panel where he relentlessly bombarded the packed room with the most obscure Zelda trivia questions you can imagine. I think the most shocking part was that so many of them got answered correctly. I also had a Star Wars panel where I relentlessly whined about the franchise as if I was Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. Maybe some day I’ll remember to actually mention the con we’re going to be at before we actually go there.
I can’t being to imagine what Tadashii is implying here!
I started watching Little Witch Academia, and it’s pretty great; fantastic animation, whimsical, orchestral soundtrack, distinct, enjoyable characters, and none of the most cringe worthy anime cliches! I’d recommend it for any animation fan who’s looking for a high energy/low stress show (and who also has a Netflix account). Unfortunately I’ll never be able to watch anything again after I burn my retinas out staring at the SOLAR ECLIPSE.
AND THEN THEY FIGHT! Wait, is Tadashii fighting with a broken sword?
I’ve been watching the third season of Voltron, and it significantly elevates the show from the sort of generic ‘good vs evil’ template it was plodding along through the first two seasons. Suddenly we’re being hit with (somewhat) difficult moral decision, multiple antagonists in a power struggle, in-fighting between various groups, buildups with high stakes, and flashbacks establishing complex, dramatic turns of character. I’m starting to enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed Korra. It doesn’t hurt that the animation is still outstanding. Even the music seems to have gotten better in season three (although it still fails to compare to that original theme). Granted, for anyone interested, you still have to push through some 24 episodes of varying quality to get there. Watch them for the animation.
That’s not true! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!
Search your feelings, Yori. You know it be true!
Okay, we went and saw Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets, a movie I REALLY WANTED TO LOVE, but, ugh, nope, it’s kind of awful. I REALLY want to write about the myriad of plot holes and nonsense character decisions the movie bombarded us with, but I don’t have the time! The short of it is that the main character is extremely unlikable and the film does a terrible job of both establishing what anyone is doing and why, and defining the rules of the world (as far as I could tell, it’s a movie universe where the only reason anything is considered ‘illegal’ is because the main character just randomly decides it is). Valerian could’ve been this great buddy cop scifi action comedy, instead it’s an ungodly mess of half baked ideas and rampant sexual harassment that runs about forty five minutes too long. Although, there is a great five minute opening title sequence that’s easily the best part of the movie. It definitely got my hopes up before tossing them out an airlock.
Well, this escalated quickly!
I saw Baby Driver this week, and enjoyed it quite a bit! If I had one complaint, it’s that the second half of the film lacks an incredible choreographed car chase sequence, which is disappointing since that is the movie’s gimmick. The opening action scene sucks you in with one of the coolest movie car chases I’ve seen, but it sets up false promises as well, because it never tops its opening action piece. Still, Baby Driver has plenty of personality, quirky characters, and a tightly scripted plot that’s well paced. It’s easy to sympathize with the lead character, Baby, and his plight to escape the criminal underworld. Even all his criminal cohorts, who are all horrifically awful people, are given sympathetic elements that make them hard to hate. The story flies by despite the movie’s hour and fifty minute run time. Going into an Edgar Wright film, I anticipate a lot of comedy and goofiness, and although Baby Driver has those elements, they’re more on the sidelines. The film is far more interested in tense action, high stakes, and stylish editing. Don’t expect a straight up comedy, but if you’re in the mood for a tense, unique crime thriller, Baby Driver is s good time… It’s also got a fantastic soundtrack. I’d recommend it, even amidst the plethora of worthy summer films filling theaters this month!