Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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Khan’s back, and he’s PISSED! The TOS Rewatch feels The Wrath of Khan, as we talk about revenge being a dish best served cold, the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, new characters, old characters, nebulae inside star systems, the good, the bad, the ugly, and more.

An excerpt:

More fundamental, though, is that the theme of Kirk never facing death until he lost Spock just rings wrong on every possible level. I mean, we start with “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where Kirk has to kill his best friend from the Academy. We move on to “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” where Kirk is deeply affected by the security guards who die, and while that consideration whittles down over time, to the point where he stops even noticing his crew dying by the late second season, Kirk has been seen to feel the loss of crew at least occasionally. Then we have “Operation: Annihilate,” where he listens to his sister-in-law die and finds the body of his older brother. Then we have “Obsession,” where Kirk’s guilt over his role (whether real or imagined) in the death of half the Farragut crew is so palpable that he devolves into the titular obsession to stop the creature responsible. Then we have “The Paradise Syndrome,” where he falls in love with Miramanee, marries her, and has to watch her die after finding out she’s pregnant with their kid.

And, the biggie, Edith Keeler, whom he stopped McCoy from saving. Yeah, that’s someone who’s never faced death. Sure. Hell, “The City on the Edge of Foreverwas a classic no-win scenario: either let the great love of your life be killed or destroy history. And Kirk already faced it. For that matter, he took the Kobayashi Maru test twice before he cheated, so he faced it there, as well.

from the archives: why A.I. was a terrible movie

Before I had a blog, I had a newsgroup on the late, lamented SFF.net. I used it in much the same way I would later use the ol’ blog, including reviews of things. Here’s what I wrote on 4 July 2001 about the Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubrick film A.I.

Why A.I. Sucks

The movie’s called A.I., but I’ve found myself following the lead of a friend and calling it A.I.EEEE! This is a terrible movie, made all the more frustrating by the fact that it had everything going for it to be a great one. I found myself wondering what would have happened if Stanley Kubrick had actually directed it. Failing that, I wish that someone–anyone–other than Steven Spielberg had taken on the job. Someone like Tim Burton or Barry Sonnenfeld, or even Ridley Scott–someone who can direct with an edge, someone who can show the true evil of banality, someone who understands sleaze.

There are two Steven Spielbergs. There’s the guy who can do amazing combinations of character and plot (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan); then there’s the guy who has no self-control, lets his own self-indulgence run away with him, has no conception of story structure, and who gets so easily overcome by schmaltz (Always, 1941, Hook, The Color Purple). A.I. is directed by the latter.

This is actually three different movies, each one a bigger failure than the previous part, but all abject failures in different ways. It was based on a good Brian Aldiss story–but it dispenses with the Aldiss tale by the end of the first half of the movie. (Kubrick has had this problem before, viz. 2001 taking care of “The Sentinel” by midpoint.)

First we have a movie that wants to be some weird combination of Edward Scissorhands and E.T., but Spielberg doesn’t have Burton’s ability to show the underside of suburban life. He makes the parents (especially the mother) too nice to be the almost criminally neglectful parents they truly are, but too criminally neglectful to be in any way respected as characters. He makes Martin, the “real” son of the parents, too scummy to be sympathetic, yet too sympathetic with his frailty to be really despised.

And he can’t strike any kind of balance with David, the mecha boy protagonist played by Haley Joel Osment. He starts out as a nightmare child, then becomes cute. The mother’s transition from not wanting him to falling in love with him is never properly chronicled, and therefore totally unconvincing. Spielberg seems constitutionally incapable of portraying upper-middle-class white people as anything other than inherently good, so he refuses to go all the way with what truly wretched parents they are, even though they show no redeeming value as parents–and the mother is later on held up as some kind of paragon of virtue in David’s mind, unsupported by any onscreen evidence.

The only compelling character in the entire movie is the animatronic teddy bear, who is more expressive than either Frances O’Connor or Sam Robards as the parents. Perhaps the saddest possible commentary on this movie is that the most interesting character is the teddy bear.

After the parents abandon David in the woods, the movie tries to be Blade Runner, and fails at that, too. Here, in particular, one desperately wants a director who understands how to do sleaze. The red-light district of Philadelphia (sorry, “Rouge City”) cries out for the decadence of Blade Runner‘s Los Angeles or the Gothic-architecture-on-speed of Batman‘s Gotham City or the eerie creepiness of The Addams Family‘s home. Instead we get a semi-comic sanitized locale of ill-repute, followed by the “Flesh Fair,” which wants to be the Roman Collosseum via the Tittie Twister from From Dusk Till Dawn, but feels like a lightweight tractor pull show in Western New Jersey, only without the broad appeal.

Then, after a completely unconvincing escape from this circus, we have the fairy tale pursuit that leads Our Hero to a flooded Manhattan and his maker, and the movie tries to be 2001. (Maybe if he’d brought in some monkeys…?)

At this point, the movie really starts to overstay its welcome. You keep thinking (hoping) that it’s finally over, but it goes on just a bit longer and gets worse. Then you think it’s really over, but it goes on even longer and gets much worse. Then you think the nightmare has finally come to an end, but it goes on even longer and is infinitely worse than you could possibly imagine. Each ending is lamer, schmaltzier, and stupider than the previous one, and you’re crying out in agony for this nonsense to stop as the absurdities are piled on each other.

Not that the earlier parts of the movie aren’t equally laden with absurdities. So let me get this straight: David has been programmed to be the perfect kid, the prime substitute for a real child, so much so that they programmed him with working tear ducts and with the ability to mimic breathing (this based on his crying and blowing out candles toward the end of the film)–yet, somehow, it didn’t occur to anyone to program him with the capacity for eating and drinking. This is a major component of human behavior, yet this supposed substitute for a real boy can’t even do that. This is compounded by the fact that these two moron parents have him sit at the table with a place setting at mealtimes, even though he neither eats nor drinks. This is healthy?

We’re supposed to buy the fact that David is heavy enough not to float in salt water, yet light enough to be carried along by a school of fish. Why on Earth does the company have their main lab for mass-producing Davids in the middle of a flooded Manhattan? Why does William Hurt, after saying he wants David to meet his creators, go off and leave David alone in the lab for what appears to be fifteen to twenty minutes or so (long enough for him to suffer major existential angst and decide to commit suicide)? How did David and Gigolo Joe escape the Flesh Fare so easily? They were tied up in the middle of it, and then they were in the heart of an angry mob, yet they somehow managed to walk out (and find the teddy bear in the crowd) without any difficulty.

Oh yeah, Gigolo Joe. This is Jude Law’s character, who is simultaneously the most interesting character played by a human in the movie and also the most utterly superfluous one. He serves a minor expository function at best, and he could be removed from the “plot” without any major loss. A pity, as Law is one of the finest actors working today, as is Osment, actually, and they both deserve much better than this twaddle.

This is a classic case of A-list talent being used on a B-list movie. Or maybe a Z-list movie. This is utter crap.

 

my Balticon 51 schedule

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I will be attending Balticon 51 this coming weekend as an author guest. I will also be spending a lot of time at the eSpec Books table in the dealer room selling and signing books (and also selling Wrenn’s Geek Bears).

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday

12-1pm: “Worldbuilding for RPGs vs. Novels: Similarities & Differences,” w/Peter Bryant & Chris Jackson (Room 8006)

1-2pm: “SFF You Should Be Watching,” w/D.H. Aire & Lisa-Anne Samuels (Mt. Washington)

Sunday

1-2pm: reading, w/Jack Campbell & Michael Ventrella (St. George)

1-3pm: Fortress Publishing/Fantastic Books launch party, w/ Brian Kocienski, Ian Randal Strock, and a cast of dozens (Club Lounge — I’ll be late to this, as I’ve got my reading, but I’ll be there eventually to help launch TV Gods: Summer Programming)

6-7pm: “How Much It Costs: Past and Future,” w/Bob Chase, Tim Dodge, & Roberta Rogow (Guilford)

7-9pm: eSpec Books launch party, w/Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike McPhail, and a cast of dozens (Con Suite)

Monday

1-2pm: “Expanding a Universe,” w/Steven Brust, Jack Campbell, Dave Robison, & S.M. Stirling (Guilford)

Looking forward to seeing folks there!

Roger Ailes is dead and Bill O’Reilly can go fuck himself

Bill O’Reilly said that Roger Ailes died because of all the hatred directed at him. I guess O’Reilly knows from directing hatred, since he’s been doing it his entire professional career, but this sort of bullshit is, to say the least, disingenuous.

Of course, this is the guy who went to Sylvia’s in Harlem and expressed utter shock that all the black people therein were acting in a civilized manner. Yeah.

Then again, my first response when I heard that Ailes was dead was a response I rarely have when I find out a living being died: “Good.” It takes a lot to make me think the world is better off with someone dead than alive, but Ailes is one of the special few who managed it.

my thoughts on the Star Trek: Discovery trailer

First off, the trailer itself:

Here’s what I think:

Michelle Yeoh is in it. I’m so in…..

Yeah, okay, there are other things happening. I’m seeing a lot of chest-beating on the Internet, and I’m just laughing at the human tendency to forget history and repeat it. In 1987 when The Next Generation was announced, lots of Trek fans were fulminating at the mouth because it isn’t real Star Trek if it doesn’t have Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Oh, and no one will know when to watch it, because it’s syndicated.

Thirty years later, it’s the same nonsense.

I will say this: I don’t care that the Klingons look different, because they’ve looked different practically every time they’ve been reintroduced. The TOS Klingons don’t look like the movie Klingons which don’t look like the TNG Klingons which don’t look like the Bad Robot Klingons. And even within those general types there are variations. I can’t bring myself to be arsed about yet another change to their look.

I don’t really care that the look of the show is obviously different from TOS, because this show is being made in 2017, not 1966. Personally, I think doing a prequel is a mistake, but I said that in 2001, and every new Trek since then has continued to look backward rather than forward. Whatever.

What matters is whether or not it’s written well. Enterprise didn’t fail in the marketplace because it was a prequel or because it “shit on continuity” or whatever, it failed because it was badly written. By the time it started to be well written, the viewership had already abandoned it. Prequels are not inherently bad, as AMC is proving every week with Better Call Saul. But they need to be well written. The show will live or die on that — just like every other show.

The trailer gives no hints as to whether or not the show will be any good — because trailers never do. Hell, the trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2013 made it look great, but the show was a mess its first year. However, there were no real warning signs that I saw, and what we did see looked interesting enough that I want to see more.

I’ll be reviewing the series for Tor.com, so you’ll find out what I think then……..