I just saw – Star Trek Discovery Season 1 (2017)

 

Oh, I forgot to add at the bottom. I think “The Orville” is preferable.

 

I just saw

Star Trek Discovery Season 1 (2017)

Spoilers

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Okay. This show has an interesting spin on it from a number of different directions.

The first is that it was intended to anchor a new CBS streaming service ala Netflix or Hulu

Secondly, the whole series was filmed first and then dropped over time on the streaming service.

So the season is supposed to tell a single self-contained story. It was filmed before feedback came in.

It has 15 episodes.

This format could be used to tell interesting stories because you can really mess with your set up a lot each season.

They made some interesting design choices. For instance, the Season 1 Starfleet uniforms look like track suits to me. There’s a side-by-side picture of the Discovery’s mess hall showing they used the same color palate some design elements and lay out as the TOS enterprise.

So there were call outs.

They made it supposedly a prequel series set 10 years before TOS.

None of that was in any way necessary.

Between Enterprise, JJ-Trek and DSC, that’s a decade and a half spent playing in the pre-TOS playing field. Enough is enough. (Sigh)

In other ways, DSC is, like all Star Trek series, a creature of its times. So it’s a 2017 TV show aimed at 2017 people.

They made some storytelling choices I would not have.

Michael Burnham, the POV character of the series is a human raised on Vulcan. Fine and good.

Raised by Sarek and Amanda, as a sister to Spock.

Wait, what? Why?

Michael’s relationship with Sarek is complex and makes for good drama. But shoehorning her into Spock’s family tree is unnecessary and doesn’t add anything to our story.

I’ll talk about cross over potential here in a bit.

-*-

Now – The longer story has a book end format. in the first episode Burham faces a choice, makes her choice and suffers consequences.

In the last episode, Burnham is faced with the mirror image of that choice and chooses correctly.

In between, we see the crew doing Staar Trek things under the shadow of a terribly destructive war with the Klingons.

Both DSC and TNG had the Klingons winning the war.

This is a sort of a retelling of Robert E Howard’s Conan saying “Civilization makes you weak”

I think this is a pat and facile view of the Federation versus the Klingons and I find it disappointing. But, whatever.

One thing I did find disappointing. In the front end of the series, we join L’Rell and Voq. They are Klingons on the lower end of Klingon Society.

They are outcasts and dregs. They’re following a Klingon fundamentalist. He is a nutbag who has dragged an ancient dreadnought out of history somewhere and is laboriously refitting it. T’Kuvma feels that the Klingons, in warring amongst themselves are eating their own. His solution, murder all aliens. A Klingon Jihad against non-Klingons can unify the great houses of the Empire and end the threat of Klingons murdering each other into irrelevancy.

 

Just typed out here, I can see the resonance the writers were going for and why not. A little too ripped from the headlines, but whatever.

Because T’Kuvma, the charismatic madman Klingon leader of the cult gets killed early on.

His cult, set adrift eventually falls to blandishments from more accomplished but more venal Klingon houses.

L’Rell and Voq are left pursuing their fanatic faith and their question to make their lives mean something in the greater universe – they’re left to make it up as they go.

During the early episodes, these characters are actually as engaging or more so than the Discovery characters. I wanted to see what insanity they’d come up with.

In the middle, we see some character development. But the Klingons seem to disappear.

As the Klingons fade into the background, Captain Lorca comes to the front, along with the Spore Drive.

I have heard some fans bitching about the spore drive. It’s the gaia hypothesis, mapped on to the universe and, then turned into a highway system

The theory is that the Universe on a deep level has more in common with a living ecosystem than a complex system of physics.

There are some living things that access this deeper, living layer to the universe, and people can use this weird deep layer livingness to the universe to travel.

The way they perfect this Spore Drive is interesting and had tones of real Star Trek to me. I was pretty sure they were going to make the Spore Drive fatal to the person who is the key to using it, forcing Starfleet to put it on the shelf with other ideas that sound good in theory but fail in practice.

But it allows instant-elsewhere travel without warp drives. A ship can teleport all over the place, in the blink of an eye.

For awhile the Discovery, with the only functional version of this drive becomes the Federation’s Secret weapon Stalling the Klingon Advance.

But Lorca seems broken. There’s a story that he lost his previous ship the Buran and his whole crew to the Klingons. He comes off as domineering, angry and demanding military skill and perfection from a crew that started out mad science nerds.

I was thinking they were going Ron Tracey with him. In TOS the starship Enterprise goes to planet Omega and finds the USS Exeter in orbit with her crew dead. Captain Tracey is on the ground, mad. He thinks the planet contains the secret to Immortality. It’s plain that losing his crew and getting mangled by the people of Omega has driven Tracey around the bend. He is a mirror image of Kirk. He fails the way Kirk might if Kirk is unlucky and slightly less Kirk.

In the end, Kirk punches Tracey in the face and gives a rousing, if incoherent speech to the natives. They agree to try a little more enlightenment and they beam up, situation resolved.

So I am looking at Lorca going “Holy shit, the stress of being a captain and the war is breaking him!”

I wanted to see where they went with that. Ask Shakespear, nothing says drama like a man who gets so caught up in his shit that he can’t tell right from wrong anymore.

 

Ah, but no.

They have Harry Mudd in DSC, but he is not the Original Harry Mudd. in TOS Mudd endangers the Enterprise, but this is coincidental to him avidly pursuing what he sees as his own interests. He doesn’t actually mean to hurt anyone unless you count fraud and deceit. He’d sell you a broken phaser and let you find out yourself the hard way, but he’d never point a phaser AT you! How barbaric!

The DSC Mudd is a different and much uglier guy. The only reason he doesn’t stick a phaser in your face and pull the trigger is that he doesn’t quite have a foolproof escape plan in place yet. He’d rather not deal with the ugly details of consequences. But without those, look out.

 

Near the climax of the story, they go to the Mirror Universe.

And that’s when things unravel. It turns out that Lorca is not DSC Timeline Lorca. He’s the Mirror Universe Lorca. He was running a long and very complex scheme all along.

Mirror-Lorca was a usurper. He’d attacked the Mirror Universe Emperess (Michelle Yeoh) and failed. When he fled, he accidentally wound up in the DSC timeline and began a complex plot to build his own copy of the Spore drive and return to the Mirror universe to complete his rebellion against Emperor Yeoh and become the new Emperor.

He wasn’t a shakespearian character, a man in such dire straights of anger and revenge that he lost track of his own moral compass. No, he was evil because it was in his nature to be evil. Bwaaa haa haaa!

That really, really disappointed me.

Because instead of asking “What is good, what is evil, and how do we know? How do we know when it gets really difficult? How do we know if we fail, during trying times? Can someone recover from going off the rails like that?”

Instead of asking these interesting (To me) questions, they dropped into the Mirror Universe and rendered all such questions moot.

Now, at the end of the series, they have a Federation, on the ropes, desperate to survive making a very bad decision.

And then in true Star Trek fashion, Burham and the crew of the Discovery point out the moral compass and say “No”

Then they take one of their biggest problems (The Klingon Jihad) and turn it into a solution.

On paper or in summary, it sounds good. Its what Star Trek is supposed to be.

But a lot of it is handled quickly, by shorthand or off-screen.

Disappointing. As if the writers knew that this was supposed to be the Star Trek Ending – but they can’t figure out why it would work, or why it would be preferable.

Then in the last 5 minutes – after Starfleet rewards the Discovery Crew for saving the Federation – they get a distress call from the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. Captain Pike.

The show the Enterprise approaching the Discovery and they roll credits.

It’s not the Classic TOS Enterprise. It’s not the JJ-Verse Enterprise.

Michael Marek does a good explanation why on his blog.

https://mimarek1.blogspot.com/2018/02/why-they-had-to-redesign-enterpriseagain.html

As it turns out there was a split between CBS and Paramount.

Paramount owns JJ-Trek. Both can derive works from TOS. But if DSC borrows from JJ-Trek, they’re crossing a line.

So they have to either do a faithful recreation, ala “Star Trek Continues”

http://www.startrekcontinues.com/

OR

They have to make a DSC version of Pike, Pike’s Enterprise, and Pike’s crew.

IF they’re going to use them at all. I don’t know.

It solidifies to me the impression that DSC is it’s own timeline. I am okay with that.

Weirdly I am more okay with DSC being its own timeline than with DSC being yet another Prequel.

-*-

In any case.

Most Star Trek Series take 2 seasons of struggling before they really find their groove and their own identity. You’ll have good stuff and bad stuff and awkward stuff, but you’ll see them hunting to find their tone.

I give this one a C+.

I hope like hell they can give themselves permission to just go ahead and tell their own stories in season 2.

It feels to me like half the season was written, and an arc was set and then CBS balked, said “oh, hell no!”, changed up writers, and had it follow a really safe action-adventure plotline to its conclusion.

There are things I’d keep for Jay Trek. There are things I would not let into Jay Trek. (The Spore Drive, for instance, is right out)

It added 15 hours worth of legos to my mental Star Trek set.

It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great. They could have done better.

I will watch the second season, assuming I can access it in the piratic ways I have done previously.

Again, as with …. well, all previous incarnations, a decent cast. A good technical crew. You can tell this was put together by pros.

There were likable characters and characters who got no screen time.

I have a new set of Star Trek People in my head now. Not a bad thing.

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I hate the holidays.

Please note this is only binding for me.

I hate the holidays.

When I was growing up there was this image of the holidays that came from Norman Rockwell paintings.

As I got older, My Mom would have expectations. Being an ADHD kid, I’d never realize anything was coming up. As a co-dependant kid, I always felt like I was failing by not doing something to try to make progress towards Norman Rockwell for my Mom.

So for me, the Holidays are all about guilt and failure. This is all my malfunction. It is in no way binding on you.

When I was with Sandi, her Mom busted her ass to make a Norman Rockwell Holiday. Sandi’s Mom had a lot of class. Sandi’s Dad was from a broken home. Grew up on the streets. Growing up he never had holidays, so Sandi’s mom gritted her teeth and by god, the family had Norman Rockwell holidays.

I remember either the last or second to last Thanksgiving he had before he passed. We didn’t know it at the time.

Sandi, her sisters, and their kids grew up with “By God, We’re doing Norman Rockwell if I have to BUILD the turkey!” mode.

So they took it for granted. They’d roll in, take up the assigned tasks and get going.

I recall watching all this and going “wow”.

Then I looked over at Gene, Sandi’s Dad. He had the same expression on his face. For a moment we clicked. We were both these kids watching people have Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving and feeling surprised that we were both somehow let in the door.

-*-

After Gene passed, the Family continued the attempted Norman Rockwell based on inertia and habit.

But that Core of Barb (Sandi’s Mom) firmly mashing a Norman Rockwell Holiday for Gene was gone. Sandi and her sister did it out of habit. Each of them has spent time away from the family for holidays.

When Sandi and I split, my Hedlund family card was revoked and burned.

My daughter Kat invited me a few years ago.

Can you imagine how horrible that would be? Zombie Norman Rockwell.

I was let go from my position in the Hedlund Family. My post at Norman Rockwell events was abolished.

I am working on letting myself off the hook. Letting go of all the expectations and feelings of failure and inadequacy.

So I will fake a smile at people who have real family things going on. Sometimes I try to tell people “Don’t take that shit for granted! You might miss it when it’s gone”

But mostly I don’t want to be a downer at anyone else’s holiday spirit.

For me, I am out of the holiday business. I am letting it go. No more guilt trips. No more Norman Rockwell as a taskmaster.

Honestly, I hope your holidays are filled with all the good stuff Holidays are supposed to be full of. Love, Family, Joy. All that stuff.

You being happy is a good thing in the world, and I like that.

But for me, the best I can hope for is getting through without damage. Without another one of those things where Jay sucks, or Jay is an idiot. Or Jay is cluelessly self-centered.

A holiday without taking hit points is a win for me

I know most folks have it much different.

So. Please enjoy yourself this Holiday season. And all your future Holidays. Take a moment to enjoy that you have your family. Even the ones who annoy you.

I’ll be around the day after. Enjoying days where it’s just us. Having fun. Posting things and enjoying each other. No pressure. No expectations.

I guess you could say that Jan 2nd is my Holiday.

“Thank God it’s over for another year.”

Bitcoin

As I understand it

Money is stuff you use to buy other stuff.

Originally money had to have intrinsic value. It had to have some value just in itself independent of buying things with it.

But later, once the concept of money took hold, it did not. A dollar, especially the electronic kind we mostly use has no other value than being something with which to buy something else.

The store keep accepts the dollar in trade for a thing because he can use the dollar later to buy other stuff.

So for money, what really counts is “Can I take this down the road and buy what I want, later?”

This is a sort of cultural expectation of value. How likely is it that you can take the thing down the road and find someone else who expects it to have value?

If I made up a “Quatloo” and offered it in exchange for stuff, the store keep would not accept it. He doesn’t know what is and has no expectation that anyone else would accept it.

Now any given thing is worth what people will pay for it. Van Goghs and gold bars are worth a lot and piles of leaves, not so much.

This is because everyone when offered a thing considers “How can I use this? What is it’s value to me?”

Dollars are considered to have value because the person accepting the dollar believes he can take it ad use it. A bicycle might have some value to one person, and anoher value to another person based on how much use they can get from it, even if that use is exchanging it for money to use elsewhere.

The value of any given thing floats depending on how much use person offered that thing percieves for it.

So Bitcoins are, right now (As I write this) worth 16820 US Dollars.

That means someone, somewhere thinks he can take Bitcoins and later use them to the point where they will be more useful than 16,820 US Dollars.

His perception makes the value.

Nothing else. Nothing else is required.

Are Bitcoins money?

There’s a lot of discussion about this among Austrian school fanboys. I guess it depends on how you define money.

 

But people exist. The market exists. Bitcoins are highly notional. No more so that 90% of the American money supply. So Bitcoins exist.

Real people will pay other money in exchange for bitcoin.

You may think they’re stupid for doing so. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There needs to be a seperation there between “I think this is dumb” and “This actually exists”

Bitcoins exit and the bitcoin market exists and people will really pay US dollars for bitcoin.

I don’t care if they meet a technical definition of money. I find this less than useful to argue about.

Bit Coins have been highly volatile. I think this will continue. if I had any Bitcoins, I’d sell them right now to take advantage of the market.

How and why Bitcoins came to be considered desirable by buyers is a little mysterious to me.

But they do have some mechanical advnatages.

You can hide them. Governments don’t understand them very well. You can use a “Paper wallet” and write down the code for you bitcoins and then hide them away from the network.

 

So they are electronic money that governments are not very good at taxing or confiscating. Governments are getting better at this, but right now… we’re in a sort of odd place, where if you have a lot of electronic money and you want to move it in such a way as it’s not obvious to a government, Bitcoin is a good tool for that.

I think this is one reason the value of Bitcoin is going so high compared to where it was in 2012 or 2013.

People in China and India and elsewhere are using Bitcoins to stash wealth away from their governments.

Some folks say that bitcoins are highly dependant on networks, computers, and electricity.

This is true. So are electronic dollars. Direct deposit to your account> Debit cards? All electronic money, just as vulnerable and dependent as Bitcoin.

So far these work adequately.

 

If something happens to take down the network, losing your bitcoins or your bank balance will be the least of your worries.

 

So arguing that Bitcoins shouldn’t exist because they aren’t real doesn’t make sense. That horse has already long since left the barn.

I just saw Bladerunner 2049

I just saw Bladerunner 2049

One thing I didn’t do was to rewatch Bladerunner (1982) in preparation for this. It was an impulsive thing.

One thing this movie has is lush scenery. It really paints a visual impression.

But…

In this day and age of rampaging CGI, that is not that hard to do. Making a story worth slathering with CGI is the trick.

For me, Bladerunner 2049 doesn’t live up to this. it takes a 1-hour plot and just stretches it to fit.

There are edges where something weird is happening, and the movie asks interesting questions. But the main spine of the story is actually sort of pedestrian doesn’t live up to its predecessor.

Spoiler free review: This is a picturesque and stately Film that takes too long to get to its point. The story is much weaker than the rest of the production. I give it a B- because it’s very pretty, a return to the game world of Bladerunner and has some interesting roles for some of the actors.

I will not go out of my way to watch it again. I recommend waiting for video.

I saw this in flat IMAX. I did enjoy the bigger screen but not enough to justify the extra expense.

The sound was cranked up to the point where I was uncomfortable with it. I am hard of hearing, so what does that tell ya?

I saw this with Kat and Tom. The consensus was that normal screens with the new reclining seats are a better value for this sort of thing.

Spoilers Below
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Okay, In this movie we pick up in the world of Blade Runner 30 years later. It’s more dystopian and more ecologically damaged. The tools and tech are basically similar.

We meet “K”, a Blade Runner He is a replicant. His job is to run down escaped replicants and either take them in, or kill them.

We see K has what I’d describe as “reduced affect” He meets “Sapper Morton” A grub farmer, tending an expanse of greenhouses. Dave Bautista really works hard to be a character actor here, and find the human side of a character who has a few minutes of screen time.

K doesn’t care. He says “Please don’t make this difficult” but Morton fights for his life and K kills him.

But then K discovers something mysterious.

K returns to Greater LA, there’s a CGI scene of miles and miles of tenaments.

Back at at the futuristic LAPD HQ, K is put through a test which assess his stability. He aces it. Then there’s a scene where the Lt commanding him put him up on blocks and makes sure he’s properly subservient.

K is meek and submissive.

This brings up something which is a driver for this movie. K knows he’s a replicant. He has, in the Feminist jargon “Internalized his oppression” Some human LAPD officers hurl abuse at him as he walks through the HQ. K stays meek.

K goes back to his apartment. The movie sets up that things are crowded and poor. Almost veers into “Soylent Green” territory. Residents of K’s apartment block know he’s a replicant and verbally abuse him for it. K stays meek. There is graffitti on his door, calling him a skin job. He ignores it and goes inside.

K cannot stand up for himself. If he does, he’ll be a “Rogue Replicant” and get retired by another Bladerunner.

So we see a very depressed person who’s life is pretty much hell.

Then we see the bright part of his life.

He has a hologram named Joi. She is played by the deleriously pretty Ana de Armas. As he gets home from this particular rough day at the office, and Joi plays 1950s housewife for him, he shows her a present he has bought her. But is it a present for her or for him?

He has bought a mobile emitter. Now he can carry her arround with him. She can leave his apartment. The first place she wants to go is the roof to see the rain. There’s an interesting thing where the rain falls through the hologram and then it flickers and adds raindrops to her skin.

To me, this is one of the most interesting questions in the movie, and the movie does nothing to resolve it. It just shows us the question. I like this. This holo-girl is named Joi. Is Joi a person, or a carefully programmed ‘bot? She displays strong feelings for K. Are they real feelings or is she just a real good chat program?

K has feelings for her, and this comes off as pathetic. To be honest I could see myself having this very same reaction.

Joi crosses some lines in an attempt to show her affection for K. Disturbing, but inventive.

Now Kat and Tom said they could see the twist in the plot coming five miles away.

I didn’t until they put all the pieces on the mantle piece, but I can be oblivious that way.

The story is, very broadly about racism. It’s about how the game world views K and how this spins how K sees himself.

Jared Leto plays “Niander Wallace” The mad techno genius who took over for Tyrell after he was murdered.

The Game world asserts that, in the 2020s there was some sort of event that shut down all technology and wiped out a lot of pre-event records, leaving records of the 2019 time period spotty.

So Wallace talks about all great civiliations being based on cheap, disposable labor. Slaves. Wallace’s motivation is that he cannot crank up the facotories to produce replicants at the rate he feels are needed to take civilization to the next level.

Wallace acts like a rambly, speech making luncatic who can do amazing feats of techno magic, but can’t really parse basic ethics or the negative effects of racism. So he stands there talking like a techno-wizard KKK leader and seems to have no self awareness about it at all.

Although really, I suppose you’d have to.

Wallace has his own henchwoman, a replicant named Luv. Luv is plainly a psychopath. Her relationship to her own Replicant-ness is complicated by being a nut job and hero worship of Wallace.

Robin Wright is back as a genially despicable LAPD Lt who acts as K’s commanding officer. She has aged into a middle aged tough lady face that works really well. I hope she keeps on going.

The McGuffin of the piece….. Well, I am not sure I even want to describe it.

I suppose I have to. K discovers, on Sapper Morton’s farm, the bones of a woman. These bones have serial numbers on them. Further investigation shows she died in child birth. Something Replicants are not supposed to be able to do.

Lt Joshi (Wright) feels that this will break the difference between humans and replicants. Once replicants feel like they are not just meat machines but might actually be people, they’ll rise up. Her worry is the disorder and chaos this will cause. She doesn’t care about anything else but keeping order. So she orders K to kill the case and destroy all evidence.

But K pokes into it because it’s weird. He brings the thing to the attention of Wallace Corp.

Wallace sees replicants who can give birth as the solution to his supply problems, so he sicks his hench woman Luv on the case.

What with one thing and another, K begins to feel like he, himself might be the child of this dead replicant. So he begins to investigate.

As he uncovers more and more of this long hidden mystery, he begins to deviate.

While he felt he was a replicant and subhuman, he was considered “Stable and reliable” according to psychological testing. As he begins to feel he may be a real boy, his test result go out of line. He leaves the realm of a dependable replicant. A clock begins ticking.

What with one thing and another, K finds Deckard, who resides in the ruins of Las Vegas.

-*-

The film is pretty and distopic. The ground seems dead. The weather seems weird and hostile (Snow in Los Angeles?)

But there are moments when it seems nature is trying to reassert itself. K is lead to Rachel’s bones by a rogue dandelion. He is led to Decker by a beehive.

But these are just images. They don’t play much of a narrative role, they lead K to some of the pieces of the puzzle he’s working on.

In the ruins of Las Vegas, K finds these hugs statues of women in sexualized poses. As if Medusa had tried to watch Giant Porn. But it dozent really say it’s in Vegas until some time later. As K wanders into it, it just seems to be “I am Ozymandias, Look upon my porn ye mighty, and despair.”

The Director occasionally takes moments in the film to really highlight occasional boobs.

Tom said the statues really damaged his suspension of disbelief.

I found them to be a bit off puttingly tawdry myself.  I was strongly reminded of “Rouge City” from AI, the Kubrik/Spielberg film.

But I wonder if he’s not trying to use the imagery to draw a distinction between procreation, which is the MacGuffin of the movie and the sorts of not-terribly-life-affirming sex in the porn statues and elsewhere. Sort of saying that corrupt fornication style sex is emblematic of the sort of problem that led the world to the state it is in for this movie.

Or maybe he’s a creep with a fixation on boobs. Denis Villeneuve is the director BTW. Okay, looking at his IMBd page, I have seen one other movie he directed “The Arrival”, which I really liked.

I strongly suspect there’s more to the imagery than I am getting or am privy to.

-*-

The movie kind of rolls downhill from there. It has it’s set up and it’s momentum and this drives the movie towards where it winds up.

The ending is sort of satisfying, but sort of not. It leaves stuff up in the air and the Game world might be entering a time of wrenching change.

Will Humans a Replicants get their shit together? I hope so. This game world hints at things going on at the edges which would be nice to explore.

But the main spine of this movie was too weak to support the weight. The world building had some really odd points.

I give it a B- for the film and for Ana de Armas being very pretty. But it’s not worth going out of the way for.

This film was one of many big budget failures this season. Very odd that 2017 has bombed so hard. OTOH, Spider-Man and Wonderwoman did okay.

-*-

One thing I was sort of waiting for was the idea that the 2019 of the Original Blade Runner was actually much further in the past, and that the twist was going to wind up being that everyone was a replicant, survivors of a human race that wiped itself out long ago.

Maybe I am too much of a hack.

 

Dream 9-20-2017

Make of this what you will borrow from it what you like.

I had a dream. It started out an FRPG Scenario. But Adventurers discovered a tech vault. In ancient times people had roamed the stars but had turned away from technology. They’d left their secrets in a vault in case they were needed in the future.

The kings of the FRPG world decided that they wanted the technology and so secured the vault and began to bootstrap themselves.

The Tech vault wound up in the middle of a very large lake, due to someone wiping out a dam. This condition held for the rest of the dream. Fighting for it was a semi-aquatic issue. The water would not hurt the tech vault in any reasonable time but made getting to it and the teacher part that taught its secrets difficult.

Somehow, the tech vault could infuse people with its knowledge, including the whole history of technology, so such a person could guide the bootstrapping of technology. I don’t think it involved a magic colander on the head, but it was like that.

There was some noodling about how an FRPG world could start to bootstrap its technology.

Then the dream switched. It was a tokusatsu version of the “modern” world, not unlike Mighty Jack. They’d discovered a Tech Vault and were trying to secure it. They were fighting invisible monsters that only one member of the team could see.

Then it switched again.  A new crew was fighting even worse invisible aliens. But the hero of the second phase of the dream showed up to help. Then from the exterior, I could see Helicopters approaching the Tech Vault and entering the water to land on it’s submerged surface. They had some sort of purple force field that allowed them to fly underwater

You’d think given the theme and technology of the dream it would have been like Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow with improbable submarine-helicopters, but I guess I didn’t think of that on the fly.

So in the end, our heroes successfully claimed the tech vault. It looked sort of like the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. The battle against the visible aliens was gory, but mostly alien gore. Bad CGI Alien gore in the third phase.

Then I pulled back and saw that the Tech Vault had been won by the tokusatsu force, the US Marines and Starfleet.

As I was blinking at this, I woke up because my cat needed me to stop dreaming weird dreams and pet her.

I just saw “Valerian City of a Thousand Planets”

7-24-2015 I just saw “Valerian City of a Thousand Planets”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_and_the_City_of_a_Thousand_Planets

Bear with me. I am going to reference another movie here.

The other movie I am going to reference is

“Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacehunter:_Adventures_in_the_Forbidden_Zone

I think a certain amount of comparison to “The Fifth Element” Is also warranted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fifth_Element

-*-

Okay. So. As fans, we’re on a voyage. We’re space tourists. We visit fantastic places and meet interesting people.

There are some places you discuss and almost every Fan-Tourist has been there, too. Like Aliens 1986.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliens_(film)

We all remember fighting to escape LV-426 with Ripley

We all remember fighting the Bugs in Starship troopers (1997).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers_(film)

But when you meet fan-tourists who went with Peter Strauss to Terra Nine and picked up Molly Ringwald along the way…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacehunter:_Adventures_in_the_Forbidden_Zone

Then you know you’re talking to a serious space tourist. This is a person who has, metaphorically, been places.

The Movies vary in quality, but they’re places we’ve been.

-*-

 

These days “The 5th Element” is considered a classic. It was not considered so at the time. It was actually panned. It got better as time progressed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fifth_Element

I liked it right off the bat, but not everyone did. I have an affection for it, but I don’t think it’s like Star Wars (1977) Or Superman: The Movie (1978)

It’s a good place to visit as a space tourist.  You can tell a fan-tourist if you say “Mooolti-paaasss” and they grin in recognition.

-*-

So Valerian. I think another comparison here is Avatar.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(2009_film)

Valerian is a pretty, but empty calories film. There’s not a lot of depth to it.

I last saw Dane Dehaan in Spider-man 2 (2014)

He plays Valerian.

Cara Delevingne Plays Laureline. She’s listed on Wikipedia as a model and an actress. She plays a tough, no nonsense secret agent pretty well.

To me, Dehane and Delevingne both look 12 years old. They’re short, skinny and amazingly symmetrical. Maybe each one weighs 100 pounds or so.

But they’re secret agents. James Bond types. I was strongly reminded of the Family D’Alembert, from EE Doc Smith and Stephen Goldin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_D%27Alembert

So they’re superhumanly fast, accurate and tough, and all the James Bond stuff.

But before we meet them, we meet the planet Mul. Now, It’s pronounced “Mule” and is spelled with u with an umlat. The two little dots.  I never learned how to make those in unicode, so screw it, I am not going to make them in this text document.

Besson does a great job making the people of Mul, later called the “Pearls” attractive and relatable without any dialog.

But their world gets wiped out.

Then 30 years later, we meet Valerian and Laureline and see them on a mission.

We see that Valerian and Laureline are mixing a Rom-Com into their action adventure movie and that’s okay.

We meet Clive Owen, playing their boss. He chews up the scenery. He’s enjoying himself and it shows.

Rhianna stars as Bubble. Interesting role.

Ethan Hawke puts on a funny costume and mother fucking ACTS in a small roll as Jolly the Pimp. For Hawke there are no small roles. He sort of reminds me of Robert Downey Junior’s character in Tropic Thunder.

In any case, there is an action plot here. Our heroes go here and there and there’s lots of violence and chaos.

The setting is interesting. They’re on Alpha. A Space city. The opening montage of the film shows the space station starting out as an international space station around Earth, with nation after nation joining. Then, aliens come by and join the party. The more and more until the station is too big for earth orbit.

So they fire it off into space… where it continues to attract new participants and grows and grows

And this is like the first 5 minutes of the film!

So this is hundreds of years later, and this space city holds an improbable number of people, environments, and places in it.

They mention one estimate of the population, but… c’man. This isn’t Hard SF, this is space fantasy.

 

So…

In the end Valerian and Laureline fight improbably violent battles (With no blood, it’s all Blasters and CGI, after all, this is a PG-13 film) And come to reaffirm the value of love and question the value of following orders.

The through line is…. well, it’s interesting. What’s really going on was interesting, but the twist wasn’t, like M. Night Shamalyan or anything.

The characters are likable enough.

The game world has DEFINITE promise for me. Lots of good lego pieces for role playing games here.

But the chief value of this film…

It’s pretty. It’s a spectacle. It’s another place we Fan-Tourists will put a sticker of on our metaphorical suitcases.

It worth going to see with some friends, just to say you’ve been there. It’s a spot to check off on your fandom-tourism list.

There is a little bit of subversive content, but it’s so broad that it can easily be dismissed as “Just a story”

The Pearls of Mul bear a certain resemblance to the Naavi of Avatar, but without the ham-fisted analogy and without the bad dialog.

So I’d recommend seeing this thing in the Theater. Just to get the full effect of the visuals.

Don’t go expecting Shakespear, and you’ll be okay.

This film came from a graphic novel and really sort of looks like it came out of the work of Mobius in Heavy Metal Magazine.

I give it a C+ over all. A solid B on the visuals.

I’ll bet someone smarter than me will see deeper things in this film than I saw. But for me, this is a Big Dumb Summer Movie and works well enough in that role.

But if you’re going to try this, and have it turn into a franchise, you need a better story. You need something that grabs people on a deeper level. The Guardians of the Galaxy films did this same sort of thing, better.

The Wachowskis tried this with Jupiter Ascending and took it straight into the ground. They left a crater on their try.

So there is my review. It’s worth a look. Can’t hurt. It added stuff to my subconscious Space-Fantasy landscape.

I’d like to see a sequel, but I find that proposition doubtful. I doubt anyone will be cosplaying it in 10 years.

I saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

I saw Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935859/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Peregrine%27s_Home_for_Peculiar_Children_(film)

TL;DR a pretty, but bland film based on yet another young adult urban fantasy book. Grade C.

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This story is notable to me for a great performance by Terence Stamp as “Crazy Old Grandpa” in the first several minutes.

I think it would be informative to read the original book this movie was based on.

As it is, I really can only judge it on it’s own merits.

You can see what the studio wanted. It wanted a Harry Potter like franchise. Which is weird, because Burton doesn’t like sequels and he is not a “franchise” kind of guy. I guess they were hoping he’d get a solid hit and justify a journeyman coming in and following up.

The story has several Burton tropes. This is why I think reading the original book would be informative.

The Burton trope here is that a gothy teenage boy is secretly the chosen one and his family is mired in and fixated on “normalcy” to the point where they miss the boy’s specialness. But an elderly relative knows and encourages the boy to find his true special self. In this case his name is Jacob, played with earnest dorkiness by Asa Butterfield.

This move does an okay job with it. Not something outstanding or particularly memorable. Just Okay.

The other Tim Burton Trope in play here is that there are people who are secretly monsters, but they’re just misunderstood. They hide because the normals would react very poorly to seeing such weirdos affront their normalness.

The Movie sets up a world where there are “Peculiars” people for whom “Abnormal” is a vast understatement.

The world building here really falls apart. The Peculiars live in tiny enclaves, created and maintained by bird women. These enclaves are pockets of time. So it’s time travel story…. sort of.

These places form nearly perfect hide outs. The Peculiars live the same day over and over and over again. Even if they make terrible mistakes or become terribly destructive, it doesn’t count because at the end of the day, time rewinds and they do the same day over again, and all the people not in the know are reset back to the beginning.

There are bad guys. Samuel Jackson takes a journeyman like turn as peculiar who, with a group of others have discovered that can attain immortality, or close to it, by eating the eyes of Peculiars. This is as disturbing as it sounds.

So there is a long term fight in play where Bird Women try to hide their time loops and the cannibal monsters try to find them.

Jake’s Grandfather, who encouraged Jake, was a Peculiar who left the time loop to find and battle these cannibal monsters. His peculiarity was that he could see them. Usually they were invisible to everyone else. This is why Jake’s grandfather was living outside of the loop and looked insane to everyone.

Jake knows nothing of this and it’s only revealed in dribs and drabs as the movie goes along. For some reason, Miss Peregrine seems really taken with Jake while offering him absolutely zero useful information.

So Jake wheedles and connives to go to Wales (From Florida) and track down the things his Grandfather was telling him.

He encounters the Peculiars and visits their time loop.

Now, here, the children and Miss Peregrine are depicted… interestingly. They have been living the same day, over and over since 1943. At the end of the day a German Bombing raid destroys the house they’re living in. So every night they gather, watch the bomb drop and destroy their house, and then the time loop rewinds and it’s the same day again.

They never age. Ella, who becomes Jakes Love interest almost immediately, explains that, if they leave the loop, after a bit the time will catch up with them. It’s been so long that for most it’s a death sentence and even for the youngest, well, suddenly north of 75 years old.

So they’re stuck. And if Jake stays, he’d be stuck too.

They’ve been trapped in a time loop, cut off from the outside world with only each other for company, always stuck at the same age for 70 years.

Jacob is a breath of fresh air and brings word from the outside world, but is prevented from sharing by Miss Peregrine, who’s policy is “We don’t ask about the future”

There is a hint of the insanity that would result from this, but only a hint.

Well with one thing and another, Jake elects to leave buy accidentally leads the bad guys to the loop, and adventure ensues. The Bird Ladies are called “Ymbryne”. They can bend time and turn into birds. Why they all wind up taking care of flocks of Peculiars is not explained to my satisfaction, but there you go.

Judi Dench shows up (Criminally under used here) as a bird lady who’s loop was invaded and all her children killed by the bad guys.

The bad guys have a master plan that involves capturing and sucking the magic out of several Ymbryne.

Jackson’s “Barron” succeeds in over running the time loop, capturing Miss Peregrine and making off to do his evil thing.

Jacob and the Peculiars survive by the skin of their teeth and Jacob being both clever and able to see the “wights” when no one else can. They bear a strong similarity to the Slenderman character.

Jacob rallies the Peculiar Children and leads them on a desperate mission to recover Miss Peregrine before time catches up to them and they all age to death.

This is handled well. It’s an exciting sequence.

In the end they rescue Miss Peregrine.

The Girl, Ella, her peculiarity is that she’s basically an air elemental. Without heavy weighted shoes, she’d float away. To reach high objects, they tie a rope to Ella and she balloons up to grab it.

Later in the movie we see her true power. She can exhale insane amounts of fresh air, and control where the air goes.

One of the most “Oh, COME ON!” moments of the film is when Ella refloats a wrecked ship that has lain on the bottom of the ocean for 30 years. Then the other children get the boilers fired up and the ship steams away.

At the end of this movie this impossible ship is now their home, and presumably, the rescued Miss Peregrine will establish a new Time Loop to save all their lives.

-*-

So yeah, the world building here is a worse mess than Harry Potter.

Even the Percy Jackson series does better.

Some of the characters were interesting.

I’d cheerfully watch a sequel on DVD. Not at a theater though.

The look on this one is very well done typical demented circus you’ve come to expect from Tim Burton.

You could almost summarize this one as “The Addam’s Family Battles Slenderman at a Carnival.”

Someone needs to sit down with Burton and work through his tropes with him. They’re gettiing stale. His “Jacob” character goes from a sullen goth-nerd to a hero. His most interesting development actually happens off screen!

The problem with Burton subverting this trope is that for him this is biographical. Unappreciated Goth Nerd finds his inner director and makes piles of money directing a bunch of movies some of which actually move popular culture and the awareness of hundreds of millions of people.

(As opposed to Mars Attacks where the Nerdy Goth Kid and his lovably insane grandma save the world with Slim Whitman records)

So saying “The Goth-Kid-becomes-the-hero-thing is a touch stale, how could we challenge this?”

Not only does Burton have a stack of films but his own life story says “Nope! Goth-Nerd-Becomes-The-Hero is a thing!”

In some ways it fit Alice of Alice in Wonderland much better. There’s a sequel to that one I haven’t gotten around, to yet, either.

I guess the difference is that in Alice in Wonderland, Alice is a nerdy girl, but she’s about half sliding into the role of passive victim. The events of the film (Written as a follow on to Carroll’s original story) have Alice break out of her passiveness and find her inner hero and then take that back to Edwardian England, and putting it into action there, which is a much stiffer place for a woman to be true to her inner hero.

This is a thing in Young Adult fiction. The hero is where the reader identifies so the message is “Be true to yourself and you will find your inner hero.” So all the books are about a plucky young person putting that lesson into action.

But I’d also like to see that challenged. “What does it mean to be the hero? How do you good guy?”

Anyway. I think the movie generated enough positive cash flow to warrant a sequel. On the other side its opening was a bit sluggish and the critical reception was “mixed”

For me, this was a collection of lego pieces to steal for a hypothetical Harry Potter type RPG scenario.

I give it a straight C.

Like I say, I’ll watch a sequel on DVD, but no more.