Tag Archives: sci-fi

Alien: Covenant

Got around to seeing me an Alien movie, and my short answer is this: it fell short of what it should have done in exactly the same way that Prometheus did before it, but without the benefit of my belief that if only Prometheus were the first half of a longer story, everything would come to rights again.

Here’s the thing. Alien: Covenant is exactly the movie I was looking for, a sequel in which we find out What Happens Next. …at least, it should have been. It so easily could have been. Instead, that plotline is jettisoned in favor of something that is no longer sfnal at all and back to pure horror. Which, okay, that is where this series started, and there’s nothing wrong with it, and I kind of appreciate the specific details of this horror movie, none of which I will be telling you.

But then, after failing to deliver on the possibilities of the first movie, it simultaneously fails to deliver on a bridge to the original 1979 Alien, which is the only other job it had. In point of fact, timelines being what they are, I would say it is impossible to get from this story to that one. (And if I were to ignore timelines, which is at least semi-possible, it would mean that to get from here to there, I would need Ridley Scott to make exactly the movie I wanted him to make this time, which he is clearly unwilling to do.)

Long story short once again, my advice is stick with Alien/Aliens and assume Ripley got her happy ending, as that is the best way to deal with this series.

Star Trek Beyond

MV5BMzQ4Njk3MTQ1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQyODg5ODE@._V1_SY1000_SX660_AL_First of all, it’s weird that “Star Trek” has turned into an imperative verb in the new movie series. I mean, it is, right? Who is being commanded? I guess probably Kirk. (I reject the idea that the audience is the object.) And that established, Star Trek Beyond what?

Given ample use of spoilers, I could probably wax rhapsodic with theories and themes galore that might or might not fit the bill; but there’s no use in spoilers here. That said, I do have more questions. This one is more from the original series, but I had reason to be reminded of it. Given that the Enterprise‘s five year mission is to expand the borders of known space, why are they so frequently coming across Starbases? My best answer is that it’s not the random exploration we’ve been lead to believe, but instead a boring grid pattern search, such that the Federation is expanding somewhat close behind them at any given moment. Which is a sensible way to do things, but it definitely kills a lot of the cowboy mystique that has grown around Kirk’s era of Starfleet.

Anyway, though: this is definitely a Star Trek movie, and for once does not suffer from JJ Abrams’ fundamental misunderstanding of the size of space. There are other reasons to watch it, but that should probably be enough all by itself? Also, it is way, way, way better than The Search for Spock, even if I belatedly notice at least one parallel to that flick.

Ghostbusters (2016)

MV5BMTU0OTQ5NDMzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTUxODMxOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,673,1000_AL_I actually saw two movies on Thursday prior to departing for a camping trip. As usual, I have squandered my chance at a timely review of a new release movie. This happens with such reliability that this can probably never be my actual job? No, I’m kidding, there are much better reasons for that outcome than lack of timeliness. Still, though, I’m here now, so let’s talk.

Ghostbusters, right? There’s been a lot of chatter for months about this movie, mostly along feminist lines. On one side of the divide are people complaining about an all female cast of main characters taking over the reins of a major nostalgia franchise. On the other side are people who want to slap the smirk off the first group of people, because, Jesus, how is this a thing someone can justify complaining about in 2016? (I, uh, may have an opinion in this race.) For my part, my complaint from the start has been, why is this a reboot? Why not a next generation sequel? This complaint, while I have not really let it go after the fact, was never enough to keep me out of the theater.

Anyway, though, the outcome? I’m gonna stay away from plot, because you know what’s up. Four women in New York with unlicensed nuclear reactors strapped to their backs are out to solve a ghost problem. Anything less would be impossible for you to know, and anything more is best saved for the theater. But was it worth it? I have mixed feelings.

See, on the one hand, they drew so very heavily from the nostalgia well. Yes, I loved the movie unabashedly, but it’s not really easy to tell if I’ve been puppeted into feeling that way. On the other hand, and I think this is key: every moment that I walked out of the theater laughing about and already quoting back and forth with my friends was a moment that was new and fresh to the new characters. I hope it passes the test of time, and I hope any potential sequel is neither a pale facsimile of this one nor a tired retread of a plot that already exists. Because I really want to see it again already. I know for a fact there are jokes and sight gags I missed; and more importantly, I want to get some of those lines down solid, because I wouldn’t be surprised to be throwing them around in casual conversation 30 years from now, just like I do with the old lines today.

X-Men: Apocalypse

MV5BMjQxMjY5MzU1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgyNjY0NzE@._V1_SX690_CR0,0,690,999_AL_I saw the new X-Men movie a week or two ago, and I liked it, but what with being busy and behind on internets and seriously really busy what with houses that don’t clean themselves and weddings that don’t plan themselves and jobs and the whole being an adult thing, I’ve maybe lost track of anything I might have said about it.

Apocalypse, as you will learn in the opening moments of the flick, is set in a tenuous 1985 between the recent First Class and Days of Future Past and the original X-Men movie that due to timeline manipulations may not even exist anymore. See, there’s this Egyptian guy who I haven’t gotten to in my readings of the source material[1], and now that he’s awake again, he wants to rule the world as is his wont.

And then, you know, mutanty things happen. It seems like there should be more to say, about themes or some such? Maybe I waited too long, maybe I expect more than is necessary from a perfectly fine X-Men slugfest. Either way, I’m seeing a movie tonight that I will perhaps review more timelily, and this is what you get.

Final thought: Psylocke, another character who I have not gotten to in comics, seemed kind of shoehorned in just for the purposes of costume fan service. Which is kind of lame.

[1] Unless I have? But if this dude is based on the Living Pharaoh, he is much, much cooler in this movie than in the comics he was drawn from.

Limitless

MV5BMTY3NjczNzc5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzA2MzQyNA@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I kind of wanted to see Limitless a good long time ago, because of how I like Bradley Cooper and the plot seemed cool in a wish-fulfillment kind of way, but I never did. Then recently CBS released a show about it, which I did watch, and it turned out a) to be good (and more importantly, fun) but also b) a sequel to the movie rather than a reimagining of it. So at that point, I had to watch it. Which I have!

And, yeah. Wish fulfillment is the name of the game. You just take this pill, and suddenly you can remember everything you’ve ever seen or learned, not to mention how easy it becomes to learn new things and make new connections. And the downsides are… well, fairly minimal.[1] From there, high stakes cats and mice, criminal enterprises, stock markets, genius books that capture the public imagination: you know, the kinds of things people would do if they had, er, limitless potential.

Recommended to people who like brain wish-fulfillment or Bradley Cooper. Not recommended to people who like Wars on Drugs. Oh, and the show is definitely better, if for some reason you feel a need to choose between them.

[1] There are more realistic downsides in the show, which is early on often a remake of the movie after all, but smarter.

Men in Black 3

It needs to be said, right up front, that MIB^3 was an entirely unnecessary movie. Even if there was no other reason, it is troubling that this is the movie that tells the world a) that Tommy Lee Jones deems himself ready to retire or b) that the studio figures he cannot cut the mustard fighting aliens and/or quipping deadpan against Will Smith. Let’s be honest, both of these are crimes against humanity. Plus, blah blah blah Hollywood sequelitis, nobody can write well about time travel, et cetera.

But the thing is, a movie doesn’t have to be necessary to be fun, and probably I will not ever get tired of watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air tackling his way through alien goo, incomprehensible technology, and Tommy Lee Jones’ deadpan to save the world yet again from the latest space-borne menace. Mind you, I will probably have the good grace to feel bad about it before I walk into the theater, and in direct proportion to the amount of missing Tommy Lee Jones. But I’ll still like it. We’ll all still like it. I mean, come on.

Star Trek

MV5BMjE5NDQ5OTE4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTE3NDIzMw@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Obviously, you are aware of this movie, and you’ve probably already formed your own opinion. And anyway, I’d be leery of spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it. In theory, this constrains my review by quite a lot, but I figure it leaves me free to talk about what I really wanted to anyway. But, first things first. Did I like it? Enough to see it three times on opening weekend. Did it have flaws? I can think of a couple offhand, one extremely nitpicky and one that, absent, would have failed to feel like a Star Trek movie anyway. Plus, I think I’m willing to claim that at one point, there was actually an insufficient amount of technobabble. Was it accessible to non-fans? I feel as though it really was, and the reviews I’ve heard from non-fans (and in one case, an actively anti-fan) have borne this impression out. So you should really go see it, if this has not already occurred.

Because what J.J. Abrams made here was a philosophical, character-driven action movie, and really, how many of those do you think exist? Of the ones that exist, how many do you think aren’t insufferably smug about it? This right here is a narrow field to occupy! Action: ’cause, you know, space battles and laser gun fights. Character-driven: the driving forces of the story are all based in interactions. Kirk and McCoy’s friendship. Kirk and Spock’s rivalry. Spock’s relationship with his human mother. Nero’s irrational impulse for personal rather than systemic revenge. (He’s the bad guy.) Philosophical: take a group of people that shook the foundations of the Federation (and, projecting outward less than you’d think, the galaxy) and drastically change their history. Okay, many of the changes were not drastic, but one was, and there are clear, subtle ripples from there even before the main plot of the movie takes over. And then explore the question of random chance versus unalterable destiny.

I liked that by the end of the movie, the history of the Federation is vastly divergent from the one that fans of five TV series and ten movies know. And I like that it’s not going to be “fixed.” It was a bold move that I think is going to pay off in spades for the future of the franchise. But as much as I approve of that, I absolutely adored watching as, moment by moment, destiny pushed beloved characters into roles that they had fallen into by seeming happenstance in the original timeline. This new Trek may have surprisingly non-causal time travel that never really existed in “my father’s” Star Trek, but it also has some modicum of fate. And that’s kind of cool.

Millennium Falcon

I’m not entirely sure why I bother to review Star Wars books at this point, except that it’s expected of me to review everything. It’s just, the context is pretty small, or something. Nonetheless, I’ve typed this much, so I may as well finish up! Millennium Falcon performs a few duties for the Extended Universe. Primarily, it puts together a history of one of the most famous starships in science fiction from before the days when Han Solo owned her (starting with a fairly cheesy Christine-on-the-assembly-line homage and, thankfully, improving from there). Secondarily, it provides a plot hook for a treasure hunt, and then places the Solo family on that hunt as a way to heal some of the still painful wounds brought about by the most recent Sith assault on the galaxy. Lastly, and probably most importantly to the ongoing storylines, it sets up the newest political threat to the Jedi Order, albeit behind the scenes and in throwaway moments.

The book itself was good but not great. I can’t really recommend it as a standalone, and if you weren’t planning to read it in that sense, you probably will regardless of anything I say on the topic. But the secondary characters were all pretty decent, and the stories-within-the-story format reminds me a lot of World War Z.

Return of the Jedi: Infinities

I know it seems like I should be a long way behind, but I’m not. No movies in an Age, one of my books vanished (and has since been replaced, but I’m in the middle of another books right now, which is huge and comfort material, because I wanted to turn my brain off for a bit), I’ve been playing Final Fantasy (and sure, doing well, but the end is days off yet at the minimum). However, I have read several comics lately, and I think I’m willing to review them. So, there’s that.

I was out looking for issues of Serenity, and I came across a 4-part Dark Horse offering, Return of the Jedi: Infinities. A minor change during one of the Jabba’s Palace scenes launches an alternate history of Episode VI. I like Star Wars, and I like alternate history, so I went for it.

Here’s the thing: it’s got flashes of unique vision, although a lot of the story seems to involve moving the chess pieces around such that the characters wind up in essentially identical situations, only slightly more bleak about it, for maximum angst. Which isn’t that bad in itself, except that the closing scene of the story is complete cheese, both on paper and in the execution. I didn’t buy it a bit, put the thing down in disgust, and may have been scarred for life if only I wasn’t aware of the awesomeness of other comics that are available these days. (Such as that Serenity I mentioned, once the third issue comes out and I finish the story. Or Sandman.)

The Joiner King

Apparently, there are new Star Wars books set later in the continuity than the New Jedi Order stuff (which has ended, so that partially explains that.) I read it between two weeks and a month ago. I wonder, therefore, if I can remember the title. …and, as it happens, I did so while explaining myself just now. It’s the Dark Nest trilogy, with this particular first book being called The Joiner King.

Even after over a decade of books detailing the rise of the new generation of characters, I’m still only minimally attached to them. It didn’t help my enjoyment of the book that a lot of what happened revolved around pheromones changing peoples’ brain chemistries such that they act in new and unexpected ways. I’m not going to come out and call it a sloppy plot device until I see how it plays out over the next couple of books, because, right, trilogy. Nevertheless, it tainted an otherwise fairly decent story. Standard adventury goodness, some rehashing of the Jedi trying to find their way in a changed galaxy and the government trying to find its way in a new galaxy, but those parts worked despite being rehashed, because the galaxy is more fundamentally changed than it was even after the fall of the Empire.

My favorite part was incidental so far, involving Luke’s discovery of some old recordings of his father and mother in Artoo’s memory banks that the droid keeps trying to prevent him from seeing, for reasons unknown. Because, like I started to say before, I’m mostly still interested in the original characters, 10 years on or not.

In sum: Interesting main plot conceit. Tantalizing side story. Character Template Modifications of Weirdness +2. Decent new characters. (An Ewok with a death mark on his head in multiple systems; cheesy, but it makes me giggle.) It’s not bad Star Wars, but I’d claim that most bad Star Wars has been stamped out these days. Not brilliant Star Wars, either. If you were already going to read it anyway, still do; if you weren’t, I’m not here to change your mind.