Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Star Trek Lets it Stay Broken

Finally got around to watching the Star Trek reboot. Nevermind the special effects and other "Wow!" moments. The biggest treat for me is that we have a time-travel story that dose not get fixed at the end. Let me say that again.

A time travel story that does not get fixed.

That is awesome on so many levels. It does not just allow the creative team to work in their own little part of the universe. It allows for the studio to go in any new direction that it wants to. This movie is not just a shot in the arm. It is not a band aid. It is not just a reimagining. It is what might have happened at any point in the multitude of time travel stories in the Star Trek franchise if even one of those plots were not neatly tide up and fixed at the end of the episode.

I can't wait for the sequel.

What is Science Fiction? (Part One)

This is an ongoing debate in the medium and I certainly do not have a solid opinion yet. This is just an attempt to jot some thoughts down and maybe I'll change my idea on some of them later.

On one side, you have what I call "purists" who believe that good sci-fi must always be introspective, thought-provoking, speculative. They believe that if the story does anything other than make you think about what the future holds for humanity and how we might choose the most positive solutions to our problems, then that story is trash. The pure sci-fi story wins the awards.

On another side, you have writers who just want to have a good time telling a fun story. They place their heroes into a time or environment that we currently can not reach (or might soon) then they kind of roll some dice to see what befalls the characters until the end of the story is reached. This story could be an action adventure, an epic tale of cosmic empires clashing, a time travel or alternate dimension tale of hi-jinx and swashbuckling. These stories do not win many awards, unless the story is a blend of purist speculation and fun.

I understand some of the origins of the debate. In the past, sci-fi was so broad and undisciplined that is was often confused with tales of medieval fantasy and magical tales. When the speculative authors emerged, the brought with them some direction for the genre. The stories that they wrote, the ones that made the reader stop mid-sentence and think for while, were a fresh experience. The science in the speculative stories was based on real, actual science and some of it was very cutting edge.

Some of that cutting edge science has not aged well. Since some of the thought provoking speculation was based on that science, some of the stories themselves have unraveled. That does not mean the "other" old science fiction has fared any better. As modern tastes and intelligence has changed, many of those stories have proven to be nothing more than silly tales of fanciful ideas that no longer have a place in modern society.

A purist will tell you that just because the story has a space ship or time travel does not mean it is a sci-fi story.

I understand the idea. A part of me wants to agree with it. At this time, however, I can't. A space ship suggests future technology, time travel suggests future science. A weapon that does not currently exist in the modern era, but has a place in your story suggests future warfare. These are the components, or tools, used to tell a sci-fi story. It may be a story that makes you feel dumber after having read it, but it is a sci-fi story none the less.

Those are my thoughts on the topic so far.

Transformers Goes Criminal

If you read Rotten Tomatoes, you might have noticed that the going belief is that Michael Bay's treatment of the Transformers was criminal intent from the start. Negative reviews aside, I liked both movies. I simply did not expect a whole lot of meaty introspective story telling. Sure, it would be nice, after all, some of the Transformers comic book stories have been very well written. But for the most part, the Transformers have always been campy sci-fi at best. Honestly, what can you expect from a marketing tool designed to sell action toys?

That said, Revenge of the Fallen crossed a line. It is rated PG-13 but I won't be letting my thirteen year old son watch this film. Between the sexy scenes and the rampant vulgar language, I just can not justify letting my child watch what amounts to trash.

Most of the negative reviews you might have seen probably focus on what "the experts" claim to be unnecessarily long scenes of explosions, sunsets, "military porn" (tough troopers decked out with the latest killing machines and tools of death), and off-centered camera shots. Personally, I love that stuff, can't get enough of it. I think what is more important to focus on is how this film was cleared as PG-13. With all of the ghetto/gangsta talk from the Autobots and the wanton cussing from everyone else, and the masturbatory hot chick scenes, what exactly does PG-13 cover? This is not a family movie, certainly not a children's movie. Just because thirteen year-olds really are talking and acting that way in public school does not mean we have to endorse or encourage that behavior.

Did you know that some of your daughters are texting naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends as early as Sixth grade? Some of them have even been caught and expelled and written up as sex offenders, permanently placed on that List you've been hearing about.

So, let's get something straight. We don't need gangsta transformers. We don't need Megan Fox half naked. We don't need "cute and clueless" parents cussing at each other. The Transformers can be a great sci-fi story and we just don't need that modern, stereotypical trash mixed into it. Stop being lazy Mr. Bay, give a little more time to the dialogue. Keep the explosions and the rest of your awesome talents in the film, but leave the trash out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Robotech on Hiatus, or Not

One of the pros of the internet is that you have instant access to information at any time. One of the cons is that you have to know what you are looking for and should seek out several sources for any research project.

I was recently motivated to see what is happening with the Robotech franchise. My first stop was Wikipedia which declared that the Robotech: The Shadow Rising had fallen under the "Curse of Robotech" and was currently on indefinite hiatus.


But wait!

One of the sources that Wikipedia used had an update shortly after the article was written;

You have to read the whole discussion because the title of the post is misleading.

Yes, the word "hiatus" was used, but not because Warner Brothers made demands, but rather because the production team is waiting on something else within their own process to happen before they continue. Could be a script update, could be a change to the design, who knows?

Still, you should not get your hopes up too high. Warner Brothers can do anything it wants with its share of the Robotech franchise...anything...or nothing at all. One would think that they would want to cash in on the apparent giant robot fad that the Transformers began, but then, maybe it's not a fad. Maybe Transformers is a fluke. Warner Brothers might decide that it is not worth the risk to find out.

It wouldn't be the first time that an apparent fad turned out to be a one-hit-wonder. But then again, the super-hero fad is alive and thriving, so who knows?

The fact is that no amount of research is going to tell you if live action Robotech is a healthy project with winning potential and no amount of research is going to tell you if Harmony Gold can really pull of the Shadow Rising project.

But at least, for the time being, Harmony Gold and Warner Brothers appear to working together rather than at odds with each other.

Here's hoping for the best!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Know Your Market!

I could not help but notice the exposed flesh of the female Tokra as opposed to the very fully covered males of the order.

Not only do the women have a LOT of exposed skin, but the clothing that they do have is of an erotic nature.

I won't lie when I say that my male pigishness is very pleased by this, however, let's be fair. These people are at war. It is the center piece of their story. At any moment they may have to destroy their not-so-secret tunnels and find a new hide-out. In this state of mind, people don't normally worry about being sexy. They are more concerned about being practical and being ready to be on the move.

Also, and possibly more importantly, the sci-fi market needs to bring in more female and older viewers. By aiming for the young male hormonal teen crowd, the industry is hamstringing itself and forcing itself into a sub-niche of the sci-fi market.

At the very least, let the guys do some super-heroics in their underwear for the girls once in a while. It worked well enough for Hercules.

Stargate SG1 S04 (part 1)

So, I've made it to season four. In spite of the cliched stories there is something about the series that fascinates me unlike Star Trek TNG. It must be the gritty sets and actual action. However, I've already posted once about the disregard for captured alien weapons. The characters do get to use the little snake "stun" guns more often but only on specific missions.

Then, finally, they have the opportunity to test some ancient alien devices that enhance the wearer's physical attributes. And they work! But, not so fast, there is a viral and addictive side affect, and they won't come off, and the devices can only be used for a limited time before the wearer passes out. The item then falls off and becomes inert, useless.

It was a fun episode, but just like Star Trek, we quickly fall back to the status quo.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Re-telling the basics.

I'm in my thirties. Many other sci-fi fans are also, and older. There is a generation of young sci-fi fans who have not read or viewed what we have read.

I was reminded of this while watching another Stargate: SG1 episode where the team is thrust back in time. Immediately following their "arrest", they are seen sitting around a table discussing the issues that involve changing past events to prevent future atrocities.

This is very old science theory for many of us. I found myself sighing and wondering why the writers bothered. That's when it dawned on me that not every episode of every sci-fi story is for the veteran fans. Sometimes the writers and producers have to keep the novice members of the community in mind. They don't even have to be young viewers, just people who haven't bothered to keep up with science or sci-fi.

It's an important step towards information the younger generations. A step that seems to be frowned upon more than it should. On the other hand, let's not fall back on this style of story-telling just because we can't think of anything else to say.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stargat SG1 Weapons

So, I'm almost done watching the second season of this oddly popular and long-running show for the first time. I've seen some episodes over the years, but I'm not much of T.V. viewer. I prefer long "movie marathon" sessions without the commercials. As an added bonus I get to pause the picture at any time.

Anyway, here it is near the end of the second season and the humans on the team are still using machine guns.


I have seen them disarm dozens of aliens. I've seen each of them use the weapons so I know they can at least do that much. So why aren't they strapped to the teeth with as much alien hardware as they can carry?

I can understand that maybe the government is storing it away for study and reverse engineering, but they don't need 50 energy staffs to do that. There's only going to be one or two teams of scientists/engineers on that kind of secret project.

I like sci-fi. I can suspend my disbelief for almost anything, but sometimes, you just gotta stop and ask, "Why?"