Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thoughts on Black Panther



As a white guy who only knows comic book stuff from the movies and from watching comic nerds discuss said movies and point out Easter eggs that I would never have noticed (“That’s a reference to Red Spandex.” “Okay, if you say so.”) I’ve been hesitant to discuss Black Panther.  Mostly because it seems like so many people are hypersensitive to those who don’t see it as the bestest, most influential movie ever made.  And I’m of the opinion that it was a solid movie, but I did have a few, minor issues with it.

One miniscule issue I had was I would have liked more debate over the issue “What should the powerful do?” What they had was good, but given the importance, and relevance, of the matter, I feel more would have been better.  I think it was a month or so ago I saw a post where someone said the first cut of the film was almost four hours.  That, may have been a bit much, but another twenty minutes or so further fleshing out the sides would have been great.

The bigger issue I had was the … cliché story structure.  I mean, bad guy jumps good guy and leaves him for dead.  But he’s not dead, thanks to someone saving something special from being destroyed.  Good guy fights bad guy, but needs to call his plucky female “sidekick” to tech something to help him finish the fight.  Oh wait, that’s the ending of Iron Man.  Obadiah jumps Tony and takes his second chest reactor.  Tony would have died, except Pepper had – instead of destroying it like he had asked – made the “Proof Tony Stark has a heart” thing with his first chest reactor.  During the final fight, Tony has Pepper overload the big arc reactor to finish off Obadiah.

Okay, it’s not point for point the same as what happens in Black Panther, but during the first T’Challa/Killmonger fight I got bored because the bad guy always wins the first fight, that way the good guy has an even greater comeback.  We’ve seen that … a million times.  I guess given all the hype, I was just expecting more than your basic, paint by numbers, comic book movie.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery



When Star Trek: Discovery took its midseason break, I thought about writing up a post on how I would have done it.  But I was busy and … well, didn’t care enough.  A watched the first couple of episodes when it came back, but then I gave up on it.  I thought about writing up a post on why, but I was busy and … well, didn’t care enough.  I have a little time now, and I figured I should get it all out and be done with it.

How I would have done Discovery

If I had been asked to design the show, I would have set it several decades, perhaps even a century, after TNG.  If there had to be a war, it would have been against some new – or maybe even a little known old – species.  I would have fought tooth and nail against doing a prequel.  But if I had to do a prequel set during the Klingon War, this is what I would have started with.

Instead of being First Office of the Shenzhou, Burnham would have been a Science Officer.  With nothing at all to do with Sarek.  During the first battle, the Shenzhou would have been heavily damaged and left tumbling.  Burnham would turn some science equipment into a … neutrino canon, or something.  It would be too big to move, so she would have to fire it through the remains of the ship at the approaching Klingons.  She only gets one shot, and it stops the Klingon ship.  Before the rest of the Klingons can finish off the Shenzhou, the rest of the Federation fleet shows up and the remaining crew are rescued. 

Burnham finds that the part of the ship she fired through hadn’t been completely evacuated.  She killed four crewmembers.  Of course, if she hadn’t fired and killed them, then the Klingons would have killed everyone in twenty seconds.  None of them were her boyfriend, or roommate, but they were people she knew and had meals with.  It deeply scars her.

For her actions, which did save a hundred or so of her other crewmembers, she is offered any post in the fleet.  She picks the Discovery, because as a science ship, it shouldn’t be part of the war.  But Lorca is recklessly gung-ho and tries everything he can to get the Discovery into the war.  There is no spore-drive.

The show would basically be them going to new planets looking for allies or resources for the war effort.  There would be no Mudd, and no Mirror Universe.  While Burnham deals with her PTSD and tries to rebuild her life, Lorca wants her to build weapons so he can lead the Federation to victory!  (I have more on Lorca below.)

That’s the general idea I came up with after watching the first nine episodes.

Why I gave up on Discovery

When Star Trek: Enterprise came out, I compared it to beating a decrepit cash cow.  There was the prequel problem, and other problems, and I wondered if it would just be best to let Star Trek die.  Then the reboot/reimagining/rewhatever movies came out and there was the reboot problem, and other problems, and I wondered if it would just be best to let Star Trek die.  Then they announced, a new prequel. 

I know Star Trek isn’t going to die – it’s a cash cow – but is it too much to ask for something new and good.  To me, the easiest way to set up a new show with the potential to be new and good is to just set it fifty some years after TNG. 

(I almost wrote that I’ve been waiting twenty years for a show set decades or a century after TNG.  Then I remembered my idea for a fan fiction series following the USS Gibraltar.  I only came up with the outlines for four stories, and I never put much time into working on it.  I have too many other ideas I’m … ignoring.  Anyway, this series was set between the end of TNG and the Dominion War.  So is it a case of me not following my own … wishes?  Something for me to think about, but I digress.)

Anyway, with Discovery we were stuck with a prequel.  One that was to be set in the main continuity.  Okay.  But then it was like, here, look at these cool aliens.  Those are … interesting.  They’re Klingons.  WTF?  In the main continuity at this time, Klingons were just humans with some makeup and a different uniform.  (That’s how we knew they were aliens.)  After I had watched the first two episodes, I described the Klingon Issue as the Powers That Be painting themselves into a corner and then shooting themselves in the foot.

Let’s forget the Klingons for now.  This new series wanted to do their own thing.  On one hand, you have to respect that.  But then they brought in Sarek.  And then Harry Mudd.  And then they went to the Mirror Universe.  I remember when I walked out of the 2009 Star Trek – which I had plenty of issues with – I thought that if they wanted to do their own thing, fine.  But they shouldn’t try to redo anything from the Original like, The Wrath of Khan, for example.  And then we got Into Darkness.  It’s you want to do new things, but you keep trying to redo things that, often, were done far better than you can do.  Now you’re painting yourself into a corner, shooting yourself in the foot, then putting your head in a noose, and still expecting good things to happen.

So I had a lot of issues with Discovery.  But I kept watching it, in large part so I’d know what everyone who was complaining about the series was talking about.  I watched the first eleven episodes, but when the twelfth came out, I just didn’t feel like watching it.  I’ve read reviews on the remaining episodes, and I have no desire to finish watching the series.

In one of the reviews, the reviewer discussed how some people might be let down by some of the reveals since in this internet age every scene can be dissected for weeks or months and various fan theories discussed ad nauseam until the reveal finally happens.  This could lead some to think the show is too predictable.  And predictability is an issue, but my concern is that it looked like they were going to do something stupid and I thought it was a red herring to mask what they were really going to do.  But then they just did the stupid thing. 

Stupid example number one, SPOILERS, Tyler is Voq.  Now I know that in “The Trouble with Tribbles” there’s a Klingon posing as a human.  But, that was when Klingons were just humans in makeup and different uniforms, not the demon Klingons from Discovery.  Also, I very much doubt a political aide would have gotten as much medical care and examination as a rescued POW.  (I mean, Riker looked like those aliens until he was taken to a hospital and they had trouble finding his heart.)  Also, I believe it was in some TNG episode where someone remarks that Klingons aren’t known for their surgical expertise.  But not only can they do this wonderful surgery – that would also have to change his DNA – they can also implant personalities.  Really?  Did anyone think this through?  Could something like that be done in the Trek Universe?  Sure.  By the Klingons?  If they had help, maybe.

Stupid example number two, and the final straw for me, Lorca was from the Mirror Universe.  The reason this bothered me so, is that one interesting thing about Discovery was Lorca.  Trek has a long history of rouge captains or admirals.  Two examples I can think of are O’Brien’s former captain who started attacking the Cardassians because they were secretly breaking a treaty, and Riker’s old captain with the phasing cloak ship.  Basically, these two, “bad guys of the week” thought they could break the rules because it was what was best for the Federation.  It was the argument of sometimes you have to set aside your principles in order to save them.  It’s a complex issue and one many would say is rather relevant.  I was really hoping that instead of just showing up in one cautionary tale, with Lorca we could deal with this subject for an entire season.  But instead of Lorca being off because he is so driven to save the Federation at any cost, it just because he’s the Mirror Lorca.  Sigh.

So that’s all of my Star Trek: Discovery thoughts that I just never got around to posting.  Now hopefully I never have to think of it again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Register to vote



Here in the US, the 2018 Election will be a big deal.  Either Congress will remain controlled by Republicans or it will – totally or in part – switch over to the Democrats.  Whatever the result is will have major effects on the country. 

To be part of this election, you have to be registered to vote.  Now there are registration drives every election year – possibly even more this year – but why wait until closer to November 6?  If you’re just turning eighteen, or never bothered to register before, or are unsure if you’re registered, do it now and beat the rush.  There are places like RegistertoVote.org and the League of Women Voters that can help you register.  Or, if you’re uneasy using a third party website, you can also use your state website, which is usually your state name.gov.

I’m sure the majority of people would say that there is substantial room for improvement in the politics of this country.  To get any improvement, the people need to vote.  To vote, you need to be registered.  I know, it’s so much easier to just bitch about things online than to take the most basic of steps to fix things, but who ever said being an adult was easy?