Not so long ago Steven Erikson penned an open letter to Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, the creative team bringing the new Star Trek series to the small screen. While the response to this online has varied between abusive and dismissive, to thoughtful and considered, it did raise some issues that go beyond Star Trek itself, and it is that which has piqued my interest.
In his extensive letter (parts 1, 2, and 3, or the whole thing here) Erikson attempts to explain what he believes are some of the core principles behind the success and the longevity of Star Trek: The Original Series, and how the subsequent series of The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and the prequel series, Enterprise, have drifted further and further away from the strengths of the original. So below I am going to address my interpretation of what Erikson said and how it relates to what I consider a broader trend within SF and TV toward violence and conflict as action, and then, in turn, how that actually relates to a more significant general problem in terms of compromised morality. Lastly, how I think this is related to a systemic and flawed understanding of narrative by producers and production companies.
Review: Captain America: Civil War (dir. Russo & Russo, 2016)
Better than Batman versus Superman Dawn of Justice… but that isn’t saying much. A looong film filled to the brim with action and fight sequences. Despite this there are moments of real humour and pathos, and it touches on some important and interesting themes. All in all a good action movie in the Marvel franchise.
One of my biggest complaints about the Marvel, and now the DC, movies is that they spend a lot of time setting up the next film in the franchise, rather than focusing on the film in front of them. Basically, they are so obsessed with the big picture that they lose sight of the current story at hand. While there was a little bit of that in this film (ok more than a little bit), it thankfully felt a lot more focussed on the story being told and wasn’t just adding elements to foreground the next step. What was even better was that because the characters had been introduced and explored in previous films much of the story focussed on what was happening, rather than trying to shoehorn in more backstory and character history. It did feel a lot like an Avenger’s film rather than a Captain America story, with the majority of the film falling on Chris Evan’s and Robert Downey Jr.’s shoulders. But I have to admit that they handled the large ensemble cast pretty well, and although it was stuffed to the gills with characters and fights, there was a real story hiding in there behind the heavy-handed moral lessons, the biased narrative focus, and the occasional plot hole.
Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir. Burr Steers, 2016)
Silly, entertaining, ridiculous fun. If you enjoy Austen’s novels and are also fond of zombie stories, then this will be perfect for you. If you like your zombie stories post-apocalyptic, then look elsewhere. If you like your Mr. Darcy with bursting britches and soaking wet, then you might also want to skip this. Basically the clue is in the title.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are certain people who love Jane Austen’s work, and those that… don’t. However there are those that are familiar with Austen’s stories (either the novels themselves or the endless BBC period dramas and other filmic remakes) but find them a little pompous, dry, and tedious. There are also those that find the serious, dystopian horror of modern zombie stories to be a little too horrific and violent. Good news then, because if this describes you, then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might be the very compromise you were looking for.
Another Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)
This one by me.
Not as bad as you have been led to believe, but not the greatest film ever. A Batman focused film that serves to make you hate Superman even more, launches the DC cinematic universe, and make you wish that they had just made a Wonder Woman film and left the men in tights at home. It looks pretty though.
If online reviews and reports are to be believed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the worst films ever made, is a travesty of modern film making, superhero films, and storytelling, and that the entire cast and crew would have been better staying in bed and drinking Mai Tais. Nerds, geeks, comic fans, and film critics have been bizarrely united in their hatred and vitriol concerning this film. Let me be among the first to say that I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that sometimes things on the internet are exaggerated and that their reportage can lean toward hyperbole. BvS will never be my favourite superhero film, but it wasn’t that bad and I have definitely seen far worse (Ghost Rider/Green Lantern/Batman and Robin/Man of Steel). I know that I have already posted my friend’s review of the film, but clearly I think that my opinion is far more important.
Spoiler Free Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)
Guest Review by C Cooper
So three years after Man of Steel, and what feels like an eternity after announcing Batman vs Superman, the DC Universe has finally arrived. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this as I was distinctly underwhelmed by MoS and thought The Dark Knight Rises was dreadfully paced, overlong, and incomprehensible at times. I also took a gamble by going with my wife whose only real exposure to Batman was watching me play Arkham Knight on the Xbox, and that Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain were the definitive Lois and Clark. My expectations were pretty low for the film considering the negative press, but I hoped that the overwhelming hostility from critics was based on what they wanted the movie to be rather than how good it actually is. The trailers hadn’t helped much either – could there be anything about the film not actually spoiled? If this seems like an overlong preamble, all I can say is that it is pretty reflective of the movie.
Southbound (2016). Directed by Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, and Radio Silence. Written by Roxanne Benjamin, Matt Bennelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Susan Burke, Dallas Hallam, and Patrick Horvath. Willowbrook Regent Films, 89 minutes.
Synopsis: Interlocking tales of highway terror revolve around malevolent spirits at a truck stop, a mysterious traveler, a car accident and a home invasion. (imdb.com)
“Fuck this shit. Let’s go home.”
This film is an anthology in which the stories and characters are interwoven, taking place in a nameless town (as it’s a horror film, you can probably guess the name) on a nameless highway (save that it’s going south) in a nameless part of the southwest United States (most probably Nevada). It tells four stories of people who are unfortunate enough to drive through (and stop in) this neck of the woods, and documents their various fates.
Without a doubt it is a good time to be a superhero geek. Superhero comics are increasingly reaching out to broader demographics and trying to engage fans from all walks of life. Comic Cons are basically mainstream media events with high profile guests and impressive production values. Superhero films are smashing box-office records left and right, not to mention being churned out at a pace of three or four a year (or more), with no sign of stopping. Superhero television shows are springing up on channel after channel and catering for different demographics and audiences. And in the face of this we say, ‘Well it can’t keep going at this pace… It will have to end sometime… The public will get bored with the constant stream of superheroes…’ and on and on and on. In a number of regards that is undoubtedly true, Hollywood has always had something of a cyclical nature to its production schedule. The era of the Western, the era of the Musical, the era of the Noir and so on. Each genre has its day to shine and dominate the box office, spawn televisual progeny, and then the market reaches saturation and the public moves on to the next craze. Thus it was, thus it always will be, so speaketh the voice of experience.