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Chris NI
Sun, Jun 2, 2013, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

I thought Into Darkness was great entertainment. Bigger than the first film, without sacrificing substance or being overly excessive.

The first film was a big spectacle - it wasn't low-brow by any means, but not particularly intelligent from start to finish. It was just a big fun sci-fi movie. Into Darkness found time for ethical questions in amongst the action and humour, and that brought it much closer in line with the kind of stories Trek told on television.

Simon Pegg was very good - his comic timing and the way he delivers certain lines was great. Zachary Qunito's take on Spock continues to impress. Paul Weller seemed to be having immense fun chewing the scenery. And I think Chris Pine provided a nice progression of Kirk's character. It was refreshing to see a young Kirk who was uncertain and scared. Benedict Cumberbatch was a great villain overall. I was worried from the trailers that he was just going to be delivering lines in a very cheesy and over-the-top manner. There were certainly occasions when he did so, but they tended to fit with times where Khan was particularly angry or mental. Easily the most compelling Trek villain since the Borg Queen, and I liked how they gave him some small shades of grey.

The way they tapped into Wrath of Khan was very bold, I thought. I never had a big problem with the alternate universe created in the last film. Some people seemed to think that it erased what we had been watching for the past 40 years. I never felt that way, and Into Darkness confirmed that the original timeline was still very important. Talking to Old Spock about how Khan was defeated, and the mirror outcome of Kirk sacrificing himself to save the ship, were absolutely superb. I'm sure it was still great for non-Trek fans, but hearing all the familiar dialogue from Kirk and Spock's final conversation in Wrath of Khan play out with the roles reversed was tremendous. Scotty saying "You'll flood the whole compartment" gave me chills, as you knew right away what was coming. I found out about John Harrison's true identity a few days before the film, and in the lead-up to seeing the film I was a little annoyed that they sought to re-do such a memorable character. But their take on Khan really impressed me - it gave him a new menace So while they riffed on one of the greatest scenes in Trek history in the final act, this was still a very different Khan.

In terms of problems, I think they could have done a slightly better job of explaining Khan's past for those who were unfamiliar with him, but perhaps I'm remembering the dialogue wrong during his reveal. They treated us to another "Enterprise vs Massive ship" scenario, which has been done to death in Trek films (the Borg cube in First Contact, the Scimitar in Nemesis, the Nerada in the last film), but didn't do very much with the Vengeance once it was introduced. McCoy was still a little sidelined despite having some great lines here and there, but I think Kirk-Spock is always the most interesting aspect of that original triangle. Carol Marcus in her underwear was even more gratuitous than it looked in the trailer, and the writers have even acknowledged how pointless this was. The pace of the film might be a bit relentless, though I think there are more moments of calm or transition than other reviews suggest. But I think Mark Kermode's review on BBC Radio 5 Live said it best - you'd really have to go out of your way not to enjoy the film.

I don't think Into Darkness was trying to one-up Wrath of Khan. It was a nice homage, and a great way of maintaining the relevance of the original timeline whilst taking the same characters and circumstances in a different direction. If Old Spock hadn't been consulted about Khan, I think that would have been worse. The problem with time travel devices in Sci-fi movies is that they're often not exploited as much as they should be. Young Spock calling him up for some insight was completely "logical" and fit the character. I wasn't expecting Nimoy to pop up, but I think it would have been silly to make such a big deal out of there being an Older Spock in the alternate universe in the first film and then never mention him again.

Kronos being so nearby was a mistake. They got to Vulcan very fast in the first film too. I'm also still not comfortable with the idea of there being a transporter capable of operating across such vast distances or from a stationary position to a ship at warp, even if it was Old Spock who helped Scotty to introduce it. But at least they haven't just discarded the technology altogether.

With the events of the first film, at least there's a logic behind Starfleet becoming more militaristic and more paranoid about security. And with the damage done to Starfleet in both films, there's a case for an all-out conflict with the Klingons in the next movie given that Starfleet would be weaker than it was in the original timeline (and hence the Klingons might be more motivated to come knocking on the front door). But I think the essence of Star Trek works better in a TV show format than a film. First Contact is really the only Trek film that balances action-adventure with the Roddenberry vision of what humanity will become (and that vision was far more cemented in TNG than TOS). Action and spectacle will always be on the menu for the mainstream audience, for better or worse.

As nifty and bold as some of the call-backs to Wrath of Khan were, there's the danger of going too far too soon. Spock's death in Wrath of Khan is gut-wrenching, and that emotion was earned through three seasons of television and the character being a pop culture icon for nearly 20 years. Having Kirk sacrifice himself to save the ship in the new film fits his character, but the emotional response they were trying to stimulate with his death hadn't been earned in the same manner. Spock screaming "KHAAAAAAAAAN" was cool on an in-joke level, but a bit of a stretch on a character level.

Kirk's death and Spock's reaction felt like a scene that would be more affecting in a third film as opposed to a second. Kirk getting the command of the flagship by the end of the first film was tough to swallow. Then you have him being demoted and reinstated within about 10 minutes, and then dying and being brought back to life in the final act of Into Darkness. They're burning through a lot of big moments for characters that are meant to be in their early years. It's also a case of trying to have their cake and eat it, by resetting the timeline and yet still riffing on the original stuff (and going so far as to echo both Space Seed and Wrath of Khan). We've seen cities and planets getting destroyed and massive holes in space. We have very advanced transporter technology that they're already taking to the extreme (beaming all the way to Kronos, for goodness sake).We've seen the Enterprise trashed. Into Darkness very much felt like JJ signing off on the franchise and you have to wonder where they go from here.

But overall, I had a lot of fun in watching this film. For the universe that JJ has created, this was an improvement on the first film in several departments. Whether that's a universe that appeals to everyone is a different debate.
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Chris NI
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 12:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S1: First Season Recap

I take what Braga says n the blu-ray set about not wanting to go even further into the future, but I would have loved a follow-up to DS9 instead of a prequel. If TNG was about establishing a galaxy of various superpowers, and DS9 showed us what happened when those superpowers came into conflict, it would have fascinating to see a post-war Alpha Quadrant.

There were so many interesting possibilities - the relationship between the Federation and Romulans, how the Cardassians would try to re-build, an uneasy truce with the Dominion (I find it quite hard to believe that the Dominion would have honoured the ceasefire for long).

You could argue that it's more of the same after DS9, but then DS9 was really a continuation of the same races, themes and principles from TNG through a different medium (a space station instead of a starship). A prequel ties the hands of the writers and limits the potential to tell fresh stories without going against the established canon (unless you do show an alternative universe as the JJ Abrams films have done).
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Chris NI
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 3:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S1: First Season Recap

Having watched all of season one for the first time, thanks to the recent Blu-ray release, I have to say that I was very disappointed with it. Far from being a real departure from the established Trek brand, it was mostly a compilation of the worst aspects of prior shows. Repetitive and uninspired stories, moments of illogical or downright silly character development and brainless action.

Enterprise in its first season had potential. Some of the characters have been well fleshed out, or at least given memorable moments. It feels like a crew that is comfortable together, and they've already established relationships like Reed/Tucker and of course "the big three". Bakula is engaging as the Captain, even if the writing in some episodes makes him into an impulsive hypocrite. I like that the show acknowledged the less senior officers at points, even giving Crewman Cutler a recurring role. The enthusiasm that Archer and the crew had for space exploration was well done. I also liked that there was an undercurrent of continuity - Archer's flimsy excuse of making an exception in the case of interfering with the Suliban camp in "Detained" at least had ramifications for how Archer was perceived in "Desert Crossing".

But the season ultimately failed in its desire to be a prequel, as we're quickly exposed to well-established Trekkian conventions. They presented the transporter as a device which provokes anxiety in the pilot episode. They completely gutted said anxiety by using the transporter...in the pilot episode. Before long, we see a holodeck, we see holographic characters and we even get a visit from the Ferengi which completely goes against their debut in TNG. The universal translator was highlighted in some episodes, and completely discarded in others. And of course, we have time travel presented in a manner which merely allows the writers to let themselves off the hook at some point in the future (no pun intended). Though I will say that time travel was utilised well in "Shockwave Part One".

While the show intended to show humans as inexperienced in space exploration, I did think they went over-board; particularly early on in the season. T'Pol was presented as the kill-joy, when in fact her advice about first contact and non-interference often rang true. In the early episodes, it was as if a bunch of trigger-happy, dumb Americans had been let loose on the universe. I think that was a big problem with the season - it was very simplistic in how it portrayed certain characters or situations. The Vulcans were one-dimensional villains, for the most part. Then there's the plots. We saw a shuttlepod sinking below a surface not once but twice. We saw Archer and other characters captured on a ridiculous amount of occasions. We saw various space battles and phaser fights, which mostly lacked genuine excitement.

Too often, the episodes were largely forgettable and mediocre. It's interesting listening to Braga's comments on the bonus features of the Blu-ray set. He willingly admits the writing problems in the first season, and particular episodes which were very poor. But I still disagree with a number of his comments. He claimed that "Broken Bow" was the best pilot of any Trek series. I think "Emissary" blows it away. He also said that some of the stuff in season one holds up against the best of Trek. I'm not so sure about that.

The first season of TNG is pretty poor and cringeworthy. But even the worst seasons of Trek have episodes ranging from good - stand-out/classic. TNG's first season had "Datalore", "11001001", "Home Soil", "Heart of Glory", "Arsenal of Freedom" and "Conspiracy". These were all very fun episodes which I would watch again - "Conspiracy" being a classic. But when I look back on Enterprise's first season, I struggle to think of many episodes I would watch again. "Shuttlepod One" and "Shockwave Part One" are the absolute best of the season. "Dear Doctor" is also memorable, though the ending is very controversial and seems to go about the non-interference convention in the wrong way. "Fallen Hero" is probably the best action episode of the season, as it creates a good amount of tension in the chase. Other episodes like "The Andorian Incident" and "Vox Sola" were entertaining, but not episodes I'd go out of my way to revisit. There are some very poor episodes in Enterprise's first season, but I think the season is weighed down by the sheer amount of forgettable and hollow stories.

It's safe to say that I'll probably never take another run through the first season of Enterprise. There was a high degree of mediocrity in this season, which can't be forgiven simply by the tendency for new shows to take time to find their direction. I consider myself a huge fan of Star Trek, having watched it from a young age. I think the most disappointing aspect of season one was that it was so far removed from the essence of Star Trek - intelligent writing and engaging characters mostly giving way to lazy action-adventure premises - and yet at the same time it fell into the predictable and restrictive formulas that were well trodden by previous Trek shows. In the end, the first season was a prequel with stories that wouldn't have looked out of place in Voyager. Voyager, for all of its problems, would have told those stories much better.
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Chris NI
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 5:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S1: Fusion

The opening of this episode under-scored a theme which I've enjoyed in Enterprise's first season - the enthusiasm of the crew towards exploring space. In the TOS and TNG eras, a nebula was run-of-the-mill stuff. I liked how Archer was genuinely excited about seeing a nebula that he'd read about in a book.
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Chris NI
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 4:49pm (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S1: Oasis

I'm afraid Berman and Braga deserve a good dose of criticism for this first season. They were completely out of ideas - we've had a holodeck, a Ferengi episode, a hologram episode, a "Vulcan experiences intense emotions" episode....we've seen it all before. This episode might be pleasant enough - Trip and Lianna had a nice chemistry - but it's totally forgettable.

I watched a featurette on "Shuttlepod One", and had to laugh when Braga said how they'd become tired of space battles and wanted to do more character-driven shows. Shuttlepod One is a complete exception to a season where Enterprise and the characters have been firing phasers more often than not.
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Chris NI
Fri, Apr 5, 2013, 5:09pm (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S1: Shadows of P'Jem

The scene where Archer and T'Pol wriggle around in different positions is utterly embarrassing. The moment when T'Pol fell chest-first onto Archer's face made me want to scream out loud. Just awful. Stuff like this and the decon chamber are bottom-of-the-barrel attempts at titillation. There's nothing wrong with a show that has sexual aspects - it's just that Enterprise does it with such a breath-taking lack of subtlety that it's completely childish and cringeworthy to watch.

I've been making my way through the Blu-ray boxset of season 1, after having only seen season 3 and most of season 4 in the past. I was hoping that I'd develop more affection for Enterprise, but I find myself becoming more and more disappointed. I don't know what this show is, but it's not Star Trek.

I don't mean that as someone who only wants to see complex morality plays or philosophical dramas. I love seeing stuff get blowed up real good as much as anyone. Star Trek to me is about intelligent stories and engaging characters - two things which Enterprise has sorely been lacking in it's first season so far. There are moments where we get interesting character insights and interactions, but more often that not the characters are painted with such broad strokes - irrational, impulsive and sometimes brain-dead. But not in a manner where we're truly seeing how the first warp-capable humans coped in space - it feels more like lazy writing aimed at necessitating instances of action, escape or other cliched plots.

What is the incentive to care about T'Pol's impending transfer? She is the least likable character in Trek history - she is so dispassionate that she is a dreadful bore to watch. Even when she calls for Archer to restrain his instincts in earlier episodes, and her arguments are perfectly valid, she is portrayed as someone who is in the wrong. Same goes for the Vulcans in general. They are one-dimensional villains in this show.

This episode was completely forgettable. The only saving grace, for 24 fans, was seeing President Charles Logan as a Vulcan.
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Chris NI
Mon, Mar 25, 2013, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: The Circle

The school incident was referred to later in the season, in "The Collaborator". But I agree that there could have been more fall-out, particularly as the Circle trilogy comes right after it.
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Chris NI
Sun, Mar 17, 2013, 7:31am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S6: Sacrifice of Angels

When CBS get around to giving DS9 the Blu-ray treatment, the space battle in this episode will look amazing. I especially loved the bit where a Cardassian warship is taking pot-shots at the Federation fleet as they're racing towards the hole in the Dominion lines. After a few seconds, two Galaxy-class starships come alongside it and pound it with phasers.

It would be cool if they could add the Enterprise E in the background kicking some ass.
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