Friday, November 17, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (a movie review post)

Before I get started, this review is going to be full of spoilers. FULL! Seriously. I want to talk about this movie that, really, disappointed me, and I can't do that without talking spoilers. You've been warned.

But let's talk about Blade Runner first, which I reviewed a couple of months ago but didn't go into much detail when I did. I'm about to change that, so, if you haven't seen that movie, either, you might want to skip all of this.

We all know that Blade Runner was a visual masterpiece. It has been considered one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time. Not as influential as Star Wars, of course, but, if you look at sci-fi movies after Blade Runner compared to before, you can see the difference.

However, it was the visuals that made the movie what it was. It's never just the visuals. The thing that was compelling about the movie, the thing that made it a great movie, was the question... I'll say it like this: What does it mean to be human? Which is actually the summation of many questions: Do I have a soul? Why do I have to die? What happens to me when I die? These are all questions Roy wants answers to.

Not that the movie definitively gives answers to any of these question, which is part of what makes the movie so compelling, but the scene at the end when Roy releases the dove is poignantly symbolic.

Blade Runner 2049 fails at all of the things that made the original so great.

Rather than the gritty realism that was so enticing in the first movie, 2049 is immaculately polished. Even the grit is polished. It's the difference between a box full of rocks and a box full of rocks that have been through a rock tumbler. Sure, they're prettier than a box of rocks, but all of the realism is gone.

Like, all of it. I mean, what the fuck is with the orange landscape with giant statues of naked women in high heels in porn poses? We're supposed to buy that as any sort of realism? And don't give me any "well, it's the future" crap, because that doesn't make the idea of that any more realistic, especially since that place would have to almost already exist so that it could be abandoned for 20-30 years by 2049. And a lot of the movie is like that: "cool" visuals for the sake of being cool but with no anchor to reality or purpose.

Not to mention how full of plot holes the movie is. Let's just talk about my "favorite" one:

Wallace has finally caught Deckard and wants some information from him that Deckard won't give up. Wallace informs Deckard that he will have to take him off-planet to torture him so that he'll talk. Wait, what? He needs to take him off-planet to torture him? What the fuck sense does that make? Wallace has already killed someone in his office, and he wasn't too worried about that. Sure, she was a replicant, but the movie tries to heavily imply that Deckard is, in fact, also a replicant -- though without coming out and saying it (it's like the writer, Hampton Fancher, can't decide if wants Deckard to be a replicant or not and, so, doesn't want to nail it down in case he changes his mind later) -- so what's the big deal about torturing Deckard in a place where, evidently, he routinely commits murder? Or whatever you call killing a replicant. Retiring?

Plus, no one knows Deckard is even still alive. He disappeared 30 or so years prior, so it's not like anyone is going to come looking for him.

The whole scenario is ridiculous and contrived so that Deckard can be put in a position for K to rescue him, something that wouldn't have been possible within the confines of Wallace's headquarters. I hate contrived bullshit that writers use to get themselves out of a hole they've put themselves in.

Other stupid things I'm not going to go into:
The threesome K has with his hologram and a prostitute. Not just that it happened but that it was inserted at a time when K should have been fleeing for his life, but, no, he has time to stop and have sex with a fucking hologram!

The junkyard people who decide to shoot down a police vehicle for no discernible reason and the divine intervention exercised by Wallace's lackey to get K out of it. Literally, K just shrugs off the fact that missiles rain down on his opponents and goes about his business, no questions asked.

The fact that this movie is no more than a bridge to set up for a replicant rebellion story line.

But the worst thing about the movie? It has no questions. There is nothing in this movie to give it any depth or, pardon the pun, soul. Its attempt to come to grips with the question, "Do replicants have souls?" is clumsy at best and results in a miracle-baby-orphan-savior cliche plot. Seriously, that's the best you could come up with, Fancher? It's not like that hasn't been done to death already. The child even has her own scar, of sorts, to mark as special, to mark her as "the one."

When the best sequel you can come up with to one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time is a cliche, maybe you should leave the original movie to stand alone. It didn't need a sequel. But, then, maybe you needed the money.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Clone Wars -- "Unfinished Business" (Ep. ?.8)

-- Learn from the past but live for the future.

Well, here we are... at the end. End of the arc. End of the season. End of the show.
End of line.

Oh, wait, wrong movie. That's some other Disney franchise.

All of this started with Admiral Trench -- not the show, just this arc -- and we return to Trench's attack on the Republic's shipyards to finish up this bit of unfinished business, not that Trench isn't another piece of unfinished business.

One of the greatest moments in the series happens in this episode. It's a bit understated, but it's pretty awesome. Let's just say it this way: Mace Windu gives a speech.
To battle droids.
In front of Obi-Wan.

This is a good solid arc. The Bad Batch is an interesting idea, though a bit like the X-Clones (if I didn't say that before). Their introduction was obviously not intended as the series-ending arc it turned out to be. There's a lot left to be explored here, not least of which is whether there are more clones like the Bad Batch.

And, then, there's Echo, because it's clear from "Unfinished Business" that his story line was just beginning. It makes me hope he shows up in Rebels. Yes, I know I could check, but I'd rather be surprised.

Anyway... It was not a bad arc to end the series on, though I rather wish they'd been able to craft a story that would have felt like a story that was bringing the series to a close. In most respects, with Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order, season five has much more the feel of the series coming to an end. It certainly feels as if they were working up to... something, and I really wish Disney had allowed the series to continue. There's no real reason why Clone Wars and Rebels couldn't have run concurrently.

Oh, well...

Monday, November 13, 2017

So That You Understand

This was a neighborhood. My friend had a house here. Whole parts of the city look like this.

Friday, November 10, 2017

At the Mountains of Madness (a book review post)

Yes, I'm still working my way through Lovecraft. No, I wouldn't recommend him to anyone else, not in general. There are a few, just a few, stories I'd suggest for anyone wanting to try him out. This is not one of them. Especially not at its length.

Funnily enough, when Lovecraft wrote this story, it was considered a novella but, by today's standards, it's novel length. It's more than 12,000 words longer than his next longest story and, I'm pretty sure, he could have cut all of them out. All of them. No, Lovecraft is not an author who gets better with length; he just gets more repetitive. I mean, it's possible that all 12,000 of those words are instances of "cyclopean" (one of Lovecraft's favorite words) and "decadent" (a new favorite for this story (seriously, if I ever again hear the term "decadent statue," it will be too soon (What even is a "decadent statue"? Lovecraft never says. He just tosses in the descriptor at some point to differentiate between the earlier statues))).

I did have hopes for this story when it started out. For one thing, it has a new setting. A new setting for Lovecraft, at any rate, though it's not really a common setting: the Antarctic. And it starts out well enough as Lovecraft goes into the scientific mission of the team and setting up the base camp and all of that but, of course, there's an unexpected discovery and everything goes horribly wrong.

Also, of course, the narrator isn't present for any of the action. That's how Lovecraft do. But what that does is forces the author to only tell you what happened, never to show it. It just gets boring after a while. Even when Lovecraft puts the narrator into the action, it ends up being passive. The narrator gets scared and runs away and never even sees what he's running from. His companion does, but that thing, whatever it was, is never revealed. You just have to trust that it's something really scary. So scary that the narrator's companion can't speak of it, another trick of Lovecraft's: the nameless terror.

It's so old, Man! Get a new trick.
Oh, no, wait, this is one of Lovecraft's last pieces, so it's not likely that he's going to find any new tricks.

The real problem with the story, though, is a thing a lot (maybe most?) of sci-fi authors have a problem with: I came up with a really cool idea and I want to tell you all about it even though it has nothing to do with the story and my character has no reason to know anything about it. Like a Joe Shmoe explaining how warp drive works or something. Of course, Lovecraft has to surpass everyone else and spend half of his book explaining something that his character shouldn't know, the back story of an alien race.

Sure, Lovecraft tries to make it plausible for his protagonist (I use that term loosely since the character does nothing more than walk around then run away) to know what he knows, but it's a ridiculous supposition, and you have to have severe cognitive dissonance to believe that his character could decipher and read the entire history of this race in the short amount of time allotted to him to do so by Lovecraft. It hurt my head, actually, trying to pretend that I could go along with the idea long enough to finish this "book."