Saturday, November 23, 2013

Catching Fire (Movie Review)

 So in keeping with my unofficial and spontaneous tradition, on Thursday I saw the new Hunger Games movie on opening night. As with before, Catching Fire was played to a packed house... and didn't disappoint.

In the time since Katniss and Peeta (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutchinson) won the last Hunger Games, they've had to live in isolation as a fake couple. Their contrived romance from the first movie -- done solely to keep each other alive -- as well as their open defiance to the government, has inspired outbreaks of dissent across Panem; so much so that open revolt is all but inevitable. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has threatened to wipe out Katniss and Peeta's hometown if they do not subdue this with their "Victors' Tour", but when their appearances only inspire more defiance, and with it more brutality, Snow concocts a new tournament: Katniss and Peeta are forced to compete with past competitors from the last 25 years of the games, and if they survive their district will be wiped off the map.

While the storyline is relatively thin, there was a lot going on in this movie, in terms of subtext and commentary. One of the things I loved about the previous film was its jab at reality TV. In this one, it's dialed up to 11; not only are Katniss and Peeta basically doomed to live a false romance for the rest of their conceivable lives -- even having to fake a marriage -- solely to placate the masses, but every last victor we have ever seen from these games has serious mental damage. Unlike the previous story, Suzanne Collins' inspiration of a clash between Survivor and Iraq War coverage actually makes a sick amount of sense, as these "best of" games are effectively forcing badly wounded war veterans to back into another battle, and the whole thing is treated as a game show.

So, long story short, I loved how the characters' actions throughout the story are basically designed to be a giant middle finger to Snow and the society he nutures.

There really isn't much more that I can say, to praise the movie. The story is very tight (if a bit rushed), the action scenes better, THEY GOT RID OF THE DAMN SHAKY CAM FROM THE FIRST MOVIE, and the characters have visibly evolved from the previous movie. This is particularly evident with Effie (Elizabeth Banks), who gradually acts like... well, a real and thoughtful person... as it really sinks in what these games are making people do (by the way I also like that they didn't really preach about this to the audience). Even Peeta, who came off as a bit of a wimp in the first one, shows some steel and smarts the sequel.

There are really only two criticisms that I can make. First, I don't particularly care for Liam Hemsworth as an actor. It's not like his readings are inhuman or anything, but they aren't particularly engaging, either (not helping is that he's never had anything to do in either of the movies released so far). The other is one that was suggested to me by Andrew Carter; the movie has PTSD as an element among the survivors -- Woody Harleson's Haymitch is an alcoholic, some of the other victors are said to be substance abusers, others still are visibly traumatized or psychopathic, and even Katniss is shown to have flashbacks in the first three minutes of the movie -- yet they really could have done more with it. One of the few things that the first movie did better than this one, was that the final minutes before the games actually start are REALLY suspenseful, and you can see the plain terror among everyone as it becomes all too real what they are about to do. This movie -- despite having a cast of competitors that has been through it all, with scars to prove it -- just seems to brush it off as if it's... well, a Bond movie.

But those gripes don't take away from a pointed and thrilling movie, with fantastic twists and a shocking ending. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

(Now) Admitted Crackhead Rob Ford Refuses to Resign

Those of you who were on Twitter today, probably noticed that not only was #TOPoli trending, but it was absolutely EXPLODING. All over the news -- around the world -- was that Toronto's far-right mayor Rob Ford admitted to having used crack cocaine on at least one occasion.

This is on the heels of a week that has shadowed his office -- and by extension, his family, given his brother Doug is a councillor -- with arrests made in relation to a videotape showing him smoking from a crackpipe, in the company of known drug dealers. A video that, for a long time, Ford insisted didn't exist. A video that publicized frame grabs clearly shows Rob Ford himself. A video that has been so damaging to his image, that some of his associates -- people whom he has described as "good guys" -- have been arrrested on charges of assault and extortion, in connection to efforts to find and suppress it.

A video that it has now been alleged, Ford's Press Secretary hired a hacker to try to destroy. A video that the Fords have insisted Police Chief Bill Blair resign for investigating.

Oh, and this is on the heels of it being revealed that Rob Ford has given glowing reference letters to friends of his who are convicted murderers. On top of the very real possibility that he arranged the murder of at least one of the people he was seen partying with, in the original video.

At around 4:20 this afternoon -- no, I'm serious, that really was the time -- Rob Ford came out to a scripted press conference, to follow up on his admission that he not only lied SEVERAL times to the city he claims to love and represent, but that he committed a fairly serious crime. Everyone outside of Ford Nation (ie. everyone with basic moral and ethical standards) hoped he would resign. Instead, he simply apologized, and had the gall to announce HE IS RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION.

Allow me to give my thoughtful response: Mr. Ford, you piece of shit!

I don't want to attack the man just for his addictions -- they are a genuine illness, and to give Ford SOME credit, he looked genuinely mortified during the press conference. However, that doesn't change the fact that he not only broke the very same laws that he has PUBLICLY championed throwing the book at common folk over, but that on MANY OCCASIONS this past year, he flatly denied that he even had a problem in the first place! In fact, even this morning, when he finally admitted to having smoked crack, he claims that he said otherwise up to this point because not one person in the media or public "asked him the right question".

Are you fucking KIDDING me? If any of us working-class slobs that Ford claims to be one of -- even though he isn't -- pulled any of this, they would not only be FIRED IMMEDIATELY, but they would be arrested. Especially when there's a lot of evidence that he tried to block the police from ever finding out about it, AND YOU FLAT OUT ADMITTED IT TO THE MEDIA, IN THE FREAKING INTERNET AGE! You can't take this stuff back, Rob!

Oh and you had the cojones to DEMAND (through your big brother Doug), that Chief Bill Blair resign for doing his job. The very same job you encouraged him to do, when running for office. You fucking cockshit, you have NO place to call for anyone's resignation, after what you have pulled! You, who demanded that city workers be fired for having their heads on their desks (allegedly sleeping on the job -- which you've been caught doing, yourself), have NO INTEGRITY WHATSOEVER.

It's already appalling that Ford has gotten away with this much. If he makes it to next year's election, and SOMEHOW gets re-elected -- this guy who was already awful at the job he supposedly loves so much -- then Toronto 100% deserves what happens. This is the SINGLE WORST CANADIAN POLITICAL SCANDAL -- at least in local politics -- that has happened in my lifetime. Even if they don't normally vote, THE PEOPLE MUST VOTE NEXT YEAR. Put a stop to this -- stand up for yourselves, and your city. Rob Ford has personally made it into a terrible joke, and right now you are letting him get away with it.

No more!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shutdown Stupidity

If you pay any attention at all to the news, I'm sure you already know: the Republican Tea Party, shut the US government last night. All because they want to gut or defundaffordable health care. Which has already been elected law, ratified by the Supreme Court, and endorsed by Obama's landslide re-election. Which NEARLY ALL AMERICANS WANT THEM TO LEAVE ALONE. Which they have failed to do, FORTY-TWO TIMES ALREADY.

And what's more, Obama and the Democrats tried to cut costs in other areas, to satisfy budget needs -- but the Teahadists would have none of this. For some reason, these people -- who only work a hundred or so days a year, and whose health care is 100% covered by the taxpayer -- are VERY livid at the idea of common people NOT having to pay through the nose for a trip to the hospital. So much so that they have single-handedly brought public services -- and that's not an oxymoron -- to a grinding halt. They have even threatened to SHUT DOWN THE MILITARY, DURING A WAR to do this (something that was only avoided because Obama made an executive order).

This is not taking a principled stand. This is treason -- and just to be an evil fucking asshole. And despite what some Tea Party mouthpieces claim, PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING THIS -- the Tea Party's only friends here, are their own echoes.

And in case I actually need to explain what is wrong with the far-right's constant time wasting and dickery, I'm going to try -- no doubt in vain -- to explain this. Say that I'm married to someone who is constantly picking fights, emotionally abusive, and domineering overall. Say that I managed to come into money, or otherwise raised enough on my own, and wanted to donate it to... oh, a hospital, a shelter, something worthwhile. And before you bring it up, yes we can afford to do it, because we've got debt well under control, or something. What the Tea Party is doing, is basically akin to changing my house locks and locking me out of my own bank account, because I wasn't going to instead buy her an outdoor pool.

Frankly, if this ever actually happens to me, I will INSTANTLY divorce the bitch, and press all possible criminal charges. If there is anything Obama can possibly do, to punish these Tea Party TERRORISTS, then he should do so as soon as possible. They do not know the meaning of reasonable opposition, anymore. They simply want to run over Americans with a steamroller.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Dune: The Alternative Edition -- Redux (Fan-Edit Review)

After many ill-fated attempts in the 1970s, a feature film of Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune hit the theatres in 1984. The most expensive movie of its day, and intended to be the first in a trilogy, the David Lynch/Dino De Laurentiis production instead bombed at the box office, mutually alienating casual viewers and fans of the novel. Today, it stands as a cult classic; more of a cerebral guilty pleasure, than an overlooked masterpiece. This is especially so, given the infamous extended television cut, disowned by Lynch, and long lost until finally released on DVD a few years ago.

Sure enough, the fan-edit community took it upon themselves to attempt to salvage the troubled and haphazard production. One of the best-received ones, comes from Spicediver, whose "Alternative Edition -- Redux" is his final word on the subject. For the sake of fairness, I will review the film itself, and his cut, as separately as possible.

Some ten thousand years in the future, humanity has spread across the galaxy, ruled by the paranoid Emperor Shaddam IV (a horribly miscast Jose Ferrer). Behind the scenes, mystics and corporate interests pull various strings, all dependent on the mind-expanding Spice -- a substance that is found only on the desert planet of Arrakis. Shaddam, threatened by the rising popularity of Duke Leto Atreides (Jurgen Prochnow), sets a trap for him on Arrakis, by sending him there to supposedly take over Spice production. In reality, the Duke's mortal enemy, Baron Harkonnen (the freaking absurd Kenneth McMillan) ambush and murder him, driving into exile the Duke's son Paul (Kyle MacLachlin) and concubine Jessica (Francesca Annis). They are left to join the desert nomads, the Fremen, and exploit their messiah legends to seek revenge against the whole Imperium.

Frankly, reviewing this movie is a lot like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube, but I will do my best. When I first saw this movie, ten years ago, I really hated it. Not only were many performances from somewhere beyond Mars, but the special effects looked like something out of an old Thunderbirds episode, and someone decided that EVERY -- SINGLE -- THOUGHT needed to be narrated to the audience. I've watched movies with blind people, who didn't have this much of the movie described to them. Additionally, I first saw the theatrical cut; whether or not it's even possible to tell the Dune story in just two hours, is debatable, but this attempt tried to do so at the expense of the key Fremen people. In the book (and later miniseries), the Fremen are a fairly complex and highly spiritual culture, yet the theatrical version presents them as little more than cavemen with mild technological awareness.

There was also the utter pillaging of some of my favourite elements of the books -- a unique martial arts fighting style, called The Weirding Way, is inexplicably turned into people firing ray guns, by shouting certain words into a microphone... or something. Then there's the ending -- this ridiculous, emotionally unjustified, and narratively sacreligious denouement, where Paul not only becomes Space Jesus (when the novels depict him as something closer to Osama Bin Laden), but somehow makes it rain all over Arrakis. This is not only never set up, or particularly well explained, but the novels make it explicitly clear that this would actually HARM Arrakis, rather than help it. Suffice it to say, it was one of the few things that Herbert utterly loathed, about the movie.

Yet, there were still elements of the movie that I liked; the art direction had its moments, it's quite beautifully photographed, I think that Paul's own spiritual journey was presented reasonably well (including MacLachlan's performance), a lot of the dialogue is surprisingly pretty, the action scenes were fairly good, and despite occasionally dating itself, the score by Toto and Brian Eno works quite well. When I later rented the Extended Edition, it went on to remedy the issues with the Fremen, and as much as I still disliked the movie overall, I was willing to concede that it was a fair adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel.

Then, along my web surfing, I'd heard about this fan-edit, and decided to give it a look. It takes various scenes from the theatrical cut, extended edition, and deleted scenes, and basically does its best to make them play nice with each other. Effect scenes are completed, where needed, scenes are shuffled into a new structure (including a clever use of the infamous animated opening, that made Lynch take his name off the Extended Edition), the ending is now much closer to the novel... and THE VOICE-OVER WAS GONE!!! (well, about half of it, but Boy Howdy did they axe the worst of it!)

Honestly, that simple deletion alone, did a surprisingly large amount to improve my opinion of this film. Without every single nuance constantly interrupting the movie, I can finally digest and appreciate the performances, and actually reflect on what's going on. WhileDune is a challenging story, at the best of times, at least the novel and miniseries generally acted as if the audience had an average IQ. Now, the film does as well. Unfortunately, while some of the deleted scenes needed to be restored, for the sake of the narrative, it's also quite obvious when the viewer is watching them -- the normally pristine picture quality, suddenly drops like a stone, and it feels like you're suddenly watching a Quicktime video instead of a movie. I also think that some more of the voice-over could have been removed, without damaging the storytelling, and I think that some odd or pathetic moments concerning The Baron should have been cut out as well; namely, the completely out of place doctor character, his increasingly random and annoying cackling, and this butt-f*ck-out-of-nowhere fixation he has with Duke Leto's ring.

I know that last part seems random, but it just really irks me in general, how the Harkonnens were turned from clever sadists, to erratic-as-hell Looney Tunes characters. Kenneth McMillian's performance already comes off as this cross between a stereotypical Texas oil tycoon and John Wayne Gacy, but this contrived and quickly abandoned obsession with the ring TURNS HIM INTO FREAKING GOLLUM. This would have been VERY easy to remove, and frankly I don't get why Spicediver didn't do so.

Then there are things that, to be fair, would have been impossible to fix with a fan edit -- the visual effects that would embarrass Asylum Pictures, the aforementioned Harkonnen Clowns (and no, this isn't made any better with Paul Smith or Sting, though the latter has a couple of moments), many of the supporting actors in general just being way too over the top, and Alicia Witt's REALLY distracting dub job (honestly, if it wasn't for the deleted scenes I would never have been convinced that that was her own voice we hear). That's not Spicedriver's fault, but anyone thinking of watching this for the first time should be warned about that.

So, my final verdict on The Alternative Edition: Redux... If we're honest, this was an exercise in turd polishing. However, it did work. While this version of David Lynch's Dune is by no means a sudden masterpiece, but it does make this an average movie. In a lot of ways, it's still trash cinema, but the soul and intelligence beneath it can actually come through, now. If this had been commercially released by Universal, I would have gladly bought it -- I think that's the best compliment you can give a fan-edit.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sick of Die-Hard Fanboys

Lately, I've really been having it up to my saggital suture, with the nerdiest of the sci-fi nerds. Namely, the guys and gals who are so entrenched in their personal interpretations of their favourite movies/TV shows/sub-genres, that anyone coming in with a different view can meet the business end of the Martian Death Ray. To a certain extent, I saw a lot of this when Pacific Rim came out (shortly before it became obvious that only ten people in the US saw it). Not only did I see the fanboys pile on anyone who said they simply weren't blown away by it, even when said reviewers said beforehand that giant robot movies aren't their thing... but when I simply said that I disliked the filmmakers, on an article about their premium ticket packages, I was accused of calling Guillermo Del Toro a sell-out just for making a big robot movie in the first place.

At which point I firmly explained to this person, that if he had any grasp whatsoever of English, he would have been able to tell that I was referring to Del Toro continuing the trend of charging people $60 just to go to a freaking movie theatre. Because that was the entire focus of the article being commented on.

More recently, the build-up to the upcoming Star Wars sequel trilogy has attracted no shortage of JJ Abrams bashers. You know, the guy who has produced and written some of the hottest TV series in recent memory? The guy who actually made Star Trek successful again, cool, and maybe more popular than ever? (more on that, in a minute) Yeah, for some reason, this guy is getting more fan hate, than the borderline sell-out of a creator who has made nothing but boring and ugly schlock for the last decade and a half (some would say more), and has personally insulted the very fans who gave him the freedom to do this, for not wanting him to constantly tamper with the few good movies he's been associated with.

Just to be clear, even though I don't have a clue why anyone would find the prequel trilogies awesome across the board, I'm not trying to attack them for having these views. To be fair, I can find the prequels tolerable... when I'm watching at home and can hit the mute button. And skip the scenes that just look like a cheap video game. More to the point, I find the prequels to be more a source of unintended humour, than truly awful films. If you think they are the best things since sliced bread, I reserve the right to ask you why this is (I'll do my best to be tactful about it), but I certainly will not call for a Butlerian Jihad.

To get back on topic, seemingly just because Abrams is directing these new movies -- with scripts written by established and very accomplished other writers, I might add -- the die-hards are just being vicious towards him about any rumours whatsoever associated with the film. Big names in the cast, the return of certain characters, the return to physical effects as much as possible, you name it. I mean, heaven forbid that Abrams actually try to make a movie THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL WANT TO SEE!

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if my earlier courtesy applies to the current branch of die-hard Star Trek fans. To the confusion and embarrassment of many, a poll at a big Trek convention in Las Vegas last week, revealed that the currently decided Worst Trek Movie Ever is this year's Star Trek: Into Darkness. That's right, worse than The Motion Picture, worse than The Final Frontier, worse than Insurrection, and worse than... Galaxy Quest?? (seriously how did that even get on the list?)

Clearly I've been aiming this article at nerdy people, but for once I'll try to explain this to the uninitiated. The Motion Picture was as slow as continental drift, and ultimately didn't go anywhere. The Final Frontier was a visually hideous egotrip that made very little sense.Insurrection was a morally questionable lark that tried to make people care more about 600 lazy cowards, than about billions of people dying in a major war that is conveniently left off-screen. I don't pretend for a second that Into Darkness was a masterpiece, but the worst that I can say about it off the top of my head was that it was overly repetitive of The Wrath of Khan, they wasted some serious opportunities with the villain, and that the so-called stumbling blocks for Kirk got undone in about five minutes.

Yet to hear the die-hard Trekkies bitch and whine about it, you'd think that JJ Abrams had turned the thing into Hostel-like torture porn. I'm dead serious, they are THAT mad about it. To date, when I've confronted them about it, the fans have never explained what he did that was so horrible. The most coherent explanation I can get is something about action over ideas. Okay, fair enough, there is more that can be done with Trek than simply being a shoot-em-up. But first of all, there were ideas in Into Darkness -- much of it was very obvious commentary on the War on Terror, specifically the trend towards drone warfare. Second of all, the TOP RATED movies on this list -- The Wrath of Khan and First Contact -- were very much action films, themselves. First Contact in particular, barely bothered with ideas at all, and spent much of the time being a knock off of Aliens. There is simply no logical reason why mindless action should be praised in one movie, and eviscerated in another.

If you're going to get on an ideological high-horse, at least be consistent about your principles, or you stop being a fan, and become a fanatic. And then no one will want to see those movies you love so much, and no more will ever be made. Much like Anakin Skywalker, you will turn into your own worst enemy.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Man of Steel (review)

I was very reluctant, to see this latest reboot of the Superman character. Not only was the reception mixed at best, from critics and fans alike, but frankly... I'm not that big on the character. Leaving aside that compared to other superheroes, his motivations are rather bland and simplistic (some would even say naive), the way much of media has protrayed him as virtually invulnerable, make it rather hard to feel tension. I'll elaborate on this, later, but suffice it to say I really only saw this movie, as a night out with my friends.

I'm glad that I did, though.

There's not a lot I can say about the story, because about half of it is just yet another origin story for Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman, the last son of Krypton. In this version, his parents (including the stoic Russell Crowe, as Jor-El) take it upon themselves to have a natural childbirth, when Krypton has been mined into oblivion. This is considered heresy, so when General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to take over the planet, this earns his ire -- even though this allows for the survival of the Kryptonian people.

When Kal-El reaches Earth, he is adopted by the Kents, learns he has powers, wants desperately to help others, etc. etc. We see takes on Clark growing up, that we've never seen before, but the overall story is very familiar. Crap starts to hit the fan, when Zod and his followers have managed to find Earth, and realize that Kal-El is there. They are desperate to re-create Krypton, and they will kill Superman and everyone on Earth, in order to do it.

The performances all around are very good -- Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and especially Henry Cavill, to name many others -- knock it out of the park. I was worried, from the trailers, that much of this would either be scenery chewing or overly sentimental pap. However, the actual film does an excellent job at keeping things dramatic yet grounded. The story was a mixed bag, for me. I loved -- LOVED -- that they didn't make Superman all-powerful and seemingly indestructible, for a change... meaning that there was some legitimate danger to him, for the first time I've seen in a movie. However, I couldn't wrap my head around why in the world Jor-El infused his son, with the DNA of all Kryptonians -- what exactly was supposed to be done with that? Was Jor-El planning on having Supes revive his species, by shedding skin cells?

The movie has been accused of being a bit too dark, given the character, but I'm not totally sure that's the case. Then again, I was one of the few people who seemed to find any humour in the Dark Knight trilogy, so it might just be my idea of comedy. They certainly make the flying scenes a lot more fun, than I've seen in a long time. However, I am one of those who finds it a bit peculiar that Superman would be trusted, after seemingly letting two fairly big American cities get demolished by Zod's forces. However, the action scenes are all very exciting, and surprisingly easy to follow -- despite the constant shaky cam, and many of the players looking the same.

If you're a die-hard Superman fan... I'm really not sure if you would like this or not. However, as a popcorn movie, it's hard to go wrong. Though to be honest, the 3D isn't strong enough to be worth the extra money.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Okay, now that some other dust has settled, it's past time for me to comment on some contentious issues, regarding Star Trek: Into Darkness -- some of which have been widely talked about, some of which haven't. In no particular order...

Space Babes In Underwear

Okay, I'll admit it, when I first saw the completely random trailer image of Alice Eve's Dr. Carol Marcus standing inside a shuttlecraft, wearing only a bra and panties for no apparent reason, I had to suppress a cynical chuckle. Yes, it's cheap. It's gratuitous (especially out of context). Frankly, I thought that even an amped-up version of Trek could do better, to sell the movie to mass audiences. But the words "sexist" and "misogynistic" never crossed my mind.

For one thing, the only way this even REMOTELY qualifies as "nudity", is if you're so ashamed of your own body that you don't have a bathroom mirror because you're disgusted to glimpse yourself coming out of the shower. Seeing a woman's cleavage, stomach, and thighs, is not on the same level as seeing her nipples, buttocks, or vagina. There's a reason why nude and non-nude beaches are considered separate things.

For another... have the complainers even SEEN the original Star Trek? Here's some of the more... notable... female guest costumes.

As you can see, the original series -- made in a time so conservative that an INTERRACIAL CREW was considered to be edgy -- was no stranger to copious female flesh, including coming very close to side boob and side butt. Furthermore, at least the new movie provides SOME explanation, for Marcus being seen in her skivvies -- she's changing uniforms, right before a mission -- which is more than we usually got for these outfits on the show. Furthermore, the show really WAS misogynistic, in terms of how it actually REFERRED to women, at times. Several episodes claimed that women were weaker and more easily scared, you can certainly argue that Uhura was little more than eye candy and a glorified phone operator, and there was even an occasion where Spock explained that the reason why a probe detected "chaotic thoughts and impulses" from her WAS BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN.

Besides, I don't recall seeing a WORD of outrage, over this...

Same sub-series of the franchise, essentially the same "outfit"... no complaints of woman hating. Maybe some people are just racist against green women.

Copying The End of WRATH OF KHAN

This one, I can kinda agree with. The Enterprise gets badly damaged, and is going to be destroyed unless the engines can be repaired/restarted RIGHT NOW. Being the only one available and willing to do it, Spock/Kirk knock out McCoy/Scotty, and do the job, even though there is a massive radiation leak that will certainly kill them. And it does. However, it does so only after Kirk/Spock rushes down from the bridge for a tearful farewell, assuring the hero that his sacrifice was worth it, and that the surviving bromancer doesn't need to grieve. Our hero passes on, moments after these friends "touch" each others' hand through a pane of glass, forming the Vulcan hand greeting for "Live Long and Prosper".

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, this was a VERY moving scene -- easily the saddest moment in all of Trek, and possibly all of sci-fi cinema. So sure enough, Trek itself has tried to ape this on several occasions since then. Generations did it with Shatner's Kirk. Nemesis did it for Data. There was even a Voyager episode, where an alternate timeline had Tuvok dying, completely out of nowhere, in a scene THAT USED THE SAME FREAKING LINES. And this movie DID THE SAME THING!

For me, this scene crossed the line from paying homage, to just blatant copying-and-pasting. When my dad and I saw this, I literally muttered "Oh for crying out loud..." and got a chuckle out of him. I don't mind that they replayed the overall premise and reversed the roles -- in fact, I completely agree with Chuck from SFDebris, that this could have worked masterfully, if done right. The problem is that they basically just read from the 1982 Nicholas Meyer script, minus the 15 years of time spent with these characters, and plus the obvious fact that we weren't going to leave Kirk dead for very long... meaning I was more bored by it, than anything else.

Though to give credit where it's due, this is by no means the fault of Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. This is a problem with the writing, not the acting.


Yep, I'm going there. 

As had been speculated, from the moment this movie was announced, it turns out that the annoyingly mysterious villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch... is Khan. Khan is THE top villain, in Star Trek. A former warlord, consigned to cryogenic exile, he is a genetically engineered superman -- extremely intelligent, much stronger and faster than a normal human, and with a ruthless ambition to match. Simply put, THIS IS NOT A MAN TO BE FUCKED WITH. He's the reason why Spock died, in the movie I just mentioned. The problem is that his full name, is Khan Noonien Singh. While it was never verified (in canon), it was speculated that he is a Sikh -- certainly it sounds like he should be from the Far East.  Yet in this new movie... he's played by a rather pale Londoner.

Okay, granted, Ricardo Montalban was a Mexican... though at least his complexion was SOMEWHAT right (and to be fair, as I'd already inferred, the show wasn't made in a time known for being racially sensitive).

Bob Orci, one of this movie's writers and producers, did bring up a great reason for doing this (in general):

"Basically, as we went through the casting process and we began honing in on the themes of the movie, it became uncomfortable for me to support demonizing anyone of color, particularly any one of Middle Eastern descent or anyone evoking that. One of the points of the movie is that we must be careful about the villain within US, not some other race."

I absolutely agree... though it begs the question, why bother making Khan the villain, in the first place? And this question extends way beyond having a white -- though VERY skilled actor -- playing the part. We know Khan's story... and frankly, there's not much to be told. Aside from his charisma, intelligence, and brutality, there is NOTHING to the guy. His motivation, quite simply, is to take over the galaxy.

In contrast, while Cumberbatch's character was billed as "John Harrison" -- an irritatingly obvious alias, if ever there was one -- the speeches he'd made in the trailers were genuinely unnerving AND INTERESTING. He was described as a top Starfleet officer, who had gone rogue after some kind of ideological break. Between that and his Hannibal Lecter-like knack for reading our heroes like books, I was hoping this was going to be a much more psychological villain.

Then it turns out to be just another comic book villain, though thankfully played to curdle blood, rather than chew scenery. I would have much rather seen an ORIGINAL villain, in this supposedly revitalized version of the series, than just go down the beaten path again.

Comments? Observations? Complaints? Leave them below.