Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda Series Review

Image of the Andromeda Crew all lined up and staring into the camera.
Image Source: https://andromeda.fandom.com/wiki/Andromeda_(TV_series)

Okay, so this one is going to be an interesting review, although it might be fairly similar to my review (in tone) of my review of Farscape. So, for me, Andromeda was much closer in tone, story construction, and characterization with Farscape than other sci-fi shows that I’ve seen such as Babylon 5, the various Star Trek shows, or even the Stargate shows. There is a more fun vibe going on and less serious vibe in the show where I think the other shows tended more towards seriousness with comedic elements. This show, along with Farscape in certain episodes, tended more toward the wry comedic element rather than full on seriousness. Now depending on my mood, I felt this lightness of subject matter either funny or irritating, depending on how much I just wanted a good, old fashioned, nuts & bolts sci-fi story.

A Story of Two Series: Before Tyr and After Tyr

So, there’s just no way around it. The series can be broken up into two parts (actually 3, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Tyr, a character from the beginning of the series and what I would assume was the “pilot” episode, and a “foil” for Dylan Hunt (captain of the Andromeda) looms large in the discussion of the show. I don’t know the reaction to Tyr during the show’s initial run, but I do know that being the “foil” to Dylan, he had the chance to be redeemed to Dylan’s cause, but being the type of character he was portrayed as, also had the capacity to betray Dylan at any time. The problem is, in year 3, they actually had a storyline that dramatized his choice.

The problem was, for me, the storyline wasn’t the greatest articulation of that choice and, then it became the basis for the rest of the storylines of the show moving forward and those didn’t seem as grounded as ones before. Slight spoiler incoming (please skip to the next paragraph if you want to stay unspoiled about ANYTHING in the show–has nothing to do with the resolution of Tyr’s story or the resolution of the series in general).</spoiler>In fact, the whole founding of the “New Commonwealth” (while fine), didn’t really seem fleshed out very well and the idea that Dylan Hunt was a “traitor” and had to go away from the “Commonwealth” simply happened too quick for my liking. It would have taken at least a season of build up for me to have really engaged with that plot line. It all just happened too quickly for me to believe.

Can We Talk About Season 5?

So, taking a “spaceship show” and grounding it in a solar system with a limited number of planets might not have been the best thing for the show. The last 3 episodes were very good in my opinion, but that meant that I had to sit through a lot of “brown” planets to get there. Also, the same sketchiness of storytelling of the previous season was there meaning that sometimes time and character motivations didn’t seem to match up for me, but like I said, the last three or four episodes were masterful–especially when then go into an artificial sun to repair it–now that is what I’m looking for in my science fiction!

Overall Grade: B-

So, like Farscape, I thought the stories weren’t all that great usually, but the characters and the acting were pretty good and fun. I wish that there had been more of Star Trek vibe, with everyone having even more clearly delineated roles and flaws that dovetailed with the plot more often than they did. I would loved to have seen Andromeda as a “dysfunctional” Enterprise–yes, they saved the day, but there individual quirks made it much more difficult that it should have been. On the Enterprise for Star Trek, we see the crew band together to solve problems. It would have been nice to see the crew of the Andromeda try to solve problems, but have their own quirks (or other crew) get in the way, but always somehow overcoming in spite of everything and becoming more of a “family” in doing so. I also think some characters were under-used. I would have liked to have seen more storylines with Becka Valentine’s character, especially with her dealing with her substance abuse–but that arc was dealt with and was only mentioned in subsequent seasons, but not shown.

Still, the show was fun, if a little campy at times, and I say, for me, a darn sight better than Defiance with its “edgy” storylines that don’t seem to work nearly as well for me. I did enjoy my time with the show, but just wished that it could have stayed a little bit more serious.

Sidney


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Finally Found a New “Starship Show”: Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda

Cast of the Andromeda TV show posing for the camera.
Image Source: https://andromeda.fandom.com/wiki/Andromeda_(TV_series)

So, even though I did a blog post a couple of weeks ago on Defiance, I’ve abandoned the show for now. The first season was fairly good–I would have rated it a B-/C+ as the “alien artifact” storyline did become more prominent during the later part of the season. B- is probably where I would have settled as it had just enough sci-fi concepts (and great acting!) to overcome what I feel is stereotypical and (to me) uninteresting world building, setting, and too much reliance on Western genre tropes instead of sci-fi tropes. However, what got me was that season 2 introduced new characters and gave the old characters new “problems.” I didn’t really cotton to the new characters, but I felt I could tolerate them–and the problems of the old characters. Of course, to be “edgy” (aka Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones), they had to (for me) take it a step too far by taking one of the hero characters from season 1 and giving her the problem of recreational drug use (their version of cocaine). Yeah, I watched one episode and barely tolerated it, but couldn’t do it with subsequent episodes, so I’ve bailed about halfway into season 2. I may skip the episode and go back one day, but for now, I have a new show: Andromeda.

Captain America in Space

So, this is a bit of an anachronism as Andromeda and its “boy-scout” of a captain came first in terms of appearing on screen with that whole “old fashioned hero out of time” routine. Dylan Hunt was frozen at the Event Horizon for 300 years and when he is rescued, he discovers that his “Commonwealth” has fallen. He discovers the worlds have fallen into disarray, so decides to make it his mission to rebuild the Commonwealth (UN for Planets, but not exactly like Star Trek’s Federation or Star Wars’s Galactic Senate) and restore some semblance of order to the galaxy.

Dylan Hunt is very much in line with the current Marvel Universe incarnation of Captain America. He fights for ideals and is idealistic. He is the hero and pretty much always wins, but the adventures are exciting. This probably will not appeal to most of the millennials who crave “bad people screwing each other over” and who call that “complex,” but if you’re looking for adventure and excitement and traditional space opera (which is my preference), then this one, while a bit hokey at times, still mostly works and is FAR more appealing than Defiance with its pseudo-Western and illicit drug use. And for those who would “nope out,” and claim Andromeda has no complexity, it actually has a character who is dealing with addiction issues, but it actually has the character fall, pay the cost, and then work to rise above and stay above their addiction and is referenced several times over the course of the first two seasons that I’ve watched.

2 – 3 Episodes Per Day

So, I try to download (it is currently available on Amazon Prime) 2 -3 episodes per day. I don’t always get through that many (sometimes I manage all three, but usually it’s 1 or 2). However, I really feel that the show, while not as consistently good as Babylon 5 or the Stargate shows, is still a very strong show and (for me) it is better than the nihilistic shows of Defiance or The Expanse (again, I really like the actors on both of the shows, but I don’t like the “tone” of the shows). With nihilistic shows, it feels like a slog to get through, but I always look forward to most of the episodes that I’ve watched so far.

I’m currently into season 2 and I’m deep into it–I think I only have maybe 4 more episodes before the end of the season. There are 5 total seasons, so I still have a way to go before I finish it.

I have to say that (at the moment) I really like this show and I have to say that the characters have (so far) grown on me. We’ll see if that continues to be the case.

Sidney


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Defiantly Watching Defiance

Defiance TV Show Poster (w show's main characters standing in alien fauna by the backdrop of the St. Louis arch in the background.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2189221/

I am watching a show that I’ve had in my queue for a while: Defiance. It is a Sci-Fi show (post apocalyptic) that is currently streaming on Amazon Prime (not sure if it is elsewhere, but I know its been on Prime) for a while now, so I thought I’d watch it. So, when my late creative writing professor, Ken Smith, opened my eyes to the fact that Science-Fiction’s antecedent genre was the Western, I was aghast. Star Wars and the original trilogy were my favorite movies at the time (this was in the era where the Prequels were still a couple years away from release and the Matrix hadn’t quite changed the landscape for science-fiction films (although Aliens & Terminator 2 had made significant in-roads). And yet, as I watch Defiance, I can’t help but recall Ken’s assertion as this show is every bit the Western.

Alien Backstory & Mythos + Western Plots and Characterization = Defiance

So far, about mid-way into the show’s first season, I’m slogging my way through it. The show takes the approach to adding aliens to Earth via a “failed” attempt (or maybe incomplete) at an alien race terraforming Earth. The Earth has been transformed into a (mostly) post-apocalyptic wasteland complete with alien species and races complicating life for the remaining human residents. One of the things that I like about the show is that it doesn’t just focus on humans, however, but seeks to show a town (Defiance) that has multiple alien and human inhabitants and how they can survive and life together despite their prejudices and differences. In many ways, it tries (again early times, at least) to present a hopeful, unifying front, no matter the individual prejudices that flare up.

All Western, All the Time

And yet . . . the show really hasn’t grabbed me. Even though there are aliens, what looks like an ancient alien mystery, and quite a few alien cultures that have traditions different from our own, all of the stories so far have had a decidedly Western (genre) feel to them. Their has been a feuding pair of families with young lovers on each side of the families (a la The Hatfields & McCoys–and yes, they are of two different races just to ratchet up the tension). The protagonist becomes the town’s “Lawkeeper” in the “pilot” episode. The episode I just finished had to do with a “Bounty Hunter” friend of the Lawkeeper (a “trope” of many a Western). There are deputies, a doc with a possible bad past, prostitutes with hearts of gold, and the like.

Now, all this to say, that the actors and the story isn’t bad–it just skews heavily into the Western motif, where I might want it to do so a little less.

And this is Why I Like “Space Ship Shows”

Defiance (and shows like it–The Walking Dead comes quickly to mind) is that it devolves into the same tropes that a Western might: be quick with a gun or be dead, protect yourself at all costs because your neighbors won’t, the frontier is the big open space of badness, with little pockets of safety coming by way of cities.

Now, you could say this about my beloved spaceship shows (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dark Matter, Stargate (& spinoff shows), etc), but one thing that spaceship shows do better than their post apocalyptic cousins is that sense of “wonder.” There is the chance that some scientific concept or paradigm will be explored in some unique and awesome way that completely explodes the traditional/contemporary way of looking at the world. For instance, Star Wars has a lot of western tropes early in the movie, but moving to the later parts of the movie, we see the tropes of medieval knights (Kenobi vs Vader fight on the Death Star) and even WW2 fighter tropes (the iconic Trench Run). As a child, this blew my mind. Another example, from the world of books this time, was a scene in one of Elizabeth Moon’s books where a main character walked on the ship’s outer hull while the ship was in freakin’ HYPERSPACE. I’d never read the like and this one scene helped make me a lifelong fan of Elizabeth Moon’s work.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to stick through it to the end and report back with a mini-review. We’ll see–while I like and respect the western, I would prefer my science fiction to show a little less western tropes and a little more wonder than I’m currently seeing in Defiance. But who knows, maybe they’ll lean harder into the “alien artifact” mystery and it will have the wonder I’m looking for in my sci-fi.

Sidney


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12 Monkeys (Mini-Review) — Some spoilers

Bruce Willis with a bald head and a red light shining from one eye.
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Monkeys

So, I watched 12 Monkeys over the weekend (the movie, not the TV show–although I will take a look at it one of these days now that I’ve seen the movie). I will do a mini-review, but there will be some spoilers that I simply can’t avoid–you can’t talk about the movie without talking about it in terms of its ultimate narrative structure (which, once presented, is a “spoiler”). I will leave the major spoiler points to the end, so if you don’t want to be spoiled be sure not to read to the end of the post. Unfortunately, I can’t guard against a search engines picking up the words in the spoiler section, so you have been warned.

Party Like Its 1995

So, Twelve Monkeys is a movie that I’ve wanted to watch for a while. I’ve heard about it spoken in reverence in the sci-fi community as some sort of harbinger of where sci-fi was heading. And in some ways that was true–this is an older movie after all. However, this is one that never came to streaming and when it originally released, I remember it being just as DVD was hitting and the prices were fairly high.

Not What I Was Expecting

This movie wasn’t quite was I expecting. I was expecting a sci-fi neo-noir futuristic thriller/mystery about the finding of a plague. While there are elements of this in the movie, it isn’t the primary focus. This one has a “concept” (more below) that it adheres to and a narrative structure that was fairly unique (for the time). I have to say that, honestly, I was a little disappointed by it as there have been many, many imitators that I’ve seen over the years, and that has blunted my enjoyment of the movie, as well.

Spoiler Warning–The End

Okay, so this is your final warning, STOP READING NOW if you want to stay unspoiled on the movie.

—————————————————————————————————————

Okay, here goes: this is the movie that popularized a certain type of time travel story, “the bootstrap paradox” story. Okay, what is a bootstrap paradox–literally, it is a time travel story that is both self-fulfilling and has no antecedent. When we enter the story, the plague has already happened, and then we see the way the plague happens when we go back in time with the protagonists. However, the idea of the plague was brought back to the past and that’s how the it gets started (this is simplified). So the plague is started by going back into the past (don’t go back to the past, no plague–no antecedent) and as it plays out, it happens just as the protagonist “remembers” it (self-fulfilling). Why am I spoiling this movie to talk about the end? Because it set the stage for the multitude of “time travel” stories and “boot strap” stories that permeated the landscape for (at least) 10 years after this movie released. Now I understand why there were so many movies that featured this time travel arc. This movie is influential in the genre, that only “ended” with Bruce Willis in another time travel film, Looper. However, in between 12 Monkeys and Looper, there were a ton of time travel/psuedo time travel films released (you can find me talking about them in a post from a few years ago: https://sidneyblaylockjr.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/where-you-end-is-not-where-you-begin-time-travel-in-movies/

12 Monkeys is where all these movies got their ideas/start, so it is a “referential” movie in the field of science fiction (time travel films) and has influenced films for over a decade.

Overall Grade: C

I might have rated this higher had I seen it earlier. However, so many later movies that I watched “stole” (paid homage/or more kindly, thought they could do the idea even better) that much of the movie’s uniqueness had already been worn through. It also doesn’t help that I’d already read many of the concepts in Sci-Fi novels even before the movie originally released. Generally speaking, its Short-stories–>Novels/Graphic Novels–>Film in terms of progression for Sci-Fi ideas. Want to be on the cutting edge, read sci-fi mags and anthologies, want to see the idea propagated to a mass audience, wait for the film. This is one that, at its time, might have made more of an impression (as it did to the countless filmmakers of successive time travel stories, but now, if you seen any of the recent time stories of the last 10 years, Source Code, Deja Vu, etc., then you have a pretty good idea of where the story is headed.

Sunsetting Star Wars

Sunsetting Star Wars Two characters from Star Wars watch the twin suns set.
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2W5YPQJqUs

Okay, I know, a provactive title. And yes, The Last Jedi features into the discussion, but not nearly as much as one would think. I’ve known for a while now that the Disney version of Star Wars (at least for the last of the 3 Skywalker films) would be “sunsetting” the original characters and creating a whole new set of characters that we would follow through new movies for a “new” generation. My problem (at the time) wasn’t the sunsetting of the older characters–it was, would I like the new characters? Now, however, I have to say that it is isn’t the new characters that bother me (except the “grumpy Darklord”–Daisy Ridley’s term for Kylo Ren). What I really have a problem with is the way in which the old characters are being “retired.”

Be Fair to Your Audience

Yes, I know we live in an 18-35 year old world. I get it. This is where marketers focus their efforts on, this is where people really want to target their appeals to, but one of the things that I really dislike about the way Star Wars has treated its audience is that they haven’t honored the original actors/roles as much as they could have.

So, unless I get really heavily into spoilers, I can’t actually do a “deep dive” into the ways Disney has “disrespected” fans of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia from the original trilogy. Suffice to say, the resolution of the two men have not ended well. Carrie Fisher unfortunately, passed away, so I suspect we will see footage of her in the new movie, but I feel that they will be far more respectful to her character because she (sadly) is no longer with us (the Paul Walker effect, essentially).

As a long time fan of the films, I don’t understand why we can’t get a resolution of the old characters that doesn’t feature them going out in the way they do. I feel that both of the characters who’ve we’ve “resolved” so far from the original trilogy do not end in a way that is either consistent or satisfying to what we as fans were presented onscreen during Lucas’ original run.

Be Consistent

And this the cry that every fan asks every creator whether or not they originally created a character or not. Let me be absolutely clear–I don’t like The Last Jedi. One of the main reasons is that I don’t feel that the Disney Star Wars films are playing fair with audience expectations is that the characterizations are not even close to what the characters have exhibited in the past, nor do they honor the struggles that they originally had. For example, Luke struggled with redeeming his father from evil, yet his nephew “supposedly” (we see this off-screen) displays tendencies of “evil” and Luke most definitely (again, vague to avoid spoilers) does NOT try to even talk to the kid, let alone redeem him. That is antithetical to Luke’s characterization and doesn’t fit with what I know about the character. However, for plot reasons, we need Luke to ignore 20 years of history (his own history, btw) and act in a manner counter to what he has done previously.

The same is true for Han Solo’s character. While I can somewhat see what befalls him, he still has to act in a “dumb” fashion for his ending to occur. In the original trilogy, Han and Chewbacca rarely split up–it does happen, but it was in Jedi and close to the end. However, in Force Awakens, the split-up happens at just the right time for the “surprise” to happen and to allow Han to be “Solo” at just the right time.

Again, I have to be super-vague to keep from spoilers (& this may be hurting my argument), but I feel that a grave disservice has been done to the old school characters. Leia will probably get a “hero’s sendoff,” but why does she get to be the only one? And why after she’s passed away? My grandmother subscribed to the idea that we should give “people their flowers while they are living,” meaning that one should honor people while they are alive and not wait until they are dead. The actors in the original Star Wars did a wonderful job and their characters are well loved by millions of fans. Is it really so bad to ask the creators of the new series to honor that idea and to give the characters a “sunset” that is consistent with their characters and honors their actors in an appropriate way (which I don’t think is what has actually occurred).

Sidney

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Great Actors in Small Roles: Claudia Black

Claudia Black (from Wikipedia entry)
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudia_Black

So, I’m expanding this “series” just a little bit to also include under “appreciated” actors who I come across from all genres–not just film, as it had been previously. While, again, I won’t often call out many actors, there are just some who do a great job and don’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve.

One actor whose work I always love is Claudia Black. Having re-“rediscovered” her work in Farscape and having just recently finished the entire Stargate SG-1 series, in which guest stars towards the latter part of the series and becomes a series regular in the last season, I’ve really come to appreciate both her comedic timing and sense of the “ironic” in the characters that she plays.

Farscape

I’ll have a more in-depth review of the show later, but I really like the way Claudia Black imbues her character on the show, Aeryn Sun, with a sense of both sarcasm combined with deadly earnestness. Fitting of someone who was once a commando for the “enemy,” Claudia plays Aeryn with a physicality (and sometimes coldness) befitting of a military specialist. However, even after only about 4-5 episodes, I see the inventive wordplay and playfulness that is the embodiment of Vala (SG-1).

Uncharted

Many people may or may not know Claudia by sight, but most gamers (Playstation at least) know her for her roles in the Uncharted series. She plays Chloe Frazier, a treasure hunter and one-time old flame for the series protagonist Nathan Drake. While her roles were substantial in the games, I really felt the actress and the character come into her own with the release of the stand alone game Uncharted The Lost Legacy which featured two former supporting characters Chole Frazer and Nadine Ross as the lead characters in a new adventure. I thought the pain in which Black exhibited towards her father in some of the more emotionally charges scenes were outstanding and gave true insight into the character.

Stargate SG-1

One of my favorite characters on SG-1 was Vala, introduced as a “foil” to Daniel. While Vala is played as a far more humorous character than Aeryn, she can also have moments of seriousness, and even cold-blooded calculation, although Vala’s overriding conception is “fun.” Again, I really liked the way Claudia Black uses a “grin” to emphasize Vala’s playful demeanor which is reminscent of the way my own family used humor and sarcasm in a playful way, using our facial features and body language to diffuse/disarm any attempt to harm. I think this is why I don’t find “teasing” funny in real life because, in real life, “teasing” is really meant to cause harm to the person–whereas in Vala’s paradigm (and mine), teasing is just a way of playing and being fun without being stupid/doing stupid things. Without the correct gestures and body language, sarcasm and glib comments can do more harm than good.

While Claudia Black may not be a “household name” in many homes, I really think she should be as her ability to play both fun and playful characters along with characters with an emotional edge or more depth make her an actor that I enjoy watching (or listening to for her voice work) everytime I encounter something that she’s starring in.

A handclap of praise to Claudia Black for such wonderfully diverse characters–and for bringing a sense of “fun” and “wonder” back to adventure and science fiction.

Sidney

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Series Review: Babylon 5

Babylon 5 Cast Photo
Image Source: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/an-oral-history-of-babylon-5-the-beloved-tv-novel-that-showed-a-different-way-to-tell-sci

Over the weekend, I finished the entire run (all five seasons) of Babylon 5. I thought I’d take a moment and give my impressions of the series as a whole and how I feel it fits into the Sci-Fi TV landscape. There are some light spoilers–basically, just plot arcs across the series, not individual episodes. I couldn’t avoid them in order to give a thorough review of the series, but I still tried to be as spoiler free as possible. Those wanting to go into the series completely fresh, should probably stop reading now, bookmark this page, go watch the show for yourself (as of this writing, it is streaming on Amazon Prime), and then come back. If you’re not bothered by knowing season arcs, then read on.

Seasons 1 – 4.5 : The Shadow War

I think this is where the show shines–“The Shadow War” storyline shines as an impressive piece of storytelling. While Season 1 isn’t the strongest as I feel much of that season was setting up the characters’ relationships. I liked the character of Sinclair (& initially, during the first run of the show, I was a bit turned off by the introduction of the new B5 commander, Sheridan, upon re-watching the show and understanding the struggle of the actor who played Sinclair, I found it to be fine). What really impresses me about this story arc is the way Season 1 drops little hints that the War is coming (foreshadowing) and Season 2 fully delivers on it. Now, it seems a bit archaic with so many shows having multi-season arcs, but at the time, it was almost revolutionary. I found the whole arc to be quite impressive and filled with drama and tension, with both humor and heart. I honestly liked all the actors and while I didn’t necessarily like each and every episode, I feel this is where the heart of the show is contained. I would rate these as 9 to 9.5.

Season 4.5 – 5: Earth Alliance Civil War

I’m simplifying here–some of these episodes are actually earlier in the season 4 timeline (and hints have been dropped about this upcoming confrontation earlier in the season). This where a bit of the seams come apart in the show. While the actual civil war is handled well and takes the show into a new, interesting territory, the whole Mars/Earth subplot feels forced and a bit strained. I wish that I could say that I enjoyed every episode, but (outside of the space battle scenes between Earth Alliance and the former B5/Mars Colonies), this storyline seemed to drag. There were some great scenes in this part (Delenn facing down the Earth Alliance is a particular highlight), but there are places (especially the Mars sections that drag), but overall, still enjoyable. These I would rate 8.0 to 8.5.

Season 5: Telepath “War”

So, to me, this is where the series grounds to a screeching halt. I didn’t buy the whole Bester/Garabaldi arc wherein (*spoilers*) Bester overrides Garabaldi and makes him act contrary to Garabaldi’s normal persona. Yes, I know that set it up in the show, but it still didn’t ring true for me. However, after the resolution of those episodes, the show seemed to get back on track, only to be hit with the character of Byron. While I have no particular animus towards the actor, I think the character of Byron was probably the worst in the Babylon 5 show and completely undermined what should have been a tense drama. I didn’t believe his “Messiah” complex, nor did I believe his “Malcolm X” switch when he found out about the truth of the true role of Telepaths in the story. That whole arc really took me out of the story. The only reason I didn’t stop watching the show was because of the Lyta Alexander character. While I wanted her arc to go in a different direction, she was still (by far) the most interesting character in the story arc. Once that was done with, the show finished strong by focusing on the “ending” of the show–characters moving on while new characters would ostensibly take their place for the future (which we wouldn’t get to see). The Londo story arc was quite good as was the 2-3 episodes leading to the finale. I also liked the finale as it was a satisfying conclusion to the series (& hearkened back to the themes of the “Shadow War.”

Sidney




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  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Annihilation Movie Review (No Spoilers)

Annihilation_(film)
Annihilation Movie Poster.  Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilation_(film)

Annihilation is a movie that I’ve wanted to see every since it was released–however, I could tell that, while Sci-Fi, it was not one that falls within my preferred genre of Action Sci-Fi, or Space Opera.  It is generally described as an “idea” Science Fiction movie, meaning that the ideas and concepts are what takes precedence.  In my experience, I find that while there is some character development and some light action, generally speaking, they tend to be on the slower side in terms of narrative flow.  Not complaining, just an observation–unless it is farce, I generally like all types of Sci-Fi.

Alex Garland

So, this movie was directed by Alex Garland, and he has a visually striking style.  The problem is, based on the movie’s narrative, I’m not sure yet whether I find his style to my liking.  I’ve tried several times to watch his other Sci-Fi movie, Ex Machina, but I only have managed to get through about half an hour so far (probably just going to have to watch it in half-hour “spurts”).  However, while I appreciate his style, it was hard going to try to get through the movie.  I knew that if I stopped at any point, I probably would not come back to it and it would be another recent Sci-Fi movie that I abandoned mid-stream (Inception and Looper), so I just plugged on through.  I don’t think Alex Garland’s narrative style works for me . . . his visual style is arresting and very distinctive, but I’m not sure that story-telling-wise, that I like the way the narrative connections come together.

Science Fiction of “Ideas”

Yes, Sci-Fi is a genre of ideas and is driven by great ideas.  The problem is that one should also really focus on characters and characterization and setting.  The problem that occurs is that while their are characters in peril and/or crisis, we are often held at a distance from these characters (especially in Annihilation) and it is hard to form a bond with the characters.  While I’m not the best with names in real life, I’m usually pretty good with character’s names, yet I’m struggling to remember the names of the major characters and I just saw the movie 3 or 4 days ago.  I remember them, what their actors looked like, what occupation/role they fulfilled, but I don’t remember them as characters and I think this is where the movie ultimately failed for me.  Even the ending has a twist (that I won’t spoil) that changes the way the characters might be perceived at the end, but because I didn’t really care about the characters, the ending didn’t work for me because I just didn’t care.  The story, as presented, focused too much on the visual effects and the mystery of the “Shimmer” and not enough on the characterization and why I should care.  Even the mystery of the Shimmer, while sufficiently explained during the course of the film, didn’t lead to a moment of Epiphany for the main character, but was rather presented as simply a random, if extraordinary event, that was ultimately rendered moot by the main character’s actions during the story.  As much as critics dislike The Cloverfield Paradox, I feel that ultimately, while Annihilation is a movie with better special effects and better overall logical storytelling plot points, I find that I enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox more because I could understand and get behind the characters and their motives.  In Annihilation, there was simply too much distance between the viewers and the characters.y

Overrall Grade: C

For a .99 rental, it was at least worth seeing, but I’m glad that I did not pay full theatrical price to see it.  Too much focus on the visuals and the ideas behind the visuals and not enough on characterization really dampened my enjoyment of the movie.  It also shows some graphic content with the deaths of a couple characters (I guess the director wanted to show the the brutality of the world–but it came off, to me, as unnecessary and exploitative–violence for violence sake and it pulled me out of the narrative when those two scenes occurred.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

(Unintended) Story Research: “The Independent”

SpaceX-Trucking-696x465[1]
Truck carrying oversized load (SpaceX rocket). Image Source: https://cdllife.com/2018/video-trucking-spacex-rockets/

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Revision Month (i.e., “2nd Draft” Central)
    I have stories that I’d like to revise during this month, but I’ve not tried to do multiple projects inside of a single month before and I’m not sure that’s going to work, but I can’t think of any other way. Projects currently awaiting revision include: “Whale Song,” “The Independent” (subject of today’s blog post), “Project Skye,”
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)
    (Researched an article on Whaling, think that I have the two characters–a brother and a sister who are on the opposite sides of the issue.  Still, no Writing so far). Need to find a place to work in revisions–I can draft new material just fine, but I don’t seem to have any time to work on “drafting” revisions.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    The Belgariad David Eddings
    Last week was NOT a good week, so I needed some “comfort food” for reading and my go to book for “comfort food” is the Belgariad (followed closely by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be a Wizard.)
  • For School:
    Afrofuturism (by Ytasha Womack): This book describes the academic genre of Afrofuturism (essentially African American Science Fiction that deals with social issues in culture).  I just finished Chapter 5 today and I’m at the beginning of Chapter 6 (this book has 10 chapters).
    Wrote out a fairly extensive list of possible research topics to explore from chapter 5. Really intriguing book.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Stumbling Upon Research for a Story

As I was watching YouTube videos over the weekend (to decompress from a fairly hard week last week), I stumbled upon a set off “trucking” videos on the site. Now, I’d actually found one earlier in July and watched it for details regarding living in a cab and the “realities” of being in such a small space for trips across country hauling freight. YouTube’s algorithms must have finally caught up with that particular viewing because it started offering other trucking videos over the weekend. One YouTuber, in particular, by the handle of indianajacktrucker caught my eye and I watched one of his videos. That one video gave quite a bit of insight into the trucking profession, covering trucking etiquette, truck stops, parking, why truckers are using their trucks instead of truck stops, food, and even a poignant moment discussing the murder of another trucker who parked in an abandoned parking lot because a “big box” store wouldn’t allow him to park on their parking lot.

The Independent = Project Independence= “Space Truckers” = Real Truckers = Story Research

So, readers of the blog over the past year have heard quite a bit about the story that I wrote entitled, “The Independent.”  It was referred to under the name Project Independence & Space Truckers on the blog. It was my attempt to “futurize” the profession of the “trucker” (i.e., what would freight hauling/haulers look like in the future)? Now, this isn’t unique–it remember games like Starflight and Elite (& and from what I hear, Elite Dangerous) were doing something similar as far back as the mid 1980s. However, I’ve not seen it done in fiction in a way that I personally like, so I wrote this story (with hopefully a larger story in mind).

2nd Draft–Focusing on Characters

I’m planning on rewriting the story and focusing more on the characters. Hopefully, now that I have all of the “events” of the story locked down in more or less the way that I want them, I’m hoping to create “Larger Than Life” characters who are at once memorable and realistic. Just by watching this one video (and I’m hopefully going to watch more next weekend when I have more time), I have quite a few ideas for the two main characters and the secondary characters, especially in regards to character traits. Now, I feel like my major task should be to try to come up with Internal Conflicts for the two main characters that they can be struggling with in regards to the story. I feel that this is where I’m weakest at the moment (more on this to come in a future blog post), but now that I’ve written the 1st draft and spent some time away from it, I can see the problems with it more objectively and hopefully work on fixing them to the best of my ability in this new 2nd draft.

Well, that’s all I have time for at the moment. Here’s hoping you have a great day!

Sidney




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