The Mandalorian - title

One of my biggest complaints with Disney's Star Wars movies has been their complete lack of original ideas, and their complete unwillingness to move the Star Wars narrative forward. That's actually why I didn't think The Last Jedi was as bad as most people said it was. I mean, it wasn't "good" by any stretch of the imagination. The script was messy, the tone was uneven, and a lot of the movie's logic was fundamentally flawed. But I appreciated much of the bold thematic elements. The Last Jedi wanted desperately to move the franchise in new directions, and it actively mocked the previous film(s) (and the fanbase) for being too trapped in the past.

The rest of Disney's Star Wars movies haven't been so bold. The Force Awakens was a rehash of the original movie. Rogue One and Solo were both prequels that nobody asked for that both attempted to explain minutia that never needed explaining to begin with. I haven't seen Rise of Skywalker yet, but I'm hearing that it's an exceedingly dumb rehash of Return of the Jedi, and possibly the worst Star Wars movie since The Pantom Menace. And that's the "gentle" criticism that I'm hearing from people who were generally favorable towards Disney's treatment of Star Wars!

Suffice it to say, outside of the X-Wing and Armada tabletop games (which I love and still regularly play), I have become so jaded and sick of Star Wars that I didn't bat an eye at Disney's announcement of The Mandalorian. I just assumed that it was a prequel series about young Boba Fett that would continue the Star Wars trend of fixating on its past. I had no interest in watching the series, and I sure as hell was not going to pay a monthly subscription to Disney to watch it.

But I guess a free subscription to Disney Plus came with our Verizon phone plan, and my girlfriend was hearing some good word-of-mouth in the week after the first episode premiered, so we've been having stay-in date nights to watch it. I want to say, by the way, that I like this approach of releasing episodes of a streaming series on a fixed schedule, rather than dumping a whole season all at once. It facilitates water-cooler talk because everybody else is at the same point in the narrative that you are. You have time to digest the events of each episode and talk about them, and you are able to speculate with friends over what's going to happen next, because your friends don't know either! You'd think that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu would have figured this out with the success of HBO's Game of Thrones weekly release schedule, but they didn't. Disney learned. (and so did CBS).

The Mandalorian feels like it's actually pushing the Star Wars narrative forward.

...

[More]

My biggest concern going into this new Twilight Zone reboot was with the hour-long format of its premiere. The first episode, "The Comedian" (which was available on YouTube for free as a preview of the show to come), was a bit overlong and dragged considerably in the second half. It had made its point by about halfway through, we could all see where the episode was going, and it insisted on going on for another 20 minutes despite not really having anything left to say.

OK, yeah sure, in the past I've complained about shows like Fox's Cosmos reboot being too short. Commercials cutting Niel DeGrasse Tyson's Cosmos reboot to only 45-ish minutes was simply not enough time for Tyson to give more than an elementary overview of the grandeur of nature or science.

However, The Twilight Zone isn't an educational show about "all that is, or ever was, or ever will be"; it's an anthology of science fiction parables and allegories. Parables and allegories are usually short and simple stories intended to convey a moral or lesson or insight into the human condition. The Twilight Zone doesn't really need a full hour to tell its stories. The twists are easy enough to see coming. This isn't The Sixth Sense, or Fight Club, or American Psycho, or Se7en, or something similar that actually needs a two-hour runtime to build up suspense and intrigue and dot the entire runtime with clues for its twist ending.

The pilot episode "The Comedian" felt over-long.

I was happy to see that episodes later in the first season have variable runtimes. The second episode, "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet" (which is actually a totally different story than the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" classic that it is homaging with its title), is under 40 minutes, filled out its runtime better, and enjoyed much tighter overall pacing. The following episode, "Replay", clocked in at 45 minutes, and also enjoyed a much tighter script.

...

[More]
George R.R. Martin has yet to finish writing the book series.

Let HBO's Game of Thrones series stand as a testament to why companies should not adapt works for television or movies until after that work is actually complete. Game of Thrones was a huge hit when it premiered, and its early seasons are among the best television in recent memory. However, the last two or three seasons have been ... less good. The writing has become more spotty, characters are behaving more impulsively, the pacing has been rushed, and the whole thing just seems to be less well thought-out.

This could be due, in large part, to the fact that after the fifth or sixth season of the show, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have advanced beyond the source material. George R. R. Martin has yet to finish writing the final two books in the series -- a process which may still take years! HBO didn't want to wait, and they continued on with the show despite the lack of established source material from which to pull. They've done so with the consent and advice of Martin, who supposedly provided Benioff and Weiss with an overview of what he wanted to write in those final two books, but the end result has been sub-par.

I've written previously about the show's fifth season, which is the last season of the series that I would consider to be "good". That season was criticized for being "slow and boring" by some, and also for using shock value (such as the rape of Sansa by Ramsey Bolton) as a gimmick to keep people interested. However, I thought that the fifth season was tightly unified by its consistent themes of futility and self-destruction, as each of the major players slowly succumbed to their most fundamental impulses and took actions that ended up undercutting their own goals.

Season five had a consistent theme of self-destructive leaders.

Seasons seven and eight, however, have been much less defensible.

Season seven cut the episode count from the usual ten down to only seven, which resulted in the season as a whole feeling rushed and under-developed. Characters began to act more rashly, with little attention paid to building up to those actions. They travel great distances in what seems like no time at all. Plot threads would be left dangling, or would be set up and never paid off.

The Unsullied were left at Casterly Rock with no supplies,
only to show up a few episodes later no worse for wear.

For example, mid-way through the season, the Unsullied Army travels to Casterly Rock to fight the Lannister army, only to find that the Lannisters have abandoned the castle, destroyed the grain reserves, and salted the land. The episode makes a big deal of the fact that the Unsullied are now stuck there with no provisions and no hope of receiving reinforcements or supplies. Then we don't see or hear from them for, like, two episodes, before they suddenly show up again at Dragonstrone no worse for the wear.

Season eight seems to have doubled down on most of these problems. The season has been reduced further to only six episodes, and events are happening with even less build-up or set-up. Scenes are being added for shock value without any rhyme or reason. Characters are behaving out of character, or suddenly having changes of heart at the flip of a switch. Characters who used to be clever are acting like bafoons.

...

[More]

The Haunting of Hill House

Oh boy, this is going to be a tough one to talk about. I have very mixed, and somewhat polarized views of how this turns out, and as such, I'm struggling with whether or not I can offer a recommendation. The first five or six episodes are fantastic! After that, however, I really feel like the show peters out, begins to meander and run in place, and then kind of unravels in the end. Those first five or six episodes are so good, however, that I think I can recommend the series as a whole based on the strengths of its first half.

I can't discuss this show without getting into spoilers, so be warned that the further down you read, the more spoiler-y this will become.

A masterfully suspenseful start

Each of the first five or six episodes is told from the point of view of a different sibling in a family that is tormented by a summer spent in a haunted house. This structure creates a deeply textured and nuanced tapestry, in which each episodes recasts the events of the previous episodes in a new light. Giving each character his or her own episode provides us with a rich character study that helps us to understand each character's attitude when they all get together and the family drama gets rolling. All the while, the subtle supernatural elements create a building sense of intrigue as the mysteries surrounding Hill House, and the family's last night there, continue to mount and the plot continues to thicken.

Each of the first six episodes is told from the perspective of a different character.

I really love the camera work! Slow pans and zooms are used with excellent effect to draw out scenes and add tension and keep the scene mysterious. Sometimes, there's a creepy detail in the background. Other times, there's an ominous lack of anything creepy to see as the camera slowly pans from character to character across a room or down a hallway. In any genre other than horror, these labored camera movements would seem wasteful and pointless, but they really add to the atmosphere here.

The set design is also really great. The gothic Hill House provides an excellent and ominous set piece, but the other sets are also uncanny and unnerving in their own right, especially Shirley's funeral home. Around episode 6 or 7, I was really starting to struggle with reconciling the geometry of Hill House, and this is something that is paid off really well at the end of the series.

The geometry of Hill House becomes a source of unease as the series develops.

A meandering, incoherent ending

Unfortunately, the series faltered a bit for me after the sixth episode. At this point, all the characters are together in one place, and so no one character receives the focus of the narrative. The story starts to meander a bit here, while also running in place, as the intrigue that was so carefully crafted in the preceding episodes is squandered, new plot points and concepts are thrown at the audience, and old plot points and concepts just disappear.

...

[More]

Oh boy, there's been a lot of Star Trek news and rumors over the past half year or so. They've been coming in so rapid-fire that it's been hard to take any of them seriously. But now we actually do have confirmation from CBS that new Star Trek projects (aside from Discovery) are in the works.

While it might sound nice to have new Star Trek in the works, the news isn't necessarily good. If you're like me, and did not like the direction of Star Trek: Discovery, then the news of new Trek projects from CBS is probably not very promising. In fact, it may all sound like a train wreck waiting to happen.

Discovery still can't get its shit together!

Let's start with the show that already exists: Star Trek: Discovery. The production of season two has so far been just as rough as the production of season one. CBS fired the showrunners mid-way through filming the second season. The studio claims that the showrunners were causing the show to go overbudget, and that they were mistreating staff. However, it's also the case that there were extensive reshoots (which apparently involves giving the Klingons their hair back), which may imply that the studio was meddling in the production, and that there were creative differences between the showrunners and the studio execs. Sounds a lot like season one all over again.

Discovery is going through a major pivot, and it's production is not going well.

The series is apparently trying to course-correct and is pivoting hard by bringing in the original Enterprise as a last-ditch effort to try to win back the support of long-time fans. But, as a long-time fan, I don't want to see the Enterprise again. I especially don't want to see any extensive, canon-breaking retcons to the characters or history. However, it looks like that's what we're going to get.

I'd rather see Star Trek go to new places and try new things, as long as they are consistent with the established canon, and are consistent with the cerebral, hard science fiction theme of the series. Basing the entire series on magic trans-dimensional fungus that allows instantaneous teleportation to anywhere in any universe is consistent with neither.

I want to see Discovery explore new ideas; not retcon Original Series characters and history.

It isn't just Star Trek that's in trouble, the CBS corporation has also gone through its share of troubles this year. Its chairman and CEO, Les Moonves, was forced to resign after accusations of sexual improprieties. Moonves was one of the core champions of Star Trek: Discovery, who saw the series as the flagship program for CBS' All-Access streaming service. Moonves also notoriously doesn't like or understand science fiction -- let alone Star Trek -- and it was creative disputes between Moonves and original showrunner Bryan Fuller that resulted in Fuller being fired, and in the direction of Discovery pivoting to what it was.

With Moonves out, Discovery might not have the protection of the CEO of the company anymore, which might result in budget cuts and other limitations in the show's production that will almost certainly reduce the quality of the product. The high production qualities were pretty much the only thing that Discovery had going for it (as far as I was concerned). Things are not looking pretty for the future of Star Trek: Discovery.

Patrick Stewart is back as Jean-Luc Picard

The big news, however, is the announcement of two new Star Trek series. The first and foremost is a new series featuring Patrick Stewart in the role of Jean-Luc Picard.

Had the writers even started planning Picard's
show prior to announcing it?

It's unclear, however, what this show will be about. In fact, it looks like the writers didn't even start thinking about that until after the series was announced. That isn't promising. It means we have a studio grasping at straws, without a clear vision for what they want to create.

Apparently, Stewart (or Alex Kurtzman) suggested that Picard may not necessarily be the captain of a starship in this new series. This lead to an early rumor that Picard may instead be an instructor at Starfleet Academy. I can't find any links to this rumor, so maybe it was my own idea that I'm mistaking for a rumor...? In any case, I would much rather see Picard be more of a cameo character in a show that isn't squarely about him. Making him a professor at the Academy, teaching cadets who are the main characters actually sounds like a half-way decent idea with a lot of promise. Rumors of CBS being pitched ideas for a Starfleet Academy series have been circulating for a couple years now, so maybe this gives them an opportunity to finally pursue that idea.

Another interesting idea that I had would be to make Picard to have retired from Starfleet and taken up a new career as an archaeologist. The character had a profound interest in archaeology throughout the series, and even gave lectures about the subject in at least one or two instances.

...

[More]
Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

Follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/MegaBearsFan

Patreon

If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:
Patreon.com/MegaBearsFan

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

I actually like playing the preseason in MaddenI actually like playing the preseason in Madden10/07/2019 If you've already read my review of Madden 20 on my personal blog, then you know that I consider this year's release to be a massive disappointment. In fact, the last Madden entry that I actually liked was probably Madden 17. Despite my misgivings about this year's game, I do want to start off by talking about something in recent...

Recent Posts

Random Post

A note to game developers: stop reminding us that your game has an auto-save!A note to game developers: stop reminding us that your game has an auto-save!11/12/2012 I don't know if Xbox 360 users have this problem, but some PS3 developers still feel that it is necessary to display the "This game saves data automatically" prompt every time the game is booted up. PS3 auto-save prompt So annoying. I like to put a game in and then get up and pour myself a glass of water or make a sandwich while...

Month List

RecentComments

Comment RSS