Thursday, April 27, 2017

Blasphemy: How "The Wrath of Khan's" centerpiece showdown could have been better



I don't have to tell the Trekkies among us that the scene where Khan ambushes Kirk in "Wrath of Khan" is the most exciting, suspenseful and hands-down the best sequence in any "Star Trek" film even to this day.

Every "Star Trek" film since then has tried to insert a mid-film showdown similar to the Khan sequence. And it's never as good.

They even tried to remake the whole film with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan.

I remember sitting in the theater on opening night. As the sequence unfolded I was dumbstruck. "The Enterprise is done! Kirk's going to beam over and Khan's going to kill him! And then he'll blow up the Enterprise just for laughs!" My mind was racing all over the possibilities, I had no idea how Kirk would get out of this.

We've seen this a million times. There's always a bad guy holding a gun over James Bond, and you think, "ehh, he'll throw sand in his eyes, he'll kick him in the shin, the love-interest will shoot the villain from behind." I've never thought James Bond was ever in real peril.

But this was the first time the villain was pointing a gun (or phasers) at a hobbled hero and I thought, "Crap! The movie is over!"

But then ... Kirk calls up the Reliant's command code, and orders the Reliant to lower its shields. The imperious Khan is suddenly stunned and clueless, and the audience gets this amazing release when The Enterprise starts firing on the now-defenseless Reliant (the audience opening night was cheering!)

(not to mention that for everyone in the audience, this sequence  more than made up for the dull, listless "Star Trek: The Motion Picture").

Brilliant!

But could the sequence have been better?

Yes, and it would have been easy and made more sense.

While delaying Khan, Kirk asks Saavik for the command code for the Reliant. Saavik is confused, "Command code?"

Kirk then explains to her (and the audience) that every Starfleet ship has a command code "to keep an enemy from doing what we're about to attempt."

Oh, OK, that makes sense. Even in 1982, we had computer passwords to prevent hacking, so this wasn't an especially new concept. It had really never been introduced in the TV series.

But, why was this concept introduced as the sequence is progressing? It would have been super easy, and more enjoyable if the concept was explained at the beginning of the film.

Think about it, in the beginning, while Enterprise was in space dock, the Starfleet air traffic controller could have easily said, "Should I use your command code to steer you out of dry dock?" and Saavik would have said, "No thank you, I don't like handing over control of the comm," then the film would continue where Kirk looks shocked and Bones offers him a sedative.

And the audience would have enjoyed the scene, not realizing they were being set up for the big action sequence an hour later. And when the sequence unfolds, there would be no need for exposition.

Think of the CAT ekto-skeleton in "Aliens." James Cameron didn't introduce that thing at the end of the movie when Ripley needed it to defeat the Alien, he introduced it at the beginning, and turned it into a red herring by convincing the audience that the CAT's only purpose was to show that Ripley was a badass in front of a male chauvinist. It worked for me, and everyone else in the audience. Meanwhile, we learned it existed and how it worked early on.

What do you think?


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Flash review: The Once and Future Flash



Barry goes to the future to try to learn Savitar's identity. Future Barry would just tell him, right?

Everytime Barry travels in either direction through time, something always goes horribly wrong,  This time, in the future everyone is pretty miserable, it's like their "Wonderful Life" episode they couldn't wait till Christmas to make. But instead of George Bailey seeing how miserable everyone's life is if he hadn't been born, Barry sees how miserable everyone's life is after Iris dies and future Barry goes into seclusion.

In the end, he rallies the team together again and everyone's happy. That was easy! Even the miserable in-seclusion Barry comes back.

In the forgotten "Superboy" series from the late 80s, Superboy travels through some alternate dimensions, finds a burnt-out version of himself and he comes back to save the day.

So it was a hybrid of "Wonderful Life" and that one good episode of "Superboy."

It's still fun to watch, but they might be running out of ideas.

Killer Frost is back, with a great tease at the end to the real ID of Savitar.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The TV-character-whose-other-job-is-as-a-TV-host trope



The internet and I have explored TV tropes before: the jump the shark moments, the death of a beloved character never mentioned before, disposable love interests, the unnecessary plot contrivance.

But here's something I've never seen explored: The-TV-character-whose-other-job-is-as-TV-host trope.

In the late 80s-early 90s, it wasn't enough that Bob Newhart was an innkeeper, in the later seasons, he had to be an innkeeper with his own TV show; it wasn't enough Tim Allen was a handyman, he was a handyman with his own TV show, it wasn't enough Kelsey Grammar was a psychologist, he was a psychologist with his own radio show, George Wendt had a short lived show (based on NPR's "Car Talk,") where he and his brother were mechanics who had their own radio show.

We've seen plenty of backstage sitcoms before, but Rob Petrie only had one job!

Why would they all have a second job? Why would the second job always be in media? Where did this come from? In each case I suspect network interference, because all of these shows would have been just as good without the main character's extraneous job. In every case, the extraneous job seems tacked on; the implication is 'doesn't everyone have his/her own TV show?'


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dennis the Menace works blue


Probably more about the Mitchells' sex life than we'd like to know, but I like when old comics try something new.

Review of 10-year-old comic book I've finally gotten around to reading, part 2



A beautiful Alex Ross cover, some beautiful retro Jerry Ordway, Bob Wiacek art. What's not to like? Well....

The story picks up from JSA 17 where the Magog-ish god-like character banishes Power Girl to ...
some manner of Pre-Crisis Earth 2. Huntress is still around, Dick Grayson is still around, and the Justice Society had merged with Infinity Inc., and it's a real kick to see these characters illustrated by the wonderful Jerry Ordway again.

But, in one of a long series (dating back decades) of Power Girl and Huntress having late-night, rooftop conversations, PG tells Huntress she feels out of place and it's pretty obvious she's the wrong Power Girl for this dimension.

They go on to break up the Joker's gang and PG even saves Huntress' life....

And then the dimension's real PG shows up, has a hostile reaction to her doppleganger and of course, a fight breaks out.

The JSA decide, with no evidence at all, the the doppleganger PG must be evil and they begin to hunt her down (despite her just saving Huntress' life not an hour earlier.)

It is then to be continued in JSA, but ... eh, who cares.

DC has this long history of contempt/neglect for Earth 2, it's hard to work up ethusiasm. Is this the real pre-Crisis Earth 2 or just one of a million deviation universes so numerous it's hard to get an emotional attachment? Either way, it will be gone soon, so just forget about it and move along.

Secondly, the "He/she must be a villain; let's beat him/her up" misunderstanding was a staple for Marvel in the 60s and 70s and let's admit, it's getting pretty tired by now.

So, it starts out as a treat to old-timers like myself who enjoyed Earth 2 stories  and the mid-80s Infinity Inc. run, and still feels the Crisis on Infinite Earths was a colossal mistake, but by the ending, most good will has been squandered.