July 25, 2016
That was a lot of fun, and something of a huge relief that the new incarnation no longer seems determined to rehash previous plot bunnies to death. I understand new writers and a new director are to be credited. Huzzah! So what we get with this movie ends up being something unusual after fifty years of Star Trek: not just a new story, but a kind of story that Star Trek hasn’t really done before. Which was very cool I must say!
One of my friends was unhappy with the promotional images for Star Trek Beyond because they show the Enterprise getting destroyed. It isn’t that he hates seeing the Enterprise getting destroyed — it’s just that it’s been done so often by now, and what was spectacular and horrifying at the end of The Search for Spock is now just the thing that Star Trek does to try to shock people, which isn’t actually shocking anymore.
So the movie starts and things happen and the Enterprise is destroyed — in the very first act. And it’s spectacular. And we all think, “Holy cow, now what?” Now what is Star Trek without the Enterprise. The crew has all survived via escape pod and are now scattered on the planet below, being hunted by the alien baddy. (Who is actually the weakest part of the whole story. There’s a baddy, there’s an alien Macguffin Device of sorts that the baddy is after, and it might have been the two margaritas I had beforehand but none of this was entirely clear to me. Partly because none of it mattered. It was just a necessary obstacle to provide the crew with the excuse they needed to be awesome.)
This was actually a great setup for a Star Trek story. Uhura and Sulu get captured by the bad guy and do what they need to to hold the line and take care of the rest of the captured crew. McCoy is marooned with a rather severely injured Spock, and they banter, as one expects. Kirk and Chekov do the bulk of the adventuring, in tracking down the others. Scotty meets the alien refugee who’d previously been marooned on the planet, and who has discovered the still-functioning wreckage of an earlier crash, an older Starfleet vessel that our lovely crew can now get up and running again in order to save the day.
This all gave us something that had been missing from the previous two films: a crew, working together. This isn’t the Kirk Angst Show. This isn’t the non-stop Kirk-Spock buddy action drama. This is a movie about the whole crew, about Starfleet, about their mission, about the good they can do.
Star Trek movies have tended to be big, to justify their existences on the big screen. Giant existential threats against the whole of the Federation, Starfleet, whatever. The two Abrams movies seemed to need to double down on that — altering timelines, destroying planets, etc. This movie really felt like it just wanted to celebrate the little things that have always made Star Trek great: very cool space stations. Making friends with aliens. (I must say, I loved kick-ass alien Jaylah in spite of myself. She was kind of a big ol’ trope, but she was super-earnest. And she seemed really excited about being invited to enter Starfleet Academy, which I just had to love.) Each person on the crew having a job and being awesome, and not just being a satellite for Kirk. The idea that Starfleet wins fights against power-hungry bad guys because of community and optimism.
The layer of meta: in-universe, we learn that Ambassador Spock has died. This felt important, because in the Next Gen timeline, he never died, he moved to Romulus and that was the last we heard of him. So this was really the death of that character, the beloved old timeline character, which was a little strange to think of. This was, in fact, a memorial to Leonard Nimoy, and it was gently done, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. They only had time to add a “For Anton” in the credits for Anton Yelchin. But for me, I think I cried a little bit every time he appeared on screen.
As has been said elsewhere, this isn’t the best Star Trek movie. But it’s a good one, and is a good sign for more to come.
July 22, 2016
July 20, 2016
I caught up on a couple of classics recently.
Movie: The African Queen. That was not what I was expecting. I think all I really knew about this was the clips that always get shown of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart motoring down the river and being curmudgeonly. (And that the actual boiler from the boat is on display in the lobby of the place I stay at when I go diving in Key Largo. I can’t explain it.) I guess I expected ninety minutes or so of banter and curmudgeonly-ness. Turns out, this is a straight-up romance. The two characters fall madly in love pretty early on and spend the rest of the film cooing at each other like teenagers. Which was a little weird, with those two particular gruff craggy actors. And then the last fifteen minutes of the film is blowing up Germans. Which I was also not expecting. This is the first time I’ve ever watched a classic film and sort of wished someone would remake it with modern sensibilities and without the rather drippy conventions of 1950’s romance movies.
Book: On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I’ve known about this post-apocalyptic classic forever, and finally just now read it. It’s great, and it hit me hard. Once again, mostly because of my own weird history. So, when my dad was flying B-52’s in the early 80’s, I really worried about him. If the bombs fell I knew I was just dead, that wasn’t an issue. But if Dad was out flying on a mission when the bombs fell — which was pretty much exactly what his job was, to get his plane in the air before the base got hit — what would happen to him? Where would he go? I know they had protocols, they had emergency bases and mid-air refueling and theoretically he would go there and do whatever. But his home would be gone. Everything would be gone, and I thought up these horrifying images of him just flying around above a blasted nuclear wasteland until his fuel ran out. (I’m still coming to understand that those years were maybe a little more stressful than I realized at the time.)
So, anyway, one of the main characters in On the Beach is an American military officer whose submarine is deployed when the bombs drop, and he’s caught away from home. He ends up in Australia, waiting for the radiation fallout to kill everyone, and he knows his family back home (wife, son and daughter, just like our family!) is dead but he just keeps functioning because he has to. It wasn’t until the second to the last chapter that I thought, “That’s my dad.” But boy, when I did, I had to take a break from the book for a few minutes. It happens every now and then, that I’ll be reading or watching something about war or the military, going along just fine, and then suddenly think “That’s my dad,” and it kicks me in the head just about every time. I love my dad and it’s just really hard thinking of him in those difficult situations, even if they never happened. Imagination is a funny thing. I’m really glad I didn’t read this as a teenager.
The rest of the book, I loved the Australian perspective on the Cold War, that Australia wasn’t going to be dropping nukes itself but would absolutely suffer from radiation and fallout from any kind of nuclear exchange. It strikes me that this is a big part of the backdrop of the Mad Max movies as well — dealing with a situation they had no part in making.
July 18, 2016
Hey guys! Next week, we’re having a big Wild Cards group event at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sunday July 24, 2 pm. I’ll be there! So will George R.R. Martin and I think 19 authors total. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with everyone. There is a ticket fee — or, you can buy a book! There’ll be plenty for sale and this will be an excellent opportunity to get as many signatures as possible. Check the event link there for details.
It’ll be a zippy whirlwind weekend away for me, and the start of about four weeks of travel. I’m actually looking forward to it — many adventures await. I just hope I can get everything done this week like I need to, like revise my newest Wild Cards story, get my next newsletter out, vote for the Hugos, and so on, and so on…
And I’m so glad the new Ghostbusters film did well this weekend. Maybe we’ll get more, now that the origin story is out of the way…
July 15, 2016
Saw Ghostbusters and loved it. Had so much fun. Now I’m skimming other peoples’ reviews and I’m a little sad that some people seem determined to hate it, and some can’t talk about it without talking about gender. But enough about that, I have a long review to write and will discuss more there.
Previews for The Expanse season 2 are hitting the web, including pictures of Bobbie Draper. BOBBIE DRAPER!!! Fan favorite indeed.
I’ve started Lucifer and quite like it. It’s got that thing that Castle did, of the flippant guy annoying the serious woman detective, and murder mysteries that are fairly straightforward because they aren’t actually the most interesting thing about the show. And the thing that Sleepy Hollow had with the squirrely guy with the British accent and a completely different outlook, and the straightforward woman detective. HOLLYWOOD, HAVE YOU HIT ON A FORMULA HERE, HMMMM????
In other news, I overslept this morning, and it felt great.
July 13, 2016
A short post to let you know that my long-form review of Warcraft is now live at Lightspeed. I called it “A Mage, A Knight, and a Half-orc Walk into a Tavern–” because I just couldn’t not call it that. Verdict? It falls in the category of “A D&D style movie a million times better than the actual D&D movie.” Which is, granted, a very low bar…
I’ll be writing a long review of the new Ghostbusters for Lightspeed as well. Got my tickets to see it tomorrow. I can’t wait. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about it.
In other news, from the back, my dog looks like a cat.
July 11, 2016
I’ve finished knitting a third pair of socks:
Most complex yet. I used a pattern from The Enchanted Sole by Janel Laidman, and the yarn is “Stone Walk” from Western Sky Knits. Pretty darned fancy, all told. I’m also told I’m super-successful because I’ve actually done both socks on every pair I’ve knitted so far. Heh.
I don’t think I’m really a fan of knitting socks. Hand-knitted socks are super-comfy, but they seem to take me a really long time to do. And then you have to do it all over again. Tiny stitches, tiny needles, and stress about whether it’s all going to fit when you’re done. I really like knitting scarves — much more meditative, I think, and they always fit. So, I’m going to take a break from socks for now. Go back to knitting a few Jayne hats, with big chunky yarn.