Sunday, 20 December 2015
1) Ren and Rey are siblings
2) Rey fixed the Milenium Falcon
3) Finn is son of Lando Calrissian
4) Someone will die at the end of the movie
Build up before the movie:
JJ Abrams tried to deflate fan expectation. I felt nervous - what if it's another disappointment like Phantom Menace? 2015 has been such a tumultuous year for Malaysia, for me to some extent, that a really wonderful, hopeful movie would be such a nice way to close off the year. Lucas and Disney did not see eye to eye on what, we don't know. At the end of this analysis, it would be fair to say that Lucas may well be vindicated.
How it turned out - spoiler alert.
Ok, I won't go into the plot. I think it's out in wikipedia. Here, I'm just going to dive into how I felt about the movie from start to end, and especially what bugged me.
It's been a long time, 10 years ago since the last Star Wars movie was made. There is a lot of expectation. It's a wonderfully strange sensation to be watching the words springing up on the screen, this time without 20th Century Fox prelude theme that we have been so used to for the other SW movies.
From then, the galactic confrontation seems reduced in enormity and gravity. From then, at certain milestones in the movie, more and more things I begin to find disturbing. Here they are:
1) If Finn has such conscience issue about wiping out entire village, how did he make it past quality control in the First Order? Captain Phasm ordered him to be reevaluated and reorganised. How did he go around finding Poe freely?
2) Kylo Ren could stop a blaster fire in the middle of the air, as if in suspended animation. It makes great visual and story telling. But just like Abram's love to stretch it a bit more, this one falls into that category - not necessary, and not impressive. And Adam Driver - he's just not evil enough. And praying to Darth Vader - that's just odd. The New Republic would have battled many enemies, the latest the First Order - and the boy has little appreciation of what the dark side could wrought on the galaxy? Didn't his uncle tell him Darth Vader was redeemed in the end? Plot disorder.
3) It is not true, that Rey fixed the Falcon. Some junk dealer on Jakku did. It defies believe that the Falcon is introduced as a comic plot device - that old junk that won't get far. The fastest ship in the galaxy just lying there in the open, not under guard, not under lock and key, for any random scavenger to steal. And yeah, of course for Rey and Finn to steal.
4) How in the galaxy did Han Solo and Chewbacca find the Falcon dead in space? Did they have a tracker on? We're not talking about a Jakku village. We're talking about a big wide galaxy.
5) How did Ren turn to the dark side? Apparently, mom didn't send him to uncle Luke. Really? Seriously? After Lucas through the expanded universe tells us that Luke is building the next Jedi Order, and there's an Academy on Dantooine etc.? And when Ren turned to the dark side he just ran away and go into hiding? Yoda and Ben Kenobi went into hiding because the Jedi Order was wiped out and there was nowhere else in the galaxy they could strike the Empire from. Why would Luke go into hiding when there is still the Republic?
6) It is not like Luke to abandon Solo and Leia. He almost died to save them at Bespin City in Empire Strikes Back. His absence from galactic affairs resulted in the apparent destruction of the Republic and the death of Solo.
7) The Republic fleet was apparently wiped out in a single strike from Starkiller Base against Republic capital on Hosnian. Now, was the Starkiller Base really so well hidden? A construction that scarred the face of the planet that is not visible to any Republic surveillance? Why is the Republic fleet all congregated here? If Starkiller Base is the HQ of the First Order, its defences are pretty crappy.
8) Rey discovered she could manipulate minds, and wield a lightsaber better than Kylo, just based on instinct. Apparently, you don't need training to be a Jedi anymore. She is obviously carved after the character of Jaina Solo, the most powerful Jedi of the Solo clan and one hell of a pilot and engineer.
9) The map to find Luke - B88 had a part of it. R2D2 was on low mode as he scoured the galactic internet to find the rest of the map. The two droids put it together in the end. There was no reconfiguration of the map. It was there for people to see in plain sight. Yet remember what some characters say? We only have this piece - it does not correlate to any known maps that we know. It may be an insignificant plot progression piece, but it shows that having been in post-production for such a long time, they failed to say something at least sensible about this, is disappointing. Especially to the techies, cryptographers etcs who are surely amongst the legions of SW fans.
10) And finally - and this is my ultimate peeve - it may well be called literary licence/business calculation, and there's probably good reason to finally kill off Solo, but there is a sea of difference between who Quigon Jin and Ben Kenobi were to the movie audience before they were killed off in the first movie of each trilogy. Solo is clearly of a different class. He provided the humour that has endeared SW fans for decades. He never did accepted the odds and always came out winning. And this very dark episode of Star Wars introduced something which has never been introduced for real in the SW universe before - Patricide, and especially one which is completely outside the conflict between Jedi/Sith. I find this very disturbing and disappointing. There could have been so many ways for heroes of the past trilogy to go out. The whole Episode 7 could have taken place after all their demise, and you can bring them to live by holocron records etc. Luke and Leia could have appeared as Jedi spirits. If Disney's idea is to kill off our beloved heroes one by one in each episode counting to 9, I think it will be a brutal blow to fan psyche. Rotten Tomatoes rated Episode 7 on a scale of 95% on a review by 200+ reviewers. The numbers will come down once people have digested and realised the travesty done to the original characters. I cannot believe JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy did this to us. It is as if they never learnt how the Next Generation was panned when Rick Berman, Ronald Moore and Brannan Braga killed off James T Kirk. The worst part - he didn't even get a proper burial - fell into the chasm of Starkiller Base until it imploded into a sun. And it is also to Disney's discredit that Leia and Solo were reduced to the role of a dysfunctional family, not especially when the expanded universe have planted so much hope on what this power couple could do to the galaxy. Why the hell did Solo go back to what he does best when by ROTJ, he already turned into a respectable general? He was reduced to captain a scarvenger ship, and disrespected by other smuggling/pirate groups who told him there's no one else he would swindle in the galaxy. A hero of his stature did not deserve this movie characterisation.
I came out of the movie feeling disappointed and troubled. Never had that feeling before even in Episodes 1-3, because in a way, we expected that the ending will be a sad one - it was always just a question of waiting for Lucas to convincingly enthrall us that Anakin turned to the dark side in the most conflicted way possible. Of course Lucas failed to do that. You train a Jedi for almost 2 decades, and he end up believing in some hyperbole of being able to bring back to life the dead. It was bad then. But this is worse. It makes me not interested in continuing to watch Star Wars Rebels. What's the point? Solo is going to die an unheroic death in the future, and our heroes displayed a collective act of failure in leadership. All of them, including Luke.
To be fair, here are a few (not many) good things:
1) The visuals are alright even though JJ Abrams almost spoilt it with his signature over the top action with ridiculous flying of the Falcon. I especially liked the choreograph when Finn was shooting stormtroopers on the ground while Poe was decimating targets both on the ground and in the air in the background over Takodana.
2) B88 is an interesting droid concept
3) The new X-wing is sleeker, looks more menacing
4) Chewbacca gets a more powerful crossbow blaster
5) Finally, there is no single exhaust port that allows a ship and single proton torpedo to blow up the damned battle station, and no huffing and puffing about unrealistic risk assessment - just evacuate!
But that's hardly enough to stem my disappointment. I'm going to sleep over this and hope I feel better tomorrow.
By the way, back to the speculations:
1) Ren and Rey are siblings - status unknown
2) Rey fixed the Milenium Falcon - not true - wish it could have been to do justice to our favourite freighter
3) Finn is son of Lando Calrissian - status unknown
4) Someone will die at the end of the movie - true, which is tragic, and an abuse of literary licence by Disney - maybe I'll start boycotting Disney films too
I said in my facebook that if JJ Abrams screwed up, Lucas may well be redeemed. How true.
Sunday, 19 January 2014
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
1) It's typical Spielberg fare in recent years, reminiscent of War of the Worlds + ET.
2) The only outstanding character is Elle Fanning, only 13.
3) Typical misguided US military.
4) Starting, leading up to the derailment, was great movie making. It went downhill after that. Ending was plain cheesy. The characters were not instrumental in anything except to tell the alien that he's been through bad times but he can still leave (big deal). And it was so easy for it to leave - makes you wonder why it needed to go through an elaborate process of stealing components to build some subterranean base, and what's his use of those people he captured. And knowing that the cubes build the ship, what were the trucks still doing in town? The plot and the circumstances just don't add up.
5) The only consolation was to watch the zombie movie in the end.
Friday, 7 October 2011
Star Trek TNG cast featured movies weren't a particular hit save for First Contact, but after rewatching them, I couldn't help feel a connection. There is consistency in characterisation, in the characters, and most of all, there is continuity. The story telling wasn't great, and the stories could have been grander but for the budgetary constraints, but at least it was a case of right people in the right time being caught in an event doing the right things. Because it is coherent, it ended up potentially boring.
Take Generations. Enterprise D need not have found Dr Soren, it could have been another ship. Could they have stopped him? Who knows? But even if they didn't, it would just have been Dr Soren ending up in the Nexus, with hundreds of millions dead when the Veridian sun explodes. The galaxy would have continued, and Enterprise D would have continued exploring the galaxy.
First Contact was different. Enterprise E was uniquely qualified to be part of the event, because Picard had special knowledge of the Borg. To up the stakes, the Borg planned to assimilate Earth in the past so that Earth will never make contact with the Vulcans, without which there would be no United Federation of Planets posing a threat to their advance. This makes good story telling.
Insurrection was a nice story. But the stakes were not high enough, therefore it didn't make grand space opera. But it was nevertheless consistent with Picard being the philosopher, the Captain that preserves the best traditions of Star Fleet - preventing forced relocation. Perhaps the folks in US and Europe didn't quite like the movie because it reminded them of what Israel stands for.
One pertinent aspect to note, both First Contact and Insurrection was directed by Jonathan Frakes, otherwise better known as Commander Riker, the Number One to Captain Picard. He's a good director.
I'm not certain why Nemesis did badly. Was it because they killed Data? Or because it's another story of Picard in emotional conflict? Was it the absurd idea of a single Romulan Warbird annihilating Earth with Polaron radiation weapon? Or the irritation of using a dune buggy? If Data was not detected when he first went on board the ship, why didn't he scout around to find a weakness, or plant a bomb, or a computer virus, as a tactical advantage as he so eloquently put it? Shinzon didn't look like he's a poker face - why didn't Troi detect his scheming? It would seem like Nemesis is a trap onto itself, full of pitfalls... making it a sad ending for TNG cast featured movies.
But my question is this - does bad story telling make it justifiable for one to abandon the canon timeline to explore an alternative timeline? Couldn't they have fixed TNG movie at 12 or 13? Bring in DS9 or Voyager crew perhaps? What was wrong with finishing Star Trek Enterprise into Season 7, and perhaps bring Enterprise E back to when Jonathan Archer became President of the Federation? Time travel is always fascinating. You just need to find a compelling reason or excuse to do so.
In contrast, yes, Star Trek 11 is enjoyable, but Kirk was not the right person to be at the event. NCC1701 was a new ship. It's Captain and Science Officer would perhaps be outstanding. But of all people, why did Captain Pike make Kirk first officer to Spock when he was called to the Romulan ship? On hindsight, that could have been an impressive command decision, but there is no way in hell StarFleet would have made a StarFleet cadet who is not even an ensign the first officer of any starship, least of all the Enterprise. Yes, I have a bone to pick about this, and it is a very large bone. And also consider all the new faces. Is it possible that in alternate reality, people look different? That must be the first this happens in our science fiction universe.
Question - what if Star Trek 12 flops? Sure, it can be entertaining, but usually, you need to break a few rules of consistency just to do so. Just think Transformers 2. If the Alternative Timeline flops, it's too late to go back to reconnect the dots between Star Trek Enterprise all the way to Voyager. The circle is already broken by this bastard child called the alternate universe.
I didn't like how Star Wars Episodes 1 - 3 were told. I had a wish list. Despite the eventual turn to the dark side for Anakin Skywalker, it could still have preserved some levity of the original trilogy. But at least I appreciated the attempt at consistency, even as I was appalled by the story's gaps. Could you imagine George Lucas realising how the Phantom Menace irked a lot of people, and decided to pull the plug on Episodes 2 and 3, and decide to reboot with an alternative timeline? It would have been unimaginable, and unbearable. Why then are we asked to accept Star Trek's audacity to do so?
Star Trek should have gone where no one has boldly gone before. If the studios were courageous enough to put a new face to old characters, they should have been just as bold to create a totally new set of cast, and throw them another ship, and set them off to an amazing adventure. Star Trek is a universe. It is not the playground of Kirk alone. Look at how Star Wars has expanded the Clone Wars, which is a force onto itself. Or the Old Republic, an actually completely new universe. And look at what they are trying to achieve by bringing to fore the minor characters, so that they become major roles in the live action series, now put off for another few more years due to budgetary constraints.
Star Trek 12 may well be entertaining, but I will always feel a disconnect, because it isn't my reality. As far as I'm concerned, it's gone where no wrong has gone before.
Monday, 7 February 2011
Frankly, in my view, if a movie is good enough, no 3D experience is going to enhance it greatly. If it is a bad movie, no visual enhancement is going to safe it. I haven't come across a viewing experience where I exclaimed "wow, wait til I see this in 3D". It'll be a different story if it's 3D as in Star Wars hologram (with high resolution and colour)! That way, the value-added viewing experience is you get to see the same scene from any angle that you choose.
Anyway, I have no quarrel with cineplexes showing movies in 3D. My pet peeve is if they stop doing films in 2D and put it all in 3D. That will be the day when the masses will rise against movie-makers and distributors, for crossing the line for greed. Imagine the number of goggles people need to buy/rent. The day will probably never come, because just like Blueray, what's not acceptable to the torrent community will unlikely make it big in main stream.
Saturday, 28 June 2008
MEYRIN, Switzerland - The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.
But some critics fear the Large Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?
Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN — some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC.
"Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on," said project leader Lyn Evans.
David Francis, a physicist on the collider's huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets.
"If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here," he said.
The collider basically consists of a ring of supercooled magnets 17 miles in circumference attached to huge barrel-shaped detectors. The ring, which straddles the French and Swiss border, is buried 330 feet underground.
The machine, which has been called the largest scientific experiment in history, isn't expected to begin test runs until August, and ramping up to full power could take months. But once it is working, it is expected to produce some startling findings.
Scientists plan to hunt for signs of the invisible "dark matter" and "dark energy" that make up more than 96 percent of the universe, and hope to glimpse the elusive , a so-far undiscovered particle thought to give matter its mass.
The collider could find evidence of extra dimensions, a boon for superstring theory, which holds that quarks, the particles that make up atoms, are infinitesimal vibrating strings.
The theory could resolve many of physics' unanswered questions, but requires about 10 dimensions — far more than the three spatial dimensions our senses experience.
The safety of the collider, which will generate energies seven times higher than its most powerful rival, at Chicago, has been debated for years. The physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million — long odds, to be sure, but about the same as winning some lotteries. near
By contrast, a CERN team this month issued a report concluding that there is "no conceivable danger" of a cataclysmic event. The report essentially confirmed the findings of a 2003 CERN safety report, and a panel of five prominent scientists not affiliated with CERN, including one Nobel laureate, endorsed its conclusions.
Critics of the LHC filed a lawsuit in a Hawaiian court in March seeking to block its startup, alleging that there was "a significant risk that ... operation of the Collider may have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet."
One of the plaintiffs, Walter L. Wagner, a physicist and lawyer, said Wednesday CERN's safety report, released June 20, "has several major flaws," and his views on the risks of using the had not changed.
On Tuesday, U.S. Justice Department lawyers representing the Department of Energy and the filed a motion to dismiss the case.
The two agencies have contributed $531 million to building the collider, and the NSF has agreed to pay $87 million of its annual operating costs. Hundreds of American scientists will participate in the research.
The lawyers called the plaintiffs' allegations "extraordinarily speculative," and said "there is no basis for any conceivable threat" from black holes or other objects the LHC might produce. A hearing on the motion is expected in late July or August.
In rebutting doomsday scenarios, CERN scientists point out that cosmic rays have been bombarding the earth, and triggering collisions similar to those planned for the collider, since the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.
And so far, Earth has survived.
"The LHC is only going to reproduce what nature does every second, what it has been doing for billions of years," said John Ellis, a British theoretical physicist at CERN.
Critics like Wagner have said the collisions caused by accelerators could be more hazardous than those of cosmic rays.
Both may produce micro black holes, subatomic versions of cosmic black holes — collapsed stars whose gravity fields are so powerful that they can suck in planets and other stars.
But micro black holes produced by cosmic ray collisions would likely be traveling so fast they would pass harmlessly through the earth.
Micro black holes produced by a collider, the skeptics theorize, would move more slowly and might be trapped inside the earth's — and eventually threaten the planet.
Ellis said doomsayers assume that the collider will create micro black holes in the first place, which he called unlikely. And even if they appeared, he said, they would instantly evaporate, as predicted by the British physicist Stephen Hawking.
As for strangelets, CERN scientists point out that they have never been proven to exist. They said that even if these particles formed inside the Collider they would quickly break down.
When the LHC is finally at full power, two beams of protons will race around the huge ring 11,000 times a second in opposite directions. They will travel in two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space.
Their trajectory will be curved by supercooled magnets — to guide the beams around the rings and prevent the packets of protons from cutting through the surrounding magnets like a blowtorch.
The paths of these beams will cross, and a few of the protons in them will collide, at a series of cylindrical detectors along the ring. The two largest detectors are essentially huge digital cameras, each weighing thousands of tons, capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.
Each year the detectors will generate 15 petabytes of data, the equivalent of a stack of CDs 12 miles tall. The data will require a high speed global network of computers for analysis.
Wagner and others filed a lawsuit to halt operation of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, at the in New York state in 1999. The courts dismissed the suit.
The leafy campus of CERN, a short drive from the shores of Lake Geneva, hardly seems like ground zero for doomsday. And locals don't seem overly concerned. Thousands attended an open house here this spring.
"There is a huge army of scientists who know what they are talking about and are sleeping quite soundly as far as concerns the LHC," said project leader Evans.==========================================
"Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on," said project leader Lyn Evans.
"If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here," David Francis, a physicist on the collider's huge ATLAS particle detector.
Famous last words, or a major leap in human advancement? We'll know in August. But should there be any disaster from this, it will be stuff of a blockbuster in years to come, if we're still around.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Ever since I first watched Terminator, the central plot of future Kyle Reese coming back to the past to impregnate Sarah Connor thus giving birth to John Connor who goes on to become the resistance leader in a post-apocalyptic Earth against Skynet where future Kyle was sent back in the first place, is a paradox that I tried but failed to comprehend*. At each turn, there appears to be more questions than answers. For instance:
- How could John Connor be born in the first, first place when his father wasn't born yet?
- If humans were already by and large decimated on Earth, how would it be cost efficient for Skynet to go back to the future to kill off Sarah Connor before John was born, instead of just finishing the job? After all, they are not using humans like batteries like in Matrix.
- By killing Sarah and John, how does Skynet know that the time line won't be altered in such a way that would put them in greater jeopardy?
- How did future John know that Skynet is building, much less planning to use a time machine to kill his mother or himself?
- Why didn't Skynet send an entire army back to the past to get the job done?
- Why did they send T1000 to kill him as a teenager when they could have sent T1000 back to deal with Sarah Connor before John was born, and keep sending more to the same time line? Wouldn't it be easier to kill Sarah before she developed an awareness of how dangerous Skynet is and go on a crusade against the creation of Skynet?
- Why create a time machine when an easier way to wipe out humans would be to create a virus, or nuke the world some more so much that no one can survive the ensuing winter?
There are also other questions regarding the time travel itself:
a) why is it that only unclothed humanoid form could travel time?
b) if a human holds on to a gun, the gun will not make the trip. What if the gun is grafted on the human's arm?
c) it seems that a cyborg or even a robot in the case of T1000 could make the trip so long as they are in humanoid form, but what if a human has unusually long arms or legs? Will those "extended" limbs make it?
At a "scientific" level, the altering-the-past-time-travel-to-correct-the-future concept is premised upon a single stream of space-time continuum - i.e. if you reset the past the future will change. But there are other theories - multi-streams such as Back to the Future - where if you reset the past, the past will branch off another reality, with the "current" branch of reality continuing on and on. Which is more theoretically plausible?
* One possibility that I speculate is that in the original time line, there was no John Connor, but due to Skynet tampering with the infrastructure of physics itself, a temporal loop was created whereby a human was sent back in time, and by accident created a resistance leader. Skynet has been trying to correct this error ever since and we don't know the ending yet.