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Avid science fiction fan with a penchant for stories that explore the human condition.

Shadowhunters Pilot – Review

Being a fan of Cassandra Clare’s popular young adult fantasy book series, The Mortal Instruments, since their popularity first rose about seven years ago, I had been wanting a good and accurate on-screen depiction for a long while now. When the first film in a planned series was released in 2013 under the name, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, I was gravely disappointed by their misrepresentation of the rich urban fantasy world that Cassandra Clare had given us in her books. All of the little details and specifics that had made her world her own were gone, replaced with generic fantasy terms or altogether ignored for the sake of riding on the success of films like Twilight and The Hunger Games. While featuring several actors of acclaimed talent such as Jared Harris, Lena Headey, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, this depiction was not only untrue to its source material, it was a poor film overall with numerous plot holes and nonsensical characterization that left fans of the book insulted. Apparently audiences and critics agreed as the film failed to be profitable and the planned sequels were subsequently cancelled.

Due to this abysmal failure, I was immediately skeptical when I discovered that the rights had passed to FreeForm (formerly ABC Family) for a television adaptation entitled Shadowhunters. Knowing ABC Family’s penchant for going overboard on their teen-based drama to the point of annoyance, I did not want to see this book series reduced to a teen soap opera that had the Mortal Instruments name slapped on it. However, I am ecstatic to say that after viewing the pilot that just aired, I am excited to see where this series will go. Not only did the pilot stay true to its source material with it’s numerous references to the books and attention to detail, it kept the characterization close to the books and didn’t go overboard on ramping up the drama for the sake of its audience. I still remain cautiously optimistic since only the first episode has aired but should the producers continue to make the series in the same manner, I can see success in this show’s future.

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For those unfamiliar, The Mortal Instruments series follows Clary Fray, a supposed average 18 year old girl who, upon pure chance, is thrust into seeing a world she didn’t know was there. This “downworld” is populated with warlocks, vampires, werewolves, fey folk, and most relevant to her, Shadowhunters. The Shadowhunters are a group of skilled warriors, endowed with angelic power, that seek to keep the peace between the downworld and the normal world while protecting normal humans, known to them as Mundanes, from the various threats of demons and rogue downworlders who break the peace. Once Clary comes to terms with the existence of the downworld, she joins several Shadowhunters to help find who has kidnapped her mother.2

I won’t say anymore for risk of spoiling but if the premise has reminded you of the derided Twilight series, let me dispel your fears. While there are similarities in plot structure (normal girl thrown into a world she doesn’t understand and such), I can say as someone who has read both series, that The Mortal Instruments series’ similarities with Twilight end there. Cassandra Clare filled her books with interesting characters, a brilliantly developed mythology, and a world that actually feels expansive and engaging.

With actual regards to the production of Shadowhunters, I can say I am not familiar with any of the actors or actresses save for Isaiah Mustafa of Old Spice commercial fame nor am I familiar with showrunner Ed Decter’s work. However, I was exceedingly impressed with the budget put into this show and the attention to detail given to the props and set work. While the acting was not, what I would call, worthy of acclaim, in this case, I am willing to give these actors the chance to get comfortable with their characters especially since I know these characters develop well over time and even from what little I saw, I did enjoy several character’s performances.4

All in all, I can say I was very happy with this pilot and I look forward to seeing how well Shadowhunters brings The Mortal Instruments to life on the screen.

4/5 Saucers
Rating Saucers 4.5 out of 5

 

 

 

Shadowhunters Pilot – Review

Top 10 Star Wars Video Games

Due to the release of The Force Awakens, I decided to take a look back at the Star Wars video games I had played in my formative years. I believe it can certainly be said that Star Wars video games are some of the greatest and richest parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now Star Wars Legends).



10. Star Wars: Episode 1 RacerStar Wars: Episode I Pod Racer

Many rail on this game as being an example of what was wrong with The Phantom Menace however, I always found the podrace scene to be rather enthralling and intense. Inspired by the chariot race from Ben-Hur, the podrace scene was instantly captivating and spectacular save for the rather bad performance by Jake Lloyd. Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer successfully replicated the fast-paced feel of that scene with its supremely fast gameplay and quick reaction times in order to stay on the track. With a variety of tracks and playable racers, this game marks one of the few racing games I have ever enjoyed.

9. Star Wars: Shadows of the EmpireStar Wars: Shadows of the Empire

Often hailed as the first of the “good” Star Wars games, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was the game in Lucasfilm’s attempt to cr eate an entire multimedia lineup for a movie that didn’t exist. Following Dash Rendar, a mercenary turned Rebel sympathizer, as he engages in an adventure to save Princess Leia from Prince Xizor, leader of the Black Sun crime syndicate. Featuring more immersive gameplay than any Star Wars game before it, Shadows of the Empire remains a time honored classic.

8. Star Wars: Dark ForcesStar Wars: Dark Forces

Following in the footsteps of Shadows of the Empire, Dark Forces was another early game that sought to set itself apart from the film saga. Set before A New Hope and following Kyle Katarn, a former Imperial-turned-Mercenary, as he embarks on his Rebel-sponsored job of recovering the first Death Star plans. Once complete, Katarn is hired for a second job to uncover the hidden plans to the Dark Trooper project before they can be used to wipe out the Rebel Alliance. Whilst the gameplay is certainly inspired by the Doom franchise, there is enough differences in gameplay, along with an unmistakable Star Wars style, that makes this game still entertaining although immensely difficult.

7. Lego Star Wars: The Complete SagaLego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

While much can be said for Traveller’s Tales’s entire lineup of Lego games, none could surpass the nostalgia and general fun that came with Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Following fairly closely with the plots of the six main films, Lego Star Wars provided brick building fun along with general entertainment and silly references that would make even the most hardcore fan chuckle.

6. Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

Taking the engine from Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, Galactic Battlegrounds is the Star Wars RTS to end all. Several attempts at Star Wars RTSs have been made with Empire at War or the much derided Force Commander but none could match up with the simple goodness that appeared in Galactic Battlegrounds. Certainly not the best RTS and certainly no where near the level of Starcraft, Galactic Battlegrounds still provides a good strategy experience to those looking for it.

5. Star Wars: BattlefrontStar Wars: Battlefront

While many point to Battlefront II as thebetter of the two games, I always preferred the first since it was always truer to its premise. Battlefront II introduced too many mechanics I thought betrayed the original idea: lots of normal troops fighting it out on the battlefield. The original Battlefront didn’t feel the need to add pointless space combat or the inclusion of over-powered Jedi to still feel incredibly fun and immersive. While certainly not the best Star Wars game, Battlefront is still one of those games that knew what it was trying to do and accomplished it incredibly well.

4. Star Wars: Rogue SquadronStar Wars: Rogue Squadron

Featuring what I would call the best in Star Wars fighter combat, Rogue Squadron starred Luke as he commanded the titular Rebel fighter unit on several missions against the Empire. While certainly appearing with dated graphics and control scheme, Rogue Squadron still features the most impressive variety of ships which vary in flight and combat abilities. This is also one of the few games to feature an accurate portrayal of using a speeder’s tow cable to take down an AT-AT.

3. Star Wars: Republic CommandoStar Wars: Republic Commando

Possibly the best Star Wars FPS ever made, Republic Commando lets the player take on the role of Delta-38, the leader of a clone commando unit during the Clone Wars. The first mission, taking place during the Battle of Geonosis, follows Delta-38 as he assembles his team and attempts to eliminate high priority targets and silently aid the entirety of the Clone Army in unexpected ways. Featuring a variety of enemy types, weapon types, and the most brilliantly simplified squad combat I’ve ever seen, Republic Commando is an instant favorite for those wanting a more modern and more complex FPS take in the Star Wars universe.

2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old RepublicStar Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Often hailed as one of the greatest Star Wars stories ever told, Knights of the Old Republic presents one of the most expansive and complex storylines not often seen in a Star Wars game, due to their often smaller focus and self-containment. Knights of the Old Republic, however, gives players a look at what the galaxy looked like four thousand years before the films take place with the rise of the Sith Empire and the struggling Old Republic attempting to maintain control over a tense situation. Politics, intense character development and an in-depth look into the nature of The Force are all major aspects of this game and coming from Bioware, the studio that brought us the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, one can expect deep character interaction and a plot on a scale not known in Star Wars at its time. With its turn-based combat, attribute leveling system, and morality infused dialogue, Knights of the Old Republic is a true Star Wars gem and remains one of Bioware’s legacy gems.

1. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi OutcastStar Wars: Jedi Knight II - Jedi Outcast

The ultimate Star Wars experience. Jedi Outcast, the second sequel to Dark Forces, again features Kyle Katarn, this time as a Jedi, as he attempts to stop the Imperial Remnant from gaining another foothold in the galaxy. Led by Dark Jedi Desann, his apprentice Tavion and Imperial Admiral Galak Fyyar, as the Remnant attempts to create Reborn, Dark Jedi soldiers artificially infused with The Force. The player as Katarn, starts off as a non-Jedi, having given up The Force after the events of Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, but he soon realizes that The Force will be needed to defeat Desann. While certainly dated since its release in 2003, Jedi Outcast features the most immersive and most accurate portrayal of Jedi combat not seen in any game of its time or in any game since (aside from its sequel/spin-off Jedi Academy). As the game progresses, more Force powers become available to the player including neutral powers like jump, push, and speed but also features four powers split between the Light and Dark side with force heal and mind trick belonging to the Light and lightning and grip belonging to the Dark. As the game progresses more, these force powers begin to manifest in stronger forms giving near unlimited power to the player if used wisely. By the end of the game with a full arsenal of weapons, force powers, and lightsaber fighting styles, playing as Katarn feels like the truest form of playing as a Jedi in any game along with a good story and impressive level design that makes this game the best Star Wars game ever made.

Top 10 Star Wars Video Games

Star Trek and Religion

Science fiction is often times used to tell stories about the human condition because of how sci-fi uniquely offers situations and settings that provide such a rich platform for these types of stories. Star Trek is no exception and has often been lauded for its ability to provide stories that deal with various aspects of the human condition wrapped up in a Utopian futuristic setting. However, it seems Star Trek hasn’t really done as much exploring of religion as it should. Considering how big an aspect of humanity religion is and how Star Trek is often equated with exploring humanity, one would think that religion would figure heavily but that isn’t the case. This may be in part because of Gene Roddenberry’s pronounced atheism or the subsequent writers’ wish to keep one of the most controversial topics out of Star Trek but in any case, Star Trek simply hasn’t explored this issue as much as one would think and when they do, it’s almost never explored in a realistic or meaningful way.

Back in 1966 when The Original Series first aired, Star Trek religion-focused examples were few and limited. Perhaps the two most religiously oriented episodes are “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and “Bread and Circuses”. The former presents the origins of the ancient Earth Greek polytheism as a product of alien influence when the Enterprise discovers Apollo,Apollo an alien being who used his great power to demand worship from the ancient Greeks. In “Bread and Circuses”, the Enterprise discovers a society greatly akin to ancient Rome nearing its fall as paralleling Earth history. There is also a group of people who preach kindness, brotherhood, and peace who are described as “sun worshipers”. This is, however, confusing to Spock who recalls that most societies that practice sun worship are usually barbaric and warlike which is at odds with this group’s teachings on peace. It isn’t until the end when Uhura figures out that they are actually worshiping the “Son” of God. Again, paralleling early Christianity as it grew during the years preceding the fall of the Roman Empire, however, this episode seems more focused on how this alien world is paralleling Earth’s history and less about how the religion actually impacts people. Aside from these two episodes, The Original Series only scantly references any Earth religion usually through a Christian reference here or there from Kirk or McCoy and any time they discover a religious aspect of an alien society, it is always portrayed as being more alien influence similar to the Apollo situation from “Who Mourns for Adonais”.

In The Original Series movies, only one directly deals with a religious aspect and that is the heavily panned fifth film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In this film, the Enterprise crew meets Spock’s half-brother, Sybok, who has rejected Vulcan logic and seeks to find God at the center of the galaxy where the Vulcan heaven, Sha Ka Ree, is supposedly located. Once there, they discover an alien entity who passes himself off as God in order to gain Sybok’s trust. Kirk, however, discovers a flaw in God’s logic when the entity requests a Starship to be able to escape his planet and Kirk wonders why an all-powerful god would require a ship to do anything. Once the realization that this entity cannot be God, Sybok sacrifices himself to defeat the entity as the Enterprise escapes. Again, this film doesn’t really deal with religion in any realistic way since the “God” figure is again portrayed as an alien whose great power is mistook for the divine.Sha_Ka_Ree_God

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the same attitude towards religion is again taken, although I would say much more militantly so, and the vague Christian references that Kirk and McCoy would often give are entirely absent in this incarnation of Star Trek. Every portrayal of religion is shown only in primitive alien societies who are seen as not having evolved enough to abandon religion as Earth has. I would hazard a guess that this is because Gene Roddenberry had become much more humanist and instead of thinking that religion wasn’t for him, as I would guess he felt during The Original Series, he instead began to feel that religion was an opposing force to progress and human evolution which is why TNG presents itself as much more atheist and humanist than its predecessor. One interesting religious aspect of TNG, however, is the character of Q. While TNG is arguably the most openly atheist and devoid of religion, Q is presented as an all-powerful and all-knowing being but uses his powers to annoy, badger, and generally cause no end of mayhem and misery for Picard and his crew. I would submit that Roddenberry used Q to say that if God existed, he would be a bully and therefore unworthy of divinity or respect.Q-Richterkleidung

Kira Nerys - Bajoran ReligionPerhaps the most religiously oriented incarnation of Star Trek, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine presents a multifaceted approach to exploring religion and is perhaps the only Star Trek incarnation that does this in a serious and respectful manner. The most prominent religious aspect is the Bajoran religion to which main character Kira Nerys ascribes. The Bajorans believe in a religion curiously similar to both Judaism and certain denominations of Christianity. Their gods, the Prophets, are beings of great power that reside in the Celestial Temple and are said to look out for and guide the Bajorans. Starfleet, however, presents the more atheist and skeptical view of the Bajoran religion as they see the Prophets as another example of aliens using their great power to masquerade as gods; however, due to the way the Bajoran religion is portrayed, mostly through Kira’s devout faith in the Prophets, the audience is often left wondering if the Prophets aremerely powerful aliens or if they are something more. Winn Adami - Bajoran ReligionThis is compounded by the interactions between more religiously important characters like Captain Sisko, who is chosen by the Prophets in the first episode to be their Emissary, Kai Wynn, the often antagonizing leader of the Bajoran religion in a role similar to the Catholic Pope, or Gul Dukat who, by the series’ end, joins the Pah Wraiths in their war against the Prophets. The depth and respect afforded to the Bajoran religion is something that hasn’t been seen in Star Trek before or since Deep Space Nine which I submit is unfortunate.

In Star Trek: Voyager, the only real religious aspect that the audience is presented with is through the character of Chakotay.
Benjamin SiskoThis Native American First Officer is portrayed as a devout follower of his Native American religion; however, his religion is always portrayed as vague, nondescript, and an amalgam of basic Native American beliefs with no attention given to how his tribe’s beliefs differ from other Native Americans or anything like that. Unfortunately, Chakotay’s religion ends up being used as mostly a plot device for when he needs information. During these situations, Chakotay will enter a “spirit quest” with his spirit guide, Akoocheemoya, and will always be presented with the needed information just in time so his objective will be completed. Essentially, Chakotay’s religion isn’t really anything more than a stereotype used as a plot device, making any exploration of this religion mute and pointless.Chakotay

In Star Trek: Enterprise, there is perhaps only one episode, Chosen Realm, that deals with religion. In this episode, the Enterprise crew finds the crew of another ship that are found to be religiously fanatical and use violence, mostly through suicide bombers, as a form of enforcing what they would see
as peace on a planet that has been war torn by religious war for years. Considering that this episode was released in 2004, it can be seen how this would be culturally relevant since 9/11 was still fresh in the cultural mindset and many people were blaming religion for the cause of that disaster as well as other violence that ensues in the modern day. As the episode ends, the fanatical leader of this religious sect is returned to his home planet only to find that the religious war he sought to end has completely destroyed his planet and left it uninhabitable. This approach to religion seems to mirror the TNG approach as it displayed religion as a cause of great strife and holding a people group back from evolving into a more peaceful society; however, it still seems that religion here is portrayed very generically and it doesn’t actually explore how religion works on a personal level like it did in Deep Space Nine.ENT064

With the notable exception of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek has curiously ignored, misrepresented, or criticized religion as holding people back from becoming better. While Star Trek is famous for its exploration of the human condition, it seems to have largely failed in this area. With a new series being released in 2017, I would hope that a broader and more understanding attitude towards religion be brought  to Star Trek as it is a huge part of the human condition that deserves more attention and respect than what the vast bulk of Star Trek has done.

What do you think about religion’s inclusion in the Star Trek universe? Do you think it got a fair shake in the various series? Comment below with your thoughts!

Star Trek and Religion

A Memoriam for Paris

Today, we wake up realizing that the world is not the same again. Americans remember that feeling well from 14 years ago. We remember the fear and loss that the French now face. We also remember the comfort we took when our allies, including the French, stood with us as I hope the French now take comfort in knowing that America stands with them. As I look on this event and my role on this website, I can only take solace in knowing that our freedom, the freedom to create, to build, to exemplify the imaginative spirit that allows us geeks to love what we love, will continue. The attacks on Paris were done by those seeking to remove that freedom and replace it with terror for an ideology that does not value creativity and imagination but only seeks subjugation and death. To them I say, resistance is not futile. America resisted as will the French and as will the rest of the free world.

Today, we extend our most utter sympathies to the city of Paris. We also resist that terror that the perpetrators tried in vain to make us feel. We remember that we are free to imagine, to create, and to love all that we do.

And in true geek fashion, I say to Paris: Live long and prosper.

 

Paris2342

A Memoriam for Paris

Thoughts on the Star Trek TV Series Announcement

Hurray! Star Trek is returning to TV! Excited doesn’t even capture me right now. All I can say is that I am beyond words that CBS finally decided to bring Star Trek back to TV. And with that, here are some words.

There is honestly just so much that I want to know, what didn’t seem to be revealed in the announcement itself. Who are the characters? What time period is this set in? Will there be Vulcans? Andorians? Romulans? Borg? But unfortunately, all of this is left to my imagination. Star-Trek-616433But let’s start with what we know. Perhaps the biggest piece of information is that Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films as well as co-creator for shows like Fringe and Sleepy Hollow, is listed as executive producer. While not terribly informative, we can assume that this means the new Star Trek series will be set in the alternate timeline colloquially known as the “JJ-Verse.” Let it be known that I am a full-on fan of most everything J.J. Abrams has ever done including his Star Trek films so I have zero problems with it should this be the case. Setting this new series in a Star Trek universe that is both familiar and yet unknown presents many different paths it could go.

Vulcan_consumed_by_black_holeMy personal biggest hope is that they address the elephant in the room and deal with the destruction of Vulcan. When Nero created a singularity at the center of Vulcan, destroying one of the Federation’s founding cultures, as well as Spock’s mother, one would hope that it would be addressed. While admittedly Star Trek Into Darkness had its story dealing with different matters, I always hoped that the destruction of Vulcan would impact the Alpha Quadrant in some heavy ways. Most notably, how will the Romulans take it? Several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series show Romulans as being conniving but also a respectable and proud people who hold their Vulcan cousins in decently high regard. Will the Romulans give the Vulcans humanitarian, or in this case vulcanitarian, aid? Or will the Romulans take advantage of this weakness and invade? Who knows.

My only other major hope, and I know I’m about to get a lot of flack for this, is that they don’t set the show on an exploration ship. Yes, I know Star Trek, with the notable exception of Deep Space Nine, has always been set on an exploration ship and that’s precisely my point. That concept is tired.  We’ve had 21 seasons of 4 incarnations of Star Trek all set on an exploration ship and I think its time to move on. Sure, exploration can still be a theme but having one ship with one captain, one XO, one engineer, one tactical officer, one helmsman, one navigator, and one science officer is just something Star Trek needs to get away from for a while. We don’t need a show that’s essentially another rehash of The Original Series or Next Generation… again. The bulk of Voyager and the first two seasons of Enterprise proved that. I know people are going to say that Star Trek‘s exploratory theme is where its roots lie but I would argue this. Yes, Star Trek is about exploration but not the universe, they were exploring the human condition. What you see in The Original Series is exploration of the universe used as a metaphor for exploring what makes humanity so human and I believe there are ways to do this without resorting to the same concept used by Star Trek for 21 seasons. Star Trek writers are some of the most creative bunch out there and I believe them perfectly capable of bringing us something so clearly innately Star Trek but not a tired unimaginative redo of the same thing we’ve known for 50 years. Star Trek is better than that.

cbs-all-access-logoOne possible concern I know several people have is its distribution model. This new Star Trek show has been announced as only being available on CBS All Access or as I call it, CBS Not Netflix. While yes, I understand your frustration for them not releasing the series on cable like normal but let’s be real here. Bringing Star Trek back to TV is an enormous gamble for CBS and I’m sure they want some reassurance that it will be a successful venture before they sink so much money into actually doing that for a cable audience. This new series is their beta tester and should it do well, I have no doubts that Star Trek will return to cable for everyone to enjoy. So let’s make that happen.

Finally, I want to address something disturbing I’ve noticed just today since the announcement was released and that is the absolute mind-boggling hate and general nastiness that so many people have posted in regards to the new announcement, mainly because of how Alex Kurtzman is attached to it and Kurtzman worked for Abrams. I’ve seen so many post hateful and negative remarks about how Star Trek is dead and they won’t watch it with Kurtzman at the helm. Star Trek finally returns to TV and this is the reception they get? Star Trek‘s return to TV heralded by negativity and disdain? It’s simply sad to see that what the fans claim to have wanted for so long suddenly turn against it because one of Abrams’ writers is at the helm. Regardless of how TV network politics and money matters happen, it’s the fans that kept Star Trek alive for this long and it’s also the fans that can kill it. To everyone, I urge you to not be pre-maturely judgmental. Be open, be positive, be accepting, and be the fans that kept this franchise alive for 50 years with 30 seasons and 12 movies. We all want more so let’s be open to more even if it’s different.

Sovereign_Crew_QuartersNow as I raise my glass, here’s to season 31. Make it so.

Thoughts on the Star Trek TV Series Announcement

The Last Witch Hunter Reviewed

While the latest Vin Diesel film, The Last Witch Hunter, may seem like exactly what you would expect, it probably isn’t. Commonly known for his over the top action franchise, The Fast and the Furious series, you may think that Diesel is branching out into over the top fantasy action flicks with this film but unfortunately, everything about this film is simply lacking. Personally, I found the Fast and Furious to be an entertaining series filled with fun and adrenaline but also with a decent amount of good character development interspersed, as outrageous as those films are. the-last-witch-hunter

————————————Spoilers Ahead————————————-

Unfortunately, The Last Witch Hunter possesses none of the action packed charm or appeal of Diesel’s previous films. The entire plot is filled with pointless events, all of which feel disconnected and like the writers were making it up as they went along. The film starts with Vin Diesel’s character, Kaulder, a person of seemingly Viking or European Barbarian origin, along with several other comrades as they invade a witch lair, hoping to rid the world of the Witch Queen as she is apparently responsible for the Black Plague in her attempt to rid the world of humans. After defeating the Witch Queen, Kaulder is cursed by her with immortality hence the reason the rest of the film takes place in the modern day. Once at this point, the rest of the film takes place like the plot of a bad linear video game. Kaulder goes from cliche fantasy location to other cliche fantasy location slowly learning details about the dark witch’s plot to predictably resurrect the Witch Queen and to restart the Black Plague all over again. Without having to go into all the details, the ending of the film basically leaves Kaulder in the exact same place as the beginning. Zero things have changed for him. He is still left immortal, still charged with defeating witches, and still has Michael Caine as a mentor who is, unfortunately, horribly wasted as an actor. And what makes this whole ending ludicrous is how Kaulder makes the obtuse observation that something has changed in his life when literally nothing has. Now to clarify, all of this happens without a lick of decent action to even make up for the bad plot and acting.

In short, don’t waste your time.
rs_1024x645-150617142654-1024.vin-diesel-last-witch-hunter2.jw.61715Did you catch The Last Witch Hunter opening weekend? Do you disagree with my thoughts? Comment below!

The Last Witch Hunter Reviewed

Why Gotham’s Latest Twist Ending Was a Good Move

Fox’s relatively new Batman-themed show, Gotham, has certainly taken its viewers on some wild rides during its first season. Robin Lord Taylor’s performance as Penguin astonished viewers with his extremely dark but compelling take on the classic villain. Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) evolution from starting as a detective to beginning his quest to save the city of Gotham has been twisting and turning. Seeing the rise of the Dark Knight during his formative teenage years as young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), overseen by his ever faithful butler Alfred (Sean Pertwee), has provided viewers with insight into why Batman will eventually become a reality. One other aspect that Gotham has been fond of is teasing its viewers with cameos of Batman villains-in-the-making. From the reoccurring Cat/Selina Kyle/Not-Yet-Catwoman to the guest appearances of villains such as Scarecrow and a Bane-prototype, part of Gotham’s charm has been in showing how these iconic villains are coming into being. These villains don’t just decide to start a life of crime. They are a product of their reality and Gotham has done good in showing how all that will eventually come to be. However, there was one guest appearance that was less well received than others and if you have seen the first season, you probably know who I am talking about.

———————–Spoilers will follow——————————

I am, of course, referring to the Joker. While he is never explicitly referred to as the Joker, it is made quite clear that psychotic Jerome Valeska, portrayed rather well by Cameron Monaghan, is supposed to be the most iconic villain of all time and during his Season 1 appearance, it is safe to say that his reception was less than stellar. While Monaghan offered a new take on the Clown Prince of Crime, it simply didn’t work, I think, as well as the producers wished. Giving the Joker a lackluster backstory was their biggest problem. Instead of leaving the Joker’s backstory unknown as was done in the Dark Knight or giving him an enigmatic and cerebral reason for being as he is as was done in Alan Moore’s graphic novel, The Killing Joke, Gotham instead decided to make the Joker the abused son of circus performers. Not only is this backstory simply not that compelling, it seemed a bit insulting to make the Clown Prince an actual clown. The redeeming quality of this appearance truly did lie with Cameron Monaghan’s excellent performance in making the teenage Jerome/Joker come to life. He really did feel as pointlessly and deliciously insane as all Joker fans have come to know him. gotham_90137

However, this all changed in Season 2. Not only was Jerome’s role expanded, Monaghan was allowed to bring so much more to the role while not having to heavily reference the backstory established in Season 1. Episode 1 of Season 2 reintroduced Jerome as currently locked up in Arkham Asylum, serving his time for being behind the murder of his mother and her lover as was resolved in his Season 1 appearance. Jerome is eventually broken out by Theo Galavan, a villain whose true purpose hasn’t yet been revealed. Episode 2 of this season made good use of Monaghan’s acting talent in such scenes where he forces another villain into submission through a game of Russian Roulette and where Jerome so playfully and psychotically leads in the murder of many of Gotham’s police department. Episode 3, however, took a brilliant twist. Jerome’s sponsor, Theo Galavan, in his bid to gain a following among the citizens of Gotham, has Jerome terrorize a fundraiser at a children’s hospital and then kills Jerome to end the terror and name himself a hero. The audience had every reason to suspect that Jerome would be a reoccurring character for all of this season, if not the rest of the show, but this twist ended his Gotham tenure prematurely and brilliantly. Not only did it accelerate the arc of this season by moving forward with Theo’s as-yet-unknown plans, it gave Jerome’s character a proper ending. The Joker has always been about chaos and thus, Jerome’s death needed to be just as chaotic and out of the blue, which it succeeded. This also would avoid Jerome becoming an overused character whose quirks and insanity, done well by Monaghan, I will say, may work for some time, but it would be unavoidable that Jerome would have become annoying. By killing him off this early, Gotham’s writers have succeeded in two things, preserving the integrity of the character as well as moving the season’s story arc much further along, although we don’t know the ramifications of such yet.
knock-knock-jerome-gambles
Another interesting thing they did with Jerome’s death is how apparently the Joker has become an infectious entity. This episode ends with citizens seeing footage of Jerome’s actions and they begin using the infamous Joker laugh. One such group even kills a homeless man for no reason. This implies that the Joker is not just limited to one person. The Joker is the chaos inside of everyone, wanting to break free. As Gotham’s executive producer, Danny Cannon, said in regards to this episode: “I think the Joker isn’t so much a single person as he is an ideology. [He’s] an idea that we can all live without fear and we can all be free and we can all not live within the world’s restrictions and not live within the rules at all. This guy walks between the lines and I think that’s an ideology. It’s not a single person. It’s a way to live your life, and I think that’s what we explore.”

———————Spoilers End————————–

As for me, this episode, and specifically this twist, has me hooked onto Gotham all over again. I look forward to seeing how this season will unfold.

What did you think of the Joker twist? Are you caught up on Gotham? Comment below with your thoughts.

Why Gotham’s Latest Twist Ending Was a Good Move

The Martian – Review

 The Martian, I can safely say, satisfied a hunger in me that I have had for some time. I long for films and shows when space travel and exploration was seen as something good and to strive for regardless of the danger. The Martian, following astronaut Mark Watney as he is left stranded on the surface of Mars, deals with powerful thematic elements such as survival in the face of incredible odds and the perseverance to tread on even when it seems all hope is lost.

martian-potatoesWithout spoiling anything not known from the trailer, The Martian follows Mark Watney, a astronaut/botanist, who is accidentally left for dead on the surface of Mars after a sandstorm forces the rest of the astronaut team to prematurely begin their long journey home. Watney, played by Matt Damon, is forced to realize that he will have to survive on Mars with nothing but what supplies were left behind and his intelligence to make it through his ordeal. Knowing that another manned Mars mission will be coming in a few years, he begins the long process of setting up a suitable camp and finding ways to keep himself alive, which due to his exceptional botany skills, meant making a makeshift garden using Martian soil. The rest of the movie follows Watney’s struggle to stay alive but also NASA’s job of finding a suitable way to rescue him with their limited time frame.

I found this film to be both funny, due to Damon’s character always finding ways to make a situation humorous, but also very intense due to the massive odds stacked against him. One criticism that could be laid against the realism of this film is how Watney doesn’t appear to be suffering from any sort of mental breakdown from both the stress and loneliness. However, I saw this as a testament to Watney’s abilities and perseverance. He doesn’t let the gravity of his situation break him. He faces it head-on with zeal and shows Mars that he will survive…as humorously indicated by the credit’s song.

Another commendable aspect of The Martian is how space exploration is always seen as a good thing. To explore the unknown without fear and with a positive attitude is something that child in all of us wants to believe in and this film hit that point hard. Several times, the NASA officials are afraid to reveal information regarding Watney’s situation, due to the possibility of losing hope and therefore public support, but each time, they overcome their fear and in kind, everyone overcomes their own fears in order to do the right thing.martian-gallery2-gallery-image_0

The Martian presents a powerful story depicting how fear should not factor into how we explore. Humanity’s efforts into space exploration has always been a prerogative of going where no one has gone before. In order to understand the positive aspects and optimistic feel of The Martian, I urge those who view this film to remember the words of John F. Kennedy in his famous 1962 Moon Speech: “Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

poster-the-martian-680

Did you catch The Martian opening weekend? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

The Martian – Review

Ju-On: The Grudge Reviewed

Due to my increased interest in certain types of horror, I took a chance and watched Ju-On: The Grudge, the infamous Japanese film that is often credited as being one of the scariest films of all time. However, this is plainly not the case.

For brevity and clarity’s sake, this will only be an overview type of review without too many specifics.

Jo-On: The Grudge Review: With Spoilers

Ju-On: The Grudge

Ju-On: The Grudge follows a set of Japanese people that are all affected by a curse known as The Grudge that, once it has touched a person’s life, will follow them and eventually kill them. The Grudge curse was supposedly created when a man killed his wife and child after learning of her infidelity which then led to his death when his wife’s ghost returns to seek vengeance. While this basic premise may seem like a good grounded concept for a horror movie, and it is, the execution simply led to a bland product devoid of scares or even a decent storyline.

Once The Grudge’s origin is shown at the very beginning of the film, the rest of Ju-On follows several people all of whom are, in some way, touched by the ghostly presence that resides in the house where the curse originated. However, the film presents several different segments that do not follow a strict chronology with each segment following a different character. The beginnings of each segment usually show the character living their life normally until they come into contact with The Grudge that eventually leads to their deaths at the hands of one of the three main ghosts. In the later segments, other ghosts of those who died in previous segments also make appearances although their existences are essentially without much consequence. While the segmented storyline with its overlapping timelines could have worked to show how deep this curse has woven itself into the house and those around it, its style simply did not work as well as it should and the result ended up simply rather confusing.

Since much of the film essentially repeats itself over and over with the different characters, I shall digress to discussing the ending. The ending of Ju-On: The Grudge was one that had enough potential to work as a twist ending but upon further analysis, ended up just as bland as the rest. The final character to have a segment in this film eventually finds herself in the ghost-infested house being encroached upon by the wife ghost and then a curious scene happens. A series of flashbacks show the wife ghost, curiously missing her ghastly appearance and looking more like a normal woman and mother, as she has been stalking this final victim. To me, this scene suggested that perhaps the wife ghost has not been killing anyone but rather had been attempting to warn people from the rage of the husband ghost who had not been seen since his murders at the beginning. Had this been the case, I would credit Ju-On with having a delightful twist that, while not having many substantial scares, that would have made the film worth it. However, upon remembering the rest of the film, it is clear that the wife ghost had been killing several people and that theory simply didn’t hold water. This was also substantiated by the intense research I put into this film upon finishing.

———–Spoilers End———

Overall, the concept of the film had promise and could have delivered a unique spin on films that deal with haunted houses and the like but ultimately, the film simply dredged on and had nothing special that made it worth watching.

Do you remember Jo-On: The Grudge? Did you like it? Hate it? Comment below with your thoughts.

Ju-On: The Grudge Reviewed

The Exorcist – Reviewed for a Modern Audience

Not being too much of a horror fan growing up, I tended to shy away from the horror genre where ever it appeared. However, I recently grew to find an appreciation in the horror genre and while I still shy away from slashers, I tend to find interest in more atmospheric or suspense driven horror since, to me, it is still able to be chilling without verging into the area of gore porn.

When I started watching The Exorcist, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect considering that I’ve heard it was one of the scariest movies of all time but I didn’t seem to be getting scared. By the end, I came to this conclusion: The Exorcist was not made for us. Rather, this movie was expressly made for the 1970s audience that it had when first released. Because the 70s was a time of staunch secularism, the idea of having that secularism shattered by the existence of the supernatural would have been much more frightening than had the same theme been introduced to us in the modern era. While our modern culture still has a similar vein of secularism, we have become much more comfortable with accepting the unknown as something less frightening and more something to be explored and explained. This was not the case in the 70s.

————–Spoilers Follow————–

As the film starts, we are shown a view of Chris MacNeil’s (Ellen Burstyn) life as an actress and how she just seems rather jaded with her profession and her life in general although she does value her role as mother to her daughter, Regan (Linda Blair). We are also shown the current situation of a Catholic priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller), who confesses that he is doubting his faith in God. Chris, representing the secularism of the times, disdains religion and goes so far as to call priests nothing more than “witch doctors.” Karras, however, represents the tendency for the religious to begin accepting secularism and reject their faith during this time. Both of these characters, two sides of the same coin, are then slapped in the face with the demonic possession of Chris’s daughter, Regan.

As Regan begins displaying psychotic symptoms, Chris immediately brings in the help of various doctors all of whom can’t explain Regan’s condition and when she is forced to turn to Father Karras for an exorcism, Karras only agrees to examine Regan as a psychiatrist first, given that he has been certified and that he would often attribute psychotic behavior to mental illness before demonic possession. This theme continues of the secularists in the film constantly attempting to explain the unexplainable condition of Regan using science or psychology since no one is willing to even entertain the possibility of a supernatural event. It is not until the demon possessing Regan begins to tell Karras details about his recently deceased mother that she could not have possibly known. Only these details begin to convince Karras that perhaps supernatural forces are at work and his mental condition deteriorates as a result with him becoming increasingly emotional and prone to outbursts.

The Exorcist - Regan Floating

When Karras finally accepts that an exorcism is necessary, he is appointed as the assistant to Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) who has had experience with exorcisms before and represents the religious who still retains his faith, as opposed to Karras who has been slowly losing his faith up until this point. During the exorcism, it has become obvious to Karras, Chris, and the audience that this is indeed a supernatural event and the demon taunts them with knowledge that it could not have normally known and with visions designed to torment them. Father Merrin dies whilst performing the exorcism and in a final act of desperation, anger, and sacrifice, Karras asks the demon to possess him and leave Regan. As Karras is being possessed, he retains his will just long enough to dive out the window and fall down a set of stone stairs, fatally injuring himself and the demon with him.  Just as Karras is dying, another priest appears to perform the Catholic sacrament of Last Rites which Karras agrees to, reaffirming his faith in God.

————Spoilers End————-

Overall, so many aspects of The Exorcist speak to a time in our history when a belief in the religious or supernatural was discounted as nothing more than trickery or insanity. The prevalent secular thought believed that anything could be explained through science or medicine and thus, religion was unnecessary and discounted as the delusions of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t accept science as the only truth. The Exorcist sought to provide a horrific situation where those secular beliefs were not only challenged; they were outright smashed by the existence of the supernatural and the revelation that secularism couldn’t explain everything. This is the most frightening part of The Exorcist. Not the scares, the grotesque demon face, the head spinning scene but rather the idea that there are things that we simply can’t explain and that we were ever confronted with that fact, it would be frightening as hell as this film was widely considered when first released. While The Exorcist doesn’t retain the same level of scares that it did back in 1973, it does still retain an intense story that serves very well as an allegory for the battle of secularism and religion that both spoke to its 70s audience and still speaks to us today.

Have you see The Exorcist? What did you think of the iconic horror film? Comment below!

The Exorcist – Reviewed for a Modern Audience

Star Trek: Renegades – A Review

Firstly, let me start off by saying that I am not against fan films existing. I think that Star Trek having such a giant fan film base is a great thing and an excellent platform for aspiring filmmakers to get their start in a universe grounded in the deep lore that Star Trek has built over the last 49 years. I personally attempt to keep up with any news of new fan films in the works and I am ecstatic for the upcoming Axanar and Pacific 201 films which appear to bring a new brilliance to otherwise unseen eras in the Star Trek timeline.

That being said, Star Trek: Renegades was just…bad, in every sense of the word. While I am not against fan films existing, I am against bad producing, bad writing, and just generally bad storytelling in whatever forms it may appear in. Be that a Star Trek fan film, James Cameron’s Avatar, or any Uwe Boll film ever, I will always be against sloppy, confusing, and just plain uninteresting storytelling such as that which appears in Renegades. In order to be specific and logical with my grievances, I will attempt to go through each category of filmmaking and be as specific as possible about where I feel there are errors.

 

***********PLEASE NOTE THAT SPOILERS WILL APPEAR BELOW.*****************

 

ACTING

Firstly, the acting of Renegades was, in simple terms, atrocious. People may point to the performances of Tim Russ, Walter Koenig, and Robert Picardo as being good acting and yes, for the most part, these three seasoned Star Trek actors do give good and convincing performances. I was actually quite surprised at Koenig’s ability, in this film, considering his age and the fact that he hasn’t really played any other character ever, besides Chekov, except for his conniving role as Bester in Babylon 5. I thought perhaps he may have lost his ability to act over the years of playing the same character over and over again but this was not the case. Koenig delivered a nuanced and pleasant performance as a new kind of Chekov that I will admit was fun to watch.

Star Trek: Renegades Walter Koenig

However, Koenig’s, as well as Russ’s and Picardo’s considerable acting ability only serves to make literally every other actor pale in comparison. Extremely pale. Even other actors who have acted in professional films such as Manu Intiraymi, reprising his role as freed Borg/Brunali Icheb from Star Trek: Voyager, and Corin Nemec, known for his role as Jonas Quinn from Stargate SG-1, simply do not seem to have the ability to act anymore, if they ever did. Honestly, I think their respective performances in Voyager and SG-1 were raised by the professionalism of those around them and once that professionalism was lost, their acting ability suffered. Unfortunate but true.

For Nemec’s performance, I was half convinced that, when looking at his ship’s viewscreen, he was really looking at cue cards for his dialogue and was reading them off one at a time. Unfortunately, this is the standard that Renegades sets with its acting and the bad performances are made even worse when performed in front of Koenig, Russ, or Picardo. It was torturous to see Chekov actually perform when the character of his great grand-daughter stands there and delivers lines as wooden as can be, especially that of former Mythbuster/McDonalds spokesman Grant Imahara. Even the scenes where Koenig, Russ and Picardo are not present, the acting feels like a band of amateurs decided to recite lines off the Renegades script. Not act, recite. All of the rest of the performances feels more akin to a dramatic reading than film acting. Everything comes off as forced, wooden and entirely unconvincing, which is the job of actor. Make me believe that you are your character. In this, Renegades entirely failed with the notable exception of Koenig who, I am pleased to say, still has it.

PRODUCTION DESIGN AND SPECIAL EFFECTS

Perhaps the only half redeeming part of Renegades is that, because its budget was larger than most, it does have a decent amount of good designs, mostly in the area of the ship design. Many of the CGI ships were well designed, well rendered and pleasant to look at. My only issue with this area was how the Syphon ships looked too similar to the Son’a ships from Star Trek: Insurrection but maybe that’s just me. However, the CGI model for the USS Archer, same class as the titular ship from Voyager’s two parter “Equinox”, was gorgeous. Very nice to look at and praise to the artist who made it. All that being said, the bulk of any CGI where it was motion-tracked or chroma-keyed was just bad. When physical sets were being used, the settings were decently convincing but once any actor walked in front of a green screen, I instantly could tell the difference and it severely brought down the experience.

Star Trek: Renegades Icarus in Battle

While all that could be explained due to a lack of proper budget, nothing can explain why Icheb’s pseudo-Borg tech arm thing was made from CGI and not a physical prop. Icheb’s robot arm was seriously the most distracting part of this film simply because it was horribly motion-tracked. As Icheb would walk, his arm would not move smoothly and would inexplicably jerk one way or another regardless of how Icheb was actually moving. It was so noticeable that I had to rewind just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. It would have made so much more sense to just build a glossy plastic arm for his to wear and, in all likelihood, would have been cheaper to do. It seems like the filmmakers wanted so much to have the CGI effect of Icheb’s arm appearing from nothing that they dismissed all concepts of practicality in favor of one effect that was unimpressive to say the least.

 

And Icheb’s arm is not the only CGI artifact that doesn’t appear good. The strange artifact that creates portals simply did not appear real. It had such an annoying glow and faded look that one can only assume that it was made using the most simplistic of 3D modeling software. If they took so much time and spent so much money on making the ships look as good as they do, why couldn’t they make a simple 3D stone block look any sort of real? Apparently consistency was not on the minds of these filmmakers since the complex CGI elements like spaceships will look good but simple elements like stone blocks or robot arms look entirely fake.

EDITING

While I understand that making an amateur film can be an overwhelming undertaking, I do not believe there is an excuse for the sloppy editing present in Renegades. I remember a year or so ago when Renegades was posting about their new cameras and how professional they were gonna look because of it and stuff. However, even with their tech advances, Renegades still feels like an amateur backyard film. I remember making backyard films with my brother and I make no claims to greatness. Our films sucked and I fully admit that but Renegades promised something so professional looking that they made it out like CBS was actually considering them. After viewing Renegades, I can say that the editing alone would be enough to turn any professional TV executive off of the idea. The flaws in the editing are almost too numerous to count. Perhaps the most grievous error is the absurd amount of bad closeups. I don’t mind an occasional closeup but when you literally spend half of your dramatic scenes with a slow motion closeup that isn’t even centered on the actor’s face, you have a problem. It comes off as forced drama and looks cheap.

CHARACTERIZATION (AKA AN EXERCISE IN FAN SERVICE)

Being an aspiring screenwriter, I pay close attention to how characters are developed and characterized in TV and films. Characterization is perhaps the most important part of screenwriting because it’s how you get the audience invested in your story. Without characters that feel real, you leave the audience wondering why they are wasting their time on characters they don’t care about, and that is the case for literally every single character in Renegades. No one, and I literally mean no one, is an interesting character. After viewing Renegades, I couldn’t believe just how bad each character was made and how much apathy I had for them all. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of characters in Renegades are not actual characters but merely caricatures of their “place in Star Trek” for the purposes of fan service.

Let’s start off with the minor characters and since their names are unimportant, I will refer to them by their species since that’s all they represent in this movie.

The Bajoran has no purpose in this film other than to be the foil for The Cardassian. Both have no reason to be there other than they already are, both have no character agency to keep doing the things they do. They are contrivances for the purpose of making the audience feel like it’s more ‘Star Treky’ because there is a Bajoran who hates a Cardassian and makes a Pah-Wraith reference and a Cardassian there for the Bajoran to hate. They all forget that Renegades is supposed to take place long after the events of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and that the Dominion War was won. The Cardassians were defeated and were presumedly forced to pay restitution and work towards peace, although not seen on screen. Being an avid Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fan and a lover of how the Bajoran/Cardassian political situation was worked into the story, I cannot express how much I hated how Renegades decided that their best use of a Bajoran and Cardassian was as a simple exposition of racism with no explanation and no reasoning. I found this insulting both to myself and to the depth that DS9 had explicated the Bajoran/Cardassian story over its seven year run.

Now for another minor character pairing that made no sense. Icheb and the Betazoid are simply the most awkward coupling I’ve ever seen. Their pairing is not romantic in nature but it’s also not without possibility and if this explanation makes no sense, that mirrors the sense that both of these characters don’t have. Icheb, bitter at being experimented on by Section 31, but also possibly thankful, constantly gives the Betazoid a hard time just for being around. Icheb exudes angst over being abused by both the Borg and Section 31 but he also somehow likes it and when the Betazoid questions him about anything, Icheb gets angry. You’ll also notice reading this that I haven’t mentioned anything about the Betazoid on her own because for all intents and purposes, she has no character on her own. She is there to be the plot device that Icheb talks to and also the plot device that helps free Icheb from the Syphon guard with her Betazoid telepathy. If one were to simply replace her with say Deanna Troi, or any Betazoid ever, or even if she was just replaced in the script with “telepathic plot device”, one would never know the difference because of how flat and unnecessary she is.

Star Trek: Renegades Icheb

Coming over to Dr. Lucian and Fixer, this is perhaps the only pairing that had any sort of compelling emotional appeal that worked. While I think that the explanation for why we should feel for these characters didn’t work, Sean Young, better known as Replicant Rachael from Blade Runner, gave a decently nuanced performance alongside Robert Picardo’s reprisal of Dr. Lewis Zimmerman that made me feel for her situation even though I didn’t really know nor understand her situation. Basically, I understood that Fixer was once a person important to her and when he died, she preserved his brain patterns in the hologram of Fixer that has been serving as the Icarus’s engineer since then unbeknownst to the rest of the crew. However, this is where this plot line fell apart. Given the numerous problems with maintaining hologram’s visual integrity as seen in Voyager with The Doctor, I didn’t find it believable that the Fixer hologram had passed itself off as human for years with no one on the crew knowing, including himself. Wouldn’t someone have noticed at some point the slightest glitch in his holographic matrix? Wouldn’t someone have noticed that he doesn’t eat or use the bathroom or anything a human does? This coupled with the fact that it is never explained where Fixer’s holographic emitters are or how they work or how he can go anywhere and do everything everyone else can made for Fixer’s character to be just an excuse for Dr. Lucian and Dr. Zimmerman to have a secret from everyone else. While they could have at least explained that Fixer uses a mobile emitter like Voyager’s EMH, it’s as if Renegades assumed that its audience was too dumb to question how his hologram works so they sidestepped the issue entirely.

Coming over to perhaps the worst performance of the entire cast, Lt. Masaru, played by Grant Imahara, I have to say that this character made no sense in the slightest. He starts out as an aid to Admiral Chekov and only serves as a plot device for narrative explanation to bring the audience up to speed. Then, near the end of the film, he is revealed to have been a spy and assassin. He kills Admiral Paris, and just as he attempts to reveal his evil plan and kill Admiral Chekov, Masaru is conveniently killed by Chekov’s unnecessary Romulan bodyguard. This was perhaps the ultimate slap in the face to the audience. The Romulan, who is never explained, kills their only known lead to the conspiracy and her only excuse for killing the person who could explain everything is “old habits.” Like really? You unnecessarily kill your big reveal plot device character of Masaru using another unnecessary plot device Romulan because of “old habits”? Way to prolong the conspiracy way longer than needed because you were too dumb to realize that information could save everyone but what can you expect from a character whose only existence was to kill Masaru because the plot demanded it.

And for the final minor character that I will explicate, The Andorian. This was the most blatant use of fan service that has ever existed. Not only is she a hot Andorian chick, but one with cleavage that would make Seven of Nine blush. Her entire existence is reduced to serving as an over-sexualized device for the demands of the plot to use and spit out. First, I am not going to be one of those people who say that ALL sex appeal in Star Trek is heresy like those who disdain Seven of Nine or Deanna Troi simply because their bodies were accentuated. However, the Andorian’s body is not just accentuated, its crafted for the specific purpose of over-sexualized titillation clearly seen in her first seen when she engages in a lesbian tryst with a woman right before using a “mind rape” device on her. Then, for the rest of the film, is seen with an annoying amount of cleavage rivaling that of Christina Hendricks. I can only assume that this distracting amount of cleavage was used to draw the audience away from the fact that the Andorian only exists to be the stereotypical “hacker” chick who discovers the evil conspiracy because she can and the plot demanded that of her. When your characters are serving the whims of the plot just because that’s how it HAS to happen or it all falls apart, you have a problem with your plot and it makes your characters flat, uninteresting, and unpleasant to watch.

While I could go on with other minor characters and how contrived they are, I shall digress by moving on to the antagonists. The Syphon are a new race introduced in Renegades and I have to say, I couldn’t find them less interesting. Given that the Syphon are supposed to be something new, you would expect perhaps new and unexplored traits to appear that may bring interest to the audience but about five minutes into their introduction, they are revealed to be nothing more than Klingons in fake looking masks. The Syphon culture, as it appears, praises honor and rituals and rites essentially all things that we’ve seen before in the Klingon episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, coupled with the fact that the Syphon appearance looks curiously like it was ripped off of the Wraith from Stargate: Atlantis, I feel like no imagination was actually put into these villains. They are given some plot contrived reason for why their actions are not actually wrong because they were wronged first but this is never explored beyond their word so we have no way of knowing what they’re actually doing. The Syphon are the bad guys because the plot demands that there be alien bad guys for no real reason. Again, having contrived characters, or in this case entire cultures, makes for zero interest on the part of the audience. Especially when this alien race is nothing more than Klingon rejects.

Star Trek: Renegades Lexxa

Finally we come to the major characters but curiously, the only one of any real consequence is Lexxa Singh. I cannot express just how uninteresting this character is. She first appears in her Orion prison cell writing the words to William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, on the walls which in itself made no real sense other than Lexxa accentuates the word, “captain”, in a clichéd way to reference Star Trek’s tradition of captains. Perhaps this was meant to be a reference to Nelson Mandela’s incarceration in Robbin Island prison but given Lexxa’s apathy about pretty much everything other than her mother, I just couldn’t see it. But let’s just discuss Lexxa’s origins for a minute. Her last name is Singh and it is revealed that she is the famed Khan Noonian Singh’s daughter…three hundred or so years after he would have been at the peak of power during the Eugenics Wars…and about a hundred years after his brief resurgence as seen in Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan. So you may ask why Khan’s daughter appears in a time when it’s pretty much impossible for to appear in at her age and you would be right to ask. There is no answer to be found however. Replace Lexxa with any character who has any modicum of fighting skill and nothing would have changed. There is nothing special about Lexxa that would make her being Khan’s daughter make any sort of sense. It is as if the writers were like: “We need a main character but with something that the Trekkies will like because it’s a reference to something…Khan’s Daughter, let’s do it regardless of how much sense it won’t make.” Then Lexxa’s origins are conveniently sidestepped by her flashbacks regarding her mother whose identity is never revealed. Is this supposed to be Marla McGivers? Or someone Khan knew during The Eugenics Wars? We never find out. All that matters is the half-hearted attempt at giving Lexxa some character depth even if it only serves to make her character more confusing than she already is.

STORYLINE

I will put this quite simply. The plotline is a mess. There are these interwoven plot threads involving a Starfleet conspiracy, the Syphon threat, Section 31, the USS Archer, and the crew of the Icarus but nothing comes full circle. It feels as if the filmmakers wanted to do something impressive so they took the base ideas from three fan films and smashed them together into one, resulting in a convoluted mess that makes the Temporal Cold War of Star Trek: Enterprise’s infamy look like the plot a children’s chapter book. The conspiracy is never resolved, story feels no more advanced at the end than it did at the beginning, and the Syphon threat is only somewhat resolved due to some deus ex machina performed by Fixer using technobabble that would put Voyager’s plot resolutions to shame. In short, don’t expect anything to make sense at all because it won’t and thinking about it will only result in a headache.

Star Trek: Renegades Syphon

THE BUDGET ARGUMENT

Now many will argue that Renegades deserves some slack due to its lack of budget and yes, I can forgive things like effects, set design and the like since money is required for these things. But one thing that always pops out to me is why do some of the effects suck while others are pretty great? Why is there this disconnect? If you’re going to do one thing well, do everything well. Don’t be so half-hearted that you think that if you do a few things well and skimp on the rest that no one will notice. Another thing that does not require money is imagination. There was no imagination brought into this movie. Everything was so contrived and forced that it felt like these filmmakers were being forced into making a movie when they really didn’t want to. Good writing costs no money but this film is lacking any sort of good writing and skill in making an interesting movie. Look at a movie like Primer. While I am not a die-hard fan of Primer, it is easily recognizable that the makers of that film had imagination and while they had a tiny budget, certainly less than Renegades, they still made something decently good and at the very least, interesting enough to enthrall an audience in its world. This is something Renegades quite simply didn’t do.

THE TV PILOT ARGUMENT

Some will also argue that Renegades was meant as a television pilot and that the characters, plot, and budget could all be fixed if given more time to develop. While yes, TV pilots are meant to introduce characters and plots but Renegades did too much. Like I said in the Storyline section, it felt as if they wanted to smash three plots into one and hope it worked out when it didn’t and, while I don’t think having a lot of characters was a flaw, I do think having every character nothing more than a caricature, plot device, or fan service was a flaw. Look at a show like Firefly. They had a cast of eight and, just in the pilot, they made each character interesting enough that we wanted to come back to see more of them then in the subsequent episodes. We got to see each character develop more and more. Same with shows like Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, JJ Abrams’ Lost, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and the list goes on. While they didn’t complete plots or character threads in the pilots, and they didn’t need to. They did at least make the characters have the potential to become more than what they started out as. Renegades did not do this. Each character was so flat that they can only continue being just as uninteresting if any more episodes have the unfortunate fortitude to get made.

STAR TREK: RENEGADES OVERALL

Just to wrap up, do not think that I am a hater of all fan films or anything of the like or that I am a Trek hater. I too would love for Star Trek to return to TV but I am extremely thankful that CBS did not pick up Renegades because I am simply against shoddy writing and poor filmmaking and, in the case of Renegades, it simply did not do justice to Star Trek. Given that Star Trek is one of the richest modern mythologies ever created, it deserves better than Renegades’ half-hearted attempt at continuing where Voyager/Nemesis left off. With its nonsensical plot, terrible characterization, and mismatched production value, Renegades should serve as an exercise in how not to make a fan film when you have a larger than most budget and also as an example of not being so steeped in hubris in a vain attempt to sell to CBS.

Have you seen Renegades? What did you think? Let us know in the comments

Star Trek: Renegades – A Review