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Posts Tagged ‘pointless waste of time’

31 Monstrous Failures #24: The Thing

October 24th, 2011 No comments

In the interest of fairness, I will admit that I have not seen the subject of today’s entry. But I firmly believe that first-hand experience is unnecessary to declare that the 2011 version of…

The Thing!

…is one of the most unnecessary follow-ups ever.

I’m not the biggest fan of either of the previous adaptations of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella Who Goes There? Howard Hawks’ 1951 The Thing from Another World has excellent direction and a terrific score, but it drops the shapechanging alien of the original story in favor of James Arness in Frankenstein makeup. John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing is a more faithful transfer, but it emphasizes gross-out effects at the cost of anyone worth caring about. That said, the ’82 film is well-regarded and it was perhaps inevitable that someone would make another one.

However, rather than a sequel or a remake, the 2011 Thing is a prequel to Carpenter’s movie. Now, what you need to know about the ’82 film is that the initial discovery and revival of the alien (from a crashed spacecraft buried in Antarctic ice) occurred off-screen. Unlike the ’51 version–which detailed the recovery and thawing of The Thing–Carpenter had his characters explore a wrecked Norwegian base where all of the initial running and screaming had already taken place. In other words, the most important thing about the Norwegians was that they were already dead.

That’s why it boggles me that Universal would drop 38 large to tell the story of the hapless Norwegians. Who (SPOILER) all die. If you have seen the ’82 Thing, you know more or less exactly what happens in the ’11 Thing. If you haven’t seen it, you probably couldn’t care less about the Norwegians.*

Apparently a lot of folks agreed, and the new film made only about $11 million domestically in its first week. Some Things are better left alone.

*No offense, Norway.

Somebody Saaaaaaaaaave Me!

May 12th, 2011 No comments

Back when Smallville premiered on the WB network in October 2001, if you would’ve told me that it would still be on the air ten full seasons later, I would have chortled. Guffawed, even. The notion that a TV series that transplanted the Silver Age adventures of Superboy into a blatant photocopy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Sunnydale would one day become the longest-running science-fiction/fantasy series in U.S. television history was ridiculous.

And I don’t think anyone would’ve been more surprised by its longevity than Smallville‘s creators, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. They certainly didn’t appear to have planned for that contingency, adopting a strict “no flights, no tights” rule that kept Clark Kent literally grounded, pointedly not becoming Superman even as the actor who portrayed him, Tom Welling, aged into his thirties. Welling, now 34, is nearly ten years older than was Christopher Reeve when he first played Superman for the feature films.

Yet, with only one episode left–the series finale airs tomorrow–Clark has never flown* and the familiar Superman costume is still in Kryptonian mothballs. The unintended effect has been to show the Man of Steel as a weak and indecisive super-waffle.

Smallville has rarely been good, but it almost always has been watchable. In the early years, that was due mostly to actor Michael Rosenbaum as perennial foe Lex Luthor, here a tragic anti-hero pushed slowly into evil by his manipulative father and the lies told by his best friend Clark as the latter attempted to protect the secret of his powers. In an early episode, Lex told Clark, “Our friendship is going to be the stuff of legends.” It was a heartbreaking moment.

Also holding my interest was Allison Mack as intrepid school newspaper reporter and loyal friend Chloe Sullivan. The show clearly wanted me to be into Kristin Kreuk as Clark’s longtime crush Lana Lang, but–true to my preference for Mary Ann over Ginger–it was Mack for whom I carried the torch.

To say that characterization was inconsistent on Smallville was a mockery of  the concept of  inconsistency. The computerized ghost of Clark’s Kryptonian father Jor-El (voiced by Terence Stamp, who was the venomous General Zod in Superman II) bounced between being a strict dad shaping his son’s heroic destiny to a sinister presence intent on turning him into a God among men. (Though he was always a dick.)

Similarly, Lex’s dad Lionel Luthor started out as a thoroughly corrupting influence who became Clark’s good-hearted mentor even though he was still a murderer but then he was protecting Clark’s secrets from Lex and romancing Mrs. Kent even while he was revealed to be at the heart of a decades-old conspiracy that prophesied the arrival of a superbeing. My head is spinning even typing that last sentence.

I nearly gave up on Smallville during its fourth season, around the time of a protracted storyline that saw Lana possessed by the spirit of a kung-fu witch. (A kung. Fu. Witch.) But then a couple of things happened.

One was the arrival of the delectable Erica Durance as Lois Lane. Durance was eye candy to be sure, but she also played an appropriately gutsy, feisty character true to the legacy of the Loises that preceded her.

The other was that Smallville began to embrace the larger DC Comics mythology. Other superheroes began to crop up, and while the “no tights” rule largely kept them in hoodies, it was still fun to see Smallville-ized versions of the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg.

Season six saw the introduction of Justin Hartley as Green Arrow. The hero proved so popular that he became a series regular through the end of the show’s run, despite the relative insignificance of Green Arrow in Superman’s comic-book backstory.

Watching Smallville has been like looking at Superman through a fun-house mirror. This is a show that brought us longtime supporting character Jimmy Olsen, married him to Chloe Sullivan, killed him off, then revealed that he was never the “real” Jimmy to begin with. It had evil Kryptonian supercomputer Brainiac pretend to be Clark’s college professor, and murderous monster Doomsday moonlight as a paramedic.

In its final years, the show has become a live-action DC Universe, with superheroes such as Zatanna, Stargirl, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle appearing in more-or-less accurate versions of their comic-book outfits. (Though, for some reason, Green Arrow still has that damned hoodie.)

Tomorrow night will see the end of a long, strange road. There are many burning questions to be answered. Will Lex Luthor return?** Will he still remember that Clark has superpowers? Will Clark remember that he has superpowers? And will he ever put on that fucking cape?

Keep watching. You will believe that a man can walk.

*Except when he’s turned evil. Evil Clark always flies.

**Spoiler: yes.

These Are My Voyages

July 9th, 2010 No comments

As if I needed yet another way in which to fritter away my precious hours on Earth, last weekend I signed up for Star Trek Online, another role-playing game from the company that brought us Champions Online. The Trek game has been out since February, but I decided to wait until I could get it cheap. Thankfully, Steam came through with a massive Independence Day weekend sale.

I even dropped the extra couple of bucks for the “deluxe digital edition,” which came with bonus content such as Original Series uniforms and enough store credits to purchase the classic Enterprise. It wasn’t very long before I’d created a mini-skirted, go-go booted Starfleet lieutenant!

Unsurprising to anyone who knows me, Lt. Caitlin Howard is a long-legged redhead who just happens to be a distant relative of Beverly (Howard) Crusher from The Next Generation. She commands the U.S.S. Bellerophon, named after the doomed colonist ship from the movie Forbidden Planet.

Lt. Howard kicking some Gorn ass.

While much of Trek Online feels very familiar to me–having played a couple of games from the same design house–there are at least two major differences. One is that, instead of a single avatar, each player has an “away team” of five characters when participating in ground combat. The other bridge officers aren’t under direct control, but you can train ’em, outfit ’em with gear, and dress ’em however you like. (Naturally, mine are rocking the ’60s miniskirt look.)

The guy on the right is Tim the Red Shirt, the only male on my crew at the time. Also known as "the luckiest man in Starfleet."

The second big difference is space combat. Glorious, glorious space combat. While the ground portion of the game seems a little undercooked to me, the space missions are everything I could’ve hoped for. Massive starships lumber about in true Trek style, unleashing phasers, photon torpedoes, polaron beams and what-have-you.

One thing I find appealing is how intuitive space combat is to me, having played my share of Trek tabletop wargames. One has to allocate power to the various systems, and maneuver one’s ship to face the enemy’s weakest shield, all the while keeping one’s own shields charged. Most weapons have a firing arc, so if I want my Constitution-class vessel to hit that Orion cruiser with both of my phaser banks, I need to expose my flank. However, if I want to hit him with a volley of torpedoes (which I do!), I need to be facing front.

My first fleet combat went very poorly.

One thing I want to stress is how frickin’ gorgeous this game is, at least on my gaming laptop. Many of my screenshots have been desktop-worthy. Space is filled with floating asteroids, colorful gas clouds and sweeping rings.

Seriously, look at this:

And this:

The game is filled with all manner of Easter eggs for Trek fans of both generations. It’s set several decades further into the future of the original Trek universe (not the divergent timeline from the most recent feature film), and while familiar screen characters such as Picard, Sisko or Janeway don’t seem to put in an appearance, I believe I’ve encountered grown-up versions of just about every child seen on the various televised series. (Haven’t run into Worf’s son Alexander yet, but I gotta think he’s out there somewhere.)

Many familiar locations are reproduced, including Deep Space Nine, Memory Alpha and Space Station K-7 (from the classic episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”). I’ve enjoyed my scenic tour of the galaxy, but I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed that there’s not more to do in these famous locales. The fabled pleasure planet of Risa seems to consist of nothing but a bit of beachfront and a couple of boring vendors. I can’t even buy a bikini for Lt. Howard! And really, Quark’s bar on Deep Space Nine should have a Dabo Wheel minigame, or the chance to play a hand of Fizzbin.

Still, I’m enjoying what’s there quite a lot. I don’t know if it would be as much fun for those with only a casual interest in Star Trek, but as a lifelong fan who likes it when ships go boom, it’s a good time!

Set your equipment to "fan service."

Ripped From The Headlines

March 4th, 2009 No comments

Dave Lartigue and I have a new collaborative blog…Dateline: Silver Age!

I Am So Glad That I No Longer Care About This Shit

July 15th, 2008 No comments

Announced today by Adam Pawlus of Galactic Hunter: an exclusive set of Star Wars figures based “on the Crimson Empire flashback scene in which we see Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax in training.”

Crimson Empire, for those of you who have lives, is a Dark Horse comic book about the guys who make up the Emperor’s Royal Guard: the ones with the red robes and the phallic helmets. If there’s one thing that Star Wars fans love, it’s dudes in all-concealing headgear who stand around looking bad-ass. (See: Fett, Boba.) The Royal Guard are so stone cold that they don’t do a single thing in the entire film saga. They don’t need to prove anything.

But it seems that before donning the Red Robes of Awesome, they go through a training phase in which they dress up as their favorite Power Ranger. I believe that the guy in the black robes above must be the wizard Zordon.

Click through for the full horror.