Plotting Along – “That Star Trek Movie” (Part 1)

Look at that title.  You know which one I mean.

There’s no question that among Science Fiction fandoms, the Star Trek contingent is a force unto themselves.  They are frighteningly passionate, opinionated, and fractious.  And yet there are a few things that they can agree on.  Namely: that some of the movies are pretty bad.  And among the bad, there is one that stands out.  One which, as a followup to the previous masterful film, was disappointing enough to dash the hopes of everyone who went to watch.  And that film is:

Star Trek: The Final... Oh dear god no.
Star Trek: The Final… Oh dear god, does he WANT to be flamed into oblivion?

Read More »

Signs You’re Trapped in 90’s Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk in the 90’s was a special kind of madness.  Technology for mobile phones, the internet, and robotic prostheses was just starting to take off in a big way.  Everyone seemed certain that virtual reality and cybernetic implants were just around the corner.  And, best of all, none of those technologies had matured enough for people to realize that the ideas they’d always had about what those things would look like were batshit crazy.  The result was a pastiche of techno-babble and nonsense that has never quite faded away.  Which unfortunately means that there are probably still people trying to figure out a way to make the insane concepts that characterize 90’s cyberpunk into a reality.  You might want to keep this list of signs that you’re starting to slip into that insanity handy, just in case…

  1. Cybernetic augmentations are so cheap that even the poorest mugger on the street will have a dozen internally mounted switchblades.  Guns that don’t erupt out of one’s elbow are surprisingly rare.
  2. It’s common knowledge, even publicly admitted, that every corporation, government, and private citizen is corrupt now that all of the old laws have been swept away.  That said they will still kill anyone who tries to hack into their servers.
  3. Internet use now is a full body sport with a very real risk of death from cyber-crime that is carried out either through use of expensive full body immersion gear or cranial implants.  And no one really sees a problem with that.  Or a keyboard.
  4. Possibly because browsing Reddit now requires one to fend off no less than a dozen virtual ninjas and trolls, computer nerds have become the most beefed up hardened warriors one could find.  Most are familiar with at least three styles of swordplay in addition to being crack shots.
  5. You lost your left eye about the same time you lost your last baby tooth.
  6. When you lost your left eye, you immediately had a replacement grafted to your skull.  It glows red and makes loud whirring, clicking noises whenever it’s dramatically convenient.
  7. You or those you meet will never, ever shut up about how losing your left eye is just like the Norse god Odin trading his own left eye for wisdom.  In fact, you’re probably named Odin.  Which says some horrible things about your parents.
  8. Speaking of parents, at least one died under tragic (most likely violent) circumstances when you were young.  If there is a survivor, they work two jobs and may have forgotten they have a child altogether.
  9. God is dead.  Thinly veiled allegories to god, however, apparently live forever.
  10. Black leather.  Black leather EVERYWHERE.
  11. Sunlight is a thing of the past, unless of course it’s a few pale rays fighting their way through the choking cloud of pollution that casts you into eternal night.  The only people who have even seen the sun are the corporate fat-cats living in the over-city.
  12. The line between playing a video game and taking twenty hits of acid is now more or less gone.
  13. Everyone’s online.
  14. The online community is so small that everyone knows each other.
  15. No one sees the contradiction between items 13 and 14.
  16. Everyone over the age of 25 is dead inside, and can be dispatched without remorse by the hero, because they know what’s REALLY important.
  17. Sewer-dweller is a viable career choice.
  18. Everyone under the age of 18 is either an innocent cherub, or a hardened sociopath.

    And finally, the last sign that you’re trapped in 90’s cyberpunk:

  19. Cellphones are an expensive luxury reserved only for the ultra-rich.

Plotting Along – An Introduction

So I’ve seen a lot of bad movies in my time.  Sadly that kind of comes with the territory for sci-fi fans, which means that most of you can say the same.  And for years one of my primary coping mechanisms has been picking said bad movies apart and trying to figure out where the film makers or, more specifically, the writers went wrong.  In other words, I nitpick, lampoon, and riff mercilessly. 

That said not all of that riffing is negative.  Every now and then me and some friends like to sit down and actually work out what kind of changes would be needed to make a bad movie into a good one.  Usually in unnecessary detail. Which is basically what these bits, so far called “Plotting Along” (yeah, a pun, sue me) are going to be all about.  Mostly because I do want to put something on here other than just endlessly droning on about Shadows of Time.

There are a lot of movies that could be really, really good but for a few missteps.  The reasons for this are generally varied.  Sometimes it is incompetence, but even more often it’s just a lack of necessary resources, be they money, actors, or time, to do things the way the people involved want.  In this case it’s really not anyone’s fault if a film falls flat, it’s just reality.  Which is why before I start I want to lay down some ground rules.

First, this is all in good fun.  It’s what-if musings about how a story might have been tweaked, not an attack on anyone or their tastes. 

Second, this is not necessarily an exercise in real world film making.  A surprising number of sci-fi movies are filmed on a shoestring budget these days due to the cost of the special effects they require.  In the real world scripts get trimmed for budget, dialog gets tweaked by a star’s favorite writer, and scenes get dropped or added in order to hit a targeted running time.  All of these tend to play havoc with the scripting process and none of these factors are ones that will be regularly considered in these articles.  They exist in an ideal world where actors can do every role handed to them, producers write a blank check but otherwise are unseen, and the only schedule the director needs to stick to is “when it’s done.”  Like many of you I have a lot of opinions on these practices, but these aren’t a forum on any issues I have with the entertainment industry.

Third, all of this, of course, reflects my tastes.  And I enjoy a lot of stuff that others dub as overly cerebral or slow.  Obviously the changes I suggest wouldn’t please everyone.  This is not a value judgment or attempt to assess the quality of any particular style or genre, just a reflection of what I like.  So don’t take it personally if I come up with an idea that in your mind would ruin your favorite movie. 

Fourth, by the same token, there are films I like that a lot of people hate.  For example, I have a huge soft spot for Star Trek The Motion Picture, a film that is regarded as unwatchable by many.  I can understand a lot of the objections people have to watching it, I may even agree with a few of them, but I still don’t feel it’s a bad film.  And by and large this is going to spotlight films that failed to live up to their potential in my personal opinion.

And finally, just because the goal is to come up with a better version doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be original.  I know I’m not the first person to compile constructive criticism or alternate scripts.  I’m not setting out to copy anyone else’s ideas, but I have no doubt that a few of the ones I come up with will bear a resemblance to ones others have made public over the years.  If this happens just leave a comment with a link – I’ll try to look at it and possibly even edit the article to include it.  It’s always interesting to see someone else’s approach.  Should I ever actually reference another article on purpose though, it will be credited as such.

And that’s it for now.  First randomly selected movie for revision is… Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

…huh…

This is going to take a while.