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Non-Review Review: Missing Link

Missing Link is yeti ‘nother triumph for stop motion animation studio Laika.

To be fair, Missing Link is a different beast than Kubo and the Two Strings, the last major release from the studio and one of the most striking (and under-appreciated) animated films of the last decade. Kubo and the Two Strings was a lyrical and powerful fairy tale, a surprisingly weighty meditation on big ideas like the stories that people tell and the losses that they carry around with them. Missing Link is a much lighter film than that, a piece of film that is much less consciously mature in the story that it is telling. This is not to suggest that Missing Link is shallow or superficial, or that it ignores big ideas in favour of small delights. However, Missing Link is a film that foregrounds its visceral thrills over its central themes, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that.

Armed and dangerous.

Although Missing Link director Chris Butler co-wrote the script for Kubo and the Two Strings, it is probably more accurate to treat Missing Link as a more mature extension of Butler’s last work for the studio. Missing Link might be seen as a more reflective and introspective take on some of the core ideas of ParaNorman, a similar high-energy romp that meditated upon the relationship that exists between mankind and those things which exist beyond mortal comprehension. Missing Link is sturdily constructed from a narrative perspective, with well-defined characters who are given strong arc and a script that understands both what it is trying to say and how best to say it without tripping over itself. However, the script also understands that it is not the primary draw to Missing Link.

Whereas Kubo and the Two Strings felt like an intricate portrait drawn from the deepest pools of the animators’ imagination, Missing Link is a much more kinetic and dynamic piece. Missing Link is a globe-trotting adventure that spans from the deep blue-green forests of Washington State to the snowy plains of the Hindu Kush. It is the sort of rollicking old-fashioned adventure populated by heroes who spend a lot of time charting train lines and ferry lanes on maps, where obligatory back story is delivered against mesmerising backdrops, and where a variety of energised and imaginative action scenes arrive to a tightly-calculated schedule. Missing Link might lack the complexity of Kubo and the Two Strings, but there’s an infectious dynamism to Missing Link that neatly compensates.

Following their train of thought.

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Star Trek: Discovery – The Vulcan Hello (Review)

What does Star Trek look like in 2017?

Star Trek: Discovery was always going to have to reinvent the franchise. It exists twelve years removed from the end of Star Trek: Enterprise. That is a lifetime in pop culture; it is worth noting that Star Trek: The Next Generation was thirteen years removed from the end of Star Trek: The Animated Series. Resurrecting the franchise was always going to require innovation and reconceptualisation, and it is clear that any new interpretation of Star Trek would look as different from the Berman era as the Berman era did from the original series.

Navigating by the stars.

Still, that does not answer the question of what Star Trek looks like in 2017. In many ways, Discovery is an effort equivalent to The Next Generation, an attempt to return the franchise to television after some time as a relaunched movie franchise. The parallels all but suggest themselves; the chaos unfolding behind the scenes, the distinctly British character actor playing a senior officer with a much more continental surname, the use of the Star Trek brand to embrace a relatively unconventional distribution model.

Given all of this uncertainty, the vocal objections of a certain strain of fandom are almost reassuring, striking a consistent note at this most inconsistent of times. Star Trek fandom has always responded with trepidation to anything new or challenging, anything the pushes beyond the boundaries of expectations of what Star Trek can be. Fandom strenuously objected to the very concept of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Fandom dismissed The Next Generation. Fandom argued that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was an affront to the very idea of the franchise.

Time is the fire in which we burn.

However, while all of this provides a framework through which Discovery might be understood, it comes no closer to answering that core question. What does Star Trek look like in 2017? Even the question itself comes loaded with all manner of ambiguities and uncertainties. Is the question being asked in terms of television production? Is the challenge being made in terms of political and social values? Is the inquiry posed in terms of continuity and legacy?

Discovery does not have the answer, at least not in The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars, but it is certainly asking the right questions.

The next phase.

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