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Star Trek: Enterprise – Judgment (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This April, we’re doing the second season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Judgment is the first episode of Star Trek to do something interesting with the Klingons since Tacking Into the Wind, almost four years earlier.

After all, it never seemed like Star Trek: Enterprise had any real idea what to do with the Klingons. The show had made use of Klingons in Broken Bow, Unexpected, Sleeping Dogs and Marauders – but none of these episodes seemed particularly interested in telling a story about Klingons. Enterprise seemed primarily interested in the Klingons as a connection to the franchise’s long and distinguished history. After all, Klingons are almost as iconic a part of Star Trek as Spock; working a few bumpy-headed warriors into your script was a nice way of acknowledging the Star Trek legacy.

Trial of the twenty-second century...

Trial of the twenty-second century…

Certainly, Enterprise was not interested in committing to the same Klingon world-building in which Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had revelled. There are a lot of reasons for this. Over ten seasons, writer Ronald D. Moore had probably said just about everything that needed to be said about the Klingons; trying to say something new or interesting without his input was certainly daunting. More than that, Enterprise had committed itself quite firmly to episodic storytelling in its first two years; even the Andorians and Vulcans were still barely developed.

So David A. Goodman’s script for Judgment is ambitious, particularly in light of the spectacular failure of his (heavily re-written) work on Precious Cargo. Constructing an episode that might easily be misread as a rehash of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was a pretty bold choice, particularly given the problems that the show had endured while trying to construct an homage to Elaan of Troyius and The Perfect Mate. On paper, Judgment is an assignment that could easily explode spectacularly. It might not be as crazy a gambit as A Night in Sickbay, but it is a story with lofty objectives.

The court has spoken.

The court has spoken.

With so much of the second season feeling like it is running on auto-pilot, the energy and enthusiasm of Judgment is infectious. Singularity, Vanishing Point, Canamar and The Crossing felt like they were constructed using blueprints of what a Star Trek episode should look like. It is refreshing to watch an episode of Enterprise that seems genuinely excited to playing with these particular toys. In that sense, Judgment sets the mood for the final stretch of the season – despite duds like Horizon and Bounty, the final run of episodes feels like a band playing an encore for a show on the cusp of monumental change.

Although not facing the same threat of cancellation that loomed at the end of the third and fourth seasons, the second season of Enterprise feels like the last gasp of a particular model of Star Trek production, one no longer as viable as it once had been. Starting with Judgment, the show seems to acknowledge that things are going to have to change dramatically and soon; however, there is a clear attempt to bid this particular iteration of Star Trek a fond farewell. As such, any and all references to The Undiscovered Country feel entirely appropriate.

“Don’t wait for the translation! Answer me now!”

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Civil War: Wolverine (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

A lot of the recent big Marvel events, stretching from Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers Disassembled through to at least Avengers vs. X-Men, can be read as commentaries on post-9/11 America. In particular, they focus on questions the relationship between the power and trust held by various authorities, and how those are earned or abused. Perhaps Civil War was the most overt of these, with the conflict in the comic coming down to the clash between the demands of liberty and security.

So, I suppose, at least Marc Guggenheim’s Wolverine tie-in to the event is explicit about what it’s trying to do. It’s any even more explicit 9/11 parable, casting the famous mutant as an investigator looking for his own kind of justice in the wake of a horrifying terror attack.

Talk about seeing eye-to-eye...

Talk about seeing eye-to-eye…

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Garth Ennis’ Run on Punisher MAX – Hardcover, Vol. V (Review)

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this month we’re going to take a look at Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis’ run on that iconic Marvel anti-hero, The Punisher. Check back every Friday and Wednesday for a review of a particular section.

And so we’re here. We’ve reached the end of Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX run, and one of the last things the author wrote for the character (he’d go on to write the Punisher: WarZone miniseries to tie into the film of the same name). It’s frequently regarded as perhaps the definitive run on the character, one held up as an example of what the Marvel MAX imprint is capable of. So, it’s been a long, sixty-issue journey to this point. And, I have to confess, I wasn’t entirely blown away by the run, or the conclusion to it.

Firing on all cylinders?

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Non-Review Review: Baraka

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012. It will be getting a 20th anniversary re-release this year.

Released in 1992, it’s easy to consider Baraka as something of a spiritual successor to Koyaanisqatsi, a film which gave birth to an entire subgenre of non-narrative feature films designed to offer us insight into the working of our planet. It’s a natural comparison, as director Ron Ficke served as director of photography on that monumental film, and he clearly owes a debt to Godfrey Reggio’s masterpiece. However, I think there’s a substantive difference between how the two directors approach their subject matter, and the end result. While Reggio offers a more fascinating study of large-scale systems, Fricke manages a strange intimacy amidst his vast scale – there’s something considerably more human to Baraka, and I think that comfortably sets the movie apart. It looks as good as it did on initial release twenty years ago, and it still packs as much punch – even if it never looks quite as sharp as its sequel, Samsara.

Crazy world...

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Non-Review Review: Route Irish

Ken Loach’s Route Irish is a fascinating little thriller, even if it does ultimately feel quite shallow and end in a rather unsatisfactory manner. Indeed, it’s very hard to construct a mystery where the audience already knows the answer, based on experience within the genre. Framed as an investigation into the death of a contractor in Iraq, the culprits behind the assassination are obvious from the moment the film starts rolling, which means that none of the twists and turns pack any punch – because we already know the answer. However, Loach is a director skilled at offering atmosphere and mood, and he makes a valiant effort to overcome the script’s rather obvious deficiencies.

Paying the ferryman...

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Non-Review Review: Buried

Buried is a great high-concept thriller, with one hell of a hook and a fascinating premise. Basically the story of kidnap victim Paul Conroy, who is kidnapped by “insurgents” (or “criminals” or “terrorists”, depending on who you ask) and buried alive in Iraq. With only a limited source of light, and even less time, the truck driver is given mere hours to come up with a ridiculously large ransom or he’ll be left in the ground to rot forever.

It's a dirty job...

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Non-Review Review: 28 Weeks Later

Welcome to the m0vie blog’s zombie week! It’s a week of zombie-related movie discussions and reviews as we come up to Halloween, to celebrate the launch of Frank Darbont’s The Walking Dead on AMC on Halloween night. So be sure to check back all week, as we’ll be running posts on the living dead.

It’s strange. 28 Days Later felt strangely British, with its almost quaint surroundings and “island fortress” mentality. Filmed in High Definition with an intimate approach, the movie felt somehow more tangible and organic than most of these films, managing a genuine emotional impact that it’s easy to lose sight of in these fantastical narratives – its small scale and quirky design (along with hyper saturation) lent the movie a very distinct feel, the sensation that this was a “guerilla” zombie film – shot in the early morning on abandoned streets rather than closing off sections of town. In contrast, 28 Weeks Later feels a much more managed affair, and a much more conventional one. It’s shot like any other zombie movie, and clearly intended to reach an even wider audience than the original cult hit. It’s a great movie, but one can’t help but get the sensation that the fine polish applied to it undercuts some of the impact.

The army had to find something to keep themselves occupied...

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