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The Last Jedi, Dunkirk and the Death of the Hero…

One of the more interesting aspects of living through a pop culture moment is that it is often quite hard to properly assess anything from that subjective vantage point.

It is too easy to assume that this moment is the most important moment in history, to suggest that the entirety of history has been a path leading to this moment or to the moment just beyond it. There is also a clear desire to find signal in the noise, to sift through the nearly impossible volume of data that threatens to overwhelm any filter and find a pattern. As such, it is always tempted to declare particular movies as the important to this particular moment, or to find trends when none actually exist.

At the same time, there is something to be said for trying to sift through contemporary pop culture and to observe trends. In particular, to see how those trends reflect back on the world in which those films were produced and the world in which they were released. In particular, one of the more interesting aspects of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and Dunkirk is a clear and conscious shift away from the conventional heroic narrative inside genres traditionally associated with such grand epic themes.

At a point in time when the political right seems to veering closer and closer to fascism, it is particularly striking to have last year’s sweeping science-fiction epic and last year’s highest profile war film both consciously rejecting the politics of the “strong man” and the “chosen one.”

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Siege of AR-558 (Review)

The thing that Ira and I both wanted to do, was to make war as gritty as possible. You can make what somebody called the Gameboy wars, the Nintendo War, too clean and too cute. Nobody pays a price. You see ships blowing up, and that is kind of cool. But you don’t get the feeling of what a war is. Everybody said it was our Saving Private Ryan, but we’d come up with it before we were even aware of what they were doing on Saving Private Ryan. It really wasn’t that for us. It was really much more about Starfleet, and what those guys go through, and what it must be like in that time, and how to make that work on a gritty level. Rick Kolbe did a remarkable job directing it. Avery again did a marvelous performance in terms of being the captain in a very difficult situation, and making all of those difficult choices that you have to make under those circumstances.

– Hans Beimler, Cinefantastique

Siege the day.

The Siege of AR-558 is a masterful piece of Star Trek, and one of the finest episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

In some ways, The Siege of AR-558 is an episode that has been necessary since the outbreak of the Dominion War at the end of Call to Arms. It is a story that had to be told at some point in the two-year stretch from A Time to Stand to What You Leave Behind. Had the writers and producers on Deep Space Nine opted not to tell a story like this within the framework of the Dominion War, they would have undermined the series as a whole and undercut a lot of the justifications for constructing an epic two-year war arc.

Mumy dearest.

It could reasonably be argued that The Siege of AR-558 is not unprecedented. In many ways, the episode is an extension of a narrative style that had been attempted at various points in the show’s recent history, the familiar “war is hell” story that drove episodes like The Ship, ... Nor the Battle to the Strong and Rocks and Shoals. It is very hard to look at the final three seasons of Deep Space Nine as a narrative glorifying warfare, the series often cynical about such violence.

At the same time, The Siege of AR-558 pushes that idea further than any earlier episode. The Siege of AR-558 is a story that unequivocally confirms that the Dominion War is a nightmarish and existential threat to the Federation with a profound moral and physical cost. While this idea has been reiterated repeatedly in stories like Far Beyond the Stars or In the Pale Moonlight, The Siege of AR-558 frames its argument in more visceral terms. It is an episode not about the abstract concept of war, but of its horrifying realities.

An explosive combination.

The Siege of AR-558 is not a morality play that operates at a remove from the violence. The Siege of AR-558 is not an episode in which war is reduced to a mathematical model. The Siege of AR-558 is not an episode in which important people sit around a table and engage in vigourous debate about plans of attack. Instead, The Siege of AR-558 is a story about the horrifying realities of combat, of the fear and dread felt by those on ground, of the seemingly pointless bloodshed that results from all of this politicking and scheming.

The Siege of AR-558 is a war story.

A shot in the dark.

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Space: Above and Beyond – Toy Soldiers (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

The Never No More and The Angriest Angel two-parter represented a moment when Space: Above and Beyond seemed to gel, when the show seemed to realise what it wanted to be and how it wanted to be about it. Written by showrunners Glen Morgan and James Wong, they presented a demonstration of just how well the show could work, and why it had been an absolutely ingenious idea to do the premise of “World War II… IN SPACE!”

So, naturally, Toy Soldiers shows up to demonstrate that we have yet to reach a point where we can do this consistently.

Oh, brother...

Oh, brother…

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