Watch this Blade Runner convention reel from 1982

Blade Runner is one of my favourite films. Even if the UK poster is one of the worst posters you’ll ever see.

blade_runner_UKquad-1

In the early 80’s fandom was nothing like the organised beast it is today. Film companies knew enough back then though that keeping fans informed and happy would, hopefully, result in box office gold. Early efforts consisted of a few clips and some posters, maybe even an actor from the film would turn up and sell the film hard.

In 1982 I was a wee boy at one of Glasgow’s then annual science fiction conventions, Faircon, and one of the unsuspected highlights was a promotion by the film company for Blade Runner.  They gave away posters and badges, which are all now sadly lost throughout the years and yes, they’d be worth silly money now but the real highlight was a promo reel for the film which looked amazing.

I haven’t seen or even thought about it for nearly 40 years when looking at YouTube after the death of Syd Mead. It really is a great bit of archive not to mention it brings back al the nostalgia of being stupidly young and watching this all those decades ago.

What I thought of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

SPOILERS BEWARE.

The final Skywalker related Star Wars film (if you believe that, then I have a bridge or three to sell you), The Rise of Skywalker is not the worst film in the series. In fact, it manages to wrap everything up nicely in a bow literally, but it is a film that suffers from the problems of all this trilogy that came from a failure to sit down at the start of this and plot out three films in advance rather than make it up as they went along.

Director J.J Abrams returns to steady the ship after the fan mauling of The Last Jedi which was a Star Wars film which tried to be more than just a stepping stone to the next film. This takes things back to basics and panders wherever it can to fan service which at times is great, especially with the welcome return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, but often it’s there to rewrite the last film. Also the film moves at some pace trying to cram as much into 2 hours 20 minutes as possible so in fact this film could have done with another 10-20 minutes to allow characters to breathe and develop. The exception to this is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren/Ben Solo who lifts the film dramatically while working with an average script.

The problem with the film is the pacing. It is going through so much that the film doesn’t breathe; for example the new trilogy trio of Rey, Poe and Finn isn’t really formed til this film when it should have been done back in The Force Awakens. Then there’s the return of the Emperor (a gloriously over the top Ian McDiarmid channeling a similar look of Kenneth Cranham in Hellraiser 2) out of nowhere to give the film a grand villain after Snoke’s death in the last film, then there’s bringing back Billy Dee Williams which again should have been done sooner. A bit more room would have helped, so we’ve got what we have.

And what we have is a rushed, flawed ending (and if you expect there never to be another one with these characters at some point in the next 30 years you’re a tad naive) which is entertaining and fun which manages to tie everything up over the previous eight films. I do wish though the script had at least another six months work on it, and indeed, the film needed a longer time to develop as it does feel like an unfinished draft. For example, a legacy character’s death is teased twice but we don’t have any time to take it in before the characters are revealed to be just fine or the reveal of Rey’s parentage is changed from being insignificant to vitally important. That bit would have been more vital had it been built up in the previous film.

Which is a shame. A little bit more time would have helped, along with a plan akin to the Marvel films who plan a fucking decade in advance! So this aside it is fun, it is entertaining and you also get to see the Emperor ham it up, as well as Adam Driver show he’s an actor who is destined for very great things.

So go see Rise of Skywalker. Set your expectations and strap in for a ride that doesn’t stop for the entire running time.

The endless futile entitlement of fandom

This week saw pitiful cries of entitlement about Game of Thrones, and the casting of the new Batman. In the case of Game of Thrones, fans started a petition asking for ‘competent writers’ for a proposed remake of the last season. As of the moment I write this there’s over a million people who’ve signed it which is not a shock but these people basically want the programme to pan out as they want it to, so when they say ‘competent’ what they really mean is ‘someone I like writing something I like’.

The next bit of fan entitlement is the casting of Robert Pattinson as the new Batman. Shrill cries of outrage followed as fans cried a torrent of tears and anger that one of the star of the Twilight film should be cast. Some calmer voices pointed out that was a decade ago and he’s been carving a career as a pretty good actor since but no, outrage!

Back in 1988 when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the then forthcoming Tim Burton film fans were outraged and yes, a petition circulated round pre-digital fan circles.

There’s nothing new about fan entitlement. It is an old thing but it doesn’t stop people from complaining, or indeed, desperately doubling back once they’ve realised that Thing X isn’t actually as bad as it was or that complaining about Thing X makes them a bit of a cock.

So in around 18 months many of these people signing petitions will be praising Robert Pattison and wishing there was another series as good as Game of Thrones.All of this will be forgotten as these people move onto their next target and the cycle carries on throughout the generations…

We need a Pike era Star Trek series

One of the best things about the vastly improved second season of Star Trek: Discovery has been the addition of the pre original series Enterprise crew of Captain Pike, Number One and a youthful Mr Spock. It’s helped transition the series into feeling more like Star Trek, and has also done some interesting stuff with a character who barring the original pilot episode and the 2009 film is pretty much a blank slate.

The final episode of Discovery can be seen to act in several ways. One is to give a complete reboot of the series, remove it from existing canon (keeping the uber-fanboys happy) and throwing it a millennium forward in the series timeline opening up a whole new set of possibilities. It also tidied up a few things regards the aforementioned canon and wrapped things up in a bow.

The other thing done is to have much of the last episode effectively act as a soft pilot for a Pike era Enterprise series. Anson Mount has been superb as Pike and this would make the logical prequel as the series builds up to the arrival of Kirk as captain and everything we know now.

In fact I think its impossible to look at the scene below and not think this is the plan.

But TV producers are fickle things so we’re as likely not to get this as we are to get it however it strikes me as missing a trick as fan reaction is overwhelmingly positive to the point where all the creepy wee MRA types  complaining have been shut up.

So, CBS, you have the power. You know it makes sense and it’d be fucking ace! Make it so!

What I thought of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 episode 1

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery contrary to what some fans said, wasn’t actually bad as it tried to do something different with the Star Trek formula, though the season was let down by a staggeringly awful final episode which wrapped everything up so poorly that it undid much of the good work the season did though the last shot tease of the Enterprise was a nice touch.

Then comes this first episode which in one fell swoop brushes away many of the criticisms of the first, so the overall tone isn’t as grim, supporting characters suddenly have names, and although it takes much of its tone from the 2009 J.J Abrams reboot though buried in what is a pretty action packed episode is something akin to Star Trek.in the what is the season’s overall arc which is finding out what the strange red bursts happening across the galaxy are..

Sonequa Martin-Green returns as Michael Burnham, while Anson Mount débuts as Captain Pike, the first captain of the Enterprise who plays it like the the film version of Pike rather than the original series. These two are clearly the main two protagonists but it feels slightly more of an ensemble piece that last year so all is good right? Not everything. It feels slight and there’s not enough in it to detract from the feeling it’d rather be about the action that anything else. As a whole though the series kicks off well; it’s fast paced action with a touch of fun missing from the first season that seems to be intent on taking us on an adventure rather than just tread the grounds of the first year.

So good start, let’s see where it goes from here.

Gatwick Airport conspiracy theories

One of the world’s busiest airports, Gatwick, has been closed down by a few drones. Of course this means conspiracy theories galore as people wonder how one of the UK’s main transport and infrastructure hubs can’t deal with drones, so we have theories from aliens.to terrorism to kids twatting about to Theresa May lurking in the bushes with a remote control trying to distract the public from Brexit.

Here’s a good idea of the online chat.

All this japery hides the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are having their Christmas breaks ruined while government barely move in order to try to stop the problem. And there is a point to be made that this disruption comes three months ahead of Brexit and were it not a time of the year when many people aren’t working, the disruption would be vastly worse.

No be it aliens, ‘false flag’ or simple incompetency the fact it with Brexit coming, Gatwick shows how desperately unprepared we are and how our government fails to do the most basic jobs of government. We are basically, fucked.

Unless it is aliens in which case we might have a chance of being saved…

What I thought of Doctor Who series 11

Jodie Whittaker’s first season is over and overall this new direction (which it isn’t, more on that later) is overall pretty good. Stripping away the lairs in often incomprehensible plotlines that would often lead nowhere has freed up the programme to just tell stories again, and for the first three episodes it did that as well as the series has ever done. After that things became patchy.

Rosa is in my mind a fantastic bit of Doctor Who that lives up to the original idea of retelling history for younger viewers, while something like Kerblam! is a reminder of the worst days of the Colin Baker/Sylvester McCoy years. All the other episodes come between them with about half being above average to excellent and the rest ranging from the aforementioned rubbish of Kerblam! to the sheer averageness of It Takes You Away.

Part of the problem is Chris Chibnall. In replacing Stephen Moffat he’s simplified things and taken the show back to it’s roots so that’s why so many of this season’s episodes feel like condensed classic serials; The Doctor and crew land in a strange place/time. Encounter something odd. Investigate it. Find out the problem/culprit/monster. Solve it in a neat bow, and barring a brief coda that’s your episode.  Now that’s great most of the time but all the time? Back to basics doesn’t have to mean making the stories basic, which considering the possibilities of a female Doctor has barely been explored.  In fact there’s little character development going on with the Doctor’s likeable set of companions with one exception. Tosin Cole and Mandip Gil both do good work with what thin gruel they often got, but the massive shock is discovering Bradley Walsh can’t just act, but has become the emotional and moral heart of the programme.

What about The Doctor? Well, Whittaker is excellent often adding things into episodes which do seem scripted as she plays the Doctor not as the broken, lost thing trying to be good that Peter Capaldi did, or the boyish hero of Matt Smith, but more like Peter Davison’s often uncertain Fifth Doctor, but there’s this gap in the centre of her performance created by scripts too scared to deal with the change of gender head on. I hope Whittaker isn’t let down by scripts as Capaldi and Smith were, and I hope after this seasons reboot she’s allowed to tackle something stronger than she’s had to deal with at times this season.

Overall though the series is vastly improved. The new musical score from Segun Aginola is superb as it ditches the pompous orchestral score for something weirder, while the new production values are excellent to see even though they’d ran out of money by the last episode so relied on a quarry in Wales to see them to the end. The basics are there as are the viewers but it needs beefing up and although the attempts to create new villains is only really successful with the Stenza, the New Year’s Day episode promises the return of the Doctor’s oldest villains…

So, as a series it’s back on track. If however we’re only getting this small amount of episodes a year I’l hope next year sees a, increase in overall quality to take Whittaker’s Doctor to a new level because with the right scripts she could very well be one of the best there’s been.