Review

Supergirl “leaked Pilot” – An almost completely spoiler-free review

2015-05-26 by Michael Edenfield. 11 comments

This fall, CBS will begin airing a new superhero show Supergirl. This series has a lot in common with the highly popular CW shows Arrow and The Flash. The new show shares the same executive producers, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, and all three are based on popular characters from the DC Comics universe. The new show has a tone somewhat reminiscent of The Flash. It also has one more thing in common: reminiscent of last years unauthorized release of The Flash pilot episode, the premier episode of Supergirl has been leaked six months early.

Leaving aside the details of how and why this leak happened, since it did, we get an early look at the show in much more depth than the officially released trailer gave us. Without giving away too much, here are some first impressions of the show, and how well it stacks up to the growing competition in the comic-adaptation space.

General Impressions

First of all, just to be clear: this is being called the “pilot” episode, but it’s not really a traditional pilot. It’s is obviously a final product – S01E01 of the series, with all of the final cast in place and post-production work done. This is good news and bad news. Good news, because we get a faithful representation of what the show will be like for the rest of the season, but bad news because there probably won’t be much chance to fix things that might be broken. (I may be wrong here, we shall see.)

Generally speaking, I think the show is much better than the trailer led us to believe. I still have concerns over where the focus of the show will be, but the pilot seems to be moving in the right direction. The main complaint about the trailer has been how much time was spent on the mundane details of Kara Danver’s life. Was that an indication that the show was trying too hard to attract a broader audience, at the expense of the core superheroine story? I think the pilot gives us good reason to think that’s not the case. I thought the episode had a nice mix of straight up action, character development, and laying groundwork for the rest of the series. It has about the same mix of heroic plot vs. dramatic development that it’s sister shows on the CW did during their first episodes.

The Good Stuff

The first thing that struck me was how little time this show wasted getting the basic exposition out of the way. Within the first 5 minutes of the episode — basically, the opening stinger — most of the plot questions people had from the trailer are answered, right up front. They let us know quickly what’s happened already and where the world sits. It’s also clear that these writers have worked on DC shows before, and they know their stuff, which is a good sign.

Without giving too much away, the show follows the basics of Kara Zor-El’s modern origin story: sent to Earth as a young girl to protect infant Kal-El, an accident causes her to arrive much later. By the time Kara arrives on Earth, Kal-El is fully grown and has revealed his existence. Supergirl is set in a world where Superman is a household name, though the show goes to extreme measures to avoid using the S-word (there are lots of reference to “he”, “him”, and “my cousin”.) The reason for her delay is explained, but it’s a key element to what looks to be the first season’s story arc, so I won’t go into any more detail.

I really like that this show didn’t have your traditional superhero origin story structure, not even for the first episode. Kara was 12 years old when she left Krypton for Earth, and was made fully aware of the special powers she would have. As we see in the trailer, once she decides to embrace her super side, the show jumps right into the heroics: in the first episode, we see flying, super-strength, x-ray vision, invulnerability, and heat vision. Watching Clark Kent come into his powers, and struggle to master them, can be interesting (it was done very well on Smallville; maybe less well in Man of Steel), but it’s been done. We’ve spent three seasons watching Oliver Queen on Arrow become the Green Arrow, we don’t need to spend a whole season waiting for Kara to figure out she can see through walls.

I also like the fact that the show has a nice upbeat tone, much like The Flash, and in stark contrast to the current DC cinematic universe. The show is bright and colorful, and most of the people are generally happy, or at least content. Thus, when Kara has an emotional moment with her sister, it actually seems important — the character’s not just moping around because that’s how she is. There’s also a lot of friendly banter and humor thrown in. I’ve talked to a lot of casual fans who watch The Flash but not Arrow or Gotham for exactly this reason – it’s just more fun to watch. This show was fun to watch.

The Less-Good Stuff

Of course, there were some places where the show seemed to miss the mark. For one thing, much of the character development seems rushed, or even forced. In parts, watching the pilot was almost like watching a really long trailer — it felt like there was chopped up from a longer, more coherent scene. For example, the Supergirl costume montage from the trailer happens at just about that speed in the episode: we go from an obvious fan-service first try to final outfit, including a Kryptonian powers montage — just a few minutes. It seems like the scene was meant to set up the relationship between Kara and her sidekick/support-nerd, but everything happens so fast there’s no real impact.

Several other character development plot threads (e.g. Kara’s blind date) seem like they’re supposed to be giving us characterization, but they’re moved past and forgotten so quickly they don’t mean much. And much of the banter seems a bit forced, like it’s desperately trying to drive home just how comfortable these characters are together, even in a situation where they probably shouldn’t be!

They’re also falling into a pattern that drives me crazy on The Flash — Kara’s secret identity is almost an afterthought. When the show starts, only four people know she’s Kryptonian — her family. When the show ends, we’ve added at least three more! Please, please lets keep that number down for at least a half a season?

Hopefully we can chalk all of that up to this being the first episode, trying to get the characters and their relationships settled and in place, so we can get to the good stuff. The second episode will be crucial in determining if this will be an ongoing problem for the show.

Another miss, for me, was the Kat Grant character. Calitsa Flockhart is obviously channeling Meryl Streep from The Devil Wears Prada, but that’s a huge set of shoes to fill, and it comes across cliche. Even worse, she completely drops that act when it’s time for her to be serious and sensitive, then goes right back into it. She almost comes across as having a split personality.

And really, there’s just too much of her. Perry White or J. Jonah Jameson play mostly bit parts in their shows: they’re foils for the other, primary characters that work for them, and rarely the focus of any scene. Kat Grant, on the other hand, dominates all of her scenes with Kara, and not merely in a keeping-her-secret-identity way. She really does completely overpower Supergirl’s personality, but doesn’t really add much to the scenes. I was constantly wanting to fast forward past her scenes. In seems like they’re positioning her character as a kind of surrogate mother figure for Kara (though, as far as we know, her adopted parents are alive), but most of the time she just comes of needlessly harsh. Perhaps the writers plan to use this dynamic to show Kara’s personality changing as her confidence grows, but if so, I hope they get to it fast, because I was completely sick of Kat Grant by the end of this episode.

Lastly, and perhaps most annoyingly, is how much this show wanted to be about Superman without being allowed (I assume) to say Superman. It’s obvious that Kal-El is the far more famous of the two cousins, and by tying Kara’s story in with his, it lets us fast forward past a lot of otherwise tedious exposition. But the number of times Kara’s cousin comes up in conversation got old very quickly. The fact that they try so hard to avoid naming him makes it even worse. During the opening exposition scene, they identify him as Kal-El and Superman but after that, we only get one occurance of “Man of Steel”. Instead, Kara would frequently talk about “him” in a way that we’re supposed to know who she’s talking about. Obviously, since she’s related to Superman, it’s going to come up, but the point of this show is that Kara is a hero in her own right. She doesn’t need to have her now-older cousin’s specter towering over her all the time. Much like Gotham is not about Batman, Supergirl should not be about Superman. Hopefully this will dwindle away as the episodes continue — we’ve gotten the idea, lets move on.

Conclusion

I think this is going to be a good show. The major elements I think are there. While I have some issues with some of the dialogue, I think the actors themselves mostly have their characters nailed. Melissa Benoist, in particular, seemed to have no problem carrying the show when she needed to, although her Kara Zor-El was much more believable than her Kara Danvers. The central relationship with her sister seemed genuine (jury’s still out on the other two budding relationships). There’s a good hook that should provide good fodder for the early villain-of-the-week episodes, with hints of the broader story arc as well.

This isn’t going to be a show for the hard-core DC comic fans, though. It’s clearly meant for a broader audience, even more than any of the other DC shows on TV so far. Constantine this is not. But I’d make the same assessment about The Flash and that’s turned out to be one of my favorite DC shows to watch, so don’t let that discourage you from giving this one a try.

Overall, I would probably rate this show at about 7 out of 10. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it as compared to Arrow, The Flash, or even Agents of SHIELD. I would probably rate it somewhere in my top 10 comics-based shows, around where iZombie and (likely) Legends of Tomorrow are sitting.

Definitely worth watching.

Review – Cinderella

2015-03-13 by Jack B Nimble. 0 comments

If you are familiar with the 1950 animated production of Cinderella also produced by Disney, then the latest live-action version may not offer anything new to you. This new version is simply a retelling of that 1950s classic. Both versions are derived from Cendrillon, by Charles Perrault in 1697; Featuring a girl forced into servitude, a fairy godmother, the changing of pumpkins and animals into a coach with horses and footmen, and glass slippers.

Cinderella

The casting is spot on. Lily James as Ella plays the part of the humble country girl well. Cate Blanchett is the perfect evil step-mother, because this is how you believe she acts in real life. When asked by Cinderella why she is treated as she is Blanchett says “Because you are young, and beautiful, and good.” and then stops herself. The realization is that the step-mother is none of these things and resents Cinderella for it. The two step-sisters are sufficiently stuck up and insensitive, and the goose plays a convincing goose. Richard Madden plays the Prince, who is given something of a nickname of “Kit,” but does not go by the name of “Prince Charming.”

The primary complaint I heard about the film is that it offers nothing new to the Cinderella story. It is essentially a retelling of the animated version, despite what the previews claim. Because the last year’s Maleficent changed and added to the story of Sleeping Beauty, the expectation, for some, was that this new Cinderella would do the same. The example given was Ever After: A Cinderella Story which seemed to add a lot of new detail or circumstance to the Cinderella story. However, the differences can likely be explained that Ever After is closer to the Brothers Grimm version Aschenputtel than to the version Disney chose to base their films on.

There are no songs in this film, and the mice do not talk, although Cinderella clearly has some innate ability to communicate with animals. We are also given explanation of why she is named ‘Cinderella.’ I am sure many people have always assumed her name was simply ‘Cinderella’ without question. But the title character’s first name is actual Ella, and transforms into Cinderella.

Bottom-line, if you enjoy the classic Disney animated film and want to see a live-action version of that, then Cinderella will be right up your alley. If you are expecting Disney to evolve the character from their established story line, then you may be in for disappointment.

Agent Carter – Pilot Episode

2015-01-07 by Jack B Nimble. 3 comments

This mini-series begins with some of the final scenes from Captain America: The First Avenger. With Steve Rogers piloting the large ship into the ocean and Peggy Carter on the radio.

The year is 1946, and Peggy Carter is still heartbroken over the loss. She lives in a small single room apartment which she shares with another girl. The apartment only has one bed, which they apparently share. Not in a scandalous kind of way, but rather in a way that depicts real life living in New York. She works for the telephone company, but when she arrives is led into a secret area which is the base of operations for the Strategic Scientific Reserve.

Agent Carter

Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is a strong willed, independent woman in a (presumably) man’s job, where the men don’t really want her around. She is frequently asked to fetch coffee, file reports, answer the phones, and otherwise be a glorified secretary who happens to carry a gun.

Dominic Cooper reprises his role as the young Howard Stark. It seems a number of his more dangerous inventions have suddenly turned up on the black market and are being sold to enemies of the United States. He is subject to congressional hearings on the matter and no doubt is being investigated by the real FBI, but SSR makes finding him and his inventions a top priority. Stark seeks the help of Agent Carter to clear his name and find his inventions. Agent Carter must do this behind her superiors’ backs, because Stark is assumed guilty until proven innocent, and she is too much of a dame for important work. Stark lends her the assistance of his butler and confidant Edwin Jarvis.

Agent Carter is picking up right where Captain America ended (if you don’t watch the final scene where he is in modern day New York). Captain America the person is still a part of 1940s pop-culture. He has a radio program, to which poor Peggy (and the watching audience) must hear everywhere she goes. He’s still being mentioned in the newspaper, and no doubt his famous trading cards are in circulation.

I’m not exactly sure what the SSR’s mission is now that the war is over. Where as before they were a function of the military, with Colonel Chester Phillips acting as the leader, now it appears to just be some g-men bureaucrats. Furthermore, I’m not sure what jurisdiction the SSR has. Apparently they can interrogate people and do company wide inspections personnel.

The Marvel Movie Wiki has this to say:

The S.S.R. continued for a short time after the war, taking on cases such as the Zodiac, but was disbanded in 1946 and its former membership absorbed into a new agency, S.H.I.E.L.D.

Given that Agent Carter takes place in 1946, and a short run mini-series with 8 episodes, I’m guessing this series will end with the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. Last night was a 2 hour premiere, with two 1 hour episodes back to back, which I guess means there will only be 6 more airings.

Technologies We Should Have In 2015

2014-12-31 by Jack B Nimble. 4 comments

2015 should be a big year in technology, if the movies are any indication. There are some of the things we are either supposed or have, or are woefully missing out on.

I personally don’t see the appeal of bringing a pet back to life but that is the initial premise of The 6th Day. Here are the technologies

  • Cloning of pets
  • Cloning of humans, with memory transplant
  • Jet Copters
  • Virtual Prostitutes

The present is made significantly more disappointing if you consider how much we were promised from Back to the Future 2

  • Mr. Fusion
  • Power Laces
  • Self Adjusting/Drying Clothing
  • Robot Gas Stations
  • Holographic Movies
  • News Camera Drones
  • Robot Trashcans
  • All things Hover (cars, boards, belts)
  • Exceptional Weather Service
  • Food Hydrators

The movie Memory Run (or Synapse, depending on who you ask) seems to offer only a couple of things

  • The ability to move a consciousness into another body
  • The ability to monitor and control someone based on their behavior (violence = bad)

 

Jack’s Bad Movies – AE: Apocalypse Earth

2014-12-29 by Jack B Nimble. 4 comments

IMDB’s description

A group of refugees from Earth work to survive on a hostile alien planet.

If Predator, Star Trek TNG, Planet of the Apes, and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor had a love child abomination, it would be AE: Apocalypse Earth.

The movie opens with Earth under attack from a hostile alien force. It doesn’t look good for humanity, as several ships are attempting to leave and make interstellar journeys in the hopes of colonizing new worlds. Everyone else is left to their fate. Lt. Frank Baum (Adrian Paul, best known for the Highlander TV Series) and his squad are attempting to get a group of refuges to the safety of a starship. They get everyone on-board and the ship takes off, taking Baum and his squad for the ride. Baum gets very upset about this because he wants to go back to Earth to defend it. The captain (Richard Grieco) says this isn’t possible, and that Baum should just buckle down in cryo-sleep for the long ride to wherever. There is some discussion on how some of the passengers were chosen because of their critical skills, and others won a lottery. This all becomes moot when the Baum wakes up from cryo-sleep to find the ship is crash-landing on a green planet. Nearly all of the passengers and crew are killed. So all that talk about how people were selected was just wasted air time.

Baum wakes up to a chaotic scene in which passengers from the ship, albino humans, and nearly invisible cloaked beings (Predator style) are running all around the wreckage. The cloaked beings, called Chameleons, are killing humans and albinos alike, so Baum finds a completely functional and loaded machine gun in the wreckage and begins killing them. He gathers up a few survivors, including the injured Captain, and runs randomly into the jungle. Within the jungle they round up a few more survivors and eventually encounter a group of humans in orange jump suits who are not from their ship. These jumpsuit people were on another ship which had left Earth a month before, but they crash landed on this planet 2 years ago! How could this be? We’ll just hand wave special relativity and move forward. Turns out they have been prisoners of the Chameleons all this time living in a kind of zoo, and their captors have been trying to see if they can breed with the local Albino population. The ship crash landed on the zoo, and that subsequently freed some of the captives.

This group of now a dozen or so people now have a dilemma, what to do? Baum, the unofficial but also official leader, still wants to return to Earth (because… reasons!). The annoying short guy, who you feel like is going to get a lot of people killed because of his stupidity, says ‘why are you in charge’ to which the reply is ‘because I have the gun.’ I guess he isn’t happy with this answer, because he continues to ask this question and sow seeds of discontent with the survivors. There is also an android named TIM (aka Lt. Cmdr. DATA). They kill a lot of Chameleons, which carry these energy guns which on the surface seem pretty effective, until you remember Baum kills like 6 of them just with his knife. Only one guy ever thinks to pick up one of the alien guns, even though they are don’t have enough weapons to go around.

Eventually the party gets ambushed by giant scorpion things and a woman with camouflage skin shows up to help. Amazingly this woman speaks English, which she learned by overhearing the prisoners in the zoo. She also comes from an albino clan, which live in caves, but because she was different she was exiled to the surface. Online comments say she is the highlight of the movie on account of her bikini outfit, but I think the real gem here is her apparent super intelligence. Just by observing the prisoners in the zoo, she picks up broken English. When she gets to a point in a conversation where she can’t explain something and says so, someone will just supply an English word to her, without additional context or explanation, and she says ‘yes’ or nods her head that this word, which she had never heard before, is indeed the correct word for what she was trying to explain her point. It is amazing.

Now it is just a series of jungle fights, jungle runs, and sexy times in the river, and then the group finds an old human spacecraft. Everything is in perfect working order, except the power-cell, which should last 1000 years, is somehow dead. No worries (or even questions) about that though, because they can use the one from their crashed ship.

They don’t have the man power to get the power-cell, so they team up with camouflage girl’s old tribe. Turns out, they have crate-loads of human made guns in perfect working order in storage. So without any training or planning, everyone grabs a gun and heads off to get that power source. Did I say everyone? I meant, everyone except the two trained military soldiers grab guns. Those two guys get comically childish bows and arrows, which clearly do not work. I appreciate the movie keeping it real by showing how this absurd distribution of weapons results in nearly everyone getting killed during the assault.

Anyways, they finally get the power source and get back to the ship they found. The short idiot tries to leverage this so that they don’t have to flee the planet, but instead he dies as he lived, a traitor. They take off from the planet, easily dispatching a Chameleon spaceship and an orbital defense platform. By this time the group has been whittled down to Baum, camouflage girl, the captain, and TIM the now damaged android. But no worries, they can finally go back to their beloved Earth, which as far as they know, is still being ravaged by an alien race.

This all leads up to the big surprise reveal, it was Earth all along! Actually, no one was surprised. The telltale signs being, the other albino humans and the camouflage girl are obviously humans who have just adapted to the planet. The ship they found, while inexplicably in perfect working order despite many years in the jungle, was obviously human made (it had English signs on the door). This planet has lots of Earth plants and animals. The crash-landed humans were able to breed with the indigenous albinos. I could go on, but those are the only examples I remember.

TIM the android explains that he piloted the ship to several star systems, but didn’t any habitable worlds. With only 100 years of cryo-sleep available to the crew he ultimately decided to head back to Earth and see if things had improved since the aliens conquered it. Thanks to relativity, this was roughly 25,000 years after their initial departure. I guess whoever was piloting the other ship which had arrived at the planet 2 years previous had the same idea. Also, I guess the captain gave full executive decision making to TIM? Otherwise, that android is kind of a jerk. Anyways, the Chameleons have terraformed Earth to turn it into one giant jungle. Probably a downer for the few survivors trying to flee this hellish planet in order to get back to a war-torn Earth only to discover they were one and the same place.

One wonders how Earth lost the initial war, given the ease in which Baum is able to kill numerous Chameleons. Maybe he could have single-handedly won the war had he not been trapped on the colony ship. Fortunately, we will never know the truth.

The acting is very poor, with the line delivery being painful at times. A few of the special effects actually look decent, but then in the next scene are so comically bad you wonder how many different people worked on them.

And that, people, is AE: Apocalypse Earth, currently available on Netflix Instant.

Doom Star Series (books)

2014-12-02 by Jack B Nimble. 0 comments

Back in August I saw a promotion for some free Kindle books and I decided to grab a copy of one titled Star Soldier (Doom Star #1) by Vaughn Heppner. I had never heard of the author or the series, I just wanted a free book. I knew the promotion was designed to get me reading the first book, and then purchase the remaining 5, and being an unknown author/title, I wasn’t sure it was what I was looking for. Obviously I decided to give it a chance (otherwise this article wouldn’t exist).

doomstar1 doomstar2 doomstar3 doomstar4 doomstar5 doomstar6

The series focuses on the main character Martin Kluge. The son of dissidents, he lives under the thumb of Social Unity, a communist regimen that controls the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars). Martin wants to be free, to be able to have his own thoughts and live his own life. His thoughts and temper get him in trouble with the Policial Harmony Corp, and he is sentenced to forced labor deep underground in Australia. Meanwhile, the genetically engineered super-soldiers, created by Social Unity, have decided they are superior and they should be the masters of homo-sapiens. Renaming themselves as Highborn, they start an interplanetary war against Social Unity. This conflict eventually spills into the outer planets, as a third threat arises and the whole solar system jockeys for power.

The series reminds me of Starship Troopers, with their battle suits and extreme ideologies, along with the training and space battles of Ender’s Game and the Eugenics Wars of Star Trek. There is a line taken straight from Space Seed, when one of the Social Unity generals is referring to the super-soldiers “superior ability breeds superior ambition.”

These books include, but are not limited to, the following tropes:

I was taken in by the first book and subsequently purchased the eBooks for the remainder of the series. The adventures of Martin Kluge and others were interesting. The second and third books suffered from repeating information from the first book. I know why authors do this, but I find it irritating, particularly when I’m reading the books back to back. Once you get to book four recapping reduces to the minimum so the story can progress.

Detective Comics #27 – Introduction of the Batman

2014-11-10 by Jack B Nimble. 3 comments

Detective Comics #27 (Introducting the Batman) is available for free in your favorite eBook form. This issue is a 6-page story featuring the one and only Batman.

We know that the Batman has evolved over the years, and is typically retconned every decade or so. So how far as Batman come from his first iteration? Here are a list of things that strike me as very strange in that first appearance of my favorite character.

  • They can’t decide if he is Batman (cover), Bat-man (spoken), or “Bat-man” (narrative).
  • Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon are close friends, so much so that Bruce Wayne is often hanging out at Gordon’s house.
  • Despite the size of Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon is routinely called on to investigate single homicides. Ɨ
  • Gordon decides to invite Bruce Wayne to visit a fresh murder scene with him.
  • Gordon rides in Bruce Wayne’s car to the crime scene (red car, Gordon arrives at a location later in a green car, stated to be his car).
  • Batman’s chest symbol was originally just a black bat, no yellow circle.
  • Batman drives Bruce Wayne’s ordinary red car around while dressed as Batman.
  • At one point Batman ‘speeds his car forward to an unknown destination.’ Presumably this destination is known to Batman, just not us. Because in the next page Batman arrives at the correct place.
  • Throughout this episode, Batman is operating during the day time.
  • There is a lot of action narration that today’s comics omit. Batman picks up a wrench, jumps into the glass chamber, and smashes it with the wrench. In today’s comics, all of that would be derived from the art, and probably not stated.
  • Batman punches the murderer, who then crashes through a railing, and falls into a vat of acid. He’s dead. To this Batman says ‘a fitting end to his kind.’ The next day Bruce Wayne describes this story as ‘a very lovely fairy-tale.’ Bruce Wayne is a sociopath.

And here are the most glaring differences between original and modern Batman.

  • Batman considers Gordon to be a close friend, but Bruce Wayne is just something of an acquaintance to Gordon.
  • Batman prefers to work at night.
  • Batman wisely decides that driving around in his alter-ego’s car is a bad idea, and builds his own unique ride.
  • Gordon may still be a detective who holds the title of Commissioner, but at least he isn’t inviting rich kids to tag along and gawk at bodies.
  • Batman still kills, but he does it in a ‘I don’t have to save you’ kind of way, instead of ‘I’m punching you into a vat of acid’ way.

Ɨ To be fair, they didn’t actually name a city, but the only cities that bother to have commissioners are large ones, with thousands of police officers under the administrative guide of the commissioner.

The Flash – Pilot Episode

2014-10-08 by Jack B Nimble. 6 comments

The show opens with an 11 year old Barry Allen coming downstairs to see a swirling yellow and red thing encircling his mother. Suddenly he is teleported a few blocks away from his house. By the time he makes it back home, his mother is dead from this mysterious presence.

The Flash

Flash (pun intended) forward to a now 20-something Barry Allen. He is a junior forensics analyst for the Central City police. He’s a scientist (Batman’s a scientist!) and he is excited for the opening of a Star Labs in his town with a new particle accelerator. He ends up missing the opening day and returning to his lab only to see an explosion in the distance (the particle accelerator) and an energy wave pass through the city. Some of the energy collects above his lab and he is struck by lightning, and then rushed to the hospital (who knew to call an ambulance for him? He was alone).

At the same time his adoptive father is running down a lead on a couple of bank robbers who drive a Mustang (product placement). The perps manage to escape in a plane, but not before the same energy wave hits their plane, destroying it and leaving the two presumed dead.

Barry Allen awakens from a coma nine months later and has the abilities of The Flash (i.e. super speed and super reaction time). He works with a few people from the now defunct Star Labs (the explosion really spooked the investors) and not only starts to learn his own abilities, but also learns of the existence of other meta-humans that were created as a result of the particle accelerator gone bad.

When a man who can control the weather starts robbing banks (you might say he is something of a wizard at it) Barry has to decide if he is going to use his newly found powers for good. He has a short conversation with Arrow about it, and ultimately decides to go all super hero and become a vigilante.

Overall I thought it was a pretty decent pilot episode. I’m much more of a Batman fan, but I enjoyed The Flash pilot a lot more than I enjoyed the Gotham pilot. Gotham is apparently all about silly cameos and corrupt cops, while The Flash has a lightheartedness to it that makes it fun. I couldn’t really get into Arrow, but I’m definitely going to be following this sister-series.

Things I noted;

  • The mysterious death of Barry’s mother is obviously going to be a major plot point. Particularly since it makes a viewer think that Barry himself could potentially be responsible.
  • Barry has already revealed his secret identity to five people. This means he tells his secret faster than Batman. I wonder if that will become an issue down the road…
  • We’ve already seen a major antagonist of The Flash perish. Comic Tv shows and movies seem to hate recurring villains, I guess that is why they die so often.
  • The explosion, which potentially affected lots of people, opens the path for many meta-humans to appear in The Flash and in Arrow.
  • We see a news article 10 years in the future which says that The Flash mysteriously vanished during a crisis. Is this the kind of crisis that could span infinite Earths?

Starship Troopers – The Mobile Infantry definitely does not accept Hippies!

2014-07-22 by markrogers. 4 comments

Note: The following is a personal review of a book. Please note that the community expert consensus contradicts the views presented in this review. For details, links: #1, #2, as well as comments below.

Starship Troopers is Heinlein’s Hugo-winning right-wing, pro-war, ultra-nationalist (ultra-fascist?) manifesto masterpiece.  Set against the narrative backdrop of boot-camp and interstellar war, Heinlein describes what his ideal military, and by extension future society, looks like.  In Troopers, Heinlein’s paternal characters explain that “might makes right” is the only true moral code and every other point of view is selfish delusion.  At the start of the story, humans live in utopian bliss due to having discovered, and forced to accept, the greatest possible form of government: Democracy where only veterans can vote.

Written after the Korean War, but before the Vietnam War, Heinlein posits the probably naive view that volunteer soldiers are the least corruptible and most moral members of a society.  Non-veteran civilians, on the other hand, are considered unworthy childish scumbag sheep who never had the courage or moral fiber to become true men and women.  Did I mention that Heinlein goes on a 3-page rant about how social-workers and child-psychologists are “pseudo-professional and pre-scientific”, and their notion of not beating your kids (and also not allowing juvenile delinquents to be beaten by the government) led to the downfall of the US before the end of the 20th century?

When ST isn’t explaining why genocide is good, Heinlein is discussing in meticulous and fascinating detail his vision of a perfect military and the awesome array of weapons the Mobile Infantry employs throughout the universe.  One gets the sense that many of today’s sci-fi war franchises, like Warhammer 40K, Battletech, and StarCraft borrow heavily from the torrent of technologies and brutal ideologies that Heinlein presents.  Indeed Warhammer 40K’s ultra-violent Space Marines seem to spring directly from the Mobile Infantry, especially their battle armor, jump-jets, drop pods, and callous ethos.

The Mobile Infantry are soldiers in armored mechanized battle suits equipped with an automatic movement and jump-jet control system, as well as sophisticated communication and sensor equipment.  Each suit has a lengthy array of weapons from hand flamers and rocket launchers to chemical and small-scale nuclear weapons.  This makes the two main battle scenes that bookend the novel graphically entertaining and often thrilling.  Sadly, the couple of other battle scenes are only vaguely mentioned with minimal detail.  One gets the sense that Heinlein only created the two large battle scenes so that he could begin his thinly veiled lectures on his socio-political philosophy and to describe his ideal military.

Heinlein´s Terran military is described in wonderful and intriguing detail.  Though, at times like when Heinlein details the chain of command or the wide variety of possible patrol routes, these descriptions become tedious and down-right boring.  That’s not to say this isn’t a true sci-fi story, it is, but the attention to detail on military matters at times feels more like a distraction. Certain parts stand out, only enlisted men who have proven themselves in battle can become officers, only retired military can vote (no civilians or active military), a small military force comprised entirely of fighting men (no army barbers). The military is hard to join and easy to quit. The book goes out of its way to state this numerous times, and extol the virtues of a volunteer army.

The book has spread to comics, anime, animation, and a film series. In the last few years there has been talk of remaking a Starship Troopers film which will be closer to the books than the 1997 film.

This entry was originally written by markrogers in September of 2011, but was abandoned and placed in a state of limbo. I recently read Starship Troopers and remembered this entry. I decided to finish it and allow it to be published. The title and all but the last two paragraphs are virtually untouched from markrogers’ original draft. – Jack B. Nimble

The First Formic War (Ender’s Game Prequel Trilogy)

2014-07-02 by Jack B Nimble. 2 comments

The First Formic War is a trilogy (Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, Earth Awakens) set in the Enderverse leading up to the first Formic invasion.

I was both excited and afraid when I found out there would a prequel trilogy about the initial Bugger (Formic) invasion. I was excited because I love Ender’s Game. I didn’t get too much into the Shadow series, but I’ve read all of the novels directly involving Ender repeatedly. I was afraid because I hate prequels. It seems to me that every prequel in existence tramples on existing canon. I don’t know if it is because authors are incapable of reading their own source material, or too blinded by the dollar signs, but they can’t keep their stories straight.

The First Contact

Ender’s Game spells out the first contact story pretty well. Eros (the Asteroid) suddenly blacks out, a team is sent to investigate, and they are subsequently murdered by Buggers. I really expected this story to play out in the first book. Therefore I was quite surprised when it never did. In Earth Unaware, first contact takes place in the Kuiper Belt. It makes sense that it would probably be further out, particularly with the current interest in space mining and expansion in general, but still.

The Terminology

At some point Orson Scott Card decided not to use the slang term Bugger and instead always use Formic. The term Bugger does not exist in these books, nor in the Ender’s Game movie. I feel that is very strange. It is in our nature to label our enemies with derogatory or otherwise slang names. And yet other than the novel Ender’s Game and Speaker For the Dead, people are very careful to always use the technical term.

The Technology

My number one issue with the books is their introduction of what eventually will be called the Little Doctor (or MD Device). It is clearly started in Ender’s Game that the Little Doctor came after the second invasion. This is further backed up in Ender In Exile when Ender discovers the Little Doctor is actually a result of an uncontained faster-than-light drive, which humans got from the Buggers. It is stated by Ender and Mazer that up until the start of the third war, they were using nuclear missiles as their primary space-based weapon. So it is frustrating to read about the Little Doctor being developed before the Buggers arrive.

In contrast, the introduction of what becomes ultimately becomes the Battle Room gear is a nice touch. It shows that humans were developing these devices for the military already, and they just adapted it later for Battle School.

The Action

The problem with prequels is that if you are going to include a character who shows up later (such as Mazer Rackman) you know that character is going to make it. There are several times throughout the books where he is in trouble, and to me, these are wasted pages. You can’t kill a character who is going to show up later, so there is no suspense. Mazer has a love interest that he has to leave because of his duty to the military. Is this a heart breaking moment? No, because we know from Ender’s Game that when Mazer left in hyperspace to jump forward in time, he left behind a wife and family. It is hard to get anxious about events that you know are going to work out.

The new characters were all more interesting to me. Because there isn’t anything keeping them alive. An interesting character in a bad situation will peak my interest. An essentially invincible character (from a future story point of view) on the other hand is less interesting (I’m looking at you, Superman). The tension comes because sometimes interesting characters die (unless your name is George R. R. Martin, in which all of them die).

The Summary

These books are okay. The cover credits Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston as the writers. Based on the writing, you get the impression it is more of the latter than the former. Everything about the book just doesn’t feel like Card, and I feel like he was more of a consultant than anything else. At no point did I ever stop reading because of the writing (such as with Eragon). They are good stories in there and interesting ideas but they are not great.

I feel like the things which were just briefly mentioned (such as China’s decimation, or the Battle of the Belt) were done well. The more specific the details, the more the prequels seem to feel the need to run them over.