Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 4 – “The Lorelei Signal” – Captain Uhura

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    “The Lorelei Signal” is an episode that would have had a lot more problems had Rodenberry been the writer. Given “A Wolf in the Fold” had a woman posses Kirk because she wanted to be a captain but couldn’t through the sexist Federation (So glad this didn’t carry over to “TNG” for Starfleet Rules) and his general approach on that issue I’m glad that he wasn’t writing the Siren like Taureans who actually get some exploration and are more than just Vampires who suck the energy out of men. There was so much that could have gone wrong in this episode, but instead we got a fun adventure thankfully.

      The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Margaret Armen.

     The story involves the Enterprise being pulled to the Taurean world by a strange musical signal. When Spock, Kirk and McCoy and Carver beam down they are taken hostage and are used as an energy conduit for the immortal species of women. From here they must plot their escape while Uhura takes control of the ship to go about figuring out to rescue them.

The Pros: Spock – Spock is the one who is able to figure out that they are drawn to men to suck away their energy and gets the information to Uhura before passing out, warning them to bring an all women away team. He is the one analyzing every situation they are in and the least attached even though even he is drawn in and hears Vulcan Wedding Drums from their singing.

Uhura – Uhura suspects something is up from the beginning and gets them away from the planet the moment she sees that the crew is getting worse. She also negotiates a treaty with the Taureans rather than killing them showing just how much of a Starfleet Officer she is and worthy of the Captain’s Chair.

The Taureans Motivation  and Treaty – The new technology they created led to their men dying off so the only way to live was to bring more over to take their energy. They find another way when the crew learns that they can mate with other species so they leave the planet to make a life elsewhere and are glad to give up Immortality and it’s cost.

The Cons: Siren Trope – They pull the men there and hypnotize them because of their beauty. This trope is so overdone and I hate how it defines women so narrowly and gets rid of diversity within a population. This was my issue with the Taurean concept as a species and where I could have seen this being one big “Taming of the Shrew” type episode.

   This episode was enjoyable though it was not able to approach the Female Species only exist to “draw men in due to looks and sex and is only using the men.” This thought process is a huge reason that sexist societies use to justify keeping women out of power, since they are only seen as weak with their bodies and minds as their only ways to get any sort of control and are looked down on that as those with power use these poor reasons to justify the sexist status quos.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): Healing, Redemption and Actions That Matter in a World Gone Insane

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       “Fury Road” is beloved by the critics for so many reasons. This film is the second film I’ve reviewed for 2015 and it blew “Age of Ultron” out of the water, and most of the action films I have watched. Rarely do you see a film that manages to mix philosophy, character development and action so seamlessly and mastering the art of showing and not telling. There are moments where history is told in a glance and where you see the character relationships change from the circumstances around them. Suffice to say, it is amazing that after 30 years away from his Franchise that George Miller managed to create the best film from that world yet.

     The film was directed by George Miller who was also one of the writers and producers of the film. The other writers were Brendan McCarthy and Nico Loutharis while the other producers were Doug Mitchell and P.J. Voeten.

SPOILERS AHEAD

     The story involves the capture of Max (Tom Hardy) and him turning into a blood donor for one of Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) War Boys Nux (Nicholas Hoult). He is pulled into a larger purpose and freedom when Furiosa (Charlize Theron) escapes with the wives of Immortan Joe to bring them to freedom and the Green Place. From here and Nux must make a choice and rethink their beliefs as does Furiousa when she soon realizes that there might not be a safe place for them to return.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful! The vehicles are shot like their are mobile homes and living creatures and they have life to them as people use them to protect and to attack and each vehicle has distinct personalities. From the spiky vehicles that belong to the Vultures, and the other factions that follow Immortan Joe. John Seale did a great job.

The Action – This is an action film and the action is seamless. We see this mostly through the eyes of Nux who soon realizes his God Immortan Joe who conditioned him since he was a child to worship him cares nothing for his well being and leaves him trapped on the War Rig. We see him fight off the vultures and he is the first to attack multiple times as well as rescued by Max (due to chaining max to himself for his blood and later by the wives). It is through his eyes we see the insane see more than death and destruction and each battle shows how he grows and changes into someone who is willing to risk all for the good. The action doesn’t stop until the end but gives moments of reflection too.

The Soundtrack – Junkie XL did a fantastic job on the soundtrack! It is classical meets heavy metal with the right moments for silence too, such as when Furiosa finds her childhood home gone and everyone she knew dead and the intensity of the action scenes as cars explode and War Boys leap between vehicles to get at the wives and destroy Furiosa, Nux and Max. The soundtrack like the action doesn’t let up until the end. Also the War Boy playing the electric guitar that spouted fire was worked seamlessly into the soundtrack as he was the one playing it and whatever affected the guitar and him affected the music.

The World – The world is rich in this and the most fleshed out compared to any prior film. There is Immortan Joe and the Citadel, the Canyon Bikers, the Vultures, Bullet Farmer’s faction, the Mothers and others. It is a rich world so much at stake where in a moment the rest of the world could be destroyed by the factions seeking to survive or to destroy one another. This post-apocalyptic world leaves no room for hope yet in it hope is created through the healing and redemption of Max, Furiosa, Nux and the Wives. Within this world we see the Mothers who worship life countered by Immortan Joe and his cult of death where his drugged out warriors are taught that if they die for him they will be celebrated in Valhalla and live again.

The Characters – The characters are all rich and distinct and wonderful to see on the screen. I can’t think of anyone who did a horrible job as each character fit their role well and what happened to them changed relationship dynamics between factions and people. Whether it was Max no longer being guarded or the wives giving them all hope as each sought healing in their own way, each of protagonists was distinct and our villains were memorable too from their design to their horrendous actions and power.

The Wives – Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whitely) is the leader of the wives and the who risks her own life to save Furiosa and Max. This causes conflict among the others but we see she was the one to get Max first beyond himself as she was risking herself and her child to make a better future and stop Joe. This is later picked up by Toast (Zoe Kravitz) and Cheedo (Courtney Eaton) who take part in the battle and help Nux to heal and find peace beyond his cult conditioning. They also struggle against their own desperation and find mentors in Furiosa and the Mothers who with their help and them taking the fight to Joe become the leaders of the Citadel and free the slaves.

Immortan Joe – Joe is a monster. He has a harem of breeder wives who he rapes and who he sets his army on because he sees them as his property. He has a great design with skull like teeth and tubes covering his lower face and we see that he has bought what he has sold his people. He believes he is a God and sings praises for his lost son when Angharad is killed when defending the War Rig. He cares nothing for the wives or his people and everything is for his glory and pride. Hugh Keays-Byrne does a fantastic job and his character is much more threatening than Toecutter who he played in the first “Mad Max” film. He’s developed a lot as an actor and he’s working with a far superior script.

The Mothers – The Mothers are awesome and are the group that Furiosa is a part of, sadly the world is gone and is now a toxic swamp but the Mothers still keep the seeds and give the wives peace that they have never had. They also fight to take the Citadel, with Valkyrie (Megan Gale) and Keeper of the Seeds (Melissa Jaffer) dying in the process. They are powerful and badass figures, riding motorcycles and covered in bullets. They adapted to the world around them and didn’t fall when the Green Land fell.

Max – Tom Hardy owns this role. He is clearly Max and like Gibson before him is the outcast pulled into situations out of his control where he comes in and acts as a protector and finally gives into hope before disappearing. In this we see him deal with his trauma and PTSD as the wives comfort him and Furiosa shares and understands his loss as we see her despair at everything she lost when Joe kidnapped and destroyed her family. They are similar and help each other heal by protecting the wives and in turn empowering them to fight. Much like past films though Max does not stick around as when the Citadel is free and Furiosa and the Wives are the leaders he leaves to continue his fight as the Road Warrior.

Nux – Nux is a War Boy who is devoted to Joe until he fails in capturing the War Rig and Max escapes. From here has to rethink everything which the wives help him to do. From here he becomes a hero and helps free the truck and in the end risks his life so that Joe’s forces will not retake the citadel. Nicholas Hoult does an amazing job. I really liked him as Beast in “Days of Future Past” and “First Class” but he is even better in this. His character drives the story as his redemption shows that even the broken can become more than their conditioning and even the most hated can be loved.

Furiosa – Furiosa is the primary protagonist and Charlize Theron owns this role. She’s the badass with the robotic arm who can take on multiple people at once but is still human and vulnerable. We see her break down when she learns the crow infested swamp was where the Green Land once was and her resolve when Max reminds them of the water at the Citadel and that they can still fight for the Green Land that does exist without traversing the unknown Wasteland. She is the one who keeps Max accountable too and trusts him even when he is holding a gun to her head and acting paranoid. She helps him find his humanity and he in turn saves her life with his blood as she had saved him multiple times. In the ends she ascends as leader of the Citadel and through her killing of Joe frees all the slaves of the Citadel arriving as it’s conqueror with the Wives now also as leaders.

The Struggle for Equality – This movie is all about the struggle for equality. Women and children are things and tools for Joe and he only sees how he can use others. It is the rebellion against that with the wives fighting for a better place and Furiosa seeking revenge for the Green Land Joe destroyed that help bring about freedom for every man, woman and child. There is sacrifice along the way too as Valkyrie, The Keeper of the Seeds, Angharad and the men who first traveled with Furiosa fall to the barbarians ruled by Joe or by selfishness who make up the Wasteland.

Healing and Redemption – Healing and redemption and their possibility is a major message and theme of this movie too. Nux is a thug but he is also just a boy who changes when his “daddy” leaves him behind and he realizes he was nothing to the man he saw as God. The wives help him to heal and accept him by only killing in self defense and he in turn fights for them because of their acceptance of him. He even is able to form relationships and fight for others and see Max as a human, not just a blood donor. Max and Furiosa find it through their shared pain and in it find hope, the hope that the wives always remind them of and the future they fight for…the unborn who don’t have to live in the hopeless world created by the monsters like Joe.

     I’ll be very surprised if I see a better film than this one this year. The soundtrack, cinematography, action, characters, world and story were all perfect and had a point beyond just explosions and cars. There was philosophy intertwined in the action and the actions that happen change characters and made them grow. This is what I think of when I think of the perfect film. The message is timeless the characters are amazing with Immortan Joe, Furiosa and Max being truly timeless. I can’t wait to see what George Miller does with the rest of the series he has planned. He didn’t come back to this series for 30 years, but when he did he made something that was truly memorable, powerful and unforgettable. I highly recommend this film.

Final Score: 10 / 10

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 6, Episode 13 – “Far Beyond the Stars” – The Ongoing Struggle For Justice and Equality

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      “Far Beyond the Stars” is a masterpiece on so many levels and an episode where the trials and struggles of the 1960’s reveal themselves to sadly be just as true today. We are so far from the world of “Deep Space Nine” in not just our television but our science fiction books too, even if things have improved in some ways. This is an episode that has such a powerful point with some of the best writing and acting to come out of this series. The fact that Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko) was also the director also lends more power to it when you look how focused on justice so much of Avery Brooks’s passion has gone towards post “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” On a final note before I get into the details, it is also a very meta and philosophical episode of Trek.

      “Far Beyond the Stars” was as stated above, directed by Avery Brooks with the teleplay by Ira Steven Behr and Hans Beimler with story by Marc Scott Zicree.

     The story begins with Captain Sisko’s Father Joseph Sisko visiting the station as Ben is rethinking what difference he is actually making, as his friend died in a routine patrol of the Cardassian Border and the Dominion War looks as if it has no sign of ending. His father tells him he should think on it as he begins seeing people from the 1960’s before he is transported into the world of Benny, an African American Science Fiction Writer during the 1960’s where his story unfolds and realities keep colliding as they try to find out what’s going on “Deep Space Nine” as he faces the reality of the past in the life of Benny.

The Pros: Benny’s World – I love that they set in the 60’s and unlike the “Mad Men” version of the 60’s we get to see the lives of the middle class, the poor and people who aren’t of European descent. The world doesn’t pull any punches with every character being flawed and discrimination being widespread and enforced by the law. I’ll get into more of the details when I explore the characters though.

The Soundtrack – There is so much great jazz in this episode and so often the episode knows when to be silent, it isn’t standard recycled music and that really made the episode just that much stronger in the presentation and story.

The Characters – I’m only referring to the characters of Benny’s world in this instance since the only people really explored in Captain Sisko’s time are himself and his father. The characters of Benny’s world (played by the same actors who make salutes to their counterparts in personality and actions) are wonderful. They are distinct while still having the inspiration of “Deep Space Nine” (or vise versa as I’ll go into later).

Willie Hawkins – Michael Dorn plays the baseball player who shows us that it doesn’t matter if you are star athlete, housing ordinances are still just that and even though some whites want to see you play they don’t want you around (most housing ordinances weren’t ended until the 90’s and 80’s even). His way of dealing with it is flirting with everyone. His character is very confident and it’s fun to see. He knows he’s a star and Dorn does it very well.

Jimmy – Jimmy is a young African-american guy and friends with Benny and a bit of a hustler. The day he gets the opportunity for wealth the detectives Burt and Kevin murder him. They say it was for breaking into a car but based of their reaction of beating up Benny for even asking questions I sincerely doubt that. R.I.P. Jimmy. Sad thing is this still happens today. This scene is given more power given the actor plays Jake Sisko…Benjamin Sisko’s son in the series as a whole.

Cassie – Played by the actress who plays Captain Sisko’s wife Kasidy she is great in this as the woman who accepts discrimination (and Willie’s creeping) and wants to build a life that she feels is practical with Benny. To this end she’s working at owning the restaurant she works at and trying to get Benny to see it too. She’s super supportive of him and his writing though and takes care of him after the cops beat him up.

Kay Eaton – Kay is played by Nana Visitor who plays Major Kira and she is an author who writes under a name K.C. so people will think she is man. She is aware of the prejudice and inequality around her and can relate to Benny in that way. She’s more resigned than Benny though and doesn’t fight Pabst over the injustice of the Editors.

Herbert Rossoff – Rosoff played by Shimerman (who plays Quark) is the one person always clashing with Pabst (played by Rene who plays Odo) and is most vocal against the injustice of Benny’s story not being published and the editors shutting down the magazine for a month because of Benny’s black protagonist.

Douglas Pabst – Played by the actor who plays Odo, like Odo Pabst is all about the rules, even if they are unjust. He doesn’t care about injustice he cares about money and fires Benny when the Publishers choose not to run the stories. He isn’t even well intentioned he is all about the rules, just like Odo. He is the status quo and those who do nothing.

Benny Russell – Benny Russell is the one dreaming “Deep Space Nine” and the one being dreamed by Captain Sisko. He has victories like when Pabst accepts the story of “Deep Space Nine” being a dream. He is inspired by Delaney a gay African American writer whose story was rejected because his protagonist was mixed race. Benny the character is different in that he is working to be married with Cassie but his role becomes bigger after “The Preacher” reminds him of his role as a a symbol of the future and justice and making the story of “Captain Sisko” real by telling the story. This ends with him being put in a hospital though as he stands up to Pabst and cries out to be recognized as a human being.

Joseph Sisko – Joseph reminds his son Ben of how important it is to fight, which makes sense that he’d be the Preacher in Ben’s dream of Benny as he is calling Captain Sisko back to the struggle and making sure a just world remains or can come about…that life is bigger than those he has lost and himself.

Captain Sisko – Sisko is mourning the loss of his friend but after he dreams of Benny and realizes that Benny could have dreamed one another into reality realizes how important it is to fight and struggle against injustice, be it discrimination or the tyranny of the Dominion.

Honorary Mentions – Alamo (Dukat) and Combs (Weyoun) play corrupt detectives who are the ones responsible for killing Jimmy…and Meaney played a bumbling writer who liked robots. They weren’t bad characters but they weren’t explored some of the other characters were, which is why I’m giving them honorary mentions.

Easter Eggs – The Magazine they are writing for has “Star Trek: The Original Series” stories in it’s pages. Ranging from “The Cage” to “Where no One has Gone Before.” It’s a really cool salute to the past early science fiction as well as the ripple “Star Trek” created by it’s existence as a show during this time period.

The Meta Moments – The whole idea of “Deep Space Nine” all existing in the mind of Benny is very meta as “Deep Space Nine” existed in the writers who wrote the show. Benny is almost a stand in for them and the story they all sought to tell.

The Message – There are quite a few messages in this that stands out. The dreams of the present can become the dreams of the future and the dreams of the past remind us of what we still need and can accomplish. There is also the fact that injustice must be fought if anything is ever going to change and the power of story and how ideas can never die.

Representation and racism in the Past and Present – Delaney was an African-American Gay Black Science Fiction writer whose story was rejected by his racist publisher. Here is a great article that explores it and the lack of representation of people of color today: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121554/2015-hugo-awards-and-history-science-fiction-culture-wars

This article shows that Delaney’s story is still true in many ways today and it is certainly true on television and other forms media. Now I don’t know how much talking about it changes it, but sometimes it is the stories that do. Look at the influence “Star Trek” has had on the culture and with that the same potential other science fiction shows can have. What is the future we want to create?

The Potential Future – There will always be problems I think, maybe and hopefully not the same ones even if echoes of those same problems remain…but it is in our power to change them, for each generation to make those changes in how they live, the laws they make and how they and we treat our fellow human beings. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but I hope for the future that “Deep Space Nine” represents.

Final Score: 10 / 10. One of the greatest stories to ever come out of “Star Trek” and still relevant to this day.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 18 – “The Waterbending Master” – Fighting an Injustice

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     This is a great episode that does a good showing of how culture is not a justification for unjust laws. In this case Female Waterbenders can only be trained as healers in the Northern Water Tribe, it takes two women to change this and it is quite a struggle to get there.

      The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Michael Dante DiMartino.

       “The Waterbending Master” begins with Team Avatar captured by the Northern Water Tribe. From here they are brought in and Master Pakku trains Aang but refuses to train Katara because she is a woman. Also Sokka finds himself attracted to Princess Yue, who he learns is betrothed. Around this time Zhao plans his siege of the North and Zuko’s ship is destroyed by the Pirates. From here Iroh’s story unfolds with Zhao as conflict unfolds on the North Pole.

The Pros: Admiral Zhao – The guy is a bastard and glorious one at that. He knows that it will take a lot to break the North so he brings a huge fleet and gets Iroh to his side knowing Iroh is a victorious general. He also has a plan for how to stop the Moon, knowing that the Waterbenders powers are tied to the Ocean and to the Moon.

Admiral Iroh – Iroh is shown to once again be super sly as he tricks Zhao into thinking he is joining him willingly, when it was really to help Zuko to get to the North to capture the Avatar. His loyalty to Zuko never wavers and he keeps his cool around Zhao, never revealing his true loyalties.

Zuko – This episode shows that even a broken Zuko is one to be feared. His face is beaten and battered and he still fights on, forever driven to catch the Avatar, even if it means hiding on the boat of the man who nearly had him killed.

Chief Amook – The Chief feels like an actual character, we see his care for his people in their day to day lives we see his care for his daughter and his kindness as well to Team Avatar. He reminds me a lot of Katara’s dad in many ways.

Master Pakku – This guy is a pro because he is willing to change. His story is tragic as he loved a woman who did not have a choice in wanting to marry him, so she left. That woman was Gran Gran, it is Katara returning and fighting him to be an equal in their people and his finding her necklace that change him and help him to realize the reasons Gran Gran left…she had no choice so she made her own path…with her granddaughter, he has a chance to right the wrongs so that more women don’t end up leaving the tribe. It’s a really cool arc and though he is a harsh teacher, he is humanized when he finally accepts Katara.

Princess Yue and Sokka – These two are the young lovers, I think the reason they like one another, besides basic attraction is they listen to each other, they are also culturally more similar than Sokka and Suki which I think is part of what draws him to Yue. Yue also has a calm to Sokka’s energy making them Yin and Yang compliments. There story starts out as tragedy as she is already engaged to another.

Aang – Aang refuses to be trained by Pakku at first until Katara says he should and needs to and that his training is bigger than her. He later trains her in secret which leads to Council being called and Aang being trained once more as Katara is forced to learn healing. Aang never stops advocating for Katara and you really see how deep their friendship is.

Katara – Katara is the fighter than this and finishes the battle that started when her Grandmother Kanna left the tribe because she was betrothed to Master Pakku and did not love him. Katara explains why Kanna left when she has just finished battling Pakku and finally lost after a long fight. It is the fight from the past for choice and equality and in the present that finally melts Pakku’s cold and when he accepts Katara as a student.

The Message – The message is one of fairness and equality and shows that Avatar thankfully does not embrace Cultural Relativism. No culture is perfect and we should strive for justice and equality everywhere. It is this fight that Kanna begins and Katara continues that finally create the opportunity for equality among benders in the Northern Water Tribe. The fight is ongoing and begins with a subtle no or leaving or openly fighting as Katara does to Pakku.

     I really liked this episode, a lot. The message really shines through and if Avatar had gone all Culturally Relativistic I’d probably hate the show. The show stands for something and wrongs are never justified whether it’s the genocide of the Air Nation, subjugation of the different members of the Earth Kingdom or the sexism of the Northern Water Tribe. All these things Team Avatar fights and calls us to as well.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 4 – “The Warriors of Kyoshi” – The Price of the Avatar

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      This was an amazing episode! This is the episode where Aang and Sokka both get a lot of growth as they have to deal with their inbuilt prejudices. For Sokka it is dealing with his prejudice against the idea of women as warriors and for Aang it’s his entitlement of being Avatar and avoidance of responsibility. So much good was done with this.

      The director of the episode was Giancarlo Volpe and written by Nick Malis and Aaron Ehasz.

      The story involves Aang stopping at Kyoshi Island to ride the giant fish until they are attacked by the Unagi which leads to them getting captured by the Kyoshi Warriors. From here the story unfolds as Sokka faces his prejudices and Aang soaks in the attention he never received growing up and becoming arrogant in the process.

The Pros: The Kyoshi Warriors –

Kyoshi Island – This Island has so much character! From the Warriors of Kyoshi and the leader just trying to protect his people, from fangirls of the Avatar and the fact that they nation is isolated and mentions that they want no part in the war against the Fire Nation. This Island has character.

Zuko – Zuko has anger issues which leads to a comedic moment with Iroh when Iroh mentions they don’t know where the Avatar is, and when they tell him he’s on Kyoshi Island. In both instances Zuko loses it.

Suki – Suki is the leader of the Kyoshi Warrios and she’s a badass, and one of my favorite characters on the show. We see her put Sokka in his place when he is sexist, but also see that she is forgiving when he apologizes and she agrees to teach him. From there they form somewhat of a budding romance as she kisses him before fighting Zuko to give them more time to escape.

Sokka – Sokka grows a lot in this episode. He realizes his prejudice against the idea of warrior women and is corrected when Suki beats him twice leading him to ask to be trained by her, even going to far as to wear their female garb for the opportunity to learn their fighting style. His growth is truly wonderful in this episode.

Katara – Katara is a bit jealous of how popular Aang is with the Avatar fangirls, but she also sees the bigger picture and ends up being right in the end…as the war comes to them and Aang realizes that his staying in one place just puts people at risk. She really learns to communicate in this episode as her and Aang don’t talk until the moment before he is attacked by the Unagi near the end.

Aang – Aang is a kid and it shows. He revels in the popularity he receives at the village since Kyoshi was one of the past Avatars, but once his popularity wains he realizes how arrogant he was and how wrongly he treated Katara.

The Message – The message is to remain humble, communicate and to question your prejudices as well as don’t be sexist. All these themes are explored in the different characters and done really well, which is saying a lot as episodes are only 20 minutes long.

Okay: Aang’s stupidity – Aang’s stupidity was annoying in how he was reveling in the attention. I get it, he is a kid…but it did get grating after a while.

     I really enjoyed this episode. There were some great character moments with Sokka and the Kyoshi Warriors and the introduction of Suki, one of my favorite characters in the series. We also Aang dealing with the fact he is a kid with ego, even if he is a monk. Every character grows in this and we see a fully fleshed out culture on Kyoshi Island too. This episode was everything I love about this show.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – Not Enough Time with the Apes

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“Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” was the last of the original “Planet of the Apes” series I saw. I remember how much it weirded me out initially and when I heard about the time travel plot of the next movie didn’t have much desire to watch on. Now that time has passed, it is better than what I remember, but still has a lot of problems.

The premise of this movie picks up where the first film left off. Taylor has seen the destroyed Statue of Liberty and that humanity destroyed itself and he and Nova continue deeper into the Forbidden Zone. While they are there Taylor goes missing and a new astronaut named Brent arrives on the planet to find the astronauts who went missing. The story picks up with him as he finds Nova and the story unfolds from there.

Pros: The music – The music is once again great and haunting. It captures the post apocalyptic feel really well.

Zira – Zira is once again one of the strongest characters. The sad thing is we only see her in the middle of the film when she takes in Brent and Nova and helps them escape. She is the one who is idealistic and lives through action. She doesn’t speak up when Cornelius hits her though (which is one of the horrid themes in this film). Great job, once again to Kim Hunter.

Dr. Zaius – Dr. Zaius is once again one of the strongest characters. When he and General Ursus enter the Forbidden Zone, it is he who risks the illusion of the burning and bleeding lawgiver to reveal to the army it is an illusion. Maurice Evans is once again one of the strongest actors.

General Ursus – He is simple but is great in his own way. He is the first named Gorilla to appear in any of the films and is the primary protagonist of this film (Dr. Zaius didn’t want to conquer the Forbidden Zone). He is Xenophobic and and a tyrant showing the dangers of unchecked military power especially when it is backed by religious authority (Dr. Zaius). James Gregory does a great job.

The idea of the Mutants – I think the Mutants in execution weren’t done so well. But they are needlessly evil and crazy. I would have liked at least one good mutant just like we see good apes via the Chimpanzees. The idea of people twisted by Nuclear War and worshiping death is pretty cool though. I think they were trying to critique the worship of death that can happen in some religions, it just wasn’t executed very well.

George Taylor – For what little time he is around, Charlton Heston does a great job. He has a lot more emotion and character than Brent who is a character akin to Nova except he can speak.

Okay: Cornelius – His character is the one once again trying to save face, though still carry on the knowledge of the past. He hits Zira for no reason though and threatens to do so again which is why I will not put him as a pro. It is like needless character assassination to have his character do that.

SPOILERS

The Ending – Everyone dies. This would have been more powerful if we’d had more time with the characters we cared about or Nova and Brent had actually been fleshed out as characters. The Bomb that the mutants worship is used to destroy the Earth.

Cons: The violence against women – I bring this up because it happens a lot in this film. From the mutants using Brent to abuse and rape Nova…to Cornelius hitting Zira. The women are only in this movie to be victims…accumulating in Nova being killed by the apes when the apes invade the Underground.

The Execution of the Themes – The execution of the themes was very poor. I can see them trying to critique religion via the worshipers of the Bomb but no religion worships technology and their words ended up being more comedic than meaningful or critical. “The Holy Fallout.” As an expression for an example. They also could have used how religion can turn people against one another…but all they manage to capture is the hypocrisy of some religious claiming their religion to be peaceful while condoning or acting with violence. The military as a weapon of corrupt authority is never fully explored either since we don’t know what happened to the Chimp protesters since we never see them after their appearance and Ursus never does anything to Zira or Cornelius even though they are heretics.

No Protagonist and Lack of Focus – There are a few people who drive the plot at different points…Taylor at the beginning and end, and Brent through the middle and Zira at one point too. We also have Dr. Zaius drive it at a few points as well whether for or against Ursus. This lack of focus took away from the narrative of the story.

Brent – Is a cipher. He is an uninteresting hero who is easily used by everyone around him. In that way he is comparable to Nova. The script didn’t help flesh him out as a character (he’s the standard hero looking for the group that had landed on the planet before) but the acting doesn’t help. He’s a very forgettable character.

Nova – Is the victim and empty vessel again. She is kidnapped countless times, strangled and near raped by Brent when is being mind controlled by the mutants and in the end killed by the apes. Victimization is all her character is.

Plot holes – Zira and Cornelius were supposed to be charged with heresy as of the end of the last film. This is never brought up again and instead they are made to be leaders of the Academy when Dr. Zaius joins Ursus’s expedition. This is never explained.

This movie is a bit of an unfocused, at times sexist mess with some really intriguing ideas that it doesn’t give full credit for. It was an okay movie and would have been stronger if more time was spent with the apes. It really goes downhill once we’re with the Mutants since that is where the weakest critique and the most grotesque violence is. The Mutants have no complexity and no Chimpanzee faction which takes away from the critique too. Every group as members that are agnostic or against the philosophy expressed by the dominant group. I would still tentatively recommend this film. It didn’t need to made since “Planet of the Apes,” is a solid film on it’s own…but it has some interesting ideas and the time with the Apes are mostly fantastic. More time with the Apes could have made this a good film.

Next we’ll be doing the 3rd movie in the Original Series in this Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect – “Escape from the Planet of the Apes.”

My final score for this film is 6 / 10. Slightly above average.

Batman: The Animated Series – Season 1, 60, 61 – The Demon’s Quest – The Arrival of Ra’s al Ghul

Demons_Quest_Title

 

“The Demon’s Quest,” is a strange two parter to review. I say this because there are some interesting ideas it poses but also a lot of missed opportunities for both the heroes and the villains.

The premise is that Robin has been kidnapped (as well as Talia) so Ra’s goes to the Batcave to enlist Batman to rescue them. Over the course of the story we come to know this as a plot for Ra’s to make Batman his heir. The story unfolds around this and later Ra’s final plan in the second part.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The Tests – The tests Ra’s has Batman do are actually kind of cool. From fighting a Panther in a fight, to discovering where a person is based off a single bit of data. Seeing Batman solve these while sticking to his code is actually quite awesome.

Ra’s al Ghul – This isn’t my favorite Ra’s. That Ra’s is stolen the Ra’s al Ghul of the Nolanverse since even when he loses he wins…his destruction of Gotham lead to Joker and Bane who destroyed Gotham in their own ways…and he still causes fear in Bruce Wayne. This Ra’s Al Ghul is just a giant eco-terrorist who may have grand schemes…but never wins. Poison Ivy at least wins some of her battles. The same cannot be said of Ra’. Plus he is overlooking a completely good heir in his daughter Talia, the only reason she isn’t his heir is because she isn’t a man. Basically sexism cheats him of carrying on his own legacy through another.

Batman – Batman is great in this episode. He protects those who are trying to kill him and manages to stop Ra’s by destroying the satellite when he doesn’t rise to Ra’s challenge for a one on one fight to the death. He even tries to save Ra’s after everything and clearly has feeling still for Talia.

Talia al Ghul – I wish she’d call out her father more. She is against his means but we never see that. She is just a pawn except when it comes to protecting Batman. I’m still putting her as a pro because she is a compelling character.

Okay: Ubu – Is a great dragon for Ra’s al Ghul (he nearly wins all his fights and is a challenge). I do wish Talia had played this role though, it would have added more conflict and making her turn against her Father’s plans more explicit and actually happen beyond affection for Batman.

Robin – Appears in this episode as someone to save and not much else. He isn’t really a pro or a con.

Cons: Orientalism – This term applies to this episode greatly. From most of Ra’s men looking Arabic and none of them being good (since calling Talia “good” would be a stretch), their is this fear of the east. This is represented best by Ubu who is constantly calling Batman infidel and doing stupid Machismo actions just so that Ra’s can have his ego stroked. The one counter to this is The Society of Shadows is International…it is just at the end that most of the men are Arabic.

I would recommend this episode even barring this major con. Just keep it mind while watching it. Ra’s is not as strong as he could be…he never wins the way other of Batman’s rogues do…and Talia does need to be fleshed out more. It is a fun adventure though along the lines of the good Indiana Jones movies and it is great to see Batman solve puzzles and take out a rather large elaborate plan.

Final score is 8 / 10.