Category Archives: SciFi
tl;dr – No seriously, The 100 is a good show.
Okay, longer version, it’s not a great show. I mean, it is on the CW after all, but when it started last year (by that I mean last TV “year”), I had cut out a show that had become a bit of a chore to watch for the few good moments it provided, so I had space available if the right show came along (read: a Science Fiction show). I liked the premise of The 100 (even though the idea that somehow a bunch of space stations could be launched just in time to avoid a nuclear war is a bit of shaky leg to stand on). As soon as I saw that it was based on a book, I checked on Goodreads and almost decided to stop watching the show because the book sounded pretty awful. A lot of the things that people complained about in their reviews, though, were things that were clearly hard to pull off in a book, but could actually translate well to a TV show.
Now even though the CW was the only major network to win a Golden Globe this year, I still have a hard time taking any of their shows too seriously. Not that I don’t watch them – I’ll give anything a try if it looks interesting. I just know going in that if it’s on the CW, it’s more likely to be an adult equivalent of a Saturday morning cartoon: It’s great if you’re given permission to indulge once a week, but if you get the chance to watch a show that’s on past your bedtime you’ll take that over the cartoons in a second.
So with expectations low and grains of salt at the ready, I dove in to the 100 like the ship that took the titular group of juvenile delinquents back to the surface of the Earth.
It would be easy to nitpick the show and point out all the stuff that is dumb or poorly done, but as I was brainstorming, I realized that most of the missteps were things that a lot of scifi shows and movies have gotten wrong or done badly, so I’m going to skip to the parts that this show does well and rises above the mistakes it makes or stuff it has to gloss over to make it work…
And with that, I’d like to start with the YA tropes that the show manages to avoid (while sometimes only very narrowly), because, well, that’s a lot of what makes it good.
- Love Triangle Centered on Main Heroine (and subsequent vacillation between two preternaturally hunky dude men – yes, there is an element of this, but Clarke’s choices are not exactly Stud and Studlier)
- The Kids Do Everything (and adults are treated either as wise mentors or annoyances)
- (The corollary:) Where Are The Parents? Obviously they’re not doing a lot of parenting in the first season because that’s the point…
- No matter what your ‘soul mate’ does, you should forgive them (okay, they fall into this trope a bit with one of the relationships, but avoid it in others)
- The Mary Sue (I mean, would you really want to be any of the characters on this show?)
- Everyone Is A Beautiful White Person (yes, there are lots of attractive white people, see the picture at the top with 5/6 main characters being white; but when you add in a lot of the almost-main characters, it gets a lot better; I mean it’s not like this shot…)
So, bravo for that. But wait – there’s more!
Besides just not being a stereotypical YA show, there are things that The 100 does well for a TV show of any genre.
- Relatively realistic cast size. It’s not just six people constantly trying to fight every battle. It’s clear that the people in the picture at the top of the post are the main characters that we need to care about, and they do take part in most of the conflicts, but I can think of at least five other major characters who play an important role in the first and second seasons (though they’re not necessarily the same five major characters, which also expands/improves on this idea). You can tell (if you over analyze things like I do) that the show runners are really trying to keep the NPCs involved and also trying to add some new characters and giving the newbs conflicts that we can actually care about (even the antagonists).
- Realistic leadership conflicts. Especially in the first season, there’s a lot of realistic (for TV) internal and external conflict surrounding the leaders of the kids on the ground and the adults in space. Bonus points for avoiding a lot of the angsty YA type of conflict that could have easily taken over the whole show.
- Dealing with the science, at least a little bit… They do explain why the people from space are able to survive the radiation on the surface (solar radiation from being in space! I doubt that’s realistic, but it sounds somewhat plausible and not too hand-wavy).
- References to past episodes, settings, and conflicts. It’s a small and minor thing, but I like that the kids eventually revisit the ship they came down in. Also, when Abby jabs at Kane about her electroshock punishment. People have memories and it’s nice to see that the writers do too.
- Foreshadowing. While a lot of the show seems to be progressing a lot faster than necessary, they do a good job of hinting at things in the first season and seem to have laid some groundwork during the second season for things the characters could do in the future.
- The new Game of Thrones style intro for the second season. It is quite clearly a total ripoff, but it’s also very nicely done and demonstrates that someone is actually thinking and caring about the show. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that at the start of the season.
- I’m going to try to not even really spoil this by being vague about it, but I have to mention it because it’s one of the best things about the show so far: the plot/character arc that takes place in episodes 5-8 of the second season is one of the braver things I’ve seen on network television recently. (And perhaps spurred the intro mimicking GoT? I can totally see someone in the writer’s room saying: “Well, if we’re going to do this, we might as well have a Game of Thrones intro for the show” and then they were all like “That’s actually a great idea!”)
**** Spoiler Alert ****
**** End Not Really A Spoiler ****
So there you go. If you haven’t seen it, the first season is on Netflix, and I’d imagine the second season will be up in time to get caught up for the third season. (Also, according to Netflix, The 100 is “recommended based on my interest in Snowpiercer”, so that’s a good sign, right?)
less-ful self-promotion follows…
I know that I’m going to download at least a few of the books that are already being advertised on there, and since I have a book that I can give away for limited periods of time (at least until I put out the second one and get them both into other eBook markets), I figured I could submit and promote (for what little it’s worth).
So, from July 13th until the 15th (2014), The Valkyrie Project will be free on Amazon. Tell your friends! And tell them about Digital Book Day too… an easy way to jump start an eBook collection or find some new indie/underground authors.
Some call the ability to publish digital without any sort of corporate representation (of any size) the “eBook revolution”, so it is very fitting that this first Digital Book Day coincides with France’s Bastille Day. Even more so since I will be celebrating this Bastille Day in France! #terriblehumblebrag
No go forth and download!
So, at the risk of turning this blog into a full-out “movie” blog… Here’s some more that I didn’t catch in my Summer Movie Preview (and as an update there – I’ve actually seen 2 of the movies on that list, which for me is pretty good because I grew up when movies were $3.25 so paying $9-$12 to see a movie in a theater seems ridiculous). Also not that these aren’t “summer” movies, per se (hence the title referring to Sci-Fi rather than Summer); two of them come out in November bracketing my birthday very nicely.
Pluses: I love Chloe Moretz. She’s awesome. I’ve only ever seen her in 30 Rock and the first Kick Ass and looking at her filmography, I think I might like her less if I were forced to watch the other movies she’s done, but in this context, she’s great. Jim Carrey is pretty much unrecognizable as The Colonel, and it seems like a good role for him. Clark Duke is cool. He was good in The Office and I like his style of humor (from the trailer it almost seems like he’s playing the same guy).
Minuses: You knew after the first one was a hit, they’d try to do it again… but this time it seems more like a straight up Good-Guy-Bad-Guy type thing as opposed to the kid turning into a superhero and then getting in over his head and having to struggle to be an actual superhero. Lots of other superheroes… could be good, or could suck. Either way, though, it can’t possible be as bad as Super, which I cannot honestly recommend to anyone who doesn’t just absolutely love gratuitous violence. If they’d kept that one to just even a decent level of violence, it could have been as good as Kick Ass (because Rainn Wilson’s character was a unique take on an origin story, and Ellen Page was hilarious as his sidekick). I thought the first Kick Ass was pretty over-the-top, but it almost seemed like Super was made just to be like “No, guys, this is over the top!” KA2 looks like it’s probably more mainstream and therefore will hopefully have a normal amount of unnecessary bloodiness.
Pluses: Low expectations. I don’t think anyone is really expecting this to be a “good” movie… But it should be as entertaining as any Riddick movie. Well, probably not as good as Pitch Black but better than The Chronicles of Riddick, so by “as entertaining as any” I mean: as entertaining as the average Riddick movie.
Minuses: You’re taking a pretty big risk if the the only way to escape an alien planet is to tell everyone who wants to kill you where you are in the hopes of capturing one of their vessels.
Pluses: The book is a Sci-Fi classic and it looks like they’re going to do a good job of adapting. Of course, multiple Academy Award winners and nominees doesn’t guarantee good performances or a good movie, but it can’t hurt. Hopefully they don’t try to big-budget-actionify it…
Minuses: I’m almost afraid to say I want to see it because, yes, Orson Scott Card is totally anti-gay. Even his attempt at getting people to see the movie was half-hearted at best. To summarize: Hey guys, I still think gay sexual behavior is wrong and should be punished, but since the Supreme Court say it’s okay, then my opinion doesn’t really matter, so go see my movie anyway. Thanks dude. On the one hand, all the people who actually made the movie have already been paid, so boycott won’t really hurt them all that much. On the other hand, a boycott is probably only going to show up as a number on an executive’s spreadsheet where it will drag down the average revenue of the “sci-fi” category and make them less likely to want make more. On the third hand (this is sci-fi, right?), look at all the sci-fi movies that are getting made and one flop probably isn’t going to make that much of a difference. I mean, you’ve already got Upside Down dragging things down… So maybe for my birthday I’ll make a choice between…
Thor: The Dark World
Pluses: A cast that reads almost as impressive as Ender’s Game. Obviously there’s less moral elements (in the movie and outside of it), so that’s good for me being able to state my desire to see it but probably less good for the overall quality of the film. It’ll be fun. Probably not as good as The Avengers, but probably as good as the first Thor, which was fun.
Minuses: To be honest, none. As long as you’ve got the appropriate expectations.
Pluses: It’s about time travel. I’m a sucker for that even when it comes in the form of a romantic dramedy (which is actually in Merriam Webster – wow). It’s not a complete carbon copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife (even though it does also have Rachel McAdams her hair is totally different [and much worse, if you ask me]). About Time is a dramedy – even categorized as comedy and drama on Rotten Tomatoes, while TTW was a Romance/Drama (not sure if there’s a combination of those two words). This time, the guy can actually control the time travel, and I like the set up of conflicts this seems to set up (or at least appears to from watching the trailer). It’s from the guy who did Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually, all of which I was far too macho (or just trying to be) to appreciate when they came out, but did enjoy eventually (even in spite of Renee Zellweger’s inability to open her eyes for what seemed like the entire movie; and the fact that Love Actually was a bit over the top and mushy on the romance).
Minuses: If it doesn’t have any sharpness or roughness to it, the movie could easily slide into romantic drivel. Time travel is hard to get right. The lead guy looks a little bit too bumbling and awkward and unattractive… Even with time travel, I’m not sure I’d believe he could end up with Rachel McAdams (at least not as the perfect woman she’s portrayed as in these movies).
So there’s that. I hope to have some non-movie related posts soon, but these are so easy since I only have to spend 2 minutes watching a trailer and then write what I think instead of having to document some technical process or something with screenshots and directions, let alone actually thinking deeply about something…
So, I did a summer movie preview just 4 days ago, and now I guess this can count as my fall movie preview because I’m pretty sure this is going to be the best movie this fall:
If I only had enough money to go to one movie this year, I would be a very poor man indeed, but this would be the movie.
On a side note related to the summer movie preview post, there is now a trailer for The World’s End which looks super awesome and is easily in contention for the 2nd movie I would see if I only had enough money to go to 2 movies.