The new Dune trailer

Oh this looks good. This looks so VERY good. Anyone else get a tingle watching those Ornithopters flying over the sand dunes?

But is anyone else concerned that the last ten years of dumbing down blockbusters may have robbed this film of its audience? Nobody turned up to go watch BR2049, and that film wasn’t being dumped on HBO Max at the time either. I don’t know how much of an impact that HBO Max thing will prove to be, or how much Covid will be in the equation come October, but considering the money that Dune needs to make in order to break even/get Part Two greenlit…  My biggest concern is simply that, are audiences going to go in droves to watch a sci-fi epic minus caped superheroes beating the shit out of bad guys while wrecking a city? Are audiences going to sit still for a film with ideas? 

Mind, Dune is an epic story with epic spectacle so maybe that will pull people in. Films are so stupid now though, particularly the ones that make any money. I’m still reeling from the assault on my senses that was Godzilla vs Kong and that Hobbs & Shaw thing. Is that what films are now? While I take some comfort from how Disney’s Black Widow seems to have under-performed recently, that also makes me nervous regards how streaming (and yeah, Covid) seems to have pulled people away from the movie experience, wondering if things have changed forever. Have the weekly drops of content on Netflix and Disney+ so diluted peoples appreciation of tentpole releases (I have to wonder if Disney putting Marvel and Star Wars content for ‘free’ onto subscribers televisions is a kind of self-sabotage) weakened and diluted the appeal of said franchises as regards getting bums on seats in cinemas, like it used to be? We’ve already seen how people don’t seem interested in buying films on disc anymore. Some of the high-end stuff being dropped on Netflix is often poor but production-wise, they are essentially exactly the same thing as is seen in cinemas. I remember when I was kid, I saw The Empire Strikes Back at the cinema on a Saturday afternoon and when I got home Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was on the telly, and funnily enough it was the episode with the asteroid sequence and Buster Crabbe but it was so different in quality, the chasm between home entertainment and cinema entertainment was plain. That’s gone now, and seeing ‘new’ Star Wars and Marvel stuff straight onto the telly…

I’ve noted before that movies don’t seem as important or special as they used to be in my youth, back when Star Wars would be on the big screen only and when you’d wait for years to ever see Jaws again- gradually films have become more disposable. In a world where you can buy Avatar for a fiver, is there any wonder that Avatar itself fails to have any real cultural significance (and I’m really curious how those Avatar sequels will perform in a few years time). Are movies, as we fans remember them as ‘MOVIES,’ essentially dead, and things like Dune simply being made for a world and business model that no longer exists?

One has to wonder if Dune: Part Two will eventually just be a mini-series on HBO Max.

Whats up, Buck?

buckLast night I watched an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It was like sucking (and choking, too, if the truths known) on a glorious Nostalgia Pill (you can buy those, right? Comes in a DVD box or something). It must have been thirty years or more since I last saw an episode of this old show- it aired here in the UK in 1980, but dates back to 1979 in the States. What caught my eye in the television schedules was the title of this particular episode. This was a season one episode, and the reason why I watched it is that, strangely enough, its the one episode I can clearly remember originally watching; Return of the Fighting 69th.

buck2
Anybody else miss those lovely old 1970’s-era episode title cards?

The reason why I remember watching it? Well, it was on a Saturday afternoon that summer that my Dad took my brother and I to watch The Empire Strikes Back. We got back home in time for tea and it just so happened that here in the Midlands at least, Buck Rogers was airing on Saturday afternoon/evenings in that teatime slot. I was quite a fan of the show; (it was colourful and fun and had great production values for the time. It also had Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), who frankly any pubescent boy would have a crush on. Actually, now that I think about it… Princess Leia, Wilma Deering… I needed to get out more, my teen crushes were clearly geeky. So anyway, having just seen the cutting-edge ILM wonders of TESB, it was rather unfortunate for Buck that this episode was (for the show) an effects showcase that featured an asteroid field and space battles that in no way compared with those of TESB. In fact, it only heightened the gap between an expensive television show of the time and an Hollywood blockbuster- nowadays its not as big a gap as you’d remember it was back then- back in the 1970s, you could drive an AT AT through that gap sideways. I had a hard time even sitting through it whilst my mind was still reeling from the latest adventures of Luke Skywalker and co. and that kinetic asteroid field sequence that was, ahem, decidedly rather static in Buck Rogers.

Poor Universal Heartland (I think it was them that handled the effects for those shows, if I remember rightly). They didn’t stand a chance against ILM. It’d be like pitting C-3PO against that robot in the new Lost in Space, old Goldenrod would be in bits before he could screech “oh my!”

But its funny, the other episodes of season one would come and go and be largely forgotten, but I never forgot watching that particular episode that suffered from that unfair comparison.

That being said… those glossy 1970s sets and skin-tight costumes and those jokes… the show hasn’t aged particularly well and it really does remind me of how far television genre shows have progressed in the years since. In that respect, its a fascinating watch just to see how much has changed. But fair play to the producers, making a sci-fi show back then with optical effects on a television budget and schedule was no mean undertaking, especially when such space stuff was still largely considered hokey and for the kids.  From the somewhat scary vantage point of the year 2018, there is something pretty endearing about old genre shows like this one.

Well, I never watched it for the effects or deeply thought-provoking plots back then anyway. I was watching it for Wilma, and she never disappointed. Erin Gray was like something from another planet to a Black Country boy in 1980- and I don’t mean like one of those pod things from Invasion of the body Snatchers. Here’s a curious piece of trivia (and if its not true, I don’t care) – she actually auditioned for the role of Captain  Janeway for Star Trek: Voyager and obviously didn’t get the part due to somebody’s reckless oversight. So there’s an alternate universe out there where Star Trek: Voyager is my favourite Star Trek show…

 

More Lost in Space (2018)

lost4Well I’ve finished season one of Netflix’s new version of Lost in Space and overall I’d say it was a considerable success. Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised. As I stated in my earlier post about the first half of the season, this show is never going to be high concept/genre-defining material- its light and easygoing but certainly none the worse for that. As it turned out, I honestly believe the second half of the season was stronger than the first and it all came together very well indeed. It told its story, had some great character arcs and teased a continuation with some wit and style. The production design was excellent throughout, and there were a few times that I thought ‘this is how a live-action Star Wars tv show should look like’. 

Whoa. Live-action Star Wars tv-show. Well, everyone knows it’s coming, but how strange to just write something down like that.  I remember when Star Wars films were something special, big event movies on a different level to what everyone else was doing- I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back one afternoon at the cinema, then going home and seeing an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on the telly. I appreciate its an unfair comparison, but it was the Buck Rogers episode where they flew into an asteroid field and the comparison was obvious, the gap between the two was huge. Nowadays the gap between tv and cinema isn’t as large as you’d think, and watching something like Lost in Space is a reminder of that. The sets and costumes were terrific and the effects pretty damn good. On tv. Sure, its Netflix so really it’s in some vague place between tv and cinema really, similar to where stuff like HBO’s Game of Thrones fits. But tv. The gap between tv shows and big cinema genre stuff isn’t that huge at all now (and I suppose Disney making so much Star Wars material lessens that whole Star Wars ‘event’ thing anyway), but still…

If only Babylon 5 could have had budgets and technology like shows have now. I remarked on this to my wife after the last episode of Lost in Space ended. B5 started all these big mult-season arcs and epic sagas on tv -arguably the one biggest advantage tv has over films, is simply running-time and what it affords- but it was hampered by a very limited indie-level production budget and cgi effects that, cutting-edge that they were at the time, are painfully limited now. If only Babylon 5 were made now, on something like Netflix or HBO or Amazon… wow.

I still cannot believe Warners has not opted to redo all the B5 effects in HD and remaster the show completely for a HD release. I’d but that sucker in a heartbeat.

But anyway, I’m rambling. Lost in Space was great fun. Well worth a  watch if you are after something light and easy, and I’m really looking forward to a second season and seeing where it goes from here. Sure, maybe it could have been better had it been more of a n edgier, intense show but it  deliberately wasn’t intended to be that kind of show. Its a great family show and while not perfect, its much better than it possibly has a right to be considering the premise. Quite a refreshing watch, really.

And the robot is great.