Review of Star Trek: Discovery

“We come in peace, that’s why we’re here. Isn’t that the whole idea of Starfleet?” — Comm. Michael Burnham

With all the heated rhetoric and division within fandom over “Star Trek: Discovery”, I wasn’t sure I wanted to weigh in. Plus, I’m sort of torn about it myself. But, ultimately, I thought I might find it cathartic to force myself to put my thoughts down. Besides, it’s just my opinion, and it isn’t worth any less than anyone else’s, so why not?

SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

I did an earlier review of the pilot episodes, essentially the prologue to the rest of the season. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to jump over and do that now, since this is sort of a “sequel” review, and there are a couple things addressed there that I won’t touch on here.

USS Discovery

I have to admit, they pulled off a couple of twists that I didn’t see coming. Take Captain Lorca, for instance. He definitely had an independent streak, and I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him dodge, if not outright disobey, his orders in order to carry out his agenda. I chalked this up to “realism” (in his mind, at least) and a bit more aggressive nature. But, of course, I had no idea what that agenda truly entailed until towards the end. I remember some fans commenting about him being mean, evil, even speculating that he was from the “Mirror” universe. Even after that scene when he held a phaser on Cornwell, I was more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he was overstressed and suffering from a form of PTSD. (She still should have thrown him in the brig.) Maybe I’m obtuse, or maybe I just didn’t want to see it, but I didn’t. And they — i.e., those other viewers — were right. (I was suspicious re the eye-sensitivity thing, though.) Still, I’m a bit disappointed to see Mirror Lorca go, ‘cuz he was an interesting character.

I was a little surprised that they went to the “Mirror” universe so soon, though. Were they — i.e., the writers/producers — so nervous about the show being able to establish itself on its own that they felt they needed to (re-)introduce a fan-favorite place/situation? Have to say, I enjoyed it, and it may indeed have helped. Also, bringing back Georgiou the way they did was very intriguing. I assume she will pop up on occasion in subsequent seasons, and I’m fine with that.

On the other hand, the changes to the Terran Empire’s fashion choices was a bit irritating. I commented on the Klingon and Starfleet uniforms in my earlier review. Regarding Starfleet, this article made some valid points about changes in uniform styles both in previous ST series and in real life military, so I suppose it makes sense that even the vaunted Terran Empire can fall victim to fashion trends.

Btw, my favorite Mirror version of the Discovery crew was young Captain “Killy”. I have to assume the real “Killy” is as deadly as she is ambitious, so she killed her way up the hierarchy very quickly. The TE uniform and straight blonde hair were quite flattering for “our” Cadet Tilly. I enjoy watching the brilliant-but-unsure “prime” Tilly — sweet girl — and appreciated seeing her grow a bit this season.

The other twist that both amazed and frustrated me was the fact that Ash Tyler was, in fact, Klingon. Not only that, he was Voq, the albino follower of T’Kuvma seen back in the pilot 2-parter. Some fans predicted this, but I refused to accept it. And, in a sense, I still refuse. I don’t care how they explained it, it’s too far a stretch for me to believe that Klingons would be capable of this level of sophisticated surgery and genetic manipulation. (Actually, I don’t buy the entire procedure being possible for any race, but, hey, this is science fiction, after all.) The explanations by L’Rell and Dr. Culber seemed to conflict somewhat. But, near as I can figure, L’Rell not only made Voq anatomically human (and a match for the captured Lt. Tyler) but somehow transformed his DNA, too. (That’s the kicker for me.) Then, she essentially copied Tyler’s consciousness and overlaid it onto Voq/new-Tyler’s mind, while programming the Voq personality to take control at the proper time. (Except, it didn’t quite go as planned.) This new body somehow showed no signs of the physical trauma of being remade, even at the genetic level? C’mon!! Frankly, it would have been more believable for L’Rell to have simply cloned Tyler and “inserted” a copy of Voq’s mind/memories to stay in the background and take control when required. Heck, if Voq was hellbent on punishing himself, he could’ve had his brain transplanted into a Tyler clone.

Voq / “Tyler”

That said, the Tyler/Voq character not only gave us an idea how fanatical his faction was, but it also had a lasting impact on Burnham and her own growth as a character. (Plus, although Tyler/Voq is no longer part of Starfleet, they left it open for him to appear in later episodes, which could prove interesting.) I was glad to see Burnham evolve as a character. How could she not from all that she experienced personally and professionally? We even got to see a little more emotion from her. (Not much, though. Not sure if that is due to the writing/character or the acting.) In the end, it appeared that she was able to forgive herself, or at least come to terms with what happened in the past, and accept reinstatement into Starfleet with rank returned.

Saru seems to have grown as a character, too. He is more confident in himself, less ready to run, which must take great willpower. His friendship with and trust in Burnham seems to have been restored, as well. This development also pleases me. (Did that sound slightly imperious?)

I didn’t like Stamets from the get-go. He was arrogant and abrasive. But,… as the season progressed, I became a bit more sympathetic to his situation — i.e., frustrations with his pet project and the fact it was co-opted by Starfleet. Stamets himself even seemed to soften just a bit through the various events, not least of which was the tragic loss of his partner, Dr. Culber. Hopefully, the character will continue to be more likable in the future.

I also hope we get to spend more time with and learn more about Detmer, Airiam, Owosekun, Rees, and Bryce — i.e., the rest of Discovery‘s recurring bridge crew — next season. That would be in line with the way the show was advertised as not focusing on senior officers, after all.

Of those major characters who were killed off (or, at least, one version of them was) in season 1, I am most disappointed about Rekha Sharma’s Commander Landry. Sharma has an impressive genre resume, including stints on “Smallville”, “Battlestar Galactica”, “V”, and “The 100”. I was looking forward to getting to know Discovery‘s small-but-dangerous (and somewhat abrasive) Security Chief, seeing what makes her tick, watching her interactions with the rest of the crew, etc. Alas, ’twas not to be.

I have mixed feelings about Harry Mudd. I liked that we got to see him, but I’m not sure I care for this harder-edged, vengeful, even bloodthirsty version of him. Gotta love a good time-loop story, though.

My comments on the writing will be fairly brief. It was a somewhat mixed bag, perhaps, but nothing near as bad as some critics claim. (In fact, the story improved as the season progressed.) I think some people just look for things to complain about. Were there predictable or confusing plot points? Occasionally. Did characters do or say dumb things? Undoubtedly. Were there better ways to develop and/or resolve some things. Perhaps. None of this is unique to “Star Trek: Discovery” or to any Star Trek series or to any series, period. Give the creators and crew time to find their footing, as it were. Besides, just think how much room for improvement there is! 😉

Of course, though I addressed them in my earlier review, I need to make a few additional comments about the primary canon issues….

The Klingons. What more can be said about the Disco-Klingons? There are elements of the old, familiar Klingons, but so much has changed. From their physical appearance to their fashion sense, these Klingons may as well be a whole new species. Some fans think people like me are complaining too much about this. They say, “Look at the previous changes in Klingon appearance. You accepted those!” Yes, but the distance (so to speak) between the Klingons that debuted in the original “Star Trek” and those that debuted in Star Trek III (1984) (and then used in subsequent TV series) was much shorter than between either of them and the Disco-Klingons. Plus, the prior changes have been explained satisfactorily (in DS9 and ENT, I believe), with the most human-looking version being a brief aberration, so it is series canon. And, while we must admit there are a few inconsistencies from previous series, it is best to stick to established canon whenever possible.

I have played with a few ideas of how to get either of the earlier versions of the Klingons to replace the current Disco-Klingons.

1) Perhaps the Klingon houses we’ve seen represented are one Klingon race, while the STIII/TNG version make up the other houses. Wipe out the former, and the latter can take over.

2) Some sort of DNA-rewriting drug or disease could infect the Disco-Klingons, changing them all over a few years to the STIII/TNG version. But, that wouldn’t explain why the one encountered by the NX-01 crew in the ENT pilot had the STIII/TNG look.

3) L’Rell and Tyler/Voq could go back in time several thousands of years, inadvertently cause the annihilation of the Disco-Klingons, and become the “Adam and Eve” of the new Klingon race, which looks like those in STIII/TNG. (I’ll leave it to Klingon historians to figure out how far back they’d have to go. Probably pre-Kahless.)

If nothing like any of these scenarios happens, then the sudden “re-imagining” of the Klingon race was, in my book, not only unnecessary but inexcusable.

In regards to the more advanced look of the ships and other technology, I can understand and accept a certain amount. For example, if they made the Starfleet ships look just a bit updated — say, something like the old Enterprise 1701 refit or 1701-A — and without the low-budget look of the original series, that would probably be acceptable. Keep the general designs and colors, so that everything is recognizable as belonging to the Prime universe. But, making everything look generations more advanced was a mistake, IMO, even if we’re pretty sure tech would actually look closer to that than to something clearly designed in the 1960s.

Similarly, it was a mistake to introduce cloaking technology and hologram communications at a time far earlier than they were introduced in established canon. (I talked about this more in my review of the pilot episodes.) These technologies aren’t limited to just one, experimental ship (see below), since we’ve seen multiple Klingon vessels now use the cloak and both Klingons and Starfleet using the holograms, rather than the (mostly) flatscreen viewers that were standard in all previous ST series. It might be possible to write out further use of cloaking technology (for a few years, anyway), but I don’t think that is feasible with regards to the holograms. If the new series’ creators were so set on using “new” tech, they probably should have set the show further in the future.

Stamets x 2 in mycelial network

As for the paradox of the spore-drive’s existence, I think there is still time to resolve it — if not in Season 2, then in a later one. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Discovery is an experimental ship using an experimental drive technology. There is no need to assume that it will get any further than that. When they were still using the giant tardigrade to navigate, I thought they might abandon the spore tech for ethical reasons. (I.e., “we can’t use it if it means having to effectively enslave these creatures.”) Once Stamets realized he could be the navigator, the situation changed. But, it obviously still has its dangers, not only to Stamets (or whoever else might be hooked into it) but there’s the possibility of damaging the mycelial network and unraveling hyperspace (or something like that). I suspect this will tie into whatever decision is made to cancel use of the spore-drive, especially after Burnham’s rousing speech about the Federation needing to stick to its principles.

About that speech… The “darker” nature of the season’s story arc and a certain amount of ethical ambiguity expressed by the words and actions of certain high-ranking Starfleet officers were among the turn-offs to many long-time Trek fans. I admit, it bothered me, too. But, it appears that that was all part of the writers’ plan, as the characters were brought to a situation of existential threat that forced them — thanks to Burnham’s actions — to take a hard look at what they stood for and what they were willing to do to “win”. In other words, this was a turning point in Federation and Starfleet history that led to the (hopefully) more consistent, honorable, shining example that we know from other ST series.

Of course, as this article reminds us, the people and events of the Star Trek universe — even Federation and Starfleet — have never been flawless or reached the ideals they strive for. Even our heroes are “human”.

Ultimately, I think it would have been fraught with many fewer problems — both in terms of canon violations and audience acceptance — if the producers had opted to go with a non-prequel series. Something concurrent with TNG/DS9/VOY might’ve worked, but I think fans (including me) are/were more than ready to boldly go into the 25th century or beyond. (See a few suggestions here.) The war aspect was another negative point for many (though it wasn’t the first time Star Trek did that), and I think longtime fans would prefer a return to focusing on exploration and first-contact situations. Maybe someday we’ll get it.

There are those fans and other viewers who have little-to-no respect for the idea of canon and the need to maintain consistency across stories told within a larger framework of people, places, and things. Such people will write me off as perplexing at best, but more probably with some degree of condescension. At the other end of the spectrum are hard-core Trekkies/Trekkers. These are more likely to have, in addition to a healthy respect for established canon, certain parameters of tone and adventure in their mind within with a “real” Star Trek series must operate. I am much more sympathetic to these fans, but I suspect some of them will just shake their heads and wonder how I can call myself a Trekkie/Trekker.

But, I have to call it the way I see it. I for one will continue to watch “Star Trek: Discovery”, because, in my assessment and for my particular sensibilities, the positives still outweigh the negatives. It might not feel or look quite like other Star Trek series (would it be wrong to quote IDIC here?), but it’s still Star Trek, and I’m willing to stick with it — at least, for now.

P.S. I realize that there are other aspects of “Star Trek: Discovery” that were inconsistent with established canon, like the use of the familiar delta symbol, which was supposed to be limited to the Constellation-class ships (or, maybe just Enterprise?) until later adopted for all Starfleet. Much as I like James Frain in the Sarek role, there are a few inconsistencies in his character compared with the older version portrayed by Mark Lenard. There’re also all the questions about inserting another sibling for Spock, which somehow never got mentioned in any other series or movies. Etc. But, I didn’t have the time or energy. You can read more about these issues and others here.

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Minecraft Religion

“Minecraft is so open any player can design a world, [a]nd whenever things are open, religious people tend to use it to express themselves.” — Vincent Gonzalez, creator of religiousgames.org

Many moons ago, I went through a phase where I played a lot of Tetris — to the point where I dreamed about it — and Duke Nukem. I also played some Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, and maybe a little Frogger and a couple others, way back when. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I never really got into gaming — not even when the more sophisticated stuff came out. My brother was into it for several years, so I would occasionally watch him play and talk about avatars and MMORPGs, while he would occasionally let me jabber on about comics. (I did get him to read a few, I think.)

As a member of the “Geeks Under Grace Community” Facebook group, I also see posts from others talking about various games and platforms, new and old, asking for recommendations, etc. I wouldn’t exactly say I have my finger on the pulse of the industry, since I don’t really know what’s going on and couldn’t tell you the difference between a PlayStation and an Xbox. But, it is a reminder of how big that industry has become and the many, many different types of computer games there are out there. Plus, the GUG Community predominantly consists of Christians (as hinted at by the “Under Grace” phrase), so it’s interesting to “hear” how my fellow-geeks integrate their Christian faith with their various geeky fandoms.

I suppose that was why I was intrigued by an article I came across from the Religion News Service by Kimberly Winston, who normally writes about atheism and freethought. It was about Minecraft — yes, I knew what it was… sorta — and, in particular, how many players express their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, through the “skins” and things they build in the game. (Forgive me if this is old news to you.)

As many of my readers probably know, Minecraft allows players to use virtual bricks to build “buildings, plants, people, anything, in mostly primary colors.” Some versions allow people to go on adventures, too. Many players who hold to various religions also use the game to discuss and otherwise express their beliefs, including creating religious figures (e.g., priests, monks, imams, rabbis, angels, Jesus) and both real and imagined places of worship and contemplation (e.g., churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, cathedrals), some of them quite complex. They also build whole cities and “Bible lands”. It turns out that Christianity is by far the most represented.

But, why do they do it?

“No one’s pastor is telling them the best way to minister to people is to pretend to be Jesus in a Minecraft world. So the question of why people want to dress up as Jesus and go around in Minecraft is hard to say.” — Vincent Gonzalez

There are a few theories. Gregory Grieve, a religious studies professor at UNC-Greensboro, has studied the phenomenon for decades.

“For most people, their virtual lives are an extension of their real lives. Among Christians it was a place for proselytizing and a place for meeting people they would not otherwise meet. People who are religious just see these games as an extension of their religious practice.”

 

Professor Rachel Wagner from Ithaca College has her own hypothesis.

“Even if they are ‘open’ in the sense of allowing players to construct entire worlds for themselves, as Minecraft does, games always offer spaces in which things make sense, where players have purpose and control. For players who may feel that the real world is spinning out of control, games can offer a comforting sense of predictability. They can replace God for some in their ability to promise an ordered world.”

Some have created faith-based Minecraft “servers”, where likeminded people can build and adventure together with a more specific set of rules (e.g., “no profanity”). For example, ChurchMag created a Christian-oriented Minecraft server for its community. According to editor Eric Dye,

“We can build things in it, like themed cities, and there is actually a church. It is not like we have church services or anything but it seemed something fun to have. It seemed fitting. That is why you see religion manifested in Minecraft — it is just an extension of people’s interests in what they create.”

As Spock would say, “Fascinating…”

So, my questions to you readers are, “Have any of you experienced, or even participated in, this sort of religious expression in Minecraft or other ‘open’ games? If so, did it seem odd to you or “natural”? Did it cause any sort of awkwardness among players?” Anything else you want to share, feel free. Thanks.

Inhumans Mini-Review and Fan-Cast

Yep, I did it! I watched the “Inhumans” mini-series.

I have to say, it didn’t suck as badly as I’d expected, based on some comments I’d read. But, it was very disappointing. As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve liked the Inhumans, especially the Royal Family, since their early appearances in the Fantastic Four comics. So, although I realize they might not be the easiest to adapt to live-action, what with the supersized dog and the leader/king who can’t speak (without destroying stuff, that is), I was still hoping for a decent show. So much for that idea…

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

Now, there were positive points. For example, I thought Lockjaw looked great, and his teleportation effect was cool, too. Other visual F/X were good, and they got the general color schemes for the characters right. Triton was surprisingly bad@$$. (I don’t remember him being so deadly in the comics, but then I haven’t read any Inhumans stories in several years.) What else? Um,… the girls were cute, and, uh,… I’m sure there was something else I liked….

One annoying thing I noted early on was when otherwise-intelligent people kept doing stupid things or *not* doing sensible things. For example, I realize that Black Bolt’s sign language would not have been understood by Americans, but why didn’t he at least try to communicate with the police? He (and his family) obviously knew a lot about some Earth things, including how to read/speak/understand English. Couldn’t he have written stuff down? Also, how did he not realize that stealing would bring attention from law-enforcement? Then there’s Medusa, who didn’t think to take Auran’s comm unit. Also, since she must have known of Auran’s incredible healing ability, why didn’t she make sure Auran was dead after their battle, or at least shackle or tie her up?

There were inconsistencies, too, like Gorgon’s boots being shaped like hoofs (as they should be), and then later just looking like normal boots.

The writing and acting was generally bad or lackluster. I’ve seen some of the actors before, and they didn’t suck then. So,… do we blame the director? Black Bolt in particular was odd. For one thing, I kept thinking I was watching Jim Caviezel, ‘cuz Anson Mount looks so much like him. Something about the set of the jaw and the eyes, I think. But, while Mount was forced to do much of his acting via his eyes, I’m afraid it just didn’t work. His range of expression seemed to be stuck between alarmed, frustrated, and just plain bewildered. (I don’t remember his performances in anything else, so I can’t say if he has displayed much more depth or range.)

And Maximus? I was really looking forward to a raving madman. After all, they don’t call him “Maximus the Mad” for nothing. But, what we got was a better-behaved Ramsay Bolton who just wanted to be one of the cool kids. Sigh!

Another disappointing thing was the limited displays of Medusa’s and Karnak’s powers. I think I read a critique somewhere that said her prehensile hair wasn’t a good effect, but I thought it was decent. In my opinion, shaving her hair off in the beginning, while a dramatic plot point (and true to a comic storyline, I think), was a bad move. We fans want to see Medusa (and her hair) in action! (Also, Serinda Swan looks <much> better with hair.) As for Karnak, they made a point of injuring him to reduce his amazing analytical abilities, which then gave him a crisis of confidence. Related to this was his limited fighting. Was this intentionally done, because Ken Leung has little-to-no martial arts ability? Again, I wanted to see Karnak the Shatterer kick butt! He had a couple OK scenes (though one took place mostly in the dark) — and it was kinda cool the way they showed him calculating trajectories and probabilities and such — but he could/should have been <so> much better. (Props for giving him the facial tats, but why no enlarged cranium?) Wish we had seen more of Triton, too. He must’ve been reveling in having all that water to swim in! And we didn’t get to see Black Bolt fly, either, dangit!

In the end, I suppose I would have chosen a different story that allowed everyone to better showcase their powers.

Alright, I’ve said enough about that. Now, I’d like to present my choices for if I were to cast the Inhumans Royal Family. I won’t get into Inhumans history or powers/abilities or (for the most part) the actors’ resumes, this time. Let me say up front that, as usual, I tried to stick to the general height (within reason) and build of the characters as seen in the comics. Also, I think Black Bolt is one of the oldest of the royal siblings & cousins, so I put him at mid-30s to 40. Crystal would be the youngest at early- to mid-20s. Everyone else should probably be late-20s to late-30s.

Philip Winchester

Nicole Steinwedell

I considered both Ryan McPartlin (6’4.5″,b.1975) and Eric Dane (6’1″,b.1972) for Black Bolt, but they’re both a little older than I preferred, and McPartlin’s a little too tall. So, I went back to someone I’ve recommended for other square-jawed hero roles: Philip Winchester (6’1″,b.1981). For Medusa, I wanted someone who could play both regal and compassionate queen, preferably redhead (though that’s going to be CGI, anyway), and (here’s the toughest part) tall. Either Eva Green (5’6″,b.1980) or Emily Beecham (5’5.25″,b.1984) would be great, except Marvel’s wiki puts Medusa at 5’11”. It is really tough to find good actresses in that height range. But,… though she is usually blonde, I think Nicole Steinwedell (5’11”,b.1981) fits the bill! (I even found a pic of her in a purple/violet dress!)

Roman Reigns

Nicholas Tse

The warrior Gorgon is tall (6’7″) and muscular, so I thought a wrestler might be a good choice. In fact, it didn’t take me long to realize that Joe Anoa’i (aka Roman Reigns) (6’3.25″,b.1985) is practically perfect. I mean, look at this guy! Put him in hoof-boots, and he might even reach 6’7″. Karnak, on the other hand, is a foot shorter and slimmer (though still muscular). It has never been clear to me if he is supposed to be Asian-looking. (Sometimes, he even looks French to me, for some reason.) But, that’s the way the series went with the character, and I agree. Jet Li (5’6.25″,b.1963) might’ve been a fair choice, but he’s too old and still has a thick accent. So, my vote is for Nicholas Tse (5’9″,b.1980), who is an actor & martial artist who happened to go bald for a recent part (see pic).

Andy On

Saoirse Ronan

Medusa’s baby sister, Crystal, is a pretty strawberry-blonde who clocks in at 5’6″. I decided to go with the talented Saoirse Ronan (5’6″,b.1994), known for her work in Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna, all before she turned 17. She could certainly play young Crystal with some depth. (Coincidentally, in recent years Crystal was married to (and subsequently separated from) Ronan the Accuser, the Kree warrior/judge.) As for Karnak’s older brother, the water-breathing Triton, I opted for another martial artist/actor: Andy On (5’11”,b.1977). (I would’ve considered him for Karnak, but he’s too tall.) He is a little older than I’d like for the role, but he has the right build, and I think he can easily pass for 30-something.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we have Black Bolt’s younger brother and intermittent enemy, the evil and treacherous Maximus. I saw someone else fan-cast Joaquin Phoenix (5’8″,b.1974), who coincidentally played ‘Commodus’ to Russell Crowe’s ‘Maximus’ in Gladiator. While a little older and shorter than preferred, I agree that he could’ve been a great Maximus the Mad. While Maximus has had a number of different looks (i.e., costume, armor, hair, build), it was a more recent version (rightmost pic above) that made me think of Dominic Rains (6′,b.1982). If Rains looks familiar, it is because — and here’s another one of those interesting connections — he has been playing the evil (insane?) Kree overlord/station-commander, Kasius, on the current season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, who creates Inhumans for his own entertainment and profit. Perfect, no?

Rains as Kasius

Dominic Rains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that is an Inhumans movie/series I would love to see!

This concludes our review/fan-cast combo for the Inhumans Royal Family. Hope ya liked it! Don’t be afraid to leave a relevant comment below….

Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 1 of 3

My, how time flies!

It really is amazing to think back at all of the many books, comics, TV shows, and films from the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure genres that I have enjoyed over the decades. And those are just the ones I liked! There are plenty more that I never knew of, didn’t have a chance to sample, or just never interested me, but others have enjoyed them. It is even more amazing to consider how far back these genres reach, especially when you include genres like Gothic horror, Victorian sleuths, “travellers’ tales”, and other early adventure novels. Even further, if you go back to the fantastic myths and legends of old, from the pagan pantheons and tales of “brave Ulysses” to those of King Arthur and Robin Hood.

Not long ago, I became aware of a few of the more “modern” stories & characters that were having notable anniversaries this year. (Well, really just some multiple of 5, to be honest.) I tracked down a few more and decided to present brief comments on each, spread out over three, non-consecutive posts. Beginning with the most recent and working our way backwards, we have…

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993): 25 years

Debuting Jan. 3, 1993, DS9 was the third live-action TV series — fourth series overall, including the animated one — of the über-successful Star Trek franchise. It was unusual for a number of reasons. For one, it took place primarily on a space station rather than a ship, which was a somewhat daring move for CBS/Paramount. Previous series (and movies) had always been centered on a ship named “Enterprise”. Could this new setting really work? Would fans accept it? Much of the general tone and many storylines were a bit “darker” than fans were used to with previous series. Flawed characters, along with recurring themes of war and moral ambiguity, were of particular concern. Some people are still turned off by that, while many others have come to embrace the differences. It was the first Star Trek series to air without the involvement of ST’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, and some claim it goes against his vision. Indeed, Roddenberry is on record as having expressed some reservations early on, but he eventually signed off on it before his death in 1991. The show also had a Black man as the senior officer, which was still a bit of a risk back then and all the more a triumph in the show’s success.

Me? I loved the show. I mean, it was more Star Trek, and it even started before The Next Generation was over! Like with any new show, it took a bit of getting used to, but the writers and cast all found their groove. (Not that every episode was a gem, of course.) I got used to the idea of most action taking place on a space station (and one with a nasty history at that), as opposed to a space-warping starship of exploration. It made for different types of stories, while maintaining the overall feel and shared history of Roddenberry’s universe with The Federation, Starfleet, and other familiar organizations and races. The characters grew on me and many other viewers, and they became just as beloved as those from earlier Star Trek series.

DS9 may not have been quite as popular as its predecessor series, but it was nominated for many awards and even won a few. It’s a little hard to believe it has been 25 years since it premiered, though!

Babylon 5 (1993): 25 years

The regular series actually premiered Jan. 26, 1994, but the property debuted with the TV movie Babylon 5: The Gathering on Feb. 22, 1993. Audiences were introduced to several of writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski’s beloved characters — i.e., Cmdr. Jeffrey Sinclair, Michael Garibaldi, Lyta Alexander, and ambassadors Delenn, Mollari, G’Kar, and the mysterious Kosh. Others — i.e., Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova, Vir, Talia Winters — first appeared in the series premiere, while still others — e.g., Dr. Stephen Franklin, Lennier, Na’Toth, Capt. John Sheridan, Zack Allan, Marcus Cole, Bester — would not show up until later episodes, even later seasons.

Although DS9 debuted first, Straczynski (aka JMS or “Joe” to the fans) had shopped his concept around in the ’80s, and there was some controversy over whether or not the Star Trek folks had ripped off the idea. Personally, I didn’t think the similarity went very far past centering on a strategically-located space station frequented by various star-faring races. That basic idea had been done many times before in sci-fi in various media. Plus, it just seemed like an unnecessary cause of strife between fans who thought they had to favor one over the other. I liked both.

Besides, there were other differences that set B5 apart, like the fact that it was the first series planned from the start to have an overarching, 5-year arc, with long-term narrative threads. The dramatic setting was an elaborately constructed, fictional future, implemented with great care for detail, diversity, and history. The grown-up, character-driven storylines were often deep and thought-provoking, while the aliens and their ships were some of the best-designed in the industry. The show garnered multiple awards over the years, mostly for the writing and the groundbreaking CGI effects. It is no wonder that many Babylon 5 fans rival those of Star Trek, Star Wars, or Doctor Who, in their “intensity” and loyalty.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983): 35 years

This second sequel to the original Star Wars (aka A New Hope), was actually declared to be Episode VI, since it completed the middle trilogy of an originally-envisioned trio of trilogies. (Though, I have also heard that creator George Lucas said, no, it was just the first two trilogies, and he didn’t expand his story ideas until later. Or, something like that.) Continuing the blockbuster Star Wars series, RotJ (aka simply “Jedi”) added to its menagerie of alien creatures, planets, technology, and lore. It showed us Han Solo’s fate (from the Empire Strikes Back cliffhanger), the blossoming romance of Solo and Princess Leia, the latest efforts of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, and the continued Jedi training and maturing of the now cybernetically-enhanced Luke Skywalker, culminating in his confrontation with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine.

While generally not rated as highly as the first two films of the franchise (especially among those who find Ewoks annoying), RotJ was nevertheless a fairly satisfying conclusion to that first three-part story arc. I, for one, look back on it fondly as an enjoyable part of my teen years.

Battlestar Galactica (original series) (1978): 40 years

Creator/producer Glen A. Larson finally got financial backing for his Mormon-influenced sci-fi concept — originally called “Adam’s Rib” — thanks to the success of the original Star Wars. Yes, this was the ’70s, so some of the writing was a bit hokey, and the tech looks almost as laughable to our 21st-century eyes as that of the original Star Trek and others from the ’60s and prior. But, it was a big-budget science-fiction show that took place far from Earth, had spaceships, robots, a few alien creatures, cool F/X, and it was just a lot of fun for young genre fans like me. The series only lasted one full season, debuting Sep. 17, 1978, and ending on Apr. 29, 1979. If you’re “old” like me, you might remember that they then showed a condensed version of the 3-hour pilot as a movie at theaters starting May 18, 1979. (Technically, this was also how it premiered — in Canadian theaters — before the TV series began.)

I recently finished re-watching the whole original “Battlestar Galactica” series for the first time in, well, nearly 40 years! For its era, it actually holds up pretty well. (It even won “Best New TV Drama Series” at the 1979 People’s Choice Awards.) The writing and acting weren’t too bad, really, especially when compared to its ill-conceived spin-off, “Galactica 1980”. I’m working my way through that later one now, and while I enjoy seeing a few familiar faces and the flying motorcycles are cool, let’s just say I’m glad there were only 10 episodes. (I sure did love it as a kid, though!)

OK, that’s it for Part 1. I’ll continue some time next month with a few more anniversaries of note. ‘Til then…

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from ’70s Action Shows, part 2 of 2

As promised, this week we continue our nostalgic countdown — or is it a countup? — of 1970s-premiering cops/detectives TV shows that had particularly cool, memorable theme songs. You ready to lay down some happenin’ tunes? Groovy!

Let’s get to it…

 

11) The Rockford Files (1974-1980)

 

12) Police Woman (1974-1978)

 

13) S.W.A.T. (1975-1976)

 

14) Baretta (1975-1978)

 

15) Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979)

 

16) Quincy, M.E. (spun off from “The NBC Mystery Movie”) (1976-1983)

 

17) Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981)

 

18) CHiPs (1977-1983)

 

19) Vega$ (1978-1981)

 

20) Return of the Saint (1978-1979)

 

So, whaddayathink? Feel like chillaxin’ with some ’70s cop-show goodness? Or, maybe in the mood to boogie at the local disco? (Good luck with that.) Anyways…

I gotta split, dudes ‘n dudettes. Peace out!

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from ’70s Action Shows, part 1 of 2

Great shows with great songs!

Last year, you may remember that I did a pair of posts listing my “Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series” (parts 1 and 2). Most of them had a sci-fi or superhero/spy bent to them, but there were a few from shows about cops and private detectives, too. And that’s what I want to focus on in this post and the next. Specifically, I noticed that a lot of great TV series that centered on police and/or P.I.’s came out in the 1970s, and a lot of them had great theme songs, too. (Well, assuming you dig the ’70s groove!)

Of course, the downside to limiting myself to those that debuted in the ’70s means that several other worthies that actually debuted in the ’60s — e.g., Ironside (1967-1975), Mannix (1967-1975), The Mod Squad (1968-1973), It Takes a Thief (1968-1970) — aren’t included. (Maybe another time.) Still, there’s plenty of great stuff here to remind you of or introduce you to, and I hope you enjoy checking out these themes (and maybe the shows themselves) as much as I did. Pretty cool seeing famous, now-older (or dead) stars from their younger days, too!

Let’s begin…

1) Dan August (1970-1971)

 

2) The Persuaders! (1971-1972)

 

3) The NBC Mystery Movie (i.e., rotating stars Columbo, McCloud, McMillan & Wife, etc.) (1971-1977)

 

4) The Rookies (1972-1976)

 

5) The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977)

 

6) Banacek (1972-1974)

 

7) Barnaby Jones (1973-1980)

 

8) Kojak (1973-1978)

 

9) The Magician (1973-1974)

 

10) Shaft (1973-1974)
— extended intro, w/ music beginning about 30 seconds in and singing by Isaac Hayes (and the ladies) about 3 minutes in

 

Far out! I’ll see you cats next week!

Do These Marvel Superteams Deserve Movies?

“Well, if DC ain’t gonna make us a good Justice League movie any time soon, why not let Marvel take a crack at it.” — Hunter Rasmussen, writing at DailySuperheroes

Love ’em, hate ’em, or in between, we’ve had a lot of comic book characters and teams adapted for TV and film over the past couple decades, and we have plenty more in the offing. But, naturally, we all have some favorite(s) that haven’t made it to live-action, yet. (“Invincible”, anybody?)

I came across an article titled “10 Marvel Superteams Who Deserve Movies” by Hunter Rasmussen at DailySuperheroes. (He purposely excluded “any official Avengers or X-Men teams” in order to simplify things and spotlight lesser-known groups.) I thought I’d give my 2 cents’ worth in response to Rasmussen’s suggestions. So, following his ordering…

10. New Warriors: Rasmussen referred to his favorite version of the team (pre-Civil War) as “incredibly wonderful,… charming and funny”, and he thinks a “straight up comedy” New Warriors film would work best. Much as I liked them back in the day, I’m not so sure this team (in any version) has the popularity to draw crowds to the theater. But, an action-comedy is probably the best bet, imho. Also, remember that Freeform is developing a half-hour action-comedy NW series (starring Squirrel Girl), which will likely debut this year.

Cover art for Exiles, vol. 2, #1

9. Exiles: Hmmm. I enjoyed this comic series, but my initial reaction to making it into a film was negative. However, I am warming up to the idea. The fact that it involves characters from various Marvel realities & timelines traveling from one reality/timeline to another could make for an interesting movie plot and fun action, while also keeping it separate from the main Marvel properties. OK, I’m in!

8. Alpha Flight: I love me some Alpha Flight (especially the original John Byrne incarnation), and I would love to see a faithful adaptation to either small- or big-screen. It would be best to have some link to the X-Men (even if merely referenced in dialogue or some other Easter eggs), as there is in the comics. But, the plot could be something totally unrelated to Wolverine or the other mutants. (Of course, a Logan cameo would be awesome.) Plus, I’m sure our Canadian friends would appreciate seeing their government-sanctioned home team get the live-action treatment.

7. X-Factor Investigations: This comic series was about Jaime Madrox, the Multiple Man, leading a detective agency made up of various X-people not currently on the usual mutant superteams. I read a few issues and agree that it has a lot of promise for adaptation. In fact, a few years ago I mentioned it as a potential live-action, X-Men-related TV series. More recently, it was announced that James Franco would be starring as Madrox in a solo film. Whether or not X-Factor Investigations or any of those characters will be in the film is unknown at this time.

6. MI-13: I had trouble remembering this one, as it has been many years since I read any of the relevant comics. As Rasmussen summarized, “MI-13 is the British equivalent of Alpha Flight… a governmental agency that can call on any and all British superheroes.” Not exactly, but close enough. This opens up many possibilities for characters, plots, and locales to use that are more UK- and Euro-centric. Part superhero team, part intelligence agency, and part paranormal investigations, this organization could indeed be the basis for a cool movie or three.

5. Young Avengers: According to Rasmussen, this doesn’t count as an “official” Avengers team, since it was unsanctioned. Personally, I like most of the characters, and there some good material available for stories. But,… part of the reason it works in the comics is because of the various connections to Marvel’s big name Avengers (e.g., Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye), as well as supervillain Kang the Conqueror, which aren’t there in the film universe. I just don’t see how it would work. Maybe in another 10-20 years?

4. Squadron Supreme: I was quite fond of the JLA-like Squadron — originally, the Squadron Sinister — from another Earth in my youth. It had some fun characters (especially the Superman-analog, Hyperion, and the simple-minded Shape) and explored some intriguing ideas (e.g., what if the JLA took over the world?). I haven’t read any newer stuff, but it sounds like not much has changed. As Rasmussen says, “Squadron is about how power corrupts and at what point we should question authority. And, holy heck, would it make a great stand-alone movie. No MCU connections needed. So good.”

3. Thunderbolts: On the one hand, this was an enjoyable series with some cool characters and an interesting, unusual premise — i.e., supervillains masquerading as superheroes, who (mostly) then decide to really go legit. The fact that criminal-turned-hero Hawkeye stepped in to lead them was icing on the cake. I agree with Rasmussen that the members’ internal struggles made for some great character-growth in a fun redemption tale. (I seem to remember later issues veering away from this somewhat.) But, I’m not convinced that it would translate so well to the big-screen without the villains’ histories being established, as they had been for many years in the comics.

2. The Sinister “Six”: Rasmussen isn’t referring to any of the original villains that made up this team and which were slated to be in the apparently-shelved Sinister Six film. Rather, he wants to see live-action versions of a relatively new incarnation of the team, as seen in the comic series Superior Foes of Spider-Man (2013). He calls it “the funniest and best written Marvel comic in recent memory.” I have no idea, since I am totally unfamiliar with it. But, in principle, I am less optimistic that a team of D-list supervillains could draw any but the most die-hard Marvel fans.

1. The Runaways: As I’ve mentioned before, I liked this comic series about likable, gifted teens on the run from their supervillain parents. It has definite potential. But, I think the story works better as a regular- or mini-series for the small-screen, rather than as a movie. Much more time to develop characters and plot. Apparently, Marvel agrees with me, since they developed that very series with Hulu, and 9 out of 10 episodes have already aired as of this writing. I haven’t watched it, yet, but I hope to soon. (Probably after Season 1 of “The Gifted” finishes up.)

In summary, then, I think there are various reasons why several teams on Rasmussen’s wishlist wouldn’t work out as movies. But, Exiles, Alpha Flight, MI-13, and Squadron Supreme have the most promise as do-able, live-action adaptations of lesser-known Marvel superteams that need only maintain tangential connections to the rest of Marvel’s cinematic adventures. Is anyone at Marvel/Fox/Disney listening? Helloooooo?

P.S. Incidentally, if you’re wondering what Marvel properties I think would make good TV series, check out “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 1 of 2)” and “7 Marvel Properties that Should Be on TV (Part 2 of 2)”.

Artist Appreciation Day: Greg Horn

About 18 months ago, I did my first “Artist Appreciation Day” post on Alex Ross. I’m long overdue to post another, so I’m gonna squeeze one in before 2017 closes out, OK?

I can’t quite remember the first piece of Greg Horn’s that I saw, but it was very early on when he hit the “big time” doing covers for Marvel Comics. I think it was probably one of his Elektra covers (see below). His clean lines, rich colors, often intense expressions (on his characters, not him), and, of course, gorgeous women have all made him a fan-favorite cover artist for many years. He does work outside of comics, too, so you might recognize his trademark style in advertising, magazines, novels, board and video games, etc.

Here are a few (mostly comics-oriented) pieces that showcase Horn’s talent. (I kept it PG-rated.) Since he is probably most known for his Marvel work, I’ll start there…

Elektra

She-Hulk

Three Avengers

The Power (and Snarl) of Galactus

Skrull reveals from Secret Invasion

Spider-Man

Wolverine

Ms. Marvel

 

Here’s a fun “Movie Opener” he did for Wizard Magazine a few years ago…

 

Now for some DC love…

DC’s triumvirate

Bat w/ cape and ‘scrapers

Joker & Harley, everyone’s fave homicidal clowns

 

And a few miscellaneous…

Legolas for PSM

Ghost Wars for HIP

Lebron James for ESPN Gamezone

 

If you want to see more of Horn’s digital paintings, start with his website. (Fair warning, though: The design is terrible, and a few of the links don’t work.) Of course, you can also throw his name into your search engine and see what comes up.

In case I don’t put up a separate post, let me wish you a “Happy New Year!”, and I’ll see you all on the other side….

Top 5 (Sorta, Kinda) Christmas Movies

“Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas.” — John McClane, Die Hard 2

For whatever reason(s), I have never been a big fan of “classic” Christmas movies (e.g., It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol) Once upon a time, I’m pretty sure I saw It’s A Wonderful Life all the way through; probably some version of A Christmas Carol, too. They are certainly great stories, and I can see the old-timey appeal. Still, I rarely-if-ever have a desire to watch them — especially the black-n-white stuff. I’m just not that sentimental, and I rarely go for “heartwarming”. I don’t care for a lot of what passes for humor these days, either, so National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (or any NL films, for that matter) are off my list. A Christmas Story is a modern classic, but I think I only ever watched part of it. May have to give it another try….

What I have for you today, though, are a few of my favorite genre films that, while not exactly “Christmas movies”, they do take place on or around Christmas. As The A.V. Club’s Zack Handlen calls them, they are “Christmas-adjacent” films. The holiday aspects may factor into some scenes, but the plot or “message” is hardly of a Yuletide flavor, either secular or religious. I like them because they are fun, genre flicks, regardless of any Christmas connection.

So,… shall we begin?

Young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is stranded at home by himself, while his large family goes on Christmas vacation in Europe unknowingly Kevin-less. When two bungling crooks attempt to burglarize the supposedly empty house, they have no idea who or what they’re up against in the mischievously creative 10-year-old. I doubt director Chris Columbus or Fox knew the hit they would have on their hands, either, or the near-iconic status Home Alone (1990) would reach. What a lot of people forget about now, though, is the Christmas link. (I vaguely thought I remembered it but had to verify.) Obviously, this is not exactly sci-fi/fantasy, but it does sort of fit the action-adventure genre (at purely PG levels), which is why I included it in this list. I wouldn’t recommend it for younger kids or those who already tend to get into trouble, but it is fun for us older kids. Time for me to throw it on the re-watch list!

The (mis)adventures of L.A. cops Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon (1987) surely launched stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover to superstar status. (Although, Gibson had already hit it big with the Mad Max franchise, and Glover had done The Color Purple and a couple other notable films.) It was the first of four movies in the film series, which eventually led to a now-airing TV series. The somewhat eccentric Gary Busey’s role as the formidable villain “Mr. Joshua” probably helped his career, too, for a time. The film is an ’80s action classic and beloved by millions. But, sometimes we forget that the events of the movie occurred around Christmas-time. Remember the wreaths at the police station, and the tree, lights, etc., at Murtaugh’s house? Heck, the music accompanying the opening credits is “Jingle Bell Rock”! Anyway, an awesome, action-packed, genre-defining, Christmas-adjacent buddy-flick!

I love the Rocky films! (Well, less so the last two.) The blood, sweat, and tears, but also the themes of personal growth, perseverence, integrity, redemption, pressing on despite tragedy, etc. Of course, I always get a thrill when good-guy Rocky “rises up” to teach the arrogant “bad guy” a lesson. Finally, the theme music in these films is terrific! (The main theme and “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III are the best!) Of course, Rocky IV (1985) also introduced us to Dolph Lundgren as the towering Soviet fighter Ivan Drago (aka “The Siberian Express”), whose devastating punching power later earned him the nickname “Death from Above”. Not only was the movie a great action-drama, but it served as a fun microcosm for the U.S.A. vs Soviet Union of the late Cold War era. But, let’s not forget that the film’s unsanctioned fight in the Soviet Union took place on Christmas Day, and we can see the decorations at the Balboa home back in the States. Счастливого Рождества!

Yep, Gremlins (1984) is a Christmas-adjacent movie, and shame on you if you forgot.

Keep him out of the light, don’t get him wet, and never, ever feed him after midnight! If ever there was an object lesson for the importance of following instructions, this would be it. Alas, when young Billy got his new pet Mogwai, he wasn’t very careful and, um, bad stuff happened. Namely, he unleashed a horde of diminutive but “malevolently mischievous monsters” on his home town. Naturally, it is all played to comedic effect, even when property is destroyed and people are seriously injured or even (presumably) killed. That’s why the film, which spawned a sequel a few years later, is classified as “Comedy, Fantasy, Horror”. It’s a somewhat unusual mix, but it fits, and it works for this particular adventure in scary-silly violence and wanton destruction. Featured talent include Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Judge Reinhold, Keye Luke, and Hoyt Axton. And, yes, it’s Christmas, as evidenced by, for example, the opening credits over scenes of the holiday-festooned center of town, Christmas trees being bought and decorated, and all accompanied by the sounds of Christmas seasonal tunes. (“Baby, come home…!”)

There was no way I could do this list without including every action fan’s favorite “Christmas movie”, Die Hard (1988). Bruce Willis’ turn as the perpetually-smirking, smart-mouthed, tough-as-nails NYPD cop, John McClane, earned him the love and respect of a generation. It was a role he was made to play, and I’m sure he has (mostly) loved playing him in all five films in the franchise. (There is a rumored sixth on the way, too.) There are also memorable performances by Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, et al., as well. Of course, as fans of the film know, the action begins when McClane flies to L.A. on Christmas vacation to join his wife at her company’s Christmas party. Mayhem ensues when a group of well-armed, yet high-tech, thieves take everyone (except McClane) hostage, while they carry out a major heist. Or, try to, ‘cuz McClane starts kickin’ butt (and punching and shooting everything else) and generally ruining the bad guys’ Christmas. Yippee-ki-yay!! (P.S. The first sequel, Die Hard 2 (1990), is equally entertaining, imho, and also takes place around Christmas. So, consider it packaged in with the original on this list.)

OK, I decided to throw in a couple bonuses that are more… traditional:

I’m not really a Will Ferrell fan. Most of his stuff is just too silly for me. And his “Buddy” character in Elf (2003) is incredibly silly, naive, etc. So, why do I like this movie? Despite it all, “Buddy” is still somehow charming and lovable, as the big-hearted goof who retains the child-like innocence most of us have lost and need to get in touch with again. Or, something like that. Throw in wonderful performances by the enchanting Zooey Deschanel, Bob Newhart, James Caan, Peter Dinklage, and others, and you have a wonderful, feel-good movie for the holidays. (Plus, I just love the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” scene.)

 

Now, The Nativity Story (2006) is neither action-adventure nor sci-fi/fantasy. (Though, I’m sure some would say the source material is, at least in part, fantasy. I disagree.) However, perhaps the supernatural aspect of the virgin birth and later events in the story of Jesus of Nazareth are sufficient to qualify it here. Still, my appreciation for it lies in that it is one of the most historically accurate and true-to-the-source-material of films based on events described in the Bible. It’s not perfect, but it comes close. It is well-done, and the casting does not suffer from “whitewashing”. Genre fans will also like that it features Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ciarán Hinds, and Alexander Siddig.

There are several more Christmas-adjacent movies, of course, and I’ve even seen and enjoyed a few — e.g., Batman Returns, Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Edward Scissorhands, L.A. Confidential, et al. In fact, those five I just mentioned might very well go on the list (though probably not in that order), if I expanded it to a Top 10. What are some of your favorites? (Check out this handy list for some help.)

Oh, yes,… “Welcome to the party, pal!”

Review of The Punisher (Netflix Series)

I realize that most interested parties have probably already watched the show weeks ago, but I just finished it last week and wanted to throw a few thoughts out there. If you haven’t watched it, yet, beware that there may be a few SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

I’m gonna be honest and say up front that this wasn’t the Punisher I wanted to see. Jon Bernthal (5’11”,b.1976) obviously bulked up for the role to add a little muscle and definition. However, in addition to being shorter than I’d like — Marvel’s wiki lists the character at 6’3″ — he wasn’t nearly as broad-shouldered and beefy as I feel Frank Castle should be. At least, that’s how he is usually drawn in the comics. (The same criticism goes for Thomas Jane (5’10”,b.1969), who nevertheless played a convincing Castle in 2004’s The Punisher.) It’s part of what makes him so physically intimidating.

This version, while sufficiently bad@$$ and coldly efficient in the midst of battle, too often (over the course of the series) revealed him to be vulnerable and even unsure of himself. I suppose this effort to “humanize” the character is understandable, if Netflix is hoping to maintain a broad(er) audience. His missing his family and repeated nightmares about their deaths are also understandable, especially if that tragedy only happened a year(?) or so earlier. I certainly don’t mind watching a hero, even a violent vigilante, struggling emotionally with trauma or his “mission”. But, what I would have preferred to see was less vulnerability and… whatever else that was, and more hard-edged, laser-focused planning, hunting, and slaughtering of bad guys. Granted, there was some of that, and it was great. But, there should’ve been more of it. (Heck, there was even one episode where Frank wasn’t involved in any fights!)

As for the villains of the piece, while it was a somewhat interesting story, the whole corrupt-CIA-and-psycho-veterans thing was tired, cliche, and seemed like a bit of a copout. The fact that it was mostly tied to Castle’s past and the death of his family made some sense, I suppose. But (and I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised), they changed part of his “origin story” drastically. The comics version, as many of you know, was that Frank’s family was slaughtered in Central Park by some overzealous Mafia gunmen. Frank survived but couldn’t get justice through the system, so he adopted the ‘Punisher’ persona in his “one-man war on crime” to eliminate as many mobsters, drug dealers, etc., as he could. THAT is the story I wanted and expected to see in this series. We saw a bit of it in season 2 of “Daredevil”, and early on in “The Punisher” he killed several members of the Nucci crime family. So, I am hoping that this will be followed-up on in season two of “The Punisher” (assuming there is one).

We already knew from things like “The Walking Dead”, Fury, and Baby Driver, that Jon Bernthal can play tough, intense, bad@$$ characters. And he did a fine job in that respect in “The Punisher”. However, his performance at times was so reminiscent of his co-star from “The Walking Dead”, Andrew Lincoln, that I had to look twice to make sure it was Bernthal. (Rick? Is that you?) On another note, his yelling/roaring at times while firing a machine gun was too much like Rambo (or some other Stallone or Schwarzenegger character), and it annoyed me. I will also say that I prefer Bernthal with a regular (though short) haircut and not the supershort, nearly bald look, or shaved on the sides.

Revah, Bernthal, Barnes, Moss-Bachrach

The David “Micro” Lieberman character (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) was done well, yet his departures from the comic version — starting with the overweight computer hacker “Microchip” Lieberman becoming a lanky CIA analyst who is presumed dead — bugged me. The chief bad guys — Agent Orange / Rawlins (Paul Schulze) and Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) — were well-played and sufficiently detestable, particularly Russo’s betrayal. The Agent Madani character (Amber Rose Revah) was good at times, yet annoying at others. The sex scenes between her and Russo were gratuitous. I really liked the supporting character of Curtis Hoyle, played by Jason R. Moore, and I hope to see him again. (Maybe Moore will show up in something else, too.) The rest of the supporting characters were pretty good, too, especially the always enjoyable Jaime Ray Newman. The sub-plot with Lewis Walcott (Daniel Webber) was somewhat irritating, but I think that was partially due to Webber, who often plays this type of disturbed/ing character. (E.g., Lee Harvey Oswald in “11.22.63”.)

Despite these faults, overall it was a pretty good solo outing for ol’ Frank. As hinted at before, the firefights and hand-to-hand combat scenes were bloody, intense, and generally satisfying for this action-lover. (Not quite as good as those in “Daredevil”, but decent.) The acting ranged from satisfactory to quite good, and the plot, though not great or without holes, was definitely passable. I also liked the opening theme music, which somehow fit the tone of the show quite well.

For what it’s worth, I’m one of those people who liked “Luke Cage” (I love big, superstrong guys) better than “Jessica Jones” (I generally dislike surly, cynical drunks). That said, I would rate “The Punisher” about the same as Cage — roughly a B, maybe B+.