“STAR TREK VOYAGER: Love on a Starship”

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“STAR TREK VOYAGER: LOVE ON A STARSHIP”

I am not going to deceive myself and pretend that the relationship between Captain Kathryn Janeway and her First Officer, Commander Chakotay, lacked any chemistry. Of course there had been chemistry. Even a blind person could have sensed the chemistry between them just by listening to their dialogue. But while I will admit the enormous dynamics between the two characters, I never could see the possibility of a “happily ever after” for them. Not while the pair served as the command team of the U.S.S. Voyager.

When many “STAR TREK VOYAGER” fans had first started speculating upon the possible futures for the main characters during the series’ early Season Seven, for some reason I had foreseen a tragic ending in the Janeway/Chakotay relationship. I figured that the Captain or the First Officer would bite the dust in the finale, leaving the others to mourn and regret their decision not to pursue a romance during Voyager’s nearly seven years in the Delta Quadrant. This feeling was reinforced in the episode, (7.11) “Shattered”, when Season Seven Chakotay not only revealed the lack of romance in their relationship to the Season One Janeway, but also expressed regret in his words . . . and tone:

JANEWAY: Mind if I ask you one last question?
CHAKOTAY: Will I have to break the Temporal Prime Directive to answer it?
JANEWAY: Maybe, just a little. For two people who started off as enemies it seems we get to know each other pretty well, so I’ve been wondering. Just how close do we get?
CHAKOTAY: Let’s just say there are some barriers we never cross.

Both Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway) and the series’ producers had expressed opposition against an affair between Janeway and Chakotay. They have repeatedly stated that it would not be appropriate for the two to get involved in a romance. At first, I had believed that she, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor and later, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller were being obtuse. Now that I have had a chance to think about it, I have managed to see their point of view. They were right. A romance between Janeway and Chakotay could have led to many problems.

I have never believed that a good idea for someone in a position of power to have a romance with a subordinate. If you think that it is difficult for equals to maintain a relationship, it might be doubly so for a superior and his/her subordinate. There is a great deal of potential for resentment from one partner, subjugation from the other and manipulation from both sides. Chakotay’s relationship with Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’Elanna Torres, is a mild example of this. I had been one of those fans who had been relieved by the quiet death of B’Elanna’s infatuation with the First Officer by late Season Two. Do not get me wrong. Chakotay was a fine First Officer. Frankly, I have always felt that he was one of the best in the entire “TREK” franchise. But he had an unfortunate habit of dealing with B’Elanna’s temperament by inflicting his will upon her, using his position as her superior officer. I am not saying that Chakotay did not have the right to behave this way toward B’Elanna. After all, he was Voyager’s First Officer. But he was also supposed to be one of B’Elanna’s closest friends. If he and B’Elanna had such moments during their “friendship”, can you imagine how damaging this would have been to any romance that may have sprung between them? Remember when I had mentioned the possibility of resentment? Well, even B’Elanna eventually expressed her resentment of being chastised by Chakotay in the Season Five episode, (5.21) “Juggernaut”:

CHAKOTAY: Your concerns are noted. Get them inoculated. We’ll meet you in Transporter Room one. We’re trying to avoid explosions, remember?
TORRES: Not another lecture about my emotions.
CHAKOTAY: No, a lecture about how to treat guests aboard this ship.
TORRES: Guests? Chakotay, these people are the scourge of the quadrant.
CHAKOTAY: Agreed, but right now they’re our only hope of repairing that freighter, so I suggest you make friends.
TORRES: Diplomacy. Janeway’s answer to everything.
CHAKOTAY: This isn’t the Captain talking, it’s me, and I’m giving you an order. Keep your temper in check. Understood? Understood?
TORRES: Yeah.
CHAKOTAY: I didn’t hear you.
TORRES: Yes.
CHAKOTAY: B’Elanna, I need your expertise on this mission, not your bad mood.
TORRES: I’ll see what I can do.

Like Chakotay, Janeway was not above using her position to inflict her will upon the crew members under her command, regardless of whether she was right or wrong. And we have seen how Chakotay had reacted when he believed that she was wrong . . . especially in (3.26) “Scorpion I” and (4.01) “Scorpion II”:

CHAKOTAY: How much is our safety worth?
JANEWAY: What do you mean?
CHAKOTAY: We’d be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions. We’d be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home. It’s wrong!
JANEWAY: Tell that to Harry Kim. He’s barely alive thanks to that species. Maybe helping to assimilate them isn’t such a bad idea. We could be doing the Delta Quadrant a favour.
CHAKOTAY: I don’t think you really believe that. I think you’re struggling to justify your plan, because your desire to get this crew home is blinding you to other options. I know you, Kathryn. Sometimes you don’t know when to step back.
JANEWAY: Do you trust me, Chakotay?
CHAKOTAY: That’s not the issue.
JANEWAY: Oh, but it is. Only yesterday you were saying that we’d face this together, that you’d be at my side.
CHAKOTAY: I still have to tell you what I believe. I’m no good to you if I don’t do that.
JANEWAY: I appreciate your insights but the time for debate is over. I’ve made my decision. Now, do I have your support?
CHAKOTAY: You’re the Captain. I’m the First Officer. I’ll follow your orders. That doesn’t change my belief that we’re making a fatal mistake.
JANEWAY: Then I guess I’m alone, after all. Dismissed.

Had there been any semblance of hope of a romance between Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay? Perhaps. If Chakotay’s Maquis ship had remained intact following the battle against the Kazon-Ogla in (1.02) “Caretaker II”. Both the Starfleet and the Maquis captains could have become allies in the Delta Quandrant. And they could have engaged in a romance as equals. They also could have begun a relationship if Voyager’s crew had never rescued them from New Earth in (2.25) “Resolutions”. To this day, I still wonder if Janeway had ever learned of Harry Kim’s role in that rescue. That would explain his inability to earn a promotion during those seven years in the Delta Quadrant. As for Janeway and Chakotay, there seemed to be a residual of flirtation between the two after their rescue from New Earth that lasted through most of Season Three. This flirtation eventually died after Chakotay’s romance with ex-Borg Riley Fraizer in (3.17) “Unity”.

In the end, Chakotay began a relationship with another former Borg drone, Voyager’s own Seven-of-Nine by late Season Seven. As for Janeway, she ended up in a relationship with Michael Sullivan, a holographic character created by Chief Helmsman Tom Paris’ for his Fair Haven program. She also had a relationship with Norvalian named Jaffen, after her memory was altered for work at a power plant on Quarren in the Season Seven episode, (7.16-7.17) “Workforce I & II”. When she regained her original memory she suggested that he join Voyager’s crew as an engineer. But she also pointed out that it would not be appropriate as they were romantically involved. Jaffen had decided to remain on Quarren.

Could Janeway and Chakotay have pursued a romance upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant? I really do not how to answer this question. Chakotay had assumed command of Voyager, in the post-series “VOYAGER” novels and Janeway was promoted to vice-admiral. On one hand, there was a chance that he might not have found himself under her direct command. Then again . . . he probably did. But the only way I could see a romance between Janeway and Chakotay was if they had both resigned their Starfleet commissions, one of them resigned from Starfleet or if Chakotay found himself at the same rank as Janeway. Other than the above, I can never see a serious romance between the two . . . even though I believe they were emotionally suited for one another.

Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season One (1995)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor; the series starred Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER” SEASON ONE (1995)

1. (1.11) “State of Flux” – Captain Kathryn Janeway and other senior members of Voyager’s crew Janeway attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to a group of aggressive Delta Quadrant species called the Kazon-Nistrim. Martha Hackett and Josh Clark guest-starred.

2. (1.14) “Faces” – When Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Pete Durst are captured by Vidiians during an Away mission, Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves in order for her captors to use her DNA to find a cure for their species. Brian Markinson guest-starred.

3. (1.01-1.02) “Caretaker” – While searching for a Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard in the series premiere, the U.S.S. Voyager is swept into the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker”. Gavan O’Herlihy and Basil Langston guest-starred.

4. (1.04) “Time and Again” – While investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident. Nicolas Surovy guest-starred.

5. (1.07) “Eye of the Needle” – Voyager’s crew discover a micro-wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant and makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side with ironic consequences. Vaughn Armstrong guest-starred.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER RETROSPECTIVE”: (3.24) “Displaced”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER RETROSPECTIVE”: (3.24) “Displaced”

I might as well be honest. I wish I could be objective about the ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Three episode, ”Displaced”. But I cannot. My feelings for this episode are too strong. Let me explain.

Lisa Klink wrote the teleplay for this episode about Voyager’s crew members being replaced, one-by-one, with aliens from an unknown race. While arguing over a Klingon workout program that Chief Helmsman Tom Paris had created for the Holodeck, the pilot and Voyager’s Chief Engineer, B’ElannaTorres, are interrupted by a strange alien that has appeared aboard ship from nowhere. This phenomenon occurs over and over again, until both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay realizes that this new alien race – called the Nyrians – are bent upon taking control of Voyager . . . but without the use of brute force. Eventually, the entire crew end up as prisoners on a habitat that also contains prisoners from other races whose ships and colonies were also conquered by the Nyrians in a similar manner.

Amidst the alien takeover of the ship, the continuation of the blossoming relationship between the ship’s Chief Helmsman, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Chief Engineer Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres hits a snag. In a previous episode called”Distant Origin”, Paris had made a bet with Torres over the reason behind a ship malfunction. The Chief Helmsman won the bet and Torres was forced to participate with him in a Klingon exercise program in the Holodeck. Being inclined to avoid her Klingon heritage as much as possible, Torres resents that Paris is interested in all aspects of her entire self – both Human and Klingon. And later in the episode, both Torres and the Doctor revealed Tom’s own insecurities and his tendency to use jokes to hide them.

Temperatures seemed to have played a major role in ”Displaced”. From Paris and Torres’ heated argument over his Klingon martial arts program to the Nyrians and Torres’ low tolerance of cold temperatures, and to finally the warm reconciliation between the two future lovers inside the Holodeck. It was good to see Voyager’s crew – especially Janeway and Tuvok – work at retaking control of Voyager by utilizing the Nyrians’ teleportation system. I especially found Janeway’s ultimatums for the Nyrian leaders inside their habitat rather satisfying.

But what really made this episode rocked – at least for me – was the continuation of Paris and Torres’ courtship that began when the Chief Pilot made his first overture in ”The Swarm”, earlier in the season. By the time ”Displaced” had aired – some twenty episodes later – Paris has been in earnest pursuit of Torres. Lisa Klink had wonderfully brought out Paris’ determination to reveal to Torres, his interest in everything about her – and that included both her Human and Klingon sides – despite how she may have felt about the latter. Klink also did an excellent job of revealing the pair’s insecurities, which ended up providing many roadblocks to their romance and eventual marriage over three years later. Late Season Three and early Season Four had featured some of the best moments in the Paris/Torres relationship. At least until Season Seven. And among those gems included scenes from this episode.

Below are what I consider highlights from ”Displaced”:

*Paris and Torres’ quarrel over the Klingon martial arts program
*Tuvok’s revelation to Chakotay about his survival training experience on Vulcan
*Chakotay’s attempts to defend the ship from the Nyrians, reliving his old role as a Maquis captain
*The Doctor’s exposure of both Paris and Torres’ insecurities inside the Nyrian habitat
*Torres’ ”I’m not hostile” conversation with Harry Kim and his fearful reaction to her tone
*Paris and Torres’ frozen adventures inside another Nyrian habitat
*Janeway and Tuvok’s efforts to gain control of the Nyrians’ teleportation system
*Janeway’s confrontation with the Nyrian leaders

As I had earlier stated, I wish I could be objective about this episode. But how can I? Even after nineteen years, I still love it. Lisa Klink’s teleplay seemed to feature everything – adventure, romance, humor, intrigue and rich characterization. It is easy to see why I consider ”Displaced” to be one of the best ”VOYAGER” episodes.

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”

 

“STAR TREK VOYAGER” RETROSPECT: (6.26-7.01) “UNIMATRIX ZERO, PARTS I AND II”

This two-part episode of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” centered around the Voyager crew’s attempt to save Borg drones who are trying to develop individuality. (6.26) “Unimatrix Zero, Part I” aired at the end of the series’ sixth season and (7.01) “Part II” aired as the premiere for the series’ seventh and final season.

When Seven-of-Nine began having dreams about a beautiful forest, she eventually discovered that the forest is a real subconscious realm inhabited by the minds of certain Borg drones during regeneration periods. Few drones possess the recessive gene required to experience the realm called Unimatrix Zero. In Unimatrix Zero, Borg of various species and ages exist as their individual, unassimilated selves and interact with one another. While out of regeneration, they revert to normal drones and have no memory of their time spent together there. The Borg Queen knows about Unimatrix Zero, which she considers a disease. First, she destroys as many drones as she can, who are capable of visiting it. But the process of detecting affected drones turns out to be time consuming and she is eager to find a faster method of finding and deactivating them.

During a journey to Unimatrix Zero with Captain Janeway, Seven discovers that she used to have a lover named Axum. Both women also discover that Axum had deliberately contacted Seven, because he and other drones need their help. They had created a masking nanovirus which would inoculate them against being detected by the queen, but it can only be administered from the corporeal world. After Janeway and Seven witness the attack upon the Unimatrix Zero inhabitants by assimilated drones, they agree to help. In the end, Janeway came up with a plan to administer the nanovirus for the Unimatrix Zero. This plan involved a few members of Voyager’s crew to board a Borg cube, risk being assimilated and administer the nanovirus.

When I first saw the preview for ”Unimatrix Zero – Part I, my first thought was that it was a rehash of the ”STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” episode, (3.26-4.01) “The Best of Both Worlds”. To my surprise . . . and delight, ”Unimatrix Zero”proved me wrong. Thanks to the script written by Mike Sussman, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky; I quite understood the story, despite the usual Trek technobabble. And I understood how previous episodes like (5.10) “Counterpoint” and(6.21)”Live Fast and Prosper” served this story. Both episodes established Captain Janeway’s talent for manipulation and scamming other. Considering the situation that she, B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok found themselves in ”Part II”, she found herself being forced to pull off a difficult confidence game against the Borg Queen.

”Unimatrix Zero” also featured the first time that Janeway and Chakotay learned to act as a fully effective command team in the face of one of her . . . more bizarre plots without succumbing to any conflict, which marred their relations in episodes like (2.14) “Alliances”, (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion” and (6.01) “Equinox, Part II”. Although he had reservations, Chakotay seemed willing to go along with her plan to infiltrate a Borg drone to administer the nanovirus. And Janeway agreed to accept a few of his suggestions, in case the plan went wrong. And is it just me or did there seemed to be a lot of affection on Voyager in this episode? Seven discovered an old love in Unimatrix Zero. Tom Paris and Torres exchanged a few intimate moments after Paris received his old rank of lieutenant junior grade and when he expressed reservations about the chief engineer volunteering for the mission to the Borg cube. And one of the most blatant moments of sentimentality, Janeway and Chakotay engaged in a brief hand-lock on the Bridge before she left to begin her mission. I found myself almost inclined to burst into “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”

In the end, the screenwriters and directors Allan Kroeker and Mike Vejar almost produced a four-star episode in ”Unimatrix Zero”. I found the writers’ idea of using the Unimatrix Zero concept as a lead-in to an uprising in the Borg Collective very inventive. And there were moments in the story – especially in ”Part II” that I enjoyed. These moments included the use of neural suppressors by the Starfleet infiltrators to keep from being part of the Borg Collective, in case they ended up being assimilated. Janeway’s confrontations with the Borg Queen, thanks to performances by Kate Mulgrew and Susanna Thompson, were even more effective than they were in (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”. I also have to give kudos to Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan MacNeill who gave excellent performances in a scene that featured an exchange between Chakotay and Paris about the latter being First Officer. I found myself wondering about the thoughts going in Chakotay’s mind, when Paris revealed his hang-ups about being Voyager’s First Office. The only aspect of ”Unimatrix Zero” that I did not care for was the romance between Seven-of-Nine and Axum. Their scenes struck me as a replay of many bad romance novels from the 1950s and 60s. And even the talented Jeri Ryan and actor Mark Deakins could not save this romance.

Thankfully, the Seven/Axum romance did not tarnish ”Unimatrix Zero” for me. More important, the episode set the stage for two episodes in Season Seven that revealed the diminished power of the Borg Collective. And it proved to be the second of three mind blowing personal encounters between Kathryn Janeway and the Borg Queen. In the end, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved to be another example of why I have always enjoyed the numerous two-part episodes featured in ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”.

Top 10 Favorite Episodes of the “STAR TREK” Television Franchise

five-star-trek-captains-unite

Below is a list of my ten favorite episodes from all five “STAR TREK” television series:

TOP 10 FAVORITE EPISODES OF THE “STAR TREK” TELEVISION FRANCHISE

1 - 5.12 The Bride of Chaotica VOY

1. (5.12 VOY) “The Bride of Chaotica!” – Ensign Tom Paris’ latest holodeck adventure, “The Adventures of Captain Proton”, takes an unexpected turn when the U.S.S. Voyager gets stuck in an interdimensional reef in this hilarious and imaginative episode.

2 - 4.18-4.19 In a Mirror Darkly ENT

2. (4.18-4.19 ENT) “In a Mirror, Darkly” – This surprisingly entertaining two-part episode features the back-stabbing antics of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise crew in the saga’s Mirror Universe.

3 - 3.16 Blood Fever VOY

3. (3.16 VOY) “Blood Fever” – While enduring pon farr, a lovesick Ensign Vorik unexpectedly passes it to Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres, affecting her relationship with Tom Paris during an Away mission.

4 - 4.10 Our Man Bashir DS9

4. (4.10 DS9) “Our Man Bashir” – While playing a 1960s secret agent inside one of Deep Space Nine’s holosuites, he is forced to make life and death decisions for those crew members, whose transporter patterns are stored in the program during an emergency in this wildly entertaining episode.

5 - 4.07 Scientific Method VOY

5. (4.07 VOY) “Scientific Method” – Unseen alien intruders used Voyager’s crew as specimens for series of experiments that affect their physical and mental health in this weird and spooky episode.

6 - 6.19 In the Pale Moonlight DS9

6. (6.19 DS9) “In the Pale Moonlight” – This fascinating episode depicted Captain Benjamin Sisko and former Cardassian spy Elim Garak’s efforts to manipulate the Romulans into joining the Federation in its war against the Dominion.

7 - 1.28 City on the Edge of Forever TOS

7. (1.28 TOS) “City on the Edge of Forever” – In this Hugo Award winning episode, Captain James Kirk and Commander Spock are forced to go back in time to the early 1930s to prevent Dr. Leonard McCoy from changing time, when the latter accidentally disappears through a time portal, while heavily drugged.

8 - 5.10 Rapture DS9

8. (5.10 DS9) “Rapture” – An accident causes Captain Sisko to have prophetic visions involving the Bajorans’ religious beliefs and their future with the Federation.

9 - 5.18 Cause and Effect TNG

9. (5.18 TNG) “Cause and Effect” – The U.S.S. Enterprise-D becomes stuck in a time loop involving another Starfleet ship, but the crew manages to retain some memories of previous instances.

10 - 7.24 Pre-emptive Strike

10. (7.24 TNG) “Pre-emptive Strike” – In this bittersweet episode, helmsman Lieutenant Ro Laren graduates from Starfleet’s advance tactical training and is eventually ordered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to infiltrate the Maquis and lure its members into a trap set by Starfleet.

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” (2011) Review

Below is my review of the Science-Fiction/Western movie, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” (2011) Review

Ever since its release during the last month of July, many have been contemplating on the box office failure of the highly anticipated movie, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. I could go over the many theories spouted about its failure, but I would find that boring. I am simply aware that the movie only earned $34 million dollars short of its budget. And all I can say is that I find this a damn pity.

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” had some big names participating in its production. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were the movie’s stars. The cast also included well known names such as Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Keith Carradine, Paul Dano and Clancy Brown. Jon Farveau, the director of the two successful “IRON MAN” movies, helmed the director’s chair. At least five of the screenwriters – Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby – have been associated with projects like “LOST” and the “STAR TREK”. And big names in the film industry such as Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Steven Spielberg acted as some of the producers. But despite all of this “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” remained one of the flops of this summer. Again, pity. I realize that I keep using the word “pity” as a response to the movie’s failure. But I cannot help it. I really enjoyed“COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it has become one of my favorite movies from the summer of 2011.

The movie was based upon the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. It told the story of an alien invasion that occurred in the New Mexico Territory in 1873. The story focused upon a mysterious loner that awakens in the desert, injured and wearing a strange bracelet shackled to his wrist. He wanders into the town of Absolution, where the local preacher, Meacham treats his wound. After the stranger subdues Percy Dolarhyde, who has been terrorizing the populace, Sheriff Taggart recognizes the loner as Jake Lonergan, a wanted outlaw, and tries to arrest him. Jake nearly escapes, but a mysterious woman named Ella Swenson knocks him out. Percy’s father, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, a rich and influential cattleman, arrives with his men and demands that Percy be released to him. He also wants Jake, who had stolen Dolarhyde’s gold. During the standoff, alien spaceships begin attacking the town. Percy, Sheriff Taggart and many townsfolk are abducted. Jake shoots down one ship with a device concealed in his wrist band, ending the attack. Realizing that the bracelet that Jake wears stands between them and the aliens, Colonel Dolarhyde, Meacham and Ella convinces Jake to help them find the aliens and the kidnapped townspeople, despite the fact that he has no memory of his own identity, let alone of any previous encounters with the aliens. Their expedition leads them Jake’s former gang and a band of Chiricahua Apaches, who have also been victims of the aliens.

“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” is not perfect. It has its flaws. To be honest, I can think of one or two flaws. Perhaps one. Although I understood that the aliens were taking the gold found near Absolution to power their starship, the script never made it clear on why they were taking the populace, as well. The only thing that the script made clear was that the kidnapped populace were being experimented upon. When it comes to human experimentation of reasons behind an invasions, many plots for alien invasion movies and television series tend to be rather weak in this area, including some of the best in this genre. And my other problem was that the script failed to reveal how Ella, who turned out to be another alien whose people had been destroyed by the invaders, ended up on Earth.

But despite these flaws, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” really impressed me. I thought that Jon Favreau did an excellent job in combining action with the film’s dramatic moments. And his eye for location, greatly assisted by Matthew Libatique’s photography of the New Mexican countryside, gave the movie’s visuals a natural grandeur. In my review of “SUPER 8”, I had commented that it reminded me of an old “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episode. I cannot say the same for “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. But it did remind me of a “STAR TREK VOYAGER”fanfiction story called “Ashes to Ashes”. At least Jake’s experiences with the aliens before the movie began. And“COWBOYS AND ALIENS” must be the only alien invasion movie I can think of that was set before the 20th century. It occurred to me that if the two most famous adaptations of H.G. Wells’ novel, “War of the Worlds” had been given its original setting, this would not have been the case. Unless someone knows of another alien invasion movie with a pre-20th century setting. Ever since I first saw the trailers for “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”, I wondered how the screenwriters would combine the two genres of Science-Fiction and Westerns. Hell, I wondered if they could. Mixing Jake’s history as an outlaw with his experiences with the aliens did the trick. At least I believe so. More importantly, “COWBOYS AND ALIENS” provided plenty of opportunities for character development – and that includes the supporting cast.

The cast certainly proved to be first-rate. There have been British actors who have appeared in Westerns before. Come to think of it, Daniel Craig is not even the first James Bond actor who has appeared in a Western. But he is the only one I can recall who appeared in a Western as an American-born character. And if I must be blunt, the man takes to Westerns like a duck to water. More importantly, both Craig’s super performance and the screenwriters made certain that his Jake Lonergran did not come off as some cliché of the “Man With No Name” character from Sergio Leone’s DOLLAR TRILOGY”. Craig made him a man determined to learn of his past, while dealing with the sketchy memories of a past love and his attraction toward Ella.

The character of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde seems like a far cry from Harrison Ford’s usual roles. His Colonel Dolarhyde was not the solid Jack Ryan type or the rough, yet dashing Indiana Jones persona. In one of his rare, offbeat roles, Ford’s Colonel Dolarhyde was a ruthless, no-nonsense man who ruled his ranch and the town of Absolution with an iron fist. And Ford did a first-rate job of diluting Dolarhyde’s distasteful ruthlessness into something more . . . human and warm. I wondered how I would take Olivia Wilde’s performance as the mysterious Ella Swenson, who seemed determined to get Jake to help the rest of Absolution’s citizens find the aliens. After seeing the movie, I enjoyed her performance very much. She had a strong chemistry with Craig. More importantly, she gave a solid performance and possessed a strong screen presence. But I really enjoyed about Wilde’s performance was that she conveyed an other world quality about Ella that strongly hinted her role as an alien who landed on Earth to find the invaders who had destroyed most of her race.

The supporting cast was led by the likes of Sam Rockwell, who competently portrayed Absolution’s insecure saloon keeper, Doc; and Adam Beach, who gave a deliciously complex performance as Dolarhyde’s right-hand man, Nat Colorado. And actors such as Paul Dano as Dolarhyde’s s raucous son, a serene Clancy Brown, Noah Ringer (from “THE LAST AIRBENDER”), who portrayed the sheriff’s grandson, and a solid Keith Carradine gave firm support.

I do not know what else I could say about “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”. I find it a pity that it failed to become a box office hit. Because I really enjoyed it. The screenwriters, along with cinematographer Matthew Libatique, a first-rate cast led by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and fine direction by Jon Favreau made it one of my favorite films of the summer of 2011.

“SUPER 8” (2011) Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“SUPER 8” (2011) Review

When I first saw the trailer for J.J. Abrams’ new movie, “SUPER 8”, I had a very difficult time generating any interest in the film. I would have easily ignored it if it were not for the fact that two or three of my favorite actors were featured in the film and that it was produced by Steven Spielberg. 

My feelings toward J.J. Abrams’ previous work are rather mixed. Yes, I realize that he was one of the creators of such television series as “ALIAS” and “LOST”. But Abrams ended up distancing himself from both shows before they eventually suffered from a decline in writing quality. I enjoyed his work on “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III”. But his “STAR TREK” reboot left me wondering about his talent as a writer and director. But after watching “SUPER 8” this summer, my faith in his talent has been fully restored.

Set in 1979, “SUPER 8” told the story of a group of young friends in their early teens filming their own Super 8 movie for a film festival for amateurs, when a train derails, releasing a dangerous presence into their town of Lillian, Ohio. The story began 13 year-old Joe Lamb dealing with the death of his mother in a factory accident. A neighbor named Louis Dainard appears at the wake, but Joe’s father a deputy sheriff named Jackson Lamb, leads him away in handcuffs. Jackson blames Louis for his wife’s death because he was absent during his shift and she had to fill in for him.

Four months later, Joe’s friend, Charles Kaznyk, makes plans to film a zombie movie on Super 8 mm film for an amateur film festival. Along with Joe, he hires Dainard’s daughter Alice to be part of the cast. After stealing her father’s car, Alice takes Joe, Charles, Preston, Martin, and Cary to an old train depot; where the group plans to film a scene. During the shoot, Joe watches a pick-up truck drive onto the tracks and place itself in the path of an oncoming train, causing a massive derailment. In the aftermath of the accident, the kids find the wreck littered with strange white cubes. They approach the truck and discover Dr. Woodward, their biology teacher, behind the wheel of the truck. He instructs them to never talk about what they saw; otherwise they and their parents will be killed. Moments afterwards, the U.S. Air Force, led by one Colonel Nelec, arrives to secure the crash site. The kids flee the scene. Over the next couple of days, a number of strange phenomena occur throughout the Lillian neighborhood. A good number of the town’s dogs run away. And kitchen appliances, car engines, and power lines vanish. Also, many people begin to disappear, among them the town’s sheriff. Joe, Alice and their friends start investigating the strange phenomenons around Lillian, as they continue to shoot Charles’ movie.

Not only has “SUPER 8” restored my faith in J.J. Abrams as a Hollywood talent, I believe it is one of the best movies I have seen this year. I really enjoyed. Abrams created a story that not featured mysterious happenings and an alien, but it also had plenty of human drama centering around Joe’s relationships with his recently widowed father and Alice Dainard; along with a delightful story arc featuring the group of friends’ attempt to film a movie. The interesting thing about “SUPER 8” is that all of the different story arcs in the movie – the personal dramas, the mystery surrounding the alien and Charles’ zombie movie – managed to connect seamlessly to form a first-rate movie. But more importantly, “SUPER 8” brought me back to the days of my childhood of the late 1970s – a time when many of my generation were first becoming fans of filmmakers like Spielberg and George Lucas.

Not only does “SUPER 8” has a first-rate story written by Abrams, it also featured a superb cast. I was surprised to discover that “SUPER 8” featured 15 year-old Joel Courtney’s film debut. Either Abrams has a talent for working with children, Courtney is a natural born film actor . . . or both. All I know is that his performance really knocked my socks off. I was especially impressed that he managed to hold his own with the likes of Kyle Chandler, who portrayed his father. Allie Fanning, who has more experience than Courtney, proved that acting talent obviously ran in her family (she is Dakota Fanning’s younger sister). She was very impressive as Alice Dainard, the daughter of the very man whom Joel’s dad hold responsible for his wife’s death. There were two scenes that really impressed me – her confession to Joe about the circumstances that led to his mother’s death; and her confrontation with her drunken father.

I have been fans of both Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard for a very long time. Chandler, who seemed to have a natural talent for portraying complex characters, displayed this talent again in his portrayal of Jackson Lamb, the deputy sheriff who finds himself as the leading law enforcement official following the disappearance of the sheriff. Chandler not only portrayed Jackson’s growing concern over the town’s strange incidents and disappearances with his usual skill, but also conveyed his character’s difficulties in dealing with the death of his wife and growing estrangement from his son. Eldard’s portrayal of Alice’s father, Louis Dainard, proved to be equally complex. He did an excellent job of conveying the character’s alcoholism, guilt over the death of Joe’s mother and his growing estrangement from daughter Alice. He and Fanning were absolutely superb in the scene that featured the explosive confrontation between father and daughter.

“SUPER 8” also featured first-rate supporting performances from another favorite of mine, Glynn Thurman, who portrayed the kids’ biology teacher and the man responsible for releasing the alien from the U.S. Air Force train; and Noah Emmerich, who portrayed the controlling U.S. Air Force colonel, Nelec. But the best performances came from the group of kids who portrayed Joe and Alice’s friends and fellow film fans – Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso and Remy Thorne. They were absolutely terrific. And more importantly, their performances were not tainted with any “cutesy” quirks that have made some previous child actors rather unbearable. Nor did they act like adults in children’s bodies – a phenomenon of which I have become increasingly intolerant.

The look of “SUPER 8” really brought back memories of past Spielberg films such as “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND” and “E.T.”. And considering that the movie is produced by Spielberg, I hardly find that surprising. A small part of me suspects that “SUPER 8” is a homage to those particular works. Many critics and moviegoers have compared it to Spielberg’s films. The odd thing is that the storyline for “SUPER 8” reminded me more of the “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episode called (4.16) “Prey”. Although not alike, the storyline for both the movie and the television episode struck me as surprisingly similar.

Whatever people might say about “SUPER 8”, there is no doubt that I really enjoyed it. And once it left the movie theaters, I had a hard time generating the patience to wait for its DVD release. Congratulations, Mr. Abrams. For once, you have really impressed me.