We can all agree: Kurtzman era Star Trek has been godawful. There was no reason to think that Strange New Worlds would be any different, but then the first episode became available on YouTube. So I thought: “fuck it, I’ll give it a shot.”
Whoever’s running SNW had the right idea: just tap the ball into the hole. Don’t try to do too much.
It’s common to assume that Trek fans are notoriously hard to please . This is false. In fact, they’re a little too easy to please. Furthermore, I’d say that Star Trek is stupidly easy to write: minimize drama between the main characters, the Federation humanistic…almost utopian…ideals always win out, the “alien of the week” is analogous to current events, and everything can be solved using science…even if the science is totally pulled out of your ass.
This is also called the (Gene) “Roddenberry Box.” TNG writers initially struggled with it until Michael Piller turned staying within it into an art. The Next Generation is now considered one of the best shows in the sci-fi genre. It’s also the benchmark for which all other Trek shows are evaluated.
Hollywood writers, especially ones that aren’t familiar with Star Trek, might think they have to do MORE to make the story interesting. But they really don’t. You can “challenge” the box every now and then, but the optimism and science MUST win out.
So using this criteria, based on the first episode, Strange New Worlds is Star Trek…which is more than I can say for Discovery and Picard. Yes, that’s a low bar to hurdle but I guess third time is a charm. Maybe the rest of it will be shit, but as long as the show runners don’t try to do too much, they might have a pretty good show.
There are few scenes in the history of film that hit me harder than the Super 8 sequence in Paris, Texas.
Rarely do films like this get made. Especially now. Not without a dose of heavy handed social commentary and violence.
That’s not the case with Paris, Texas. It’s subject is simple: one man’s inability to face his problems. All of this juxtaposed against the vast American landscape that’s both empty and crowded…dead and alive. Wim Wenders’ vision of America is embodied by the character Travis, played by the enigmatic Harry Dean Stanton.
The first time I watched this, it was almost like a religious experience. I was 10 or 11 years old and stayed up late while watching cable to see some tities. Fortunately, nothing was on Cinemax so I switched over to HBO. Paris, Texas was playing.
I don’t know why I kept watching it (probably because you see some Aurore Clement side boob), but next thing I know, I was fully engrossed in the story. It was the first movie where, when it ended, I didn’t know what hit me.
It was probably at that moment when it occurred to me: THIS is why people love movies.
Some people hate Paris, Texas. Some say it’s too slow. Some don’t like Travis because he abandoned his family.
I personally like movies that take their time. And if you don’t like Travis’ decisions, it’s not like the movie presents him as mensch.
In fact, Travis…along with his wife Jane…are presented as two VERY troubled people. From the perspective of Travis, he had to leave at the end because he was utterly broken. I would go as far as to say that Travis’ entire existence consists of (unintentionally) ruining people’s lives.
This film is not only about Travis trying to reunite his wife and child (Hunter), but it’s also about ruining the lives of his brother Walt and his wife Anne who took custody of Hunter during his disappearance.
Another heartbreaking scene is when Anne fails to convince Travis and Hunter to return home, and she goes to lie down in Hunter’s bed. Even though Hunter wasn’t her actual son, she was still attached to him. And that’s the last scene Anne is in, never to be mentioned again.
But Wenders’ direction mixes realism with a childlike perspective (which resembles Travis’ emotional state) quite well. So, I think, that permits me to have a pessimistic interpretation of the ending: there was no way that Jane would maintain custody of Hunter, and Hunter would return to Walt and Anne with a better sense of his “real” family, which would likely cause further damage to everyone involved. Meanwhile, Travis, once again, ran away from it all.
Is my interpretation correct? I dunno. But that’s how art works.
So do yourself a favor: stay up late one night and watch Paris, Texas.
“What happened to your face?” Jacob asked as I met him at the Cyrene’s inn.
“I was attacked by one of Herod’s thugs,” I said. “They’re onto us. So watch who you talk to.”
“You didn’t tell him anything did you?”
“I told him I was a friend of Joseph’s. After that, he left me alone.”
“Shit,” Jacob said and rubbed his face. “Well good news is I met with Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Remember them?”
“The one’s from Rome?”
“Yeah. They sold some of their property in Judea. They gave the money to John to distribute to the widows outside of the city walls. It’s finally happening Simon!”
“Don’t let it get to your head!” I told him. “You still need to lie low.”
Just then a big burly fellow with six other men busted through the door. “Χαιρετίσματα Jacob,” the booming voice said.
“You’re Stephanos?!” I exclaimed.
Stephanos looked over to me and back over to Jacob. “Who’s dis?” the man asked in his Greek accent.
“Relax, he’s Simon,” Jacob replied. “He was a good friend of Yeshua’s.”
Stephanos looked me up and down. “I heard you were arrested,” he said to me.
“No, it must have been another Simon,” I replied. “I’m from Bethsaida.”
Stephanos was confused. He looked back to Jacob. “I was told that Ananias gave you money. Our women and children are starving too-“
“Now Stephanos,” Jacob interrupted, “I know where you’re going with this. But Ananias was very clear: he wanted us to use this money to help the widows of Jerusalem.”
“Because we’re Greeks we’re not as important as the Hebrews?”
“I didn’t say that. Please listen to me. I’m only respecting Ananias’ wishes.”
Stephanos was furious. “We’ve been in the streets for days while you Hebrews have been coward up in your homes! Do you support us or not?!”
“Of course I support you!” Jacob yelled then took a deep breath. “I get how you feel, Stephanos, I really do. But you gotta understand our situation. Herod and Pilate aren’t too concerned with the Greeks right now. But they are after us. We can’t be out in the streets and we don’t have the money to spread around to everyone. I’m sorry. But Ananias is a very successful man from Rome and a diaspora Jew just like yourself. If you go to him and explain your situation, he can probably provide you with some assistance.”
Stephanos stood silent for a moment then muttered something in Greek. He walked up to Jacob. “μη με σταυρώνεις,” he said. Then him and his six men left the room.
“You should’ve stayed away from him Jacob,” I said.
“And Stephanos is a convert. To Ananias, he’s still a Gentile. He’s not giving him the money.”
Jacob began rubbing his temples. “I need a drink,” he said.
We went down to the tavern where Levi was scribbling something down. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked him.
“The Greeks wanted something to tell the people back in the Decapolis. Something about Yeshua.”
I looked over the writing. He didn’t write much but it was all in Greek. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Jacob was puzzled. “Where did you learn to write Greek?”
“In school, here in Jerusalem” Levi replied, “I had to learn it along with Hebrew.”
“Maybe we should drop the subject of Greeks for the time being,” I said.
We sat silently drinking our wine for a few minutes. There was a commotion on the streets. Andrew came running up. “They’re about to stone some of the Greeks!” he screamed.
Jacob and Levi instantly got up. “Aren’t you coming along?” Jacob asked me. Against my better judgment, I put down the wine cup and followed them.
A few blocks away, a crowd was gathering. Some were shouting. Others gawked out of morbid curiosity. Moments later, Temple guards began dragging out seven Greeks. One of them was Stephanos.
Behind them followed a few members of the Sanhedrin, including Joseph. Standing beside him was Ananias.
“Thief! Thief!” Ananias shouted. “These men conspired with Yeshua to rob the Temple and overthrow the Romans!”
My heart began to sink. This was a setup.
The guards threw the Greeks in front of Herod’s black-cloaked mercenaries who had their spears ready. Meanwhile, the Roman guards stood back smiling at the whole affair.
A judge from the Sanhedrin stood among the crowd and faced the accused. “Conspiracy, sedition, robbery of Ananias,” the judge said, “are these accusations true?”
It didn’t matter what Stephanos said. And he knew it. From his knees, he laughed and looked at the crowd. “You stiff-necked people,” he said, “your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—”
“God help you,” the judge said.
With those words, the mercenaries plunged their spears into the bellies of the Greeks. A pool of blood formed in the middle of the crowd.
Levi screamed in horror and ran away.
But the crowd was just getting warmed up. They picked up stones or any disposable object and began hurling them towards Stephanos. He got bruised and battered and knocked in the head a few times but kept crawling forward.
Among the mercenaries, I recognized a familiar face: The scars….the scabs…the wiry frame. It was him alright. It was the man that attacked me a few days earlier.
And Stephanos kept crawling towards this man as the stones were raining down on him. When he reached his feet, Stephanos grabbed the man’s cloak and got to his knees.
I was too far away to hear anything, but Stephanos was clearly saying something to this man. Judging by his face, the figure was stunned by what was being said. But before the figure could react, a member of the crowd smashed a rock into Stephanos’ skull.
The man in the black cloak stood back with blood and brain matter splattered all over his face. He was in a daze.
Before the crowd could mutilate the bodies, Joseph stepped in to quiet them. That’s enough!” he yelled. “The perpetrators of the Passover sedition have been caught and punished! This matter is closed! Please return to your homes!” As the crowds dispersed, the Temple guards started dragging the bodies outside of the city walls.
Jacob and I returned to the inn in silence. We didn’t know what to make of what just happened. “Do we leave Jerusalem?” Jacob asked.
“Why?” I replied. “It looks like Joseph and Ananias took care of our problem.”
I’ve had this story in my head for awhile and just now acted on it.
I originally wrote an introduction but then said fuck it. All you need to know is that this is historical fiction, perhaps my least favorite genre, but this blog is all about challenging myself as a writer. So I’m giving this a go.
Just imagine if you were some nobody that got caught up in an incident that you believed had little significance, but it was actually the most important event in all of Western Civilization. I want to explore how reality turns to myth. I guess that’s the impetus behind this story.
I dunno, we’ll see how this goes…
Ain’t promising nothing.
Jerusalem, Circa 30 CE
Roman Judea is under the governorship of Pontius Pilate. Yeshua from Galilee has amassed a small yet devoted number of followers as messianic fervor sweeps the region. After causing a ruckus at the Jerusalem Temple during Passover, Yeshua is tried and sentenced to death by crucifixion.
With their leader dead, the followers of Yeshua await their fates…
…one such follower, and childhood friend of Yeshua, is Simon, the fisherman of Bethesda…
Joseph (of Arimathea) knocked me on my ass. He continued to berate me as I laid out on the ground.
“Do you know how hard it was for me to not turn you over to the Romans?!” he screamed. “All of these young ones,” Joseph then pointed to Thomas, John, Andrew, Levi, Jacob, and Mary, “…you and that idiot friend of yours could have gotten them KILLED!”
I leaned up and wiped the blood from my lip. I couldn’t feel a thing. I was too drunk. “Don’t worry Joseph,” I said, “you’ll never see my face again.”
“You’re damn right I’ll never see your face again! You have until sun up to get out of Jerusalem. If you’re not gone by then, so help me God YOU’LL be crucified next!”
Jude spoke up. “What about Yeshua’s body? Surely you didn’t leave him at Golgotha. It’s the Passover.”
“Do you know what I had to do Jude?” Joseph asked. “I had to talk to Pilate. Yeah! Face to fucking face! Luckily for all of you, he barely remembered this morning’s fiasco so I was permitted to take him off the cross. As for the Sanhedrin…they’re PISSED and will probably be looking for you guys. Which is why you better get the fuck outta here!”
“Just tell me where he’s buried,” Jude replied.
“I’m not telling you!” Joseph said.
Levi spoke up. “Just tell him father.”
Joseph took a deep breath to cool himself. “Because my idiot son here was an admirer of Yeshua,” he said, “his body has been placed in my family tomb TEMPORARILY, at least until all of this shit blows over. Then I will remove his remains. Now: please leave the city.”
Joseph departed the tavern and took Levi with him. The rest of the group stood around aimlessly. Jacob helped me off the ground. “Do we go back to Galilee?” he asked.
“I sure as hell am!” I replied.
“What about what?!”
“The Kingdom of God?”
“The Kingdom of God? Jacob, your brother is DEAD! He’s not coming back! If you know what’s good for you, you will return to Galilee and kiss your mother and tell her how sorry you are for your older brother’s death.”
Jacob began to weep and I instantly regretted my words.
He was only a kid.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “this was all my fault. I shouldn’t have agreed to come to Jerusalem. All of this could have been avoided.”
“I can’t go back,” Jacob said. “I can’t face her.”
He told me that he was staying in Jerusalem. I didn’t know what else to say to him. So I patted him on the back and he departed the Cyrean’s tavern. I thought I’d ever see him again.
“I’m going to Damascus,” Jude said, “I’ve got some connections there. Maybe now just wasn’t the time. I….”
“Let it go Jude,” I interrupted.
“But Simon, maybe this was just the beginning of something big…perhaps the end for the Romans.”
I laughed. “Are we experiencing the same reality? We just got our asses handed to us. Do you really think we can bring down the Romans?”
“Why are you here?! Did you not see all of those followers in Capernaum? In Cana? In Caesarea?!”
“I was his friend, Jude. I knew all of this was getting to his head, but I said nothing. I let the rest of you talk him into coming to Jerusalem. I said nothing. I let him go to the temple. I knew what he was going to do. But I said nothing. Well now I’m telling YOU something: go back to Damascus or wherever you’re from, and forget all of this happened. And I will go back to Bethesda where I will regret for the rest of my life that I was never able to bring Yeshua’s body to his mother.”
“And what of the Romans? What will you do if they ever find out what you did here?”
I laughed again as I drank another cup of wine. “They don’t care enough about me,” I said, “but if they did ever find me, I will tell them to send me to Rome so that I can tell the Caesar to kiss my ass.”
Jude shook his head. “Goodbye Simon.”
“So long Jude!”
As I was filling the wine skins, Thomas approached me. “Should I go to Egypt?” he asked.
“The world is your oyster, Thomas,” I said, “I’m going home.”
The two of us embraced for the last time. I thanked the Cyrean for sheltering us then my brother Andrew and I left the tavern. Maybe it was the wine, but as we were leaving Jerusalem, I was seeing Yeshua’s face everywhere. The guilt was unbearable.
Andrew wasn’t at all affected by the day’s events. As we traveled the road back to Galilee under the cover of night, he was cackling. “Boy, Joseph licked you good,” he said.
Andrew was a simple man.
“That’s because he’s a member of the Sanhedrin,” I replied, “if they ever found out he provided aid and cover to us, they’ll stone him for sure.”
As we stopped along a creek bank for the night, I laid out my bed. As I walking away towards the tree line, Andrew asked where I was going.
“Gotta take a shit,” I said.
As I got out of earshot of him, I kneeled down behind a tree and vomited. I closed my eyes for a few moments. All I could envision was Yeshua’s smiling face. Then I wept uncontrollably.
Finally I stood up and walked back to the camp where I found Andrew picking his nose. “Boy I can’t wait get back to fishin,” he said.
I laid down on my bed, looking up to the sky. “We’re not going back to Bethesda,” I said. “We’re going back to Jerusalem.”
Hate to toot my own horn but 2051: A Space Monstrosity turned out much better than I thought it would. I also wrote a lot more than I intended.
It’s not perfect. Far from it. And I blatantly ripped off lines from various Star Trek productions, almost verbatim, because I’m a shameless hack.
But I’m getting closer to being able to tell stories the way I want to: where I create a plot on the fly by establishing a rhythm and hitting the story beats. If you do a few setups and meet the payoffs in any ridiculous way you can, BAM…you have yourself a story.
Maybe not a GOOD story, but a story nonetheless.
My method is akin to Bill Walsh’s “West Coast Offense” in football: where players lack in athletic ability (or, in my case, artistic genius), you can make up for in precision and timing.
This runs entirely contrary to the way my high school teacher tried to teach me. It was his belief that that the secret to writing was in rewriting.
The problem I found with this practice is that my interest always waned and the magic was gone. Editing and proofreading is necessary of course, but frankly it’s boring and if I spend too much time on it, I end up hating everything about the piece itself.
It is my belief that art works best when it exists in the moment….when the artist can, however briefly, be completely honest with themselves.
So I’ve written a lot to get the practice in. And most of the stories are in fragmented pieces. Therefore I created a separate page to compile all these short stories.
…that is, once when I figure out how to get the page up on the website. Right now it looks like shit. I dunno 🤷♂️
“We are going home,” I announced to the crew onboard the Sagan. “To repair the ship, we’ll need Yah’s help. He’s being brought to the surface as we speak. His chamber will be stored in the cargo area, where Dr. Jackass will release him. We cannot get too close to Yah. He’s highly radioactive, but the Doctor will be equipped with a radiation absorber that I stole from the Ishnarians. You are ordered to remain out of the cargo bay. The Doctor will ask Yah to remain a safe distance from the crew.”
“If he’s God,” Patel asked, “can’t he make more radiation absorbers?”
“Good question Patel,” I replied, “but let’s not overthink this. Yah is not a supernatural being. He is made of real matter and is bound by gravity. That’s why he needs a spaceship to get off this planet. Additionally, it should be noted that Yah can read minds. But it appears that he can only do so at a certain distance. Perhaps up to 60 feet. If possible, stay 60 feet away from the cargo area. I can’t go into any more details, but when I order everyone to be at their stations, you will have 30 seconds to get there. Am I understood?”
“Good. Begin preparations for launch.”
I exited the Sagan to meet with Hazov. Off in the distance, Yah’s chamber was being wheeled towards the ship.
“It’s a shame that you are unable to stay,” Hazov said, “hopefully this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship between our two worlds.”
“Possibly,” I said.
“If you don’t mind me prying, Captain, I thought your ship was having trouble launching.”
I smiled. “Someone forgot to carry the 1.”
“I see,” he said. “Farewell Captain.”
We shook hands and I immediately went to engineering to speak with Commander Mwangi. “Commander, once when you see that the hydrogen drive is back online, fire it up immediately,” I told her.
“But Captain, with lift thrusters firing we’ll be moving at a tremendous speed. We risk burning the hydrogen drive out again.”
“Just do it.”
I went to the bridge and strapped into the navigation station next to Valdez. “What’s the fastest you’ve ever flown a ship?” I asked her.
“About 1/8th the speed of light sir.”
“Prepare to shatter that record.”
The Doctor then came over the intercom. “The chamber is loaded sir,” he said.
“Close cargo bay doors and release Yah from the chamber,” I ordered.
Yah spoke up. “Thank you for releasing me from my chains, Captain,” he said.
“Don’t mention it.”
I monitored controls from the command post. Moments later, Valdez spoke up. “Lift thrusters are online sir!”
The Sagan began lifting off the surface and into the atmosphere. I channeled down to engineering. “How’s that hydrogen drive coming along, Nia?!”
“Hydrogen drive is fully operational!”
Then a deeply distraught Hazov came over the radio. “Captain Kananga! Our planet is facing a torrent of earthquakes and tornadoes! We are dying! What have you done?!”
I radioed down to the cargo bay. “Yah! Unleashing the apocalypse on Ishnar wasn’t part of the deal!”
“Sorry Captain,” Yah replied. “The people of Ishnar have broken the covenant. They shall face my wrath.”
Now Yah was about to face my wrath, I thought. “I see,” I responded to Yah. “Dr. Jackass, please report to the bridge.”
I looked over to Valdez. “Have we cleared the atmosphere?” I asked.
“Yes sir, we are about to leave the outer orbit of Ishnar’s moons.”
“Good. Hopefully we can put enough distance between Yah and Ishnar.”
Moments later, Dr. Jackass entered the bridge. “Doctor,” I said, “on my count, open the cargo bay doors.
I went over the intercom. “Attention crew: please be at your stations,” I ordered, then activated life support systems on all decks.
After 30 seconds expired, I looked back over to Valdez. “Alright Commander, step on it!”
“Damn it Valdez! FLOOR IT!”
As we accelerated to an extraordinary speed, I ordered Dr. Jackass to open cargo doors. Centrifugal systems instantly cut out and we were floating at zero-g.
“Sir!” the Doctor yelled, “all contents in the cargo bay have been suctioned out! Including Yah! Closing doors now!”
As the gravity was being restored, I looked up at the radar. An energy source outside the ship was keeping pace. “Damn it! Yah is on our tail! More speed!”
“But we’re traveling near the speed of light!” Valdez replied.
“Can God go faster than light?!” Dr. Jackass asked.
“I guess we’ll find out!”
The ship began to rattle back and forth. We were under attack. Using his god-like power, Yah came over the intercom. “Is this how you want this to end Captain?” he asked. “Empty space makes a cold grave.”
“Faster Valdez!” I ordered.
“She’ll fly apart Captain!”
“Fly her apart then!”
Alarms and buzzers were going off across the bridge. The vibration intensified. If we were going to die, we were going to die going the speed of light.
Then I looked up at the radar. Another energy source was was gaining on Yah.
As we settle into the Cold War II and the ever present threat of nuclear war, it’s time to look at the silver lining: we might get better movies.
One thing I miss from the first Cold War is character study films of the 1970s. They should make more movies that look into the depraved lives of ordinary people in an uncritical manner. I’m sure they still make em but they’re probably shit.
Jack Nicholson was the king of these movies back in the day. Perhaps the best example being Five Easy Pieces.
I’ve decided to get back to my roots and start building up my Criterion Collection. So I recently purchased Five Easy Pieces along with Paris, Texas (The only time I saw Paris, Texas when I stayed up late and watched HBO when I was 10 years old. It blew me the fuck away. I had a weird childhood).
When you have a toddler running around that gets PISSED if you watch anything other than Blippi, it’s hard to find time to watch these movies. But I got far enough into Five Easy Pieces to watch one of my favorite scenes in film history: Sally Strothers’ random heartbreaking monologue on being forsaken by God.
The essay pamphlet that accompanies the Five Easy Pieces blu ray is pretty good. Apparently this early 70s state of being, where everyone’s fucked-upness was a given…and people talked while others listened…is an existence that’s no longer.
So it’s refreshing to look back at a time that was no less deranged, but far less judgmental.
My news feed has been buzzing the last 24 hours. More so than usual. No, it has nothing to do with the Russians possibly invading Ukraine. It’s the announcement of a fourth “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek film.
Unlike most Star Trek fans, I am content with saying that Star Trek died with the last episode of Enterprise. And we all owe Rick Berman an apology (even though he sounds like a legit asshole).
So I don’t give a shit about this new film (written by a bunch of writers whose work I also don’t give a shit about). 🚨 Spoiler Alert 🚨: it’s gonna suck.
How do I know?
Let me tell you about two men named JJ Abrams and Alex Kurtzman.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh. They did revive Trek. Because of them, there are four…about to be five…Star Trek shows airing. Audiences change. As ridiculous as it sounds now, TOS fans were reluctant to accept TNG.
Now I’m a TNG fan that’s reluctant to accept Kurtzman Trek.
The thing that TOS and TNG had in common though is one VERY important thing: Gene Roddenberry. And Roddenberry was succeeded by Rick Berman, who was hellbent on carrying out his predecessor’s vision.
No such chain of succession with this new Trek.
JJ Abrams did do one thing right though: the first 10 minutes of Star Trek 09. And that kinda highlights my biggest gripe with this current set of producers: they are Kliff Kingsbury of Star Trek.
All three movies, plus Picard, plus Discovery, start off fairly strong in their opening acts (or first few episodes) and then inexplicably derail into a total train wreck.
Moreover, this new “cinematic” feel to Star Trek just doesn’t…feel right. Trek works best on a shoestring budget, phenomenal writing, and the perfect casting. Case in point: Wrath of Khan. It is probably the Trek film with the smallest budget, but it’s also considered the best.
There’s a Shakespearean, theater-like quality to the Roddenberry/Berman-era Trek that, I think, many fans find appealing (even if we didn’t appreciate it at the time).
Of course, those days of television and movies are over (in part, due to JJ Abrams’ impact on the industry) and that’s okay. Things change.
Most nights I can’t sleep. Most nights I can’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about a film. Usually, it’s not a great film that’s keeping me up. It’s a film that could have been great, but everyone fucked up.
One such movie is Enemy at the Gates (2001).
It’s a shame. This movie could have been dope. So what happened?
Now forgive me, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve watched it so I won’t go into plot details. But the screenwriters shouldn’t have committed to telling a love story AND a game of cat and mouse.
Individually these stories could have been interesting on their own. The Battle of Stalingrad was such a test of the human spirit that it provides an interesting backdrop to any story.
But Enemy at the Gates falls victim to a very serious problem…a problem that plagued so, so many movies of the era: it tries to have it both ways. It wants to be a gritty war film AND appeal to 90s sentimentality.
“But it’s based on a real historical account,” you might say.
And lo and behold, this is largely true. Of course, it takes a few creative liberties. I doubt Joseph Fiennes’ character was real. Same with Ron Perlman’s…a character that I hated so much because it seems to have been included for expositional purposes only. Because the film takes such liberties…it is a movie after all, and not a documentary…then pick a lane.
If I were making this movie, I would have focused exclusively on the chase between Ed Harris and Jude Law. But there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk.
Enemy at the Gates appears to have been one of the last of the so-called “90s, mediocre, sentimental historical dramas.” I don’t hate all of these movies. In fact, I go to bat for perhaps the greatest example of this genre: Dances With Wolves.
“Can you believe that Kevin Costner beat Martin Scorsese at the Oscars?” everyone says to me.
No. That’s not surprising at all. Have you seen the movie? I will pound the table every chance I get: Kevin Costner DESERVED his Oscar.
Quote me on that.
Honestly, as much as it pains me to say this, if there’s a flaw with the movie, it’s the screenplay. That’s a big one. This might not have been obvious to audiences then, but it’s clear 32 years later. BUT, it appears to me that Costner was involved in the project from the moment of its inception, so the script was suited to his strengths.
Could anyone else have made Dances With Wolves?
And here’s where Costner excels: every character…EVERY last character…has their moment, however brief, to shine. When Stone Calf is killed, you feel it. Even when LT. Elgin is killed, one of the “villains”, there’s a shred of sympathy for him. This helps you become immersed in this lovely, bloody world.
Costner approaches the subject matter, much like his character, in a child-like, gentle manner. Not a detail is missed. It felt genuine, and not at all like it was trying “to have it both ways”.
It worked. It worked so well that nobody was able to emulate that style. They tried. But where every mediocre 90s historical drama failed, only Kevin Costner succeeded.
You know how there were a bunch of mediocre period films from the 80s and 90s?
You know, like Gandhi, Out of Africa, Titanic, Rob Roy, The Ghost and the Darkness, The Man in the Iron Mask, The 13th Warrior, Enemy at the Gates? Etc etc…
Has there ever been a movie that started off vanilla and then did a complete 180?
Like I have an idea of a period piece, during the Napoleonic Wars or Mongol Invasions or some shit, where the typical tropes are established: a virtuous hero, a mustache-twirling villain, a love interest, and a community standing up to the forces of evil, etc. The film will open with some boring quote on the nature of war: “In war, there are no heroes”, or whatever. Even the leading man will be the safest, whitest, most bland actor you can think of…one of the “Chris’s” probably (Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Chris Pine). The entire first half will be nothing but tropes and cliches…even the cinematography and music are flat and unoriginal, to the point where the audience will stop paying attention…as our hero prepares his community for battle against some dumb villain.
Then the second half opens and all fucking hell breaks loose: the “hero” and his army, as one thing leads to another, just commits straight-up genocide in the most offensive and disgusting way possible. And the worst part: the “hero” doesn’t reflect on his dishonorable victory. To him, it’s all glory. The film is told from his perspective as he slaughters men, women, children, and takes slaves for good measure…all told through the lens of bland 90s filmmaking.
Then the lame quote from the beginning… “In war, there are no heroes” …reappears at the end, just so you can show the audience that you tried to warn them. And that’s the moral of the film: everyone is capable of evil so pay attention, we’re all blinded by ideology, blah blah blah
Is anyone else seeing what I’m seeing here?
Sure there are films that deliberately fuck with the audience, but is there one out there that fucks with the audience based on expectation (like making the audience believe they’re watching standard Hollywood fare, but reveal that they’re actually watching torture porn)?