Tomorrowland Analysis: There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Just a Dream Away

First glimpse of Tomorrowland

I’m an optimist.  I always have been, even through the roughest patches of my life.  But being an optimist is hard work, and is often ridiculed.  Today, movies filled with darkness and despair are seen as more “real,” while optimistic movies are ridiculed as being juvenile or unrealistic, and happy endings are easily dismissed by many.  So by all accounts,Tomorrowland shouldn’t exist.  Big motion picture companies don’t spend $190 million on an original science fiction film about how hope and the mere act of not giving up can save the world.  And, unfortunately, judging by the film’s mediocre results at the box office they probably won’t again in the near future.  But to continue on the path we’re currently following would be, as Casey Newton would put it, “feeding the wrong wolf.”

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Update: Star Trek Into Darkness Writer Apologizes

In my previous posts about Star Trek Into Darkness (read the review here, and the analysis here), one of the things I complained about was the gratuitous scene whose only purpose was to showcase Alice Eve in her underwear.  The writer of Star Trek Into Darkness, Damon Lindelof, just issued a series of tweets apologizing to fans for the scene.  Read on for the image in question and Lindelof’s apology. Continue reading

How to tell a story

With the new season of Lost beginning on Wednesday, I thought I’d share some thoughts on Lost, what makes a TV show good, and how different tactics by producers and writers can lead to different, but equally worthwhile results.

The Lost Experience recently ended, and I vowed to watch all of the first two seasons of Lost on DVD before the new season starts. Having failed at that (only got through about 10 episodes) I returned to my normal DVD routine, watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I own all seven seasons of ST:TNG on DVD and am about halfway through season five. After I switched to watching Lost and then back, I realized how remarkably different the two shows are, and yet how good they both are, despite their differences. Let me preface this by saying that I think ST:TNG is the greatest show in the history of television, and too bad if you don’t agree. It is iconic, deep, resonant, emotional, insightful, and has more of a legacy than even the original had.

The format of the two shows is very different. ST:TNG tells a unique story with each episodes, and while there are overlying themes and stories, it is easy to simply tune in and watch an episode, because for the most part, they stand alone and are not parts of a whole. Lost, on the other hand, has a continuous story, which means that it is difficult to understand what is going on if you miss an episode. Paradoxically, considering the number of episodes, not as much has happened on Lost as happened in the first two seasons of ST:TNG. Sure, lots of things have been discovered on Lost’s island (am I the only one that think the island needs a name?), but only a few major events have happened.

The explanation for this delves even deeper into the methods of storytelling employed by the two shows. Lost uses characters to show you the story, ST:TNG uses story to show you the characters. On Lost, the majority of the episodes are spent learning more about particular characters, either by flashbacks of their past which are used to explain their present, or by situations or relationships they encounter in the present that show and test who they truly are. Much of the information about characters is revealed either through exposition, or through choices and decisions the characters must make, directly involving us in each character.

ST:TNG is the exact opposite. Sure, there were episodes that focused around individual characters, but where we learned from the most was the way each character acted with respect to the story being told in each particular episode. By making the stories the focus of the show, it allowed the actors to develop their characters more naturally. You learned about each one the way you would learn about anyone in real life, by the way they react in certain situations, with small glimpses into their personal lives: as friends, rather than as observers.

In Lost, we are shown a character, given information from a God-like perspective, where we can see all that is going on, and shown the type of development or traits that the writers want us to see. This allows a deep look into a particular character, almost like dissecting a frog in science class. It makes you try to fully understand each character, and why they act the way they do. In ST:TNG, you also have the pleasure of learning how the frog works, not by cutting it open, but by observing and interacting with it, and appreciating it for its whole, rather than the sum of what you are shown.

Many people look at Star Trek (all versions) characters as easiest terms, the most simple definitions (see The Breakfast Club): the android who wants to be human, the blind engineer, the empathic counselor, the doctor and her son, the Klingon. Lost has similar stereotypes, as pointed out by Sawyer in season one, and the majority of the character development is spent trying to get you to look past all that to see the people inside, and try to get to you to relate. Star Trek shows you the characters, and lets you learn from them. Instead of relating (because it is impossible to completely relate to one character, since we are combinations of all), we get to experience and consider how we would react in a situation, and we learn something about ourselves. Data is the best example, and this is why he is the greatest television character in history. His endless quest to be human, and to understand humans, led us not to a deeper understanding of Data, but a deeper understanding of ourselves. We didn’t relate to him as he tried to understand why we act a certain way, but his quest for understanding showed us why we do. And that, my friends, is what made Data more human than any of us.

P.S. I think many great lessons about ourselves can be learned from Lost too, and many great discussions about life and characters and all the good juicy stuff can come from Lost. I just think that the interesting bits of Lost come from analyzing the characters, while the interesting bits from Star Trek come from analyzing ourselves.

Lost and Survivor, it’s been a while

Well, loyal reader, it’s been quite a while since I last updated this journal. One season of Survivor has ended and another is about to begin, and Smokey the monster made its first appearance on Lost. So here are my thoughts.

Survivor: Well, Danni won, and I’m glad. I always like to root for the underdog (GO PANTHERS!!!), and she definitely qualified, she outlasted all the others from her tribe who came into the merge, and she won the right immunities at the right times. And she didn’t stab anyone in the back. I do have to say, however, that Rafe was an idiot for letting her out of her promise to take him with her to the final 2. But oh well. I have to say that the gimmick for the new survivor “Exile Island” does not really do anything for me. I mean, it might be neat, I’ll just have to wait and see.

LOST: Much more to talk about here, though I’ll keep it brief. I like the addition of the tailies (the survivors from the tail section), I think they’re all interesting and that a great bond can be formed between the new characters and the old. We finally got to see the big monster, which it turns out is not a dinosaur but in fact an sentient tentacle/cloud of black smoke (the Abyss, anyone?). It has stared down Locke and Eko once each, and left both alone to continue their lives. It does seem to support the Purgatory theory of Lost, in that it judges those who should remain or those who should move on. However, I’m puzzled as to why it grabbed Locke a while back and tried to pull him down the rabbit hole. I guess we’ll get some answers eventually. We also found out that Jack’s wife/former patient left him for another man, and that he “always needs something to fix” (there’s a great oversimplified character summary). Oh, and we got to have a nice little chat with the Others. The scruffy guy, Zeke, is pretty creepy… (in the credits he’s listed as being named Mr. Friendly, though I don’t know how we know the name Zeke or the name Mr. Friendly). They warned Jack et al. to stay off their turf. They made the analogy that you don’t go to someone’s house for the first time and kick off your shoes and put your feet on the table, but also, if someone comes to visit your house, you don’t steal their children and shoot them, so I think that was a crappy metaphor. I hope Michael gets Walt back eventually, and that Sawyer gets to meet up with Zeke again. And I hope that Locke figures out the mystery, and that Jack gets some faith, and that Charlie and Claire get back together, and that Sun and Jin stay together, and that Sawyer and Kate get together, and that Jack and Ana Lucia get together, and that peace and harmony will live forever on the island/experiment/purgatory/planet/place. But I don’t think that’ll happen, and I can’t wait to see what does.

Late Survivor Update

Yeah, so sorry it’s been way too long since my last post. The last week or two have been crazy. So yeah here it goes.

LOST: I didn’t get to see Lost last week, because I’m a retard and forgot to tape it… twice… but I read the update and it looked pretty awesome, and I guess I’ll have to wait for a rerun. But it turns out that Desmond ran away, that the “Others” encountered by the raft survivors are actually people from the tail of flight 815, and that they are complete jerks and liars. That’s all I can say about last week since I didn’t see it.

Survivor: Well the shakeup finally happened. I knew it was coming (and not just because the preview said it was). One tribe had been dominating so the producers had to even it up (though it’s still not very even). The reward challenge wasn’t really a challenge after all, but that’s ok, because it was all a setup for the juggling of tribe members. Gary got screwed, though. He’s now on the tribe with the sportswriter lady Danni, who totally called him out on being a former NFL QB. But he made the smart move and stuck with the lie, even though he’s an awful liar. Bobby John and Blake had a disgusting urinating alliance talk, followed by an even more disgusting handshake… ewwww… gimme the jibblies. In the end, poor Stephanie still lost, and perhaps she is cursed. In the end Brooke was voted out. She would not have been if Judd hadn’t been an idiot and flip-flopped on his original tribe. Now no one will be able to trust him, and he’ll still be the first one voted out of his “alliance”. Real smooth.

The Raft and The Challenges

LOST: Last night’s episode of Lost was another good one. Many people seem to be of the opinion that the episode was a waste, and that it did not progress the story any. This episode was more important for mood than anything else. It allowed for two of the raft explosion survivors, Michael and Sawyer, to connect, and deeper develop their characters. The classic Sawyer moment came when he removed the bullet from his shoulder with only his fingers, without asking for help, as usual, and then he sarcastically asked Michael if he had a Band-Aid before he passed out. However, we’re starting to see a deeper side of Sawyer. He’s no longer the anarchist/rebel who cares for no one. He’s starting to attach himself to those around him, and reveal his inner self, without having to hide it so much. In this episode we also got a glimpse at the function of the computer down the hatch, and its connection to the numbers. It also seems that Desmond has been lied to, in that he thinks everyone on the island is sick, and that he’s probably been injecting himself with that stuff from the previous episode to keep himself healthy (or so he’d been told). Either that or there really is some disease or something on the island. But most of all, the next episode looks to be spectacular. Savage other survivors of the plane crash and a deeper faith exploration into why some find it so hard to believe and others find it so easy. Me, I’m a believer.

Survivor: So tonight’s episode of Survivor was rather short on tribal drama. That was not necessarily a negative for me. Drama at this point in the game is still rather uninteresting, though it will be better later. What I like most about Survivor are the challenges and the struggle for food/water/shelter etc. And as far as challenges go, tonight’s were awesome! The blindfolding challenge that they have every year is always a good one. This one was no exception. I loved seeing Judd whack his teammate in the head twice with a pole, and good planning by the challenge producer to make the ropes connecting the players shorter than the poles they were carrying. The 2nd challenge was one I’d been waiting for since the location for this season was announced. It featured one of the oldest team sports in all civilization, and the sport that greatly influenced basketball. It was so nice to see a challenge come straight from the culture surrounding the survivors. I have to hand it to the producers for making the tribes so even this season. Every challenge has come down to the wire and has been very close. Just when you think one tribe is doomed, they turn it around and win. It’s very exciting, and I can’t wait for next week.