Hey folks, Harry here in Herc's domain to give you a story by my old schoolmate, Captain Christopher Pike... We went to the Academy together, but I decided to bring my super-knowledge back to you apes by slingshotting around the sun, meanwhile he ran off to be a BIT on the Final Frontier... Sad when talent doesn't go corrupted. Alas... Here's Pike with his motionless unblinking stare into the abyss of SciFi and finding a glimmer of hope there...
Captain Christopher Pike here.
I've been plugged up to this computer for seemingly ever without writing you Knowles. You betrayed and left me to be mutated by those bulbous headed makeup dudes and usually I'd squat and squeeze to feed you what you deserve, but I just saw Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers. It's a movie scheduled to air early January on Sci Fi. It is really bad.
It is better than Crusade, which...to me at least...pretty much represented how low Babylon 5 could go. But it's still no good. Mike Vejar...usually a very talented B5/Trek director...brings nothing interesting or inventive to the table here. In fact, his work feels hurried and unrefined.
The FX are somewhat improved over Crusade, but there's nothing particularly *special* about them. Far too much over-reliance on FX simulating a rumbling, shaking camera when ships fly past, land, etc. Nearly every substantive FX in the movie employs the shakycam, diminishing the impact of the conceit, and frequently distorting the image so severely it's often difficult to see what's actually happening on-screen. Which totally removes the viewer from the action.
Spaceship designs are very poor but Hyperspace now looks more like a PC screensaver than the red "hell" we saw in B5 & Crusade); jumps into & out of hyperspace look different (more swirly/swishys in the toilet bowl effects); the spinning centrifuge of Babylon 5 (the station is seen in the last shot of the movie, although we never board it) is considerably slower; and the cities of Minbar now look more like Blade Runner than the crystalline sprawls witnessed in the series set a few years earlier.
A lot of old, old, ineffective clichÃ©s. The main ship is haunted: the people (old crew) haunting it look like dorks dressed-up as a Scooby Doo zombie for Halloween. The characters feel like the line-up from some defunct Glen A. Larson series: a young, maverick captain & a slightly renegade crew of loyal-but-irregular Rangers. Including: a warrior vixen (think Tasha Yar, or Worf's woman from Trek: TNG); a big, loveable oaf Drazi, a mousy ship's doctor, and a guy whit a holosuit which allows him to imitate any character. We've seen all of this...or variations of all of this...before. Joe Straczynski (B5 over god) used to rail against SF clichÃ©s, but he seems to have has no problem slathering them on this time around.
Andreas Katsulas (reprising his role as G'Kar) does nothing but dispense sagely advice, which often is so oblique it's meaningless. He repeatedly interrupts Grey Council meetings (!?!?!?!?). He's generally a pest, and even annoying at times. His character is pushed sloppily through the plot, allowing him only a few opportunities to say something which passes as "important". And when he says "important" stuff? It feels like a tedious lecture, or a tiring pontification. A waste of a great actor and character. His presence feels tacked-on.
In one of the dumbest ideas seen on TV in some time: the ship's gunner-babe has to dive into a VR bubble to operate her vessel's defensive systems When she does this, we see her flying through VR-sim space like Superman (one arm back, one arm, thrust forward), hurling balls of flame out of her hands and feet (representing her ship firing at its opponent). We almost never cut away too see her ship actually *doing* anything in battle. It's all told from her point of view. This chick is flailing about (with poor wire work), discharging fireballs from nearly every orifice of her body, blowing-up stuff we can't see clearly. A really bad way to draw viewers into the tension of battle.
One interesting new "approach" for the series: the show tries to convey much of its action in a slightly pumped-up way. Christopher Franke's score...usually cacophonous & atmospheric...is very up-front in this movie. Reasonably strong melody lines roll throughout action sequences, like Michael Mann employed in Last of the Mohicans, or Jerry Bruckheimer utilizes in many of the movies he produces. But there's not enough visual energy (often due to a decided lack of coverage) to support what they're trying to accomplish. Speaking of Bruckheimer: there's a scene in this movie who is almost exactly like a sequence in Armageddon: the Rangers are flying through the tale of a comet & it looks just like the approach to Armageddon's asteroid (swishy blue tendrils of shit coming at them, etc).
Acting in the movie is all over the place. A few performances might have worked with better writing, but Joe gives 'em nothing to do. And, many performers are just plain *bland*. The K/S people (a contingent of Trek fans believing Kirk and Spock were gay lovers) will have a field day with the two leads in B5: LOTR (notice how LOTR = Legend of the Rangers, *and* also Lord of the Rings I mean Minbari. It's *very* Trek. In fact, the whole show is *very* Trek. Anyone who thought Crusade was inspired by its competition ain't seen nothing yet.
New villains show-up. They're called The Hand. The show melodramatically informs us these guys are tougher & more bad-ass than The Shadows we saw in B5 ("They make The Shadows look like insects!"). Maybe The Hand looks good on paper, but they're stupid as hell. It doesn't take much to blow-up their ships (silver/blue starfish), and they're easily tricked. I'm not quite sure how these folks made it through kabillions of years of galactic history if they've always been this dumb. And, for serious B5 junkies, it's never explained whether this "The Hand" is the same "The Hand" referenced in the Sheridan/Ivonova dream of the original series, or is in any way related to "The Hand" which ran around trying to kill Michael Caine in a 1981 feature film (the only hand really needed here is the one which should be slapping Joe). .
There are a few flashes of cleverness or coolness throughout the movie, which suggest...somewhere down inside...Joe still has a bit of "B5 spark" left in him. But the entirety of the work doesn't do much to convince me he's the person to be mastering the franchise right now. I think there are many B5 stories still waiting to be told, I'm just not sure if he's the person to be telling them anymore. Maybe he's blown his wad. Or, maybe his muse ain't pulling her weight. This movie has been in the can for some time now but they've said nothing about picking-up Legend of the Rangers.
Now that I've seen it, I'm not surprised.
Captain Christopher Pike unplugging