When Gene Roddenbury envisioned Star Trek, he wanted stories without interpersonal conflict. As upset as he’d be that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine broke that rule, I think he would be proud. Deep Space Nine (DS9 for short) is about taking characters who have issues with each other and having them work together to solve larger problems.
Deep Space Nine begins after the Cardassian occupation of Bajor (think the Nazis and the Jews in World War II). The show largely takes place on DS9, a former Cardassian outpost the Bajorans ask the Federation to occupy while they rebuild their society. Bajor is essentially using the Federation as a shield against the Cardassians while telling the Federation not to get involved in their affairs.
Which makes a great foundation for conflict.
Awhile back I wrote an article about The Walking Dead that plead for patience. In that article I tried to show that even boring seasons are constructed with larger themes in mind. Unfortunately, this didn’t even begin to address all the problems people currently have with the series, so in this article I’d like to address a few more concerns starting with a complete breakdown (episode by episode, season by season) of how much time the series dedicates to exciting moments. Then I will use this data as a springboard to discuss the other issues people have with The Walking Dead.
Hacksaw Ridge is one of those films that does a lot of things right, but gets a bunch of little things wrong. I left the theatre feeling conflicted, not about the film’s message or themes, but its presentation of its message and themes.
Because Hacksaw Ridge is not subtle. It is about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who, despite being a conscientious objector, enlisted in World War II, refused to carry a weapon, and became a decorated soldier. The film spends about half its runtime on Doss’s process of getting through the army as a conscientious objector. Hacksaw Ridge wants to tell a story about absolute faith and it thinks the key to achieving this is to hammer the conscientious objector story until the nail is so deep it will never come out.
I’ll return to Hacksaw Ridge when it comes out on DVD and spend some time with it to figure out all my problems, but for now I’d like to quickly look at the lack of storytelling subtly in Hacksaw Ridge.
Please note, this article will contain Hacksaw Ridge spoilers. Moreover, because this article deals with some nuances of its storytelling, it won’t make sense unless you’ve seen the film.
I rewatched The Matrix the other day and was impressed by how purposeful it was with its CGI. And not just it’s CGI, The Matrix integrates all its ideas seamlessly into the story. Here’s a movie that wants to build a dystopian future, incorporate philosophical concepts, be the first North American film to have fight choreography from Yuen Woo-Ping, popularize a technique that manipulates how viewers perceive space and time in a camera’s frame (that they coined “bullet time”), and incorporate anime and cyberpunk influences.
And somehow, amidst these varied and bold initiatives they manage to make each and every single element serve the story as well as making an entertaining action movie. This helped me remember that good CGI has more to do with serving the story than it does with looking cool. There are a number of reasons CGI might look bad (low budget, time constraints, conflicting information between directors and producers), but unnecessary CGI is the greater crime.
Here are three examples of where CGI serves the story well and three examples where CGI serves the story poorly.
With the most recent episode of The Walking Dead, “Swear,” fans are starting to get restless.
I’ve had a fortunate background with The Walking Dead. I only started watching just before Season Five, so I was able to binge watch the series up until that point. This meant that if the show dragged for a couple of episodes, I didn’t have to wait long to get to the “solid episodes.” But you notice something when you watch the series all at once; it’s clearer to see that the “slow episodes” are actually building something. Something of value. We all experience the highs of The Walking Dead and those moments aren’t because Rick is stuck in tank and we’re not sure how he’s going to out, it’s because there are themes and ideas the show is trying to convey while simultaneously getting you to care about its characters and where they are going.
And slow as Season Seven may be (so far), I think it’s helpful to look back at previous seasons to remember that the season has a destination in mind and we’re going to be delighted somewhere along the path to that end point.