Friday, April 03, 2020

El hoyo/The Platform (2019)


If you watch enough movies, you tend to see patterns.  You’ll see elements of one movie in another.  It’s easy to compare The Platform to Cube, but it’s really not the same thing.  This isn’t some loose remake of another movie.  I’m not saying it’s entirely original, but it does stand on its own.

The Platform follows Goreng as he finds himself in a tall tower.  Each floor is a cell shared by two people.  Goreng entered voluntarily, hoping to earn a degree by the end of his six-month stay.  He’s initially paired with Trimagasi, who we find out accidentally killed someone.

Each cell has little more than two beds, a sink and a toilet.  Each person is allowed one personal item to help pass the time.  (Goreng brings a book, but it can be anything.)  Food is delivered once a day on a platform that goes from the top floor down.  By the time it reaches Goreng and Trimagasi on level 48, there’s not much left.  Trimagasi is happy for a bottle of wine.

Herein lies the problem.  There’s supposed to be enough food for everyone, assuming each person takes their share.  The catch is that there’s nothing stopping the first level from taking everything.  In fact, the only condition seems to be that you can’t save anything for later.  You have to eat while the platform is there.  If you hold onto anything, the temperature either rises or falls to a dangerous level unless you throw it down to the next level.

People are reassigned to a new level every 30 days.  People are kept together unless someone has completed their term or they die.  The level assignment seems to be random.  You could kill someone and end up on a higher level.  You could be a saint and wind up on a lower level.  Trimagasi has been on lower levels and does not like the prospect of going back.

Even though everyone has been on a lower level, they’d just as soon shit on you as help you.  (This literally happens in one scene.)  There’s little empathy.  There’s also no way to really affect anyone on the levels above.  One could make threats, but not carry them out.  People only have the hope of attaining a higher level next month.

There is a disturbing element to the movie.  Several people are killed and in rather gruesome ways.  Having to go a month with no food will make people do crazy things.  If you’re at all squeamish, there will be things that will bother you in this movie.  (No, it’s not a good idea to bring a dog as your personal item.)

Mostly, it’s commentary.  When people have to share resources, there really is no good answer.  If we are told to share, that doesn’t happen.  People without access will have to go without, and that’s not going to look pretty.

Any alternative starts to look like socialism and is frowned upon.  The intent is to help people, but why should one person go without for the benefit of another?  It’s the perfect example of the tragedy of the commons.  Everyone takes what they can get.

It’s also easy to say you would help people, but most wouldn’t.  Even when Goreng wakes up on a single-digit level, he finds he has no control over those above him and little control over those below him.  There’s not much he can do except threaten those on the level below him to fall in line.  Even then, there’s no promise that the instructions will be followed all the way down.

I suppose that’s life.  Some will suffer.  I think the big question is how do we treat others?  Even knowing what it’s like to be on the bottom, some people will grab all the money that they can.  I feel that while the movie isn’t perfect, it does illustrate the dilemma pretty well.


Thursday, April 02, 2020

Star Trek: Picard -- Season 1 Episode 10 (Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2)


It occurred to me while watching Star Trek: Picard how easy it would have been for it not to have happened.  The details vary, but it would seem that Patrick Stewart didn’t want to return for a fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  If he had left the show, Picard would have remained assimilated or would have been killed.  If this happened, I might be reviewing an episode of Star Trek: Riker right now.  Of course, I’m not sure how accurate the details are.  I suppose it would make for a great alternative history cameo or something.

Anyway, this review is about the final episode of the first season of Star Trek: Picard.  The androids are facing the threat of being annihilated by Romulans.  Rather than listen to Picard’s grand speech or hope that Starfleet will arrive in time, the androids are building an antenna to call the super AI interdimensional beings for help.  What’s scary is that this help will come in the form of killing all organic life in the galaxy.

There’s a lot of deception and trickery on both sides, but Picard is eventually able to stop the annihilators from crossing over into our universe.  Of course, it is at the last second.  (You know, I’m not really even sure what it would look like not to have it at the last second.)  But the universe is saved and we’ll get a second season.

This isn’t to say that the episode doesn’t pull at the heart strings.  Picard gets to meet Data one last time and Data has a rather emotional request for Picard.  You might be wondering how this is possible.  To be accurate, it’s the copy of Data’s memories that were copied from B4.  Either way, it’s a more appropriate sendoff for the character.

One thing I find curious is that the Romulans really did have a huge fleet.  This raises several points.  First, why send so many ships to wipe out one planet?  I guess they may have been expecting the galaxy-destroying AI to already be there.  Of course, had the AI already been there, it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Also, where did all those ships come from?  If the Romulans had those ships before their sun went nova, couldn’t those ships have been used in the evacuation?  If not, it would mean that they were built after the evacuation.  It would be a testament to the Romulans that they could find the resources to make that many ships.  (For that matter, the Federation also has a lot of ships.)

This isn’t to say I dislike the episode.  There was some personal growth for many of the characters.  And there is going to be a second season.  I would hope the major characters will return.  My only question is if this will include Dr. Jurati.

She was supposed to turn herself in for the murder of Bruce Maddox.  That got sidetracked, but she still did it.  She still has to answer for that.  Maybe the second season will start with Jurati in an orange jump suit.  The entire season could be breaking her out of jail for a special mission.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens.


 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Star Trek: Picard -- Season 1 Episode 9 (Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1)


There were a lot of questions for the first season of Star Trek: Picard.  What is this impending AI apocalypse?  Will Soji be the one to end all organic life in the galaxy?  Where was this Zhat Vash when Control was taking over on Star Trek: Discovery?  At least some of these questions are answered in the two-part finale.

We don’t get a flashback here.  The story starts with Picard, Soji and the rest of the crew trying to land on Soji’s home planet.  Right behind them is Narek, the shady Romulan who was playing Soji for information.  Oh, and Seven of Nine actually brought the Borg Cube to help out, which is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the androids have an impressive defensive system.  Giant flowers come up and disable the ships.  All three of them crash on the planet’s surface, including the Borg Cube.  It’s not a long walk, but they do have to walk and the Borg cube lands in the opposite direction from the android city.

First, Picard makes sure everyone is safe on the Cube.  I suppose it’s the decent thing to do and it gives him one more chance to be called Locutus.  Then, it’s off to Android City, where nearly everyone is dressed like something out of The Original Series.  The only notable exception is Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, son of Noonian Soong.  It was he who made the androids from Data.

The androids are advised of the impending attack by the Romulans.  Picard has already informed the Federation of this, as well, but there’s no promise that Starfleet will get there first.  There’s also not much that anyone can do.  Yes, the flowers took down a Cube, but there are two dozen of them.  The Romulan fleet is going to have 218 ships.  It’s not exactly a fair fight.

Also, one of the androids, Sutra, is able to do a mind meld with Dr. Jurati.  Jurati was shown the Admonition, which apparently didn’t drive her totally insane.  Sutra is able to view the Admonition and determine that it was meant for artificial life.  It’s not a warning to organic life, but rather a promise to artificial life.  The advanced AI race will protect artificial life by wiping out all organic life.

This sets the stage for Soji to build an antenna, as per the Admonition’s instructions, to call the advanced AI.  And we’re left with a more proper cliffhanger.  Picard is held prisoner in the house.  The Romulan fleet is coming.  Also, it’s not entirely clear if Starfleet got Picard’s message telling them where to go.

There were a few questions, like how Sutra was able to do a mind meld.   Before you get all giggly thinking of the Kama Sutra, it’s worth noting that Sutra is a Sanskrit word meaning discourse.  It would make sense that she’s the one to do the mind meld.  I suppose if we accept that Vulcans can do it, so could androids.  It’s also probably an issue of convenience.  The alternative would be having an android go get the Admonition directly.  It does make for a cleaner narrative.

One thing that always gets me is how fathers always look like their children.  It’s never the mothers.  At least here, I get that it’s a chance for Brent Spiner to have a decent role in the series.  He’s also stated reservations about playing Data, noting that years have passed since the movies.  Who am I to complain?  It is nice to see him again.

Something I noticed was that Irumodic Syndrome was never mentioned by name in the entire season.  Picard finally comes clean to the crew in this episode, but it’s always danced around.  Someone mentions something in his brain, but never what it is or could be.  I suppose there could be some copyright issue with whoever wrote the finale to The Next Generation.  I don’t know.  Anyway, Part II should be just interesting.


 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Star Trek: Picard -- Season 1 Episode 8 (Broken Pieces)


Once again, we start with a flashback.  Commodore Oh is leading a group of Romulans in The Admonition.  They get to see exactly what happened to an unnamed ancient civilization that fell victim to artificial intelligence.  Most of the Romulans go crazy.  Not Narissa or Rhamda, though.  Rhamda is affected, but not to the point of killing herself.  Narissa seems to make it through unscathed.

As for the story’s present, Jurati has to face up to the fact that she killed Bruce Maddox.  Granted, it was on orders from Commodore Oh, but she still killed someone.  Oh’s involvement might not be enough to keep her out of prison.

We also learn why Rios’s captain killed himself.  It had to do with the fact that the captain was ordered to kill two synthetics, one of which happened to look like Soji.  It’s a bit of a coincidence that Rios was on the ship to make first contact, but it is an interesting one.

Meanwhile, all of Raffi’s conspiracy theories are proven correct.  There was a plot behind the Mars attacks.  For this reason, she contrasts really well with Picard.  Picard wants to see the best in everyone.  He’s come to expect it.  Meanwhile, Raffi tends to see the worst.  It doesn’t help that she’s proven correct, but it also doesn’t deter Picard from trying.

He’s the only one on the ship that doesn’t take a pessimistic view of the Federation, even though Starfleet let him down in a big way.  He’s coming to realize that that’s no excuse not to try.  In a way, he also gave up.  Instead of going out to make things better, he retreated in to a vineyard.  (He basically made alcohol rather than just drink it.)

I have to wonder if the ancient race mentioned in this episode is the Tkon Empire.  It’s said that they lived thousands of centuries ago.  (Picard says 200,000 years ago, but I’m not sure where he got this number.)  The Tkon Empire existed over 600,000 years ago and had the ability to move stars.  It’s said that a race would have had to have moved stars to have an eight-star system, as the most stars to occur naturally would seem to be seven.

Elnor is still on the Borg cube, but he now has Seven helping him.  It’s not clear if they’ll meet up with Picard and crew.  I guess I’ll be finding out soon enough.  As soon as I finish writing this, I’m off to watch the two-part finale.  It should be an interesting one.


 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Star Trek: Picard -- Season 1 Episode 7 (Nepenthe)


One thing that bothered me about transporters in Star Trek was that the operator always knew who to beam up.  Riker would call to beam up three people out of a room full of people and they would always beam up the correct three people.  This was probably done for the sake of the narrative.  It would get tedious to have to name everyone that was leaving.

This is why I find it odd that when Picard and Soji visit Nepenthe, they’re put down in the back yard of the people they’re visiting.  They could easily have found themselves on the opposite side of the planet, given how far they were traveling.  It’s amazing that they weren’t transported to a spot a mile above the planet.  Still, I guess we need to consider the narrative.

Speaking of the narrative, who is it that Picard and Soji are visiting?  William Riker and Deanna Troi, of course, as promised in the series trailer.  I supposed Picard could have taken Soji anywhere, but it’s nice to see Riker and Troi again.  It’s especially nice to see that they’re still a happy couple, despite a tragedy.

Meanwhile, Hugh and Elnor fight the Romulans on the Borg cube.  Things don’t end well for Hugh, which is a shame.  Elnor is a great fighter and is an interesting character.  It has become increasingly obvious that he’s in over his head.  I’m assuming that he’s never been outside the sisterhood’s compound.  He would appear to be a fast learner, though.

On La Sirena, Jurati has to come to terms with the fact that she’s the mole.  In fact, we get to see the rest of her conversation with Commodore Oh.  It looks like there’s more than either character was letting on.  Her only option seems to be to inject herself with a compound.  It’s not clear if this is meant as suicide or not, but it does seem to disrupt the tracking capabilities of a homing device Jurati was made to swallow.  (At least it was chewable.)

Picard doesn’t seem to be the diplomat he once was.  Maybe it’s the irumodic syndrome talking.  I don’t know, but he answers Soji’s concerns with sarcasm and he’s rightfully rebuked.  Troi and Riker call him on it, but it’s not the first time he’s done something like this.

Soji is very suspicious of everyone now.  She’s been betrayed by the one person she trusted the most and wonders if all of this is another act.  It’s entirely reasonable of her.  (On a side note, Troi can’t sense Soji.  Troi could sense Data with his emotion chip, but Soji is different.  Exactly what those differences are remains to be seen.)

We get a few of the obligatory throwbacks, like a mention of Picard’s artificial heart.  There’s also a mention of a Tyken’s rift and Kestra, from Night Terrors and Dark Page, respectively.  I’m not sure if multiple references in each episode was intended, but it’s not unwelcome.  It doesn’t set this up as an eighth season of The Next Generation, but it does allow for some nice continuity.  I’m curious to see what the subsequent episodes bring.