Lost In Space: Storytelling Done Right

Is anyone else kind of obsessed with Netflix’ remake of the old 1960’s sci-fi show Lost in Space? *warning, slight spoilers ahead*

I didn’t know much about the show until I saw a preview at the movie theater. It looked shockingly interesting. As soon as I saw the first episode I was hooked. Lost in Space is one of the best TV shows I have come across in a long time, and I’ll tell you why.

Lost in Space is visually gorgeous, both the sets and the CGI are amazing. It nails the science/fiction part every single time. It has intrigue. A shadowy timeline. A colorful world. There is so much material for new plot threads that I am confident this show has a long and prosperous future ahead of it.

But none of the reasons I listed above are the core of why Lost in Space is such a phenomenal show. There’s another, more encompassing reason.

Lost in Space is storytelling done RIGHT!

The opening sequence of the pilot episode drops us into action almost immediately. We see the Robinson family seated around their “table” playing a game of Go-Fish. Sounds normal, right?

lost in space

Actually, no. The normalcy of a casual family game night is starkly contrasted by the fact that the family is wearing space suits and strapped to their seats in a ship that appears to be plummeting out of orbit onto some unknown planet’s surface.

How did they get there? Why is their ship crashing? Are they the only people in this corner of the galaxy? Is this just normal and terrifying landing procedure?

These immediate questions are grounded with a few layers of underlying tension that we are immediately shown between the characters. John Robinson is at odds with his children, especially his strong eldest daughter Judy. His wife Maureen is calm and collected, but there is a coolness in her manner towards him. Clearly, there is something going on in this family, but what is it?

We don’t have time for answers, because our ship is crashing, straight into an iceberg and cold, icy waters! The family makes it out into an ice cave, but their equipment is still inside their submerged ship and they are going to need extra help to survive the cold night.

lost in space ice cave

More family tension. The youngest Will (I adore this child) is the only one small enough to fit into the jammed hatch at the top of the ship. But he’s afraid, never fear! Brave big sister Judy is here! Judy plunges into the waters against her father John’s commands (again, what happened to this family) and attempts to retrieve equipment herself. Problem is, she is unable to get out of the icy water before it freezes over, trapping her in the thick ice just inches from the surface.

*cue panic attack* Claustrophobes know what I mean right here.

Maureen has a severely damaged leg, but her brilliant mind is still trying to work on behalf of her family. Still, her usefulness is compromised. Judy is trapped in the ice with several hours of air left in her suit, no amount of spunk or gumption is going to get her out of this mess. John is trying to keep himself to together while he attempts to free Judy, but he feels like he’s failing yet again. Will feels guilty that his beloved older sister is trapped because of his “weakness”, something you get the inkling he believes about himself a lot. Penny exhibits much of the lost behavior that is often attributed to middle children, she’s falling through the cracks yet again and doesn’t know how to contribute.

robinson family

This is a brilliant setup. Want to know why?

The best stories in any genre are always character driven. 

In just a few short moments, we already know important details about the Robinson family, the people who are the heart and soul of this show. We are given hints of their strengths, but we are more clearly shown their weaknesses in this beginning. We see how these weaknesses are not only affecting them as individuals but especially as a unit. We are put right there in their shoes, we feel their panic, their anger, their confusion. We feel the weight of every problem facing them right now, and at the same time, we have so many questions.

lost in space 10

 

This is how you tell a story without using the infamous “info dump” that so many storytellers make the mistake of using. An audience doesn’t need every detail to fall in love with a character and their story, they just need the right details and they are hooked. We were shown the heart of Lost in Space immediately as we are introduced to the Robinsons’ humanity and immediately given a chance to root for their success.

lost in space 7

 

I am pleased to say Lost in Space follows this pattern for the entire series. We are never given an information dump, we have to fight for the reveal of every piece of info we ever get, but we still don’t feel cheated in the waiting for those reveals.

Lost in Space strikes the perfect balance between the past and the present. We spend most of our time in the present, our immediate problems. Unknown robots. Fuel-eating eels. Mysterious characters who hide their true colors. Strange beasts. And above all, a need to get back on track.

lost in space 6

Much like real life, the Robinsons and all other characters have to stay in the moment, even as pieces of the past are revealed, and old wounds are dealt with.

lost in space 8

 

We already know that we are rooting for these Robinsons. We can’t help it. Not only are they our heroes, but we understand them on a human level. John aches over the time he missed with his family but really feels at a loss for how to repair that damage. Maureen is a red-headed Wonder Woman, is there anything she cannot do? But she’s lacking, there is something missing. Judy doesn’t know how to let herself fall apart, but she also knows she’s not fine. Penny is taking it one day at a time, but she still feels lost. Will wonders if he will ever be more than a failure and a weakling.

Other characters throw in unique problems and questions. Dr. Smith still blows my mind, I never know what to expect next. I have never seen a character quite like her, and she scares me more than 85% of the villains on screen.

 

 

 

lis dr smith

Don West’s I-couldn’t-care-less facade is quickly derailed by his adorable acts of compassion. He grows more endearing by the episode, and I am a huge fan of his precious chicken Debbie.

LIS Episode 102

Among all of these questions, theories, hidden histories, and secrets, one thing is starkly clear to us. This family needs to fix the fault lines within their circle. They need each other to survive. We can see who they are, how much they love each other, and how powerful they are as a unit, therefore we root for unity to be restored.

robinson children

Season 1 ended perfectly. We saw the Robinsons overcome, and reunite, and we saw the power of that newfound strength and unity.

lost in space 5

Maureen is smart and powerful, but she is even better when she has other strong people like her husband John at her side. John has failed to be there for his family in the past, but he’s here now and he’s never leaving again. Judy learns that it is not a weakness to be human, to not be okay sometimes, and her experiences simply feed into her already fierce compassion. Penny is not falling through the cracks, she’s a glue that holds her family together. She has a place and a purpose. And Will, sweet, kind Will learns what we have seen since the very beginning, Will is incredibly brave.

As this family repairs itself, they make a difference not just for themselves, but for those around them. Every other character is delivered because the Robinsons are together again. We started this story seeing the Robinsons’ greatest weaknesses and broken places, and we end Season 1 seeing them thriving with their combined strengths.

Robinsons stick together.

Season 1 was tough for this family. They barely hung on, but in the end, they stuck together and it changed the story for everyone. Considering that cliffhanger we were left on, this united front is going to be vital for the family’s survival going into Season 2. They are up against some terrifying unknowns, but so long as they stick together, they are going to be okay.

The writers of Lost in Space made sure that no matter where this story takes us, we would have one solid thread, the Robinson family. They are our core, our heartbeat, our purpose. We are rooting for them all the way, and no matter what colorful, frightening, or bizarre events they face in future seasons, we know we can always count on one thing….

….Robinsons stick together.

lost in space family

 

That’s storytelling done right, my friends. Now, who else is ready for a Season 2?

Lost in Space Season 1 is Currently Streaming on NetflixIf you want a cleaner version for your family, Lost in Space is also available for filtered streaming on Vid-Angel

 

 

 

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The Flash: Dear Ralph Dibney

I didn’t like you.

For 4 seasons of The Flash I have wondered why it seemed like the criminal underworld got the mega-share of metahuman gifts, seriously, didn’t any nice, normal people get hit with the dark matter and decide to help out like Barry Allen? Sure, we had a few nice ones get hit. But they appear and are usually dead in the same episode, so, they didn’t count.

And then we got Ralph Dibney. Gross, self-piteous, self-focused, dirty-minded Ralph Dibney. Really? THIS is the one we get to keep? Why in the heck couldn’t Julian have stuck around for another season?!? You actually made Joe puke, and I agreed with his assessment.

gross ralph

Ralph, sir, you made yourself so hard to like. You were a mess. I hated it when you made off-color comments about women. I hated it when you ate gross food. I hated your extraneous banter. I hated the establishments you loved to frequent. I hated your self-absorbed attitude about how your life had turned out. I was delighted when we had an episode where you were mysterious “out of town” or otherwise occupied. I hated it all, and I still do.

I. Did. Not. Like. You.

Dear Ralph Dibney, I’m going to miss you.

elongated man

I know, I never, EVER expected those words to come out of my mouth. You had managed to take me beyond indifference for an unlikable “good guy” character and make me actually wish you were gone! But now that you are, all I want is for you to come back.

‘Cause here’s the truth, Ralphie-boy, even when I still didn’t like you, you started to make me proud of you.

I was proud of you when you saved someone even if it meant letting the bad guy “get away”.

I was proud of you when you decorated for Christmas, even if your taste in decorations is atrocious.

I was proud of you when you encouraged Joe to stay true to his moral standards and not plant false evidence at the DeVoe’s house to save Barry.

I was even prouder of you when you choose to step up and protect Caitlin and Cisco from the Prankster’s acid, even if it meant you died a horribly painful death.

I ached for you and was proud of you when tried to help Izzy, when you didn’t turn away from her pain but rather embraced it. I saw the heroic, protective, kind heart you had hidden under the slime, and I was proud.

But Ralph, when you sat and told Barry what you were afraid of, that you didn’t fear losing your own life, you feared losing the people you loved. When you looked him in the eye and said with passion,

I would walk into a furnace for them….they’re mine! DeVoe can’t have them!

ralph's family

Ralph, at that moment, I wasn’t just proud, I didn’t just ache, Ralph, at that moment I LOVED you. You did it, you won me over. I loved you so much I couldn’t even believe I was there, but I was.

And now you are gone. Just when I loved you, you are gone. You died looking at Barry and thanked him for the gift he had given you, and my heart broke.

How did you do it, Ralph? I’ll tell you how.

We are all broken people. So many of us are unlikable, smarmy, gross, self-absorbed, jerks. Without help, many of us stay there. But someone saw you, Ralph, for who you could be, and your story took a different turn.

Love empowers. But I’m not talking about just any old brand of “love” that gets sold as lust and chocolate. No, I’m talking about real love. Real love sees someone, no matter where they are at, and sees who they can be, and that kind of love never lets go. That kind of love can happen to anyone, it’s not confined to romantic relationships. That kind of love crosses colors, nations, boundaries, personalities, and any other obstacles that get put up. That kind of love changes people.

sweet ralph

It changed you, Ralph. You couldn’t even believe it, not for the longest time. Someone actually cared about you? About slimy, worthless, failure-ridden-old you? They cared more about you than you cared about yourself. When you fell down, they picked you up. When you made a mistake, they forgave you. When you hurt, they hurt with you. When you didn’t feel like a hero, they told you that you were one and gave you the strength to become that person.

It changed me too, Ralph. I believe in the power of Love to change, this kind of love anyways. Love came down and saved me at the Cross regardless of how unworthy or unlikable I was.

But it was nice to be reminded, I needed to be reminded.

You died a hero, Ralph; you died a changed person. You died knowing you were loved, and you died giving your life for the people you loved. Someone offered you something that no, you didn’t “deserve”. But that’s not how true love works, love keeps giving even when we don’t deserve it. And choosing to accept that love changes us.

It changed you, Ralph. And it touched me.

Dear Ralph Dibney, I wish I had seen you sooner. I wish we had more time. I don’t know if you will be brought back or not, that episode seemed pretty final. But I had to thank you, I had to thank you for reminding me of something so precious.

You reminded me to look beyond the book cover. To see beyond the unlikable. And to love first.

Goodbye, Ralph. You made a difference and watching how your story progressed encouraged me to keep making a difference as well.

Dear Ralph Dibney, you will be missed.

hero ralph

Ghostbusters- Parental Review

I don’t watch many ghost movies where there are actual ghosts and not just some faker trying to scare everyone. I had never seen the originals, and so unlike many Ghostbusters fans from the past, I was able to see this movie unbiased.

(see the official trailer for Ghostbusters)

I’ll be honest, this is not the film you go to see if you want a tight story, easily followed character progression, and any sense of realism. It’s a far-fetched tale with ghosts, slime, and ridiculously dumb receptionists. One of the most realistic elements of the film was Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) back and forth battle with the Chinese restaurant over the number of wantons in her soup.

Still, I rather expected this going in. I mean, it’s a movie about ghosts where four women are wearing coveralls and zapping paranormal beings with bright shafts of light. You don’t walk into that kind of film expecting realism or a deep message. So, instead I set my expectations accordingly and I ended up enjoying the movie for what it was.

The characters of this movie were actually pretty engaging and funny. Kevin-the-receptionist played by Chris Hemsworth was incredibly delightful. I have only ever seen Chris in more serious roles where he plays a fierce warrior, but I have heard that he is naturally funny. I loved getting to see this goofy and cutesy side of him. He was perfectly adorable and added a nice sparkle to the film. I only wish they had used him more.

The ladies, Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Patty (Leslie Jones) were each unique and funny in their own way. Their witty banter was cute and engaging. I was annoyed with the amount of cussing and crass language thrown into the dialogue. It was unnatural in how it was fit in, and it felt like a cheap way to be edgier. The characters were funnier when they were just talking about normal things using words safe for all ages.

*I’ll cover this in the language section of my review, but be warned, both Imdb and Common Sense Media failed to cover that subject correctly. We went to the movie after looking at the reviews anticipating far less language than was actually in the film. I have no idea why they did such a poor job covering it as they are usually pretty thorough, but be forewarned especially if you are considering bringing your children.

I know a lot of fans of the original Ghostbusters films were incredibly disappointed with this remake. I can see how they could be disappointed, but like I said before, I have never seen the old ones and was able to enjoy this film unbiased.

Now, here’s the info you’ll need in order to make a decision about whether or not this film is beneficial for you or your family.

Sex/Nudity- There are a few designs that the receptionist has drawn up to be potential logos for the Ghostbuster ladies. He’s drawn a few designs of ghosts with big boobs. The ladies are somewhat embarrassed and explain that is not the image they want to project.

One of the ladies finds Kevin to be very attractive and makes a few, slightly suggestive comments that will probably go over younger viewers’ heads.

Some dancing, either to loosen up before a big speech, or in celebration of a victory. It doesn’t feel overly sensual, it’s mostly goofy, but there will be pelvic movement.

A female mannequin with nothing on is possessed by a ghost and featured prominently for a minute. It’s not a detailed mannequin, but it is clearly female given the chest shapes.

Violence/Gore- The women blast ghosts with bright rays of light and destroy them.

A ghost posses a main character for a time and she attempts to throw another woman out of the window. She is relieved of the ghost after being slapped very hard by her friend.

A man is thrown out of a window by a ghost. It’s obviously implied that he was killed, but nothing is ever shown.

A gruesome story is told at the beginning of the movie about a woman-now-ghost who murdered her servants.

A man commits suicide by electrocuting himself. This is a part of his plan to become a ghost himself.

A woman walks up to a ghost and attempts to communicate with it. The ghost hovers for a time and appears calm, but in a split second turns very violent and spews slime all over the woman. This is a startling scene.

Lots of slime. Lots of screaming.

Language/Profanity- As I said above, this subject was woefully undersold in other parental reviews. Here is a complete list of the amount of profanity in this film, I apologize that I could not get an exact word count, but I can at least every word that you can expect to hear.

B*t*h*s

a**

Many g*d, oh my g*d

p***

At least one use of J*s*s

I think there was at least one use of s***

h***

d**n

One very unnecessary sequence where a man uses a middle finger, on both hands, and flies his hands around like birds in the women’s faces. He is never intended to be a gentleman by any stretch of the imagination, but this scene was so unnecessary and stupid.

Other words would include crap, butt, stick-up-your-butt.

Very unnecessarily crass, to the point that some of the language felt out of character.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking- Wine or champagne, one bar scene at the end of the movie where the ladies are having a beer together. This section really isn’t an issue.

Frightening Scenes- It’s a ghost movie, expect this to be frightening for younger viewers. I would have been terrified of this film as a child, especially of the larger ghosts that took the form of giant and evil parade balloons.

*Please, on behalf of your children, don’t assume that they can just handle something or if they are young enough they won’t remember it. My mom was 3 years old when she saw King Kong and she was tormented by that movie for years, it still effects her today. Children pick up on and remember a lot more than many will give them credit for. Keep this in mind when deciding if this film is for your children or not.

Heroes/Role Models- All of the main characters were decent people. They are persevering and brave. The primary motivation for the villain was that he had been bullied and poorly treated his entire life, and now he wanted the world to suffer when he unleashed the murderous paranormal on them. Our main cast of characters have also been poorly treated, but they represented a contrast to the villain in that they fought to protect the world and people, even those who called them fools.

Talking Points- This movie isn’t really message-centric, so there aren’t a ton of talking points presented. Still, here are a few things you could go over with your family.

  • Are ghosts real?
  • Can we blame “society” for the difficulties in our life, or do we take responsibility for our own attitudes.
  • Are you willing to keep doing what you know is right, even if everyone is calling you crazy.
  • Would you protect someone who had been mean to you before?
  • Is revenge the way to solve being hurt? What other options are there?
  • Will you still do the right thing, even if no one will ever know that you did it?

This movie was somewhat outside of my comfort zone in what I typically watch. I enjoyed it for what it was, even through its faults. I hope that this review will enable you to make the best possible decision for you and your family.

 

 

 

What Pacific Rim Got Right About Lead Characters

I didn’t see this movie until just yesterday. The news surrounding casting choices for Pacific Rim 2 brought the film back to my attention. I had read feedback saying that the movie was all visuals with poor acting and storyline. I had my expectations set for moderate, but when I actually saw the movie I was blown away.

The visuals were unbelievable. This movie had to be incredible in 3D. Watching the battles between the massive Jaegers and Kaiju gave me a giddy feeling that only the greatest action movie battles can offer. I found the concept of connecting two people through “the drift” to be creative and fascinating.

The music was fantastic. I will listen to that soundtrack again and again.

But the aspect of this film that stood out to me the most was the characters. Yes, the characters. The ones that were said to be “poorly acted”.

Characters are in my opinion, the most crucial part of any film. Why? Because characters are the closest point of connection between a film and its audience. We have thoughts, characters have thoughts. We have struggles, characters have struggles. We have emotions, characters have emotions. A character doesn’t have to be a human in order to connect with us, it could be a little cowboy doll, a dog, or a talking tree.

I have noticed that many action films tend to rely on large explosions and intense gunfire exchanges rather than on good characters. Many action film characters are one-dimensional robots. For the men, they are filthy mouthed robots with muscles and stubble. For the the women, they are also filthy mouthed robots with muscles and chests. There is very little that I find approachable about these robot characters, and I most certainly do not end the movie feeling connected to them.

Pacific Rim could have limped along with action movie cliches for characters. They had visuals, battles, and explosions that were more impressive than most. I anticipated action movie cliches upon going into this movie, but what I found instead was a lovely cast of lead characters who had depth and personality. By the end of the film I felt very connected to them and wished to see more of their stories. Now, on to these surprising characters.

Raleigh Beckett

Raleigh Beckett, a former Jaeger pilot who lost his brother to a Kaiju. At first glance, I had anticipated Raleigh to be yet another muscle-bound fighter with a chip on his shoulder. I was so wrong. Raleigh, while bearing sorrow and scars, was actually about the nicest guy you could meet. He was brave, smart, and the most capable pilot available. But he never flaunted this fact, not once. Even when enduring taunts and slights from young Hansen, he kept a straight face and held onto his dignity.

You got the greatest view of Raleigh’s character when you watched his interaction with Mako. He instantly picked up on her skills and potential, and he wasn’t afraid to speak up for her. He valued her as an equal in their job, but at the same time he treated her like a lady. He is proof that chivalry can exist without chauvinism.

As an equal he believed in her skill, never gave her a hard time when she failed during the first drift, and was delighted to have her on board with him.

As a gentleman, he told her that she looked good in the uniform (which she rocked). When young Hansen was badgering Raleigh and Mako in the hallway following their near-destructive mind drift, Raleigh said nothing about the slights to himself. But the moment Hansen started calling Mako obscene names, Raleigh stepped forward in her defense and gave Hansen a good whooping. I’ll admit, I found that scene incredibly satisfying. And then, as the Gispy Danger was drifting down to destroy the breach, Raleigh made sure Mako got out in her pod first before he worried about himself.

Raleigh and Mako

Raleigh was relate-able in that he readily admitted to his emotions. He was deeply saddened over his brother’s death, and traumatized by the shared feelings he had experienced.

He was brave, stepping up to do a job that was likely a suicide mission. He treated those around him with respect. He knew his skills and was confident in them, but didn’t feel the need to flaunt those skills or prove himself. He was kind and encouraging to Mako.

I would love to see more male heroes like this in action films. Raleigh Beckett was a breath of fresh air. His humanness in no way compromised the strong, effectiveness of his character; but rather, it enhanced it by allowing me to connect with him. I want to see more of Raleigh Beckett.

Mako Mori

Mako Mori, one of the programs “brightest and best”. Mako was everything that I could have dreamed up for a female heroine. She was strong, intelligent, and capable. But the thing that delighted me the most about her character were the softer aspects. She was very feminine, and she carried herself with a sweet humility that was refreshing. She was gentle and vulnerable, her character showed real emotions regularly.

Somewhere along the way, Hollywood decided that strong women characters needed to sterilize their emotions. Perhaps this was an over-reaction and poor attempt to compensate for the over-dramatized emotions women displayed in older decades of film. I don’t care for either extreme, since real women in the real world are a mix of both strength and emotion. I don’t know about you all, but I am ready for some real women characters that make me feel.

I felt when I watched Mako. I connected with her. She wants a chance to fight against the evil monsters who haunt her dreams and destroyed her family. She has worked very hard to get where she is. At the same time, she respects Marshall Stacker Penecost and knows that his negativity towards her involvement stems from love.

Mako wanted an opportunity to fight, but she didn’t insert herself to the point of becoming obnoxious. That’s fine, because her eager willingness is all that she needed to catch the attention of Raleigh Beckett, who went to war for her right to become his co-pilot. This created a fantastic point between the two characters where their separate character threads became woven together.

She didn’t fight it when Raleigh stood up for her, nor did she throw his efforts back in his face like many female characters would. Instead, she accepted it gratefully which gave her character all the more dignity and legitimacy.

Mako was adorable, strong, and endearing. I loved everything about her, from the soft way she spoke, to her blue hair, and her non-air-permitting hug of Raleigh during the end scene. Mako Mori was exactly what a strong female character should be. She was a real woman who I connected with and would love to see more of.

Marshall Pentecost

Marshall Stacker Penecost. He actually fit into a very typical action movie role of the veteran leader with a soft side. I don’t really mind those roles though, as this type of character lends a gravity to the story and creates a reference point for the other characters to revolve around. Plus, these types of characters are usual played by legends such as Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, and in this case, Idris Elba.

I greatly enjoyed seeing (and listening to) Idris Elba in this role. He has a rich and handsome quality to him that is riveting. He wasn’t unnecessarily harsh, had clear motivations for his actions, and the thought of him raising a tiny little Mako was simply adorable. His death at the end of the movie was a fitting and majestic end to his character.

I really have no idea why this movie didn’t do well in the US. There were many moments that just thrilled me in my movie-fan soul. Seriously, watching the Gipsy Danger drag a cruise ship into battle to use as a weapon was so exciting. My life-long movie dream was fulfilled when Raleigh said, “Let’s check for a pulse.” on the dead Kaiju, and proceeded to blast it to death beyond a shadow of a doubt. No one ever makes sure the enemy is good and dead, and it often comes back to bite them in the rear. Future action heroes could use some pointers from Raleigh Beckett in just about everything. The music made me feel energized and excited. The characters were awesome. Oh, and a shout-out to the little girl who played mini Mako Mori, she SOLD that role amazingly. How many kids do you see who can pull off intense emotions like that little lady did?

I am so excited to know that there is a sequel in the works, Pacific Rim 2: Maelstrom. There is very little known about the movie as of yet, beyond the fact that it was just announced John Boyega will be playing the lead. His character will be the son of Idris Elba’s character. John Boyega brought new life to the screen in The Force Awakens back in December, and it is rare that I have connected with a character as quickly as I did with Finn. I look forward to seeing what both he, and this sequel have to offer.

What did you think of Pacific Rim? What aspects of it blew you away? Were there any aspects of the film that disappointed you? What was your favorite moment? Did you also connect with the characters?

*****

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