What I am Watching: Black Mirror Season 3 and Rogue One

Black Mirror Season 3

I was so happy with the first two seasons of Black Mirror, even if the first two episodes were a little up and down in parts. But I stuck with it and Season 2 was an clear improvement. I liked that although the show was clearly trying to convey a message of how technology can affect our daily lives, it was still about our daily lives. The stories didn’t hinge on the technology because the character’s decisions were decisions we may have made if we were in the same circumstances even in our present day – take out the tech and you still have a great story. I binge watched everything up to White Christmas and gave it a rest to let it all sink in before I began what everyone was telling me was the even better Season 3.

Well, three episodes into Season 3 and I am deeply disappointed in the direction the show has gone. Yes, I know, I still have three more episodes to go – but since these episodes are all stand alone, I think passing judgement at the halfway point over what I have seen is not in bad taste. The show which played so skillfully with the details of how people react in stressful situations and used technology and social media as a backdrop turned into a wacky horror/thriller/slasher show about people’s whose lives were nothing like our own. I didn’t care for any of them, nor their problems, nor how they were getting trolled by a society run by assholes both visible and invisible.

I also really missed how in Season 1 and 2 the writers seemed to have been creating a universe within the episodes. Even if the epsiodes were stand alone, everything was happening in this similar world. This made the tech influences more believable, because they were part of a real world. In Season 3 the technology seems to be run by lunatics. There is no rhyme or reason for why people are singled out or why they wouldn’t know the consequences for their actions if that technological power is part of the world in which they inhabit. It doesn’t create a sense of how things arrived to that point of tech and social media influence organically – and they all lost their memory gadgets in their eyes!!!! That was such a great gag, and so well utilized in the first two seasons.

What Black Mirror still does have are writers good enough to drive a story forward. It may be more surface level, but it’s entertaining. The twists are still there, but they don’t have the same impact, as it’s not so personal. The show certainly did lose some of its magic but perhaps the final stretch may redeem the season. Given how well received it has been, I wonder if it will ever go back into its past glories.

Rogue One

What a mess of a movie this was! I was so excited to see it that I watched a bootleg version of it before my planned trip to the movies tomorrow. My planned trip to the movies tomorrow has been canceled.

There are too many bad things to say about this movie to fit into one short blurb, but let’s start with characters that I didn’t care about – and not just one, or two, but a dozen of them!!! They had no charisma, no depth, and certainly no arc. They began and ended the movies the same, unless you want to call becoming “friendlier” with each other a sort of a change. Also, the ubiquitous robot companion this time around did not work for me. He was rude and obnoxious. There was simply nothing charming or likable about him, I just felt like telling him to shut his mouth. He wasn’t on Jar Jar level, but he can’t compete with the other greats, including our special little ball of love, BB 8, from The Force Awakens.

Next, there was a story line which reminded me of Mission Impossible I – too complex for its own good. At least Mission Impossible I had the good sense of keeping that complexity tied to one character, Ethan Hunt, and his being lost in the world of twists and turns right along with us made it a fun ride – this movie’s twist and turns and time jumps just made my brain hurt for the first thirty minutes. I love labyrinthine plot lines, but they are not easy too pull off. They require a tight script and even tighter director and editor to make sure we follow along even while not exactly following along.

Finally, once we settled into what looked like a conceivable plot we discover that it is yet again another Death Star story!!! I just saw this a few years ago in The Force Awakens (a much better film BTW). But this Death Star story was so hockey that it made me chuckle. It is essentially a fan-fiction about one of Star Wars Episode IV’s most ridiculed action sequences towards the end of that film. I will say no more, but once I got to that part I really lost the very little interest that I had before that.

Cool points for showing Darth Vader in action. Cool points for some great special effects (but that is so expected nowadays that it’s tough to give too many brownie points for that). Cool points also for a very mixed racial and gender cast. Other than that it was a waste of a story with little heart or “hope”. I was hoping for an expansive universe but the writers made sure to keep it very much tied down to the events that were to come in Episode IV, so in the end it felt very tepid.

Disney has bought the right to Star Wars, so we are sure to see many more experiments in the years to come. Let’s hope they risk a little bit more and take us away from these things we have seen a million times before. This was a rehash on overdrive but with none of the most important elements which makes Star Wars so great – the mysticism, the magic, the battle and struggles between good and evil, and most importantly, characters we care about and want to see succeed. And no more Death Stars pleeeeease!!!

P. Ray

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2016

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