Category Archives: The Disappointment of…

The Disappointment of: The Red October

“The Disappointment of:”  is a series of blog posts that address plot elements in stories that the characters perceive to be something that should be feared or regard as completely badass that end up not living up to the hype the characters give it for the audience.  Remember, the disappoint is based on the failed expectation created by the CHARACTERS for the audience.

Today’s disappointment:  The Red October (Movie version, 1990).

I’ll preface this by first saying that I’ve never served in the Navy and what I know about Submarine warfare comes from reading about it, watching documentaries, and talking with people that have served on subs.  If there is a movie that best demonstrates the brutal, psychological nature of submarine life and warfare, in my opinion, it would be DAS BOOT, directed by Wolfgang Peterson.  It shows the absolute necessity of stealth for attack and survival.

‘Run Silent, Run Deep’, as they say.

Now, let’s take the psychological fear of an attack you can’t see coming until its too late, and throw in the psychological fears of a cold war nuclear weapons strike from right off the coast line of whatever you live in, with no warning and no time to prepare.

That is fear that Jack Ryan and the other characters dealt with when spies smuggled out pictures of the new Russian Typhoon-Class Ballistic Missile Submarine, The Red October.  The pictures indicated some features that they could not identify which fueled their fears even more.

When Jack showed the pictures to Skip Tyler, who was able to identify the mystery doors on the Red October, as possibly being part of a super-silent propulsion system, known as a caterpillar drive, that fear factor went through the roof.  OH MY GOD!  That sub could just putt-putt right passed the sonar warning nets, in the Atlantic, launch a couple of hundred nuclear warheads on the east coast and “no one would no anything about it until it was all over”.

Ah hell, with a threat like this, what would be the sensible thing for the government to do?

Have a briefing.

Oh, by the way, Jack,  you’re giving the briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of the other crusty old men that show up.

So how could things get any worse?  There is new weapon that we know very little about, but are pretty sure no one, ANYWHERE, will be able to find it because its super-duper quiet.  And now dozens of other Russian ships are flooding out into the Atlantic and heading OUR way!!!  Oh the humanity!

But wait, there’s more…

One of the crusty old men says he’s heard, through the grapevine, that the Captain of the Red October sent a letter to an Admiral and within minutes, that Admiral is telling his boys to go sink that shiny new, multi-billion dollar piece of soviet state property.

“Sink her?”  Says National Security Adviser, Jeffrey Pelt, right before he excuses himself to clean up after soiling himself (I’ve speculating on that.  I expect that was edited out in post-production).

What does it mean?  Wait…a rogue missile submarine?  Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick!  He’s going to blow us all up!  And there is NO WAY to find locate this submarine!  What do we do?

“Definitely grab the boat, Sir,”  says Jack, eagerly.

“Oh ok,” Pelt says.  “Let me just put you on a plan, undercover (so to speak), and fly you out to a random carrier battle group so you can single-handedly find the submarine that, by all accounts, is UNDETECTABLE.  If only there was someone, somewhere…maybe a sonar operator…that had keen enough skills to bag that sucker on sonar and. by extension, completely negate the effectiveness of the so-called caterpillar drive forever and always because once you figure out what it sounds like…and get a recording of it to share with everyone…its no longer a stealth weapon.  Its just another missile submarine.

BAH!  That’s just crazy talk, right?  Surely russian engineers didn’t make it THAT easy to beat their design right?

Meanwhile, on the U.S.S. Dallas…

Captain Bart Mancuso:  “What you got, Jonsey?”

Seaman Jones”Captain, hey, you know that super quiet submarine everyone’s looking for?  In spite of all the noise of a hundred russian ships flooding the water with active sonar, I found it.  It’s right here…and its heading here.  Oh and check it out, I got it on tape to store in the computer.”

Captain Mancuso:  :  “Great.  We’ll use the $40 million dollar computer, that tells us these things, as our new anchor.”

I paraphrased (a lot), but basically in that moment, as soon as Jonsey figured out what the Red October sounded like, that sub was no longer special.  Just another big steel underwater trap.  From that point on, EVERYONE knew where it was and they had a big confab at the Laurentian Abyss during for the movie’s climax,

I know I’m talking about the movie (in the book, it wasn’t quite so cut and dry), to illustrate how unscary and utterly useless the Red October became, I think two books or so later (in the Jack Ryan Series) Tom Clancy wrote the scene where the stripped hulk of what was left of the Red October was scuttled in the ocean and no where (that I can remember) is the caterpillar drive mentioned again or its technology applied to any U.S. Warship (again, that I am aware of).

And that’s it.  The Red October is gone, never to be feared again.

Agree or disagree?  Is there a similar plot element that was similarly disappointing that you’d like me to review?

As always, comments are welcomed.

Till Next time…

The Disappointment of: The U.S.S. Excelsior

Oh boy.  This one is might hurt some feelings, but if there is any one thing that is the epitome of this series, The Excelsior would be it.  It probably got the least amount of screen time than anything else I’ll talk about in this blog post series, but that brief time was significant.  A possible changing of the guard was implied when the old Constitution class Enterprise limped into space dock, battle-scarred and haggard.  To add insult to injury, the heir-apparent to the Starfleet throne waits in the wings.  You could almost pick up on the new starship smell, even in the vacuum of space dock.

A sad end to an icon is foreshadowed.

er-spacedock-st3

The first sight of the Excelsior is held in reverence by most of the bridge crew.  Sulu might of even got turned on when mentioning the trans-warp drive.  Even James T. Kirk was given pause, almost as if to be thinking:  “What if…What if…”

You just knew that these two were meant to tangle before the film’s run time was up and it was going to be EPIC, right?

.If that wasn’t enough, Starfleet made the decision to decommission the Enterprise and reassign her crew before it was even moored back at space dock.  Despite Kirk’s best efforts to convince Fleet Admiral Morrow that the ship still has life left in her, the admiral states “The Enterprise is twenty-years old.  We feel her time is done.” (Or something close to that, anyway.)

***Just for clarification, because I know trekkers will probably call me out on it.  The “Twenty-year old” Enterprise is a continuity error, to the best of my knowledge.  If one wants to be technical, twenty years prior was when Kirk took command for his five year mission according to the timeline I’ve seen.  Christopher Pike and Robert King both commanded the ship for five year missions – each.  But I digress***

To keep in line with his career history of disobeying orders as it suited him, Admiral Kirk and the gang hatch a perfectly executed plan to steal the ship and go back to Genesis.  I say ‘perfectly executed’ because so far as I can tell, the were able to plan and prep this plan to not only steal the ship, but bust Bones out of the Starfleet brig, in about seventeen minutes, it seemed.

But he’s James T. Kirk, and that’s how he rolls.

Lucky for them, Kirk had foreshadowed the need for the ship to be fully automated and had Scotty get to work on that project while they were still on their way back from Genesis.

Fast forward to the getaway.

After brief, inspiring exchange between Kirk and the getaway gang, they power up the Enterprise and make a break for the Space Dock doors.  This, of course, makes Docking Control collectively crap itself and the call a red alert.

huh…always on the move, I guess.

 

Captain Styles gets the call from the Excelsior bridge.

First, we already know this guy is a pompous ass after his brief exchange with Scotty as he was leaving the ship.  “I’m looking forward to breaking some of the Enterprise speed records.”  He carried a swaggar stick, for crying out loud.  Then he had the audacity to question the yellow alert.  “How can we have a yellow alert in space dock?”  He says, passively while buffing his fricken finger nails.

He’s told what’s going on and then he takes action…while still carrying the swaggar stick (geesh).

Here’s where the tension really starts to build.

On the Enterprise (which is making the slowest starship escape on record, IMO), Chekov intercepts communications and announces to all the very last thing they wanted to hear:  “Sir, Excelsior powering up with orders to pursue.”

boy-that-escalated-quickly-anchorman-520x245

 

After struggling to override the space dock doors, the Enterprise makes it to open space with the Excelsior is hot pursuit (well, its the slowest pursuit for the lowest getaway.)

Captain Styles, ever the confident starship captain, lets us know the best chance for the Enterprise to escape isn’t good enough compared to the shiny new Excelsior by reminding us that if “If he tries to get away with warp drive, he’s really in for a shock.”

Queue the requisite threat from the Captain of the shiny new ship to the Admiral on the decades old rust bucket:  “Kirk. You do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.”

Without out a second thought, Kirk gives the order for warp speed and the Enterprise is off and gives the Excelsior the proverbial finger in its subspace wake.

Oh hell no, he didn’t!  It’s on like Donkey Kong now, right?   Captain Styles is through pussy-footin’ around.  Time to show the galaxy that there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is:  Excelsior.

“Prepare for warp speed.  Stand by transwarp drive.”

The music score ramps up the tension even further with heavy percussion.  This has to be bad ass because the bridge crew has to secure themselves in their stations, right?

A very young Miguel Ferrer, at the helm, announces the transwarp drive is his command.

It’s time!  This is the confrontation we’ve been waiting for up to this point.  Time to show us what thirty years of technological advancement in starship design has come up with.  The Enterprise, as great as she was, stands NO chance!  Hell, we even heard the Enterprise was going to be destroyed before the movie even came out.  THIS HAS TO BE IT!

With a look of steely determination, Styles issues the command:  Execute.

We hear the heavy rumble of state of the art trans warp drive rising up to what is sure to be an earth shattering crescendo.  Then…

*Faulter…cough…fizzle…sputter*

It’s an FTL failure the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.

The new pride of starfleet falters like Tim Couch did for the Cleveland Browns.  So sad.

And all it took stop the biggest, baddest, starship ever built was Scotty pulling some fuses or chips or something out of the Trans warp computer drive.  That’s it.  No epic computer hack.  Nothing fancy.  My four-year old grandson could have done it.

Then the Excelsior disappears until the last two minutes of Star Trek IV, and we don’t see it again until Star Trek VI.  In which, it (again) faltered and was left adrift in space dock.

I’m serious, the incident with the Enterprise was such an overpowering embarrassment, this ship sat in space dock for two MORE years (according to the memory-alpha site) until Star Trek IV, then had to undergo a major refit before being put into service after another year or two.

They tried to redeem it, in Star Trek VI, by giving Sulu his command of his starship-crush, but by that time it was too late.

Goodbye, Excelsior.  Your disappointment won’t be missed.

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Till next time…

 

 

The Disappointment of: Goro

“The Disappointment of…” is a blog post series dedicated to underwhelming characters and/or plot elements that were hyped within a movie or TV show, by the characters or story world, itself, that spectacularly failed to live up to that hype.  *This is not to be confused with things that were generally disappointing.  These are things that characters both revere and fear.  They could be other characters, places, or anything that characters, within a story world, regard as bad ass…and ultimately wasn’t.

Today’s installment:  Goro

Mortal Kombat, 1995 – A lot of the target audience for this movie already had experience with Goro from the first Mortal Kombat video game when this four-armed behemoth pummeled them into feeding more quarters into the game to continue and get pummeled again.

We had expectations for the game’s sub-boss on-screen.

The quirky animatronic character costume aside, it looked as though our expectations might be met.  At the banquet, Shang-Tsung announces to the combatants that they will have the chance to face the reigning champion, Goro,  and advises them to treasure these moments, implying that they could be their last.

He’s already messing with their heads.  Planting that seed of trepidation about the tournament, and Goro, ahead of them.  It was pee-pee in your pants time for someone in that crowd.

Later we finally see Goro, for the first time.  He huge!  All four arms are jacked and ready to pop heads like pimples (again, silly practical effects costume, aside).  In an expositional conversation with Kano, we learn he’s a general of the Outworld army and Prince of the subterranean realm of Shokon.  Even Kano, who isn’t supposed scared of too very much, quakes in Goro’s presence.  Oh, man, by this time, we can’t wait to see what he can do!

When Shang-Tsung lets Goro loose into the tournament after deciding, “We’ve let these humans win enough”, we get a montage of Goro plowing through nineteen combatants, presumably killing them all.  Impressive!  We begin fear for our heroes when they finally get to face him.  Yet, we still haven’t actually seen what he can do.

After the montage, Goro’s next opponent is Art Lean.  A competent fighter that Johnny Cage knows, some how.  Honestly, I don’t remember what their relationship is.  I don’t think I’ve seen that movie in over twenty years.  But that’s not the point!   We’re waiting to see Goro in action!

And did we ever!  Art gets a beat down like hadn’t seen yet.  Nothing fancy, just a brute force trauma and the (four) hands of the Prince of Shokom.  In the end, poor Mr. Lean’s near lifeless body his held up by two of Goro’s hands, when the monster looks to his master and we are treated to the two most famous words from the Mortal Kombat franchise:  FINISH HIM!  After one more devastating whack across the head, art Lean falls to the ground.  Dead.  No magic.  No special attacks needed.  If a trauma ward was paid by the number of injuries treated, I would expect they’d be sitting on large pile of cash if they were able to fix ol’ Art.

How can our heroes expect to overcome such a threat and save Earth?  They’re only human, after all!

Inspite of what he just saw, Johnny Cage makes a deal with Shang-Tsung to challenge Goro.  GASP!  Johnny doesn’t stand a chance, right?  He shows up in his movie persona, completed with jeans, sunglasses, and attitude.  Didn’t he learn anything from watching his friend get pummeled to death right in front of him?  Goro shows some swagger of his own by snatching Johnny’s glasses out of his hand and crushing them to pieces and stomping on them.

Goro didn’t blink at Johnny’s machismo.  Johnny is out matched in every way.  He’s a dead man!

Shang-Tsung orders Goro to finish him quickly and, by all measures, it should be over in a snap of Johnny’s spine.  But then Johnny drops into his trademark splits and takes a shot at Goro’s Shokom family jewels and while Goro is writhing in agony, he runs off!.  Well, Goro, the biggest badass in the tournament, can’t let a little pain in the junk get him down.  He pursues Johnny, and a leisurely walking pace.  What’s the hurry, right?  He finds johnny.  He’s going to squash him like the bug he is.  Johnny kicks him a couple of times and…

…Goro falls off the cliff and into the abyss.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!  That’s it!  A punch to the nads, a little walk out on to a cliff, and johnny kicks him a couple of times and its over.  What a fricken rip off!!!  Goro has got to be one of THE most disappointing adversaries that everyone was afraid of…EVER.  They would have done better to have him beat Johnny without killing him and have them fight again later.  Then MAYBE, Goro doesn’t disappoint…as much.

So what do you think?  Agree? Disagree?  Let me know in a comment below.

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Till Next time…

The Disappointment of: Yoda’s Lightsaber Skillz

I had so much fun with previous post about the Azkaban prison not living up to the hype it was given by the Harry Potter universe, I’ve decided to make a separate category for the subject.  I mean, let’s face it, there are SO MANY characters and plot pieces that have let us down over the years, they almost beg for their own post category.  So today, I bring you another one from fairly recent memory.  People went nuts when they heard it was going to happen.  When it finally did, it didn’t fail to disappoint:

YODA’S LIGHTSABER SKILLS

After the tragedy that was The Phantom Menace, Star Wars fans clung to the hopes that the follow up would set things right.  I mean, it gave us Darth Maul who was NOT a disappointment.  He was as badass as was expected.  Instead, he was a wasted cool character.  To make up for it, Episode II was going to have to give us something we’ve always wanted, but never seen.  We knew Yoda was a Jedi Master.  Episode I showed us he was the leader of the Jedi council.  But we’d never seen him fight…until now.

Yoda is a beloved character and in the original trilogy, his power is implied.  Obi-Wan Kenobi sends Luke to him because he was the jedi master that instructed him.  A bending of the truth (not the first exaggeration Kenobi and Yodi will tell Luke, but that’s for a different post), but if Yoda was a teacher that would suggest he is more powerful and possibly better in every way over Obi-wan.  But in that trilogy, we only got to see him in his little mud hut in a swamp and spout off carefully crafted bursts of contradictory jibber-jabber…and tell more lies to Luke.  But that’s not what I’m talking about today.

Then Lucasfilm announced Yoda would be wielding a Lightsaber in AOTC.  Dumping that godawful puppet and going with a CGI character would make it possible.  Oh happy day!.

The media buzz about seeing Yoda wield a lightsaber in Attack of the clones caused a lot of excitement.  By default, Yoda should be that badass, right?  In the movie, Obi-Wan hinted at Yoda’s badassery, by telling Anakin that if he practiced saber technique as much as he did being a smartass, he’d rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.  Anakin, of course, thought he already did to which, Obi-Wan replies, “Only in your very young mind…”  Wow even Obi-Wan Kenobi, who we already know to be bad ass with a lightsaber, is in awe of Yoda’s skillz.  Then we get to see him in action.

I quote Austin Powers, here:  “Whoop-dee-do, Basil.”

He’s fast and hell, jumps and flips, attacks from different directions.  Screams like a fricken banshee!  Except…he’s lost every lightsaber duel we’ve seen him in.  Yes, even in AOTC.  Count Dooku got away, therefore he lost.

His fight with Palpatine in Episode III was better, but he never really had the upper hand.  And when it was over, he scurried off into some air vent, like a little green rat.  Upon getting picked up by Bail Organa, he was so dejected by the lost he declared that he had to go into exile.  Exile!  Instead of trying to regroup and taking another run at Palpatine before he can get fully entrenched in his new Empire, he’s just took a ‘whoa is me’ approach, and gave up.

From our perspective, Yoda’s fight record:  0-2.  That is not badass.

Yoda, you have disappointed us, Sir.


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The Disappointment of Azkaban

So, we were watching one of the Harry Potter film marathons recently and it got me to thinking about something:  Azkaban Prison.

In the movies, when Azkaban is mentioned, characters get wide-eyed and scared at the thought of having to go there.  You get the sense that it is something to be feared in their world and you’re meant be fearful of it, as well.  It’s a BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD place.  If you get sent there, you’re not coming back.  A foul pit of hell, that place is, right?  NO ONE ever escapes.

Then we get THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN.

Someone escaped the inescapable prison and he’s a BAAAAAD man out to get Harry.  I get it.  That was a big deal.  So in light of that escape, Azkaban was going to tighten up.  No one’s getting out ever again, right?

…Until Barty Crouch Jr. escaped.

Wait…this wizarding prison, that has “No escapes in 300 years” on its brochures, loses another prisoner within a year or two of the last one.  And this time, no one knew about it.  Then there’s the mass breakout that let loose a bunch of death eaters.

Anyway, the point is Azkaban didn’t live up to the hype.  Prisoners came and went as they pleased.  It was almost a casual affair.  And it had to be “casual” because when they finally did discover Barty Crouch Jr., Dumbledore’s almost “casual” comment was something like:  “Sent an owl to Azkaban, I think they’ll find they’re missing a prisoner.”  It came across like it wasn’t something that was out of the ordinary.  It’s okay, just another Azkaban escapee in the house.

If I was sent to Azkaban, I might feel pretty good about my chances of escaping, IN SPITE of the Dementors.  Since they feed on things like depression, I’m sure they could easily be bought off by telling them where to find a bunch of emo kids.  This fear of Azkaban was just smoke and mirrors propaganda from the Ministry of Magic.

Do you have any movie set piece disappoints? Anything that was built up to be fear and revered by the characters of a movie, only to have it let you down?

Let me know in a comment below.


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