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New Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers Review.... ICK!

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New Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers Review.... ICK!

Old 10-19-01, 12:06 AM
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New Babylon 5: Legend of the Rangers Review.... ICK!


Captain Christopher Pike here.

I've been plugged up to this computer for seemingly ever without writing you Knowles. You betrayed and left me to be mutated by those bulbous headed makeup dudes and usually I'd squat and squeeze to feed you what you deserve, but I just saw Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers. It's a movie scheduled to air early January on Sci Fi. It is really bad.

It is better than Crusade, which...to me at least...pretty much represented how low Babylon 5 could go. But it's still no good. Mike Vejar...usually a very talented B5/Trek director...brings nothing interesting or inventive to the table here. In fact, his work feels hurried and unrefined.

The FX are somewhat improved over Crusade, but there's nothing particularly *special* about them. Far too much over-reliance on FX simulating a rumbling, shaking camera when ships fly past, land, etc. Nearly every substantive FX in the movie employs the shakycam, diminishing the impact of the conceit, and frequently distorting the image so severely it's often difficult to see what's actually happening on-screen. Which totally removes the viewer from the action.

Spaceship designs are very poor but Hyperspace now looks more like a PC screensaver than the red "hell" we saw in B5 & Crusade); jumps into & out of hyperspace look different (more swirly/swishys in the toilet bowl effects); the spinning centrifuge of Babylon 5 (the station is seen in the last shot of the movie, although we never board it) is considerably slower; and the cities of Minbar now look more like Blade Runner than the crystalline sprawls witnessed in the series set a few years earlier.

A lot of old, old, ineffective clichés. The main ship is haunted: the people (old crew) haunting it look like dorks dressed-up as a Scooby Doo zombie for Halloween. The characters feel like the line-up from some defunct Glen A. Larson series: a young, maverick captain & a slightly renegade crew of loyal-but-irregular Rangers. Including: a warrior vixen (think Tasha Yar, or Worf's woman from Trek: TNG); a big, loveable oaf Drazi, a mousy ship's doctor, and a guy whit a holosuit which allows him to imitate any character. We've seen all of this...or variations of all of this...before. Joe Straczynski (B5 over god) used to rail against SF clichés, but he seems to have has no problem slathering them on this time around.

Andreas Katsulas (reprising his role as G'Kar) does nothing but dispense sagely advice, which often is so oblique it's meaningless. He repeatedly interrupts Grey Council meetings (!?!?!?!?). He's generally a pest, and even annoying at times. His character is pushed sloppily through the plot, allowing him only a few opportunities to say something which passes as "important". And when he says "important" stuff? It feels like a tedious lecture, or a tiring pontification. A waste of a great actor and character. His presence feels tacked-on.

In one of the dumbest ideas seen on TV in some time: the ship's gunner-babe has to dive into a VR bubble to operate her vessel's defensive systems When she does this, we see her flying through VR-sim space like Superman (one arm back, one arm, thrust forward), hurling balls of flame out of her hands and feet (representing her ship firing at its opponent). We almost never cut away too see her ship actually *doing* anything in battle. It's all told from her point of view. This chick is flailing about (with poor wire work), discharging fireballs from nearly every orifice of her body, blowing-up stuff we can't see clearly. A really bad way to draw viewers into the tension of battle.

One interesting new "approach" for the series: the show tries to convey much of its action in a slightly pumped-up way. Christopher Franke's score...usually cacophonous & atmospheric...is very up-front in this movie. Reasonably strong melody lines roll throughout action sequences, like Michael Mann employed in Last of the Mohicans, or Jerry Bruckheimer utilizes in many of the movies he produces. But there's not enough visual energy (often due to a decided lack of coverage) to support what they're trying to accomplish. Speaking of Bruckheimer: there's a scene in this movie who is almost exactly like a sequence in Armageddon: the Rangers are flying through the tale of a comet & it looks just like the approach to Armageddon's asteroid (swishy blue tendrils of **** coming at them, etc).

Acting in the movie is all over the place. A few performances might have worked with better writing, but Joe gives 'em nothing to do. And, many performers are just plain *bland*. The K/S people (a contingent of Trek fans believing Kirk and Spock were gay lovers) will have a field day with the two leads in B5: LOTR (notice how LOTR = Legend of the Rangers, *and* also Lord of the Rings I mean Minbari. It's *very* Trek. In fact, the whole show is *very* Trek. Anyone who thought Crusade was inspired by its competition ain't seen nothing yet.

New villains show-up. They're called The Hand. The show melodramatically informs us these guys are tougher & more bad-ass than The Shadows we saw in B5 ("They make The Shadows look like insects!"). Maybe The Hand looks good on paper, but they're stupid as hell. It doesn't take much to blow-up their ships (silver/blue starfish), and they're easily tricked. I'm not quite sure how these folks made it through kabillions of years of galactic history if they've always been this dumb. And, for serious B5 junkies, it's never explained whether this "The Hand" is the same "The Hand" referenced in the Sheridan/Ivonova dream of the original series, or is in any way related to "The Hand" which ran around trying to kill Michael Caine in a 1981 feature film (the only hand really needed here is the one which should be slapping Joe). .

There are a few flashes of cleverness or coolness throughout the movie, which suggest...somewhere down inside...Joe still has a bit of "B5 spark" left in him. But the entirety of the work doesn't do much to convince me he's the person to be mastering the franchise right now. I think there are many B5 stories still waiting to be told, I'm just not sure if he's the person to be telling them anymore. Maybe he's blown his wad. Or, maybe his muse ain't pulling her weight. This movie has been in the can for some time now but they've said nothing about picking-up Legend of the Rangers.

Now that I've seen it, I'm not surprised.

Captain Christopher Pike unplugging
Old 10-19-01, 12:24 AM
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BTW, if you click on the link and then on the Talkback! portion of the page, there is a JMS response to the review. Man, nothing beats a flame war between B5 and Trek fans!
Old 10-19-01, 11:00 AM
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I refuse to take any review seriously from someone who compares Michael Mann to Jerry Bruckheimer. What an idiot. I'd love to know what relevance LOTR being an acronym for Lord of the Rings has to anything. He states this like it's some supreme revelation.

Whatever. Legend of the Rangers may be a horrible piece of television, but I'm not going to trust this joker to tell me so. The Trek vs. B5 War is by far the most idiotic thing in all of television, and I agree with jms that this guy is just a disguised Trek fan spreading ill will on B5. Half of his review is dedicated to special effects. News flash, jerky: B5 NEVER had good special effects. Did you watch the show? From day one, it's been about compelling characters and interesting story.

And he has the audacity to imply that jms should not be running the B5 franchise? That's just plain moronic. Even if jms has gone crazy and completely ruined everything B5 (not the case, I'm sure), it doesn't matter. B5 is his. He created damn near every minute of it. If he runs it into the ground, that's his choice.

Reading through that Talkback makes me sick. Star Trek and Babylon 5 are two of the greatest things to happen to television. The way I see it, Star Trek created intelligent Science Fiction on television, and Babylon 5 reinvented it. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Why people have to latch on to one and vehemently oppose the other is beyond me.

I suggest reading jms' reply for some laughs. I'm glad he takes shots at AICN, which is nothing but a bunch fanboys who rarely know what they're talking about. It's still a decent source of "news" at times, but there's rarely any credibility to a review that appears there.

[/RANT] ... for now ...

Old 10-19-01, 11:30 AM
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I personally think Crusade was actually pretty good, and it was getting better. That last ep with the Drakh and Dr. Franklin was definitely the best.

The Rangers movie, I'll hold off judgement until I see it in January. But that VR thing, eek!

BTW, for all the good writing JMS can sometimes do, there are occasions when he just goes off the Chees-o-meter. Season 4, Episode 6 still has the stupidest/best line in the whole series:

"Now get the hell out of OUR galaxy!" ;-)

Last edited by Tesiae; 10-19-01 at 11:32 AM.
Old 10-19-01, 02:16 PM
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That "review" has to be one of the silliest things I've read this week. The FX won't be great? Really? (Has that guy even *watched* B5?)

And what the hell is wrong with Crusade? For a 13-episode show with no story arcs, I thought it was a very enjoyable and promising start. Much better than most things on TV, and easily better than 95% of the crappy sci-fi shows that networks end up putting on the air.

Who knows -- maybe Rangers will suck. But I'll choose to watch it myself and make up my own mind. Internet hype and reviews aren't going to give me a clue.

Look at ENTERPRISE... the show looked pretty bad to me and all of the stories/interviews leading up to it just confirmed my fears. But, it's turning out to be a enjoyable little show.

And I agree with JMS. This is obviously just a "trek troll" slamming on B5. I look forward to January.
Old 10-19-01, 03:09 PM
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One of the things I simply CANNOT stand about AICN is the so-called reviews Harry does. Jesus, does he have to tells us EVERYTHING he did that day before he saw the goddamned movie? Just tell us about the goddamned movie man!

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