Cronan's Review of B5's "In the Beginning"

(Cronan Thompson)

I would really love to yell at the top of my lungs, "that kicked much ass." In fact I believe that my desire to yell profanity after watching this film is part of why I am so disappointed by the final product. In order to keep spoilers to their absolute minimum I won't synopsize the movie. I will highlight my problems, which are many and varied, in the hopes that someone will force upon me a pair of rose-colored glasses. Spoilers below for those who were silly enough to not have planned their new year around B5's return to the boob tube.

It is more difficult than you might think to begin at the end or end in the middle or hit your stride near the conclusion of a given endeavor. So I will take a more simplistic approach and begin just before the beginning to prevent any confusion that might have ensued had I chosen a starting point less familiar to a experienced readers. So to begin before I start, let me share a thought on JMS: he is a penologist of unusual skill. About 5 years ago his custom built prison, known to you and I as Babylon 5, and sent out for a prisoner transfer from other areas of fandom whose own ability to maintain their prisoner population was ever dwindling. For the most part it has done what most successful prisons do: keep the inmates from escaping. That, in a roundabout fashion, brings us to "In the Beginning". ItB is a movie that may be successful in keeping long time prisoners in their cells but I seriously doubt that new prisoners will arrive in droves based upon what I see as a mediocre showing of JMS' writing talents.

[This is the post pre-beginning beginning statement. This was placed here for those of you who might be confused]

My first problem with this movie is the stalled feeling of the script. Although Londo's narration was, at times, a welcome push, I felt for more than an hour that the story wasn't really going anywhere. Take the meeting between Sheridan and Lennon (Theodore Bikel). The dialogue was stilted and the situation preposterous, yet if that and the related scenes had been completely subtracted from the movie, no absence would be felt. Now, on the other side of the coin was the meeting between a young Ivannova and her older brother. That scene simply could not have exorcised. Without it, every subsequent explosion of a Starfury would have been a soulless FX shot and nothing more. With that scene in place every pilot whose face we saw became a person. Every scream meant something. It is unfortunate that there were more scenes like the former than the latter.

Lapses in logic were another problem I had. I could care less about minor inconsistencies in the story but the sending of a known "loose cannon" who, according to the men who have served under him, is not only trigger happy but the worst possible choice to meet with *any* race, let alone one about which you had received numerous warnings from still another race you know to be more advanced than yourself, is just plain stupid. That this is supposed to show the arrogance of Earth's generals compounds the mistake in that it makes one wonder how such complete morons could rise to such a rank in the first place, let alone entrusted with first contact.

Melodramatic moments are par for the course in any drama. They pop up every now and again in the best of shows and movies without harming the overall story. Unfortunately, several exaggerated moments seemed to counterbalance any gains in momentum. Although brief, the general's arrest of Franklin had the overemotional nature that would again be seen a few moments later as Lenonn lay dying, and yet again as Delenn begged the Vorlons for advice. These are but the few that stood out. There were others that seemed equally... histrionic but listing them all would be pointless.

Do not misunderstand. There were more than a few good moments. The aforementioned Ivannova scene is probably the best example of what I love about Babylon 5. In another great scene Sheridan looks back upon where his captain used to be to see nothing but floating blood. The FX were par excellence, as usual. The "human" parts of each battle included a few too many screams but were interesting to hear nonetheless. I have a tin ear according to my friends, but I thought the score was somewhat overdone. Occasionally it would match the scene, but during certain scenes, like Londo's monologue on the nobility with which human's lost, I felt no music would have enhanced the scene.

The thing I enjoyed the most was the repeating of themes in this movie that were sounded during the series. Some of them were handled with marvelous subtlety, while others were ham-handed, but no matter how they handled, they enhanced the story immeasurably. I think that a person who watches this movie and begins watching the series for the first time will actually enjoy this movie more in retrospect than on the initial viewing. Better still: those who have watched from the beginning can think back to the older episodes and have what Don King would call, "An Epiphanous Moment of Religiousity."

Quick Bits:

- Do you suppose Kosh means something hilarious in the Vorlon Language? I was thinking that the Vorlons must have chosen this name for some reason, and it has no apparent meaning in any Earth tongue, so I was thinking that it is like a joke adults play on small children. Kosh must be laughing really hard on the inside every time he hears that word.

- Earth didn't lose because of inferior tech. It was the annoying computer voice in their fighters. It sounds like Paul Ruebens on a really off day.

- Londo's efficiency statement was so watered down by its repeated use in ads that it was no fun seeing it in context.

- Funnily enough my brother, who usually doesn't care for scifi, loved this movie. Perhaps the majority is correct and this is a wonderful film... Nah. I never liked my brother anyway.

- The G'Kar Commerical was pretty cool... if contradictory.

- I watched the Gathering first and In The Beginning later. (I got home well after 9:30.) What I am trying to say is that perhaps my seeing them in a different order had more of an affect on my preference than it should have.... no guarantees though.

- You know how you'll be sitting there, taking off your shoes, when one of them goes mad and attacks you? And then you yell, "Mommy" and beat it to death with your trusty servant? Good. Now you know how you'll be sitting there, taking off a different pair of shoes that you put on Prozac, when your foot will attack you and you yell, "Mommy" and chop it off? Good. Well I felt that way about the Londo/Franklin/G'Kar thing. I hope that clears it up for you.

In the end I disliked more than I liked, so I must sadly say this film failed to meet my expectations.

And, of course, the overly large TNT bug PISSED ME OFF.

Turner in general pisses me off but watcha gonna do?

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