Archive for September, 2020

Thoughts on “Dynasty”

September 30, 2020

I was a kid right around the time that the New York Islanders went on their run of four straight Stanley Cups, and I became a big New York Islanders fan. They’re still one of my favourite teams. So when I was looking for sports history/biography type books, I definitely wanted to see if I could get anything about the Islanders, and I found “Dynasty” by Greg Prato, which is billed as an oral history of the team from 1972 – 1984. So roughly from when they entered the league to the last couple of years after the streak was broken.

The book is an oral history, which means that it’s made up of segments of interviews with key people from the time arranged into what looks like one interview. I prefer narratives, so the book’s format doesn’t work as well for me as the more biographical or narrative based ones did. Still, the subject matter is interesting and you get a variety of viewpoints, with things mostly told in their own words. I would have rathered a narrative, but it works well-enough to be interesting. And I do get a lot of interesting personal stories out of each section.

One specific point that it mentions is about how the Islanders seemed to need to lose first and learn what it takes to win a championship in order to be able to win it and to them go on their streak. Their streak was also broken in part due to injuries and the like but also because the Edmonton Oilers had to lose to them to learn what it takes for them to win. And the book also referenced what was clear in the books I read about the Boston Bruins that they had to lose in order to learn what it takes to win. This is something that also seems clear today, as a number of teams that most people thought were more than strong enough to win fall short, often devastatingly so. The Islanders resisted the temptation to blow things up when the team was falling short of expectations, and they believe that that fact was crucial in them winning four straight. It’s about making the right moves and building a strong team, and not just trying to assemble a bunch of strong players.

Part of that was building a strong second line, which is why Butch Goring and John Tonelli were such key components of those championship teams. While the main line of Trottier-Bossy-Gillies would usually get its points, they note that you can mostly shut down one line, and so having a second threat is a huge advantage. This is something that I’ve noted myself for quite a while in Stanley Cup runs: if you only have one line scoring eventually teams will figure that out and focus on that line and shut it down, but if you have two scoring lines things are a lot more complicated for the opposing team.

Ultimately, it was a pretty good book about one of my favourite teams. It made me want to find a way to get to play as classic teams and pit them against each other in some kind of computer hockey version, and I can’t really find a good way to do that. Since I can’t do that, at least for now, I’ll settle for saying that I am likely to read this book again sometime.

Rethinking Mass Effect 3 (Conclusion)

September 29, 2020

Here’s the second part of my rethinking Mass Effect 3 after re-reading Shamus Young’s lengthly analysis of the series’ flaws. Last time, I spent a lot of time pointing out that the previous two games had made it clear that if the Reapers showed up, it was game over, which was undone in the third game. I hypothesized that that was probably because they wanted to make the Reapers central enough to the conflict to allow them to resolve it, but also agreed with Shamus that it really seemed like The Writer wanted to play with Cerberus instead. Here, I posit that Mass Effect 3 would have been a lot better if it had just done one little thing: Left The Illusive Man’s (henceforth to be known as TIM in accordance with Shamus’ comments) plans intact, and instead merely not had the Reapers actually show up as a force in the galaxy.

In ME3, TIM seems to be indoctrinated by the Reapers. He also has a grand plan to somehow control the Reapers, even though he doesn’t have any real reason to think that it would work. He wants the Crucible to be built so that it can do this, but then has to rely on Shepard and allies to actually get it built. In the meantime, he’s interfering in a lot of local politics by sending troops to shoot things and get involved, all while the Reapers are reaping the rest of the galaxy. There’s no explanation for where he’s getting all his troops and material, and for the most part he really seems to be doing nothing more than impeding the work that he needs to get done for his plan to succeed. But I think we can make this a lot better if the Reapers aren’t out reaping while he’s trying thing.

In looking at this, I’m not going to do an exceptionally deep dive and look at all the aspects and how they’d be affected by this, but will look at the set-up, ending, and some of the more problematic aspects that wouldn’t fit in this, but the big thing is to use this to repair a lot of the problems that Shamus had with ME3 (his comments on that game specifically start from here).

A big problem he had was with the beginning. For some reason that is never explained, Shepard is in some kind of custody on Earth. He goes to some kind of meeting or hearing, and then suddenly the Reapers show up. After meeting some kid for false pathos later, and then escaping on the Normandy somehow, he’s sent to Mars where Cerberus is attacking the facility. They had an agent in place — that’s a synthetic perfectly able to mimic being a human so that no one catches on — and she was trying to escape with the data from artifacts found there. She was trying to destroy the data, but failed, and so once she’s stopped Shepard finds out about the Crucible, and this kicks off the game.

As Shamus noted, why was the agent trying to destroy the data? You don’t need to destroy the data in order to copy it, and she could have easily simply copied it and left. So Cerberus didn’t need to destroy the data or wipe out the civilians on the base (which, as Shamus notes later, conflicts with later comments that Cerberus doesn’t normally target civilians), and yet did it anyway. Even worse, there’s no indication that TIM was capable of building the Crucible himself, so it looks like he tried to stop Shepard from having the information that Shepard needed to build the thing that TIM needed to enact his plan, making TIM seem like an idiot.

The new framing lets us get past that, because it allows us to have TIM get the information that a Crucible could be built and hints that it could be used to control the Reapers, and then have TIM want to build it himself. So the basic plan would be for him to build the Crucible himself to bring the Reapers into the galaxy, but under his control. Thus, he would certainly want to get the information himself, but he’d definitely want to ensure that no one else had that data or, indeed, even an inkling that that was his plan, which would require destroying the data and eliminating anyone who might have had access to it and might remember these things. Add in that the data points out that the Crucible can also be used to seal the Reapers away, and it’s clear why TIM would destroy the data and kill everyone at the site. This, then, could give TIM a specific reason to do that and so justify a claim that Cerberus doesn’t normally target civilians for no reason. They had a good reason here to think that these specific civilians were a threat, and acted accordingly.

How did TIM know that the information there was important? If you didn’t destroy the base in ME2, he gets it from the base. If you did, then he got the data when EDI accessed it earlier. She wouldn’t have given it to him, but surely he would have had some kind of backup way to get the data just in case EDI or Shepard didn’t want to share with him. The latter is actually the better way to go because it presents TIM as competent and forward-thinking instead of a bit of a goof.

This move also allows a shift in Shepard. Because we don’t need to have the Reapers show up at Earth to kick off the plot, we don’t have to have Shepard be there. He can be out at another site and get information about that site and about what he might be able to find there. If you don’t want to make it contrived that Shepard would arrive at the same time as TIM, make it so that the beacon Shepard is using notes that the one there is active, which is what draws both TIM and Shepard there at that time. Once he’s aware of the information there and that it’s under threat, he can rush there through the Mass Relays and get there in time to save the information. This would alleviate Shamus’ complaint that Shepard is not an active figure in the game, as here he would be going there of his own accord and because he realizes how critical that information is.

So, from this, we realize that TIM wants to build his own Crucible. He can be using Reaper technology to improve his manufacturing capability, and have that hidden behind a Mass Relay that no one knows he’s opened (this is a suggestion Shamus made). This would also explain how he could make such a lifelike synthetic, and also where he’s getting the fleet of ships and weapons that he’s using (you might still need to explain where he’s getting all his troops from, but you can have him use more husked troops or even synthetics to make up for that).

But then you need to explain why TIM is involving himself with the Salarians, the Turians, the Krogan, and Council politics. The answer is simple: he’s forced to do this because Shepard saved the data and the Alliance, at least, is preparing to build their own Crucible, with the help of the other species. TIM does not want them to get there first, so he needs to at least delay them until he can build his. Giving them other things to deal with and keeping them from uniting in a common purpose suits his plans. He would have rathered not have to get involved as directly, but he needs to ensure that he builds the Crucible first.

This also then can tie the War Assets into the plot. All War Assets are for the Crucible, either directly or through freeing other things up so that those resources can be used for the Crucible. At the end of the game, if your War Assets are low, then TIM builds his Crucible and Shepard knows next to nothing about it at the climax. If they’re in an intermediate state, TIM builds his crucible but the research into building it is shared with Shepard and so he knows a lot about it at the climax. If they are high, then the Crucible that was build belongs to the Alliance.

It also can explain why TIM is willing to throw away so many of his troops.  As Shamus notes, it really seems like he’d need them and as they are people and not mechanicals he can’t just build more.  This set-up lets us explain that:  he doesn’t really care.  He won’t need them for shock troops or to enforce his will once he controls the Reapers, so he can see them as expendable tools to distract Shepard and Shepard’s allies in service of that greater goal.  His whole strategy, then, would hinge on building the Crucible and controlling the Reapers before he runs out of expendable troops to distract his opponents with.

More on the endings later, but let’s return to the start of the game. After saving the data and stopping Cerberus’ attempts to destroy the facility, Shepard also explains the significance of the data to the Alliance, and they decide to build the Crucible. Given his information and link to the other species from the other games, they also accept Shepard back into the fold so that he can rally them to help support the project and also to hamper Cerberus’ plans. This, then, brings us to the main plot of ME3: convince the other species to work with the humans on this project, and foil Cerberus’ interference with that.

This can also make sense of another plot that Shamus found incomprehensible, the coup on the Citadel. But if we note that the Citadel is the Catalyst that makes the Crucible work, and note that TIM knows that, then TIM would know that he’d need to take control of the Citadel at some point. The negotiation with Udena could be on that basis: TIM is using him to get what he really wants, the Citadel. This can even be seen as a bit of a Xanatos Gambit: if the coup succeeds, then TIM will have the Citadel for when he needs it, even if the other species decide to ignore all directives from that Council. If it fails, it will at least have sown confusion and distrust among the Council races, and particularly towards the humans, which is what TIM wants so that he can build his Crucible first, and we can even use the failure to plant the idea that TIM left something behind in the Citadel so that he could take it later when he needed it. And then we can see that Shepard’s involvement in breaking the coup is critical, because he’s a human and so could ameliorate the distrust towards humans, and having put his life on the line for those Council members shows that he, at least, doesn’t have an ulterior motive here and since he’s the one publicly advocating for the Crucible it would actually help the others want to provide resources for it. So we remove a puzzling element and, again, make Shepard pro-active and important in the actual resolution.

In terms of the individual stories, it’s difficult to see what Cerberus could be doing that would threaten the Turians enough that they would want Krogan help, even with Reaper tech. Still, it makes more sense than that the Turians are holding their own on the moon in that mission. It might be better to come at it the other way around: Shepard wants the Krogan for protection, at least, and they want a cure for the Genophage, which requires the Turians to agree (especially with the bomb they left on the Krogan homeworld). The Turians can then demand proof that the Krogan are willing to play nice with everyone else, which then could involve them working to clean up a distraction that TIM had for the Turians. As for the Genophage itself, that’s is exactly the sort of problem that TIM would want to cook up to keep everyone confused and separated and unable to focus on the Crucible.

There’s also an issue with the Quarians and the Geth, since it’s hard to see how Cerberus itself could kick that off. That being said, all you need is for the Quarians to think that with their extra knowledge of the Geth from ME2 and the Geth’s weakness after the events of the previous two games, that this would be the time to retake their homeworld, with a plan that could be kicked off before we find out about the Crucible, but one that the Quarians would be hesitant to abandon. The Geth, backed into a corner, could use the Reaper code themselves, perhaps helpfully provided by TIM (as he’s indoctrinated and in possession of Reaper information and technology). Then the subplot can proceed pretty much as it did in the game.

There’s also an issue with what was in the temple on the Asari homeworld that everyone wanted, as it wouldn’t be what the Catalyst is. Still, it’s easy to make that be the information on how to use the Catalyst which both sides would want and have to have for the ending … and Shepard could find out that the Citadel is the Catalyst from it as well, pushing us towards the final confrontation.

So, the endings. What’s interesting about this model is that you can use it to explain as much or as little about the Reapers as you want. The main goal here is not to stop the Reapers who are already invading, but instead to keep them from entering the galaxy. As such, you don’t need to convince them to please stop killing all the humans or to find a way to completely destroy them. You just need to seal off the entrance or at least put them to sleep. So at a minimum you need to explain that the Crucible can do those things. You don’t even really need to explain how. So if you want to keep their origins a mystery, you can do that and the fans will still feel a sense of satisfaction at having stopped them. But if you want to explain their purpose, you can do it without having to have it explained, and you can drop in pretty much any explanation that’s consistent with the games as a whole because, again, you don’t need Shepard to understand it or consider it credible or reasonable so as to be able to make the “right” choice. This would be far better than what they did do, I think.

This would also explain why the final confrontation is at Earth. TIM wants to dominate the galaxy, and has at least claimed to have a “Humans First” mindset. He’d obviously want the first to experience his greatness to be the humans, and the humans on Earth. So if he builds the Crucible, he takes it to Earth, and when you figure out that it needs the Citadel you learn that the Citadel can be moved and take it there. If you build the Crucible, then TIM activates his backup plan and moves the Citadel to Earth, and you have to take the Crucible there to hook up with it. In the former case, you can even hint that TIM would have moved the Citadel but once you find out about it — in the last set of data — you beat him to it. This will also explain why or how you get onto the Crucible: in all cases, you have something that TIM needs to complete his plan, setting up the final confrontation.

The only issue with this is that the choices that I think you can give to this lean pretty much in one direction, with the others seeming like bad ends. The three choices I see are: 1) be convinced by TIM and give him the Crucible to let him bring the Reapers in and try to control them (since he’s indoctrinated this will not go well), 2) bring the Reapers in yourself and try to control them (this may or may not go well, but it would be difficult to continue the story from this point) or 3) seal them off/put them back to sleep (the one that most sane people will choose and the one that it’s the easiest to build off of after). While these endings are a bit pedestrian and the latter doesn’t really lend itself to a bittersweet ending, at least they wouldn’t have created massive issues for a sequel, which the original ending did.

And I see the last ending working with War Assets: if you have low assets, you don’t know enough about TIM’s Crucible to seal the Reapers away for good, and so have to settle for putting them back to sleep for another cycle. You also die because you don’t know enough about the Crucible to do that safely. If you have intermediate assets, you can’t use TIM’s Crucible to seal them away, but you can put them to sleep for another cycle, and know enough about how it works to survive the attempt. If you have high assets, you can seal them away “forever”.

And those quotes around “forever” there are actually pretty important, because with this it turns out that in sequels The Writer never needs to commit to what actually happened, since then going back to sleep for thousands if not millions of years is pretty much the same thing as being sealed away forever. The only issue is if you want to run a plot where someone is trying to bring them into the galaxy, but you can always lampshade that and if the threat from that group is big enough simply say that they don’t believe that that is really the case, and if they aren’t can always ramp up the threat by questioning whether Shepard’s information is reliable. Either way, you can actually carry on in this galaxy with these races and characters, and even with their questions, like fighting over whether we should feel more comfortable opening Mass Relays now.

Now, the game has been out for a while and it’s always easy to see things in hindsight, so on the one hand it’s not reasonable to say that The Writer should have done something like this, even though I think it both obviously better and obviously more in line with what they wanted to do. On the other hand, the big change here is simply to be consistent with the other games and accept that the Reapers showing up means that the fight is over, which makes it something that they probably should have considered. At any rate, I think it’s an improvement, and getting it down means that I can stop thinking about this idea, at least, so it’s done its job for me.

Accomplishments Update …

September 28, 2020

It’s been almost three months since the last one, and as my schedule is changing and I’m heading into my main vacation period which plays havoc with schedules anyway (my manager was trying to make sure that people took their vacation time and after reminding them of it said “And who wants to take vacation in November anyway?”, to which I replied “You keep forgetting that I’m in this group”, to which he replied “But I know when you’re going to take vacation two years in advance”). it’s probably a good time to see how I’ve been doing on this.

With DVDs, I changed my split between new and old where I watched new shows during the week and old shows on the weekend (I think. It’s been a while) back to watching one thing at a time and having that be an old or a new show depending on my mood. I also gave myself more time to watch them (at the cost of other things that I’ll talk about later) for various reasons. While it doesn’t seem like I was that successful with it, it actually went relatively well. I managed to finish off “Charlie’s Angels” as far as I was going to go, and then made it through “Pretty Little Liars”, rewatched all seven seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9”, and then watched both seasons of “Doom Patrol” and am now working on “Rat Patrol”. The first two of those are pretty long so it is pretty good to have managed to get through all of that in 2 – 3 months.

I felt disappointed with how books went, until I sat down to figure out what I’d actually done. I hadn’t been really reading any of the philosophy books or the chess book that I had to read (although I’m finished the chess book now) and so really felt like I wasn’t doing anything with the more formal reading. And then I thought that if I counted the “Pretty Little Liars” books and the hockey books — since not only was I not just reading them just for fun I in fact stopped reading books that I was reading for fun (the “Heroes in Hell” series for the former and the Star Wars books for the latter) — then I wouldn’t have done too badly. And then I looked back at the philosophy books and noted that I finished one Kant book, one book on Kant, and one Hume book, which isn’t all that bad either. Still, I’m probably not going to be reading anything explicitly philosophical for a while because I don’t have a slot for that anymore. If anything, I’ll want a book that I can just read when I want to read things and philosophy does not work for that (you have to think too much about it for that to work). I might get into some literature but right now the plan is to just read for fun for a while.

Video games suffered because of my focus on watching TV shows. My success with them at the previous update came because I was playing them on the console after work. With TV shows taking up that time, I didn’t have time to play them in that slot anymore. I was also at times busier at work which ate into that time even more. When my evenings started freeing up again, I thought I’d try to stuff projects in there and move video games to weekend afternoons. That didn’t really work for either of them. Still, I managed to play “Knights of Pen and Paper +1” and start another game of “Wizardry 8”. And now that my gaming machine is fixed up, I’ll be playing The Old Republic again as well as some other games on that system in the weekday afternoons timeslot. So it wasn’t great, but might get better.

As usual, I did nothing with projects. I hope that I’ll be able to do something with them on my vacation and weekend afternoons, although blog posts tend to slot into there an awful lot.

So, that’s how things have been going … mostly the same as usual.

Bob Seidensticker’s Silver Bullets: 8 – 10

September 25, 2020

Moving right along, I’ll look at the next three arguments from this post. The first two are exceedingly short, while the latter is long but doesn’t really say that much. So let’s jump right in to number 8:

These examples are pain that you can do something about, but what about chronic pain? There’s no value in pain from cancer, headaches, phantom limbs, and many other kinds of injury or illness. This kind of pain is gratuitous, and it doesn’t push the patient to take steps to avoid or reduce injury.

Evolution explains this nicely, but it’s not what you’d expect in a world with God.

So, what counts as “unnecessary pain”? Seidensticker can’t mean that there’s no benefit to pain from cancer, say, because it only doesn’t matter once the person knows they have cancer and can’t do anything about it (or are already doing all they can). But if God was to eliminate all of those forms of pain, then what we’d end up with is a very intentional world, where if I don’t know I have cancer at the stage where it gives me pain I’d have the pain — because that should encourage me to go out and find out that I do have cancer that I can’t do anything about — but as soon as I go to the doctor to find that out I’ve suddenly done all I can so the pain stops. To use an example that’s even more clearly ludicrous, if I find myself in a burning building where there is an escape the flames cause me great pain as an incentive to leave, but if there isn’t one I feel no pain and just die peacefully regardless of the damage done to my body. Putting aside that that might be what happens now — the only people who would be in that situation would be people who would definitely die and so couldn’t tell us — that’s also a pretty ridiculous world. It’s certainly reasonable that God might just give us a generic pain system that triggers whenever we have damage to our body without tying it to our internal states and knowledge that strongly. So this argument doesn’t land, and it doesn’t land because of a common mistake atheists make: finding something unpleasant and asking why God couldn’t eliminate it without stopping to think about what life would have to be like if that was the case. (Many argue that God could make the world however He wants to avoid those consequences, but then they risk either simply ignoring necessary consequences or insisting on a world that looks just like this one but isn’t, which doesn’t work either).

God is the most powerful being in the universe, and yet Christians want to protect him from honest criticism. Praise for his good actions is fine, but we can’t condemn anything that we find bad. As if he were a baby, we must tiptoe around the drunk driving accident that killed an innocent teenager or the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. God is good no matter what he does (or allows to happen), and mankind gets any blame.

This isn’t an argument against the existence of God, but against at least some theistic arguments. At most, it’s a reasonable admonishment to theologians that if you’re going to give God credit for the good things you need to give him responsibility for the bad things as well. Of course, many sophisticated theologians are indeed doing that, so it doesn’t work as a silver bullet argument, unless he’s trying for a “Problem of Suffering” argument here. Which he isn’t. So this one doesn’t land either.

Now, the last one, which is significantly longer but can be summed up fairly simply:

The Bible makes clear that the universe was created for man.

Science tells a different story. The universe is unnecessarily big for it to have been created as part of God’s plan for humanity. In addition, the universe is a very inhospitable place. The vast majority is a cold, life-forbidding vacuum. Even on earth, life is not Eden-like, and most of the earth’s surface is inhospitable to human life.

So, in summary, the argument is that God is claimed to have made the entire universe for humans, but the universe is too big and inhospitable to be made just for humans.

This doesn’t land either, because the universe being made just for us just isn’t that big a concern for Christians. We can easily argue that it’s there for us to expand into later (God, after all, is planning for eternity, which makes the current time we have evidence for minuscule). We can argue that there might be other species out there that God also created and are on the other stars (or will come later). Seidensticker tries to address that:

Just to eliminate the possibility that the Bible was just talking about this planet, with God having other plans for living things elsewhere in the universe, note that the Bible’s cosmological picture is completely earth-centric.

But of course it would be completely surprising that a book written to get the message out to people on this planet is Earth-centric instead of taking a more universal approach, right? No, that’s pretty much what we’d expect. Some Christians might be upset by us not being special and unique in the universe, but many would be able to adapt to it.

We can also argue for a God that simply creates natural processes and lets them do their work. Again, Seidensticker tries to address that:

An apologist might try to salvage the God hypothesis by saying that God just made a galaxy-making machine and stepped back to let it do its (excessive) work, or God made life as variations on a theme, leaving unintentional clues that evolution was the cause instead. But these are just excuses to save the God conclusion. God is unnecessary.

But a claim that “God is unnecessary” is not a silver bullet argument against Christianity. It works against Christians who argue that we know that God exists because of how the universe looks or how we look or whatever by arguing that by appearances alone that isn’t necessarily the case or even that it looks more like it wasn’t done by God but simply by nature, as it blunts that argument. But that doesn’t mean that God didn’t do that. In fact, we can point out that if the universe wasn’t that way and if God had just magicked it into existence then we’d have no cosmology or biology or any sciences at all. If the atheist thinks that science is useful for reasons other than simply finding out stuff, and instead finds benefit in its methodology or its encouragement of curiosity then they have to concede that a universe where science can be done might just be better than one where it can’t. And if they concede that, then we have a reason to think that God might indeed build a universe where science can be done over a universe where it couldn’t be done, and so it might indeed be something that God would do. Yes, this is a patch for the God conclusion, but if it’s feasible then Seidensticker’s argument doesn’t land, and so again is not a silver bullet argument.

Thoughts on “The Possession of Hannah Grace”

September 24, 2020

I hadn’t started watching “Pretty Little Liars” when I bought this movie, so when I looked at it while browsing I had no idea that Shay Mitchell, who played Emily, was the star of this movie. Or, rather, I guess I kinda knew that she was the star but that didn’t mean anything to me. So, for me, the main draw was that it might be a bit like “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, although not as philosophical. So, given that, you’d expect that Shay Mitchell would be playing Hannah Grace, a young woman who ends up being possessed by a demon and her struggles with that.

This movie bravely completely avoids that, as her character is instead a former police officer who left or was kicked off the force after freezing in a dangerous situation that got her partner killed. She then decides to take a job as essentially a night clerk in the morgue of a hospital. The movie, thus, focuses entirely on her personal struggle with fear and the consequences of her freezing so that she can become a stronger person at the end of it all.

Now, you might ask: so, where does that “possession” thing come in? Well, the thing is, Hannah Grace is still a character in the movie and was indeed possessed by a demon. She spends most of her time as some sort of corpse in various stages of unlife, but she’s there and a major part of the movie. She does most of if not all of the killing, for example, and provides most of the creepiest parts of the movie, either directly or through her story. This then creates a double-layered story, with the main character story being Megan’s redemption arc while the main plot is Hannah’s demon and dealing with that.

This, in my opinion, was a mistake, and an unnecessary one. The first big problem we have with this is that the focus at the beginning is Hannah’s failed exorcism, which starts the movie off with a different focus than the one we would normally get. This, then, helps to make Megan’s character introduction drag, as we already know that there’s going to be more to this than simply Megan’s story, and so are waiting for the supernatural shoe to drop. I personally also found it a bit of a drag because Megan’s personality isn’t that different from Emily’s, and so I felt that I was being “introduced” to someone that I already knew. This might not have been as big a problem for people not familiar with “Pretty Little Liars”, but if you are going to use and advertise a known name you have to take into account that people will know them and their previous roles, and so either make the character different enough to be interesting or make the introduction more crucial. And, again, the supernatural aspect being introduced so early actually makes that introduction less crucial as even the “froze getting partner killed” line’s probably not going to be that important in dealing with a demon (more on this later).

The second problem is the common problem with horror movies: horror movies are short. This movie is right around an hour and a half long. The movie does a decent job with the deserted morgue with lights that go on and off with movement and all of the other aspects in making things creepy, but to do that you need a fair bit of downtime. The movie also needs to establish Megan’s backstory and give her the chance to redeem herself, and make us care about her and about her indeed redeeming herself. It also needs to carry on the supernatural element and resolve it at the end. While it stitches this all together pretty well, that’s still an awful lot to do in 90 minutes, and I do believe that hurts the movie, as we don’t get a lot of explanation of the demon and what it can and can’t do, nor do we get the emotional connection to Megan that we need to feel happy for her at the end.

Moreover, the supernatural element actually hurts Megan’s redemption, as she gets the standard scene where the demon-possessed Hannah is threatening to kill her cop boyfriend while Megan has a gun trained on her, and she freezes for an instant before shooting the demon. The issue here is that a) being hesitant to shoot a demon isn’t the same thing and b) why in the world would anyone think that the best way to stop a demon is to shoot it? So while this is clearly the scene that “redeems” her, it’s not connected as well to her personal story as it could be because of the supernatural nature of the threat.

Thus, I think that simply dropping the supernatural aspect would have worked out better. Replace it with the guy that she didn’t kill the first time, or if you want to go more for the horror aspect a demented serial killer with a strange desire for dead bodies. This would keep it a horror movie, play well with the creepiness of the morgue, and make her final action far more redemptive than it did here. And it’s not even a stretch, because the movie already had someone sneak into the morgue and used that to add to the suspense, as it ended up being Hannah’s father who also did some info dumping on the demon. All of the time spent establishing the demon could have been given to the creepiness and to Megan, and it would have allowed us to start the movie with Megan which would have likely made us more interested in her story since we would expect it to be relevant and would be waiting to see how it all mattered to the story.

I will give the movie credit for one thing: it hints at but ultimately subverts the common horror twist ending where Megan seems completely free and happy only to reveal at the end that she’s now possessed by the demon. They set it up with the fly that they had used as a hint earlier in the movie, but then simply have Megan kill it and move on. While I appreciate that, I don’t think it really worked as a subversion. For it to work as a subversion, the audience needed to be completely expecting it and then have it yanked away, but it seems to me that the hints are too subtle. I was half-expecting it, but I think I was doing that because so many of the horror movies I have been watching pulled tricks like that. Without that, I wouldn’t have really noticed it until the obvious end scene. But since the hints were there it would have indeed been a good twist, where we weren’t really expecting it but in hindsight all the hints were there. But that would be in hindsight, so the movie had to rely on us getting it and remembering the hints when the fly appeared so that we could be shocked by the subversion. I just don’t think things were obvious enough to guarantee that most of the audience would come to that conclusion. Still, I do appreciate the effort, but just think if they really wanted to do the subversion they really needed to make the “possessed” angle more obvious.

It’s not a bad movie. It’s certainly better done than a lot of the movies I’ve been watching. Still, it’s more a “redeem Megan” story than a possession story, and so how much you enjoy it will depend on what sort of movie you wanted. For me, I don’t really mind either story but find this movie at best unmemorable. I don’t think I’ll watch it again.

Thoughts on “The Rebel League”

September 23, 2020

Continuing my reading of sports biographies, I came across one that wasn’t the normal kind of book I’d read, but sounded interesting nonetheless. It’s “The Rebel League” by Ed Willes, and it chronicles the short but memorable life of the WHA, a competitor in professional hockey to the NHL that actually spawned a number of NHL teams, many in Canada, and ones that left and one that returned and one that is desperately trying to return.

As a new league trying to compete with a strongly established competitor, it certainly had its growing pains, often hilariously so. This allows Willes to fill his chapters with a number of funny anecdotes that complement the more serious discussions in the work. We get comments on how the players interacted with each other, how they acted on the ice, what oddities the owners had and had to face, and even the often bizarre attempts to woo players or fight against the NHL. We also get some personal stories about the coaches and players and owners and why they either tried to get a team or decided to play, including a number of great stories about Gordie Howe and his sons, and about them playing together, which gives the work a bit of a personal touch that’s interesting as well.

But it doesn’t skimp on the history and organizational parts. It talks about how the players were so underpaid that it made it feasible for these teams to draw NHL players to these upstart teams simply by paying them more fairly (or insanely, in some cases) which ultimately had a huge impact on salaries in professional hockey that arguably paved the way for the massive salaries players get today. It also deals with an issue that is resonating today, as one of the reasons they had an in was that the NHL and junior hockey leagues had an agreement that players could not be drafted into the NHL until their 20th year — which was conveniently when the junior hockey leagues stopped letting them play in the junior leagues, so the WHA tried to sign those 18 – 20 year olds by offering them actual salaries compared to what they could earn in junior (effectively nothing). This is relevant because I read about a new lawsuit claiming that the fact that players can’t join the AHL or ECHL until a certain age is anti-competitive in precisely the same way.

The WHA didn’t survive, but it definitely had an impact on professional hockey. “The Rebel League” is a well-written book that definitely highlights that impact while still remaining entertaining and personal.

Rethinking Mass Effect 3

September 22, 2020

I really like Shamus Young’s long retrospective on the Mass Effect series, and while compiling I read through it again because it keeps me entertained in a way that’s in contained chunks that can easily handle me getting distracted or pulled into something else (which isn’t true of videos or podcasts, if my work set-up would even allow that). So while re-reading it, I thought of something, which I’m going to explore in a couple of posts. And my hypothesis is this: Mass Effect 3 would have worked out better for pretty much everyone if they hadn’t had the Reapers show up in it.

In this post, what I’m going to do is look at how the Reapers were conceived of in the other games, which should be pretty obvious. Next week, I’ll look at how so much of the problems with Mass Effect 3 would have gone away simply by removing the Reapers as a direct threat.

As Shamus noted throughout the series, Mass Effect established the basic story of the Reapers: every once in a very long while, they showed up and wiped out all organic life above a certain technological level. Thus, in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, the entire plot was a desperate attempt to stop that from happening, and the entire goal of the Reapers was simply to get them to arrive. Neither Sovereign nor Harbinger ever suggested that they needed any kind of plan other than to show up and start reaping, and all the information we had from all sources said that when they show up, it’s all over. The only reason there’s a chance is because the Protheans stopped their normal way to get here.

All of this together strongly suggests that the Reapers finding a way to arrive is an instant “I win” button for them, which explains why their plots were so focused on that. In Mass Effect, Sovereign’s plan was to trigger the normal mechanism manually, with his indoctrinated follower and a fleet and forces to clear the way. In Mass Effect 2, the plan is quite vague, but I theorize that Harbinger’s plan was to start the reaping early which would allow him to create more Reapers which, combined with himself and the Collectors could trigger the normal mechanism manually as well (since a more subtle approach would be detected and protected against). Also, given the events in “The Arrival” — a DLC for ME2 — it might also have been to provide time, a distraction, and even a potential defense for other mechanisms they had out there. And, as just noted, “The Arrival” was some kind of backup Mass Relay that would let them come into the galaxy anyway.

So as we can see, the entire Reaper threat in the previous two games and DLC was all about them arriving. The entire goal was simply to stop them from showing up. Shepard even flat-out says that that was their goal at the end of ME1. So, again, the idea of the Reapers showing up was always treated as the end of the game (and I think that’s actually literal in the case of “The Arrival”). If the Reapers ever show up, it’s all over, so we need to make sure that they never show up.

So, then, why does Mass Effect 3 start with the Reapers arriving? Especially since, as Shamus notes, much of the plot of ME3 involves fighting Cerberus instead of the Reapers, reducing them to a complication in the system-exploration portions and in some missions?

I’m not going to blame the gestalt entity that Shamus refers to as “The Writer” here. I’m more likely to blame the fans here. At around that time, and what I heard from other people, fans were speculating about the end of the series and were looking forward to some kind of resolution to the Reaper story, which as Shamus notes had been pretty much ignored in ME2. So it would definitely seem risky to leave them on the sidelines again, or even just as a single antagonist. It would be the easiest solution to simply make them the primary focus, and the easiest way to do that would be to have them simply show up. But as Shamus notes, that causes so many issues and problems that the game simply doesn’t deal with. Even if they were the sole focus, the previous games set them up as being things that cannot be reasonably fought, in a game where much of the gameplay is shooting things from cover. We should be giving up and running and hiding, and the game didn’t want to do that. Moreover, their threat would overwhelm absolutely all other concerns, and while ME3 does do a decent job of tying the subplots into the main plot, a lot of the more minor things — like curing the Genophage — are things where those demanding those actions be taken should be really shut down with “If the Reapers succeed, we’ll all be dead, so can we work that out later?”. For them to be things we can fight, they have to be weak enough for us to do so, but if they are that weak, then that contradicts the previous games and risks them fading into the background.

And the renewed focus on Cerberus makes this even worse. Cerberus seems to be the more active threat, which they shouldn’t be if the Reapers are really out reaping things. And if they are the more active threat, then what’s the point of the Reapers?

Shamus seems correct to note that “The Writer” wanted to play with Cerberus more than they did with the Reapers. However, given that this was the end of the trilogy they definitely needed to make the Reapers prominent. In the next post, I will argue that the best way to do that was to take the cue from the previous games and keep the resolution of the Reapers to be preventing them from showing up in the first place, because doing so allows them to give Cerberus the prominent role they wanted to give them while allowing them to keep the Reapers in focus and resolving their plot in what I think would be a satisfying manner.

The U.S. Is Screwed …

September 21, 2020

So, in 2016, I remarked before the U.S. election that I almost hoped that Trump would win because it would make some people’s heads explode, a sentiment that I kinda carried on after he actually did win. Despite being in Canada, this wasn’t that well-received among some people I talked to, but my reasoning was that the United States political system was too monolithic for him to be able to change that much even assuming he could get his entire party behind him … which he couldn’t, because there were a lot of people in the Republican party who didn’t like him. So he wasn’t going to be able to do much one way or the other, and so fears of the damage he might do were a bit overwrought.

And I can imagine that a number of people — especially those who dislike Trump — are saying some variation of a sarcastic “Good call!” right now.

That being said, up until this year that actually was the case. There wasn’t a lot of huge damage or permanent, long-term change that he was able to make. Probably the worst thing was the large number of children being taken from their parents and placed into ICE’s camps, and from what I can tell that wasn’t intentional. They made illegally entering the country a felony again and that automatically triggered that outcome that had been put into place by previous regimes. I will say that while they didn’t intend it, they also didn’t care about that outcome, likely because of their opposition to illegal immigration and the fact that one thing they wanted to avoid was the notion that if people showed up with kids then they had to be let in or given preferential treatment because most people — reasonably — don’t want kids to suffer. But the issue with that is that as soon as it became clear that having kids with you makes things easier everyone is going to show up with kids … whether theirs or not. And since many of the people were making large treks across Central America and Mexico to try to get in, encouraging them to drag children with them isn’t something that we should want to encourage, and the administration wouldn’t want to have that because of the optics of leaving kids in camps outside the border. It was a mess, but also wasn’t something that would or could last a lifetime either. Something would change in reaction to that … either the rules, or the behaviour.

And ironically what most of the people I was talking to were probably most worried about — the stock market — from what I’ve heard is actually still doing fairly well, considering.

That being said, the Covid-19 pandemic is something that I do believe was made significantly worse with Trump being president. We can’t really know how different it would have been with someone else as President, but I do believe that it would have gone better with Hillary Clinton as President than Trump. The reason I believe this is because Clinton is a politician, and so would have reacted as a politician would. This does mean that she’d use the pandemic as a way to strength her political decision — and thus might well have played politics with relief with Democratic and Republican states like Trump seems to have as well — but would have done so with a political eye that would at least have made that look deniable, and might well have simply tried to make it look as fair and balanced as possible. Trump seemed to be doing things on the basis of what he felt personally, and didn’t really have a political motive at all. Clinton was even likely to try to look exceptionally Presidential in line with many other crisis-era Presidents and thus seem calm and neutral and dignified at all times, which probably would have helped. Still, as I said, I can’t know for certain, but I can say that Trump doesn’t even really seem calm and Presidential during this, even when compared to leaders that I know better like Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford. When the two of them are outperforming you, you probably need to do some work.

But why the title of the post is “The U.S. is screwed” is not because I think Trump is terrible and destroying the country. No, it’s because his election should have caused heads to explode, and outside of ranting it really didn’t. Both Democrats and Republicans should have been shocked by what he managed and tried to figure out what it was that he tapped into to even make it close, but for the most part Democrats blamed the Electoral College, simple racism and gerrymandering for his win while Republicans tended to either try to oppose him to appeal to those who thought he was a goof or tie themselves to him to appeal to those who liked him. Meanwhile, the U.S. started out the term the most divided it had been in a long time — perhaps even to as far back as the Civil War — and then got even worse. Or, at least, it did so publicly. Because both sides were so extreme in their views of those who disagree — and publicly it was actually Democrats that were worse about it — polls became useless because vanishingly few “moderates” wanted to actually admit what they really believed, even putting aside the fact that in this modern social media world it’s only the loudmouths that get listened to anyway. Anyway, as it stands right now for both sides for the most part they will oppose something for the sole reason that their “opponents” think it’s a good idea, even to the point of insanity.

And then Ruth Bader Ginsberg died.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is not supposed to be political or ideological. It’s supposed to be a neutral body where the justices assess in a neutral manner exactly what the laws and the Constitution say. And it obviously hasn’t been that way for a long, long time. And not only were the Democrats as responsible if not more so for it ending up that way, they publicly insisted that, yes, that’s what it was and that’s what it should be. Oh, they slightly couched it under concerns that “right-wing” justices would strip rights and so the court needed to be “left-wing” to preserve them, but anyone with half a brain could see that a big concern of theirs was making sure that the court had the right ideology so that it would make the decisions they wanted to see, and which we all had to accept were simply correct and not at all ideologically biased, but any decision that was primarily right-wing oriented was clearly just biased. They have even already used it as an election issue, imploring their supporters to elect their candidate so that the Supreme Court can put the “right” people in place.

And now, after Trump, the balance has shifted, and so much so that if the next justice is ideological whichever ideology they support will likely be the one that dominates the Supreme Court for a significant number of years. So it’s no surprise that Mitch McConnell is trying to get that appointment under Trump. I agree with those that at least until the election they will try to use it as a rallying cry to get their supporters to come out and vote, but they might just take the victory and run with it. If it was me, I’d wait until after the election and take the chance, but really neither side wants to take that chance with something that has now become so critical, so McConnell is almost certain to accept the charges of hypocrisy with his weak hand wave of “The two sides are in the same party so it’s okay” and make the move. The Democrats will scream bloody murder over it but we’re all pretty certain that they’d do the same in the same situation.

(If I was a Republican and wanted to tweak their noses I’d claim that their arguments swayed me and that in hindsight not doing it was a bad idea, making their hypocritical arguments all the more apparent. It wouldn’t do anyone any good, though).

So, I say that the U.S. is screwed simply because the two major political groups in it are far more concerned about each other than about actually governing the country properly. Even most of those who talk about being bi-partisan are pretty much only doing it because they think it’s what people want to hear. In the meantime, the loudest voices on both sides are pretty much going to scream about how terrible the other side is, how they shouldn’t be listened to, how they are evil, and how any compromise with them is giving in. It’s not the Electoral College. It’s not the two-party system. It’s not the Supreme Court. It’s entirely that the dominant attitude among the loudest people — which is not necessarily the majority — is that if you aren’t with them you’re against them. From this, all else follows.

Bob Seidensticker’s Silver Bullets: 5 – 7

September 18, 2020

So continuing the series, here I’ll examine the next three arguments from this post, although the first two arguments are basically the same argument. Let’s start with number 5:

A few years ago, I visited a museum exhibit of the jewelry of Russia’s imperial family, the Romanovs. The focus was on the Faberge jewelry, with several of the famous Easter eggs as the centerpiece, but there was more. I was most taken with the Christian icons—paintings and statues of religious figures, crosses, and so on—from Tsarina Alexandra. She was extremely religious, and as Tsarina she performed daily religious rituals, humbled herself by embroidering linen for the church, read little but religious material, and consulted wandering “men of God” like Rasputin.

Her devotion did nothing to help her family, and they were murdered shortly after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

While the basic argument here is that people who believe in Christianity don’t have materially better lives than those who don’t — which I’ve already addressed — it becomes clear that he’s really after another argument:

We can find many other examples where Christians took to heart Christianity’s promise of answered prayer. Christian faith was strong on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, and yet roughly 700,000 died, about as many as in all other wars involving the U.S.

Francis Galton conducted an innovative prayer experiment in 1872. Since “God save the king” (or something similar) was a frequent public prayer, members of royal families should live longer. Few will be surprised to hear that they did not.

So, his real argument is that if prayer worked, we’d expect God to answer the prayers of the faithful. But it doesn’t seem like God actually answers prayers, or else people would get the things they pray for. So God doesn’t exist.

The main issue with this one is that there are all sorts of confounds in these sorts of experiments. First, we can’t determine this by comparing those who pray to those who do not and looking at whose life is better. Like I noted when talking about whether money makes people more happy, you need to compare them to how their lives would be without that factor. For the example Seidensticker gives here, we can note that royal families tend to intermarry, and children produced from such close family relations often have defects. Royals also tend to be involved in a lot of intrigue and have to perform military service. Thus, we might expect that members of royal families would, in general, have a significantly shorter lifespan than the average person, and so if they are anywhere close to their lifespan that’s actually a confirmation that prayers work. Or maybe not. The point is that we would need to calculate what the base value should be for that individual to see if being prayed for will improve their lives or chances of survival or whatever … and that is a monumentally difficult thing to measure.

Second, God is not a magical wish-granting machine. God, as conceived, is an intentional individual with goals of His own. God is not going to grant a prayer that interferes with his overall design. God is also not going to grant a prayer that is for something we want but that is not to our advantage. And more relevantly for testing, if God doesn’t want testing to reveal His existence, He’s not going to answer prayers in that circumstance. Thus, it’s not going to be the case that God is going to answer all of our prayers, or answer them in the way we think they should be answered. Given this, again, it’s going to be very hard to test the effectiveness of prayers, even statistically.

An analogy I’d like to use here is basically this: we ask our parents for things, but our parents don’t always give them to us, for various reasons. It wouldn’t make sense for us to therefore conclude that because they don’t give us what we ask for, or sometimes give us different things, that therefore we should conclude that asking our parents for things doesn’t work. The standard atheist response here, from what I’ve seen, would be to note that at least we know that our parents exist, which we don’t for God … but this is supposed to be a silver bullet argument against Christianity, and so retreating to “You haven’t provided enough evidence that God exists!” doesn’t work.

The best argument would be to note that statistically speaking we can’t see the impact of prayer, but there are so many confounds — including that much of the time prayers don’t actually ask for something materially measurable — that this argument simply can’t establish that this means that God doesn’t answer prayers and so doesn’t exist, and thus it can’t count as a silver bullet argument.

The sixth argument:

Watch a televangelist show. You will see periodic appeals that first ask the audience for prayers and then for money. Sometimes you’ll see a text crawl across the bottom with the phone number euphemistically labeled “prayer request” (which sounds better than “place to give me money”).

But doesn’t that sound strange? If prayers get God to do something, then the televangelist could just pray himself. Or, if the power of prayer is proportionate to the number of voices, the televangelist could just harness the audience to turn his small voice into a holy airhorn. God’s actions make any human generosity pointless. What could money do that God couldn’t?

So, the argument is that televangelists shouldn’t need money if prayer could get them what they needed. Putting aside all the arguments made above, the obvious answer here is this: because the televangelists want money, not the things that prayer can provide. No Christian is going to be bound to the idea that televangelists must reflect the true faith as opposed to being people exploiting religion to get money.

And the seventh argument:

The U.S. Constitution is secular, and the separation between church and state is made mandatory with the First Amendment. Even if crossing the line weren’t unconstitutional, what would it say about the weakness of Christian claims that it needs to lean on the government to support itself?

When Christian leaders push against constitutional limits on religion, they admit that Christianity’s arguments are so weak that they need to push the government to support their cause. A real God wouldn’t need such help.

From the start, this can’t be a silver bullet argument because at the end all it says is that if Christianity had better evidence it wouldn’t have to influence people through inserting religion into secular matters to get people to believe it. Ultimately, then, all that is is an argument that says that Christianity doesn’t have enough evidence to be automatically convincing which a) most Christians will admit and b) doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. On top of that, we know why Christian leaders want to insert religion into secular society: because they think their worldview is right and think that the whole world should act as they do. Which is why those who follow secular worldviews want to insert their conclusions into society as well. So all Seidensticker can say here is that Christians want everyone to act according to what they think is right, to which the only reasonable response is “Duh!”.

Thoughts on “Devour”

September 17, 2020

Like last week’s movie, “Devour” promises a specific plot on the back of the box but instead focuses on something else. Here, the plot it promises is something like that of “Truth or Dare”, with supernatural happenings being linked to a strange online game. What the movie is really about is a somewhat mystery where the main character is actually linked to a Satanic cult that have some plans for him, with him having strange premonitions and there being a string of murders associated with him right around that time.

“Devour” is worse than “Evil Eyes” in that the game itself gets exceptionally little play, so much so that the game part seemed completely out of place until I read the back cover and noticed that it was highlighted there. We see strange things happening early, the game is tossed in as an aside, and while it’s possible that the phone calls that we see are indeed from the game no link is made between them and the game or anything in it, and there’s no reason for the game to matter at all. Given that the actual main plot is the main character’s mother looking to find him and seduce him into evil, it would have been trivial to make the game be the mechanism that the mother was using to try to find out who he was. But the context of the movie makes it seem like he wasn’t exactly hidden and that his mother knew about him quite early — she poses as a girl he met and tries to form a relationship with him — and so that doesn’t work. All of which means that we have no idea what the game itself was actually doing in the plot.

The movie stars Jensen Ackles, known to most as, I think, one of the leads on “Supernatural” but that I know from his stint on “Smallville”. This is, I think, one of the reasons that the movie focuses so much on his character, as the best known face to the purported audience. The other reason, though, is that the movie wants to set up a twist, where at the end he is arrested for all the murders, including that of his new girlfriend in the ritual place where according to his impressions she tried to seduce him into evil. The obvious interpretation is that she set him up for rejecting her — she is supposed to actually be Satan, after all — but he comments internally that maybe he was just delusional and was doing all of the killings himself. Showing things primarily from his perspective, then, allows them to keep that as a live option — we never really see what happens and aren’t necessarily sure where he was at those times — but it hampers the ability of the movie to play on the game aspect or on the specific issues with his friends. For example, at the beginning of the movie he has what seems to be a girlfriend, but gets drawn towards the new girl and then his girlfriend suddenly blurts out that she only wanted a somewhat sexual relationship with him. In a movie like “Truth or Dare”, the movie would show that the game forced her to say that, which would be consistent with how she acts at times in the movie (she seems a bit jealous at times and sad over losing the relationship). But since the movie focuses on him, we don’t get that, so we don’t know that anything like this happened, and so all we can do is posit that if that was what the plot was doing it would work well, with his mother using that breakup to open the door for her to influence him. Without doing anything like that, though, it’s just idle speculation that the movie never pays off.

And that ending doesn’t even fit with the rest of the movie. I recall there being at least one case where he couldn’t have done it because he wasn’t there, so at least not naturally. The reason I noted this is that his dream connection to the events could easily have suggested that line, and so I noted when the movie seemingly blocked it off. Yes, he could have been delusional to that extent and so been doing something completely different, but if he’s that delusional we run into the problem that “Black Swan” had: we can’t trust any of his perceptions and since the movie is told from his perspective we simply have no idea what actually is going on in the movie. That isn’t going to make the plot less confusing or more meaningful. So, ultimately, that suggestion comes out of nowhere because it wasn’t developed throughout the movie, and isn’t all that meaningful if it really was the case. So it’s not a great twist even if the movie committed to it, and the movie, even at the ending, never commits to it.

Ultimately, the movie doesn’t really seem to want to commit to anything, whether the supernatural parts were real, or whether the game is a key component of the plot, or whether he really is a child of Satan. As such, it has a plot and character arcs that don’t pay off and don’t make sense. It’s not only the case that the movie doesn’t come together at the end, it actually manages to tear itself apart at the end with the hint that he could be delusional. With such a confusing and unsatisfying plot and set of characters that doesn’t fulfill either the explicit or implicit promises it makes, I can’t imagine watching this movie again.