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Taken? 470

Posted by michael
from the to-the-cleaners dept.
jeepliberty writes "Was I the only one to feel like I was "taken" by the latest Spielberg mini-series? It concluded last night on the SciFi channel. It started out great. The first five episodes were excellent. Then like milk on the counter, it started going sour. My sister is a writer and after she sees a movie she always picks it apart for continuity, character development and plot. I always tell here "Get a life. It's just a movie." Well after I saw the 7th installment, I started picking up my sister's habits and began picking it apart. "Taken" seems to have taken a little bit from "Firestarter", "E.T.", "Sphere" and quite a few others."
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Taken?

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  • by SteweyGriffin (634046) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @07:51PM (#4889443)
    I can't help but feel, along with many others, that Spielberg's time to shine has come and gone.

    It seems each movie gets a bit more out far-fetched and unbelievable with the years. He's even using the latest "fad" actors in his films rather than tried and true classic screensmen.

    Anyone else think his time is over? I mean, A.I. was supposed to be a masterpiece, but all it was was simply two or three hours of some annoying "Sixth Sense" ghost boy trying to find his mom.
    • by garcia (6573)
      AI really wasn't *his* movie to begin w/. It definitly was a Kubrik film.

      I am actually currently watching the Taken marathon. I don't think it is his greatest work but it is definitly good. Entertaining for sure.

      I guess I will be able to draw better conclusions once it's over. Currently they are in the early 80's (1980).

      I think you guys look for way too much.
      • by MrP- (45616)
        Yeah, AI was Kubriks, and the Kubrik parts were good, its the stuff Spielberg added that made AI horrible.

        As for Taken, he's just a producer, he just puts his name on stuff for the money (Yeah, like Spielberg played any real part if Tiny Toons, which is also under his name.)

        Taken had something like 10 directors, doing diff episodes.

        I wonder if Spielberg even knows what Taken is. Sigh.
        • Yeah, AI was Kubriks, and the Kubrik parts were good

          It was vintage Kubrik. It would have been a better film if it had ended 30 minutes earlier. He never could end a movie!

          We meet an alien race that is smart enough to figure out how to resurrect the dead, but isn't quite smart enough to figure out how to do it for more than one day. That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard.

          Here's the ending I proposed: Next to last shot - aliens flying over the frozen Manhattan. Last shot - cyberboy frozen in the block of ice staring at the blue fairy. Credits. Much better ending.

          • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:46PM (#4889703)
            We meet an alien race that is smart enough to figure out how to resurrect the dead, but isn't quite smart enough to figure out how to do it for more than one day. That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard.

            It's ridiculous because you completely misunderstood it. They weren't aliens. They were highly sophisticated mecha. Humans became extinct in the 2,000 year interval, but mecha survived and evolved by reproducing themselves. The "aliens" you see are the end result of 2,000 years of mecha evolution.

            And they didn't resurrect the dead. They initially told David that they would be unable to resurrect his mother because they lacked her DNA, but when Teddy presented the hairs, they had to improvise. "Give him what he wants," said the narrator. They created, out of David's memories, an image of his mother, and let him interact with her for one day. Why only one day? Because they wanted to give David a sense of peace before euthanizing him.

            See, the key to understanding this movie is to know that the human characters were all selfish and cruel-- intentionally or otherwise-- and that the mecha characters were all innocent and pure. David, especially, had to be innocent; he was programmed to be. The uber-mecha were the culmination of this: they were supremely innocent, supremely kind, supremely compassionate. When they found this primitive mecha under the ice, they recognized him for what he was. They knew that he was capable of feeling, but not of learning or growing. So they did what the humans, in their arrogance, could not. They destroyed him.

            Last shot - cyberboy frozen in the block of ice staring at the blue fairy. Credits. Much better ending.

            Sorry, but I disagree. The existing ending is overwhelmingly powerful, if one understands it.
            • It's obvious the "Aliens" at the end were mecha, look at the logo of the company that creates David. It's blatantly foreshadowed several times and at three different points in the movie that the company vision of the future was right in the logo. I have to dissagree with the ending though, the one more day with Mom thing just felt out of place. Weaksauce.
            • Excellent analysis. Actually, in an ideal world, this should be a normal interpretation, but seeing as how many empty heads have judged the movie, your writeup is outstanding.

              Interesting how on Slashdot most people feel compelled to parrot what they perceive as the "common wisdom", without investing a second of their time in forming their own (supposedly intelligent) opinion.
              • <complaint>
                Interesting how on Slashdot most people feel compelled to parrot what they perceive as the "common wisdom", without investing a second of their time in forming their own (supposedly intelligent) opinion.
                </complaint>

                <meta-complaint>
                also interesting is how people feel compelled to call someone a parrot for agreeing with the majority
                </meta-complaint>
            • by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday December 14, 2002 @09:42PM (#4889890) Homepage Journal

              Great analysis. I also believe that A.I. is a vastly underrated and misunderstood movie.

              So they did what the humans, in their arrogance, could not. They destroyed him.

              This is not quite accurate. The humans did recognize that he was not capable of growing and/or learning, which is why they stated early on that these models, once imprinted, would have to be destroyed and couldn't be given to another owner. That's why the mother sent him off in the first place.

              Other than that, I completely agree with you. That's the most interesting thing about the movie: it demonstrates that to be truly human requires all the negative traits, as well as the positive ones. They only built mecha with the positive traits, which meant they would never be fully human.

              • Oh, something else I forgot to mention. It's arguable whether at the end of the uber-mechas destroyed him, or whether he simply committed suicide by going to "sleep". The latter might be more likely since he appeared to voluntarily close his eyes. Of course, the uber-mechas may have known that by fulfilling his quest, that would cause him to turn off.

                • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Saturday December 14, 2002 @10:13PM (#4890024)
                  It's arguable whether at the end of the uber-mechas destroyed him, or whether he simply committed suicide by going to "sleep".

                  I don't believe David could have committed suicide. He wasn't programmed to. The fact that he was limited by his programming is sort of central to the whole movie. If he had been able to "turn himself off," then why couldn't he also have been able to stop loving Monica? The fact that David could never, ever transcend, could never become "a real boy," is critical to the story. His killing himself would have been an act of transcendence, and I think it would have taken away from the internal integrity of the story.

                  That's why I stick to the uber-mecha euthanasia interpretation.

                  (Do check out my latest journal entry for more on this subject. Plug, plug.)
            • Thanks for writing that.

              I have been wearly of closed minded people not seeing the ending for what it is. The ending made you think, if it weren't there and if David was left in the water, then the ending and the feeling you have after watching it would of been very empty.
        • its the stuff Spielberg added that made AI horrible

          I don't know about that. Try reading this [slashdot.org] for my opinion on the whole matter.
    • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot AT monkelectric DOT com> on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:07PM (#4889528)
      I saw an interview with this film school director, and he nailed on the head what's wrong with Speilberg. He said [paraphrasing], "When Steven Speilberg or George Lucas makes a movie, he wants to make a movie that will touch everybody. When Stanley Kubric makes a movie, he wants to make a movie that touches Stanley Kubric."

      Which is what I think is wrong with speilberg and lucas ... They are candles who have burned too brightly for too long, and they are simply extinguishing. I'm not going to talk about "selling out" because that's cliché, but its clear they lost their passion long ago.

    • Geeze, guys. Seems a bit harsh. Sure, the ending pretty much was lame, and petered out, but cut the miniseries some slack.

      The acting was phenomenal, I thought. Th little girl was incredible. It was all put together fairly well, and was a class act. It doesn't have to shake the earth to qualify as good, you know.

      C//

      • Agreed. The girl who played Allie (Dakota Fanning [imdb.com]) was exceptional in this role.

        The series was a little hard to get into and I had a hard time getting past Col. Crawford (god I was glad when that sob died), but I enjoyed it overall.

        Thank god for tivo. There's no way I would have been able to watch this as it aired (2 hrs a night for 2 weeks - yikes). I found I could watch abount an hour at a sitting, although I watched the last two (4 hours today) because I wanted to find out how it ended before one of my friends started telling me the ending.

        I have to admit I was dissapointed at some parts. I could have done without seeing Max Headroom nail Heather Donahue. The bits about the army trying to shoot down the aliens and march around in their ship was hard to take, although I was pleasantly surprised at the plot twist there. Mary Crawford's character seemed kind of forced, she need to wipe that smug smile off her face a little earlier in the series.

        The ending was moving, though. I thought Dakota's performance made up for some of the series' other shortcomings. I knew what was coming, and yet the emotion of her sacrifice came through and carried the conclusion.

        Not the end-all/be-all of sci-fi, but a good show to watch. I plan to transfer the whole thing to tape over the next few weeks and watch it again.
        • There are probably four or five people on Slashdot who'll know what the hell I'm talking about, but have you ever read the Simmons books Endymion and The Rise of Endymion? Allie reminded me so much of Aenea I had to wonder if royalties would be involved. Particularly her big introduction, when she talked to the guitar player just like a three-foot-tall Zen master.
      • I think the acting was nice, but the whole series was a friggin' soap opera. I've been trying to tell myself that Spielberg only put up money for the production (executive producer). Thank God there wasn't a JarJar excepting the appearance of the Big-eyed Martian Squirrel. All these awful cliche's... the little girl who was played up like a messiah -- blond hair and blue eyes of course.

        Why does every goddamm Hollywood production have to be another good vs. evil melodrama! Sheesh!

        After it was all over I knew that the purpose of the production was to be filler for the commercial breaks.

    • Anyone else think his time is over?
      Not particularly. Certainly he has little to do with Taken - he's not a writer, director or even producer, he's an executive producer, so it's hardly fair to label this a Spielberg failure.
      A.I. was supposed to be a masterpiece
      No, A.I. was supposed to be Kubrick's masterpiece. He worked on it for 12 years and decided it was more suited to Spielberg. To me that sounds like Kubrick didn't think it would work and then when he died Spielberg wanted to finish it for him.
    • This isn't a flame, but does it need to be said that anyone unimaginative enough to produce a series based on Roswell is WAY past his prime?

      Apparently it does...

      Roswell hasn't been a mystery for years, in the same way that the Bermuda Triangle isn't a mystery, nor are crop circles, Big Foot, Nostrodamus, Uri Geller, spontaneous human cumbustion, or ley lines.

      A good fiction beats a dead mystery any time, and is infinitely more entertaining.

      There are so many good stories to be told that don't involve the anal intrusion fantasies of psychotics or willful fabricators. What about anything by Robert Charles Wilson, or Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Silverberg (a plethora of Roberts), Gene Wolfe, etc.?

      Come on, let's stop recycling the old and show some real imagination for a change.
    • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bleckywelcky (518520)

      What are you talking about?

      He's even using the latest "fad" actors in his films rather than tried and true classic screensmen.

      I'm not sure about other people, but I for one am sick of seeing the same damn actors in every single freaking movie. I mean, once I've seen Nicolas Cage in Honeymoon in Vegas, The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, City of Angels, Snake Eyes, 8MM, Gone in Sixty Seconds, and then The Family Man... then I for sure as hell do not want to see him in some movie like Windtalkers. The movie just loses all meaning because of some over used main character. After you've seen them so many times in so many different rolls (although Cage typically plays somewhat hardened character rolls, but others play rolls that vary extremely from movie to movie), you lose any feeling for any character they play because of preemptive thoughts of their character based on rolls played in previous movies. There are very few true classic screensman out there who look good in all of their rolls - whether that is due to their acting ability to make your perceive their character in a certain way no matter what you think beforehand, or because they simple play the same types of rolls over and over (think Steven Seagal, although his acting isn't the greatest, heh). I love seeing new faces in movies, as long as they can act. A new face that can't act isn't much better than an overused face that has some acting ability. But, a new face that can act is better than 99% of the overused faces out there.
  • by n3rd (111397) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @07:52PM (#4889455)
    ...and make something better.

    This has been the strategy for many things in history including Linux. A little SysV, a little BSD, and the best user contributions and you have a suberb OS.

    Taking the best elements of earlier inventions and creating something new using those elements will always be around. It's a simple yet effective recipe to build a better mousetrap.
    • Take the Best Pieces and make something better.
      This has been the strategy for many things in history including Linux. A little SysV, a little BSD, and the best user contributions and you have a suberb OS.
      False Dichotomy. We're talking about entertainment, not ways to solve problems. The point the article is trying to make is that you cannot make incremental updates (even on a Good Thing) in the entertainment industry. That Good Thing becomes redundant and over-used. We need something new and different, not the same old thing only incrementally better. See the matrix's bullet-time method.
    • Gotta love Slashdot...instead of being "Offtopic", parent manages to get "+3, Insightful"
  • by User 956 (568564) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @07:53PM (#4889457) Homepage
    Sci-Fi, it would seem, is trying to make sure everyone grabs the thread of the story and can hang on. Nice idea, is there were a linear thread to hang on to. If there is a strand of consistant storyline here, I've blinked and missed it. 'Taken' has played out so far like a series of loosely-related stories. Not bad stories, but definitley more in the anthology than series style. It's kind of like Spielberg's 80's tv outting Amazing Stories, but not quite so amazing. The look and feel are there, but things just aren't as tightly knit.
    • Wasn't Taken basically a collection of different people's stories that was directed (and purportedly tied together) by Spielberg? If so, it's no wonder that they aired the best first and the worst last.
      • Wasn't Taken basically a collection of different people's stories that was directed (and purportedly tied together) by Spielberg?

        No. The entire script, all 1,200-odd pages of it, was written by a guy named Leslie Bohem, a writer with a distinctly unimpressive resume. It wasn't badly written in any sense, but it wasn't an instant classic, either. (Most of the episodes were directed by different directors.)

        The storyline follows three generations of three families, starting during World War II and ending in the present day. The interrelationships between the various members of the three families are almost too complex, but it makes for a nicely cohesive story.

        Taken wasn't without fault, though. Many of the second-tier characters were little more than sketches-- I never knew what to make of Matt Frewer's character, for instance-- and at least one two-hour episode seemed to drag in the middle.

        But even at its worst, it was a hell of a lot better than last year's Dune fiasco. Ugh.
      • Seems apparent then that you did not watch the whole thing (not surprising).

        It was a story that spanned generations starting from the 40's to the present day. Three families involved - the family of Crawford (an Army guy investigating the crash/abductions), the Clarke family (cross-bred with the aliens) and the Keys (father was a wwII pilot abducted by aliens - the aliens like to abduct his son and grandson as well).
  • He has the annoying habit of taking a good story and ruining it. AI was a great short story by Brian Aldis (Toys Last All Summer Long). The movie was just awful.

    Minority Report was one of my favorite Dick stories and he ruined that as well.

    Taken started off promising, but ended up turning into a happy, feel-good story. Oh well.

    Perhaps the key to Spielberg is to avoid the movies and read what the movie is based on.
    • by agent oranje (169160) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:06PM (#4889525) Journal
      Spielberg has the nasty habit of making an excellent film, and summing it all up with a sappy, amazingly unrealistic ending. If he would end his movies 20 minutes earlier, they might end on a sad note, but sometimes things end on a sad note!

      Take AI, for example. As Kubrick was doing it, it was supposedly to end with little robot boy "killing" himself - leaving the audience questioning this. Think about a robot suicide to get what Kurbrick wanted. Think everyone living happily ever after to get the Speilberg version. It's like Apocalypse Now vs MASH.
      • Think about a robot suicide to get what Kurbrick wanted. Think everyone living happily ever after to get the Speilberg version.

        It seems like we have another person here who didn't get A.I. At the end of the movie, the uber-mecha created an illusion of David's mother for him, let him spend a day with her, and then euthanized him. I really don't understand how you could get "happily ever after" out of that.

        I wrote a longer comment on this here [slashdot.org], which I guess I'll be turning into a journal article soon.
      • Yea, Saving Private Ryan ended on a real happy note....
      • Are you kidding?

        AI - Humanity is dead and gone, it's an ice age, little mecha boys gets euthanised.

        Taken - After countless numbers of people that have been killed, abducted, and had their lives ruined, a family loses their daughter - who had no choice but to leave because of her repressive government. Then the aliens leave and humanity is left with nothing from their encounters.

        Granted everyone didn't die at the end of Taken, but how is it not sad? I'm sure plenty of people were sobbing as the girl was taken.
      • According to several source I've come across, the ending to A.I. as released was very much the ending Kubrick had in mind. The most "Spielbergian" touches were the way the supermechas in the end appeared--as woo-woo "Close Encounters" aliens, which just made a lot of audiences think they were aliens instead of indirect descendants of David, the little robot boy.

        I didn't like A.I. much and I particularly didn't like the ending--but look. David, fixated on "becoming real" to please his human mother throughout the entire movie, is reactivated to find out not only his mother but all human beings have been dead for centuries. It's as if Pinnochio not only failed to become real but returned home to learn Geppetto and his cat were killed in a citywide firestorm, and the Blue Fairy is only real enough to give the still-wooden puppet one last vivid dream of all he's lost. This is a happy ending to you?

    • No, the A.I. movie was just amazing. I am sorry you feel the way you do about it, but I don't agree with you. I agree the movie is not like the Aldiss story (the title of which is, btw "Supertoys Last All Summer Long"), but it wasn't worse, it was different. It's a different type of art.

      When I watched "Blade Runner" I felt transported, somewhat overpowered and amazed. More or less the same cocktail of emotions as when I read the K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", but not exactly, and there have been other shades as well. All in all, it was a different experience. Not lesser, just different.

      Now, I don't kow how "Blade Runner" would have been if K. Dick directed it, but I guess there's a reason why he didn't make it in the movie business, while Spielberg did.
    • by Bicoid (631498)
      He has the annoying habit of taking a good story and ruining it. AI was a great short story by Brian Aldis (Toys Last All Summer Long). The movie was just awful.
      Supertoys Last All Summer Long was a snapshot...it didn't have a movie-capable plot because is was meant to create an image, not a story. AI took that and turned it into a Pinnochio story. I think most people would agree as well that AI would have been more acceptable had the end been left off, i.e. the futuristic AIs not thawed his and cloned his mother and all that. It wouldn't have been great but it sure as hell would have been a more decent movie. Of course, it would have been unresolved and therefore wouldn't have a "happy" ending.

      Minority Report was one of my favorite Dick stories and he ruined that as well.
      I think most people would have liked Minority Report a LOT better (I know I would have) had it ended when they stuck Anderton in the holding cells. Left the audience guessing, make the audience think afterwards rather than explain everything and then give a conclusion on morality. Had they left it open and left us guessing at the injustices of the world, it would have been a MUCH better movie. Of course, that's not the happy ending that most people are expecting from an action movie.

      Taken started off promising, but ended up turning into a happy, feel-good story. Oh well.
      Hmm...looks like we're seeing a trend here, ne?

      The trick to Spielberg is to stop watching at the right time. There's a point where the story shifts from good to cheesy (re-awakening Anderton, reawakening David, etc.) and THAT is where you should stop watching. Do that, and you're good to go.

      By the way, Spielberg shouldn't alone be blamed for bad movies made from sf books and short stories. No, Minority Report was no 2001 or Blade Runner. But it wasn't Johnny Mnemonic or Starship Troopers, both great pieces of work with plenty of potential for a great movie, but which ultimately ended up as total crap. I'd say the blame falls on the general public which wants feel-good action movies and more simple good-evil plots. If there was a market for good movies, they'd make them, but what the GP wants is escapist crap.
      • I think most people would agree as well that AI would have been more acceptable had the end been left off, i.e. the futuristic AIs not thawed his and cloned his mother and all that.

        None of that actually literally happened. The last act of the film was largely a fantasy created by the uber-mecha for David, taking place entirely within his mind. And the ending was anything but happy. I've got a little article on this subject on my journal; I wonder if you would consider taking a look at it?

        I'd say the blame falls on the general public

        Hardly. In the case of Starship Troopers, at least, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Paul "Showgirls" Verhoeven.
  • by Chas (5144) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @07:55PM (#4889465) Homepage Journal
    I agree.

    It may have come sprinting off the line, but it was gasping for breath by the end.

    And the message? "The little green men don't know dick either!"

    ???

    Ah well. If you think about it, it's probably impossible to keep something nice and consistently interesting and intelligent for 15 straight hours.

    At least they didn't have people running around with tinfoil on their heads for the entire thing.
    • "At least they didn't have people running around with tinfoil on their heads for the entire thing."

      You're referring to Signs? That was the best part of that whole movie. In fact, it might have been the only good part.

      C//
  • I actually liked it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Aztek (260107) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @07:56PM (#4889468) Homepage
    I watched it every night and true the first episodes were by far better. My dad even started to watch it with me on about the 6th night. I especially like how each night for the first week was a different decade each night. When it comes out on DVD (which I assume it will just like Dune did) I might actually buy it.
    • No, you're right. Taken isn't *bad*. But it's not really science fiction, either, which is why it's disappointing. It's a mainstream piece of entertainment that leverages the public's knowledge of the modern mythology of the space alien in order to tell the stories of a few families torn apart and brought together, sometimes all at once, by the tribulations of the 20th century. That's not a bad idea, per se. But sometimes while watching Taken you've got to wonder if it might not be better if they just took the aliens out of it altogether.
  • Spieldburg didn't write this stuff. It isn;t going to have the cohesion that we viewers have come to expect in his finer movies. To take the "Short stories" and blend them together is a tough job. Look at what can happen [amazon.com] (Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles) when one author tries to show a splintered vision along a unifying theme. Bradburys stuff is good,Don;t get me wrong; but taken on a whole, it doesn't rise above the individual stories. I think a lot of people were expecting Spielburg's stuff to transend the original writers' work because he looked at it and put his rubber-stamp-signature on the project.
    Is "Taken" really great? Nah.
    Is "Taken" worth watching? Sure.
    • To take the "Short stories" and blend them together is a tough job.

      That's not what happened here. The entire miniseries was written by Leslie Bohem. It consists of a very tightly plotted story that covers more than half a century. It might look disjoint at first, but viewed from a distance it's actually not at all.
  • O.K. folks, I heard a song by Emmylou Harris that I have never heard before on Thursdays episode of Taken. It also played on Fridays episode and I have never heard this song before. It was titled "Just before it gets dark". Can anyone tell me where to find this song and what album it is on? I must know.
    • Can anyone tell me where to find this song and what album it is on?

      Yes, I would be happy to help.

      You can find it on the internet. The album is titled KaZaA.

  • by Jutral (558241) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:07PM (#4889529) Homepage
    I too was "taken" in by the first five episodes of the series. It created an interesting and exciting storyline about events that might, or might not have, happened in our past. Adding the Spielberg touch, he was able to draw the audience into a spellbinding story that made us wonder what was to come next.

    After the weekend though, it felt as if Spielberg decided to take a nap and let one of his assistants take over. The story became uninteresting with two supposed "lovers"--ages apart--running around teetering from being "bad guys" to "good guys" to just plain "weird guys."

    While the first five were good--the sixth, eighth, ninth, and tenth were manageable--the seventh episode was the killer. In the seventh episode we watched the inside of a room and the outside of a building for an hour and a half as we learned as little as possible about the rest of the story. Watching the preview on the eight episode was more interesting than the two hours of the seventh.

    While I am critical about the last few episodes I feel that overall it was worth twenty hours (two per evening) to watch this mini-series event. Not only was it interesting--to a point--seeing twenty hours of rather "quality" programming in two weeks is hard to do with the shows on television. If you have the time, check out the reruns this weekend on the Sci-Fi channel (at least the first five).
    • After the weekend though, it felt as if Spielberg decided to take a nap and let one of his assistants take over.

      Seeing as how Spielberg had nothing to do with the story, the writing, the directing, or the editing, that's not too hard to believe.
      • Yeah really. Which part of "Steven Speilburg presents " is not understood?

        There were 11 different people credited with directing [imdb.com], and Leslie Bohem [imdb.com] is credited with the writing.

        What did Speilburg do on this project?

        "Executive Producer" [imdb.com]

        A producer who is not involved in any technical aspects of the filmmaking process, but who is still responsible for the overall production. Typically an executive producer handles business and legal issues. See also associate producer, co-producer, line producer.

        There were 7 other people credited with co-producing this little epic.

        Steven apparently wrote the checks and had meetings once in a while to oversee what everyone else was doing.
        • Steven apparently wrote the checks and had meetings once in a while to oversee what everyone else was doing.

          If I had to take a wild-ass guess, I'd say that Spielberg probably backed the production with his reputation and good name. I'm sure this miniseries cost a fortune to produce, and DreamWorks probably wouldn't have been able to raise the money to do it if it hadn't been for Spielberg's involvement.

          But again, that's just a guess.
  • by SteweyGriffin (634046) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:07PM (#4889530)
    Movies serve one purpose -- to entertain. In fact, all entities can generally be classified into one category based on one primary function that they perform. For example, computers are designed to perform fast calculations. Movies are made to entertain. Actors and actresses appear in movies to pay for living expenses, whereas they appear on Broadway and live theatre productions to hone their acting skills. Writers' purpose is to organize a lot of information into coherent articles and papers. Constructions workers build things. Engineers design things. It's really that simple.

    It's often been said that there are only two things that should be used to rate a movie on its entertainment merits.

    1) Does the story take you somewhere?
    2) Do you care about the outcome?

    That's it. That is essentially what Spielberg and every other movie creator's goal is. They want to entertain and captivate audiences, but if that's going to happen they have to address those two crucial questions.

    It's not that Spielberg isn't a master, it's just that he's forgetting the whole purpose. His movies have become too cold and outsider feeling; audiences are subsequently being turned off to his stories these days because, time and time again, they don't feel taken back or captivated, and they don't have an emotional tie-in to what happens in the plotline.

    I think popular films of the current day can learn a lot from the anime sub-genre of filmography. It's about interesting characters that people care about, and stories they grow to love and understand. The basic simplicities of life.

    Anime is not child pornography, it's not tentacle rape, it's not insert_whatever_typical_complaint_here -- it's just captivating, wonderful film. And it's new, it's fresh, it's fascinating, it's an art form.

    Spielberg no longer is these things. He's old hat, washed up, boring, dull, tantric, mundane, and irrelevant any more. He turns great Kubrick, Dickens, and Shakespeare stories into a cold abbreviated plot with characters no one cares about and actors that aren't the most skilled craftsmen in their field.

    I used to love Steve, I really did. But lately it's almost as though he's just doing movies to occupy his time. I no longer leave Spielberg movies at the theatre with my mouth open and dripping. I leave with a gritty taste in my mouth and thoughts of less-than-his-best wander throughout my head.

    I miss the old Spielberg, and I'm sure you do too. Perhaps a petition is appropriate. Let's just say "Steve, get back to basics. We love you and respect you, but you're abondoning your true fans and are losing out on wonderful films as a result."

    Well, that's just my two cents. Like I said, I'm not a critic, and I'm not putting him down.
  • by loggia (309962) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:11PM (#4889546)
    Steven Spielberg did not write this. Leslie Bohem is the driving force behind the project - Steven Spielberg is the "brand," if you will.

    I think it was a fine series. The writing was often subtle and thoughtful - a rarity on television these days.
  • by tbmaddux (145207) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:15PM (#4889562) Homepage Journal
    ... I was waiting for snot to come out of her nose again.
  • by carb (611951) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:15PM (#4889564) Homepage
    I mean, when people look at Spielberg's "bad" movies, the first thing that comes up is A.I., which should be taken with a grain of salt seeing as this film was developed largely by Kubrick.

    Aside from that, what really sparks you as bad? Minority Report? For all of its plot discontinuities (did I spell that right?), I think that the consensus is positive - it was an enjoyable sci-fi film with good performances all around, albeit with a few cheesy moments. Let's look at his films of the late-90's. Amistad - never saw it, but heard good things. Saving Private Ryan - do I really need to go into this, it was hands down my pick for Best Picture in 1997 (Grr ... Shakespeare in Love?) At this point I'll mention his involvement with Band of Brothers. A little bit earlier, Schindler's List, another classic.

    TV is a new avenue for Spielberg - don't count him out yet. Over the past few years, I think his good work outweighs his bad work.

    • Hummm....Mmmhhhhh...
      The problem I have with Speilberg films is that they always seem to leave me unsatisfied. They're these hollow constructs, full of sound and fury, gestures without motion, completely unable to hide the incredible blandness of the scripts . He stopped taking chances, stopped trying to enrage or challenge his audience, instead choosing to be safe and politically correct. Family oriented is one thing, to emasculate a story such as "SPR" is unforgivable. And I certainly don't think that a few curse words or eviscerations counts as challenging an audience. His world seems to have sharp good and bad delineations and as a result his characters are so one sided it would give Moebius a thrill. They never endure in my mind or my heart, I feel no empathy or sympathy for their plight. Whether this is a consequence or poor acting or poor directing, I'm not certain. But I know he's directed some fine actors and actresses.
  • Let me guess, Steven, you picked out yet another (originally) interesting film with a "crank" that I'm expected to turn and turn until OOP! big shock, a jack pops out and you laugh and the audience laughs and the dog laughs and I die a little inside

    ?
  • Not that anyone including SciFi or /. cares, but I refuse to watch this show after they murdered you-know-what. Opting for the Spielberg name was doubtlessly hoped to be a free ride, though I doubt Spielberg comes cheap. I'm still skeptical of SciFi's editorial decisions. (These are the guys who broadcast double helpings of John Edward, after all.)

    Not that I think I'm missing much. IMHO Spielberg's stuff has been pretty bad for a while. Here [netflix.com] is a DVD'd list of his film work -- how many titles have you seen, and how many have you liked? There are a number of notable turkeys. I know many people love him, but when I hear "Hollywood" as a put-down for something thought glib and slick and insincere, I immediately think "Spielberg."

    So that's two strikes against the show. And, as we all know, even if we miss a show and later regret it, the reruns will hound us for years if the thing was halfway good, or even if not. I laugh now to think how I once meticulously archived Star Trek: TNG episodes (I confess that was a major reason I bought the VCR). I had no idea how popular the show would be!
    • Here is a DVD'd list of his film work

      Uh, rather than looking at an incomplete list on NetFlix (wtf?) why don't you look at the canonical source [imdb.com]. On that list you've got films like Minority Report, AI, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, The Lost World, Schindler's List, and Jurassic Park. And that's just what he's done in the past ten years. Of his three biggest flops-- Hook, Always, 1941-- two of them made a small profit at the box office. And his best films-- Schindler's List, Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple-- are some of the greatest movies ever made.
      • The Netflix list selects out the most famous titles and was as much as I could handle. :) Also, I like to sanity-check my views against others. (If I'm insane, I at least need a heads-up.) Turth, I was in a hurry, and though that list did enough damage.

        I haven't seen Schlindler's List and want to, though there you have a topic of such gravity your film will seem significant as well (I liked Life is Beautiful as a totally weird take on the Holocaust; Benigni just barely pulled it off). The Color Purple was (for me -- my wife loves it) slick and unconvincing; I could feel Spielberg reaching out from the screen to emotionally manipulate the audience. Jurassic Park was cute as a faux nature show, but otherwise had me bored and chanting for Goldblum to get eaten (now that would have been a directorial decision I would admire). Saving Private Ryan crashed after the first 20 minutes. And so on.

        Greatest movies ever made? At the box office. Mostly unmemorable cotton candy. That even his flops make some money reflects his brand name and how difficult it is for unknowns to break in.

        Please don't think I'm some art film guy. I like junk, but good junk. Spielberg's Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark are milestones, if not art. My tastes run to Witness or Bladerunner (both Ford's best) or The Big Sleep or Ordinary People (for MTM) or 12 Angry Men or The Outlaw Josey Wales (magnificent Clint) or Das Boot (way better war movie than Pvt. Ryan) or Witness for the Prosecution.... Well, an eclectic crowd. I mention these just as reference to where I'm coming from, not as recommendation.

        I doubt I'm alone on this, and of course there's no one actor or director or screenwriter for everyone -- fortunately! I also not expecting to start a career as critic.
        • My tastes run to Witness or Bladerunner (both Ford's best)

          How could you forsake The Mosquito Coast? Blade Runner is a great movie, but Ford's performance wasn't that much to write home about. Wooden-by-design. But The Mosquito Coast is a great piece of film.

          Das Boot (way better war movie than Pvt. Ryan)

          I guess you have a different definition of "better war movie" than I do. I can't even compare Das Boot and Saving Private Ryan. They're completely different works, as far as I can see. The only thing they have in common is that they're both set during a war.
      • I forgot to commend Who Framed Roger Rabbit though what I liked about the film had much more to do with the styling, dialog, and Bob Hoskins's amazing ability to act against thin air. Kathleen Turner's uncredited voicing of Jessica Rabbit was very nice. It felt like a movie where Spielberg was farther in the background, some 15 years ago.
  • by loggia (309962) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:23PM (#4889594)
    Oh, wait, that was "V."
  • It was so hyped I didn't even bother tuning in. Sci-Fi needs to get their act together and show good stuff again, like Lexx season 4.
  • by coloth (630330) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:31PM (#4889637)
    I'm a little surprised about all this Spielberg-bashing.

    Are people saying that an older, highly acclaimed director with a lot of clout and past success can't make good movies? Look at Robert Altman.

    Spielberg is 56 years old. He could be making movies for another 30 years, and who knows what he'll choose to do?!

    At the moment, from what I gather, he is trying to ensure the profitability and stability of the brand new major studio he created, the first in many, many years. He seems to be having some success, especially in animated features, against the company that invented the genre.

    Hollywood is nothing if not a breeding ground for surprises. We all know Minority Report could have been better--it wasn't the masterwork that Bladerunner was--but you have to give him credit for putting his considerable resources into a less-than-forgiving proposition.

    If what we're talking about boils down to the difference between Minority Report and Bladerunner, then I think it's something both very small and very large. A little bit of inspiration goes a long way, you might say. Maybe the theme of Constitutional erosion wasn't as inspirational to him as the Holocaust or D-Day had been, but I have no doubt that he'll be truly inspired again, whether it's next year or in ten years.

  • SSIA. ;)

    G'bye Karma :(
  • by TinCanFury (131752) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:44PM (#4889694)
    Taken wasn't about the aliens, it was about the abductees. The reason the aliens were in it so little was because Leslie Bohem wanted to concentrate on the lives of the people involved in the "alien conspiracy". It was scifi because it involved aliens and they're "secret plot to take over the earth", but beyond that, it was, like any good scifi(ST:TNG) about the people, their experiences together, etc. Sure, it wasn't amazing in that regard, but honestly, I've never seen a film of any length that was. I thought, for what Taken was written to do, it did an excellent job. I'm glad it didn't get any more into the aliens, I was sort of dissapointed in the 9th episode until i figured it out, because I was afraid they were going to "reveal" too much about the aliens.

    Oh well, what do i expect from reviews by people that read slashdot...
  • by CleverNickName (129189) <wil@wilw[ ]ton.net ['hea' in gap]> on Saturday December 14, 2002 @08:47PM (#4889707) Homepage Journal
    The Lone Gunmen are killed in the final episode.

    You have been warned.
  • It started out great and then got exponentially worse. Too much crying...

    I would like to see what was left on the cutting room floor.

    Characters that changed completely or were dropped out entirely.

    supposedly there was a Narc in the AA mtg.

    Charley's personality does a 180.

    Little Blondie becomes a half-comatose bawling non-alien.

    MaxHeadroom and SheBitch pretend to have a thing for each other... Or do they...Or don't they... Beats me.

    Haul in the troops. Bang our sheilds. What you mean she's gone? Oh well I guess we can leave them alone now.

    It bit.

    The best parts of the show were the living-tattoos on the illustrated-chef, the buzzing in bubble-toed-insect-boy and the suprise budda-gator in the scifi-bumpers between shows

    I would love to see a show dedicated to all those creations.

  • They started running commercials for Taken in June. With that much advance hype you just knew it was going to suck.

  • larger than life? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kinobsd (621182)
    A lot of the less stellar movies from Spielberg 'seem' to be from the sci-fi genre. A lot of people were upset with Minority Report, AI, Lost World etc. (with the exception of Close Encounters). The Spielberg films a lot of us cherish are his more -believable- attempts; A Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Jaws. A big part of watching a movie is knowing the characters..
  • My Impressions (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Saturday December 14, 2002 @09:07PM (#4889770) Homepage
    Well, I have to say that I was wondering when this would be on Slashdot. So here is what I have to say on the series.

    Taken

    I liked it alot. Yes it had it's flaws, yes there are better things, but it was very entertaining. That they got me to devote 2 hours a night to watching it, to using my VCR to tape my normal favorite shows to watch later (instead of tapeing "Taken" to watch later) shows that was good. The events themselves were well paced, and the show moved along untill the last 2 or 3 episodes, which seemed like they were stretching for time.

    I think that they did a very good job overall. I didn't think that the special effects were rediculous. Many times movies/miniseries/etc have special effects that are so over the top that you stop being "in" the movies, and get taken back to reality. That didn't happen here. I also think that Matt Frewer (the guy who played Edison Carter on Max Headroom) was perfect for his role. The little girl was great too. Nothing else seems to stand out that much acting wise. I also have to say that the switching between the 3 families was pretty confusing at first, before I got to know the characters. It seemed like they spent very little screen time on one family before moving to the next in some of the early episodes.

    The story was pretty good overall. There were lots of good "it makes you think" type things, or just new twists on old ideas. For example, I loved the idea that the craft that crashed in Roswell crashed BECAUSE OF a weather balloon. I don't think I've ever heard that before. That was just such a perfect idea. I do have a few problems though. First of all, things like the little alien implant being some kind of centipede looking thing which causes people to go insane (or whatever) bothered me. It's not the idea, it's that it wasn't really explained, AT ALL. Also, the whole thing of the burial site in the woods had next to nothing to do with the story, except as an excuse to kill people.

    So overall it was quite good. My biggest complaint can be derived from above. I think that there were a few things that they needed to spend more time on, and a number of things that they spent way to much time on (for their impact on the story). Overall, I'd give it a 4.5 or so out of 5. It was very intertaining.

    Spielberg

    Some have said above that he's "over the hill", "past his time", etc. Well, I think it's hit and miss. "Taken" was good, and I'm glad it was a miniseries because it wouldn't have worked as a movie, or just a 1 hour a week series. "AI" was pretty good, but it was LONG. A good chunk of that movie could go and it would be better. It reminded me ALOT of "Bicentennial Man," with a little bit of an "Outer Limits" episode thrown in. As for "Minority Report," I'm looking forward to seeing it. I always wait 'till things come out on DVD to see 'em, so I can't comment on it.

    Sci-Fi Channel

    I think they did great with this. It was heavily promoted so it didn't end up flying under the radar. And I'm glad that Spielberg's name was attached, because if that wasn't emphisized, I'm not sure I would have watched. I heard that it got over 6 million viewers one night (or something), which is the largest share any cable show has gotten ever (from what I heard, ignoring pay-per-view events); even outdoing the Sopranno's season primere. I do have two complaints for Sci-Fi though:

    1. Ditch the new logo - It's very distracting and anoying. The old dark blue one was much better. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't contantly on screen. It contrasts too much with dark scenes (which is alot of what you show).
    2. Get more commercials when you do something like this! It's not so bad when you watch normal TV, but after spending 2 hours a night for 2 weeks, I think I had every commercial memorized by the 4th day or so. It just got so repeditive. All I'm asking is to get more commercials, instead of the same 5 over and over and over. This is a common problem on many cable networks now, IMHO.
    • Re:My Impressions (Score:2, Interesting)

      I agree with what you say, mostly......

      the centepede thing was shaped that way becasue that is how the nurons were made in teh aliens, it was an artificial receiver....the reason it made them all insane had something to do with what the burning physocist said and became a running theme, "all your memories and all your fears"...presumably becasue that is what Jake clark, allie and the alien twins could do, we are to assume that the nature of the antena is what gives the psycic powers to the little implant thingy.

      as for the brothers in alaska....it was very X-files-y. however, it served an importent point...remember the conversation that Jake had with Owen in the car "I am not the only one that is importent to them"....think about how old those boys were...Jake was talking about them....they are another experiment in crossbreading, but they are a failure....they look awful, and they can not contol their powers. it is also the episode that the "torch" is passed from Own to eric. eric shows his terchorus side that he inherits from his father by leting his brother die, and allowing his father to die as well......Owen saw his death when Jake looked at him....he saw Eric standing over him, he knew Eric would betray him, that is why the note says "I was wrong about you" he thought his son did not have the kind of competativeness that was needed to achive greatness.
  • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @09:12PM (#4889786)
    Let me start out by saying that "yes, it plot seemed to be less interesting as the episodes went by"...but I think this has more to do with the time compression element of the story than it does with Steven Spielberg.

    I really like the first 5 episodes, I also thought Jesse K. was the best character of the show. The early episodes with Owen Crawford held me spellbound (that character was my manager at Terabeam). The episode directed by the former "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was easily the spookiest. As the story came out of the "time compression" that they were holding to in the early episodes, the plot started to wander. There just wasn't enough depth of character to fill up the final hours.

    Remember also that Steven S. was the overseer of all the other directors. The individual episodes had seperate directors and I could feel the difference from show to show.

    In the end, it's all just entertainment....and most people here posting watched it...enjoy it, it was free and you also got to see those halfway funny IBM ads.
  • by ruiner13 (527499) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @09:14PM (#4889792) Homepage
    The first 5 were fantastic, I won't argue with that. The last five were mediocre, but I had other reasons to watch. The actor who played Lisa Clarke (Emily Bergl) used to ride my school bus with me. Kinda interesting seeing someone you used to sit next to in a miniseries. Good for her though, I think she did a great job, even though the episodes she starred in were a bit lacking in plot.
  • by mwdib (56263) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @09:33PM (#4889856)
    Yes, I feel a bit taken by Taken. IMO, the flaw with this particular tale was a lack of clear conclusion. It became fairly obvious by about hour 16, that the author really never decided for himself what the aliens were really doing. Instead, we got a bunch of vagueness about post-reptilian brains and the "next step in evolution." Yawn.

    I'm sure I'm not the only long-term sci-fi fan who reacts to the premise "the next stage of human evolution" with ennui and disinterest.

    The lack of a compelling motivation for the aliens -- and just saying "it's beyond our understanding" is nothing more than a cop-out -- is the fatal flaw in Taken.

    I liked the characterization -- particularly the character of Mary, one of the best cold-hearted bitches to come down the track in a while -- the extended story line, many (but not all) of the special effects, and the overall concept. However, the lack of any real conclusion spoiled the mix. Yes, I'm sorry the mother had to let go of the little girl, but that's hardly an emotional conclusion that fit the overall piece -- sort of like framing Romeo and Juliet in terms of Nurse's little girl growing up.

    Sigh.

    Julian May.
    Alfred Bester.
    Poul Anderson.
    People who knew how to end a story.
  • by Anenga (529854) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @10:02PM (#4889970)
    I don't know what this FUD is all about. The people here reviewing it probably only saw one episode. You have to see the entire 20 hours, which I did, to get the entire experience. The reason most of the people here dislike it is probably because it had limited "action" and more drama/story.

    I saw the promo for "Taken" on the USA Network (USA is affiliated/owns the SciFi Channel?) and I was a bit skeptical. Also, it seemed Spielberg was getting too much glory, as there were many many directors (one for each episode, I believe) who took part in the miniseries. So if you don't like this, it isn't entirly Spielberg's fault.

    Anyways, I thought the miniseries was very good. Probably the best miniseries I've ever seen. And the best "Alien" story, in terms of accuracy and "it could of happened"-ness, as well.

    The great thing about the miniseries was the theme of "Family" as it followed three families from the 1940's to today. They pulled it off quite well, as you could see traits of the characters which resembeled their parents/grandparents. And how they all intermeshed and met up again in the future.

    The Government was portrayed quite badly, as offical governement workers often killed off innocent people to keep the secret. If the Government really did that, it is very dangerous. Here's a tip: If you ever find aliens/UFO's etc., call CNN or the Today show gang, not Uncle Sam. It reminds me of one of the few episodes of Stargate I've seen, where some guy says "It's almost worst to lie to your citizens than to commit murder".

    The aliens were interesting as well. They did a good job of crafting them, but I believe they could of done better on the special effects. They certainly weren't up to par with the current movies in theatres, but around to where "Enterprise" is. The Alien ships were interesting, as it displayed what they could look like in the interior. The theory about them meshing together to create one big craft was interesting as well.

    All in all, the people who did this miniseries did do their homework. As I reconized a lot of plot which was taken out of real life events. I also remember the crew mentioning that they intereviewed abductees and sifted through a large amount of documented events and theories before doing the show, which payed off IMO.

    I would like to see a sequal, but I'd like Steven Spielberg also to do it. If it loses any of it's original imagineers, I think it would be very disapointing.
  • I've been avoiding the series primarily because SciFi seems to be hell bent on reviving the US UFOlogy entertainment industry. This has been suffering recently since the X-Files colapsed under the weight of its own overdone mythos. There has always been a strong link between fiction about UFOs and the so called "true stories". Many early encounters cribbed details from recent science fiction movies before convirging on the current pattern of abduction stories. At any rate it is interesting to see the sudden invesment by SciFi in the abduction mythos at a time in which even many key players in American UFOlogy are backing away from the huge number of abduction claims made in the 90s.
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Saturday December 14, 2002 @11:43PM (#4890309) Homepage Journal
    After shows like the X-Files, movies like Signs and his own Close Encounters, this series is not simply redundant, but just outright lame

    There were some elements of this movie that were done and done quite well, but there simply wasn't enough to hold it together, not to mention I felt like I was watching every alien abduction movie that had ever been filmed spaced across a two weeks and massive hype. To make it worse, you finally find out the core of the Aliens plan of diabolical abductions, cross breeding and secret agendas... It's because they're curious. WHAT!? It took two weeks to tell the audiance that alien abductions are caused by beings that are "curious" and are looking to reawaken their emotions?! They needed this epic breeding program to find out THAT?! Aliens that don't know right and wrong. They're just curious. It was a total anti-climax. And in the end, all is right with the world and psycho woman finally sees the error of her ways, after the murder and attempted murder of a dozen people along the way. Riiiiiight.

    I'll ask Spielburg a minor favor here... Don't make another alien abduction movie. Ever. Or a movie about aliens. Or one involving space. Or one...
  • by LdyArdRhi (111299) on Sunday December 15, 2002 @01:01AM (#4890564) Homepage
    I was just annoyed as all hell at the total usurpation of the entire channel for a two-week period for this damn mini-series.

    When ABC runs a mini-series, they don't suspend every other show on their network for the duration -- they show all of their regular programming at their usual times, changing only necessary shows to open up slots for the mini-series.

    But not the Sci-Fi^h^h^h^h^h^hTaken Channel! They removed EVERYTHING BUT "Taken" from the lineup and replaced every single show with the cheesiest movie they could find, as though any timeslot NOT devoted to showing episodes of "Taken" (OR "Roswell" retrospectives" were beamed directly to the Satellite of Love.

    I found this maddening, to say the least. I would have liked to be able to turn on the channel at some other time during that two weeks and see something OTHER than "Taken", bad Roswell "in search of" take-offs, or MST3K fodder. At the very least, I would have liked to be able to watch Babylon 5...but that's a totally different complaint. They don't give a crap about any show the fans actually LIKE. (Like Farscape.)

    But I digress...

    Then there is the sheer level of saturation. They decided to give us the super-deluxe "phalanx-gun" treatment for the "Taken Experience", making absolutely certain that there was NO WAY IN HELL we could miss an episode except on purpose!

    Each episode would be shown THREE TIMES in a row, then once again the next night, before the new episode, then all of the first week's episodes were shown AGAIN on Saturday and Sunday, just in case! Then they showed the WHOLE THING this weeekend, in case you missed the last two weeks!

    I must admit that it *was* convenient one night, when I simply HAD to watch the 11PM showing due to an evening meeting that ran long, but I could have set my VCR if I had needed to. This was such overwhelming oversaturation, it approached the baroque.

    I certainly hope the ratings were what they expected...because it seems to me that Vivendi placed an awful lot of hope on this mini-series. If it didn't generate what they expected, I expect next to hear reports of bankruptcy filings.

    ---ArdRhi

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