Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lost at Last

Alright, well today I finally got around to watching Lost, which I said I would do some time ago (in September, to be exact).

My impression after the first two episodes is that it's interesting, definitely worth watching, but nothing truly special. It doesn't get the same kind of awed "wow!" from me that it did from Jon Tweedy. But then, I'm only two episodes in, and lots of shows I really like took much longer than that to get off the ground.

I note with some interest that Kim Yoon Jin plays the Korean wife who can secretly speak English alongside Daniel Dae Kim, who supposedly prefers Korean. They speak real Korean in the series, and it's obvious that in reality the shoe is on the other foot - Daniel Dae Kim doesn't actually speak Korean very well, but for Yoon Jin it's obviously the dominant language. I looked Kim Yoon Jin up online after the first episode because I was sure she was the double agent from Shiri - which really brings back memories. I saw Shiri in Japan soon after it was released (it had been out for a couple of months in Korea already). This was Korea's first real "Hollywood-style" movie. Ironically - and in typical Korean fashion - they're very proud of the fact that it's supposedly substantively different from Hollywood movies - but of course the reason it sold so well is because it pretty much just is a normal Hollywood movie with a Korean-themed plot. I really enjoyed it when I saw it and ended up going back three times. But in retrospect this was just because I was gearing myself up to go to Korea and enjoyed hearing the Korean spoken in the movie. I had to watch it in Korean (which I didn't understand a word of at the time) with Japanese subtitles, so it was kind of hard to follow, and I missed a lot of the gaping plotholes (one of them is particularly bad: a North Korean spy is riding on the bus with the South Korean national soccer team and no one notices that this strange man with a funny accent they've never seen before is on the bus with them? Yeah. fucking. right.). In retrospect, it's not a very good movie at all, but at the time it was a lot of fun, and the special effects are surprisingly good for "Korea's first blockbuster action film." I have a lot of sentimental attachment to it.

Overall, the characters are pretty flat, and the dialogue is stock. I wasn't really convinced, in the first couple of scenes, that I was seeing people dazed after a near brush with death in a plane crash. In particular, what seems unrealistic is how walled-off everyone is. In my experience, when disasters happen, people really come together. That doesn't mean they like each other or get along, but there's a chemcial social instinct that just kind of kicks in. Some of my best memories, ironically, are from the two weeks we spent cleaning up after Hurricane Hugo, just because everyone was so friendly. Now, I understand from reading on the internet and hints dropped here and there in the first two episodes that not everyone is what they seem. That's the main plot engine of the series, actually - so perhaps there is a good explanation coming for why no one is "bonding," really. But for now, it just feels kinda like lazy writing.

The other thing that bugs me about it a bit is that there aren't any characters that I really like. Everyone seems more or less normal. They're all "types." Twin Peaks it ain't!

Finally, I note that the Hollywood cigarette rule is in full effect. Again, this is something that may work itself out as the plot progresses, but there's only one smoker, and of course he's an unsympathetic white redneck who more or less keeps to himself except to say misogynistic or racist things. In particular, he doesn't like the character Sayeed - who turns out to have fought in the Gulf War...for the Iraqis. However, I'm going to hold judgment on this one for now because I get the feeling that there's a turnaround coming with this character. That is, they've gone to so much trouble to make the audience dislike him that it can only mean they're building up to a "shocker" where he turns out to be a nice guy.

So you see what I mean - the show is kind of canned. There's nothing really new or groundbreaking here, so it gets a solid B for an interesting general plot (castaways on an island after a planewreck, many of whom are harboring secrets, and the island they're stranded on is very very far from normal and has secrets of its own) and good production values, but is kept from the A-list by relying too much on the formula for interest. Truly good shows catch your attention on the strength of the characters, the writing, and the development of philosophically interesting themes, and this show has none of the above so far. I should also add that, generally speaking, good television appeals to some kind of wish-fulfillment, and that's obviously missing here. Nobody has a secret desire to be in a plane crash!

But as I said, two episodes isn't very much of the whole. It's passed the only test that really matters at this point by being interesting enough to keep me watching. I may well have occasion to revise my opinion as the story develops.


At 8:22 AM, Blogger noahpoah said...

Be careful with Lost. It has flaws beyond flat characters and stereotypes.

When I first saw ads for it, it looked really interesting, but I didn't have time to watch it. Now that I am able to watch it on DVD, I'm not at all sure it would be worth it.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger noahpoah said...

Oh, and here's a discussion thread about the show's problems that may be interesting to read prior to getting too involved.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey now don't go knocking the show to pieces when Galactica is the Gold standard around here...
Yeah, Lost characters are not exactly the most polished or even alluring (the main reason the third season is poor so far in my opinion) but they are interesting and the story is more about how mysteries are introduced and the Storytelling device of the flashbacks (new at least for TV)

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

I'm content to watch through the end of season one. The plot is interesting, and I already paid the rental fee!

Incidentally, it's only seasons one and a half of Galactica that are "the gold standard around here." Say what you like about the rest of it (which I stopped watching the week before Thanksgiving thank you very much!), but those first 24 episodes (up to Ressurection Ship pt. II) were absolute ace! Lost has NOTHING on Galactica's heyday! NOTHING!

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Jon said...

I'll admit I think Lost went a little downhill after about halfway through the second season, and is only exciting in the third so far because you're just plain pissed at the 'Others' (you'll see)... For a change of pace (and a shorter catch-up since it's only 6 total hours), I'd check out the Sci-Fi miniseries 'The Lost Room'. I enjoyed the first two of three installments that I recorded yesterday, and I'm downloading the third one right now.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Joshua said...

I did watch some of "The Lost Room," and it was interesting. But I thought the acting was crap (SciFi originals can't all be Battlestar...), and the plot is an obvious lift from Friday the 13th - the Series (which has nothing to do with the movies). So I didn't finish it. I was thinking of watching it during the week I'm home in NC if SciFi reruns it (which is to say, I was thinking of watching it during the week I'm home in NC).

I've seen six episodes of Lost now and am about to watch two more before I go to bed. I'm liking it better than I did when I posted this originally, I have to say. The characters are still not very interesting, but the directing and pacing are good - and as Eric points out, pacing is everything to this show. I expect what Noah said will turn out to be true, but I'm enjoying it for now. I raise it to B+ - mostly because "Kate" is superhot. That and they cast Nick Tate as the guy who turns her in. Nice to see him still on TV!


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