Feeling not particularly happy today, I looked through all the books, DVDs, and games I have for something cheerful. And realized that the only thing I have that would somehow fit that description is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Pretty much every other piece of entertainment is about a world that consists mostly of huge piles of corpses and is about a protagonist tryint to prevent those people who still live from being all horribly killed by monsters, aliens, or super evil soldiers as well. Even the funny stuff I have generally has the world in shambles and most people dead, like Zombieland.
There are a few things I’ve enjoyed that are genuinly funny and happy, but those are nonsensical comedy that doesn’t really has anything to say about anything. Except perhaps about the value of friendship and love in a nauseating corny way.
And it isn’t just that I’ve only bought dark stuff over the past 10 years. All the good movies and games of recent year that I know about are ultimately about endemic suffering and everything either being shit or about to become shit if the hero can’t prevent it. Isn’t there anything intellectually engaging that isn’t about suffering?
I saw the first reveal trailer for the New Star Wars movie when it was first released and I already didn’t like it. That rediculous three bladed lightsaber was just too stupid, as was that silly googly eye robot. And even though it was announced that the movie would be a completely different continuity than almost all the existing material that we’ve been loving for the last 24 years, I thought I am probably ending up seeing it anyway.
But now someone showed me a link to one of the changes they appear to have decided on (“Disney’s already fucking up Star Wars!”) and that confirms to me that indeed, this is a completely different universe, entirely unconnected to the Expanded Universe. It is only that the events of the first six movies happened to happen identically in both. (Obviously big spoiler.)
It’s not that I have any particular attachment to this part of the EU, but it seems pretty indicative that not only do they plan to tell the story differently, but actually make it a completely different story altogether. At least Nu Trek is a semi remake of Star Trek I and Star Trek II, but Nu Wars apparently doesn’t even care for that. Well, neither do I care for Nu Wars.
It’s not really a problem for me. It’s not like de Camp destroyed Conan. He just wrote his own officially licensed fan fiction. In fact, it is probably better that they decided to make Nu Wars, as that leaves the Expanded Universe untouched.
So let’s not treat this as a day of disastrous news, but instead as another opportunity to think of the greatest works of the Star Wars continuity:
Tales of the Jedi
Knights of the Old Republic (videogame)
Knights of the Old Republic (comic)
Revenge of the Sith
The Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, Wedge’s Gamble, The Krytos Trap, The Bacta War
Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command
I’ve watched this movie about a year or so ago, but my memory was a bit hazy so I watched it a second time before doing a review of it. Why did I even bother?
The movie is called Conan the Barbarian, which is exactly the same name as the famous and highly regarded movie Conan the Barbarian. It’s neither a remake nor a reboot, nor anything like that, so why us the name of an already existing movie? There is an infinite number of possible titles, and so many options to name it that make it clear that it’s Conan. And now we always have to call it Conan the Barbarian 2011. Conan the Barbarian is not even the name of the series of stories, comics, and other stuff. Conan the Barbarian is just the name of a single movie. The Ahnold movie. This is a cheap attempt to cash in on someone elses good work. Despite not being a remake of Conan the Barbarian, and I think the director explicitly said it’s not a remake but a completely separate movie, Conan the Barbarian 2011 recycles the stupid subplot of Conan searching for the warlord who destroyed his village and killed his father. Which is a completely original invention of Conan the Barbarian and doesn’t exist anywhere else in the story of the character. Totally not a remake. Because they said so. Even Conan the Barbarian could barely be considered an adaptation of the Conan stories. Conan the Barbarian 2011 does a bit more name dropping so you know that it takes place in the Hyborian Age, but feels even less connected to the source material. Conan the Barbarian may not really have had much to do with the original stories, but I think it did a great job at visualizing the setting and bringing it to life. This movie doesn’t.
The movie is way too dark most of the time, so you can’t see anything. The music is also way too loud and the voices way too low, so you can’t hear anything either. Not that there would be anything to hear either. The plot is pretty much nonexistent. Any 20 minutes episode of Conan the Adventurer had more plot than this. And this is no joke. I actually mean that literally. While the indoor shots are always too dark, the outdoor shots of cities and fortresses all look terribly fake. They look like out of 300 or a Diablo III cutscene. Pretty, but completely inappropriate.
When Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out in 2007 the oppinions I hear about it were mostly pretty bad and calling it by far the worst Indiana Jones movie and absolutely terrible, and it causing the series to be ruined forever!. So I never watched it in all the years and had no desire to ever do so. But I got the series on DVD for christmas and it had the movie included and yesterday my parents were visiting, and since we wanted to watch a movie and none of us had seen it before, we watched it. Otherwise I still wouldn’t have watched it, preferring to simply don’t know what’s in it. (I might do the same with the new Star Wars movies.)
Right from the start some things seem to be odd. Indy aknowledges being old and mentions his father having died, which doesn’t match the ending of the previous movie. But no explanation is ever given or the events of the movie mentioned, which I found rather odd. The second scene is set in the famous warehouse from the first movie and we get a quick lool at the arc as its box is broken, but otherwise the first movie isn’t mentioned either. It’s just like “look, we made a reference to the other movies!” That’s weak. Indy starts the movie with a new sidekick, whose name I can’t even remember, which always is a very bad sign about the strength of a movies characters and dialogues. It’s never explained who he is or what his relationship with Indy is, and except for two short scenes he has no real relevance to the plot or any meaningful dialogue. The other new character is Mutt, who follows Indy around after fat moustache guy has left for a while and after his first scene has no real impact on the plot either. Later of course we meet Marion again, who is a fun character but also has just one relevant dialogue with Indy and doesn’t really contribute anything to the plot. John Hurt also plays a character who gets picked up with by Indys crew and hangs around for the rest of the plot, but after drawing a map in his first scene does not have any meaningful dialogue or impact to the plot. Indy himself is okay, but you probably can see the problem here. Indy could have gone on this whole adventure by all by himself, or at least with only one companion to give an opportunity to explain the plot to the audience.
There are two villains in this movie. One is a Russian psychic played by Kate Blanchet, who tries to read Indys mind once but fails and then never shows any supernatural abilities for the rest of the movie at all. She keeps chasing after Indy for all of the movie but except for one scene in the middle of the movie she never catches up to him so her impact on the plot is also almost nothing. She has a henchman who commands a group of Soviet soldiers, but since he almost only speaks in Russian without subtitles and very little of that, we don’t really know anything about him. *sigh* And yes, he also does not do anything relevant for the plot. Indy has a fist fight with him, but he simply falls over ans gets pulled into a hole by a swarm of ants. It doesn’t remotely reach the fight against the random German mechanic in the first movie, which is clearly what this scene tries to allude to. At two point during the search for a lost ancient city in South America does Indy run into local tribes of Indians who menacingly sneak around with seemingly supernatura skill in the dark. But they show the Indians the skull and they back off, doing nothing at all and then disappearing while Indy explores the city.
In a discussion about magic systems at Fantasy Faction, I made the argument that the most important thing about writing magic is consistency. Audiences flipp out when characters have a useful ability at one point of a story but for some reason don’t use the ability in other situations when they would be super useful. The most famous example of this is the complaint about The Lord of the Rings, that Gandalf clearly has a way to get the giant eagles to come to his aid and pick up people and fly them around. Just after the Ring is destroyed, the eagles show up and rescue Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom. Right after they completed a foot march of several months! So why didn’t Gandalf call the eagles in the first place to carry him and Frodo to Mount Doom and avoid the whole ordeal?
This is a justified question. But lots of people simply stop there and complain about bad writing. But in fact there are plenty of reasons why they didn’t try that and why it almost certainly would not have worked at all.
The whole point of the Fellowship is to get the Ring to Mount Doom without Sauron even realizing that anyone has any intention of destroying it. But Sauron does not just have scouts and spies to keep informed what his enemies are doing, he also has the power to see almost any place in Middle-Earth. The only way to stay undetected is to look inconspicious and not worthy of being paid any attention. Flying on eagles towards Mordor might be quick, but Sauron should know that the eagles are allied with the elves and the wizards, and there is very little chance they could even get close without being noticed. They are big, they stand out, they are known enemies.
To make things worse, we also know that the wraiths have flying beasts and at least one of them was scouting the area right outside Mordors front gate. The eagles can’t get into Mordor without being noticed by Sauron and once spotted the wraiths are able to fight them in the air. Could the eagles had slipped through or perhaps defeat the wraiths and flying beasts in battle? Possibly. But if they fail Sauron has the Ring and then it’s instant Game Over.
Yes, the eagles are used twice in the story to carry people. The first time they rescue Gandalf from Isengard, but that’s very far away from Mordor and the flying beast could’t get there in time to stop it, even if Sauron noticed it at all. The other time they rescue Frodo and Sam, after Sauron and the wraits are all destroyed. There was nobody there to either spot them or to intercept them, and even if in the worst possible case orcs with ballistas manage to shot them down, it wouldn’t make any difference in the war anymore. They don’t carry the one thing that must never fall into enemy hands at that time. Had for some reason the eagle at Isengard died, it also wouldn’t have made things any worse than they already were at that point. But there are very good reasons why flying Frodo to Mount Doom very likely wouldn’t have worked and why it would have been too risky to try. Two hobbits sneaking in at the back while making a huge distraction at the front door really was a plan with much better chances.
I don’t have any true insights to share right now. But it’s May 4th and I’ve got plenty of Star Wars art on the tumblr pages I am watching for classic pulp fantasy and sci-fi art and it got me all hyped up again. And as any semi-regular readers will know, I just love Star Wars to no end. It’s pulp entertainment at its very finest. The old trilogy manages just the perfect blend of a completely outrageous and preposterous world and plot and taking itself still completely serious without making jokes about itself. (It’s the moment when the new movies try to crack a joke that they are at their lowest.) It’s far from infantile nonsense, but instead I see it as a story that is all about emotion, with the plot being a rather secondary thing. It doesn’t make much sense, and often it’s outright silly. But it’s silly only on a rational level, when you try to explain things logically. When looked at as a story that does not work by logic but by emotion, it works perfectly.
I remember quite well when I saw Star Wars for the first time. I was 10 when we moved to another city and a few months later I went to visit one of my old friends for a weekend. My dad dropped me off at the train station where my friends mom picked me up, but before we went to his home, my friend first had to get a new toy from the store next to the train station. And it was a Star Wars toy, which didn’t mean anything to me at that point. So once we got home, he showed me all his other Star Wars stuff and it all looked and sounded really fascinating, completely different from anything I’d seen before. It wasn’t anywhere like Star Trek at all. So we got permission to watch Star Wars on video on a tiny TV in his room later that evening. That stuff was totally amazing. And the next day we also watched The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Best weekend of my life! Fortunately, it was 1995 and in 1997 the special edition was rereleased first in theatres and then on video. And of course I got my parents and my brother to go see them and we got them on video for christmass that year. And I’ve stayed with Star Wars ever since. Watched the movies dozens of times, and played X-Wing and Tie Fighter on our first computer to complete exhaustion. My brother and I probably read all the novels that existed at the time, we played Jedi Knight, and Knights of the Old Republic, and my brother got a small stack of comics. And lot’s of posters. Actually I have to admit I don’t care for the new movies at all. I might not even go to see them on release, but unless the reviews are disastrous I’ll probably get around to watch them on DVD some day. Call me old, but I grew up on the stuff that was made in the 90s and early 2000s and that’s the only true way Star Wars is done for me. There are still gems of course. The Knights of the Old Republic comics are amazing and I even love playing The Force Unleashed, even though the story is one of the dumbest things ever written for Star Wars this side of Dark Empire. But even if I don’t really care for most of the things released in the last 10 years, I still love Star Wars and probably always.
I freaking love this stuff!
So here have probably the best movie scene of all time: