Here are some actual issues to be concerned with in the new trailer of Ghost in the Shell:
* The Major doesn’t need a traditional origin story along the line of “the government stole my identity and made me a super soldier cyborg.” This is a way overdone trope and it misses the essential nature of the Major’s identity issues in the manga, movies and the series. What holds the Major back in her evolution is is not, not knowing who she was, it is clinging to material items like her watch which serve as tangible confirmation of our identity and that our memories are real, not a dream or illusion or a memory edit or hostile program.
* Bateau seems miscast. He is supposed to be a laid back, beer drinking, basset hound loving, weight lifting ex-US special forces operator. Seems like here the character has been “Danewashed.”
* An important point in the representation of the world of Ghost in the Shell is that cyberization is becoming common and the Net is becoming universal and starting to evolve in it new forms of consciousness and life. Having Motoko as “the first of your kind” is again, recycling a tired old trope which isn’t needed here.
* “Major” is an orphan appellation in this movie. It is used as though it is a first name, which in the manga, movies and TV series is not the case. There, she is called “Major” because she was a special forces operative, a Major in the JSDF and UN forces in Central America before she was recruited for Section 9. But because they have latched on to the “they stole your life” formula, they have lost the more interesting origin story of Motoko losing her parents, her body, her memories, everything in a plane crash when she was six. And they have lost the very touching backstory of her relationship with Kuze and the one hand folding paper cranes by which they recognize each other again.
Part of the confusion in the “whitewashing” issue is that Little Englanders and USians who are not familiar with the franchise assuming “Motoko Kusanagi” is her given name, whereas in English it would be like naming a character something like “Jane Doe Excalibur” and should be seen as an obvious code name, callsign, handle or pseudonym and not as a given name. So they shouldn’t shy away from using it.
Simply “looking awesome” and “looking like the source material” does not necessarily a good movie make. Witness “Warcraft.”
So count me encouraged but dubious about this trailer and film. On the plus side it looks gorgeous and we can at least enjoy the world building and watching a smirky naked badass Scarlett Johannson kicking ass. Which can’t be all bad.
Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy
“The Force Awakens” is another snide Abrams parody and deconstruction of a beloved science fiction classic. Here’s why.
There is this terrible inversion of the moral and ethical underpinnings of Lucas’ shared universe.
Love doesn’t redeem. The force doesn’t protect the (mostly) innocent. Han doesn’t shoot first when necessary. Family ties are not stronger than the lure of power.
I think Abrams likes to destroy the tropes and ethics of the works he is mocking. Look at what happened to the dear old Enterprise in Abrams’ parody of Star Trek.
Enterprise NCC 1701 could go mano-a-mano with the world-eating doomsday machine in TOS but in Abrams it is disgracefully beat to shit by another Star Fleet vessel without even being able to fire a shot.
The most generous interpretation of this is that Abrams loves to use the cheap trope of the “Worf effect.”
“This monster/baddy is really terrible, see it beat the crap out of Worf.”
The ungenerous interpretation is that Abrams likes to make little kids and fans cry.
As the kid sitting in front of me at the Force Awakens premiere said, “I didn’t like to watch it because evil won.”
I like the idea of a storm trooper character and of course he would be conflicted and confused. But there is a right way and a wrong way to invoke this. The right way is in The Clone Wars, where the Clone Troopers (not Storm Troopers) despite being a clone army, are fully individuated and several like Rex particularly have become such fan favorites that they have been resuscitated for Rebels.
We literally got no backstory and no characterization for any of these Force Awakens characters other than stock tropes. Orphan–virgin birth–desert planet. Storm trooper–cowardly–can’t shoot straight. Supreme leader–inhuman and scary, appears in holo-images. The leader’s second — Cyborg==black armor==fallen Jedi, etc. That is so lazy.
Rey is a major Mary Sue by any definition, to a ridiculous and suspension of disbelief breaking degree. And actually, no that’s not okay. It means the script is operating at the level of the most self-servicing and badly written fan fiction.
Luke didn’t just magically learn to be an ace pilot without ever having flown before. Luke trained with two old Masters, Obi-Wan and Yoda. And it was a major plot point when he went tearing off before his training was complete and promptly got his ass handed to him and his hand chopped off.
Contrast Ahsoka Tano, who made major mistakes and lost the better part of two squadrons of fighters and almost lost an entire battalion of soldiers in her first commands before she gained more experience and learned to bridle her aggressive tendencies. In The Clone Wars Season I.
I’m sorry but the the action scenes in Force Awakens are horrible, only better than a mediocre fan film or kids playing Star Wars in the back yard due to better production values. Truly embarrassing. Okay Rey has probably never used a light saber so that’s excusable. But Kylo Ren is supposed to be the head of the Evil neo-Sith/Dark Jedi Knights, who trained with Luke Skywalker and Supreme Leader Snoke? What an emo shlub!
The following a good light saber battle. Imagine if this was the trailer for the new Star Wars movie how much cooler it would be than the Abrams parody:
There’s more character development, drama, suspense, action, plot advancement and general badassery there in six minutes than in any 3 hour Abrams sludgefest.
Or a more recent example from Rebels a few weeks ago:
Ahsoka Tano is Anakin’s former apprentice in both old and new continuity. This is her Big Damn Heroes/The Cavalry moment as we haven’t seen her in action since she left Anakin and the Jedi Order at the end of season 5 of The Clone Wars. 16 years ago in-universe time.
I’m not trope averse, I just don’t like to see them mishandled or misused.
Another negative regarding Force Awakens is the presence of the Jar-Jar expy, Finn. The prequel movies are rather derivative of the original trilogy, and Force Awakens is completely unapologetic in strip mining the tropes from the real Star Wars films.
Although the character elements have been tossed a bit we can still clearly see trope-wise, or structural analysis-wise:
Rey = Luke (ground) = Anakin
Finn = C3PO = Jar-Jar
BB8 = R2D2 = R2D2
Poe Dameron = Luke (air) = Anakin
Luke = Yoda = Yoda
Mas kanata = Obi-Wan = Qui Gon Jinn
Kylo Ren = Darth Vader = General Grievous
Snoke = The Emperor = Count Dooku
I’ve read a number of articles praising the new Star Wars parody by JJ Abrams as, “inclusive” or words to that effect. Really? There is one count ’em one, black or brown face among the characters.
My issue is not with John Boyega’s portrayal of the character. He has done a good enough job with the material he was given.
However, Boyega’s character, “Finn”, shares a number of tropes and characteristics with Jar-Jar Binks, the much-derided alien from the prequel movies.
Here are some specific points of similarity between Finn and the dark-skinned alien with big lips and a faux-Carribean patois:
Fails at everything he attempts? Check.
Treated as comic relief? Check.
Lies to the other characters? Check.
Abrams has even added an old trope new to Star Wars. What’s Finn do when he finds the protagonist, Rey? As soon as the Empire arrives and they flee, he grabs Rey’s hand, twice. She even explicitly tells him not to do that, which puts this into the squicky realm of harassment.
Your Star Wars dollar is far better spent watching the old movies, even the prequels, or the excellent “The Clone Wars” or the almost-excellent “Star Wars Rebels” than this dreck.
Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy
Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy
Some thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.
I’m going to assume you have either seen the movie, know the general plot, or don’t want spoilers.
I enjoyed Fury Road but I don’t think it is as good as the reviewers claim. It is a B movie and destined to forever be one of the classics of that genre. It isn’t a feminist epic, though there are some nods in that direction. It does pass the Bechdel test and with flying colors despite there being almost no dialog in it. But most every movie should do, that doesn’t make it a feminist movie. The old ladies, the Vuvalini, are just the only non-evil gang/tribe.
The dialog is weak, almost non-existent, and isn’t so interesting. I’m also not fond of the early voiceover, that’s a lazy device probably demanded by the studio who were maybe uncomfortable with the no doubt WTF reaction of some older focus groups.
Of the core group of characters, in many ways Hardy’s Max is the least interesting. I didn’t think Hardy’s performance was that great, he lacked the screen presence and manic intensity of the younger Mel Gibson. Of course here his character is supposed to start so beat down and deindividuated as to say when asked his name, “Does it matter?
Where I give the movie very high marks is for physical effects, cinematography, editing, stunt coordination, logistics, and the creation of a very strange world which approaches Alice in Wonderland in weirdness and Saving Private Ryan in nihilistic brutality. The names are nothing if not inventive, such as The Splendid Angharad, Capable, and Toast the Knowing.
The film owes something to Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in the physical comedy and timing, and exquisite complex rube goldberg-like crashes. In a horrible way it is quite funny, like a live action Road Runner. At the same time it is as horrifying as Apocalypse Now. The lady next to me spent most of the movie with both hands palms pressed to her cheeks in the classic look of horror. Her mouth was in a little “o” as in OMG what am I seeing? But, she didn’t look unhappy.
The long shots of broad desert landscapes are awe-inspiring and make Fury Road a modern “Lawrence of Arabia.”
It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is like a stagecoach western on acid, where the stagecoach tuns into a dieselpunk battlewagon with two small cars welded on the top for turrets, the pursuing outlaws turn into radioactive mutants in monster trucks, the hostile tribes turn into jawas in porcupine like cars and a explosive-spear-chucking 100 mile-per-hour cirque du soleil respectively, and the cavalry turns into rifle-toting old ladies on motorcycles.
If you go expecting another Mad Max movie you won’t be disappointed and you might be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise if you go in cold, hold onto your hat, or in the case of my seat neighbor, your face.
Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy
Bioshock Infinite is a visual feast but the gameplay is eh. More specifically, the gameplay is basically Doom with splendid 1910 garb and steampunk weapons and technology. I find myself enjoying exploring and solving such puzzles as there are and not enjoying the tedious gunbattles. The premise for the game is promising, a self-proclaimed prophet builds a modern-day Noah’s Arc, a floating city in the sky like Swift’s Laputa, and secedes from the United States. Now Columbia is a rogue nation state going whither it will after being disowned by the United States following a massacre of Chinese civilians by the flying city in putting down the Boxer Rebellion in 1903.
The city is a creepy homage to everything evil in the idea of American Exceptionalism, from the murderous Motorized Patriot, an animatronic-like machine-gun wielding George Washington robot, to the public stoning of an interracial couple with baseballs. Where the game excels is in the art direction and the overall verisimilitude of the construction of the world. Where it fails, in my opinion, is in the introduction of what are essentially spells, the vigors. It breaks the monotony of the pistol-shotgun-machinegun tedium but so stretches the suspension of disbelief. Even moreso the gate-opening ability of companion Elizabeth, which strains credulity. If she can open a gate to Paris at will, why and how is she locked in a floating tower.
But no matter, as interactive fiction, with lots of shooting and gore, the game succeeds brilliantly. And it is worth playing just for the visual awesomeness.
Bioshock is a visual treat, a turn of the century romance and a somewhat garbled science fiction epic layered onto a rich tapestry of religion, corruption, slavery and sin. Worth a look, if not sixty dollars.
Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy