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
Peculiar strange movies which I like.
Dusk til Dawn.
A family road film turns into Pulp Fiction which then becomes a vampire/zombie bloodbath. And there’s Salma Hayak.
The American Astronaut.
One part Luis Bruñel’s Un Chien Andalou, one part David Lynch’s Eraserhead, one part John Carpenter’s Dark Star, three parts punk-shockabilly music video, one part Devo show, one part Busby Berkeley extravaganza, one part John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath plus liberal doses of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.
Space garbagemen lose an epistemological argument with one of their nuclear bombs. This does not end well for them.
Queen of Outer Space.
Zsa-Zsa Gabor is that.
The Thing from Outer Space.
James Arness is the homicidal shape-shifting super-carrot. Rawr!
Moral is: if discovering alien spaceship buried in ice, do not drop thermite bombs on it to see what will happen. They will be pissed, and hungry.
There’s this robot monster, only it looks like a man in a gorilla suit, except its head is an old fashioned diving bell… and well it goes downhill from there. There is a girl, and screaming of sorts. Aaah!
Roddy Piper is in it. You know the wrestler. And he discovers some glasses that shows him the whole world is an illusion being projected by aliens. And he and his friend fight about whether the friend should look through the glasses. And they fight. And fight. And fight some more. And there is stuff about a girl and she throws him out the window, and more droll set pieces… sort of falls apart at the end but who cares at that point.
There’s this Bigfoot, and he plays boogie-woogie piano with the blind man when nobody is around to see. That’s about all I remember. Something about 2001 is in there also.
Alien v Predator
So there’s the most estrogen-powered series ever, Alien/s etc. with Ripley tearing up the penis-headed monster thing which likes to burst through your chest, and then there is Predator, the most testosterone-powered movie evah, with Arnie, Carl Weathers, Jessie Ventura etc fighting the vagina-headed monster Predator.
So at the nadir of the cycle of cheaper and cheaper remakes, somehow a sticky peak nadir as it were was reached with Alien v Predator combining the two franchises. It’s game over, man!
Ghost in the Shell Innocence
This isn’t good badness, it is good goodness but very high on the scale of weirdness. The only odd thing is it falls into the uncanny valley at times by combining cel animation, digital rotoscoping and cgi. But the Locus Solis scene is one of the trippiest ever.
Copyright © 2016 Henry Edward Hardy
My thoughts on Captain America: Civil War
I finally saw Captain America: Civil War last night. What an enjoyable movie! It is a mashup of filmatic styles and tropes ranging from noir to 70’s spy thriller to good old comic book splash page goodness. Shaky cam, long tracking shots, cgi and practical effects are used with virtuosity in a way which surprisingly does not clash or become a distraction.
Of course none of this would work without fine writing, a journeyman cast, and the directors’ broad vision of how the emotional dynamic works for each of these characters.
Props to Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross and Tom Holland as your friendly neighborhood kid from Queens. They stand out among the capable and surprisingly nuanced performances by the ensemble cast.
The film avoids one of the overused arcs of films these days particularly of the cape versus cape variety. Rather than building up to a ponderous, cgi-laden Class 3 extinction event, the big fight occurs in the middle of the third act. This leaves room for a smaller scale coda which focuses back on the essential conflicts personified by the characters of Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America: rule of law and personal conscience, friendship and honor, and regret and hope.
Bittersweet, funny and trenchant, not by turns but all at once, this is a rare and laudable piece of film-making. And also great, great fun. It is the film we would have made if we could when we were thirteen years old, but with the wisdom and insight which is only bought through lifetimes of failure, transitory successes, and bitter mistakes which cannot be undone.
Civil War covers thematically much of the same territory as the ponderous and lamentable Batman v Superman. But where BvS is clumsy, depressing, and makes the protagonists look like sociopathic jerks, Civil War manages to leven its gravitas with humor and witty repartee.
If you used to love Marvel comics or still do, you will love love this film. If you are so-so on comic book films but enjoy action thrillers like the Bourne films, I think this film will still work for you.
Bottom line, a two and a half hour film seemed to me to be half an hour and left me wanting more.
Five of five stars.
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