Itty bitty Thursday rant

The Blade of the Immortal live-action movie was shown at Cannes Film Festival, so there are a couple more reviews. At this point, I am 98% pessimistic about this movie. Nothing feeds this pessimism more than Rin being described as “prepubescent” and a “little girl” in several reviews. She is sixteen – or at least the manga character is; it’s true the movie character looks much younger. It’s a shame none of the reviewers seem to know the manga, so they can’t talk about the changes, and whether they work. It pains me to read The Hollywood Reporter‘s review, because it praises Takashi Miike and the film’s screenwriter for the story’s moral complexities but completely forgets to mention Hiroaki Samura, the person who actually came up with this stuff. I hate seeing mangaka underappreciated like this. Give credit where credit is due, and the things the article mentions were in the manga, not invented by the screenwriter or the director 20 years later.

Sometimes, I wonder if that’s an American thing, I mean, if it’s related to how the US comics industry is run. Specifically the big superhero franchises, which seem to rotate and change writers as they see fit, but the franchises and characters themselves are owned by corporations. In Japan, a mangaka has much more control over their own work, and the publisher can’t take the story away from them. I am almost certain a lot of people aren’t aware of that. I’ve come across so many garbage “rumour” articles claiming Shueisha was going to fire Yoshihiro Togashi and hire another artist to finish Hunter X Hunter. But that’s just an impression.

 

I dreamt that Boba Fett was Han Solo’s father … o_o

I haven’t had a Star Wars related dream in YEARS, and I’ve no idea whatsoever why I had one last night. I had a dream that Boba Fett was Han Solo’s father. To be more precise, I dreamt that some new Star Wars movie had either revealed this, or that there were strong rumours about an upcoming movie containing this twist. Anyway,  the fandom was in an uproar. People were extremely angry about this alleged retcon, and blamed JJ Abrams for not knowing anything about Star Wars. I am sure you can imagine, haha.

But in my dream, I read an article or blog post which argued that it actually made total sense for Boba Fett to be Han Solo’s secret dad. That it would actually explain a scene from the original trilogy …! The blogger went on to describe a scene – a scene that isn’t actually part of the real Return of the Jedi, mind, but in my dream, it was, so in my dream I immediately recognized it and went “Whoa, this guy is right! Mind blown!”

Basically, in my dream, Boba Fett looked at Han Solo and said something to him just before he died. Something cryptic and about nature, maybe, or the weather. Gosh, I don’t remember what it was that my brain conjured up for this! But in my dream, Han Solo got a look on his face, as if it meant something to him. But he never gave an explanation. And in my dream, this blogger suggested that it was a quote from a book that Han’s father used to read to him as a kid. And that this was the moment when Han realized that Boba Fett was his father!!! XD

So, uh, yeah. O_o I guess I am telling you this because in my dream, the explanation totally floored me … but when I woke up and remembered the real Star Wars, sans cryptic children’s book quote death speech … I was a bit disappointed! I mean, just imagine the shock, the hurt and betrayal, if Han Solo found out that Boba Fett was his father!!! And just when Fett died so there was no chance at reconciliation or asking why he had been hunting him and stuff! Come on, admit it, that would have been so cool.

Also, I find it fascinating how dreams work.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

Hey. This film is 60 years old! It’s also a film that first caught my attention because the poster is gorgeous. The film is good, too, and interesting: you see at once that it was a major inspiration for Star Trek. It’s a typical Star Trek episode! Rescue mission, enigmatic recluse, monster, fancy architecture and lots of decorative fish sculptures! It’s a pretty movie with great-looking special effects and a nice aesthetic.

The film’s gender politics are a sight turn-off, though. Not just that it’s sexist, but it’s bizarre, making every character into a bit more of an asshole than they were probably intended to be. It is the one thing that makes the film dated.

The bigger issue, though, is the fact that every character (aside from Morbius, Alta and the robot, of course) looks exactly the same. That’s a whole ship full of identital-looking white guys! In uniform, too, so it’s even more difficult to tell them apart. After a while, at least, I was able to recognize Leslie Nielsen, whom I only really knew as an old man before this.

Frankly, I don’t understand why anybody would be opposed to diverse casts! Making your characters clearly, immediately distinct just means that it is easier for the audience to actually follow the story.

Ages ago, I saw, uh, The Covenant. That’s this awful movie about a bunch of kids with magical powers and who … all … look … the same. The twist in the film is that X is evil and wants to kill Y. My problem was that when they said the name, I had no idea who they meant, and then I was confused because until that point, I had believed X and Y to be the same person!

Star Trek clearly improved on Forbidden Planet‘s cast by picking actors with different faces! And having them wear uniforms in different colours.

(Of course, Forbidden Planet‘s gender business would just have fallen apart, had the crew included women – or gay/bi men.)

 

 

 

 

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno + The Legend Ends

I am, of course, a Rurouni Kenshin fan. It was the first manga I ever read, and that was 15 years ago. It was even in April that I first got my hands on volumes 4, 8 and 10,so it’s an anniversary. I can still remember that peculiar excitement of discovering something totally new. It feels like a long time that I got to be so openly and innocently excited about something. Maybe I’m just being overly emotional right now, OK.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first Rurouni Kenshin live-action movie. It did a fantastic job capturing the aesthetics and the atmosphere of the original. Most of the character designs were translated very well into a more realistic style, although it wasn’t perfect. Sanosuke was not perfect.

The first movie made two major changes that were OK for the scope of that one movie, but really caused problems for the sequels. I’m talking about the early introduction of Saito, and the exclusion of Aoshi and the Oniwabanshu from the Takeda arch. I understand wanting Saito in that story, because he’s a link to Kenshin’s past and allows for iconic flashbacks. Also, he’s hella cool.

And they probably wanted a neatly concluded story, and did not want to end the film on Aoshi swearing to return to kill Kenshin. I guess.

Then again, did they really not think that they might have to do a sequel??? Spoilers follow, obviously.

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Silence, fools.

Really: I don’t want to read another review, article or innocent blog post that prefaces their (usually even positive) impressions of Sleepy Hollow with the idiotic disclaimer “The premise/writing/plot is SO SILLY/RIDICULOUS OF COURSE!!!”

I would really like to know why it is only this show that appears to raise such expectations of intellectual depth, Shakespearean writing and historical accuracy. It’s not as if Sleepy Hollow is claiming to be any of these things. And it’s not as if the other shows in its genre are actually better written or better researched … or closer to the original inspiration. Once Upon A Time is a sort of badly acted soap opera with people named after characters from fairy tales and Disney movies. It tried to pass off a scene of a child defiantly eating a piece of pie as a big, dramatic moment! And then there is Grimm, a show that is extremely loosely based on the Brothers Grimm, who were real people known for two things: collecting folk tales and starting work on an extensive dictonary of the German language. Ironically, the people writing for Grimm cannot use a German dictionary. I would like more people to point and laugh about this, but instead I get fans defend the show, coming up with contrived explanations for the incorrect German being not a bug, but a feature.

I hope it’s not the same people who are now throwing back their heads and haughtily nitpick that George Washington did not actually secretly fight to prevent the apocalypse. Gee, really?

Some shows obviously bring out the wannabe intellectuals in people. It’s still not as hilarious as the furious rants about all the “changes” Paul W.S. Anderson supposedly made to Dumas’ The Three Musketeers for his omgsostupid steampunk version of the story. It’s really not a perfect movie, but the complaints were telling and revealed that many of the people who screeched that Dumas would be rotating in his grave, did not actually read the novel. Did not even read the first chapter, heck, not even the first two pages: one common complaint is that it’s sooooo stupid of d’Artagnan to pick a fight with Rochefort because the latter insults his horse! And anyway, d’Artagnan should be played by someone older than 18, 19. And there should have been a badass final battle against the evil Cardinal in the end! And anyway, what a stupid plot, trying to retrieve the queen’s jewels from England. DUMAS WOULD NEVER!

Yeah, The Three Musketeers was not a perfect movie, but you could tell that the script writers had actually read the source material and used plenty of lesser known aspects of it, that would, of course, confuse people who only know the 1993 Disney movie with Chris O’Donnell and Charlie Sheen. But the changes that this movie did make — turning Buckingham into a flamboyant megalomaniac and inserting airships into the narrative — were obviously deliberate, not mistakes. It’s not as if the script writers honestly thought Dumas actually meant airships when he wrote “horses”. So whining about this is a bit futile. Just like I would bet good money that no one writing the Sleepy Hollow TV show is suggesting that there is actually a battle against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse* being waged in the town of Sleepy Hollow. It is not an academic essay claiming historical truth, either. It is fiction and belongs to the genre of fantasy, which … is that genre where people don’t try to stick to realism. Look it up if the concept confuses you, but stop whining about this TV show failing some unrealistic standard that no other TV show has to meet.

 

*) Not actually an invention by Supernatural, btw.

I hate TV Tropes

I am actually gearing up for a blog post about Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes VS Women project – what I dislike about the series itself and what I dislike about the reception of it. But the very first thing I dislike about this whole debate is the word “trope”. So many people actually have no clue what the term means, but use it anyway. You get people who wisely suggest that the best way to avoid negative portrayals of women in media is “to stop using tropes”. Ingenious. It’s absolutely true: If we just stop telling stories altogether, it logically follows that we will never tell an offensive story ever again.

TVTropes has this mantra that everyone repeats without truly believing: there are no good or bad tropes. All tropes are neutral and depend on their larger context for real meaning. This is a nice thought but nobody actually thinks this. It’s obvious that some tropes are considered automatically good, elevating a story to a clever, or feminist, or intellectual, or inclusive, ground-breaking masterpiece! Other tropes are seen as bad and using them in your story makes the entire story dumb, evil, stupid, harmful, horrible.

TVTropes uses a list format with very short, simplified explanations – at most. There is little context given to show how these tropes fit together and what story they create in their union. That’s why TVTropes bores me so quickly. I may have a few favourite character types and plot devices, but my true enjoyment comes from seeing how they are integrated into a larger narrative, not just from the mere knowledge that they exist in some way. Additionally, many TVTropes contributors/editors are biased and use the website to promote their favourite show or pairing or character. Sometimes, this means trying to find flimsy connections to popular, “good” tropes. Or omitting or downplaying “bad” tropes. Very often, it feels like no one really knows what a specific “trope”, as defined by the website, actually describes. You get examples that really don’t fit, and after a while, you aren’t sure anymore what the (often confusingly named) trope originally meant.

By the way, I find the trope name “Strangers On A Train Plot Murder” confusing as hell. It sounds like it describes “a murder like the plot of Strangers on a Train“. Which leads to the absurd phenomenon where Strangers On A Train itself “is not a straight example” because the plot of the movie does not actually correspond to Bruno’s envisioned murder plot, since Guy is much too law-abiding to just agree with the plan and carry it out smoothly. Which is the whole damn point of the movie. It’s what the movie’s plot is. I’m not sure if a lot of people actually know that, as I’ve seen plot descriptions that suggest otherwise … Anyway, why not call the trope “Strangers on a Train murder plot“? It would obviously refer to the “murder plot” from “Strangers On A Train”. That’d be clear in meaning and would not necessitate an awkward disclaimer that the “trope namer” is not a “straight” example of the trope. Duh, there is nothing straight about Strangers On A Train anyway.

Speaking of Strangers On A Train, my biggest issue with the film’s TVTropes page concerns labelling Bruno a “Sissy Villain“. As in characterized by femininity, a lack of masculinity. It takes – and deserves – a long-ish post of its own to explain how infuriatingly reductive it is to say Bruno isn’t masculine. As opposed to who? Guy? Hmmm … I don’t think this describes their dynamic very well at all. If Guy was a “manly man” and Bruno was a “sissy”, Guy would punch Bruno in the face five minutes into the film and that’d be the end of it. My opinion is that the film is about masculinity and that it is actually Guy who lacks it and who needs to “man up” to survive.

So before writing about Tropes VS Women, I shall have to write about gender roles in Strangers on a Train. Why do I always get distracted from one topic to another?