Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Fanboys Are Whiny Babys

So I'm reading one of my daily webcomics, the comic in question being Scott Kurtz's PvP, and today's strip involved the new trailer for Star Wars Episode III (if for some reason you haven't seen it and want to, click here). Anyway, I thought the comic was cute and reflected the attitude that I've seen in many, many people who for one reason or another felt slighted by the Star Wars Prequels yet can't seem to help but fall in love with the new trailer.

However, Kurtz's accompanying post regarding his feelings on the Prequels really urked me because it's the same kind of tripe that gets bandied around by these people, who for some reason feel that George Lucas "raped their childhood" and that they infact are the ones who are really the true owners of Star Wars.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with people who just don't dig the new films. Fair enough. Not every film, especially one that is essentially a fantasy series for children and adolescents, is going to appeal to everyone. But lets get a few things straight. Lucas did not "rape" anyone's childhood. The people who feel so are the ones who developed a ultra-possessive attachment to a series of children's films when they were 8, and now that they are 28, they don't feel the same way about the new films. That's not Lucas's problem. You just grew up. Deal with it.

Now, Kurtz, who spends a good deal of his time ranting about fanboys, and mining fanboy culture to find the jokes for his clever little strip has this to say:

But the Epsiode III trailer reminded me just who I'm dealing with here: a man who lost hold of what made Star Wars great. It was the happy accidents that gave Star Wars charm.

The prequels lack that charm, replaced by CG precision and actors who don't act with muppets, but instead a styrofoam ball against bluescreen.

The thing that pisses me off about the Ep III trailer is how Lucas has put images from the prequel movies against Obi-Wan's retelling of history from "A New Hope." This is obviously Lucas saying "See! I had it planned all along. It all matches up. My vision is pure."

I'm not buying it, even though I know that no matter what...I'll be buying a ticket.

Now, Kurtz let's get a few things straight. Regarding, "It was the happy accidents that gave Star Wars its charm." That partially true, but isn't it also the ability to tap into classic mythic archetypes. If "happy accidents" accounted for everything that made Star Wars great, then it wouldn't be the phenomenon it is today. Sorry, that's just not gonna float with me. Then Kurtz goes off against "CG" and "actors who don't act with muppets." Now, lets get something straight. CG is less real than puppets and models? OK, so one makebelieve is less believable than another? Oh, and these same fanboys who think they are so "hip" to diss CG, fall head over heels for Jackson's Lord of the Rings pictures, which are full to brim with CG. Talk about hypocritical. Why don't these people come up with more cogent arguments. At least tell me what exactly you don't like about the CG in the Star Wars films, because obviously you do like CG in other contexts. Let me tell you, you couldn't have done the new Star Wars or Lord of the Rings without it. Move on. It's the reality of filmmaking today. Geez. These fanboys annoy me. Especially in the last sentence, where he admits he'll be buying a ticket. If Lucas really pissed you off so much, grow some balls and don't buy a ticket. Obviously he's doing something right, and that's more than nostalgia.


At 12:50 p.m., Blogger cait said...

Okay, I know I've been commenting on your blog an inordinate number of times these past few days, but I can't resist your calling us new franchise-haters out and, as I am at home with tonsilitis today, I have lots of time to expound upon this particular point.

My problem personally is not with the CG so much as it is with the fact that Lucas is using CG to cover up a lot of other problems. Yes, Jar Jar was a lot more convincing than Chewbacca, but does that mean I *like* him? Not particularly. I would argue that there are several things that made the first franchise amazing that the new franchise is just lacking:

1. One of the things that made Star Wars great was the entire context that made the far, far away galaxy so rich in meanings and rich in history. There was a past that was hinted at, but not known. The fall of the old Republic and the clone wars, which we had some inkling of, but no real knowledge of, made Lucas's Star Wars Galaxy real to us. When we are step-by-step shown the history that was hinted at, it loses the mystique that made it so intriguing. Tolkein had the same trouble with Middle Earth. The Silmarillion could never succeed the same way that Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit did, not only because it was written like an academic history, but also because it was the mystical beginning that had made the novels so tangible. In the Book of Lost Tales Pt. I, Christopher Tolkein characterizes this problem as akin to seeing a mountain in the distance; when it is "out there," it is a backdrop that enriches the place you are. When you have scaled that distant mountain, if there is not another distant thing beyond it to look to, that mountain can never have the same appeal as it had when you didn't quite know what it was. The prequels don't have those distant mountains the same way that the originals do; there isn't the human connection to the past in them that the IV, V, and VI had. From the get-go, the prequels could never be as good as the originals because of this.

2. Another thing that made the originals great was the perfect balance between profundity and comedy. Luke's intense experience at Degoba with Yoda is offset by the comic sexual tension between Han and Leia. Han's getting frozen in carbonite is made more bearable by C-3PO's inappropriate and ridiculous chattering. The new franchise is just too damn serious. Right now, I can only think of two spots in both episode I and II when I laughed out loud. (Greg Proop's narration of Anakkin's race in Episode I, and Obi Wan forcing a lowlife to make something useful of himself in a bar in Episode II)

3. Where are the swashbuckling characters? The main characters in the originals all had minor flaws so that no matter how right they were about something or how good their plans were, they were always sort of bumbling through things the best way they knew how. Frankly, Luke Skywalker gets bloody annoying in Episode VI and in the novels because he's so freakin' wise. In the new franchise, people are seemingly perfect except for some gross hamartia that is as subtle as a smack across the face with a limp cod fish. I love the characters, but I don't like them very much. Where's the charming arrogance of Han Solo? The self-important temperamentalness of Princess Leia? The ridiculous puppy dog loyalty of Luke Skywalker? The comical anger of Chewbacca?

4. Who the hell made the decision to switch to presentational acting from representational? The only people who pull this off at all well in the movies are Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor. Most of the rest of them just look like poor actors. This isn't the case at all; Natalie Portman and Samuel L. JAckson have been brilliant in other roles, but the director made choices about their acting which did not exploit their natural talents.

5. Who the hell edited this thing? Did we need ten minutes of Anakkin nearly dying in the android factory (or whatever it was)? Yes, we get it. Nice CG. I bow down to your technical knowhow. But frankly, by the end of the sequence, I wanted Anakkin to die because I was SO fecking sick of him being almost killed.

6. A redemption plot is in general much more appealing to a Western sensibility than a plot about a fall. I think this is because of our Judaeo-Christian roots, but where ever it comes from, we're much more interested in Anakkin returning to the good than we are in him falling away from it. One sees this over and over again. Macbeth's tragic recognition in the final scenes of the play makes the audience's cringing from Duncan's death all the way up to the Queen's suicide worth it, when Macbeth realizes that eveything he sought to gain was "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound a fury, signifying nothing." (5.5 26-28) His death is made poignant, much like Vader's, by the fact that he returns, in the end, to the good. You yourself have talked about the archetypal mythology of Star Wars; a major archetype of mythology is its cyclical nature: the end of Arthur's reign is caused by the beginning of it; a son conceived by deception (just as Arthur was) on the eve of his coronation is his downfall. Star Wars plays into this perfectly, and had the prequels been made first, this wouldn't be a flaw. Since they were made after the redemption, they will by their very nature be less satisfying.

6. And finally, perhaps most importantly, the prequels are not as good because they have to communicate so much in so short a time. Many of the flaws I mentioned above are there because they have to explain the Old Republic, the Federation, the Sith Lords, the Jedi Academy, the Storm Troopers, as well as foreshadow a whole bunch of things, and at the same time do all the normal things that make a movie great. Frankly, they were screwed from the beginning.

A final note on CG: I find that many film makers are using technology to make up for glaring problems in their films. Watching the Titanic sink was *awesome* but it didn't make up for the fact that the dialogue in that film was crap, the editing was shoddy, and Leonardo DiCaprio can't act his way out of a paper bag. In fact, I level the same criticism at Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings that I do at the new Star Wars franchise. Great orcs. Great battles. There's no denying that. But there's also no denying that I want to poke Elijah Woods' eyes out, and that I hate the way the movies turned Pippin, Gimli, and Sam into buffoons, andd they left out key moments of characterization so that we could watch 7 oliphaunts get shmucked instead of 1.

Now, I have to finish this comment with an apology; I had no idea it was going to end up this long. Also, I actually did like Episodes I and II, but I didn't love them the same way that I loved IV, V, and VI. Had my sister and I seen the prequels first, I don't know that we would have become fangirls.

Is that cogent enough for you, Anders? ;o)

At 1:02 p.m., Blogger cait said...

And I just realized I spelled Anakin wrong the whole time. Agh! Bea would be so ashamed . . .

At 3:59 p.m., Blogger The Venomous Bee said...

Caitlin, I back up what you said about people being so proud of computer animation. All you need to do is sit through the first time-travel sequence in Star Trek IV. Ironically, this sort of thing makes it very difficult to suspend our disbelief.

I think another problem that arises out of CG is that it is now becoming so easy that things don't necessarily need to be thought through thoroughly before they're executed. Whereas hundreds of hours of work went into creating and operating Yoda, with puppeteers, props people, etc. organising how he was going to look on screen, Jar Jar and the other Gungans were created in a "mold" and thrown in there (though Yoda going ape-shit in Attack of the Clones was pretty cool). The problem is that it is not a collaboration so much -- there are no second eyes to say "that looks wrong," or brainstorm together. With a few experts being responsible for huge amounts of imagery in a film, film is becoming less democratic.

At 4:30 p.m., Blogger cait said...

Okay, well now Bea and I feel like total tools, because we finally watched the trailer, and started *freaking out* we were so excited. In fact, Bea exactly mirrored the dude in the PVP comic strip, except that there were no comments about psycho ex-girlfriends . . .

At 4:49 p.m., Blogger Anders said...

Wow, I think your comment is five times the length of my original post. And yes, your argument is much more cogent than the arguments of Kurtz and his bitter fanboys. I think you're right on target with a lot of things, such as the demystification and trying to do too much in one film. I do take exception to some of the CG comments particularily the part about CG being slapped in there with little to no criticism, but for the most part you're making sense. I'm going to create another post to respond to your comments on a more detailed level when I get some time.

However, your last post reveals the truth. Also, just a thought, if you want I can lend you the bonus disc from the new Trilogy box set if you want to watch the documentary "Empire of Dreams." I have a friend who was very down on the Prequels, and this view of the original trilogy gave him a different perspective, and turned him from a hater back to a true believer.

As well, it needs to be pointed out that I pounded out this post in a few minutes after reading PVP this morning, which while I thought the strip was funny, Kurtz's smug post left a bitter taste in my mouth.

At 5:31 p.m., Blogger cait said...

Yeah . . . I got a wee bit carried away with the comment; as for the trailer, Bea and I were discussing that, and we both agree that Episodes I and II both exist for the sake of Episode III. The entire series hinges on "the Revenge of the Sith," and most of the history that is significant in IV-VI happens in this episode, so I think it shows a lot more promise than I or II possibly could.

As for whiny fanboys (and I have many of those for friends), I think they get into this "one-upmanship of purity." You find that in pretty much anything, though--I know so many people who won't listen to punk produced after 1983, or buy compilation CDs, or watch Red Dwarf after Rimmer left, etc., etc. My mother, with her everpresent sense of decorum, calls these "pissing contests."

I think about the CG, Bea was trying more to make the point that it makes filmmaking rely to much on a particular technology, thereby de-democratizing it, rather than that CG is non-critical. Based on the comp sci types I know, it tends to be the same sort of person who goes into CG, and that narrows the scope of creativity dramatically. (Bea, however, is slightly bitter because she wants to make sci fi/fantasy films and is shite at computers . . . )

That particular documentary was on A&E one night, so I've seen part of it, but I'd love to watch the rest of it. *hint*

At 5:41 p.m., Blogger cait said...

Wait. Disc? Never mind. I barely have a TV, let alone a DVD player.


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