Monday, January 6, 2020

Let’s talk about fan service


The idea behind fan service is to put something into a work – say a movie – that would please the fans.  However, lately it seems the term “fan service” is applied to any stupid shit that clueless, corporate stooges cram into a movie even though nobody wants it.  My opinion, is that – broadly speaking – there is good fan service and bad fan service.  The problem is that good fan service requires thought to be put into it, whereas any clueless, corporate stooge can cram in bad fan service.  This is something that’s been in the back of my mind for some time now, but it really came to the head recently with The Rise of Skywalker, so I’ll use examples from Star Wars. 

An example of good fan service – again, in my opinion – is the crumpled AT-AT where Rey lives in The Force Awakens.  There’s the nostalgic “I remember those” which seems to be the foundation of modern fan service, but it’s also an element of world building.  We had already seen a crashed Star Destroyer, but Rey’s AT-AT drives home that the galaxy is littered with the wreckage from the fall of the Empire.  If they had better scripts – and a plan – that might have built to something, other than a McGuffin in the wreck of Death Star II.

While I could use the wreckage of the Death Star II as an example of bad fan service – “I remember that” – I’ll go to the Prequels instead.  My example is Anakin building C-3PO.  Why?  To be perfectly honest, R2-D2 could have just shown up in Episode III in a cameo and that would have been fine, and would have fit in with that one line in A New Hope.  There is no reason for C-3PO to be in the Prequels, let alone having been built by Anakin.  Oh, it could have been fun to see how the two droids met if the giant shoehorn cramming them into the plot wasn’t so distracting.  And that is the problem with bad fan service: the eye-rolling distraction of them outweigh any benefit to the story of having them there.  Now, I remember at the time a friend going on about how R2-D2 and C-3PO were the only characters in all the movies, but there doesn’t seem to be a point to that.  Especially with the latest trilogy.  But the Prequels needed some nostalgia, since that’s easier to do than compelling stories.

I used to be a Star Wars fan.  I gave it up in the Prequel days, but this latest trilogy didn’t do anything to change that.  As a former Star Wars fan, I wanted good movies.  That might have brought me back.  But that requires actually writing good movies.  I didn’t want just any random shit to remind me of the good movies thrown on screen as “fan service.” But what can we expect from clueless, corporate stooges who are more interested in making a quick buck than lasting art.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Short story – “The Christmas Police”


“The Christmas Police”

When he came around the corner of the food court, Officer Katz saw a cluster of excited people.  As he jogged to them, he keyed his radio and said, “Control this is Forty-Six.  Some kind of disturbance in the food court.”

The people parted as he neared, allowing him to see an older woman lying on the floor.  A younger woman – possibly her daughter – was comforting her.  Katz knelt beside the woman and asked, “What’s the problem.”

The older woman pointed out into the main mall and said, “It was a young man, dark hair, and a sweater.  He-” Tears came to her eyes as she forced herself to say, “He wished me ‘Happy Holidays.’”

Katz placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and said, “I’ll get him.” He then asked the younger woman, “Will you stay with her?”

The younger woman nodded.  She then added, “She’s my mom.”

Katz nodded and stood.  As he started jogging in the indicated direction, he keyed his radio and said, “Control this is Forty-Six.  Two-fifty in the food court, in pursuit of the suspect.”

The mall was crowded, but Katz soon saw a figure matching the description walking away.  Katz jogged up behind him and when he was close enough he grabbed the man’s shoulder.  The man turned and tried to shrug off Katz, but Katz’s grip was too strong.  The man put his hand on Katz’s chest and gave a shove.

Katz drew his baton – decorated as a large peppermint stick – and cracked it against the man’s skull.  The man fell limp to the floor with Katz on top of him.  Using more force then was probably needed, Katz got the man’s hands behind his back and slipped on a pair of handcuffs.  “You’re under arrest,” he stated, “for suspicion of using a malicious greeting.”

Katz looked up to see a small crowd had gathered around him: some were filming him on their phones while others were clapping.  He tried to not smile too much while he walked the man back to the victim for identification.

***

This was my most recent “War on Christmas” story.  I wrote it a few years ago because it seemed every year it was becoming more and more ridiculous.  So I wrote a story that just took things a bit further.

This story was previous published in November 2015 on a website that’s still around(?).  The original version is still up, but I revised it a bit for this posting.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

My The Rise of Skywalker Prediction


Some people will love it.  More people won’t. 

Now, I know talking about the problems of Star Wars is like shooting mynocks in a barrel, but it’s the internet so what am I supposed to do?  To explain my meh feelings about IX (I’ll just use numbers instead of typing out their names all the time), I’ll have to explain my feelings about VII and VIII.

I thought VII was rather bland and mediocre.  They have to destroy this evil superweapon?  Gee, I’ve never seen that before.  VII was their chance to do something bold and show us a new part of this galaxy that we’ve not seen before.  (New does not always equal good, but I’ll get to that.)  Instead, they played it safe which is why I found it bland and mediocre.

In VIII they tried some new stuff, but there is goodnew and badnew.  An example of goodnew from Star Wars are the AT-ATs in V.  We’d seen Stormtroopers storm a ship in IV, but we hadn’t seen them attack a base.  So the attack in the beginning of V filled in a gap, but did it in a way that fit in with the world already established in IV.  An example of badnew from outside Star Wars would be the portkeys in Harry Potter.  One would think that someone – a teacher, Hagrid, Ron – would have sat Harry down in the first year and given him a crash course on magical things.  So why is it that it isn’t until the fourth book that he first hears about this thing?  It wouldn’t be that bad, but it happens in like every book where there’s something new but Harry has conveniently never heard of it so it can be explained to the audience.  (“They can fly now?”)

There are a couple bits of badnew in VIII.  One are arms dealers.  Where did the Empire get its weapons?  Well, they were probably built by droids in a factory.  Bigger things – like the Death Star – were probably built by the Stormtrooper version of the Army Corps of Engineers possibly using slave labor.  (I wouldn’t put it past the Empire to do that.)  That is stuff that isn’t really explored in the movies, but it’s headcanon that makes sense.  So where did the First Order get their weapons?  They probably took over some factories from the Empire days, or they go to some planet and say, “Give us weapons, or we’ll invade you.” Again, this isn’t covered in the movies, but it makes sense.

Now are there arms dealers in Star Wars?  Sure, but they’re probably small and very local.  They’re more likely to deal with crime family’s fighting over a system or two than dealing with the First Order.  So they’d make some money, but not be the 1% of the galaxy as seen in VIII.  If they had just left them as generic rich assholes, fine, but by calling out arms dealers it became a square bit trying to fit into a round world building hole.

The bigger badnew in VIII was the hyperspace ramming.  Yes, it looked cool, but after three seconds I thought, Why hasn’t anyone done that before?  And that just opens up a mess of contradictions.  Just a movie earlier they had a scene where some of our heroes came out of hyperspace within the shield of Starkiller Base.  Something that would have been useful in VI.  But if they hadn’t come out of hyperspace, would that have caused major damage to the base?  So why do all this sneaking around and attacking with X-wings when you could just send a couple hyperspace missiles?  It feels like the conversation went: “It’s going to look really cool!” “But how will it fit in with the established lore-” “IT’S GOING TO LOOK REALLY COOL!”

In the end, given the marketing for IX about it being an end of a saga and the biggest and bestest thing since blue milk, they make it sound like Star Wars is going out with a bang.  But given the lead-in from VII and VIII, I think the best IX can do is a whimper.  It is all too easy to build a shitty house on a solid foundation, but it’s next to impossible to build a solid house on a shitty foundation.