Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kick-Ass: Anticipation and Reaction

I’m going to watch Kick-Ass tonight, a very exciting prospect given how while this movie seems to go over on people. Of course, a movie like Kick-Ass seems like it will be impossible to dislike, since it voluntarily dons a mantle of aggressively juvenile irony that preemptively rephrases any possible flaw as a completely and totally intentional joke. Anyway, I don’t want to wait to see Kick-Ass and talk about it later, since I doubt I’ll have anything unique to say about the movie, but it does get my thinking about a point I do want to make: I am sick of Superhero parodies.
No, that isn’t a judgment on Kick-Ass, more of a judgment on the Comic-Hero culture that spawned it. Ever since Alan Moore wrote Watchmen, the entire genre has been cannibalizing itself in a storm of self-parodies like Kick-Ass and semi-ironic hyper-seriousness in the tradition of Frank Miller’s vastly overrated The Dark Knight Returns.
In a way it’s hard to blame superhero fans for seeking out these parodies, since mainstream superhero stories are so heavily shackled into stiffly canonized stereotypes that they’re unbearably boring to all but the most dedicated fans who are just so happy to see Wolverine and the Green Lantern in the same comic wow what a superstar team-up! If I have to see Marvel’s characters go through the motions of gathering all the heroes together so that Iron Man and Spider-Man can bicker about leadership for the umpteen-billionth time they can at least shake things up by making all the characters suddenly be zombies.
Besides, it’s a humbling kind of fun to see things we love taken down a notch, and costumed heroes are a group ripe for parody. Besides, when the “darker and edgier” trends that became popular in the 80’s and 90’s and people started playing characters like Batman as angsty and serious they pretty much demanded that someone take the piss out of them…besides, Watchmen was great and its only natural people would take inspiration from it.
So I’ve gone into all the reasons why parodies are great, but these same reasons are what eventually sinks them: They’re too obvious! Did you notice that it’s ridiculous that a man would dress in tights and fight crime? Well congratulations, because so did everyone else, and they also beat you to writing a mediocre web-comic with bad comic timing about it. Making fun of the goofy contrivances of super-heroes is about as low as fruit can hang, and it is also missing the point. Of course costumed heroes are an unrealistic and ridiculous concept, nobody ever thought they weren’t. Making fun of them is sort of like going to a magic show and pointing out that there’s no way he really sawed a woman in half…you’re right, but we all knew that, we were trying to enjoy the craft of the experience, the skill that he could pull the illusion off well.
All this genre savvy is really starting to get boring. Nowadays you’re practically guaranteed that if a hero gets suspended over a lava pit it will be so he can quip about the gratuitous inefficiency of the trap. I think we’re far enough out of the dark and gritty age that its time for us to put away that idiotic “Evil Overlord List” meme that’s been squatting on the internet like a pretentious plague and for superhero stories to start playing it straight.


Okay, so I saw Kick-Ass, and I actually do want to talk about it. This includes spoilers, but not big spoilers.
I was wrong earlier, not about being sick of superhero parodies, no, I was wrong about Kick-Ass, it isn’t a parody of superhero movies, it is an outright rejection of superhero parodies and a glorious return to form.
Mark Millar’s original comic was a gritty and cynically realistic take on costumed heroes in which a teen nerd buys a suit and tries to be a comic hero, getting his ass kicked in predictable ways before eventually entangling himself in the over-his-head mob vendetta of the actual competent father-daughter team of Big Daddy and Hit Girl.
The film departs from the comic on two really key points. First, while in the comic Big Daddy folds under torture and admits that his vendetta back-story was a lie and that he was really a boring nerd who was abusively brainwashing his poor daughter as part of a selfish escapist fantasy, in the film Big Daddy’s back-story is entirely real, and he is unbending even unto his last moment of fiery torture, coming across in his final words as a loving-if-unconventional father who took extreme measures so that his daughter could be strong and avenge her mother even if he failed.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, while in the comic Kick-Ass confesses his love to his dream girl and gets rejected and gets his ass-kicked by her boyfriend, in the movie he wins her over and has wild sex behind a comic shop.
My impression, even without having read the comic book (I looked up the plot synopsis on wikipedia to see how the stories compared) was a movie that started out seeming to cynically mock the unrealistic cliché of a superhero story only for it to stand up, bloody and beaten, and scream “NO! SUPERHERO STORIES ARE NOT STUPID, THEY ARE AWESOME! I DON’T CARE IF IT’S UNREALISTIC, THIS IS THE STORY I WANT TO SEE!” The fact that it was almost a complete reversal of Millar’s mean-spirited jab at comic fans makes it feel all the more like a triumph.
Rereading my anticipatory comments, I feel like this movie somehow tapped into my psyche and gave me exactly what I wanted to see: a superhero movie that wasn’t ashamed to be what it was, and didn’t try to hide behind a paper-thin veil of cynical pretentiousness.
I don’t really think that I can put on a costume and take on muggers, and Kick-Ass hasn’t changed that, but, like Spiderman before it, it makes me believe that with confidence and tenacity even a geek can get the girl.
Oh, and as a side note, this film gleefully gives poignant new meaning to “Chekov’s gun”.


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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Behind the Music: Loud Valley

I am not, by any means, a hardcore gamer, although I do like video games, as I assume was communicated in my long Braid post.

I’m excited to see how the medium is growing, and what kinds of things we’ll be doing with it. I mean, we’re getting to the point where interactivity is making possible artistic works like portal, which wouldn’t have worked as an uninteractive medium.

Of course, with great storytelling comes great, identifiable characters, who grace us with their presence and let us control their lives, and then vanish into the ether of ones and zeroes from whence they came.

The problem that arises, though, that when you develop an attachment to these characters, you want to know what happens to them after the final cut-scene closes. Some get shaken down for sequels or made into franchises, but many seem to go home, left only to live out normal, pleasant lives.

Sure it’s a happy ending, but it seems like there would be unresolved cravings for the spotlight and a lot of untapped potential. Well, some time about a year ago I thought about it, and decided there was money to be made tapping said potential, and so I approached a number of retired video game stars about channeling their star power into a money-making venture: starting a rock band.

I chronicled the experience, and I am now publishing it to you, so that you may learn from my experience.

* * *

January 3rd, 2009

It’s weird to have money, since being in school I thought I’d gave up on ever knowing how this felt again. I never would have thought, lying in that hospital bed, that being nearly scratched to death by an errant pigeon in a coffee shop would be the best thing to ever happen to me, but one lawsuit and a million in punitive damages later, here I am.

I’ve thought about it, and I’m going to invest this money…I can’t just wait for my money to run out again, I can’t just count on successfully being mauled by animals in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions for the rest of my life.

I talked about it with some people, and I’m going to start a record label geared toward gamers…I mean the gaming-music thing is quite the cash cow, it seems like anyone who messes around with a synth set to make screechy NES sound effects can reap a healthy chunk of gamer money just off nostalgia.

My hook? I’m going to hire retired gaming stars and make a star-power crossover band…it’s genius, I’ll have a pre-made audience, and there are actually some talented people for me to be working with.

February 25th, 2009
After a month of recruiting, I’ve managed to put together what is probably the best band I can hope for.

Front Man/Lead Vocalist: James Sunderland, of Silent Hill 2 Fame
I was lucky to find James available, since he has exactly what I need to anchor this project: boy-band good looks and a deep, brooding feel for the ladies, plus he has a tough-guy criminal history for the boys. He was really excited to get on the project, since as a single dad he’s been tight on money recently.

Lead Guitar: Jack, of Bioshock Fame
Since James can’t play guitar, I decided to find one of those crazy skilled guitarists who would rattle stoically off in the background for the music snobs without hogging the spotlight from the front man. Jack, being a silent protagonist, really fits the bill. Plus, since this is a guy who can turn his hand into bees, I know he has some pretty insane manual dexterity.

Bassist: Sam Fisher, of Splinter Cell Fame
Sam is the only band member who is still employed in his own series of sequels, but he actually approached me. Apparently he heard some of my earlier conversations through a wiretap, since the Prince of Persia, my first choice for bassist, was on some kind of watch-list. Anyway, Sam said he’d been looking for a side-project, and I realized that he had the two skills most critical to a bassist: fading into the background and being inaudible.

Drummer: Tim, of Braid Fame
Tim was an obvious choice for drummer, his sense of time is just unbelievable, and he has this really great precision. Plus, he has a pretty extensive science background, so that definitely earns the band some nerd cred.

The project is going well, I’m excited to move forward.

March 20th, 2009

Well, we’ve gotten the band together, and I am really surprised by how well this is all coming together. I’m foreseeing a lot of success for this project, because the guys are bringing such a wide range of styles to it. We have James for the grunge rock kind of look, Tim for the ska crowd, Sam for the red-states, and Jack for the aging Bobby Darin fans.

The guys managed to settle on “Loud Valley” for the band name, primarily because the only other suggestion was “American Men” from Sam, and it just didn’t go over well.
I booked studio time to record their first single, “Happiness is a Warm Board With Nails In It”, I’m really pleased with the finished project. James’ songwriting is practically guaranteed to hit number 1, it has all that lost-love power ballad stuff that ladies love, but it also has a lot of really deep symbolism in it…apparently he was a psych major in college. Unfortunately we had to cancel his second song, partially because the lyrics were too extreme, but mostly because “The Triangle Man Hates Me” infringed on a They Might Be Giants song.

We had some brief problems with the equipment, which started giving us some static on one of the feeds. It wasn’t that bad, but for some reason James really freaked out when it happened. Fortunately Jack is a pretty good mechanic as it turns out, and managed to jury-rig it with some spare pipe.

The real MVP was Tim, though. This guy is amazing, he managed to record the entire drum section on one take.

April 15th, 2009
I am proud to say that Loud Valley’s first album, “Chasing the Princess”, has gone platinum. We’ve only been out for a month, but it’s pretty much all photo shoots and tour dates now.

Setting up the tour was a lot harder than I thought it would be…frankly the guys were kind of difficult on this.

Jack won’t travel by plane, so we had to get a bus…it wouldn’t have been so bad except that I made the mistake of letting James hold the map…he made us run down every single side street and detour until Laura explained that we needed to draw red X’s over every path but the one we were supposed to follow…unfortunately we’d wasted a lot of time following the side streets, and accidently ended up violating a restraining order demanding that Tim not come within 500 yards of a woman’s house. On the plus side, though, we did find plenty of health drinks.

On that note, Laura was actually a big complication setting this up, since James insisted she come with us. When I was setting things up, I found out that she couldn’t be covered by the liability insurance since James didn’t actually adopt her. When I asked him about it, he said “I just found her in an empty town”…I’m surprised he never had to deal with this issue. Anyway, I helped them formalize the adoption, and having done so I’m glad to have Laura around…she’s a lot more mature than any of the guys, although she’s a bit…frightening sometimes.

May 7th, 2009
Our shows have being going great, for the most part. The audience is really getting into it, even if I think that James is overusing the fog machine. Jack is contributing a lot to the experience, since he produces some pretty impressive pyrotechnics

The after-concert hotel experience isn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.

Sam is too old for trouble apparently, since he usually just locks himself into his room and falls asleep with Fox News on. James and Laura sleep in the bus, since apparently James has a crippling fear of hotels...which is just as well since nobody else can stand the way he leaves the night light on. He has me send in groupies sometimes, but they all turn out to be imaginary so it isn’t a big deal.

Tim is the party animal as it turns out, and I keep having to comp hotels for all the chandeliers he’s been breaking.

The only guy I’m really worrying about is Jack…I think he has a drug problem. He keeps making me a deliver him syringes full of his “medicine”, and he says he can’t do his “hand magic” without it. He keeps insisting it isn’t heroin, but it really sounds like he’s shooting heroin.

June 19th, 2009

Tim is becoming kind of a problem…lately he’s complaining that we’re not appreciating him creatively. The problem started when he tried to write a song. Tim’s writing was…well…it wasn’t bad, but it was just really…hard to understand. I tried to be nice, so I said “hey this is cool, it’s kind of abstract.” He got annoyed at me, he said that it was about the invention of the tesla coil, he said I wasn’t giving it a real chance as art.

Tim has kind of an ego problem overall, he’s really obsessive when he wants something…and every time he gets to a drum solo he always drops one of those time rings and really milks it.

I guess this is just the problems that come with the arty one.

Anyway, we’ve been nominated for a Grammy, so overall things are going better than ever in my opinion…I think I’ll just let him do the next album cover, he is a pretty amazing painter.

July 10th, 2009

Wow…just wow…the Grammys were a complete disaster.

We won Best New Artist, that wasn’t the issue…the problem started when Cameron Diaz ended up being the presenter for it. See, nothing is wrong with her, but when we got called up, James just…well, snapped somehow. First he kept calling her Mary, and then Maria, then he got all paranoid and started looking around and waving a board in the air. Laura and I tried to spin it off like a big joke and lead James away, but that wasn’t the end of it…when they moved on and tried to roll the clip from our video…well…someone must have screwed up something since the feed started getting all distorted and blurry…Jack was heading up with his wrench and some pipes to fix it, but then all of the sudden the feed shifted to a video of James and…well, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity but, well, this may have been it.

I don’t want to think about this anymore.

August 23rd, 2009
Well, more problems…Sam quit the band. He apparently had to leave to go dismantle a nuclear weapons crisis in Uzbekistan and had to miss a show. He wasn’t mad that we played the show without him, he was mad that nobody noticed he was gone.

We’re not quitting, for right now we’re just going to crank up the fog machine even more and the audience will probably just assume there’s a bassist there without actually checking.

Jack’s drug problem is getting worse…it’s getting so he can’t even guitar without his “tonics”, and he keeps sending me to hit up “Rapture” to find a “Big Daddy” and score him some “Adam”. It got easier to do when I found out that none of that was slang.

September 30th, 2009

Jack is under indictment…I have to testify in court later. I swear to God, I didn’t know anything about what he was doing with all those little girls. He’s insisting he was only killing them to harvest their organs and not anything else...but even if that’s true it’s still pretty bad.

We’re trying to spin PR on this, but even if we manage to keep our good name we’ve still lost the guitar man. It’ll be hard to listening to “Arrow of Time” now that I know what it cost to make those wicked guitar riffs.

September 5th, 2009

Well, Loud Valley is broken up. We talked about replacing the guitarist, but before I could check to see if Pikachu was available Tim went all John Lennon on us…complaining that we were stifling his artistic voice, he said he was pursuing a solo career so he could find his artistic vision, his “princess”…come to think of it he was always talking about that, but I thought he was talking about his ex-wife. Anyway, it was obvious that the band was over at that point, so I just nodded, set up a royalties plan with everyone, and we went our separate ways.

October 31st, 2009

The Sunderlands invited me over for dinner to catch up…all I can say is that this is a family that really gets into Halloween-James was dressed up as some kind of weird charred corpse wrapped in a strait-jacket made of fused flesh, and Laura was dressed as a mutant zombie nurse with a backwards face. They were great costumes, and I couldn’t help but feel kind of dumb dressed as a baseball player.

Their decorations were pretty intense, their entire house looked like some kind of decaying building full of bloodstains and rusting metal…like some kind of abandoned building. They told me it’s always looked like that, but I think they’re just being modest.

It was good to chat with them, they seem to be doing well. James says he talked to Tim recently…apparently his solo career had bombed. The two had discussed it though, and they were both happy in retrospect. “We don’t mind being one hit wonders” said James, “It’s about quality, not quantity.”

I couldn’t agree more.

November 18th, 2009
Sam used his NSA connections to confiscate and freeze all assets connected with Loud Valley…jerk.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Obscurity's Rainbow

I see the world the fates had made

Our pasts and futures all conveyed

In long-dead dreams you now invade

The fine-spun threads for which I prayed

I grew and died as time had bade

My life of deeds all plainly laid

I see my life, all ripped and frayed

Its finest threads within your braid

I've recently been incredibly frustrated by the mind-numbing horrors of life, so I've been turning to one of my favorite methods of relieving stress, playing Braid.

Before I go any further, I just want to gush. Braid is effing fantastic, one of the greatest uses of video games as a medium. In a sea of blandly uniform clones, Braid is a phenomenal product whose unmatched dedication to creativity is a divine gift. Graphics are genuinely gorgeous and imaginative (as opposed to just shiny and expensive), gameplay has the marriage of perfectly intuitive design and mind-blowing complexity that you usually can only see in a spider web...even the soundtrack joins the fray, with beautiful flowing music that massages my temples and melts away all frustration.

I'm not going to go any longer, since Braid has been out for yonks and everyone knows everyone loves it. But remember, everything I say is from the standpoint of a huge Braid fan.

What follows contains spoilers for Braid, so if you haven't played it go play it right now before you continue. Go now. It's only 10 dollars; you spend that much for a mediocre dinner, and Braid makes you smarter and doesn't make you fat.


Oh, I should tell you, there are secret stars you can find. And by find I mean look up on GameFaqs, because finding them is nearly impossible on your own because the game gives you no clue you are even supposed to be looking for them and a few of the hidden puzzles run on insanely complex alien thinking. But if you do, there's a secret ending...or...not really a secret ending...this is leading to my point...

Anyway, gushing over, playing it again made me consider my previous post, particularly the point I made about the ending of Noir. If I have a criticism for Braid, it is its intentional obscurity.

The best moment in Braid is the final stage, in which you finally reach the princess, follow her as she flees from an ogre-esque kidnapper, she opens up some barriers and you in turn open one up for her, and meet her at the window of her bedroom…and then the game stops, and you can proceed only by rewinding time, watching her run from her house, watching her flee from you, as she tries to block your pursuit and you attempt to block her flight, and finally seeing her jump into the arms of her burly protector, leaving your life forever.

The beauty of this ending was that it embodied what Braid was; It was a visually and musically stunning artistic experiment with time and perception, a deconstruction of iconic “save the princess” endings, and a genuinely creative and perfectly executed splice of the game’s time-twisting mechanics with storytelling.

It was also the only time in the entire story where the creators made an attempt to be understandable…

Braid has two storytelling devices, blocks of dense prose exposition which tell bits and pieces of information about Tim’s search for the princess, and the time-shifting mechanic which is at play in the levels. In theory, the text blocks are supposed to set up the stages as exploratory visions of aspects of the human experience. For example, the world “Time and Place” has a mechanic in which you move backwards or forward in time based on which direction your character moves. The text blocks talk about Tim visiting his childhood home.

The problem is that, while the themes do come across and give a certain kind of expressionistic feel of their connection and significance…the communication isn’t very strong. Once a world’s original point is made…it all fades out and the puzzles are just puzzles again. It doesn’t bother me or anything…I mean the puzzles are clever and the music and art make it impossible to feel any frustration…it just doesn’t really strike me at all.

It isn’t because the game is poorly written, it’s because the creators tried so hard to keep it from communicating well. The story designer, Jonathon Blow, has explicitly stated that he tried to keep things vague so as to open it up to questions and interpretations and existentialism, that it was supposed to make you think and consider things and that he didn’t want any one explanation can be right.
(I’m paraphrasing, his version is more deeply explicated here…,8626/)

The ending is the most extreme example of this…after seeing her run away, you move on to an “Epilogue” section, in which a series of text boxes written with vague, disjointed separateness mention Tim meeting someone…maybe…and maybe going to a movie…and references to science, a quote from the Manhattan project…something about building a castle moving forward.

Also, if you collect the 8 deviously hard-to-find stars you can touch the princess and cause her to erratically blink around before the screen goes white, you hear a huge explosion, and you unlock the constellation Andromeda in the sky…combined with the references to science, the aforementioned quotes, there is a plausible reading that the princess represents the search for the atomic bomb.

I didn’t figure out every reference and significance on my own…I had to look it up…it honestly made me feel a little dumb finding all this stuff I totally missed.

I might just say that it went over my head, but I don’t think that’s it. In college, I had a hyper-genius professor named William Flesch who understood every single reference ever made by anyone ever in all of literature and film, and I’m sure he would have gotten everything in the game right away, but I don’t think that would have been enough; Braid’s storytelling is incomplete.

Blow intentionally made the readings and the story incomplete so that you could have all these different opinions, and rejected any attempt at a conclusive reading of the story. I admire what he’s trying to do…he’s really respecting a ghettoized medium as having potential as a legitimate format with depth and significance and challenging an audience to think expansively.

Still, though, I think he undermines his goals. In refusing to let the story be conclusive or clearly put out and intentionally dropping odd alternate readings in, Blow stops the story from finishing. Yes it lets you think, but it doesn’t really help the process. The fact that there is so much missing means you can tell your own story to fill the blanks, but really you HAVE to do that, and it doesn’t give you fuel for that. Since the plot ultimately doesn’t create a cohesive whole, you pretty much have to look for Blow’s telegraphed allusions…”The Princess is the Atomic Bomb” seems revelatory, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a reading that Blow didn’t gift-wrap intentionally for the audience to find.

In his otherwise positive review of the game, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw (whom I highly respect) compared it to telling a joke wrong and having nobody laugh, but I’d compare it more to telling a joke and refusing to give the punchline…you tell people to figure out their own punchline, and that you wanted to give them a starting platform. Really, you could already think of alternate punchlines, withholding one just gives the impression of an incomplete product hiding behind it’s obscurity.

In Gravity’s Rainbow, a book which I admit that I have not read because it is long and nearly impossible to read and I have stuff on my plate, there is a famous episode in which characters liken “Hansel and Gretel” to World War II (a popular comparison which has endured elsewhere)...comparing their lost wanderings to the German depression and the witch’s candy house to the false promises of Nazism. The parallel’s fit very well, but obviously the story wasn’t an allegory for Nazism, considering it was written much earlier.

My point bringing it up is to note that a complete story doesn’t stop you from looking beyond it, in fact it helps. ‘Hansel and Gretel’ worked well for Pynchon because the simple story has ingrained itself so well into the collective unconsciousness…something that auteur dreck like Eraserhead and Donnie Darko will never succeed in doing.

Braid came very close with its endearingly simple, fairy tale of a man looking for his princess…but hid its selling points trying to force the audience into an expansive reading that, without its dense, awkward structure, they might have come to.

Again, though, I'm inclined to be positive to Jonathon Blow...sure he's pretentious, but anyone behind a product this good has a right to be. And trying to make people think definitely beats out "Space Marines v Aliens Gun Shoot Rampage 14: The Bloodgunshoooter" or another Final Fantasy.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Why I Hate Canon

So, to start with, I'll begin with a note that I do have affinities as an entertainment snob...and one of them is immersive fantasy. There is nothing quite so great as a sweeping vision of the fantastic and unreal, with beautiful imagery and creative design. Among my favorites are the Harry Potter series, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, and Avatar: The Last Airbender...series that make you sit there and say "Wow...I wish I could be somewhere that cool doing something that cool, I wonder what cool thing they're going to do next in this awesome world that is better than my life."

Part of it is just that I'm a shameless escapist, but I think that escapism has a certain addictive quality. The late David Foster Wallace identified a certain magic in television that it has set up an inescapable ironic glow in which watching TV is the only gateway to a world where people have better things to do than watch TV. (I am not bothering with any kind of citation, but I will say that this is from an essay from his book "A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again") I think that the same principle is behind escapism in general, with complex fantasy being the exquisite-but-difficult-to-comprehend vintage wine to generic television's inoffensively-drinkable domestic beer. Escapism is a warm, immersive glow that wraps you like a blanket and shields you from the cold harsh reality of life.

Ultimately, however, this addictive glow kills off many of the great escapist fantasy realms when it comes down with a terminal illness called "canon". To clarify, canon is what officially counts for the purposes of continuity, and comes up when there are discrepancies or practical questions not addressed in the plot. Ideally, canon allows you to have a big, internally consistent world so that the audience can get more involved in the plot.
The problem with this is that fantasy is about something that isn't real, and the reason it can be immersive and fun is that it can do things reality can't and produce good stories. Reality has a whole bunch of really dumb rules...that's why it doesn't produce very good stories reliably. When things happen they have to follow all of those rules, and it stops them from being unique or interesting.
In fiction, once a canon of how things *must* work and characters *must* act is in place, the same rules start to apply to fantasy realms.

It should not matter whether or not a good story uses the same made-up facts as previous iterations, and acting like it does just stifles creativity. Note that "Dark Knight" wasn't very consistent with prior depictions of the Batman setting and simultaneously one of the best, largely because it threw away all previous origin stories and accepted 'saga' history and opted to tell a complete narrative with interesting characters. Contrast with comic movie duds like "Fantastic Four"...sure they make a point of properly establishing the long-standing personality traits of every character, and in doing so they waste so much time on mandatory exposition that the movie goes nowhere interesting.

Not to mention that the more canon builds the more junk there is weighing down the setting, and once the focus is on establishing characters, places, and storylines as established in the setting everything goes on auto-pilot and turns into a series of references punctuated with approved character traits. Look at big name mainstream comic writing...they're less stories than annotated lists of prior books.

I don't think this is just bad writing, I think it's an inherent problem with the idea that people care about establishing the rules and storyline elements that matter to future stories: what's done is done. As long as we're spending time on what we've already finished, we're not moving forward. A series that is exploring canon is producing nothing new while it slowly diminishes the good things it has done, and submitting itself to the kind of obsessive fans who collect trivia like magpies and care more about whether or not their fan-fic is properly definitive than they do about whether the current story is actually good.

On a separate note, there is a more direct problem when dealing with fantasy canon: none of it is real, so how can there be canon? It's like arguing about whether a balloon animal is really a wolf or a dog: It's neither! It's balloons tied together!

There is an anime series called "Noir" that ends with a still frame and two gunshots. (I don't consider this a spoiler because 1. The storyline of Noir shoots itself in the head with bullets made of stupid toward the end and 2. It is an effect which has no connection to anything in the plot or story)
There is a longstanding argument among fans, however, as to whether the gunshots were just a sound effect, two characters being shot, two characters shooting something, or whatever.
My reaction to all this? There is no answer that can possibly be real because this is all just a fictional story and it has no objective reality outside of what we see on the screen.
I get a lot of flak for this as people frequently tell me "It's trying to mimic reality; the creators knew what was real in the story, we're trying to get into it; stories have internal reality, etc., etc.", but I'm not trying to be a joyless meta-critical troll.

Fiction is art, and art is craft. A sculpture of a person may look so realistic that it could have been done by medusa, but it still isn't a real person, and it doesn't matter how real you think it is or how real a majority of the fans of it think it is, it still isn't a real person. You can admire it, but admire it as a statue: admire the skill of the sculpture and the effectiveness of the realism, don't let yourself get bogged down by the wasted endeavor of trying to make fiction more official.

In short, fantasy is not helped by canon, canon just degrades it, turning the immersive wonder of a fantasy realm into a joyless chore of collecting trivia and desperately trying to pretend it matters whether not it's explained who teaches math at Hogwarts.

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What Does Your Bad Product Teach Us?

I like talking about movies and series (Serieses? Serii?) that I watch, and I've noticed that there are two different methods of discussing things.

When you talk positively about things you are dismissed as a fanboy and people find you neither informative nor entertaining. In order to find concurrence, you must seek out other fanboys. Before long, you are talking about pairings and...*ugh*

The alternative, being negative, is well-liked and entertaining, but the very people who praise your belittling prowess secretly dismiss you as an evil troll who wants to bring them all down because girls don't like you.

Ideally, you can also be honest and review things as both good and bad based on what they deserve, but people will still assume you're doing one of the two and treat you as such. In fact, if you're being completely honest, people will universally assume you're a mean-spirited ogre and complain about how mean you are to all their favorite movies, because 90% of everything is crap and deserves to be mocked, and even good stuff has flaws that should be corrected.

I was musing on this controversy while being disappointed by "The Big Lebowski", which I watched for the first time recently, and I long as I talk about movies I will probably be dissapointing others and thought of negatively...and yet I still want to do it.

So, I'm joining the millions of others in the world by jumping into the world of amateur. By the way, I know that being an online amateur critic is incredibly unoriginal but I really don't care, trying to make it original would just end up making it gimmicky. This will probably only please me...which is good enough.

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