Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Reflections on the first Ghost in the Shell Trailer

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

16 November, 2016 Posted by | Ghost in the Shell, movie, review, scanlyze | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Force Awakens is a snide parody of Star Wars

“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.

Star Wars The Clone War – Storm over Ryloth (The first attack)

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!

Emo Kylo Ren

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:

Return

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:

Inquisitors vs. Ahsoka & Kanan ᴴᴰ

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:

FA/Original trilogy/Prequels
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:

Cowardly? Check.
Clumsy? Check.
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

23 December, 2015 Posted by | media, movie, review, scanlyze | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.

Some thoughts on Mad Max: Fury Road.

I’m going to assume you have either seen the movie, know the general plot, or don’t want spoilers.

I enjoyed Fury Road but I don’t think it is as good as the reviewers claim. It is a B movie and destined to forever be one of the classics of that genre. It isn’t a feminist epic, though there are some nods in that direction. It does pass the Bechdel test and with flying colors despite there being almost no dialog in it. But most every movie should do, that doesn’t make it a feminist movie. The old ladies, the Vuvalini, are just the only non-evil gang/tribe.

The dialog is weak, almost non-existent, and isn’t so interesting. I’m also not fond of the early voiceover, that’s a lazy device probably demanded by the studio who were maybe uncomfortable with the no doubt WTF reaction of some older focus groups.

Of the core group of characters, in many ways Hardy’s Max is the least interesting. I didn’t think Hardy’s performance was that great, he lacked the screen presence and manic intensity of the younger Mel Gibson. Of course here his character is supposed to start so beat down and deindividuated as to say when asked his name, “Does it matter?

Where I give the movie very high marks is for physical effects, cinematography, editing, stunt coordination, logistics, and the creation of a very strange world which approaches Alice in Wonderland in weirdness and Saving Private Ryan in nihilistic brutality. The names are nothing if not inventive, such as The Splendid Angharad, Capable, and Toast the Knowing.

The film owes something to Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin in the physical comedy and timing, and exquisite complex rube goldberg-like crashes. In a horrible way it is quite funny, like a live action Road Runner. At the same time it is as horrifying as Apocalypse Now. The lady next to me spent most of the movie with both hands palms pressed to her cheeks in the classic look of horror. Her mouth was in a little “o” as in OMG what am I seeing? But, she didn’t look unhappy.

The long shots of broad desert landscapes are awe-inspiring and make Fury Road a modern “Lawrence of Arabia.”

It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is like a stagecoach western on acid, where the stagecoach tuns into a dieselpunk battlewagon with two small cars welded on the top for turrets, the pursuing outlaws turn into radioactive mutants in monster trucks, the hostile tribes turn into jawas in porcupine like cars and a explosive-spear-chucking 100 mile-per-hour cirque du soleil respectively, and the cavalry turns into rifle-toting old ladies on motorcycles.

If you go expecting another Mad Max movie you won’t be disappointed and you might be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise if you go in cold, hold onto your hat, or in the case of my seat neighbor, your face.

Copyright © 2015 Henry Edward Hardy

20 May, 2015 Posted by | analysis, B movie, brutality, Fury Road, Mad Max, media, movie, review, scanlyze | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Avengers: I enjoyed this movie even more than I expected

Avengers: I enjoyed this movie even more than I expected.

My criticisms are mild: it is a superhero movie and so you know how it ends, pretty much. World saved. More bad guys incoming.

Robot monsters attack Manhattan. They proceed to devastate earth’s critical strategic assets, namely its Manhattan yellow cabs and NYPD police cars. Cue running civilians ala 9/11 or Godzilla. Like Transformers: Dark of the Moon, only with a plot and writing and acting. Hilarity ensues as HULK SMASH.

What I thought was splendid, though, was the script. It is LOL funny and has a certain tenderness to it. Like Firefly with super powers. Even the bit players get their moments to shine. And how nice to see really good actors enjoying their roles and having fun working together. Hiddleston is the cement which holds the moral compass together as Loki, the smarmy, fucked-up jealous kid brother evildoer with a God complex. Well, ok he is a God, but, notwithstanding, is trash-talking the enraged Hulk a good tactic? Not so much.

A few preliminary intra-team skirmishes establish the heroes, their motivations and assets. Iron Man vrs Thor. Thor vrs Capt. America. Hulk vrs Thor. Hulk vrs. Black Widow. Run Scarlett run!

Two huge set-piece fights, first one, they do not fight as a team and it is a somewhat mitigated disaster. Second time, a charm. Did I mention HULK SMASH?

Well worth seeing in the theatre, in 3D, with friends.

The Avengers – Official Trailer #2 (HD):

Copyright © 2012 Henry Edward Hardy

8 May, 2012 Posted by | Avengers, Hulk smash, media, movie, review, scanlyze | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does politics belong in the classroom?

Prof. Stanley Fish has been discussing on his nytimes blog whether or how freely political opinions should be expressed by a teacher in the college or university classroom.

His initial blog entry is, Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus and the followup to which I have responded is, George W. Bush and Melville’s Ahab: Discuss!

Fish’s first post was a long response to Evan Coyne Maloney’s Indoctrinate U.

The basic thrust of Fish’s post seems to be that,

Academics often bridle at the picture of their activities presented by Maloney and other conservative critics, and accuse them of grossly caricaturing and exaggerating what goes on in the classroom. Maybe so, but so long as there are those who confuse advocacy with teaching, and so long as faculty colleagues and university administrators look the other way, the academy invites the criticism it receives in this documentary. In 1915, the American Association of University Professors warned that if we didn’t clean up our own shop, external constituencies, with motives more political than educational, would step in and do it for us. Now they’re doing it in the movies and it’s our own fault.

Yet Once More: Political Correctness on Campus

My response follows:

I would not entirely agree with the thesis that politics has no place in the Academy.

As teachers, can we not state that, for instance, “Torture is antithetical to every basic principle of the American democratic system”? Or contrariwise, “Corporal punishment has been a feature of the American system of justice since its inception, and even killing a prisoner who has been condemned to death after due process is held to be judicially and legally acceptable under federal and most state jurisdictions today”?

Can we not say, “The evidence for global warming is regarded as conclusive by an overwhelming international consensus of scientists” as well as, “Solar incident radiation is the principle contributing factor to global warming in accordance with Boltzmann’s Law and the primary factor mediating this is the albedo of the earth, and any radiative forcing from CO2 in the atmosphere is negligible by comparison”?

Is it not precisely so that such opinions can be voiced without fear of retribution that we have tenured positions in the academic structure? If one prevailing political, scientific, or social view is defined culturally as “objective” and no other views are permitted to be advanced or advocated by a teacher in a classroom setting, then where is the great “marketplace of ideas” of which the classroom is a preeminent exemplar? As the Supreme Court held in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, (385 U.S. 589, 605-606 [1967], supreme.justia.com/us/385/589/case.html ):

‘Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom. “The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools.” Shelton v. Tucker, supra, at 487. The classroom is peculiarly the “marketplace of ideas.” The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth “out of a multitude of tongues, [rather] than through any kind of authoritative selection.”‘

Thank you for your interesting post and enjoyable and weighty blog, Prof. Fish.

See also: The Universities Under Attack …

I would further note that after 1915 the political “cleaning up” of leftist radicals such as Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman took the unpleasant form of the Palmer Raids in 1919, indeed an interesting and fraught comparison to draw with our present political situation.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 October, 2007 Posted by | 1915, 1919, 1967, Alexander Berkman, anarchism, anarchy, censorship, classroom, education, Emma Goldman, Evan Coyne Maloney, free market of ideas, freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, Indoctrinate U, Keyishian v. Board of Regents, law, marketplace of ideas, movie, movies, New York Times, objectivity, Palmer Raids, political correctness, politics, radicals, repression, Shelton v. Tucker, Stanley Fish | 2 Comments