The Effect of Fractal Hobbits

bardslastarrow

“And if the scale has already been pierced, doesn’t that mean that anything could kill Smaug now? Like regular arrows of which there are thousands in the city, not counting the infinite number being carried by Legolas and Tauriel? I don’t want to labor the point, but it’s just that your family is apparently really bad at knowing how to use a point.”

The Hobbit’s good fun, it’s just a pity they were bribed into drawing and thirding the poor thing for extra money. Even in the most beautiful scenes you can feel where the plot’s sinews tear and pop a single fun romp is stretched out over a trilogy. And where they kept the unpleasant noises to try and lend a fun kid’s story some epicity. And no, the word “epicity” doesn’t work. That’s why I used it for that attempt.

It’s time dilation as caused by proximity to vast quantities of money, the spacetime continuum stretched by sales of tickets and DVDs. Behold how the property is endlessly extended:

  • Three epic books become three epic movies
  • One short book becomes three incredibly long movies
  • The Silmarillion becomes an entire encyclopedia set. The same number of people read it all the way through.
  • The mere mention of the War of the Ring becomes a multi-season epic on fantasy warfare. One where the writers don’t think they should add a few rapes, because sane non-terrifying people don’t ever think “I know, we should add some rapes”.
  • Roverandom becomes an entire franchise of big screen children’s movies despite every single person needing to google what a “Roverandom” is, and being proof that even the creator of Gandalf the Grey sometimes just says “a wizard did it”.
  • An old napkin on which Tolkein had scribbled “A ring??” become a twelve-week certified course in precious metalworking and jewelry design.

More movie magic with Patch Notes for C3PO.1, and Why Cyclops Should Be The Best Boyfriend Of All Time.

How Terminator Salvation’s Heart Transplant Should Have Gone

Random resistance medic: John Connor needs a new heart.

Marcus: Take mine.

RRP: What? No! Are you insane? You’re the most insanely valuable soldier, equipment, and intelligence resource we have! You know how our enemy operates and you can access Skynet systems – which will be really important if our entirely computerized enemy ever stops leaving open human-accessible laptops and walkways in all its facilities for no reason!

Marcus: You need him more. He’s John Connor! He’s the leader of the resistance!

RRP: No, the leaders of the resistance literally ignored him to their death in this movie. He’s so unimportant that Terminators literally forgot to Terminate his father before he existed. That has been their only plan for decades, and in this continuity he’s so optional they didn’t bother.

Marcus: Everybody deserves a second chance.

RRP: Okay, how about, “I’m a doctor and I am not murdering you”. When did it become okay to tear a healthy person’s heart out? Are we the human resistance or Huitzilopochtli cultists? Damnit, my buddy Jeff has a prosthetic leg, can I tear out his liver if I drink too much? If I was wearing my glasses would you punch through my ribcage? Shit, if we’re killing people anyway, let’s just strip one from one of the dozens of injured soldiers outside since they’re demonstratably not bulletproof. You can probably see them with your Terminator vision, and carry them back with your Terminator strength, and do all kinds of other things we can’t because you’re a damn Terminator and we’re not throwing you away to get a spare part for an asshole!

Hell, I got it, your name’s John now. You’ve done more for us anyway, and every single one of your decisions this movie wasn’t completely wrong, unlike some Johns in the tent. Welcome to humanity, John Better-Connor. Hurray!


Fix more movies with Pacific Rim: How The Kaidanovskys Survived and 8 Explanations For The Lack Of Women In Star Wars.

Watching Frozen

Watching Frozen, you can physically feel Disney heaving their arms free of the  quagmire as they watch Pixar sprint into the distance. But that swamp is seventy years of their own movies and there’s still a long way to go.

The movie starts so well. Indigenous Scandinavian music pounds and choirs through the cinema and you think “Yes! Maybe this Disney musical won’t be Americans talking to each other over music!” Nope! But that was a nice thought while it lasted. It was like Disney realized that musical flexibility and an entire world of inspiration were wonderful things, then ticked that box as done in the first five minutes.

Then they do the exact same thing with the characters, opening with Elsa, an empowered, interesting, and deeply conflicted character, then whipping her away to make room for Anna’s quest for love. Because looking for a boyfriend is much more interesting than a superpowered struggle against the elements and self. You’re halfway through before you realize that Elsa isn’t the main character but the unintentional villain, and instead of seeing someone struggle with their true nature we watch Anna looking for a boy, hurray, found a boy! Sure, the first boy she met was evil, but then the second one is great, so if you think all your problems will be solved as long as you find a boy you’re absolutely right about that. Just keep looking.

I mean, who wants to see an array of gorgeously rendered ice effects representing a deep emotional struggle for self-acceptance anyway. Apart from everyone who loved “Let it go” as the best bit of the movie, because that should have been the entire movie. Instead let’s watch two teenagers pretend they’re not going to bang for a solid hour and a half.

The king and queen are the worst parents in history (“Don’t every use your abilities, to help we’ll lock you in a room where you have nothing else to even think about doing for your entire life!”), but they’re also the worst king and queen in history. They’re scared of people finding out about Elsa’s powers and forming an angry mob, and sure, that might be a risk if you’re a commoner and stupid enough NOT to freeze people who are trying to burn you at the stake, but they’re royalty! They live in a castle! They have an army! Their entire life, job, and social structure is designed to be utterly mob-proof!

Plus they live in country whose only access routes are water and already half-impossible frozen mountains. They should have introduced her as a blessing, princess, and ultimate weapon all at once. “Behold, our kingdom need never fear invasion again! And if anyone feels like complaining, first please watch what happens when Elsa freezes this banana and then hits it with a hammer.”

8 Explanations For The Lack Of Women In Star Wars

The cast announcement for Star Wars VII confirms that in a galaxy far far away, humans don’t have an equal male/female ratio, but a male-football-team-per-single-female referee/trophy combination rotio. Which is especially embarrassing since “a long time ago” is now 2014, and counting, and for fuck’s sake.

"Does this image STILL have a better gender ratio and message than the modern movies?"

“Does this image STILL have a better gender ratio and message than the modern movies?”

The expanded universe has dozens of female characters. Hell, even the regular fan-fiction has more female characters, if only because you need at least a 1:1 ratio for most heterosexual sex fantasies, or the propagation of a species, or to even pretend that you aren’t sexist in the modern world. You have serious problems when you have a worse gender disparity than DarthFap’s twelve-part Chewie/Leia epic “Walking all over the carpet (and he likes it)”.

Which is why I’m trying to come up with other explanations for the mismatch.

  • Every actress approached went “Star Wars? That’s the one where the most powerful woman in the galaxy was made to prance in a bikini for an actual slug, right?”
  • Attempts to create an equally yonic weapon to balance out the phallic lightsaber caused every female Jedi to accidentally commit plasma-seppuku.
  • Why yes, the whole point of the Force is to be a magic ability which utterly negates any advantage based on physical strength or speed, but, uh, the secret fourth Jedi test is opening a jar in a room full of mice or something.
  • All other women removed from the plot by the powerful “Wearing More Prosthetics Than Clothes Creepy Alien Burlesque Dancers In Every Star Wars” union. All of whom were immediately publicly executed on screen for no clear reason.
  • Seriously, they wanted the “princess” and “stripper” tropes but only had one female character, and instead of realizing the problem they just did both. All they needed do was strip Solo near-naked for freezing and it would have had something for everyone. And Jabba could have used the carbonite wall as a coat-hanger.
  • Sure, I’d love to appear in an iconic movie, only to be cut before anyone could see me like those lady X-wing pilots (not) in the first movie.
  • They meant a really long time ago, like before sexual reproduction, and every person you see on screen reproduces asexually. Note that this is still less stupid than the real reasons, and still introduces less plot holes than the prequels.
  • “Maybe the midichlorians” but the person who even mentions those things is immediately beaten into silence, so we’ll never know.

 


Continue the astroconflict with Patch Notes for C3P0.1

Natural Selection of Science-Fiction Victims

Monsters shouldn’t have cheerleaders. Understanding the opponents is a sign of excellent science fiction, but cheering for the monster is a symptom of awful storytelling, an undeveloped bad guy rampaging around only because that’s what bad guys do, and you still prefer it to every other idiot involved.

My quest to catch up with Doctor Who has hit a temporal speedbump in an episode so stupid I can only watch five minutes at a time. A spaceship crew bring an unconscious man into the sickbay: he went crazy, he violently attacked them, it took three of them to hold him down and the bioscan says he’s now completely alien on the inside. Do they tie him down? Do they bollocks. They leave him sleeping peacefully and split up to stand around the ship with their backs turned to every entranceway, hoping he’ll rise refreshed to continue his corridor-based murder spree. Spoiler: he totally does. They’re playing a game of Pac-man and volunteering to be the dots. But are less rounded as characters.

The doctor is actually standing over his unconscious, helpless body while reading the scans which say “THIS THING IS GOING TO KILL YOU, IDIOT”, and has the sheer gall to act surprised when that happens. Another of his victims is holding a steel pipe while he very gradually murders her, but confuses herself for Black Canary and decides to scream instead. A big guy whose only job is wielding large power tools wedges himself underneath an entire starship engine as if it was a Vauxhall Astra, just so that he can mistake the approaching alien for a crewmember and be pulled out by his feet for murder. And when someone finally kicks the alien in the gut, it totally works! They could have piled on and beaten it to death at any time! An alien isn’t compelling when it can be defeated by a closing-time curbstomp.

I understand the screenwriting logic of not restraining the obvious alien murderer to save time, but it’s the same logic as shitting in the sitting room to save time: offensively lazy and no-one wants to watch TV any more. The screenwriter thinks “Everyone knows it’s going to get loose so there’s no point restraining it“, but the instant a writer thinks “Everyone knows” they should ball up the script and throw it away. The only entertainment potential in that script is scoring a wastebasket three-pointer. Just show us the series title, scribble “Stupid idiots picked off one by one” underneath, and let us get on with our lives without wasting fifty minutes. Cliches are how writers announce they just want their job over with.

The last time the one-by-one worked was Alien. Because it was on an unprecedented scale, because they had horrors behind “Actor with makeup” (note: this Doctor episode didn’t even bother with that and just handed him a helmet), and because the crew did everything in their power to defend themselves. They went at their alien with nets, tazers, flamethrowers, and the thermonuclear detonation of their entire ship. We were absolutely on their side even though they were otherwise total jerks, because they weren’t actively conspiring with the alien to get themselves killed. No-one wants to watch an idiot group suicide. If they can’t be bothered to take the most obvious steps to defend themselves, then we can’t be bothered to watch them die.

It’s natural selection in science-fiction. Stupid characters get killed off one by one, and stupid shows which do that stop being watched.

The Worst Watchmen Ending Ever

Zack Snyder whined to the Huffington Post about how he made his version of Watchmen “to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world.” Now I’m stuck with the awful image of Zack Snyding down the Zackpole to the Zack-cave, donning a grittily textured body suit contoured to his every abdominal muscle, then swooping out to punch people much more interesting than himself. (But they’ll be fine, because a single cinematic Zack-punch can take up to five minutes to arrive.)

Snyder had good reason to turn his own surname into an agent noun. Joel Silver had recently opined how much better Terry Gilliam’s ending for Watchmen would have been, which was unprofessional. But not incorrect. Not being as original as a Python isn’t an insult, it’s the normal state of being for about seven billion minus six (minus one) people. It’s still put Zack-Man in an awkward position: reprimand Joel? Stay above it all? Or swoop down to shit on the work of someone who wasn’t even part of the problem? Zack unbuckled his pants.

In Gilliam’s ending the hyperintelligent Ozymandias convinces Doctor Manhattan that his own omnipotence is the pressure pushing Earth to destruction. Which is the core premise of the original comic. Manhattan erases himself from existence to save the world, a changing which undoes undoes every superhero, returning them to the printed page, and our “heroes” facing nuclear annihilation are suddenly cosplayers unaware of what they’ve lost and gained. It’s an innovative ending for a movie about the role of superheroes in society, it matches Manhattan’s motivations perfectly — he removed himself from circulation in the comic too, but now he’s gone in time instead of space — and most importantly, it was interesting.

Snyder said “it’s completely insane“. He explained how no-one should ever change anything, ever. Because god knows no-one would want to be surprised by the ending of Watchmen. Watchmen, world-famous for its absolutely predictable plot, rigid adherence to all tropes and conventions, and its absolutely unsurprising ending! And then he changed his ending too. But where Gilliam re-interpreted it to add another layer (because that’s what  making a movie about a comic about comics does), Snyder just broke it.

Snydamandias framed Manhattan for a massive terror attack on the planet, because a massive simultaneous nuclear-level strike on every nation on Earth is exactly how a genius would pull the world back from the brink of nuclear war. It’s not like the US were infamous for plausible deniability and “rogue” forces during the Cold War. Even assuming the Russians didn’t instantly launch their entire arsenal — which they were seconds away from doing even without a genocidal attack by the world’s most famous American — he’s created a world where everyone knows intrinsic field experiments can give you absolute power. And is desperate to defend themselves from the intrinsically empowered. from them.

Instead of uniting the globe against a deliberately unknowable interdimensional alien menace (Ozymandias understood that only a shared enemy could unify the combative human race), Snydamandias has pushed the Cold War to absolute zero, an end to any scientific endeavor except the development of divine weapons much more destructive than the merely nuclear. Sure, no-one else has survived the intrinsic field accident which created Manhattan, but now that he’s (apparently) holding the world under his giant blue thumb, militaries around the world will be shoveling people into those intrinsically disintegrating chambers like lumps of coal.

Snydamandias’s only “success” was ridding the world of Manhattan, the only good god. So when those militaries succeed we’ll have an omnipotent “volunteer” meta-murdered by militaries instead of a lovestruck scientist spurred only by curiosity. The world is even more doomed than it was before, because at least the cockroaches might have survived nuclear war, but the entire planet will be undone by a traumatized god-soldier.

But it still ends in a big explosion, so that’s close enough to the source material, right? Helpfully, Snyder adds “Well, maybe it’s supposed to look like a video game.” Video games, comics, movies, what’s the difference? They all make money, right?

This wasn’t his only change. Remember when he thought 300 had too many men, so he added a woman specifically to submit to sexual assault by her most hated enemy? Or Man of Steel, where he had Superman purposefully kill his enemy, and accidentally kill thousands of innocents through sheer carelessness? Snyder respects important characters in the same way pigeons respect statues. The same way he respected Terry Gilliam, a writer he could only dream of calling a peer.

He has talent. He’s an amazing visual transducer between the printed page and the silver screen. But maybe he should let other people take provide the words. Including his own.


Enjoy more Snydeness with Screw Man of Steel, Here’s The Real Superman.

RoboCop: No Spoilers And You Should See It

I was very worried about the new RoboCop, and I’m very happy to have been very wrong.

Luckily he seems the forgiving type.

Luckily he seems the forgiving type.

Growing up I watched the original so often it’s been installed as one of my prime directives. Trailers for RoboCop 2014 didn’t leave me hopeful, but I’m delighted to report that it’s the Inverse Trailer Effect: shitty movies can look awesome because they’ve been built to sucker people in with best bits which can be reduced to a minute of five-second smashes, and awesome movies can look shitty because all the best bits won’t fit in five-second smashes. Robocop 2014 is the latter.

Hurrah!

Hurrah!

Now a NO SPOILER checklist of essential RoboReasons fans should see the new movie.

  • Brutal evisceration of modern media bias: YES
  • Gorgeous callback to original RoboCop design: DOUBLE-YES
  • Villains who are unquestionably assholes: YES
  • Upgrade of original message to suit the times: YES
  • Sequences the original would have included if they could only have dreamed of having the special effects to pull them off: YES

And most importantly

  • Famous Quotes From The Original, Multiple:
  • – Cool line used seamlessly: CHECK
  • – Cool line crowbarred in a bit but you don’t mind because it’s the best one: CHECK
  • – Cool line used in brilliant inversion of original meaning: CHECK! SCREENWRITING BONUS!

The movie understands (just as the original did) that simply standing there and shooting bad guys while invulnerable isn’t a compelling plot. Despite being the plot of most action movies. There are a couple of glorious show-off sequences, like the original drug factory shooting gallery, but the plot progression doesn’t depend on fights getting bigger until you end up with tough-guys-throwing-each-other-through-a-steelmill. It’s a classic RoboCop final showdown, but with a new solution to fit the new Robo. I’m still annoyed that Officer Lewis was testicled for no reason other than “they already have a woman”. On the upside, Clara Murphy is an actual character instead of the feared self-propelled tear-lubricated wet blanket.

It’s not a retread of the original, it’s a new movie, and rather a good one. It’s how a RoboRemake should work: a genuine rebuild, using cool parts from the originals (even salvaging a couple of concepts from RoboCop 2), fleshed out with their own new material, and released into the civilian population to kick ass.


More movie fun with Pacific Rim: The Story of the Irish Jaeger and 5 Sequels Made By People Who Must Not Have Seen The Original.

Pink Alert: Other Emergencies on the Starship Enterprise

The Enterprise-D had famously color-coded alerts.

redalert

Yellow Alert: Get generally sort of (but not too) ready to deal with the unknown. Wonder why you’re not permanently in this condition aboard the Federation flagship.

Red Alert: Crisis situations are better dealt with in poor lighting when you can’t hear each other.

But you need more than an autumn color scheme to deal with the infinite diversity of space. Here are the alerts you never saw on the show.

White Alert: Ship undergoing bullshit which we could end in a second if we remembered we had a transporter.

Intruder Alert: See White Alert.

Indigo Alert: For a technotopia, we sure do seem to have a lot of effective serfs running around in the background on this ship.

Pink Alert: The only women on staff are the emotional one, the one who looks after you when you’re sick, and the one who serves you drinks, and no-one seems to have a problem with this.

Gamboge Alert: Unnecessarily obscure words being used to dress up a fairly basic idea. (In this case yellow).

Showers-of-Sparks Alert: We’re just gonna let these irredeemably violent aliens pound on the ship for a while before we start fighting back. Good luck everyone!

Black Alert: Total power failure to all systems except gravity, because losing life support is free plot tension, but filming people floating is incredibly expensive.

Hypercolor Alert: The far reaches of space have thrown up an event with remarkable similarities to late twentieth century Earth, again.

Pink-layer-of-liquified-human-flesh-on-the-walls Alert: The inertial dampers have failed.

Scorchmarks-on-the-walls Alert: We have holodecks, tranpsorters, and replicators which can direct energy to any location in three dimensional space, but rayguns still need to be manually aimed by people who can’t aim.

Rave Alert: The lights strobe through all possible colors as the comm system relays funky beats, replicators auto-synthesize a psychotropically active fog, and the crew strip naked and have all the good times while the ship’s ultra-computer runs everyday functions far better than they ever could. This happened every time a Star Trek writer decided they couldn’t be bothered writing  Star Trek and stuck the officers in the holodeck instead.

For more things your favorite fictions didn’t tell you, behold An Infinity Of Alternate Bat-men, and Pacific Rim: The Story of the Irish Jaeger.

Back To The Future Timeline

Behold, bonus material for you wonderful website readers! The prototype timeline for my Cracked Back to the Future article. We dropped it because it was a mind-bending tangle of continual disaster, even though that made it an even better representation of the BttF timestream.

bttfAt first glance there’s about twenty things I’d like to go back and improve, so it’s lucky for me I don’t have paintshop or a time machine on my new computer.  Otherwise I’d never get anything done in the present.

For more timelinery, check out The Terminator Timeline and The Evolution of Arcade Games.

Pacific Rim: How The Kaidanovskys Survived

Pacific Rim was a daring film in many ways, not least in how it focused on what were clearly intended to be supporting characters just so that the coolest kaijufuckers in all creation could get on with their jobs.

If a genie ever offers me the job, costume, body, or sex partner of my dreams, the answer will be the crew of the Cherno Alpha, and I don’t care which.

If a genie ever offers me the job, costume, body, or sex partner of my dreams, the answer will be the crew of the Cherno Alpha, and I don’t care which.

How did they survive being crushed and exploded and also drowned by Leatherback?

  • In that last shot she isn’t screaming as the water rushes in, she’s warning the god-damn Pacific to get the hell out of her mech. The exterior “explosion” is actually all the water rushing to obey as quickly as possible. They reboot what’s left of Cherno, grab the limb they lost, and beat Leatherback to death with their own giant severed arm.
  • The explosion blasts the pilots into Leatherback’s open mouth. From there they punch their way into an air bladder and concussively navigate Leatherback to the surface and also to death.
  • They reach through the acid-melted hole in the cockpit pod to tear strips off Leatherback and seal the rents. Making what’s left of Cherno seaworthy, they erect a sail of Leatherback-leather and sail into the distance and new adventures.
  • You know how that little Dutch boy plugged the hole in the dike? Kaidonovsky man is not little! He plugs the hole in the cockpit pod with his gigantically manly frame. Leatherback is too intimidated by the view to trouble them further.
  • Pressing the “emergency submergence” knob on their shoulderplate, the pilot suits deploys rebreathers, giving them plenty of time to get away. What, you thought their suits were covered in extra bits the other countries didn’t have for fun?
  • Glorious blonde hair doubles as signal flare, comrade! Range hundred miles! Even at bottom of Pacific! Rescue easy! We train hold breath all time.
  • They grit their teeth, grinding oxygen out of the water to breathe, and physical chemistry is simply too terrified to disagree. They swim out and destroy Leatherback hand-to-hand. We find that the Russian government had only constructed Cherno to contain the Kaidanovskys, not assist them, as they go on to defeat the world’s weakened armies and rule the planet, unifying it against all future threats.

More Pacific Rimmery: