Monday, November 21, 2011

My Theory on B.O.T (a.k.a. the single worst episode of transformers ever)

The episode is notoriously bad. It is so bad it dethrones season 3's Carnage in C-Minor for the title of worst episode ever. It's really, really, mind numbingly bad. All is not lost however.

Over the last several years, inspired by such diverse products as Apocalypse Now! Redux! and Star Trek: Remastered, I have been working on a new episode list for the 1980's Transformers cartoon that will not only make the series some what more serialized and coherent but also hopefully eliminate some of the obnoxious flaws.. hopefully without having to physically alter any of the episodes. Impossible? Maybe.

For the most part it is simply using the already present chronology of season 1 and then building on it so as to create a logical introduction to new characters. As the episodes stand now, new people show up in Season 2 with no real reason for them being there, only to promptly vanish for the next episode which inexplicably only features characters from season 1. In other words, its hardly rocket science.

But then you come to the obvious point of this, what do with the worst episode ever? Well it falls production wise as the last episode of Season 2. Meaning it is the last episode before Transformers: The Movie. This is, to me, unacceptable, and since it's a free country I'm going to do something about it. I started to look around for ideas of what could be done with it. It's so bad, and contains so many animation errors that the idea of re-editing it some how using bits of other episodes (beyond the obvious that this would be breaking my own rules) was a bit too technical for me to undertake.

I hit on a solution one evening while researching the Chronology of Super Dimensional Fortress: Macross. SDF: Macross was a huge hit in Japan. They made a movie, SDF: Macross Do you remember love?, it was a huge hit also. But it fundamentally changed extremely important aspects of the TV Show, and more or less made the relatively human looking Zentradi into very much more monstrous beings. The reason for that is, Chronologically speaking, SDF: Macross DYRL?, is itself a movie within the SDF: Macross Universe. Released in theatres some time around the Macross Plus era, while there are Descendants of Zentradi living on earth! It was followed by a sequel, Macross II the Movie. Genius. How to include something that completely screws up the canon, while not completely screwing up the canon.

It dawned on me then, B.O.T. could be a Transformers Movie, inside the Transformers universe. It explains why most of the characters are from season 1 (the ones who would have been seen on the real news more frequently) it also explains why the kids act so preposterously precocious.. and all the flaws in the episode can then be chalked up to "Well, Hollywood got it wrong, as usual". There is even evidence from the episode "Hoist Goes Hollywood" that there are directors in that universe who want to cast transformers as actors, why not characters?

However, I figure the Sunbow Universe's equivalent of Michael Bay still directed it, which would also go a long way to explain why the episode is so bad.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Geography, Learn it, Use it, Understand it.

Having just got done reading Dodai Stewart's otherwise well thought out article on Jezabel about why modern reinterpretations of fairy tales have such an aversion to casting non white cast members.. This quote really annoyed me, I mean beyond the obvious notion of why would a dark skinned lady be called "Snow White"...

"Last year around this time, an actress went to a casting call and was told she was too brown to be a Hobbit. It's infuriating to think that a world that includes orcs, elves and dragons cannot include brown-skinned people."

First of all, just to get this out there. Middle-earth has "Brown-skinned people". However, here is the rub. Racial groups do not just randomly spring up in various proportions on the globe without human agency being involved. Even if you have only seen the Peter Jackson films, you know Middle Earth has a variety of skin tones amongst its human population. The problem is that they are geographically isolated from 'The west' by Mordor and a couple of big darn deserts. You don't just get Hobbits with a bunch of different 'races'.. because Hobbits are a 'Race' unto themselves. Its highly unlikely there are a bunch of white people roaming around in Rhun or Far Harad either, and if they are they are almost certainly evil men who sided with Mordor and have simply been living their ever since the fall of Numenor.

If you look at Howard's Hyboria, there is far greater transit between the various ethnic groups present. You might find a Kushite in Shem, and you might find a Cimmerian in Shem, But you wouldn't find a Black Cimmerian anymore than you would find a White Kushite. Unless there is some human agency at work to shift people from one place to another, or an enterprising person decides to up and move themselves, manages to fit in and become part of a pre-existing community.. I suppose it could happen.. its just not very likely.

When this is done, like it was in Willow, Though this isn't to say that some where there isn't an entire group of black Nelwyns or a close relative of them. Or the BBC's recent Robin Hood series, it tends to look extremely forced and done simply to avoid the PC police's notice. They make fun of it on South Park by actually naming the one black kid at the school 'Token'. Let us be honest with ourselves here. If it weren't for the transatlantic slave trade it's very likely the very idea of having a massive multi-cultural milieu would be considered the norm. Japan, China, and the various eastern countries where there was no African slave trade are for the most part homogenous, or at least homogenous to western eyes. And were it not for human agency (empire, immigration, commonwealth) England,would just as Homogenous as Japan is. So why would you expect their to be a variety of colours of hobbits when their is no evidence of their ever being hobbits in a climate where having dark skin would make evolutionary sense?

Is it seriously coming down to this, that despite all we know of evolution and anthropology we are simply supposed to believe that dark skinned people would just naturally appear in Norway? Why would evolution do that? What possible reason would it have?

Yes, its annoying and frustrating and I'm sure infuriating that Hollywood doesn't produce more fantasy fair with non white casts. Even when they adapt a property such as Earthsea or the last Airbender they tend to white-wash the cast, this is unacceptable and I think morally repugnant. I'd just about kill to see Imaro on the big screen. But the answer for this injustice is not forcing middle earth to have a random "brown" hobbit. Fantasy as a genre is more than capable of having heroes, heroines, villains, villagers, or city dwellers of any culture or colour imaginable. But if the Geography as laid out in the story precludes it, then accept it and move on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sounds to take you back.

There are two ways for Movies to go. They either have a Score or a Soundtrack, or sometimes both. Usually the scores are forgettable and the soundtracks filled with either 40 year old Thin Lizzy and AC/DC songs or new songs from bands no one will remember in 10 years let alone 40.

Occasionally however a movie will make tremendous use of a song. Every time you hear it from then on you will remember it. My own example of this is the way that Nine Inch Nail's The Mark has been made, was used in Man on Fire. Every time the percussion starts in the song I can picture Denzel Washington going and picking out all the supplies he needs to wage a one man war on the Mexican cartel that has kidnapped the little girl he was supposed to protect.

It is an ominous and haunting song on its own. But when you add in the pathos of the scene where a still bleeding John Creasy is preparing to get revenge, it becomes almost depraved through its anguish. The music accentuates it to a near feverish pitch.

Of course, this is just my opinion, so your mileage will vary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monkeying around.

Phillipa Boyens (one of the writers of the Peter Jackson Tolkien Adaptions) made the comment that a Tolkien Purist is some one who is a self proclaimed guardian of the material.. I would argue that a Purist is a person who simply doesn't like her monkeying with the material... for her own shallow social engineering/politically correct reasons.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that certain changes must be made to adapt any novel to film or television. For the most part the changes to the Rings films were mild. This isn't some rant about Tom Bombadil being left out. The films also could have been much worse, after all the Hollywood financiers wanted them to kill one of the Hobbits! Make no mistake, bullets were dodged. But it was clearly the screenwriters choice to so drastically alter the entirety of Faramir's character. It was their choice to alter Theoden's character. It's there choice to add characters when they don't really need to be added. All of these things can and should be laid at their feet.