Tag Archives: violence

I wish I could wish away

29 Mar

Whenever my DVR happens to record one I’ve been watching the new computer animated Clone Wars show on Cartoon Network. I missed the “movie” that premiered the show in theaters last year, and I don’t think I’ve seen every episode, but it’s overall a rather enjoyable diversion that sometimes feels a lot like the best of Star Wars. But it makes me wish that George Lucas had learned one key thing about episodic storytelling before he embarked on making the prequels: write all the episodes first and not one-at-a-time. The Clone Wars, as well as the live-action Star Wars tv show that’s currently in production, had all the episodes written first. Not so with the Star Wars Prequels.

I’ve also been slowly making my way through the transcript of the Raiders of The Lost Ark Story Conferences and I’m amazed at the job undertaken by Lawrence Kasdan. He listens to these two men pour ideas at him for a week, and while some things (he’s after the Ark of the Covenant) aren’t up for debate, nearly everything else was. Indiana’s last name, Marion’s role and name, the identity of Indy’s rival, the locations that he would visit on his quest, what he would do and find in said locations, it was all up to Kasdan. But the sheer amount of ideas meant that he could just pick and choose whichever ones fit the story best and go with them. (The leftover ideas like a goofy child sidekick, a jump from a crashing plane with an inflatable life-raft landing on snow and becoming a sled, a mine cart chase, a sexy german double-agent, etc. would end up being used later).

The wealth of ideas on display in the Clone Wars show make me wish that a similar process had been done when writing the prequels. George Lucas is not short of ideas, particularly ideas that take place in the Star Wars universe. There’s two ideas in particular that I wish he had though of prior to writing/making the prequels. There is a story-arc about a neutral planet inhabited by pacifist lemur creatures. The Separatists plan to send an occupying force there to test a new biological weapon that could kill all non-mechanical things on a massive scale. They figure this planet is the perfect place to do so since the natives won’t fight back. The Jedi, in an effort to keep peace in the galaxy (as they are wont to do), dispatch Anakin Skywalker and a crew of clones there to protect the innocent Lemur Folk from the imminent arrival of the destructive droids. Except that the Lemur folk don’t want them there. Peaceful as the intentions of the Jedi might be the Lemur-Folk declare that they are just as violent, evil, and war-mongering as The Separatists and want nothing to do with any of it. As far as the Lemur-Folk are concerned the unwelcome arrival of the Jedi is the arrival of the war. They demand that the Jedi leave and if this means they are all destroyed, then so be it. Another episode features Yoda trapped in a cave with a few clones who declare that they are expendable and interchangeable, and can save Yoda by sacrificing themselves. Yoda disagrees. They are beings of The Force, he says, and therefore they have individuality. They can be creative. They have a life-force and a value, and when they explore it and find ways to nurture and develop it they will prevail.

Both these episodes featured ideas that would have been welcomed and very effective in the prequels. Anakin is given a complex choice and asked to really explore how he feels about fighting as a means toward peace. He’s shown how effective it can (or can’t) be, and his actions have a direct impact on an entire species. Yoda teaches about the intricacies of The Force and how it relates to individuality, even if by outward appearances and origins you have none (and what does this mean for Anakin, a being possibly made by The Force?).

The writing of the three Star Wars Prequels is a challenge. Here you have three of the most beloved movies of all time. While essentially ensemble movies the main character is arguably Luke Skywalker. Now you set out to write three more episodes and change a trilogy into a six-episode Saga. Not only that but while the three new movies are essentially ensemble movies there is no Luke Skywalker and the underlying goal is to convert Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader into the main character of all six movies. Except that Palpatine is really the main character in the new three movies. How does that all work? How does it all get put together? The story of a peaceful Republic turning into an Empire and the story of Anakin turning into Darth Vader must both be told, but all six movies must work as a whole. It’s a tough thing to do.

I wish it had been done the way they did Raiders. I wish George and whoever else he thought had good ideas (Kasdan? Spielberg? Coppola?) all sat down for a week or two with a screenwriter and just threw out these hundreds of ideas that are now on display. The screenwriter could have then picked and chosen the ones that fit best into a three-movie story which then works together as a trilogy as well as the first half of a six episode Saga.


None of this is real?

19 Jun

This slideshow from the New York Times shows people who play games next to the digital avatars that they use to play them. It’s interesting to see who looks like their avatar, and who doesn’t. It’s also interesting to see how much variety there is among the people in this slideshow, and how long each of them spend inside a digital world. Up to seventy hours a week spent in a digital world!! That’s almost half of the total hours in a week.
player and avatar
It brings to mind a key discussion from The Matrix (which is here transcribed from my memory and is thus probably not word-for-word correct. But close enough):

Neo: Right now, we’re inside a computer program? None of this is real?
Morpheus: What is real? If real is just what you can touch, taste, smell, see, and hear, then real is simply electronic impulses translated by your brain.

Perhaps Morpheus is right… what makes the “real world” more real than, say, the world of Second Life? Sure the technology isn’t quite there yet for all five of our senses to enjoy Second Life, but it’s probably only a matter of time. And why not? What then when a Second Digital Life is more appealing than a “real” one?
Afterall in a digital world like Second Life there is total freedom. Inside this digital new reality you, or your avatar, can look like, act like, and do whatever you want (which already includes sex and violence, even without total sensual immersion). In a digital world there is no fear of death, since you can always just play again. This creates a form of immortality and freedom so far unavailable in the “real world.”
Is the “real world” all it’s cracked up to be? If it isn’t, or doesn’t become so really soon, I suspect there will be a larger and larger migration into digital ones.

The iPhone-man Cometh

14 Jun

You’ve probably heard that Apple is releasing the iPhone at the end of this month. If you haven’t heard, how’s life under that rock going? You may or may not, though, have seen these commercials for it. One interesting thing about these commercials that I can’t really think of any other commercials for any other products doing is that they show only one thing: the product being used. That’s it. There’s nothing else. No slogan, no humerous anecdote, no sex, no violence, no “special offers” or deals, no nudity, just the iPhone being used. They simply say “this is the product, this is how it does what it does” and that’s it. They have enough confidence in their product that they let it speak for itself. Almost like it’s just an honest ad, and not propaganda. Almost. (As opposed to those other commercials from Apple…)

In any case, the iPhone looks damn cool, and if it had enough storage for all of my music, had already been out “in the wild” for a long enough to be tested and improved, had useful battery life, and was cheaper (or I were richer) I would totally buy one. Totally.