‘Cause this is Thriller, Thriller night… and nothing’s going to save you from the tedium

About fifteen minutes in, my resolve started to wane. For moral support, I went to the supermarket and purchased Mountain Dew. It helped.

I can’t think of anything I just saw that wasn’t bad. Even the Twi’leks — the single most awesome race in the SW galaxy (far, far away) — were crudtacular.

But the dialogue — o Iesu, the dialogue.

Not a single word made the slightest bit of sense and, as if to flaunt the fact that nothing’s making any sense, everything gets repeated about twenty times. It’s almost as if the writers knew that the audience was going to doze off and so would need constant reminding of what was going on. I swear I saw the same piece of dialogue between Dooku and Ventress five times (I get the impression that they’ll need to discuss her failures…).

But the problems are a little bit deeper than merely that.

Action scenes are awesome when there’s a good chance somebody you like is going to snuff it. There’s an element of risk to the characters: they might not be 100% successful. When your characters are basically immortal — SPOILERS: Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader, who doesn’t die until Return of the Jedi, and Obi Wan Kenobi ends up living on Tatooine under the cunningly cunning alias ‘Ben Kenobi’ before being killed on the first Death Star by Darth Vader née ‘Anakin Skywalker’ in A New Hope — you can’t rely on putting them in potentially fatal situations for drama.

But that’s basically all they do. Indeed, they jump from potentially fatal situation to potentially fatal situation with very little plot to sustain the jumps.

The way out of this problem is to have interesting characters, baffling mysteries, and unpredictable plot twists. Instead, we get Anakin Skywalker (the single most boring character in the Star Wars universe: ‘Whine, whine, whine. Sand people killed my mum. I need to prove how awesome I am all of the time.’), Obi Wan Kenobi (git), Ahsoka (the only non-immortal, but death (alas, alas) never claims her), and an unending supply of very, very mortal clones (who frequently die on mass to the sound of my chuckles).

Speaking of those clones, they seem to be more successful when they’re stupidly outnumbered. The kill-rate exponentially increases as the ratio enemies:clones increases. No joke, they get slaughtered en masse when they think they’re going to get backup, but transform into killing machines of superhuman luck when they think nobody’s coming to help them.

Thus, unless you’re gung-ho on watching the television series (which I am) don’t bother with the ‘movie’. It will make you want to Force choke everybody involved.

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So if you’re lonely, you know I’m here waiting for you… with a copy of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The first Star Wars film I saw was Return of the Jedi. I was seven and, as far as I was concerned, it was a story about R2D2 and Ewoks.

Both Star Wars and I have come a long way since then. The Expanded Universe has, indeed, expanded (to include creatures impervious to the Force… oooooooooh…). The Expanded Universe came full circle, informing the development of the Star Wars prequels (if you can think of a bit which didn’t suck in 1,2, or 3, you’re probably thinking of something which came from the Expanded Universe. You’re also probably thinking of Aalya Secura. Thank you, Expanded Universe. It would have been nicer if the movies hadn’t killed her off but, alas, these things happen in a set of films which also included the travesty known as Jar Jar Binks).

And now we have CGI movie-ettes: Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

If I understand the story behind this, it was supposed to be a television series from the start but somebody looked at the first three episodes or something and thought: ‘Egads! This would make an excellent feature-length film if you just edit them such that there are no credits or title sequences between them!’

Thus, we get the ‘movie’ Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the television series which followed it of the same name. The television series did play in Australia, but you would be forgiven for missing it given that it only screened at noon on Sunday on Ten. Graveyard shift would have been kinder, but Ten were too busy abusing Flight of the Conchord for that (it was banished to SBS in the end).

((Speaking of sci-fi on Ten, has anybody heard what’s up with Smallville? Admittedly, I haven’t watched anything beyond the middle of season five (I think) but that’s mostly due to never knowing when (or if) it’s on telebox.))

I kid you not. I’ve tried six times to watch SW:TCW (I’m only talking about the movie unless otherwise indicated).

Here’s what happens:

1. Title credits.

2. Silly voice stating the backstory as quickly as he can.

3. Emperor Palpatine starts talking about Jabba the Hutt and then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

4. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

My eyes glaze over and I try very hard to stay engaged, but it’s as if Lucas has some sort of Jedi mind trick working through the film: ‘This is not the plot you’re after.’

But not tonight. Oh, no. Tonight, I’m going to try very, very hard to sit the whole way through it and then tell you if it’s worth watching. I’m just that nice.

Pick up the receiver, I’ll make you a believer… in the lesson of Pokémon

Fact: movies based on video games tend to suck.

Fact: video games based on movies are either really good or really bad. There are no merely mediocre video games based on movies. You never say ‘Meh’ to a game based on a movie (for extra credit, Google the video game based on E.T.).

It’s a tough life being a video game. Unless you’ve got a huge, pop-culture gimmick (Guitar Hero, Singstar, &c.), the only people who are going to play you are people who obsessively complain about everything. Case in point: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It was a beautiful game. It was absolutely stunning. The story was interesting. The puzzles were fun. The music was divine. Evil Zelda and Midna at the end of the game were super hot.

(Anybody who complains about spoilers there can go to hell. If you haven’t finished the game, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you worry about knowing the ending — as if the amazing twist was somehow the only thing worthwhile in that game — then you should be doubly ashamed of yourself)

But what did people complain about? 1. Not enough like Ocarina. 2. Too much like Ocarina.

Seriously. Seriously.

These nutbags would have rocked up to Seneca’s Medea and then simultaneously complained that it wasn’t enough like Euripides’ version (‘Boohoo, it’s in Latin and not in Greek.) and that it was too much like Euripides’ version (‘Boohoo. It’s already been done. Give us something fresh like… y’know… Plautus‘). Jerks don’t know what they’re talking about.

So basically, you’re doomed if you’re a video game. Gamers don’t seem to realise this yet and that — just maybe — game designers might figure that, given the choice between making the Platonic Ideal of Video Game (which would be ridiculously criticised for both X and not-X) and spending half a day making yet another game about playing a musical instrument (which would be a best seller and requires absolutely no effort), wouldn’t even wait for the thinking music. Why put up with gamers?

So if there’s a popular movie with broad appeal, they might as well make a game to bask in its reflected glory. Why not? You don’t have to pay for advertising — the film’s already done it for you.

Which is odd. A movie is more expensive than a video game so you’d think that companies would mitigate the risk of flop films by letting video games test the waters first. A flop video game does less damage than a flop movie.

Eager to capitalise upon (/vampirise) anything popular, a really successful video game might make the jump to the cinema. I’m having difficulty thinking of any that were good.

Nope. Nothing. Final Fantasy, maybe.

Thinking of awful films is a toddle. Super Mario Bros., complete with its Roxette soundtrack, seems forever burned in my memory. Not the actual film, mind. I don’t remember much about it (except something about interdimensional dinosaurs) but the feeling of utter revulsion seems to spring from the mere words ‘Super Mario Bros. Film’.

Resident Evil fits into a similar category as does Street Fighter (oh God… Kylie Minogue acting…). I haven’t even bothered to pirate D.O.A. despite Sarah Carter weilding a sword in it.

The Tomb Raider films do not count, because — despite sucking — they were never going to be flops on account of the casting. Angelina Jolie mostly naked except for a bit of gold paint is the only reason Beowulf didn’t sink without a trace (‘I will kill your Monstarr’ seemed more like a line from SilverHawks than Anglo-Saxon poetry).

Despite two decades of flops with movies based on video games, they seem to do okay in Japan. While it is readily recognised that Japan is the home of all known perversion, there are a myriad of successful VG-movie franchises. Pokémon (the accent makes it high art), for example, seems to be still churning out movies which make profits (but only in Japan — straight to DVD here, along with all the Disney sequels, prequels, and Ultimate Universe imprints).

Instead of trying to recreate a video game in movie format, they take what’s fun about the game and build a movie around it. The Pokémon games are fun because the bright lights and nonsensical creatures magically bypass your critical thinking faculties; the movies — or, at least, the two that I’ve seen — do the same thing while ignoring the level grinding which makes up 99.99% of each game.

The Mario movie ignored the source material, Resident Evil tried to create a movie out of cut scenes, and Street Fighter had Kylie Minogue trying to act in it.

I never thought I’d miss you as much as I do… but the Princess is in another castle

New Mario tomorrow (‘ニュー・スーパーマリオブラザーズ Wii’).

And it is going to rock.

I miss the good old days of platformer Mario. Back when men were men, women were women, war was peace, and work made free, Mario was the cheap mindless platform game that you could pick up and play again and again and again and again… Okay, maybe not Super Mario Bros. 2 — but, in fairness, it didn’t start life as a Mario game — but the other three (SMB, SMB-Lost Levels, and SMB3) were classic fun.

Enter Super Mario 64. Sure, it’s fun for the first half hour or so, but have you tried to slog it out any time over the past decade? You clock through to the basement of the palace and get so overcome with lethargy and apathy that you can’t even be bothered to set Mario on fire, let alone chase that accursed bunny around.

And it’s more of the same with most of the other Mario games since then. Super Mario Sunshine? Pfft. Super Mario Galaxy? Pfffffffft (though SMG2 looks pretty darn sweet). And then we have the myriad of Mario-and-Bowser-are-friends games (how many Mario Party games did we really need?).

New Super Mario Bros. on the DS a few years ago seemed to revive the world of platform Mario. Sure, the controls were clunky (touch screen for powerups while button-mashing to jump? Screw you, Nintendo) but at least we were all back in the 2-D world we know and love.

And there were mushrooms…

Tomorrow, we return once again to the wonderful world of what Super Mario has always done best: simple, fun, and childish games. Hooray.

We built this city on rock and roll, but not television broadcasting

Mein Gott, I love my TiVo.

Back in the good old days of university, I was allowed to be an insomniac. It practically gave me an edge over the rest of you normal people who sleep. While you were snoozing away dreaming pleasant dreams, I was reading about mereological systems to replace set theory and why Carthage should be destroyed.

The other advantage was cult television. Egads, there was some terrible (but terribly fun) television on at ungodly o’clock. It was the lurking ground for poorly scripted SciFi — oh, and horrible (… no, just horrible) pr0n adverts. Sure, it was almost impossible to schedule your viewing pleasure because television stations got a bit lax in the wee hours. Farscape, for example, was usually scheduled for 2am. It rarely aired before 3. Not the Nine O’Clock News rather annoyingly cut to an episode of Keeping Up Appearances half way through an episode at 1am.

But now I have a real job. I can’t go for little naps in the afternoon. I can’t fall asleep at 7 and sleep to noon. I can’t do my work at 4 in the morning when I’m maximally productive.

Enter TiVo.

TiVo is like the nerdy, unemployed, insomniac, obsessive compulsive sibling you wish you had. You say: ‘I feel guilty for watching such utter dreck. If only I could watch the dreck when it suits me instead of when it suits the television station.’ And so it tapes it for you. Better yet, it works out all of your guilty little pleasures and tapes things that are sort of like them.

Admittedly, it falls down in this respect quite a lot with me. I watch documentaries and SciFi/Fantasy. TiVo thought that this meant I would like to watch Today Tonight and some weird ABC kids cartoon about a space dog… or something. On the other hand, it taped a lot of Babar without me telling it to. Yay, Babar. Keeping it vaguely right wing with its fables about dictatorial elephants (the symbol of the GOP).

But in this brave new world of multi-channel digital broadcasting, most of those cult shows are finding new homes in the waking hours. Stargate Atlantis (the show which finally shrugged off the ‘Americaaaaaaaaans iiiiiiiiiiin Spaaaaaaaaaace’ theme of Stargate: SG1) is screening on the brand spanking new 7TWO. 7TWO will also be home to Count Duckula and Dangermouse.

Or, at least, 7TWO would be airing these wonderful, high quality, and not-at-all-B-grade television programmes if they could be bothered to broadcast in Canberra. Yup, it’s the nation’s capital when it comes to politics, pr0n, and phireworks, but when it comes to getting the same sort of television as we get in Sydney or Melbourne… nope. For some batshit reason, Canberra is a ‘regional’ area. What cheek. We get fewer senators than the rest of Australia. We get less public transport than the rest of Australia. We have no foreign language bookshops. And how we miss out on B-grade science fiction.

So, yes. While the rest of Australia will be enjoying repeats of nobody’s favourite shows, Canberra will have to wait until January of next year.

Hello, World. Hear the song that I’m singing.

After reading the excellent prose of Messrs Gabe (http://writeronwriter.wordpress.com) and H-Bomb (http://fourpointplay.weebly.com), I became enthused. Though I knew myself inadequate to match them in eloquence or content, I figured that there was no harm in adding my incoherent rambling to the general cacophony of the blogosphere.

Thus, behold mine curious little blog about the various bits of nerdshit that I enjoy: science fiction, comics, musics, philosophies, and maths.

Would that it inspires outraged flamewars and trolling.