Thursday, 21 August 2008

Lower Than Jabba's Genitals: The Clone Wars

What’s lower than Jabba’s genitals and stinks worse than Binks? Yes, it’s The Clone Wars - and it’s To Be Avoided in a cinema near you.

It was fucking terrible.

To all of us who’re old enough to have seen ‘New Hope’ at the cinema in ’77, the pitiful efforts of Lucas to live up his origins are both desperate and embarrassing. The voice-over intro was an instant let down – and set a mood of increasing disappointment for the rest of the movie.

A predictable narrative underlay a clunky script, both written by a crack team of twelve-year-olds – I was cringing during the ubiquitous fight ‘badinage’ between Kenobi and Ventress.

The caricature of the ‘buddy’ relationship between Anakin and his supposedly-cute Padawan – I would have punched Ahsoka in the face after about five minutes.

With the notable exception of Christopher Lee (what was he doing, involved in that?!) the voice acting was wooden and the ‘relief’ provided by comedy droids miserably conventional. That, at least, had the row of kids behind me giggling.

As for the Hutt baby – words… just fail me.

At any moment, I was half-expecting the screen to flick to game-mode, whereupon I would’ve picked up my controller and joyfully run any one of the main characters to a gruesome death upon the advancing droid tanks.

What fired the shot into the main reactor, though, was the sudden, tacked-on side-plot involving Padme and – I can barely control my shudder – Ziro the Hutt.

It’s been years since I actually walked out of a cinema before the end of a film, but the cliché of the camp and lisping Ziro was enough to drive me from my seat and out into the air, gasping for breath at the depth of the horror. Whoever conceived that character should be executed for crimes against the Star Wars franchise.

I beg you, don’t go and see this film. If you ever loved Star Wars, spend your money on the DVD of Seth Green’s Robot Chicken send-up – a true work of animated genius.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Mangatars: Attack of the Clones?

Like something loosed from your anime collection – they’re cute, they're dangerous, they’re massively viral. You wake up and your screen is flooded with them - they're mangatars and you HAVE to have your own!

In fact, I think this particular twitter virus had about a 48-hour lifespan as it's now fading – but two days ago, my 1300+ twitterstream was a summertime scrolling of bright, happy cartoon faces.

I found it intriguing – both from a personal and from a professional point of view. The moment you see one, you absolutely HAVE to try it for yourself - is that indicative of ‘a bit of fun’... or is our view of ourselves all we're really interested in? Do we look to portray an idealised version of our identity online? And if we do – is the manga/avatar only an icon of how we project ourselves across all platforms?

The personas we present online: are we real?

The questions are rhetorical – I’m sure it’s different for every person. Honesty always shows.

From a professional perspective, however, the marketeer in me knows that nothing catches a customer's attention faster than seeing oneself - in reviews, in top tens, in 'my fave' lists - on line. (It's fame, I tell you - fame!) Amazon have been exploiting this successfully for years. That may give us a hint as to how fast it caught on and how widespread it became - but not why it faded so swiftly.

It was very interesting watch how everyone projected themselves within the restrictions of the canvas – the one- and two-finger salutes were very popular (yet always accompanied by a smile), as were cheery thumbs-ups and a plethora of baseball caps. Choices of background were oddly informative – and more interesting of all were the people who chose not to follow the herd...

In Gibson’s Neuromancer, physical perfection is available to purchase – beauty is commonplace. If we had the option, would we take that extra step and be our mangatar? Would we all choose to look that chocolatebox in real life? Cute, flawless, always happy?

I think we're more human than that.

They faded so swiftly because they were, once the initial thrill was over, all the same. So many people said, 'But it doesn't look like me!' and they were right: however pretty our cartoon selves may be - they're not us. In the words of Tyler Durden, 'You are not your fuckin' mangatar!'

We're proud of our individuality. Call me crazy (I prefer ‘quirky’ or eccentric’) but I kind of like people being different.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Star Wars: No Clones Allowed

Picture it.

You’re Palpatine.

You have the Galaxy at your fingertips and the Dark Side curled lovingly about your ankles.

Your robes always billow.

And you have a new Right Hand Man…

Did I say ‘Man’? Maybe ‘Woman’, ‘Jawa’, ‘Droid’ or ‘Besalisk’. Maybe something new – something from the shadowed corners of your imagination or your sister’s list of discarded boyfriends.

Whatever your inspiration, this is your chance to design your very own Lord of the Sith – something to strike terror into the Rebel Scum and inspire generations of toy manufacturers to reproduce its likeness. Follow the link here and find out how to submit your design to Palpatine Himself and beat the impostors to win some serious Star Wars schwag.

And why am I blogging this? No, this is nothing to do with a certain Planet the Death Star hasn’t quite got around to blowing up yet. I’ve been asked by the Emperor to sit on a panel of judges and pick the hottest designs for the New Dark Lord.

No Clones Allowed – it’s time to break the mould!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A Very Long Dark Knight

All right, I’m just going to say it – I wasn’t wild about Dark Knight.

Don’t let me wrong, parts of it were superb. Strong imagery supported powerful themes; the entwinement of Bats and Joker, the order/restriction/heroism interplay with chaos/freedom/passion, twisting thoughout the film – iconised by the (sadly brief) addition of the much under-used Two-Face. A smartly self-referential narrative rather skilfully veered away from several classic genre clichés (the girl died – yay!) and the array of gadgetry was strongly visual, yet wasn’t over-used – and managed to keep its cool.

Sub-plot points for the realisation that the all-powerful Bruce can’t achieve this stuff alone. Any Bat-fan knows the brains belong to Alfred and Fox added a level of technical support worthy of Bond’s Q – extra bonus for the ultimate sonar gadget. Plus the young Commissioner Gordon kicking bad guy butt with a ‘Pow’!’ and a ‘Zap!’ – if this can be echoed by an equally potent whiskey-swilling Chief O’Hara in the follow-up, I may just change my mind about the whole thing.


Faced by the awesome curtain performance of Ledger, flanked by Caine and Freeman, Christian gets bunged in with the lions – and doesn’t stand a chance. Out of armour, he’s outclassed – but add the appalling and predictable ‘gravelly rasp’ and the Joke really is on him. It didn’t quite ruin the film – but it did undermine Bats’ credibility and make me wonder if Brucey hadn’t made his trust fund providing new soundtracks for bad 70s porn.

Which brings me to the point.

There is such a thing as a climax that goes on for too fucking long. Another explosion, another confrontation, another hostage situation, another wave of tension-and-release… that’s enough. Faced with yet one more end-of-level showdown, I’m drained and no longer seeing the funny side.

Two-Face, though iconic – was wasted. The realisation of the character was thrown away, lost in a rising tide of detonation. The smashing of the Bat-symbol was a childhood memory over-turned – and, by that point, long over-due. When something that powerful and reminiscent is lost under a bad case of auditorium-wide fidgets..? Looks like everyone’s about climaxed out.

Why so serious? Because there are some Knights that just never seem to end.