Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sidekicks

I remember the old Batman TV show, with the two-word theme song, monologuing villains, and visual onomatopoeia in the fight scenes. It was awesome. One of the awesome things about it was that Robin was the epitome of a good sidekick. If you’re a hero, here’s what you want your sidekick to be like:

  • Unfalteringly loyal
  • Competent enough that you don’t have to worry about protecting him/her
  • Not quite as skilled as you are (but skilled enough to rescue you if necessary)

Tales (Miles Prower) in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is another good sidekick.

Some fictional stories feature sidekicks who clearly violate these priorities. Like all the newer Batman stuff. Robin is depicted as this whiny kid who resents Batman’s superiority. Who wants a sidekick like that? If you’re so great, go spend your own money and get your own experience.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Movies with Disproportionately Good Music

It’s kind of interesting how some movies have music that’s way more memorable than the movie itself is. In some cases, I think people have this visceral notion that the movie was good, when really it just had a stirring theme song. Here are a few movies I think aren’t nearly as good as the music in them.

  • Back to the Future
  • Superman – none of the movies had very catchy plots, but the music pretty much defines superheroness
  • Star Wars – not that I don’t like Star Wars, but in some ways it wins because it’s classic rather than because it’s flawless. And of course this goes double for the newer movies.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – it’s impressive enough that a movie about undead pirates could be good. But I really think the music is a big part of what makes you want to keep watching it. 
  • Jurassic Park – revolutionary animatronic dinosaurs notwithstanding, this was not that great a movie. The music does more justice to the dinosaurs than the plot does.
  • Mission: Impossible

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Short Rant about Book Order

This should be blatantly obvious, but apparently it’s not, so I’m going to say it: Books in a series should be listed and read in the order they were written, not necessarily in order of the events in the series. In particular I’m talking about The Chronicles of Narnia. The fifth and sixth books in the series are flashbacks, but modern publications of the series number them as books 1 and 3. This is totally stupid, and not just because the author clearly intended them to be read after the first four books (although that’s a good reason too). The main problem is that the first four books have some continuity of character development, and they’re just plain better. They get you interested in the series and make you feel invested enough to want to read the later books, which are a bit quirkier. Reading The Magician’s Nephew first would be a bit like (I cringe at the thought) reading First King of Shannara before any of the other Shannara books. And while The Horse and His Boy happens between the first two books, it doesn’t include any of the main characters of those books, so reading it in-between breaks up the character development. I’m pretty sure kids are smart enough to understand that a book they’re reading happened before a book they’re read before.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bad Extended Scenes in The Return of the King

[spoiler alert on the movies and the books]

I love the Lord of the Rings movies. The books are amazing because the author poured his whole life into them, and the movies are amazing because they’re based on the books, and because the people who made them were similarly obsessive about making them awesome. As the movies came out, I couldn’t wait for the extended editions – and yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve watched all of the bonus content, which is longer than the movies.

However, there are a couple of scenes in the extended version that drive me nuts, mainly in the last movie:

1. The part where the Witch King breaks Gandalf’s staff and almost kills him, but then gets distracted by the arrival of the Rohirrim. Come on. Gandalf could easily beat the Witch King. Here are a few reasons we know this:

  1. Gandalf is one of the Maiar. For those (trillions) who haven’t read the Silmarillion, the Maiar are minor (semi-)immortal beings who helped the Valar to create the world. Sauron, Saruman, and the Balrog are also Maiar. In contrast, the Witch King is just a mortal man with one of the Seven Rings, which brings us to the next point:
  2. Whereas the Witch king holds one Ring of seven, Gandalf holds one of the Three Rings originally given to the Elves – specifically Narya, the Ring of Fire. So the Witch King’s ring would not have given him an advantage over Gandalf.
  3. In the book, Gandalf had already defeated multiple Nazgul on Weathertop. (Maybe in the movie too; I can’t remember.) And remember that Aragorn was able to drive them off, even in the movie. Gandalf was definitely more powerful than Aragorn.
  4. In the book, the Witch king steps through the broken gate of Minas Tirith, sees Gandalf facing him, and retreats.
  5. Gandalf tells Frodo that he (Gandalf) is the most dangerous person he will ever meet unless he comes before the dark throne (referring to Sauron). And Frodo did meet the Witch King on Weathertop, as previously mentioned.

So that was just bunk.

2. The part where the Mouth of Sauron comes out of the Black Gate. Specifically, the fact that (in the movie) Aragorn comes to talk to him under a truce, then beheads him after he claims that Frodo is dead. Aragorn would totally not behead a defenseless guy, no matter who he worked for or what he said.

3. This wasn’t in the last movie, but it also bugged me that Sam wasn’t jazzed about his gift from Galadriel. In the movie it was Elven rope, which in the book they just got as part of their supplies, and Sam thought it was awesome. In the book, Galadriel gives Sam some dirt or dust or something that he later uses to heal the Shire from the damage done by Saruman’s invasion. Understandably, they left that out of the movie, but it doesn’t go with Sam’s character for him to think little of something made by the Elves or given him by Galadriel.