Friday, June 24, 2005

Revenge of the Sith (Redux)

Once upon a time, a man made a horror movie. A lot of people thought it was the most frightening horror movie they had ever seen. It involved the most frightening monster in the world. One of the clever things about the movie is that you never actually saw the frightening monster: you just saw glimpses of it, shadows, the damage that it had done, and occasionally just a tiny glimpse of a claw or fang or tentacle.
Everyone who saw the film imagined that the monster was the thing that they were most frightened of. The movie cleverly called up the worst fears of everyone who saw it, and everyone left the cinema thinking they had seen the most frightening movie ever.
Over the years, a lot of people who had been scared of the movie started forming internet discussion groups. And one of the things that they did was try to work out what the Most Frightening Monster in the World really looked like. They watched the films and its sequels over and over, and spotted tiny points and details. ("It must be snake" said Sid, "because in Episode III, Dick Barton says the victim is poisoned. ""Not necessarily" said Peter "It could be a giant venomous spider.") But there was no "right answer" to the question: the Most Frightening Monster In The World didn't really look like anything, because it never appeared on the screen. The Director had just dropped hints, and left the fans imagination to do the work. (Indeed, the Director said, many times, that he himself didn't know what The Most Frightening Monster in the World really looked like.)
Then, one day, someone offered the director an awful lot of money to make just one more film, and he announced that, in the final moments of the film, he would finally show what the Most Frightening Monster in the World looked like.
And, when the film came out, everyone admitted thatthe it was a very good special effect, and very, very frightening. But it was no longer the Most Frightening Monster in the World. Sid, who was scared of snakes, had imagined that the monster was a snake; Peter, who was scared of spiders, and imagined that the monster was a spider. And it turned out to be neither of those things.
The fans carried on talking about the new film in the internet chat rooms. And some of them liked the CGI version of the World's Most Frightening Monster, and some of them didn't. And some of them pointed out that the CGI Special Effect Monster wasn't really very consistent with the monster that had appeared in all the old films, e.g in Episode II, the monster had very definitely had red blood, but the blood of the CGI Special Effect Monster was green. Some of them came up with theories to explain this; wondering if perhaps the monster had blood that changed colours depending on who it had last eaten. (Some fans started to call the series "The Monster With Two Coloured Blood")
A lot of younger fans saw the CGI Special Effects monster first. And then they went back and watched the old films. And they didn't see The Most Frightening Monster In the World. When they saw a claw, or a shadow, or a horribly mutilated body, they imagined that the claw or the shadow belonged to the CGI Special Effects Monster from the new film. Which was Very, Very Frightening, but not The Most Frightening Monster in the World.
The younger fans couldn't understand why the older fans thought the old films were so frightening. The older fans thought that CGI monster had spoiled the films for the younger fans. When they heard that the director was going to produce New Improved Editions of the old films, with the shadows taken out and footage of the CGI Special Effects Monster put in, they did not bother to go and see them.
And the director sold lots of action figures to the younger fans and lived happily ever after.
The end.

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin' it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do." -- Woody Guthrie

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  1. Some of them came up with theories to explain this; wondering if perhaps the monster had blood that changed colours depending on who it had last eaten. (Some fans started to call the series "The Monster With Two Coloured Blood")

    Other fans point out that the CGI people just probably couldn't be arsed to keep the colour of the blood consistent. The first set of fans immediately deride these people for being, variously, uncreative, anti-intellectual, and solipsistic.

  2. Having read Mr. Rilstone's previous essays on the subject of Star Wars, I think that "The prequels should have been left unmade" is probably the wisest (and least inflammatory) criticism that anyone could make. The various flamewars on RPGnet show that criticism of any specific aspect of the prequels is bound to draw someone's ire, with the discussion following one of two trajectories:
    1 - A debate concerning the theories of Aesthetics, Knowledge, and Existence, eventually degenerating into name-calling and condescension;
    2 - A debate over artistic rights, eventually degenerating into name-calling, condescension, and Lucas-bashing.

    To prompt such furious almost-Talmudic discussions, it's clear that the new films, to some extent, don't work as precursors to the original trilogy (whether they work as films on their own is a different discussion). Of course, no amount of analysis and argument will make the prequels go away or bring back the unaltered original trilogy. Given the level of emotion involved, I doubt we'll ever see a neutral fan-appraisal of the series. Maybe the real problem is that so many of the original fans now have University educations and like to bash each other over the head with them.

  3. Bored already.

    So what did you think of Doctor Who?

  4. Bored already.

    So what did you think of Doctor Who?

    I don't think it was ever as good after Susan left.

  5. But you gotta love Woody Guthrie.

    (I am not seeing Revenge. Didn't see Clones. I did see the first prequel, but it made so little impression that I can't even remember its name...)

  6. One of my acquaintances was given to complaining that Doctor Who was never as good after that policeman bloke left...

  7. I read that discussion.

    You should warn people before linking to stuff like that.

    Invoking Stockholm Syndrome? By 'eck.

  8. Re the C of E Star Wars service you linked to (wot, no Comments box?): the Episcopalians have beaten them to this by several years, apparently, with their "Star Wars Liturgy", which includes the line "...At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home..."

    (Actually, that really should more aptly be named the "Arthur C Clarke Liturgy", but who's quibbling...)

  9. Good point, although somehow I enjoyed your discussions of the changes and inconsistencies of Star Wars as a whole better.

    At the same time, who knows what will happen with Star Wars. Arthur is still a legendary and mythically resonating figure, despite the fact that the entire backstory itself has been told and retold in massive detail. And the Special Editions aren't that different from the originals (I actually prefer to watch them merely because they're my only access to the widescreen beauty of the originals.)

    Personally, I enjoy the originals as much as ever, I enjoy parts of Episode II greatly (and other parts are wonderful MST3K fare), and I really enjoy most of Episode III, where I find much of the mythic resonance from the original trilogy.