Bubba Fett was a Little B*tch

April 13th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Or: Why Star Wars should have been left in the 70’s

Yes, I know the second two came out in the early 80’s.  But the early 80’s were still the 70’s.  Just like the early 70’s were still the 60’s.  And, Yes, I do know his name is Boba Fett.  If you have a problem with me purposely mis-spelling a Star Wars character name, then I would advise you to stop reading right about now.

So, to begin with, until I redifine it as otherwise, when I say “Star Wars” I am referring to the original trilogy: A New Hope (’77), The Empire Strikes Back (’80), and Return of the Jedi (’83). And I am referring to the cuts that I am familiar with, which is to say, VHS tapes in the late 80’s.  Han shot first, and you can see a little bit through the speeder vehicle cockpits with the POV shots on Hoth. 

Boba Fett was a screw-up.  Let’s just get that out in the air right now.  Screw.  Up.  Whether or not he was the pinnacle of his professional competition or not is not the point.  The point is, he sucked ass before he got sucked into the Sarlaac Pit.

Exhibit A:  Out of all of the bounty hunters that ended up on Vader’s ship, Vader picked out him specifically with the “No disintegrations!” line.  Why would he need to tell him that, if the boyo didn’t already have a history of screwing up?  Also, just because they were on Lord Vader’s ship, doesn’t mean those bounty hunters were particularly good.  It just means they showed up.  They were nearby, is all.

Exhibit B:  Fett didn’t even make the catch!  He called it in and let a crapload of stormtroopers make the collar.  He just showed up.  Again.  And his prize got handed to him on ice.

Exhibit C:  Someone shows up near your boss.  They have a deadman’s switch activated on a small nuclear device.  What do you do?  Well, WWBFD?  He would point he gun at them.

That’s right.  Get ready to shoot them.  That’s brilliant.

Exhibit D:  Things to turn your back on while on a small, crowded airship:  Jawas.  Thirteen-year-old girls.  Bitter old ladies.  Things not to turn your back on while on a small, crowded airship:  Former bounties.  Brawls.  MUTHAFUGGIN WOOKIES.

Look.  If there is a brawl, and there is a Wookie involed, you do one of two things: A) be somewhere else, or B) Shoot the Wookie.  It was already established in casual conversation that Wookies are known to pull people’s arms out of their sockets for winning in strategy tabletop games.

Hmmn.  I would pay money to see a Wookie at a Magic: The Gathering tournament.  But I digress.

This leads us directly into Exhibit E: Boba Fett got taken out by a blind dude.  On accident.  Because he was too busy lining up a shot at a target that has already shown that they can deflect blaster bolts.

And so he died.  Or rather, he fell into a pit were he will endure excruciating agony…until he dies.

“But no!” cries out the nerd!  “He escapes!”

Yes, yes he does.  In the Expanded Universe.  Ooooh, sounds fancy.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, EU in this case does not refer to the European Union.  No, its the comics by Dark Horse Comics and the now vast collection of science fiction novels that after many many issues and books released and about a generation’s worth of in-character time still has seen only one of the main cast from the movies die.  Maybe there’s been more by now; I stopped reading when I realized that I didn’t feel any suspense for characters that were licensed and thus not allowed to die.  I was reading authorized fan fiction.

But the nerds picked it up.  Some of it was good, I will give you that.  Some of it was bad.  And among other things, Boba Fett was idealized, and even Idolized.  His back story was expanded.  He became the elite, the cream of the crop, complete with copycats.  He got out of that Sarlaac pit, and retained his bad-ass ways.

And then came the re-releases, Star Wars, back in the theaters!  With a few edits.  Suddenly, Boba Fett is watching while Han and Jabba have a conversation.  [shrug]  That’s fine, whatever.  That doesn’t excuse his sheer incompetence in the rest of the films.

Ah, but I will admit, there is evidence for the Defense:  Out of the five or six bounty hunters that showed up on Vader’s ship, only one figured on watching for an obscure trick.  Yes, Fett predicted Solo’s move.  Yes, he tracked them to Cloud City.  I will give his supporters that one.

But that’s it.  That, and cool armor does not make him worthwhile of the adoration that he received.  Or does it?

You see, part of why this realization hit me so hard, is because I used to be a Fett Fan.  I had a Boba Fett action figure growing up, and he was the bomb.  He took out so many Legos, Transformers, G.I. Joes, if we had an action figure of it, Boba Fett took it out at least once.  We played with that toy til it broke, then we glued it back together and played with it some more.

But one day, years later, I watched Jedi.  And I thought, ‘Whatever happened to my Boba Fett action figure?  He was so cool.’  And about thirty minutes later, I realized that no, no he was not.  He was actually pretty lame, just with cool armor.

But it was okay, because of the novels, and comics.  Boba Fett can be cool again.  There’s back story, fill-in before the movies–

BOOM.  What’s that?  The trailer for the new Star Wars movie?  A double-bladed lightsaber??  GLEE!

Then it came out.  Uh, okay.  Darth Maul, that’s a pro.  Young Anakin, that’s a con.  Midichlorians…that’s an oh dear god, what were you thinking?  And Darth Maul, the only person who looked cooler than the Fett, gets chopped in half for a janitor to sweep up.

This is leading us to my main point:  the new movies was Lucas pandering to the masses.  He gave fanboys what they said they wanted to see.  Or maybe he was only listening to his internal fanboy.  In either case, he forgot that the movies should be good, as movies.  The cheesiness of the originals can be excused because of the limitations of the time.  (Film students and profs are more than welcome to disagree with me, and you may be right.)  Also, because of the grand scope of the story.  That plot out-weighed the dialogue writing and delivery.  I will tear up a little when a Muppet fades away to his death.

But the new movies…no.  Just no.  They suffered from the same problem as the EU, even while contradicting: the point was not to make good movies, but to just expand the existing story.

Let’s go back to my example:  Boba Fett.  Hey, here’s his dad/brother/clone predecessor: Jango Fett.  Jango Fett has…similar armor!  That makes him cool!  And he’s also so good at what he does, we’re going to clone him.  A lot.  Enough to take over the WORLD!  I mean, the UNIVERSE!  At least the part of it that is the REPUBLIC! 

See? That’s how bad-ass Boba Fett is!  He’s so cool, that he’s basically an elite version of the billions of white-clad cannon fodder wandering over the universe! Uhhhh…

Jango was alright, but he couldn’t catch a Jedi.  Especially if they hide their spaceship on something larger and wait for you to go past before floating away.  Need to make a note of that trick, little Boba, a smuggler might try that in twenty years…

Now it’s time to confront the Jedi.  Okay, so my opponent is telekinetic, and can deflect my lasers.  I think I will… fly and shoot at him with two guns!  This will work!

Hey look, there is a LOT of JEDI.  They are decimating the robot army.  SHOOT AT THEM.

Oh, poor sad Boba Fett.  Your father figure (ehhhhh) just got his head lopped off by a Jedi because he didn’t know his own limitations.  You should take the helmet, repaint it, and follow in his footsteps.

Sigh.  The prequel movies couldn’t work.  They would have to be either better, and thus lessen the weight of the original three, or worse, and then suck.  Usually, the latter.  But occasionally the former.

Podrace?  Kinda impressive.  Watching the hoverbike scene on Endor seems to lack now.

Darth Maul lightsaber duel?  Badass!  Yoda?  Badder!  Asthmatic robot with four arms and an unprecedented four lightsabers?  No way!  No, seriously, there’s no way I can take that seriously.  Just, stop.  And Christopher Lee’s best Jedi duel was against Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Regardless, there was some nice combat stunt work in the prequel trilogy.  Which makes Luke vs. Vader in RotJ kinda lame.

Its gotten to the point where there is only two ways to enjoy the original trilogy.  Option A) never watch the prequels and never read any books or comics.  Option B) work yourself into a near-frenzy of nostalgia.

Maybe you don’t have this problem.  Maybe you can watch the originals, or even the prequels for that matter, without cringing in pain.  Maybe you can recapture that suspension of disbelief and just sit back and enjoy the films.  That’s not a crime.  (Unless you appreciate Jar-Jar.  That’s a crime.)

Me?  I go with option B.  If I watch the prequels, I make extreme selective over-use of the fast-forward and mute commands.  And I imagine a remake twenty years down the line (not only will it probably happen, but it will probably happen sooner than that) in which Boba Fett regains his coolness and by proxy redeems the entire franchise…by being played by Bruce Campbell.

One day…

They Called Me Mad!

April 8th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness. — Aristotle

Why does the Mad Scientist archetype persist in modern entertainment? It seems to be a bit old fashioned, and often outdated. What’s the point of writing a character that works by themselves attempting to achieve any kind of technological advancement that in all likelihood would instead be reached first by a team of engineers working with corporate funding?

Several reasons. Imagination. Lack of limits. And, frankly, they are entertaining.

The Mad Scientist thinks the things that no one else thinks. They aren’t constrained by a boss, or or by any limits that they haven’t placed on themselves. And any limit placed upon them by God, Nature, or anything else? Well, that’s merely an obstacle to be overcome!

A Mad Scientist, whether arrayed in literature, movies, or music, enables a creator’s imagination to run wild. And the madness itself is a near-perfect plot hole. Where did that crazy idea come from, what could possibly have motivated them to do what they did?

“I’ll show them! I’ll show the world! Mwaahaahaahahahaaaaaaa!”

The Mad Scientist is exciting, and often times, simultaneously frightening. Who hasn’t felt the urge to cut loose and do something wild and crazy? What held you back? Civilized cultural mores, laws, morals. For whatever reason, you didn’t. And good thing, too. I’m no anarchist; I feel some rules are useful.

But that’s what fiction is for. To reflect pieces of ourselves that we can identify with, without our needing to act upon it. We don’t need reality, with its dark gritty edges. There’s enough of that around in our lives. We want the wild and crazy when we escape. We want to laugh maniacally, to throw the switch and consequences be damned!

The Mad Scientist allows us to see different worlds, or sometimes the same world with a skewed angle. I want to watch a movie about a teenager that rolls around on his skateboard and aspires to play guitar, but can’t identify with his humdrum parents. Wait. No, I don’t. What I want is to see Christopher Lloyd convince him to drive a silver DeLorean DMC-12 at precisely 88 miles per hour and thus be catapulted 30 years into the past!

Who wants to watch a man mope about, distraught over his lost love, who died in childbirth giving birth to his rival’s son? Not this guy. Who wants to see Rotwang make a robot based on his lost love, then make it emulate the grown child’s love, so as to destroy the rival’s plans? Well, anyone who hasn’t seen the restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, needs to do so. And right soon.

The Mad Scientist sees things that others can’t, or won’t. Nikola Tesla is considered one of the principle founding figures of modern electrical engineering and inventing. The man was polite, believed in gender-equality and free energy. He also only stayed in hotel rooms with room numbers divisible by three and claimed to have a wild white pigeon as a life-long companion. Tesla has reoccurred in multiple movies and books, because using a real-life Mad Scientist ties the concept into the real world in a definable way.

And seriously, what self-respecting Mad Scientist after the 1930’s does not have a Tesla coil or two in the lab, throwing electricity about willy-nilly?

The Mad Scientist also works as the natural expression of the hubris of man, and is used often as a criticism of post-humanism. Victor von Frankenstein wanted to conquer death, but instead lost his brother, his wife/cousin, his father, his work, and ultimately his life in contest with his twisted creation.

The previously mentioned Rotwang creates a working robot, yet instead of pursuing any form of noble goals, he uses his robot to incite chaos in his city. In his mad quest for revenge, he eventually falls to his death. Rotwang’s appearance sparked the classic visual for the Mad Scientist, with his lab coat, crazy hair, and big rubber gloves.

Kimiko “Thunderbolt” Ross from the webcomic Dresden Codak could simultaneously represent both complement and criticism to post-humanism. An expert in robotics and time travel with an obsession for the Singularity, Ross’s efforts at one point nearly end the world. While it is revealed later that the event in question would improve life rather than end it, that wasn’t known to Ross at the time. While she initially claims to not care about the death of humanity, she nevertheless nearly dies saving her friends.

The Mad Scientist can serve as a warning: mucking about with science, regardless of motive, often leads to tragedy! Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Moreau, and many others try to improve humanity, but shortcuts often lead to suffering and cinematic violence. Dr. Horrible only wants to be in the Evil League of Evil, yet his freeze-ray only leads to heartbreak.

In short, whether hero or villain, the Mad Scientist is a highly enjoyable archetype that needs to continue to be employed so that we, the viewing public, can have our lust for entertainment slaked and possibly our imagination fueled. Anything is possible.

Radioactive Panda: