Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lizards, Samurai, and Doctors

I saw this fellow on my way to the store to-day among many other busy lizards running to and fro. That's one of my favourite things about spring.

When I got to Wal-Mart, I saw that their Star Wars toy selection had been reduced to two columns of figure racks and all the figures looked to be Amidala's pilot from Episode I and specialised battle droids. Clear leftovers, basically. It looks like Disney's gotten serious in weeding out the prequel related things.

There's no question in my mind the first two prequels are vastly inferior to the original trilogy, but I can't help feeling a bit sad for the kids who grew up with them. The prequel stuff is popular enough that, I guess, as unlikely as it seems, there were lots of kids who imprinted on Anakin in Episode I.

I heard recently, too, that the final season of Clone Wars is being cut short without resolving storylines of important characters, which is sad as well as frustrating--I'm almost finished watching the second season and I've already seen episodes better than Episode I or II (that was an unexpectedly awkward sentence). Yesterday I watched the second season episode "Bounty Hunters", a kind of nice, kind of disappointing homage to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

Of course, I wouldn't expect the homage to be as good as the original movie, but there were a lot of puzzling decisions made. In attempting to cram a four hour story into less than twenty five minutes, it's natural one will run into some problems with pacing and focus. Why they decided to include a three or four minute introduction showing how Anakin, Ahsoka, and Obi-Wan crash landed on the planet where the village is located, I don't know. It's something that could have been easily dispensed with in dialogue, leaving more time for the audience to know the villagers and the four mercenaries who, with the Jedi, make up the seven defenders. Concepts from the movie are introduced and never developed, while others are shown without being introduced, meaning if you don't know the movie you might feel a little lost. There's business about the wisdom of training the villagers to fight, but we never see how this pays off. Obi-Wan goes over a map of the village in deciding where to defend it, then we see an energy shield turned on to protect the village without showing when or how they built it.

There's no Kikuchiyo character, his roles in the plot are divided between Anakin and one of the bounty hunters, a tiny insecure alien in big battle armour. The absence of a Kikuchiyo, who's volatile, vicious, and pathetic, demonstrates how important his character was to the whole thematic point of the movie. It would also have been nice to see Ahsoka have a romance with a brash village boy, too, since she seems to be the Katsushiro character.

They might have fixed a lot by stretching the story over several episodes, as they did with the lame Godzilla homage that follows the Seven Samurai episode.

A better Kurosawa homage actually came a few episodes earlier, a Drew Z. Greenberg written episode called "Lightsabre Lost", apparently a modelled on Kurosawa's noir Stray Dog. Instead of Toshiro Mifune losing his gun, Ahsoka loses her lightsabre. The story doesn't adhere so closely to Stray Dog, but the fundamental feeling of guilt the protagonist has from allowing her dangerous weapon to fall into criminal hands translates much better into the twenty two minute format.

Speaking of nostalgia, I really think Steven Moffat is trolling us at this point. At io9 to-day, I saw this quote from him about the upcoming Doctor Who 50th anniversary special;

You always want to make it special and huge and big. One of the things that I'm concerned about this year is that the show must be seen to be going forward. It's all about the next 50 years, not about the last 50 years. If you start thinking it's all about nostalgia then you're finished. It's about moving forward. The Doctor is moving forward, as he always does. He wants to solve the mystery of Clara. He's not thinking about all his previous incarnations and all his previous adventures. He's thinking about the future. That, for me, is important. The show must never feel old. It must always feel brand new, and a 50th anniversary can play against that.

Were you worried about nostalgia when you showed all the past Doctors' faces in "The 11th Hour"? When you introduced Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's daughter? When you constantly had characters saying, "Doctor Who?" Unless I'm very much underestimating Moffat, I would take the statement "He's not thinking about all his previous incarnations and all his previous adventures" as basically being code for "All his previous incarnations are going to play a major role in this episode." The statement is just too ridiculous to take as anything but its exact opposite.

Twitter Sonnet #491

Grey noodle ears protrude from green gingham,
Signalling dreams to pink knobs on tilted
Red doors, ochre in eyelash shadow dam;
Serpents ascend the tree 'til exhausted.
Leftover bowlers lurk in gas lamp weights,
Pinning cobblestone scales to the big snake.
Whirlpools spread clues while Doctor Sax checkmates
Manfred with edible rooks the pies bake.
The ice sculpture radiator scratches
Vinyl ether, popping the free tulip,
Robbing cathedrals of grey grass patches
And the delicate dust plaza polyp.
Moving shards that shimmer blue green grow hot
As they invade red veins of eyes bloodshot.

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