Friday, December 18, 2015

The Day the Fandom Died.




Friends of mine have been inquiring as to when and how many times I'll be screening Star Wars VII when it debuts this December in multiplexes across the world. None have actually asked if I actually wanted to see it, essentially assuming I was going to, except one person and that came about due to my hesitation on giving an answer. That answer is no, I don't want to see Episode VII: The Force Awakens. 

Frankly nothing up to this point has stoked my fires and has worked me up into the required fan frenzy needed to throw money and time at the object of said fandom. The trailers have mostly left me cold and that isn't a good sign. And after the "Force Friday" merchandise nonsense ended I have a great opportunity to check out the goods as that might clue in more about the film which might pique my interests.

When I stopped by my local Target to do some basic needs shopping and decided to walk past the toys and seasonal garbage section to check out the Star Wars goods. I spent close to thirty minutes going up and down the aisles, checking out every bit of product, and then I reached a point where I was standing in front of the LEGO displays for J.J.'s space opera odyssey where I said something out loud that took me by surprise.

"....I don't want any of this." 

It wasn't spoken in a loud or condescending manner but one of quiet disappointment. If you saw my face when I spoke those words it may have looked like I lost my best friend; a defining part of who I was that up and left. This was the realization of something coming for a long time: I don't need Star Wars any longer. 

I have my memories of the original films and those have had a lovely rose colored gloss that has lasted for years yet as I have aged and become more critical of the media I consume as well as how I spend my time I become thankful that I watched Lucas' original films as a child because if I went in today I'm certain I wouldn't have devoted so much energy to this brand.  And this isn't anything sudden because when I look back and really think about it all of the signs were present in the Kubler-Ross model for coming to terms with an emotional experience. 

Denial appears early and for me that came about during the prequel films which released back in the late 1990's/early 2000's. This was especially true with The Phantom Menace. I kept denying how terrible the movie really was, denying the possiblity that the other films to follow would be equally as bad because George was just getting his movie making legs back with this one so it could be a dog in the manger, and outright denying that I was no longer the target audience for this series; I will return to that later.

Anger manifested a few months after Phantom Menace left the theaters as I had time to digest just what I watched and realized just how bad it was. Not only that but while being caught up in the fandom I went multiple times, gleefully I might add, while also spending my hard earned money on the relevant merchandise on something that I actually hated. I felt bamboozled and, more importantly, wasted my time with this which really made me angry. I also was angry when it was even more painfully obvious that this was and will always be a kids film and the brand didn't mature with its original audiences. I was angry that I didn't get something more developed and evolved but was given 2+ hours of Jar Jar and Jake Lloyd delivering such Shakespearean lines like "Woo-hooo!". 

Bargaining hit right around the release of Attack of the Clones with the "if/then" deals I made with myself to justify keeping up with brand such as "If the movie gets ok reviews then I'll check it out a few weeks after release" and "If the movie is ok then I'll consider checking out the toy lines, etc." It wasn't good and I didn't follow through with the second statement. Anger and denial reared back up as well during this phase too. Bargaining also creeped in regarding making silent deals internally as to what merchandise I would consume from the brand to keep up so to speak. My fanboy "drug" of choice was Star Wars branded LEGO model kits; eventually I realized I just enjoyed putting together LEGO and I didn't need the Star Wars branded ones for that amusement.

Depression crept in post prequel trilogy and well before Disney got its white gloved talons into it. Lucas was doing jack shit with his brand except re-release after re-release of the films in various formats, games that were on the horizon were promoted then cancelled, and nothing new was coming out except TV shows such as The Clone Wars but that was aimed again at 1) children and 2) it was set during that prequel era which was horrible. My object of fandom was falling by the wayside in a very slow, methodical march; I was feeling left out of the thing that I adored. I was no longer feeling included for wanting more out of this brand and it really bummed me out that others my age could still find that same bliss which has now escaped me. Anger creeps in here to as I began to resent others for their fandom which is an interesting concept; I was pissed off and jealous that I didn't have another's level of obsession. 

Finally Acceptance happened in that toy aisle in Target where I admitted that I didn't want Star Wars any more.  More specifically I admitted that I wasn't a child any longer and this brand didn't grow as I did which then lost its value to me and my resources (time, money, etc). I have to say just because I reached this stage does not mean I'm content. In all honesty anger emerged again because of this revelation yet I will move forward and leave this in my past. Interestingly these stages do not fall in a strict pattern and will bounce around depending on the level of the emotional investment towards the object in question. In a bizarre twist when I look back at this process it feels like it is part of a maturation ritual for the mass produced age. There is a journey involved where on an emotional level I am questing towards adulthood and in the process I must kill my childhood to move forward. The destruction of my fandom of a product that is for children is just another step on the path I am on which has taken years.

So while I am fine with not watching the film it didn't stop me from acting cheeky and doling out faux spoilers to the movie such as "BB-8 is a DROID!" or "The movie is 2hrs and 15min long!!!" just so I can play around with those on social media I'm friends/friendly with. The most I may ever do involving Star Wars would be playing the table top RPG that a friend of mine runs periodically as it fills that child-less yearning I craved that the main content maker, Disney, will not fully venture into. Past that Star Wars becomes that part of me from a long time ago and that is where it needs to belong.

Side note: when thinking about writing this I went poking around and found an article from 2011 via Slate.com which gives a humorous look at this process that was similar to mine minus watching 150 episodes of Pokemon.

Another side note: Back in 2012 I wrote a post about changes Lucas made regarding Star Wars and I was horribly wrong about it but totally fanboyish.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Review: Ant-Man




Marvel movies have stopped being a must see event for me post Guardians of the Galaxy. To date I have still not watched Avengers 2 as I don't feel I need to watch a retread of the original film regardless of the fact I liked that movie. So what attracted me to seeing Ant-Man? Frankly it was Thomas the Tank Engine. That blurb from the commercials showing the hero battling the villian, Yellow Jacket, shrunk down on top of a toy Thomas evoked actual laughter from my cynical self. But past that I wasn't impressed with the movie from what I've seen so far and written it off as "Yep, it's another Marvel film". 

Choo-choo Mother F*cker!

And that isn't an exaggeration as it feels similar to the other Marvel films. It holds to the similar tropes of the MCU's other flicks within the superhero genre. And, yes, it's time to start examining these types of films, superhero films, as genre films unto themselves; that's a bigger subject for another day. So at the very least I anticipated a fun flick that might have some elements that stick with me after the house lights come back up. Surprisingly Ant-Man is now being inducted into my personal collection once it hits Blu ray. It was a damn fun film; it satisfied my craving for action and the fantastic beyond my original expectations. It also delivered in an area that I wasn't expecting from this heist flick: heart. 

"He kept his gimp suit in a vault?!?"
 
This is an area that is really a hit or miss when it comes to any movie; you can have the greatest actors in the world with the best script written and still feel cold and clinical. Usually these are best picture winners for award ceremonies. Here it feels like this cast and crew felt that even within the Marvel brand they are the underdogs and for that reason threw themselves even more into their roles to make the characters just feel real and welcoming into their niche within the bigger picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ant-Man did this, even after all of the Edgar Wright troubles ended, and kept the initial promise of a heist flick with solid laughs. I was pleasantly surprised when watching this movie just how damn much fun I was having here. And I knew the movie was a success when it can make you feel for ants. Yes, I said ants.

D'awwwwwww.

The traditional pest became heroes in their own right in this film and I found myself thinking of the ants Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) works with as part of the team instead of just cannon fodder. Speaking of Rudd he was apparently born to be a superhero instead of a bumbling comedic actor the whole time. Who knew? He is also a father who is trying to get back into his young daughters life after serving time in prison for burglary. His kid, Cassie, is adorable by the way.


Diabetic coma inducing level cute.

 If I had a daughter like her I would put on a super suit to save the world if it means I get to be in her life again. Yeah it was kind of sappy and soft but Rudd made the exchanges between them just pleasant and moments I looked forward to seeing.

Deal with it.

I also enjoyed Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. The man has been a favorite actor of mine for decades and finally seeing him in a big budget effects flick as a hero was bliss. Evangeline Lilly as the new, film created character, Hope Van Dyne was sold to me as a wild card who's loyalties were unclear. That is bullshit. She is very clear as to her loyalties and she is a force to be reckoned with; I'm certain she will be more prominent in future Marvel films.


Gee...wanna guess who she will end up as?

In fact having Hope is a boon as now the films have an original, strong, female hero to take point. Black Widow was somewhat wasted as a second banana amongst egomaniacs, gods, giants, and war heroes as she faded into the background or was written as soft as perceived by some fans. Hope can cut loose and be a front-line personality easily. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the action in this film some more. I found the innovative use of size and space for the battles refreshing. Yes there is lots of punching bad guys in the face, lots of gun fire too, but fluctuations in size which alter the battlefield made the movie light up in a manner that I'm afraid won't be successfully transmitted via advertisements. 

Ant-Man may not be the biggest grossing film for Marvel but do not discount its ability to make the audience transform into little kids full of awe and wonder with almost as much heart as Guardians of the Galaxy. That comparison alone makes Ant-Man a winner and it won over this jaded prick.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Fundraising and awareness are wonderful things. Through them people become informed about issues that can harm people as well as raise capital to support finding solutions for the aforementioned issues.  Yet with regard to the Ice Bucket Challenge I find a few points that sour the experience and will prevent me from joining in the campaign (but not from donating towards a cure). 

The first point that I have noticed through social media and tv programs that discuss this is a shaming of those that criticize any aspect of this. Seriously. There emerges a gang level mentality of those that are pro this movement (or any popular movement) where the mass erupts in many different ways to defend itself from any and all perceived attacks. An example is one that I watched happen via social media where a person I know was shamed into doing this after previously stating they would not and gave many reasons why.

But I suppose beating down a persons resolve so they can "see the errors of their ways" and become part of the mass once more is all par for the course of being a good person, right? Hell I'm absolutely expecting the shaming, the insults, the attempts to get me to open my mind and reconsider, the attempts to get me to ask forgiveness by participation. 

Good luck with that. 

And the damnedest part is that once a person rejects the course of action of the masses the individual becomes vilified and disliked. In my case I'm used to being the villain; it comes with the territory if being a ginger.

The most pressing point I have about the Ice Bucket Challenge is it wastes a finite resource: fresh water. Yes I know that it's not much per each challenge however that usage just keeps adding to the already wasteful treatment of our fresh water reserves. This challenge adds more strain on all the water wasted from poor municipal infrastructure, leaky pipes, excessive watering of lawns, filling swimming pools, and so on. 

Now we think that this is no big deal to use our fresh, drinkable water for such a good cause. Is that a case of American Priveledge? Not really as other countries have adopted similar challenges for causes other than ALS. So then is this First World Priveledge? Quite possibly yes. First world countries have access to better living conditions and more resources than others have. In turn we are more 
Iikely to indulge in excess; especially when that excess is for a good cause.

Now am I a saint that never wastes water? No way. I know I am bad about my water usage some days but I have been trying to curb excess use as much as possible. Just do some research about the area you live in and check rain fall totals as well as drought conditions. Just some cursory research can show you that our water reserves are not as strong as we perceive them to be. 

Again bringing ALS to the collective mind and generating funding to help put down this disease is a grand, noble endeavor. My challenge to those who are advocating this is as follows:

Can we come up with another way to raise awareness and generate funding for ALS without wasting our water?