Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Modest Proposal

So I ended up watching the new Star Wars movie yesterday (this being a thing that my mother considers a much higher priority than other, more ordinary movie franchises), and I have to say it was pretty decent. (I was very happy, when all was said and done, with numerous casting decisions, with certain writing choices, and with choice of superweapon.*)

Which isn't to say it was perfect. Out of the things I can think of that aren't some manner of spoiler, I think the biggest problem I had was the... rather fuzzy sense of motion and spatial relationships that the movie had. Not counting the scene that was total nonsense in terms of astrophysics (and not in a "but this is a fictional universe" way) but was also a spoiler**, there were a lot of scenes where there was an odd sense that the arrangement of characters and objects was just not quite right, and there were a few scenes that really stood out as not making any sense.

Say what you like about the prequels and the unfortunate editing decisions from the special editions, but George Lucas is an amazing director when it comes to motion and space, and they had a consistent action style with each other and with the original trilogy. Never did I watch a Lucas-directed Star Wars movie and wonder what the hell was going on with respect to where Group A and Group B were relative to each other, but it happened to me two or three times during this film. And based on my completely unprofessional survey of a single comment section discussing the movie, I was not the only one who had this problem.

Unfortunately, I think the approach Hollywood takes to directing movies is probably the wrong approach. Having a single director monolithically control a film is going to get you a product that's not as good as if you had a team of directors actually working together.

Michael Bay, while he makes drecky movies, is also a special effects/physics director nearly on par with George Lucas, but, well, everything else about his movies tends to be pretty bad, and he's also kind of a disgusting sexist pig. J.J. Abrams' directing is solid at plenty, but just isn't quite up to complicated science fiction action scenes. And I'm sure there are other cases of directors who are pretty good at this and that and the other thing but not at something else that's potentially important.

And during an admittedly wonky moment on my part, I found myself suggesting to my sister that the solution was probably (thanks to Hollywood being full of big egos who are unlikely to enjoy being forced to get along in the way I'd prefer) to create a Frankenstein's monster out of a whole bunch of different directors, picking and choosing their best traits and combining them into a single supreme director who would then be in charge of every big-budget film.

I find myself thinking it'd probably be the easier way to get better movies.

*If you're not concerned about the SPOILER aspect... (Relatively minor spoilers below.)

I like the amount of diversity in the cast. I mean, I think they probably should have had a few more alien characters who were more prominent, but the amount of human diversity in the film was very nice.

I also like the degree of sympathetic and interesting that the stormtroopers were allowed to be. And I liked that one guy with the vibro-tonfa, he was a badass. (And I just have to shake my head at the people who complain about the scene. It was there because it was awesome, you jerks.) On the other hand, I thought that the character death was SUPER predictable and pretty meh.

Finally, while I thought that the bit of phallic comparison during the analysis scene was pretty terrible (see this little thing? It's the old superweap-NOW HERE IS THE NEW ONE SEE ITS HUGENESS AND BE JEALOUS), I kinda thought the over-the-topness of the Starkiller was awesome (I'm aware that quite a few fans of Star Wars didn't like it at all). It actually stems back to a conversation I had back around when the EU was handwaved out of continuity; I was being annoyed about it and about certain smug internet personalities who were crowing about the fact that the EU was gone because it meant that the Galaxy Gun and the Sun Crusher and other ridiculously powerful EU superweapons were also gone. In a fit of pique, I'd turned to my sister and shouted something about hoping a rapid-firing Galaxy Gun with Sun Crusher ammunition would show up in the film. If you've seen the Starkiller scene and know anything about those EU superweapons, well, the Starkiller is surprisingly close to actually being that. I joked after actually watching the film that the next superweapon was going to be a weaponized gas giant that ate galaxies as fuel.

**I'd like to know just how one of the planets that blew up was approximately as visible in the sky of the planet the characters were on as if it were as close as a moon orbiting the planet would have been. I'm willing to accept all the target planets being visible during the superweapon firing scene as artistic license, but that other bit was just a hot pile of BS. If there'd ever been any evidence that Star Wars astrophysics were similar to, say, Treasure Planet astrophysics, I'd probably have been fine with it, but there's never been any such; we're usually led to assume that physics in Star Wars are similar except where they're shown to be different.

-Signing off.

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