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January 7, 2017

Rogue One

Filed under: film — Benjamin Vulpes @ 5:34 a.m.

For what would you die? For whom would you die?

Would you die for your children? Your wife? Would you die to avenge a way of life the occupiers of your homeland pissed on gleefully? Would you die on the foothills of Shayol Ghul for the chance to spit in Sightblinder's eye? Would you embrace a suicide mission for a vanishingly small chance at getting a thumb in the eyes of the men who stole your father and a life in hiding from you? Is it really a good thing that the warm womb of American socialism insulates you from ever having to consider those things for which you would die? You probably don't even think that anything's worth dying for.

Rogue One1 is the delightful kind of war movie where everyone dies, but also really lame kind where everyone dies for the Good Cause of stopping the Bad Guys. There's the hallmark Star Wartsian complete disregard for orbital dynamics ("Gimme just a few cuts to park this thing"), the odd implicit violation of physics to distract true believers from the action ("No, you see, the reason that the X-Wings can so trivially shred the AT-AT's is because the walkers move very slowly and so therefore can't dissipate nearly as much waste heat as the fighter units with translight drives can into the atmosphere as they scream by at 110 knots" and don't even get me started on the madness incarnate of an entire universe where walkings tank somehow made sense right next to insanely high power-density thrusters that can put a large sedan into orbit WITH NO EXTERNAL FUEL TANKS), and some astonishingly bad lines towards the end.

Shockingly, one finds another entry in the franchise in which a bumbling crew of barely-there muscle and acting are literally propelled over all of the obstacles in their path by The Force to restore balance to the universe, quite frequently in spite of both hero and villain's best efforts. My favorite heresies about the Star Wars are (in reverse order): 1) that R2D2 masterminds the entire Rebellion, and in fact is vastly older than basically anyone other than Yoda, and 2) that the entire franchise is an accidental joke about how the universe into which these derps were all born is magically out of whack and righting itself through them. The first heresy is just funny, the second one entails throwing out the whole canon: nobody is an agent in Star Wars, the Force propels schmuck, Sith and Jedi alike to their destinies, and while the Sith may occasionally take the upper hand, their effects upon the universe are but a swing in the grand pendulum of time. A paean to my generation's American democracy: "Some centuries are peaceful and wonderful, and we see progress and a great expansion of rights for women and the variously colored people. But as the pendulum swings to order and stability, so too must it swing back through chaos and all of the bad things progressives hate, like Donald Trump". There's no time to angst over the fact that we're flying to our death, the Force is with us! On to blam times!

Rogue One is a Star Wars movie. People who like Star Wars movies will like Rogue One: it demonstrates what fleshy animation may be bought on a Star Wars budget in 2017; delivers on space shoosting, rigid-body dynamics and destructable-body animations in spades; makes liberal with the physics; and to I hope absolutely nobody's surprise, has plaster where enjoyable movies keep their plots. Drinking heavily recommended.

  1. Can one even attribute authorship to the product of a Hollywood consortium executing on a franchise of drinking age? []

December 29, 2016

Arrival

Filed under: film — Benjamin Vulpes @ 9:04 a.m.

I rarely attend the cinema, but when I do it's for films with lots of any combination of shoosting, large-scale (mostly CGI, these days) sets well-served by the large screen, titties, robots, fucking, aliens, and the orgiastic liberation of chemical energy through through a Cambrian diversity of Internal Combusion Engine variants and the hysterical contraptions to which humans bolt them. The trailer for Arrival1 featured aliens and US Military trucks, and so made it to the qualifiers on a bye.

It scores poorly on the shoosting and general excitement front, outshone egregiously by the trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets which in one short minute and a half features tekmological shoosting, stabbing contests, aliens, and titties, not to mention sci-fi transformers of mysterious potential energy into kinetic energy2 but even that only entertaining insofar as it reminded me of the trailer for the second Guardians of the Galaxy3 which features not just shoosting and titties but ALSO Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson delivering the best lines in a trailer released in 2016 for a film scheduled for 2017:

Psychic: If I touch someone, I can feel their feelings. You feel...TOUCHES LEAD...love.
Male Lead: Yeah, I guess I feel a general, unselfish love for just about everybo--
Psychic: No! Sexual love!
Male Lead: No, no I don't.
Psychcic: For...SWIVELS, LOOKS AND THEN POINTS AT FEMALE LEAD...her!
Male Lead: No...
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: LAUGHING UPROARIOUSLY: She just told everyone your deepest, darkest secret!
Male Lead: Dude, come on. I think you're overreacting a little bit.
D "TR" J: You must be so embarrassed! LAUGHS MORE
Male Lead: IS EMBARRASSED
D "TR" J: POUNDING HIS CHEST: Do me! Do me!

Arrival is an excruciating ode to the holy mother's spring sacrifice. Instead of dazzling with feats of shoostment, punching, swordplay, or skillful maneuvering of ICEmobiles, Arrival wallops one incessantly with the great sacrifice of parenthood and just how far woman will go for her babies, especially if that baby is everyone and the sacrifice just the guy she hooked up with that one time when everyone got real stressed out about aliens.

Arrival is a lovely treatment of a story I'll probably never read, doing fair service to the original's devices while still kowtowing to the American demand for a twist or reveal in the last two acts. The sound work is downright excellent when the aliens aren't making noise, most of the visual work entirely serviceable, barring the poorly rendered encampment & artifact flyover with clouds moving at entirely the wrong speed whose inclusion I can only chalk up to nepotism. Not only is the flyover render bad it also goes on forever demanding the audience just fucking sit there and suffer through its poverty of execution for holy fuck like three minutes.

I attended, paying homage to Youthful Hijinks of the Author. I can't imagine what anyone else might get out of it.

  1. 2016, Denis Villeneuve. []
  2. What disappoints me most about sci-fi/action movies as I grow fat and poor is that my ability to suspend disbelief just...droops when I regard the marvelous interstellar conveyances in ways that it simply does not when someone entertains me with feats of ICE -- even if the feats are entirely simulated! That I have firsthand experience with the dissipation of energy through modest engines of four, six, and eight cylinders and bodies representative of that to which they're typically attached makes, for some reason, even the simulated romping of vehicles bound to the rules of physics just a little bit more real for me. Taxes the willing-suspension-of-disbelief muscle just a little less, if you will. I don't rebel against technological firearms in quite the same way, as they don't flagrantly contradict the constant order-of-magnitude estimator running constantly in the back of my head. Smith's "Tiny Cricket" is an excellent gag in this vein. []
  3. A corn-syrup entertainment franchise for which I have a perverse fondness rivaled only by my fondness for Coors Lite, which is actually waning these days as I've discovered the glorious commodity Willamette Valley grape. Did you know that if you blend fermented grapes with terroir into other fermented grapes with terroir you get MORE TERROIR? []

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