Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: The Storyteller Therory

The Legend of Zelda is probably the greatest video game series of all time. Every few years we get another entry in this great series, and one of the first things that happens when it comes out is everyone starts speculating on when the game happened in comparison to the other games. That’s because the Zelda games don’t come out in order. The most recent Zelda game was the first chronologically, while the original two games happen last. Fans always argue about the “timeline” and over the years there have been thousands of theories, but hold on a minute because I’m about to blow your mind. There is no timeline.

“What?” You might be saying, “That’s stupid, how can it not have a timeline. Everything has a timeline.” Hold on, cause this one is gonna take a bit to explain. See Zelda is called “The Legend of Zelda” for a reason. The Zelda games are legends, not stories with a strictly coherent story. 99.99% of today’s books, movies, T.V. shows, and video games are coherent stories and not legends. To understand the kind of storytelling present in Zelda we need to look to the past. Back in the good ol’ days before movies or video games, back when writing and oral tradition were the norm.

Let’s say that back in the day there is some kind of legend about a great hero that has been passed down from generation to generation. After hearing this story someone else tells another story about the hero’s descendant and how he once again had to vanquish the same evil, or maybe it’s the hero’s ancestor. Either way the new story is very similar to the old one, with the same basic plot and themes. Take the legend of Atlantis, for instance. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato first told the story of the sunken continent.  Later Greeks expanded on the legend, telling different parts of its history and culture.  Over the centuries countless cultures had their own Atlantis legends. These legends were all based on Plato’s original and many later ones were had elements from popular early ones. However, all of the Atlantis stories were not all in accordance with one another. Take Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, that story drew more inspiration from the Atlantis in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but don’t take so much inspiration from the Atlantis stories invented by Germany.

The Zelda series is exactly the same. Think of the games being “told” by different storytellers. The first storyteller told the original Legend of Zelda. Later on someone told the story of the adventures Link went on after that in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Now anyone familiar with Zelda knows that Zelda II is the black sheep of the family, what with all the RTS stuff and “North Hyrule.” These things were never really revisited, and neither was anything else about Zelda II (except some town sharing their names with characters.)  Most later “storytellers” don’t consider this story when telling their legend. Any seemed inconsistencies between Zelda II and other games exist because the storyteller didn’t consider it a part of their legend.

This works not only to explain inconsistencies between Zelda II, but all Zelda games. The way that many of the larger inconsistencies are explained by multiple timeline theories (more on that later), but the small inconsistencies are important as well. Time travel for example is portrayed differently almost every time we see it, sometimes in multiple ways in the same game. I previously explained the rules to time travel on the show “Lost,” and these rules were consistent and could not be broken. However legends can be much more inconsistent, different storytellers can interpret time travel any way they want.

Now on to the whole multiple timelines thing I mentioned before. The prevailing theory for roughly the past ten years is that there are two timelines in Zelda, created at the end of Ocarina of Time when Link returned to the past, the “child timeline” and the “adult timeline.” The logic goes that some of the games happen in one timeline and the others happen in the second. This video does a pretty good job explaining the theory:

Thanks for clearing that up Doc. The supporters of the "multiple timelines  are actually pretty close to the truth, they just muddied the details. A little bit ago a Zelda encyclopedia, straight from Nintendo, showed an “official timeline,” and this one actually has the perfect order, but once again treats it too rigidly. The “official timeline” actually splits into three timelines after Ocarina of Time. There is the child and the adult, as well as a third one where Link fails to kill the main villain, Ganon at the end of Ocarina of Time. This does a lot to explain the many inconsistencies in Ocarina of Time and Link to the Past, which happened hundreds of years later and was originally thought to be in the adult timeline.

Here is the timeline from the encyclopedia:

Notice something about the games in the “Ganon wins in Ocarina” timeline. They all are all games that were released BEFORE Ocarina of Time. The other two timelines are both comprised of games that were released AFTER Ocarina of Time, and so are the games that take place before Ocarina. There is of course one exception, I’ll explain in a bit. The reason for this is simple, Ocarina of Time is by far the most famous and popular Zelda game. Most people think of that game specifically when they think of Zelda. Every Zelda after it has been influenced by it (with one exception, which I’m still getting to.)

Let’s break down the history of Zelda, not the fictional history but the order the games really came out, but let’s keep viewing them as legends being passed down. The first Legend of Zelda game was told by the original storyteller, about a hero named Link who saves Hyrule. This was followed by a new storyteller, who told Zelda II. A third storyteller told A Link to the Past, as you would probably guess about Link’s ancestor, also named Link. People loved it, so he told a “sequel” about the same Link lost on a mysterious island, Link’s Awakening. Years passed and another storyteller looked at A Link to the Past, he saw all the rich backstory about the rise, downfall, and imprisonment of Ganon and told a story called Ocarina of Time. This storyteller only really focused on A Link to the Past, leaving out the backstory of the other three legends. People loved this new one so much they didn’t care about the inconsistencies surrounding Ganon’s downfall, they also began to forget the older legends and love Ocarina of Time.

This is where the legends split up. First of course there are the already established legends of Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, Link’s Awakening and A Link to the Past, but as I said, people don’t think about these so much anymore when writing new legends. The next legend to be told is the sequel to Ocarina, Majora’s Mask , told by the same storyteller who told Ocarina. Next was a new storyteller, one who still remembered the old stories, A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening, and wanted to tell a story about that Link. This is the exception I mentioned before, the Oracle games. The Oracle games are two linked games, sort of like Pokemon Red and Blue, although they are a bit more unique. This was the last Zelda story that was connected to the old Zelda games and not Ocarina.

Next was Wind Waker , the storyteller here wanted to tell a story of Link and Zelda’s descendants. The style of this story was completely different, hence the cel-shaded “Toon Link.” This style caught on, and was duplicated by the next storyteller. However in Wind Waker the entire world is ocean, Hyrule had been flooded for hundreds of years. So the storyteller ignored this possible future to Ocarina and made up his own, along with a past, The Four Swords Adventures and The Minish Cap, respectively. This storyteller also decides to tell the story of Link battling a new villain, Vatti. Next was a new storyteller who told a dark tale of Hyrule’s future, also without the flood, Twilight Princess. The two stories after that, Phantom Hourglass and Sprit Tracks were continuations of the Wind Waker storyline where the world is flooded. Finally a new storyteller aimed to tell the story that took place before any of this, which was Skyward Sword, the first game in the “timeline.”

So really these timelines aren’t really timelines, they are just showing which legends are related to each other, and Ocarina of Time is the point of origin. Everything that takes place before Ocarina can be placed together. Then there are the games that don’t take OoT into account because that legend hadn’t been told yet. There are the games that take Ocarina into account and tell of a great flood which flooded Hyrule. Lastly of course are the stories after Ocarina that have no mention of a great flood. There are no alternate realities created by time travel or Link’s apparent failure.

Look at it this way, when I talked about all the different storytellers I was of course being metaphorical, but the thing is, there actually were all kinds of different storytellers involved. All kinds of different people have worked on these games and their stories. Siguru Miyamoto, for example, is the creator of Zelda, but these were hundreds of other people making creative decisions, in fact nowadays Miyamoto has little to do with the Zelda plots. A different company even developed the Oracle games, Capcom. With all of these different people and entities it’s nearly impossible to tell a coherent story when it is being released out of order over multiple decades. Instead every time someone develops a new game they find a way to make it fit into the mythology, but if they don’t like a certain aspect of that mythology they choose to ignore it.

Compare to another fantasy universe told over decades and out of order, the stories about Middle-Earth; The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Silmirilion, Lost Tales, and everything else. That is a coherent story, not a bunch of legends with varying degrees of interrelation. What’s the difference? Well I’ll tell you. Tolkien told these stories by himself. He was meticulous, he had pages upon pages of notes, many of his works were not published until after his death; the only additions were done by his own son after his death to fill in the gaps of certain stories. Zelda is more like the oral tradition of storytelling, always evolving like the old legends of King Arthur. This is not to say that one type of storytelling method is superior to the other, I love Zelda and The Hobbit, for different reasons.

There is no need to bend over backward to come up with contrived ways for parallel universes and histories, sometimes a more fluid story is more fun, but we become so obsessed with answers that sometimes we fail to see the beauty in front of us.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Andy Roddick: A Legend Retires

                “Let’s hope it’s not bookends.” That was Andy Roddick this July after winning a tournament in Atlanta, the same place that he won his first title. Sadly it was bookends; the 2012 Atlanta Open was the last championship that Andy won, the 32nd of his career, including at least one every year since his first. Andy retired at this year’s U.S. Open, the site of his only major. He was probably the best server of all time, holding all kinds of serving records, including fastest serve ever (155mph) until recently. He also was well know for his charitable work, the Andy Roddick Foundation. He was a grand slam champion and a world #1. He went on to play in four more grand slam finals, but he will be remembered as much for his quick wit and honest personality as his tennis. Andy struggled with injuries late in his career, but you would never know it, unlike so many athletes Andy never played up an injury. Always known for his candor, on the court Andy would argue with the umpire if he felt he was being shortchanged, or even if his opponent was. Andy Roddick’s press conferences and post-match interviews were the stuff of legend, they were always hilarious, intelligent and brutally honest. After his last match a reporter asked him what he would miss most and Andy jokingly replied, “All of you.”
                A good tennis player can be judged by how many tournaments he has won, the all-time greats however are often measured by their grand slams. For those that don’t know there are four grand slams; the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open.  In 2003 the era of great American tennis was coming to an end. Andre Aggassi and Pete Sampras had 20 majors between the two of them and their final titles came back to back, with Sampras winning the last major in 2002 (US) and Agassi winning the first in 03 (Australian). The rest of 2003 saw a changing of the guard, the young Spaniard Juan Martian Ferrero won the French, and Rodger Federer won his first slam at Wimbledon. The stage was set for a dramatic end to the tennis season at the U.S. Open. Defending champion Pete Sampras had retired and Aggassi had been beaten in the semis by French champion Ferrerro. Ferrerro had one more American to face in the final however, Andy Roddick. Roddick beat Ferrero in straight sets to win the U.S. Open and cemented himself as the greatest current American tennis player. For nearly a decade Roddick was the only great American tennis player.
For a few years the only other tennis player even in the conversation to compete for a major was the aging Andre Aggassi, but soon enough he also retired. From then on Andy Roddick became the “Sole American Man.”  In fact since Aggassi’s retirement in 2006 no American male other than Roddick has made it past the quarterfinal of any grand slam. Roddick was a man alone; the burden was his to bear. This was a sharp contrast to the era directly preceding Roddick. The 90s were a golden age for American tennis; other than Aggassi and Sampras grand slam champions like Jim Courrier and Micheal Chang were dominate. Even the ancient slam winner Jimmy Conners made a miraculous run at the 1991 U.S. Open. The timing of the disappearance of American greats couldn’t have been worse for one reason. That reason’s name was Rodger Federer.
When Roddick and Federer won back to back slams in 2003 it seemed they both would have bright futures. Both did end up having bright futures, but no one could have predicted how bright Federer’s would be. Rodger Federer probably was the most dominate player in the history of individual sports. From 2004 until 2007 Federer won the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon every time except for once, that’s 11/12 slams (other than the French which is played on clay, Federer and Roddick’s worse surface). Charles Barkley famously joked that his mother should have had him five years earlier so that he could have avoided Michal Jordan’s reign and won a championship. I wouldn’t be the first to relate Andy’s situation with Federer to Barkley’s statement. After his win at the U.S. in 2003 Andy went on to play in four more finals, three at Wimbledon and another U.S., and every time he met Rodger Federer. If it wasn’t for Federer who knows how many grand slams Andy would have won? He likely would have stolen a few more U.S. Opens, as well as multiple Wimbledon championships. It’s safe to say that he would have gotten at least one Australian too, where Federer knocked him out in the semi-finals on more than one occasion. But I should stop making excuses for Andy; after all he never made excuses for himself.
Either way Andy’s fate has always been and probably always will be liked to his great nemesis Rodger Federer. In the press conference where Andy announced his retirement a reporter noted that both Andy and Federer were 30 and Andy replied, “I didn’t want to make it through this press conference without a direct comparison to Rodger, so thank you for that.” In fact what many consider to be Andy’s greatest tennis match ever, and one of the best tennis finals ever played, was against Rodger Federer. In 2009, three years after his last final Roddick made it to his second Wimbledon final. The match was truly epic, both men seemed unbeatable. At 77 games it was the longest grand slam final ever played, the final set alone was an amazing 30 games, with both Roddick and Federer refusing to give an inch. Roddick remained unbroken on serve until the final game of the match. Roddick’s determination and drive even in defeat won him untold more fans, especially in England. Even Duchess Pippa Middelton came to watch his match while Brit Andy Murray was making a (successful) title run a few courts over.
In his last two tournaments Andy wore shoes with the American flag on them, rather appropriate considering that he had big shoes to fill for American tennis. For years Andy carried the banner of American tennis by himself, and now with his retirement there are sadly no more truly great Americans, and it may be a long time before another arrives. Andy Roddick was one of the greatest to ever play the game. He was also one of the smartest and genuinely funny athletes I've ever seen. In this age athletes lie and deceive any chance they get, it’s even considered part of the culture in some sports, but Andy Roddick was honest to a fault. He wouldn’t sugar coat things he felt were unfair, or if he felt like he was asked a stupid question at a press conference.
I leave you with this, a press conference of one of Andy’s worst defeats, the semi-final of the 07 Australian Open, where he was crushed by Federer. It shows his honesty, his disappointment at defeat, his wit, and his snarky and sarcastic nature. Most of all it shows his willingness to never back down.
He also married Brooklyn Decker, pictured below:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lost: Time Travel Explained

“We really do not have time for me to try to explain. You have no idea how difficult that would be, for me to try to explain this…this phenomenon to a quantum physicist.”- Daniel Faraday on Time Travel

Before I even start, MAJOR SPOILERS FOR SEASON 5 AND 6

                Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I can begin. Lost is one of the craziest, most compelling and thought provoking television shows of all time. As the show went on it began to introduce more fantasy and science fiction elements which allowed it to address many of its philosophical themes in a unique way. One of these science fiction elements was of course time travel. Like any fiction that introduces time travel it has to have rules. Most sci-fi operates under the rules that time can be tampered with, that the traveler needs to be careful “Not to corrupt the timeline,” or “Avoid ripples,” or something along those lines. Lost however does the opposite. A time traveler cannot change the past because he has always traveled back and done what he did. Think of time like a book. Most people read a book from start to finish, but say you skipped forward, or went back and read the beginning. The book will still have the same words on the page no matter what order the person reading it experiences it in. More on that later. There are several ways one can move through time on Lost, these all seem to be connected to the fact that time on the island is not the same as the rest of the world. The first way we see is being “unstuck in time.” This is where someone’s consciousness jumps back and forth between two times. Another form of time travel seems to occur when someone comes to or leaves the island. Finally the biggest form of time travel, one that’s reasons are never explicitly explained on the show, is the “Time jumps” that several characters experience when Ben turns the wheel.
                So what did anything I just said there mean? Well let’s return to the rules of time travel.  As the show is so fond of saying, “Whatever happened happened.”  This means that if you somehow travel back to the 70s and try to change something it won’t work because it already happened in the 70s. Anyone who was around both in the 70s and the present day could tell you that. In fact that is exactly what happened to our favorite castaways. They tried to make it so that they never came to the island by preventing an incident, but in the process created the incident. The simplest way to think of things is actually chronologically. First in 1974; Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Jin, and Faraday arrived from the future. Three years later in 1977 Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid also arrived from the future. These people proceeded to attempt to ignite a nuclear weapon, but only managed to set off the EMP, they then disappeared, causing many including Richard Alpert to believe they died in what came to be known as “The incident”. In 2004 Oceanic 815 crashed and the castaways learned of the incident, not knowing they were the ones who caused it. One hundred days later Ben turned the wheel while many left the island and some stayed behind. Some of the ones who stayed behind jumped through time and seemingly disappeared. Three years later many of those that left returned to the island and some of them also disappeared to the past. After a few days everyone who disappeared reappeared. If none of that was clear here is a discussion Hurley and Miles had about time travel on the show, which may help….or just confuse you more.
                Now that the rules are clear (I hope) let me tell you about the man who can break them. Desmond Hume is “Special” so the rules of time don’t apply to him, he can change his past. There is something unique about Desmond, the electromagnetic energy which would have killed a normal man gave him a glimpse of both past and future once, then later let his conciseness cross over to the afterlife. For Desmond the book analogy is more like one of those “Create your own adventure” stories. He doesn’t have to follow the rules of the universe, however even that has its limits. Desmond’s ability to change time can alter some things like everyone getting off the island, which apparently was never supposed to happen, but he can’t save someone who is meant to die, if he does the universe will just try to kill them again..and again...and again. He saves Charlie over and over again in season 3, but every time he does he has another fragmented vision of his friend dying in a new way. It was as Desmond described, “Having the pieces of the puzzle but not knowing what the picture is.”
                So why does Desmond see the future, but only in a fragmented way, and why does it keep changing? The reason is because Desmond’s mind traveled to the future as a result of being in the hatch explosion, which hit him with a nice batch of electromagnetism. As we see in the show Desmond’s consciousness was temporarily transported back to his past, and it makes sense that the reason he knew the future was that it was also transported to the future. This is why at first Desmond knows all kind of things about what will happen, such as the speech Locke will give. Desmond doesn’t do anything to alter what he has seen until Charlie is about to die. Once Desmond intervenes everything changes. From then on the only visions of the future he sees are of Charlie dying because that is all he has changed. The visions, however, are distorted and confusing because in fact they aren’t visions; they are memories of the future he changed. The memories are so distorted because Desmond’s mind is trying to process the future which has been rearranged. Once Charlie finally dies Desmond’s mind stops having to rewrite his altered memories, and the “Visions” stop.
                Desmond’s mind being thrown back and forth between past and present was not over yet, however. As he had already become “unstuck” once his mind was more vulnerable than anyone’s to have it happen again. As I mentioned before, time on the island works somewhat differently than the outside world. This is probably because of “the source” which also produces large amounts of electromagnetism and is generally what makes the island so freakin’ special. This time differential may seem fantastical, but it is based in truth, at least kind of. In reality time does pass differently depending on things like gravity or traveling close to the speed of light. So when leaving the island, to make sure that one’s mind does not become unstuck because of the time differential, a specific bearing must be followed. When Desmond was flying on a helicopter off of the island, to a freighter docked nearby, the copter flew threw a thunderhead, which caused them to deviate from the bearing ever so slightly. This deviation was too slight to unstick anyone else on the helicopter, but because Desmond had already became unstuck his mind his mind began jumping back to 1996. Unlike the first time that Desmond’s mind had become unstuck, it was chaotic, unpredictable and dangerous. His mind jumped back and forth at random between 1996 and the freighter in 2004. Desmond needed to find a constant in both times, something he knew and cared about so that his mind could connect both times and stop jumping. If he had not been able to find this constant Desmond would have died. In fact we know that those who could not find a constant develop brain aneurisms, and die.
                There is another way to leave the island. There is a wheel deep beneath the surface of the island that, when turned, does two very important things. The first thing it does is “move” the island. It moves through space and certain people on the island began to move through time. The second thing the wheel does is transport the one who turned it off the island to the middle of the Tunisian desert. Because of the time disparity between the island and the outside world when being transported off it the wheel turner can appear months or after they left the island, but for the turner it would seem instantaneous. If the wheel was dislodged when it was turned the certain people on the island would also become dislodged. This happened when Ben turned the wheel and many of our favorite characters began to skip from one time to another. The people experiencing this had similar problems that Desmond experienced when his mind was unstuck. This however was a different situation, the person experiencing the time travel did not just have their consciousness jump around, and they were physically transported to another time, in fact multiple times. As the wheel remained dislodged the affected people continued to jump from between different points between past and future. Unlike Desmond a constant would not do them any good, they needed to put the wheel back on its axis and turn it once again. The negative effects of the time jumps were amplified by how long one had been on the island. Charlotte, who had grown up on the island actually died as a result. Once Locke turned the wheel once again the time jumps stopped, stranding the time travelers in a random time, 1974. When he turned the wheel Locke ended up in Tunisia in 2007.
                So why did some people travel through time, while others didn’t? Why did returning to the island cause some to teleport back to 1977? Why did the seemingly failed detonation of a nuke send them back to 2007? The answer, as with many questions about the island, lies with Jacob. Jacob was the ultimate protector of the island, the one who orchestrated everyone coming to the island. He did this because he was looking for a replacement, but not just anyone could be a replacement. There were certain candidates, chosen not by Jacob but by the island, who could take his position once Jacob died. Jacob had a thing for lists and he had multiple lists of the candidates. Once someone either died or “fulfilled a role” Jacob crossed their name off the list. The candidates were all flawed or broken people who were “Alone in the world”.  Sometimes Jacob chose to cross out viable candidates because they now had some purpose in life and were no longer alone. Kate was the only example of this explicitly mentioned on show, who fulfilled the role of mother. While her name had been crossed out she was still technically a candidate, and could have replaced Jacob if she wanted.  So as you might have already guessed, the candidates were the ones who traveled through time.
                Lost officially confirmed six candidates; Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, and Locke. With the exception of Locke, who was dead, all of these candidates jumped through time. Other important characters such as; Richard, Clair, Ben, and Lapidus didn’t because they were implied not to be candidates. What’s interesting to note is Lost confirmed that one of the Kwans, either Sun or Jin, was also a candidate, but it never officially answered which was. Well wouldn’t you know it, Jin traveled through time while Sun didn’t. There were also the two lists of candidates, which upon closer inspection told us hundreds of last names of more candidates, including many dead characters, which had been crossed out. The crossed out names included the all the time jumpers who died; Juliet, Faraday, and Charlotte. One problem with this seems to be that some characters, who were alive but not on the list, still jumped, namely; Miles, Rose, Bernard. Here we look to what we learned from Kate’s name being crossed out. She still could have taken over Jacob’s role as protector, and while Jacob choose to cross her name out, the island still recognized her as a candidate. Therefore we know that even if someone is not listed as a candidate the rules of “candidacy” still apply including time jumps. Going back to the list we saw the names, Straum, and Henderson. Straum was, of course, Miles’ last name, and Henderson was Rose’s maiden name. Bernard’s last name Nadler, is the only time jumper’s name not show, but of course there are roughly 240 names we don’t see. We see these three all fulfill roles. Rose and Bernard are seen as an old couple who constantly bicker and worry in the early seasons, however when we see them again in the season five finale they are quite content to live happily together in the jungle, without a care in the world. They fill the role of “Happy couple.” Similarly Miles is seen as having major father abandonment issues, however traveling back in time gives him the unique opportunity to reconnect with his father and help him understand why he did what he did.
                So that solves that. “Wait!” the insanely attentive Lost fan says. There were two crossed out names on that list of characters who did not jump, Littleton (Clair) and Linus (Ben). Ah but any Lost fans, attentive or otherwise can tell you there was more than one Littleton and Linus on the island. Ben’s father, Rodger Linus lived on the island from the 70s till his death in the 90s, and he also had a daughter, Alex who could have been a candidate. Aaron Littleton, Clair’s baby, originally never wanted by Clair or the father, was born on the island. Aaron was taken off the island and never returned, and likely had his name crossed out by Jacob at the same time as Kate’s was, who “adopted” him when they left the island. There was of course one more character that time jumped whose name wasn’t on the list, because he didn’t have a last name. Vincent, you know… the dog. Was Vincent a candidate? As insane as it sounds, yes he was; the island as it turns out isn’t too picky. He jumped around with all the other candidates, and for all we know was depressed about being taken from his former master, Brian.  While Vincent was a candidate I don’t think Jacob would really have taken him seriously as a candidate.
                So how exactly did these candidates get from 1977 back to 2007? The answer is the incident and electromagnetism. A lot of the strange powers of time travel were connected to electromagnetism, remember that’s how Desmond’s mind was unstuck in time. For those who don’t know the full story of the incident, here it is…A bunch of scientists were drilling into the island, right into a pocket of electromagnetism, which they unleashed. Our band of time traveling heroes took it upon themselves to attempt to prevent the incident to alter history so that they never arrive on the island. The do this by attempting to detonate an atom bomb at the site of the drilling. This very attempt to prevent the incident actually caused it, as the atom bomb’s detonation worked, but only halfway. Either because of the damage already done to it, or because of the electromagnetism the, explosion caused by the bomb failed. The electromagnetic pulse from the bomb succeeded however. The electromagnetic pulse being detonated while the island was releasing its natural electromagnetism caused an interesting thing to happen, time was reset. The time jumpers were placed back where they would have been if they had never jumped at all. Since it had been three years since time was originally shifted they ended up three years after they left. AKA they went from 2004 to 1974, so they were sent from 1977 to 2007.
                Did any of that make sense?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why "Spider-man 3" is superior to "Amazing Spider-Man"

                First of all, you all should know that I am a huge Spider-man fan. Not only is Peter Parker one of my favorite comic book characters, he is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time, right up there with; Jay Gatz, Cameron Frye, and Link. I saw the midnight showings of both Amazing Spider-man and Spider-man 3. So naturally I was excited for both of these movies, I went in to each with big expectations, and walked out of both with mixed feelings. Spider-man 3 got me excited because of how well done the two preceding movies were, especially Spider-man 2. I was also excited for the reboot because they seemed to get a lot of things right that the originals missed, like Gwen Stacy or Spider-man building his own web shooters. The thing is Amazing Spider-man has been getting a lot of positive buzz, but is overall a very poorly constructed movie, while Spider-man 3 is unjustly hated by many. The new Spider-man gets the details right but misses the bigger picture. Now before I go any further I want to warn you guys…Spoilers.
                Working at a movie theater, like I do, one hears customers saying a lot of stupid things (like Avatar should win best picture), but this time I heard multiple people say that Amazing Spider-man was “better than any of the old ones,” which is just plain stupid. The original movies, specifically Spider-man 2, hit on what makes Peter parker such an engaging character. The more good he does, the more it hurts him. In Spider-man 1 he chooses not to be with the girl he loves to protect her. In Amazing he is told by her dying father, a police officer who gave his life to save Peter, not to be with her to protect her, but then he does it anyway.
                Of course most reasonable people would agree that the first two Spider-man movies were better than the new one, and I need to get to why Spider-man 3 specifically is better than Amazing. First off I feel like I need to explain exactly why the series was rebooted instead of going on with a fourth Spider-man, like planned. A lot of people seem to think that Spider-man 4 was never made because, like Batman and Robin, it was so terrible that they thought the series was beyond saving and just started over. This is completely wrong.  After the critical and financial failure of Batman and Robin the studio tried to make another for years, going through various directors and scripts until after eight years, finally coming to the Oscar nominated director Christopher Nolan to reinvigorate the series. The Spider-man series on the other hand was restarted after only five years by an unheard of director. Also unlike Batman, Spider-man 3 was both a critical and financial success. While many members of the public despised it, Spider-man 3 was warmly received by critics. It currently holds a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that determines what percentage of critics gave a film a positive review. To give that number some context Watchmen has a 64%. Spider-man 3 also made buckets of money, it has only recently been surpassed as the most financially successful Marvel movie of all time (it’s now second behind The Avengers.)
                So if critics liked Spider-man-3, and it made a ton of money, then was the fan outcry really big enough that it was still rebooted? Nope. Why then? I’m glad you asked, it’s all studio politics. See, a few years back Disney bought Marvel and got the film rights to most of their characters, other than of course their really big ones that already had deals with studios. Some of those characters were Spider-man and the X-men, whom you may have noticed have both had reboots in the past year. You also may have noticed that they were both absent from the big Marvel team up, The Avengers. Before Iron-Man came out none of those Avengers, except possibly Hulk, were seen as very popular, and so the rights to the much more valuable Spider-man and X-men were kept by Sony and Fox respectively. After Spider-man 3 came out Sony had a finite amount of time to make another Spider-man film or they would lose the rights to him too. The director of the Spider-man trilogy, Sam Rami, wanted to take his time to make the fourth film, but the studio wanted him to rush, giving him an earlier planned release than he was comfortable with, so Rami walked. Without Rami Tobey McGuire was unwilling to do another movie, and so Sony scrambled to get a new Spider-man movie together, in order to keep the rights. If you thought that Amazing Spider-man felt like a movie thrown together as quickly as possible to make a quick buck you’re quite perceptive.
                So enough of the technical stuff, let’s get to the heart of the movies. Both are flawed, but Spider-man 3’s flaw is that it simple has too much going on, much like Iron-man 2. Amazing on the other hand is a complete mess or, at least the second half is. Spider-man 3 is a tale about revenge. Revenge touches the lives of every character in it. Peter wants to take revenge on the Sandman for killing his Uncle Ben, and he wants revenge on Mary Jane for breaking his heart. His revenge is represented literally by the symbiote, which feeds off Peter’s desire for revenge and makes him more powerful, but he grows further from the ones he loves and loses himself. He has to let go of this power to become himself again, and stop doing “Saturday Night Fever” dance numbers. Peter isn’t the only one motivated by revenge however. His best friend Harry Osborne wants revenge on him from supposedly killing his father, who became the villain Green Goblin. Harry follows in his father’s footsteps in order to take his revenge on Peter. Once peter abandon’s the symbiote it finds someone else hungry for revenge, Eddie Brock, who Peter wronged, and now he too seeks revenge on Peter, and Eddie becomes Venom. All of these plots come together in the end during a final battle between Sandman, Spider-man, the new Green Goblin, and Venom.
                Before the battle Peter goes and seeks forgiveness of Harry, who at first denies him but after Harry comes to the realization that it was his father’s own hatred that caused his death, he arrives to help his old friend, letting go of his quest for vengeance. During the battle Eddie becomes separated from the symbiote, but is unable to let go of the power and his need for revenge and he dies along with it. In the end Harry too sacrifices himself for his friend, redeeming himself in death. Only Spider-man and Sandman are left when Sandman tells Peter he has done terrible things, and asks for his forgiveness, which Peter gives him. The Sandman turns to a wisp of sand and floats away, metaphorically freeing both of them from this tragic cycle of vengeance. The last shot of the movie is of Pater and Mary Jane reunited, knowing that they have both hurt each other, but presumably trying to forgive one another. It’s a powerful message. In Amazing Spider-man Peter also deals with revenge, in fact he becomes Spider-man to take revenge on the burglar who killed his uncle, not out of some desire for justice. Then then forgets all of that revenge stuff because he literally creates a monster called “The Lizard”. The burglar, who is Spider-man’s main motivation during the first half of the film, is never mentioned in the second half other than a picture on Peter’s nightstand.
                “With great power comes great responsibility,” also takes on new meaning in Amazing. In “Spider-man 3” he runs into problems because he lets his personal vendettas becomes more important than justice, his “great responsibility.” In Amazing he only has a responsibility because he makes the monster. The whole second half of Amazing Spider-man is a B-movie. What’s especially problematic about this entire cheesy plot is how it completely clashes with the overall feel of the movie. The movie desperately tries to make Spider-man more “Modern” by having him do things like skateboard and wear contact lenses. This doesn’t work well with a plot taken straight from the Spider-man comics of the sixties, which are completely unrealistic by today’s standards. Nothing important happens in the second half except for Spider-man stopping some goofy science fiction plot to turn all the citizens of New York City into lizards, and a bit of a love story. Some might say they intentionally made a less complex plot to avoid overcomplicating the movie like Spider-man 3, but the thing is there were many plots in the beginning of the movie that were simply forgotten during the second half.
                The fact that so many plot lines were completely ignored in the end of the movie was my main gripe. Having a plot carry over into the sequel is no problem, but this is something else altogether.  A perfect example of a plot being set up for the sequel is Harry Osborne’s hatred of Spider-man during Spider-man 2. He bares resentment against Peter for being Spider-man’s photographer the entire film, and during the climax of the movie discovers his true identity and his father’s weapons. This perfectly sets up the events of the next film, while also moving the plot along sufficiently in Spider-man 2. Amazing Spider-man on the other hand just ignores major plot points brought up until literally after the credits have started rolling. The first half of the film revolved around Peter’s parents having to escape from something (presumably Norman Osborne), Norman Osborne’s mysterious sickness, and the burglar, along with of course Peter getting his powers. The film’s ad campaign promised to “reveal the secret past of Spider-man,” and the first half of the movie seemed to be shaping up to do just that. The movie even starts with a flashback to Peter’s parents escaping someone with nefarious intent. There is plenty of buildup to finding out the mystery of how they, Norman Osborne and the scientist who became the lizard were connected. Then the second half started and all we got was Spider-man stopping a giant Lizard from releasing a poison gas that would make the New Yorkers lizardfolk. A horribly short and vague scene was crammed into the middle of the credits that implied that the Norman Osborne and Peter’s parents plots would be addressed in the sequel (or possibly Iron Man 3 if Disney and Sony work out some sort of deal, which is unlikely but possible.) This awful tease is the only thing close to a resolution we get.
                If unresolved and B-movie plots aren’t enough to convince you, take the characters into account. I’ve heard some people say that Andrew Garfield completely outshone Tobey McGuire. I disagree with this pretty strongly, the way the character is portrayed in the originals is still clearly superior. The Amazing version of Spider-man isn’t particularly deep, and neither are any of the other characters. One major complaint of Spider-man 3 was “when he went emo.” I thought that part was actually pretty funny, and it seemed less that Peter was “emo” than a nerd trying desperately to be cool. It was corny, and people who know Sami Rami movies know that he likes corny stuff that shouldn’t be taken seriously, but people still took it very seriously. Amazing Spider-man takes things far too seriously on the other hand, other than a few quips by Spider-man; it seems a lot closer to an emo teen than Spider-man 3 ever did. It’s not just Peter that is a shallow character in the new version. While I love Emma Stone and her performance was great as always her character is written thinly at best. The most disappointing character in the movie is none other than the mad scientist who becomes a villain. The Lizard in most portrayals is a very tragic character; he is usually a family man who goes too far and end up endangering the one he loves. In Amazing he is just your basic mad scientist. The villains in Spider-man 3 are all interesting and sympathetic characters. Venom is a dark reflection of Spider-man, Harry is a tragic character who’s struggle between good and evil is embodied in his decision to choose between his father’s legacy and his friend. Last and perhaps most tragic of all is the Sandman, who became a criminal to help his sick daughter, and became a monster by horrible accident. I admit, there are a couple characters that really were better in Amazing, such as Flash and Martian Sheen’s portrayal of Uncle Ben, but there was one major thing missing, J. Jonah Jamison. His omission is very noticeable; in fact the likely reason he wasn’t in the movie was because J.K. Simmons portrayed him absolutely perfectly. Who could top that performance? If you don’t really believe he was that great of a character, here is proof: 

                All in all neither movie is perfect. Spider-man 3 feels like a good story with too much stuff in it and that made a few missteps (Harry amnesia), but still managed to tell an engaging story about revenge. Amazing Spider-man feels like a movie made to meet a deadline by people who don’t really know anything about the character of Spider-man to tell the story of a guy fighting a big lizard.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Emperor Palpatine is F.D.R.

                So chances are if you are reading this your enough of a nerd to who Emperor Palpatine is. If you’re not, you probably still know about “Star Wars”, and Plapatine is the big bad guy in those movies. He is Darth Vader’s boss, the creepy dude in black robes who looked like he was a million years old and shot lightning out of his fingers. If you never saw Star Wars, and have no idea what I’m talking about, then go watch it instead of reading this article. Either that or watch “Indiana Jones”, because chances are you need to watch that too if you haven’t seen Star Wars. On to the point, and that is that Emperor Plapatine was based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Am I saying that F.D.R. was a power hungry dictator? No. I think George Lucas was saying that.
                Where to start? Well since this is a blog entry about Star Wars I’ll start in the middle.  That being said, I’ll be primarily just discussing his actions in the prequel trilogy since he didn’t even show up until the end of “Return of the Jedi” in the originals. In those movies he was a looming threat in the background, and not a character with a lot of depth (not that a whole lot of characters in the prequels had depth.) Back when “Revenge of the Sith” came out a lot of people thought that Palpatine was a critique of George W. Bush because he was involved in a war and expanded executive powers. However this is pretty vague and could be applied to most of the presidents dating back to Lincoln. There was however, a President who was involved in a war that engulfed the entire world in a scale that no one had ever seen before, which employed new and terrifying technologies. In Star Wars Palpatine ruled during the first “full scale galactic war since the formation of republic”. 
                Of course this too is pretty vague, and just because both wars enveloped all of civilization, it doesn’t mean that the two are identical situations.  These similarities are just beginning however. In the original trilogy the Death Star was a plot device, but in the prequels it’s nothing more than a very secretive project to develop a weapon of mass destruction, the first of its kind. Much like something known as the Manhattan project. And just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed, so was Princess Leia’s home planet Aalderna. “Hey!” You might say, “F.D.R. didn’t bomb Hiroshima or Nagasaki, that was Truman.” Right, and Palpatine didn’t blow up Aldernaan, that was Vader. 
                Palpatine’s plans stretch back far back to before he was ever the Chancellor. Do you remember the plot for Episode I? No? That’s alright a lot of people have tried to forget it. Well, the movie revolved around an economic crisis. The crisis itself didn’t really make any sense, but it served two important purposes. First of all it gave the chacters something to worry about, but more importantly it’s what got Palpatine elected as the Chancellor. Palpatine’s predecessor, Chancellor Valurum did too little to solve this economic crisis, so Palpatine was elected, he was seen as someone who would be able to handle these tough economic times. Ever hear of the Great Depression? Some guy, Herbert Hoover was president back then you see, and his plan to fix the economy was basically do nothing. Everyone thought he was weak so they decided to elect a “Strong candidate.”
                Once elected F.D.R.’s new deals and other projects began to vastly expand executive powers. Now expanding executive powers was nothing new, even in F.D.R.’s time. However there was one thing that no president had ever done, and that is stay in power for more than two terms. When George Washington stepped down after his second term a precedent was set, which was that no one should campaign for the presidency more than twice, and in all of those years the only other President to campaign for the presidency more than twice was Ulysses S. Grant, and his third campaign was both nonconsecutive and unsuccessful. F.D.R. campaigned and won four terms, he kept running even in severely declineing health, and served as president until he died. The reason that Washington stepped down after two terms was he did not want America to have a king or emperor figure, who would rule all their life. Washington was reluctant to serve even a second term and refused to serve a third. After Roosevelt died the unwritten law on not exceeding two terms was made into written law so that no one could ever do what he did again. So what does any of this have to do with Palpatine? Well in the Star Wars Padme (Natalie Portman) mentions that Palpatine has also stayed in power for more than the customary two terms, by way of amending the constitution.
                Plapatine’s increasing power did not stop there. During the course of the war, which began in his third term, Palpatine continually gained more and more “Emergency powers” which allowed him to become more and more in control of the government. The powers of the senate were being vastly depleted and he often went over their head with his new executive powers. Replace Palpatine with F.D.R. in every sentence in this paragraph and it still works. F.D.R.’s massively expanding powers completely overshadowed the other two branches of government during the Second World War.
                Just as F.D.R. is often celebrated as being one of our greatest presidents as he gave himself more and more power, Palpatine was in the prequels a well-liked leader. Padme even says “This is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause,” while the rest of the members of the senate cheer for him declaring himself emperor. In the same speech that Palpatine announced that he would become emperor, he also revealed a physical deformity that in his own words left him crippled. F.D.R’s polio was one of his most memorable aspects, and he would also have been considered crippled, using a wheelchair in his later years. In the original movies Palpatine had the same wrinkles and hunched, but that seemed at the time to be just a way to show he was old and evil. No mention was ever made of him being crippled. Why then would Lucas make him crippled instead of just having the wrinkles be the product of old age, as everyone already assumed? Palpatine would have been in his eighties in the original trilogy, those wrinkles would make sense on an eighty-something man. The reason for this seemingly insignificant change was most likely to draw yet another parallel between Palpatine and F.D.R.
                Not long after Palpatine was crippled he declared that the Jedi were enemies of the republic and they were to be hunted down. These Jedi which had been born in the Republic and had been citizens their entire lives were, as a group, declared a threat to the republic, just because they were from the same group as someone who attacked the republic. In the case of Star Wars, a group of Jedi attacked Palpatine. Likewise once Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese President Roosevelt signed an executive order which placed Americans with Japanese descent into concentration camps. This order was both highly unethical, and eventually ruled unconstitutional. Perhaps the most striking similarity between these two executive orders is what they were called. The order that destroyed the lives of so many Japanese by stripping them of their possessions and having the army place them into concentration camps was “Executive Order 9066”. In Star Wars when Palpatine tells his army to literally end the lives of the Jedi he says, “Execute Order 66.” This is too much to just be a coincidence.
                So it would seem that George Lucas intentionally based Palpatine, the ultimate evil in the Star Wars universe on one of the most revered presidents of all time. Writers and directors have been using their stories to make political statements about leaders as long as there was literature. Any middle school teacher will tell you that the pigs in animal farm were a critique of communist Russia. The same thing is present in the “Star Wars” prequels, Lucas presents a scathing criticism of a president that America has come to idolize.