Archive for category Film

On the Wave of the Recent CGI Announcements

If you haven’t heard by now, Disney is developing a CGI/live-action film of their classic Disney Afternoon series Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. This happens to be on the heels of the recent announcement of a CGI film version of the video game Sly Cooper. This announcement came a couple of months after the first surprise announcement of a upcoming CGI Ratchet & Clank film. (The latter two are being animated by the same studio.)

Chip n' Dale Rescue Rangers

This is somewhat unexpected and unprecedented. Not because they’re adaptations of classic, well-known franchises, but because of the specific choices that were made here. In the case of Sony’s games, Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper seemed to be on their way out, the last bastion of an era of mascot-based games in a world of gritty, heavy shooters. The last two games were relatively well-reveiwed and probably made a decent amount of money, but it’s difficult to claim they did SO well as to spawn a movie. Yet, every film based on the big-hitter games – Uncharted, Halo, World of Warcraft – have all stalled and/or proven to be problematic. Both games have the potential to be interesting films (Ratchet and Clank moreso than Sly Cooper), but the idea always seemed lofty, the fandom’s unachievable wet dream. And yet, here we are.

Most likely, Sony saw Dreamworks’ heavy push into the animated franchise end of things, with its multiple films and TV shows and agreements with Netflix, and wanted a piece of that pie. If the films do well, most likely TV shows will follow (as for more games? Maybe, although that’s difficult to say right now). It helps that both films seem to be tied to those people who worked on the games, but films are a whole ‘nother ballgame with a less than stellar track record when it comes to video game adaptations. Still, I can’t help but hope – I have long wanted to see these iconic characters outside their gaming forms, reaching a broader audience. If this works out, perhaps more gaming companies (EA in particular – there isn’t a money-making scheme they WON’T try) will get back to creating mascot-based games, if the ultimate goal is to spawn a franchise across multiple media formats. Maybe, just maybe, those mascots will be pushed into next gen gaming mechanics, beyond idealized 3D platformers. Imagine playing a cute purple alien in a game with the sophistication of Deus Ex.

Disney’s take on a live-action Rescue Rangers somewhat fits along the same lines, but in many ways it’s wholly different. Disney is probably thinking more along the lines of Alvin and the Chipmunks and G-Force. This should give everyone pause. Rescue Rangers was quietly creative and clever, a fully realized miniature world that existed among the feet of humans. This live-action adaptations, which looks increasingly likely to avoid using anyone connected with the original show, may turn this group of flawed, complex rodents into comedic visual eye candy. (They also claim this will be an origin story – unless they basically do a CGI version of the “To The Rescue” five-parter, this probably will be terrible. They’ll also probably do that thing where the Rangers wear clothes but all the other talking animals don’t, which will be bullshit since the whole point is that the smaller animals DO where clothes. But I digress.)

The original Rangers were a tight-knit group of flawed critters – Dale was too scatterbrained, Chip was too stuck-up, Monty was conceited, Gadget was absent-minded, and Zipper was insecure. As silly as the show was, they were characters. They had desires and feelings and flaws, and the original writers put in the work to make the characters and world of the Rescue Rangers feel “real.” With the likelihood of the original creators not being involved, there’s a chance that the creatives chosen to take up this film will take the easy route – a simple story involving kids and some adult that needs to “believe” or some shit, with a cringe-worthy dance routine. (TO BE FAIR, the original show had cringe-worthy dance routines, too.) But there is potential with fresh crew, in particular if they’re fans of the old show. There’s a chance that they can be respectful of the original series while pushing it in an interesting direction. Gadget going overboard with internet-speak will be terrible; Gadget quickly getting the hang of the internet has potential.

The question on my mind is – how is Disney going to approach this film in relation to the original series? That is, will Disney, at any point, acknowledge its relationship with the original show? Will they air (or at least put on their Youtube page) the original show? Obviously there’s a huge nostalgia angle that Disney is exploiting here, but the question is how far will they go with it. Alvin and the Chipmunks didn’t exactly inspire legions of people to see the originals, but then again, the cartoons and songs are already readily accessible if you know where to look. Disney is notorious for keeping a certain sect of its past output under lock and key.  So, I’m not too sure they’d jump aboard tying the film to its Disney Afternoon ancestor. If they did, they’d have to also deal with the question of it’s other DA shows – Ducktales, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and so on. How far would that go? I mean, their later output – Goof Troop, Bonkers, Mighty Ducks, Quack Pack – isn’t so hot (I purposely skipped the shows based on Disney films for obvious reasons).

The fact that these films are coming out is kind of a big deal, though. There’s been growing appeal among CGI creations, both ironic and unironic, and while many people roll their eyes at yet another batch of talking pixels, the technology, and the realistic approach to that technology (not to mention that sweet, sweet green) has a lot of people excited. Some of the best CGI creations in the last few years – Smeagol in Lord of the Rings, the Navi in Avatar, that big ol’ ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes – only has audiences and executives alike eager for more. Hell, ninety percent of the talk over Marvel’s new Guardian of the Galaxy film was centered around their talking raccoon. The people who scoff at “how silly” such a character might be seem to be more in the minority as filmmakers finally take them seriously and not comic relief iconography. How can these people be taking seriously when they ridicule a talking animal with a gun while rooting for a god from a magical planet wielding a massive hammer? This argument is pretty much invalid.

What’s next is still up in the air, mostly dependent on how well these films do. While there are some reservations about these announcements, there’s definitely potential, which is hugely dependent on who’s involved and their dedication to the material being adapted. I’m reserving judgment of the films themselves until the release date, but I’m more curious about what talking creature comes next, and whether it’ll be sincere or cloying.


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Tumblr Tuesday – 02/18/14

A better-late-than-never Tumblr Tuesday! Only two posts today though.

— A TWIST IS NOT A LIE (with an added diss against Moffat):

— And a BUNCH OF LINKS that Moffat should take the time to look at (my own diss):


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The Disturbing Nature of the Love Potion Episode

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be good to talk about “love potion” episodes.

Rick and Morty screenshot

Love potion episodes are when a character grabs hold of a potion or device that causes another person, usually the person he or she is infatuated with, to fall in love with them. It may be almost impossible for these types of episodes to not come off extremely rapey. Love potion episodes are the animation equivalent of “mind control” stories in comics, where villains take over the hero’s mind and body, then have sex to the hero’s girlfriend. Most comics portray this as wrong, but, like their animation brethren, downplay the vile nature of the non-consent-by-ignorance implication of the story.

I had made this observation after watching the Lloyd in Space episode “Love Beam #9,” in which Lloyd uses his friend’s invention to make his crush fall in love with him. It was supposed to be funny in a cute, overbearing way, and, generally speaking, all love potion episodes end with the lesson about being unable to force relationships to happen and the falsehood of making someone like you. Generally speaking, these episodes tend to shrug off the darker undercurrents of the love potion, in particular with “Love Beam #9,” which used the excuse of a love beam to open up deeper feelings between the two characters, instead of the harrowing reality that someone altered your mind just so you can go on a date.

It’s fairly disturbing, brought to the forefront in the latest episode of Rick and Morty, “Rick Potion #9” in which Rick gives Morty a love potion to woo his own crush. This results in an absurd, frenzied, global disaster when the potion spreads and causes everyone to want to “bone down” the kid, male or female (and it gets increasingly surreal from there). Rick spells it out in the end, calling out Morty’s desire to essentially “roofie” his crush so he can go out with her. Really, though, it’s the underlying vibe for most love potion episodes, and it raises the question on whether a love potion episode can be done without coming off selfish, creepy, and all around horrible.

I don’t like speaking in absolutes. So a part of me thinks it is possible. But let’s break down the beats of a typical love potion episode. Character A crushes on Character B. Character A acquires the love potion and applies it to Character B, resulting in Character B, through absolute no will or consent of his/her own, to return the romantic desire, sans logic or reason. Nine times out of ten, Character B gets too obsessive over Character A, which then pushes Character A away, but Character B won’t accept Character’s A rejection. So an already non-consensual love story is made worse as the non-consent is return. It’s a rabbit hole of vileness, played off as silly game.

The worse love potion episode I’ve seen had to be Kim Possible’s “The Cupid Effect,” where Wade spends almost a third of the episode shooting Monique with a romantic ray gun so she stays smitten with him. It’s fairly bad because Wade is barely a character who’s never been really outside his room up until this point, and the first thing he does is lust after Monique. There’s also a thin racial undertone to the whole thing. While this might be the most extreme one I’ve seen, most love potion episodes tend to have the same sensibility, and in the era where the real concern of rape culture is front and center, love potion episodes represent the “lighter” dark side of this cultural issue.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic tried its take on the love potion episode in “Hearts and Hooves Day.” Here, the writers try to overshadow the creepiness via the Cutie Mark Crusaders applying the love potion to two separate, seemingly lonely people. Er, ponies. It’s a somewhat admirable attempt, and not as awkward as the episodes listed above, but there’s definitely a fairly large issue in causing random people with to fall in love, which is, what, rape-by-proxy? The CMC learn this lesson, but not really in the sense that their actions are wrong, but in the sense that the love potion is so strong that the two lovebirds are so smitten that they forget to function. A fairly okay episode, and the core lesson is there, but again, the episode downplays the horrific nature of the element of non-consent. (This also applies to the trolls in the film Frozen. While no love potion is involved, they do uncomfortably try and force Anna into a marriage without any real say on her part.)

Rick and Morty also pointed out the sexual divide of the typical love potion episode. When applied to people of the opposite sex, the love potion episode emphasizes romance and sexual tension, but when applied to same sex characters, it’s always just an intense friendship, and it’s always bullshit. To be fair, any overt homosexual relationships in a kids cartoon is a no-no from a studio perspective. But there’s another element here. It implies that heterosexual relationships are “allowed” to instill this rape-like vibe, yet homosexual relationships aren’t (and that they can’t even exist), which is bad for both sides. Really, there’s nothing good that can come from the typical approach of the love potion episode, not in this day and age.

The best way to handle love potion episodes is to go big and go ridiculous, where the love potion isn’t based on someone’s perverted desire but just an obstacle to overcome, a distraction that’s in the way of a bigger, non-love-related objective. Ducktales’ love potion episode, “A Ducktales Valentine,” already has a bitter Scrooge rallying against Valentine’s Day. It involves vengeful Greek gods, and no one is forcing people to fall in love with anyone – everyone involved is accidentally stabbed with Cupid’s arrows. Darkwing Duck’s “My Valentine Ghoul” is a bit creepier – Gosalyn tries to use a love spray to rekindle Darkwing’s and Morgana’s relationship. Yet Gosalyn’s motivation isn’t about forcing love so much as it’s about not having Morgana kill the Caped Crusader and keeping Negaduck out of the way. It also helps that 1) the effects of the love potion are temporary, 2) it’s literally just only two minutes of the episode, and 3) it’s one of the funniest episodes of the run.

Overall though, if the protagonist actively uses the potion to force the person of his affection to fall for him or her, we’re already entering dangerous territory. While the lesson is worthwhile, the method to get there is inherently couched in a mentality that is uncomfortable. If a love potion has to be used, the lesson should not be a simple understanding that romance is something you can’t force and that one should be yourself. The real lesson should be that love potions are completely and utterly wrong, and the very use of them is damaging to both parties involved. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a crime, but there should be consequences that stem beyond a small speech about respect.


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