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Paramount and its Stupid Star Trek Axanar Lawsuit

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I always wondered when a Star Trek fan film would become successful enough to draw a Paramount lawsuit. Why did Paramount go after Star Trek Axanar and not Star Trek Renegades?

Both are high profile productions. Renegades had more Star Trek cast members. Axanar made headlines for raising Kickstarter money. But it really is more of a fan film than Renegades which feels like an Abrams Trek effort to cash in on the franchise by trying to use it as material for something hipper and edgier that isn’t Star Trek.

Axanar isn’t stepping on Paramount’s turf. Paramount’s idea of Star Trek is to use it as fodder for a bunch of blockbuster action movies from the writers of Transformers.

Not a whole lot of overlap with Axanar.

But CBS/Paramount/Viacom/Whatever also decided to launch some kind of pay-per-view online Star Trek TV series and they may have decided to clear the deck of fan productions on YouTube.

But are the execs really stupid enough to think that fan series, which usually have bad acting, writing and effects, but give fans the kind of Star Trek they like, are competition for a pro series that will have nothing to do with Star Trek?

Suing fan films is stupid. Those fan films keep a fan community around. Abrams Trek and Abrams Wars make tons of money, but don’t create new fans. And the existing fans help pay the bills the rest of the year when there are no movies in theaters. They also like Star Trek content that’s more Star Trek, which Paramount doesn’t do anymore.

Paramount has been smarter than Lucas. It hasn’t gone after fan content because execs knew that fandom created unprofitable content that maintained fans who might buy things licensed by Paramount.

Although the plaintiffs have allowed ample cosplaying over the years and even permitted other derivatives like amateur Star Trek shows to circulate, the lawsuit illustrates that there is a place where no man has gone before, where the entertainment studios are not willing to let be occupied: crowdfunded, professional-quality films that use copyrighted “elements” like Vulcans and Klingons, Federation starships, phasers and stuff like the “look and feel of the planet, the characters’ costumes, their pointy ears and their distinctive hairstyle.”

That covers all the cosplaying, comic strips, parodies and every fan film ever made.

Paramount picked a really bad time for this. Abrams Trek Into Darkness and Skinny British Khan was hated by everyone. The Abrams Trek Beyond trailer is being booed. A Star Trek series needs a lot of goodwill from fans and suing a kickstarted fan series also pisses off everyone who donated to it. And with $1 million raised, that’s a lot of angry fans.

Paramount and CBS gave us this joint statement after the posting of our original article: “Star Trek is a treasured franchise in which CBS and Paramount continue to produce new original content for its large universe of fans. The producers of Axanar are making a Star Trek picture they describe themselves as a fully professional independent Star Trek film. Their activity clearly violates our Star Trek copyrights, which, of course, we will continue to vigorously protect.”

Treasured franchises don’t get canceled. Treasured franchises don’t get turned over to the writers of Transformers.

The X-Files is a treasured franchise. So is Star Wars. Paramount never treasured Star Trek. It ignored it. Then whored it out.

Why do fan films exist? They keep Star Trek alive.

A struggle over the U.S.S. Enterprise’s past and future helped sour J.J. Abrams on the “Star Trek” franchise and may have contributed to his decision to take on the “Star Wars” universe.

Yet this marketing assault pales compared to the one that Abrams and Bad Robot once envisioned for “Star Trek” and now plan to construct around the new “Star Wars” films.

Much to the dismay of Bad Robot, CBS’ merchandising arm continued to create memorabilia and products based on the cast of the original 1960s series and market them to Trekkies.

TheWrap has learned that Bad Robot asked CBS to stop making products featuring the original cast, but talks broke down over money. The network was making roughly $20 million a year on that merchandise and had no incentive to play nice with its former corporate brother, the individual said.

Paramount wanted to help J.J. Abrams kill Star Trek. But CBS was making too much money from the merchandising.

Did some Paramount exec decide that Axanar posed a brand confusion threat to some multiplatform rollout?

 

 

The Force Awakens is Bad Billion Dollar Fanfic

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Star Wars The Force Awakens is the same movie as the first AbramsTrek, a well-acted and well-directed jumble of fan service and incoherent story. J.J. Abrams and his team are good at milking nostalgia for the characters and look of a classic franchise. But all those callbacks and character moments are just paint on the hood of the same exact disposable incoherent CG fest that everyone else is making in which nothing makes sense and nothing matters.

The Force Awakens is a remake pretending to be a sequel. And it’s not a good remake. The Force Awakens marries the incoherent meaningless stories of the Star Wars prequels with a better class of acting and direction. If you ever wanted to see what the prequels would have looked like if they were made by a good director who panders to franchise fans, instead of tossing them aside for kiddie merchandising, the Abrams Wars movie is it.

And that’s all it is.

Harrison Ford is swapped out for Leonard Nimoy, doing his duty by passing the torch. But he’s just there to watch the brash young cast go through the motions of playing around in a theme park recreation of classic sets and moments.

The stories for Abrams Trek and Abrams Wars are so bad that they could be fanfic. But normal fanfic usually makes more sense. In Star Wars and Star Trek, the characters served the story. In Abrams Wars and Abrams Trek, the stories is just an excuse to bring characters together to remind fans of the original movies and shows.

It’s not all Abrams’ fault. But he somehow keeps making the same soulless movies that have no substance except to exploit the nostalgia and goodwill of someone’s else work.

The only thing that sets their stories apart from bad fanfic is the money and the cast. J.J. Abrams uses both to the maximum, squeezing out callbacks and references even when they don’t make any sense. And especially when they don’t make any sense. But he isn’t recreating Star Wars. He’s the kid who comes home from the theater after seeing Star Wars and makes up a Star Wars-like story in which there’s an even worse Death Star and a lamer Darth Vader, built on the biggest cliche in Star Wars fanfic and even its Expanded Universe, and some kids fighting to stop them.

And while Abrams’ fan service and callbacks look like shows of respect, they’re the prelude to covertly trashing a franchise. Abrams Trek I climaxed with the destruction of the entire Star Trek canon. Abrams Wars is moving toward those same objectives.

Abrams movies conceal their hatred for the original material they’re looting with a facade of respect right before they slip the knife in. Underneath all the flattering tributes is jealousy. As a director, J.J. Abrams hasn’t created anything new. He mashes up other people’s work and adds incoherent updates. He wants to be Spielberg, but he has no storytelling skills. He’s a good visualist, but like Zach Snyder and many other younger directors, a terrible conceptualist. He can capture the look of Star Trek or Star Wars, but not its substance. His movies play with big toys, but there’s no story behind them. There are character moments, but they don’t add up to anything bigger than the individual moment.

J.J. Abrams can bring in money for studios, but all he’s doing is turning bad fanfic into cutscenes for some video game that will never be made.

The Trainwreck Live Action Star Wars TV Series

About the only good thing that you can say about the live action Star TV series is that with the House of George selling out the House of Mouse, this thing will probably never see the light of day.

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What do most people think of when they think of Star Wars? Spaceships and guys with laser swords slashing at each other. Even George Lucas figured out that you couldn’t really get rid of those things and still expect anyone to show up in theaters. He made them hard to come by and drowned them in a load of other crap, but he didn’t get rid of them.

Sources say the live-action series centers on the story of rival families struggling over the control of the seedy underside of the Star Wars universe and the people who live within the subterranean level and air shafts of the metropolis planet Coruscant (the Empire’s urban-sprawl-covered home planet). A bounty hunter may be the main character.

That has some potential if you’re making a syndicated low budget series that’s trying to be the DS9 of Star Wars. Maybe.

But this was a $5 million per episode series that Lucasfilm wanted to retain ownership to and that they ordered 50 scripts for without an actual deal.

The best part is that they ordered some of those scripts from Ron Moore. So we not only have a SciFi Noir crime drama without Jedis or spaceships, but we also have the most overhyped TV SF writer, after Joss Whedon, who trashed Battlestar Galactica, on board to do it.

The End of Star Trek and Star Wars

One day Paramount and Disney might meet up in a bar, go back to their penthouse for a one night stand and then hook up for good in an obscene squishy merger that will put Star Trek and Star Wars under the same corporate roof. And it won’t matter much by then because the rivalry is over and everyone lost.

Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas had their faults, and they were big ones too, but they were individuals trying to tell a story. 417px-Enterprise_destructionWith the sale of Star Wars and the end of the Star Trek franchise, those days are over. Star Wars and Star Trek are both IP’s. There’s no more stories, plots, visions or anything like that. Just a marketing opportunity.

Ten years from now, even if Paramount and Disney don’t corporately boink their balance sheets together, it will be hard to tell Star Trek and Star Wars apart. Ask a teenager now what the difference is and he won’t be able to tell you. And how could he. Maybe he’ll say that Star Wars is for kids, because he associates it with Phantom Menace and the Clone Wars series and that Star Trek is for teens because he associates it with the Abrams movie.

And he’ll be right.

Star Wars now fills the Tween niche and Star Trek hits the 17 year old target audience that every blockbuster does. Two eccentric bits of 60’s and 70’s mystic space-as-metaphor-f0r-conciousness franchises are reduced to the status of Transformer and every other IP waiting to be rolled off into theaters, consoles and app stores.

It’s amazing that Star Trek survived intact as long as it did in its gated franchise overseen by Rick Berman and his flying monkeys. It might even be alive today if Berman and his monkeys weren’t so dumb and arrogant that they killed the golden goose. UPN died and the leftovers got rebooted into a teen girl network. Star Trek fetched up on the shores of a mysterious island whose dorky overlord saw it as an exit strategy to the big time. Bigger even than Mission Impossible 3.

The rest is history, or will be when one of his movies fails, and Star Trek gets rebooted over and over again. Maybe one day it will even be a series again. Not, you know, a series, but it’ll be on TV for a while, things will blow up a lot, the writers will work out their angst, there will be a mystic arc, lots of postmodern storytelling and then SciFi or SyFy will cancel it and life will go on.

Star Trek and Star Wars were nice, but they’re dead now, Jim.

Gene Roddenberry didn’t get the chance to strangle his own franchise to death by turning it into complete crap. Everyone got lucky that he made TNG work as a concept, and as a set of characters, but wasn’t able to retain control of it. George Lucas did retain control of his franchise and killed it. But even their failures were personal. The new wave is impersonal IP’s milked like cash cows on Rodeo Drive until there’s nothing left.

Angry Birds Star Wars: The Most Obnoxious Thing Ever Has Been Achieved

There’s a point in every culture when it hits absolute bottom. When it goes so low that there is no lower and all that its people can do is gaze in awe at the transcendent majesty of their achievement.

And so I give you. Angry Birds Star Wars, in which George Lucas completes the bastardization of the Star Wars franchise on the eve of its sale to Disney and Angry Birds becomes more ubiquitous and annoying.

Congratulations everyone. Take a bow. We’ll see each other in Babylon or Rome. And if you can find a way to work Katy Perry into this, the gates of hell will probably open and swallow the entire solar system.

Can We Declare Star Wars Dead Now?

Seriously, can we?

This isn’t some fanmade parody. This isn’t Family Guy doing its 40th Star Wars episode. This is Lucasfilm plus Robot Chicken giving us rapping Darth Vader. Because that would have been funny… in 1989.

Oh and just to state the obvious, Seth Green is pushing 40 now. Robot Chicken was always overrated, but if you turn to a 38 year old guy to appeal to the kids, you get Darth Vader rapping and jokes about TMZ. Mel Brooks already did this in 1987 with Spaceballs. Since the internet got started, there have been 2 trillion Star Wars parodies and a bunch of commercial ones, like Family Guy. Star Wars Detours is the least useful and original thing ever.

Is there anything Spaceballs didn’t say 25 years ago about how silly Star Wars is? Is there anything that decades of parodies didn’t cover that Lucas needed to move forward with a lame CG roast of classic Star Wars characters?

What’s worse is this shows the horse-beating curve for Star Trek. When the only thing that George Lucas can think to do with the original characters is release an officially branded parody, the horse is completely pulped.

The Star Wars TV Series Keeps Getting Weirder

Star Wars Underworld

And I mean the proposed live action Star Wars TV series, which is supposedly in development.Not Clone Anime Wars.

The working title for it is Star Wars Underworld. That’s already a bit weird. It fits with the new 1313 project. It’s an easy enough concept to sell, but is anyone really waiting around for a Star Wars series set in the criminal underworld? Is that really the best use of the property?

It might be fun to watch, it’s just weird that the concept is 40 minutes a week of the Cantina, with funny looking aliens trying to cheat and steal from each other, is the series. As a game premise, it’s reasonable. As a major expansion of the property and the first live action series, it’s not the place you expect it to go. It seems more like a cash in, the way the games are. But that’s the whole Star Wars franchise anyway.

The would-be series already has 50 scripts written, just sitting on the shelf waiting for an economically sound way to actually be produced.

That’s a major piece of weirdness because who orders 50 scripts, over two seasons worth, before having a viable TV series? TV scripts are not the most expensive part of the production, but they’re expensive enough and it makes no sense to have 50 of them sitting on the shelf, when you don’t even have an actual series.

Shows go through transformations once they begin shooting. Having 50 scripts before a show even gets to production is something a control freak or someone with no experience in TV production would do. Okay, so that’s George Lucas. But it’s still weird.

 The scripts are said to be “timeless” and will deal with the darker side of the period between Episodes III & IV.

This makes a bit more sense. Republic collapsed. Empire is taking over. There’s a lot of corruption, a growing underworld, where people are escaping the laws of Imperial rule. It’s still weird though. What is the show going to do, follow Obi Wan around the underworld, another rogue Jedi looking to set up a resistance?

It might have been cleaner to do this in the Knights of the Old Republic timeline, but this way there will be a structure.

Our biggest problem is that these stories are adult. I mean…these are like Deadwood in space. It so unlike anything you’ve ever associated with George before in relation to Star Wars. These aren’t for kids. I mean, we hope they’ll watch, but it’s not being targeted at 8-to-9 year old boys. The situation we have is that each episode – or if you put two hour long episodes together – is bigger than any film we’ve ever done. It’s on the Avatar level and we’ll only have about $5-6 million we can spend on each episode.

Based on McCallum’s “We hope they’ll watch”, this isn’t going to be too dark. There aren’t going to be violent deaths and space hookers, not if you’re hoping that 8-9 year olds will watch. And that’s fine. It doesn’t have to actually be the Wild West, as long as it’s not pitched at 8 year olds.

But the subtext is that McCallum is uneasy. With the prequels, Star Wars firmly reoriented itself to the kid market. That was a smart business mos eisley cantinadecision in the short term, but a lousy creative decision. It’s why no one really cares anymore about Star Wars, except parents picking out Halloween costumes for their kids.

George Lucas failed the balancing act between kid-oriented and not-for-the-mentally retarded. (Pixar has that balance.) Star Wars, for the generation that grew up with the prequels and Clone Wars, is something you leave behind when you hit puberty. Making a more adult show that’s deeper to lock in that older audience is also a smart business decision. Especially when your teenage audience is more likely to associate Star Wars with Jar Jar Binks, not with Darth Vader. (About the only reason it might not is the amount of fan activity and outside media projects like Blue Harvest and Chad Vader)

Making an adult Star Wars TV show, even one that’s a long way from Deadwood, endangers the Lucas business model of selling action figures to kids.

Why is Star Wars Underworld delayed for so long? Why does it have so many scripts sitting on the shelf? It’s not the money. If DS9 and BSG could pull off some pretty impressive settings and shows within a budget, Star Wars could do it too. 5-6 million an episode isn’t bad, if you balance it out with some bottle shows, which every TV show has to do, and reuse enough sets.

What’s the real delay? George Lucas. Lucas liked the idea of a Western Star Wars, but he hasn’t allowed a quality Star Wars product that’s not licensed to someone else out the door. The scripts were written and probably rewritten, but the project still wouldn’t move forward. But George Lucas has been slowly stepping down. Until he leaves all the way, the Star Wars Underworld will remain on hold.

Krull

krullReleased in the post Star Wars frenzy as Hollywood studios were eagerly churning out anything with a mythical premise to cash in on what they thought George Lucas was doing, Krull’s more obvious inspiration was another movie dismissed as a Star Wars wannabe, Clash of the Titans.

The elements of the quest, gathering a disparate group for a quest, fighting a pan like figure for a princess’ affections, stealing magical horses and finding a magical weapons, suggest Clash of the Titans which had just come out when Krull was being made.

But Krull does have its own appeal. There’s a decent supporting cast, including a younger Liam Neeson and Robby Coltrane. The leads though are blank. The direction is good, and James Horner’s score delivers, even if it makes you think of his Star Trek work. But the script from Stanford Sherman, a veteran of the Batman TV series, who also went on to write another fantastically cheesy 80’s movie, The Ice Pirates, doesn’t deliver.

There are elements in Krull that could have made for a better movie, the vanishing spaceship mountain for one. But it’s too scattershot and formulaic, a quest with too few challenges and integrated mythology. The Emerald Sage section offers up the hope that this might change, but quickly reverts to type with the heroes riding magical Clydesdales through the sky.

I Love You Beth Cooper movie review

I Love You Beth Cooper movie posterI Love You Beth Cooper does one thing right, it gives moviegoers one of those rare believable female characters in a movie dedicated to a teenage boy’s fantasy. Unfortunately while Beth Cooper may have some dimension, I Love You Beth Cooper is nothing more than a weak remix of 80’s high school movies, with a plot so predictable that you can guess what comes next before it even happens. And besides Beth, every single character in the movie is another annoying two dimensional cliche.

There’s the prototypical nerd, Dennis Cooverman, who has a bedroom full of Star Wars models, a plastic lightsaber he uses as a weapon and can name the boiling temperature of any liquid. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s played by Paul Rust who demonstrates the scientific principle of negative charisma. There’s his best friend who’s supposedly in the closet, but is nothing more than a series of gay jokes, right down to him joining the cheerleaders in one of their routines. Beth Cooper comes with her own collection of stereotypes, including a slutty dumb friend and a psychotic marine boyfriend.

Like most teen comedies lately, I Love You Beth Cooper boils down into a road trip movie in which everyone runs around a lot, stuff gets broken, embarrassing accidents abound and closure comes from realizing that the whole point of things is the journey not the destination, the inevitable coda to any road trip flick. I Love You Beth Cooper isn’t anywhere as bad as Sex Drive or Fanboys, but it’s not as superior to them as it would like you to think. And though directed by Chris Columbus, of easy viewing hits like Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire, I Love You Beth Cooper suffers from awkward pacing and forced comedy. The gags are set up in plain sight and the only payoff is usually more humiliation for Dennis Cooverman, who winds up in his lucky underpants, bleeding, bandaged with tampons, beaten up repeatedly and saddled with a gay stereotype of a best friend who shoots movie lines at him non-stop.

I Love You Beth Cooper set out to deliver a more realistic female movie lead, and it did, unfortunately everything else about it is stale, worn and awkwardly unfunny.

When Science Fiction Creators Buy Into Their Own Hype, Lucas, Roddenberry, et al

The birth of a successful Science Fiction franchise can be a revelation, a transformation that startles people and 79851_f260sweeps a large fan base in its wake. Journalists begin looking to find high minded angles for explaining the phenomenon and its appeal and creators eager to be flattered comply reaching beyond Science Fiction and Fantasy to transform their creation into something philosophical and political, noble minded and distinct from ordinary Science Fiction or even Science Fiction at all. And thus often begins the doom of a Science Fiction franchise.

Here we can take a look at three of the more prominent examples of what happened when the creators of three Science Fiction movies\tv series’ began to believe their own hype and in the process killed much of what appealed to fans in the first place.

Star Wars

Star Wars and particularly George Lucas will always occupy a special place in any discussion of a creator coming to believe his own press. Like Indiana Jones, the original Star Wars movie was born out of the movie serials magically recreating the goofy idealism, galactic spanning stories, peudomysticism and the wacky aliens, ominous enemies and amusing sidekicks of the SciFi serial. That of course is why Star Wars succeeded, it did what Hollywood had begun forgetting to do in the seventies by producing a massive crowd pleasing epic along well worn lines. An idealistic hero, a beautiful impulsive princess, a battle against evil and the power of a ‘magic’ sword. These tropes were not derived by George Lucas from ancient myths but from the comic books and serials of an American childhood.

The problem of course is that critics and pundits could not accept this success at its face value. It couldn’t be that audiences enjoyed the movie for what it was. It had to mean something more than that. And so soon enough it did. Scratch any Hollywood figure from producer to actor to best boy and you find a guy who can throw out quotes about existentialism and the human condition faster than frisbees in a park. And with the help of Joseph Campbell, a popularizer of certain theories about mythology, Star Wars suddenly became an extension of the story humanity had always been telling, a modern myth, a hero’s journey and many other pretentious things.

As the franchise continued and the movies and the franchise were dumbed down, culminating in the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special and eventually Star Wars The Phantom Menace, George Lucas’ pretentiousness went off the charts. While on the screen we were getting racist stereotype aliens lifted from the worst of American xenophobia toward foreigners in the first half of the 20th century, off-screen we were getting lectures from George Lucas and Joseph Campbell on mythology and the hero’s journey.

Praise tends to insulate creators from reality and buffer them against criticism and even backlashes. And success of course pays for everything. The worse the Star Wars movies got, the more money they made. And the transformation of George Lucas from a guy, who like Steven Spielberg, was drawn to remaking the stories he had loved in his childhood in grand style on the big screen, to a pop philosopher and superproducer; meant that he never had to pay attention to or acknowledge the mistakes he was making and the fans he was alienating.

Star Trek

For all of Captain Kirk’s nobler speeches Commander Spock’s observations and Dr. McCoy’s philosophizing, Star Trek in the Original Series was a show about going out into the darkness of space and confronting the dangers, material and immaterial, lurking out there. It was a violent series. Phasers were used and even more frequently fists. Kirk might wish for Eden, for a pleasant planet he could settle down on in a sylvan glade; but in the end he was an adventurer and explorer, more Captain Cook than Bertrand Russell. Starfleet might have issued the Prime Directive but Captain Kirk would violate it as often as not when he came across something that offended his sense of how things should be. Sometimes he was right and sometimes he was wrong, but he usually got his way. Kirk was many things but he was not a pushover and neither was the Enterprise. It was in the end a ship full of two fisted heroes and willing to use those fists too.

Star Trek examined moral complexities but it was also an adventure show filled with mystery, danger and heroism. For its fans though Star Trek came to be more than it was. For some it became a revelation, a revelation about the way the world should be and the way people should live. These fans spawned the most passionate and determined clubs, some of which still exist today, dressing in Starfleet uniforms and taking the playacting seriously. To them Star Trek is not a beloved TV series, it is a guide for life.

For Gene Roddenberry, a producer with a spotty record who often clashed with executives who didn’t understand his vision, the existence of a large fandom and a large market both flattered him and made his ideas financially feasible. Their politics and agendas also began to overlap with his. The Gene Roddenberry who had overseen a TV series where Captain Kirk regularly beat assorted aliens into following the right path and even risked the destruction of a planet to end its virtual war, now insisted on an extreme form of pacifism. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was as cartoonishly unrepresentative an adaptation of the Star Trek series as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace had been of the original three Star Wars movies, both were movies in touch with one exaggerated attribute of the original films\tv shows, but out of touch with all the others. Star Trek: The Motion Picture emerged as a highly idealistic attempt to talk about the human mind, our place in the universe and the vastness of what’s out there and what’s in here. But it was also elongated and hollow because the same two fisted adventurous spirit of the series was missing.

When Star Trek rebooted with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a movie that brought back the two fisted spirit of the series in all its glory, Gene Roddenberry furiously protested that Kirk would not have shot the Ceti eel that had just nearly forced Captain Terrell to murder them and had left Chekov in a horrible state. In fact Operation Annihilate strongly suggests he would have. Yet by this point Gene Roddenberry had become insistent that Kirk’s respect for all forms of life would have prevented him from reacting in a natural human way.

It was not that Star Trek had been dedicated to Kirk finding and destroying new forms of life. Indeed in The Devil in the Dark,Kirk had learned that a creature which was attacking the miners was in fact a sentient Horta and a mother protecting her babies. There was no inconsistency in Kirk as an explorer understanding that what had been occurring with the Horta was a misunderstanding and delighting in the discovery of a new lifeform and Kirk the human being blowing away a vicious parasite that had been used to torture and kill a number of his fellow officers. But Gene Roddenberry had fallen so far into the depths of a knee jerk pacifism fed by fans who viewed him as a philosopher rather than a storyteller, that the man who had sat with a rifle in preparation for the riots was now insisting that Kirk harming the Ceti Eel was immoral and out of character for Star Trek.

The Matrix

Remember the Matrix? What began as a cool mind blowing movie that moved between reality and unreality and danced around philosophical conundrums as well as bullets, became a trilogy so mired in those philosophical conundrums that they weighed it down too much for it to even move. If Star Wars had managed two or three movies (depending on your opinion) before succumbing to the growing Jabba the Hut like ego of its creator and Star Trek had managed to mostly dodge Gene Roddenberry’s growing moral relativism and pacifism (aside from some bad moments in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager), the Matrix managed only one single film before the weight of its own philosophical ruminations crushed the movie series into self-indulgent mythological posturing and playing a shell game with cybernetic conundrums.

The unexpected success of The Matrix at the box office to the extent that it had temporarily become a sort of cultural touchstone, led to the kind of creative independence that rarely brings about good things. In the case of the Matrix it produced two follow up movies, one that mixed random martial arts fights with seemingly irrelevant journeys around the Matrix and heaps of exposition on freedom of will and predestination. This was followed by a closing film that made the machines into the stars of the film, disposing of most of its main characters while the machines suddenly touched by Neo’s heroism decided to reform and become better people, well machines.

Coddling creators rarely leads to much good. Creative people perform best when they are up against the wall, forced to cobble together compromises between their wildest ideas and the more conventional demands of editors and producers. Worship is very bad for creative people. Tell a creative person that he has produced a philosophy that has changed your life and he will take you seriously and you will have created a monster. When creative people begin believing in themselves and stop listening to criticism, the value of their work quickly withers and diminishes.

Creative people, like all humans, need balance in their lives. They need to be able to test their far out ideas against the more grounded practical realities of the philistines whose job it is to make sure the public will actually buy what they’re selling. When creative people are detached from those restrains and free of all discipline they often gorge themselves on their wildest ideas and produce the unwatchable and the unreadable.

The movies and TV shows you love are not a work of any one man’s genius. They are part of a collaborative process in which the creator is not omnipotent. We can all feel bad when a creator complains about his work being edited and cut, but the above examples provide ample evidence of what happens when the creator’s work remains unedited and free from a collaborative process.

 

 

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