The Hobbit (Pt. 3)

We return, once again, to the subject of The Hobbit trilogy.

I have already gushed about this trilogy at lenght, and presented my reasons for liking it. Because of that, I won’t bore you with the details, especially when you can read those details here and here.

Instead, I will jump straight to the point with this article, namely to make an observation about Saruman in this trilogy.

I recently saw an Q&A with Christopher Lee, regarding his role as Saruman. I’ll paraphrase the specific quote.

Saruman the White was, at one time, a very noble, fine, decent, honorable man […] I’m happy to say I’ve done [the Hobbit….] when he IS a good man.

He goes on to say that, to the best of his knowledge, Tolkien never explains exactly how Saruman turned from Saruman the White to, as he termed him, Saruman the Black.

Now, the problem is that, like most people who saw the Hobbit, my main knowledge about Saruman comes from the adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. In other words, I was used to seeing Saruman as a duplicitous villain. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a lot of us watched An Unexpected Journey, and when Saruman appeared, we thought “Oh, crap, secondary villain!”. Because, again, that is how we are used to seeing him.

But then I saw that Q&A, and this changed the way I saw his character. Once I watched the movies with the understanding that Saruman isn’t a villain, I realized that his actions not only aren’t villanous, but they’re not even unreasonable or foolish.

What I thought as subversion was just caution. What I saw as manipulation was really just reasonable observation. What I saw as contempt for Radagast was…. OK, that’s pretty much there no matter what, but still, it’s not becaue he’s evil, but because he simply doesn’t respect Radagast.

Let’s consider the context here. Gandalf appears in Rivendell with a bunch of dwarves, on a mission to Erebor. Saruman has heard of this and meets up with Gandalf to get an explanation why, exactly, he thinks it’s a good idea to mess with a creature known as the “Chiefest and Greatest Calamity of Our Age”. Gandalfs response is to suggest Smaug might side with Sauron.

As in, the dark lord that was defeated and vanquished THREE MILLENIA ago.

Gandalf goes on to question what became of the last of the dwarf rings, worn by Thrain. Thrain who, to the best of everyones knowledge, fell in battle along with his father at Moria, and his body was never recovered, possibly taken by the orcs when they retreated.

And Saruman notes that, even IF by some miracle what remains of Sauron claimed the dwarf rings, they are useless to him if he doesn’t have the One Ring, which was lost in the Anduin and swept off to sea. (Something that also happened literal millenia ago).

Gandalf then points to the fact that three trolls have destroyed a farm, and a pack of warg riders attacked him and his comrades. As Elrond notes, it’s hardly a prelude to war.

When Gandalf points out that something is wrong with the Greenwood, and that the woodsmen speak of a necromancer in Dol Guldur, Saruman dismisses this absurd, and that it’s likely they’re just scared of a petty conjuror “dabbling in black magic”. Gandalf then tries to bring up Radagast and his visit to the fortress.

In other words, he’s presenting the testimony of someone who Saruman considers a mentally unstable fool, and an embarrassment to his order, as a defence. It’s not exactly a great argument to bring up the ravings of the local shroomhead when pleading your case.

When Gandalf presents the Morgul Blade, Saruman asks what evidence there is that it comes from the tomb of the Witchking of Angmar.

Gandalf: I have none.

Saruman: Because there IS none! Let us examine what we know. A single orc pack has dared to cross the Bruinen, a dagger from a bygone age has been found, and a human sorcerer who calls himself “The Necromancer” has taken up residence in a ruined fortress. It’s not so very much, after all.

Put bluntly: When Saruman meets with Gandalf at Rivendell, he basically pulls a WTFAW! He treats Gandalfs like I treat Dave on a regular basis, except with less swearing, insults and threats of violence.

Gandalf takes what Saruman concludes to be minor coincidences, and presents them as proof that the second worst enemy in the history of Middle-Earth has somehow resurfaced.

Granted, Gandalf’s theory is correct, but its hard to blame Saruman for his reasoning. It all comes down to context. Either Gandalf is a bit of a worrywart and these minor events happening at once are just a coincidence, or Sauron, who was OBLITERATED 3000 years ago is back and threatening their long fought-for peace. What sounds more likely?

And the actual, important evidence, like the bounty on Thorins head? Gandalf doesn’t say a peep about that! What is Saruman supposed to think, when the evidence he’s offered is so weak?

And it’s very important to note that, when Gandalf is captured in Dol Guldur, and Radagast brings his message to Galadriel, what does Saruman do? Does he dismiss the message as unimportant? Does he think Gandalf has screwed up and leave him to sort out his own mess?

No, he does not. Gandalf might “look for trouble where none exists”, but he is still a member of the Istari. He is a member of Sarumans order, and while they have their disagreements, they are kin. Is Saruman the White going to let Gandalf just die? Fuck that!

He goes to Dol Guldur, along with Galadriel and Elrond. There, he’s faced with the Nazgûl, the nine undead servants of the Dark Lord Sauron, risen from the dead, armed and ready to destroy him. And Saruman promptly gets down to the business of KICKING THE EVER UNLIVING SHIT OUT OF THEM! He even trades blows with the Witchking himself!

And THIS is a crucial moment of Sarumans character in the movies.

What happens once they’ve won and saved Gandalf?

They are faced with Sauron himself.

And here, we see something very interesting. Saruman, who didn’t flinch when faced with the Nazgûl, is suddenly TREMBLING IN ABJECT TERROR!

And who can blame him? Sauron has returned, and even without the One Ring, he has gained this much power, so much so that he can casually reanimate the Nine without any effort. He can’t take on physical form, but he clearly doesn’t need to, to fight them!

This is something Saruman the Wise had never considered: that the Dark Lord, even weakened, should dwarf their power this much.

And the only reason they survived was because one of the most powerful elves in Middle-Earth sacrificed a lot of her power just to drive Sauron away, before retreating to Lothlorien.

Remember that Q&A, when Christopher Lee said that Tolkien never explained how Saruman fell? I put it to you, that within the continuity of the movies, THIS is the moment Saruman broke. He was presented with something that, as far as he was concerned, wasn’t just unlikely. It was fucking IMPOSSIBLE for Sauron to have returned, and yet HERE HE IS! It’s enough to cause Saruman to not just lose his way. He lost his mind!

It explains why he doesn’t follow the books in that he wants to usurp Sauron, but instead means to join and serve him. As he puts it.

Against the power of Mordor, there can be no victory.

He has seen the power of Sauron first hand and he knows that, since then, that power has only GROWN! To his mind, the wizards have no choice. Either they will join Sauron, or they will die.

Now, this is all well and good, but there is actually a point I want to present with all this.

Like I said earlier, Sarumans character in the Hobbit has this great depth to it, but it suffers from the fact that we, as the audience, know Saruman only as a villain, and we therefore mistrust anything he says, or at least are unsure what his motives are. So, how could they have prevented that?

And this lead me to an idea. And of course, it’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things, since it’s obviously too late to change it now. But it’s just an idea I had, with the benefit of hindsight, not unlike what I did with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

And the idea is this: They should have given Saruman a different staff.

See, Sarumans staff is made to resemble the tower of Orthanc, which does kind of make sense, since that’s where he lives.

But this always struck me as strange, since he hasn’t always lived there. He arrived in Middle-Earth and wandered it for centuries, before taking up residence in Isengard. So, logically, he must have had another staff in that time, and one can assume it wasn’t made to look like Orthanc.

Suppose that, when we see him in An Unexpected Journey, he instead carried a WHITE staff. Not identical, but similar to that carried by Gandalf the White, who describes himself as “Saruman as he SHOULD have been”, and this is his original staff.

That would have been a very good indicator that here, Saruman is not evil. It’d make the audience go “Hang on, why is Sarumans staff different? It’s white now, when it was black in the other films!

(While I’m at it, they could also have given him a cleaner white robe and a manicure, but I think the staff might be the detail most people would notice.)

From there, I don’t think it’s a great leap of logic to suppose that Saruman isn’t evil here. Proud, a bit condescending, but ultimately a force of good. Hell, as an added nod, perhaps when Sauron appears, Sarumans staff shatters, echoing Gandalfs meeting with the Witchking in the third LOTR movie. Only here, because of Sarumans pride, and the fact that he isn’t as wise as Gandalf, the shock contributed to his change to, as it were, Saruman the Black.

And the next time Gandalf sees him, Saruman has crafted a new staff, this time a polished black, modeled after the black tower he resides in.

Now, like I said, this observation is kind of meaningless. I’m just musing on what could have been, in a movie series which I really enjoy anyway. And I understand that, due to the issues behind the scenes and the somewhat impromptu production, it’s hard to blame them for not thinking about such a minor detail. It’s just a small thing that, to me, would have made the trilogy that little bit better.

But it DOES beg the question why Saruman, even as the noble head of the Istari, decided to go with such an ominous looking staff…

Then again, this IS the same guy who, in the books, decided to wear a robe that sparkles like a rainbow, and still expects people to take him seriously, so maybe he just has lousy taste.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Those of your who have paid attention will know that the last few articles have been covering movies by Tim Burton. Writing one more such article today, the day after Halloween, is really a no brainer.

I mean, only a massive fool would miss such an obvious opportunity.

And to quote Gomez Addams:

With God as my witness, I am that fool!

Which is why todays article is about the classic disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

But don’t worry. I love this movie dearly, and I consider it one of the best disney movies of all time. As such, my goal is one of defence, not nitpicking.

You see, a while back I came across some criticisms of the movie, which I found myself disagreeing with. Obviously, I’m all for people criticizing movies and games. I’d be a bit of a hypocrite otherwise.

I only ask that the criticisms be valid. And in this case, some of the criticisms were simply not.

Which is why I’m writing this article. I will adress four issues raised against the movie, that I don’t agree with.

So, let’s begin.

The first issue about the movie was how a romani woman and a romani man managed to have a son with red hair, light skin and blue eyes?

And at first glance, that is a good question. By all accounts, that shouldn’t be possible. And my response to that is simply: No, it isn’t.

I mean, there might be some genetic fluke involved, a one in a million chance…

But I think there is a more reasonable explanation, within the logic of the movie.

After all… Who said that the woman in the opening is Quasimodos mother?

Only twice, in the entire movie, is she referred to as his mother. And both times, it’s said by Frollo. Somehow, I don’t think he’s that trustworthy. He never really gave the woman a second thought, even after he smashed her skull open on the staircase, and simply assumed, much like the audience, that she held the baby, therefore it was probably her baby.

Yet as this observation actually makes clear, there is a very real possibility that Quasi wasn’t her child.

After all, they are only referred to, by Clopin, as “four frightened gypsies“.

Which brings us to the next issue. What’s up with Clopin?

How come he seems to have all this knowledge about the Archdeacon and Frollo, and how Quasimodo came to be in the belltower, and then doesn’t recognize him during the Feast of Fools or in the Court of Miracles?

To answer that, we just have to consider that, just because we don’t SEE him find out, doesn’t mean he COULDN’T find out.

After all, the story of how Quasi came to Notre Dame is told many many years after the fact. Clopin is the leader of the gypsies. Even if Quasimodo himself isn’t a gypsie, he was taken care of by one, and reasonably, Clopin could have found out. After all, a baby with a hunchback and a misalligned face? That’s somewhat hard to forget.

Then, the deformed baby is taken away by three gypsies. Two of them end up imprisoned, and the third is found dead near Notre Dame.

The Archdeacon clearly has no issue with the gypsies, so what’s stopping Clopin from just asking for some details?

And then stories start to spread about a deformed bellringer who can be seen occasionally climbing the cathedral. You can piece together a lot from that.

And as for why Clopin doesn’t recognize Quasi later, I’ll get back to that.

In the meantime, let’s move on. The next issue is why the Archdeacon didn’t raise Quasimodo?

This one is pretty easy to explain, given the information presented in the movie. Frollo murdered a woman on the steps of Notre Dame itself. He then attempts to murder an innocent infant in a well. The Archdeacon intervenes and declares that Frollo has commited a deadly sin, murdering an innocent woman.

You can lie to yourself and your minions/
You can claim that you haven’t a qualm/
But you never can run from/
nor hide what you’ve done from the eyes/
The very eyes of Notre Dame

He then tasks Frollo to raise the child, as pennance for his sin. Had the Archdeacon raised Quasimodo himself, he would literally be letting Frollo get away with murder. After all, Frollo is, from what we see, the highest authority in the paris justice system. He’s the main authority on the laws of man. But he does respect divine authority, at least to a point.

By forcing him to raise a child, the Archdeacon perhaps hoped Frollo would learn from the experience and become a better human being. He just didn’t expect Frollo to be pure evil behind a mask of selfrighteousness.

And finally, we reach the final issue. What’s the deal with the Court of Miracles? When Quasimodo and Phoebus reaches the Court of Miracles, they’re immediately captured and put on a mock trial, sentencing them to death for being “totally innocent“.

At first glance, this is a valid point. The Gypsies, who Frollo has demonized into vicious, evil people, turn out to be perfectly willing to execute two people who did nothing wrong. Surely this cannot add up, right?

Here’s the thing, though….

Earlier, I mentioned the issue that Clopin somehow has this amazing knowledge, which seems to vanish later. But that argument is assuming the options are either “knows nothing” or “knows everything“.

So, let’s go over what Clopin is shown to actually know. He refers to Quasimodo by name twice, once in the opening song and once during the Feast of Fools. Watch it again, and you notice that nobody refers to Quasimodo by name before Clopin mentions it. So he knows Quasi by name and he knows he was raised by Frollo.

And THAT is a crucial detail. Clopin knows Quasimodos name, but he doesn’t actually know him.

He doesn’t know Quasimodo as a person. He just knows that this is someone who was raised by a man WHO HATES ALL GYPSIES. Frollo has been attempting to find the Court of Miracles, and has imprisoned (and possibly killed) god knows how many gypsies in his search.

So what reason, exactly, does Clopin have for believing Quasimodo is a friend?

Answer: Absolutely nothing!

Watch the Feast of Fools scene, and you notice that Clopin is targeting Quasimodo. Then, when Quasimodo is crowned, and subsequently tied down and pelted with vegetables?

Suddenly, Clopin is nowhere to be seen. None of the gypsies, besides Esmeralda, raise a finger to help him. But as soon as Esmeralda is in trouble, they come back and start helping out again.

It’s almost like they deliberately refused to help Quasimodo!

And later, when Phoebus and Quasimodo enter the Court of Miracles, it’s true the gypsies put them on trial.

Which is cruel… but makes sense when you take into account what Clopin and his entourage has to go on.

The Court of Miracles is a safe haven for them. Maintaining it’s secrecy is crucial for their continued survival. And now, the guy who was raised by the very man who wishes to find this place and kill them all is found in the catacombs. Not only that, but he brought along the captain of the guards. The captain of the guards who they all saw next to Frollo during the Feast of Fools. The captain of the people who are, at this very moment, in the process of burning the city to cinders. Yes, that was on Frollos direct orders, rather than Phoebus’. But the gypsies DON’T FUCKING KNOW THAT!

To them, this is not just two random strangers. It’s two out of the three people they ABSOLUTELY DON’T WANT TO FIND THEM!

Sentencing them to death isn’t because “gypsies were evil all along“. It’s because they cannot afford to let these two live to tell Frollo about them!

And yes, they charge Phoebus and Quasi with the crime of being “totally innocent“.

But maybe this is just me, but I always interpreted that as a critique of the current justice system, which as we see is horribly corrupt. After all, the two guards who harrassed Esmeralda attempted to take her money, claiming she stole it, when in reality she earned it by dancing.

Clopin is doing a dark mockery of the justice system that is targeting his people. A justice system wherein being innocent is “the worst crime of all”.

Do you really think that if a gypsie was put on trial by Frollo, being innocent would save them from being sentenced to whatever cruel punishment he could think up?

Considering this is the same man who, in the first four minutes of the movie, had already imprisoned two gypsies, killed a third and was going to drown a toddler?

No, I don’t think such a trivial detail would matter that much to him.

So that’s four issues raised against the movie, which I simply do not agree with. Does this automatically mean all criticisms against it are invalid? No, of course not. It’s not a perfect movie, and I’m sure that if I put my mind to it, I could find things to nitpick.

It’s just that these issues do not quite hold up to me. And if I can make just one more person like this movie as much as I do, I would consider this entire endeavour worthwhile.

Sleepy Hollow

I have decided to remain on the subject of Tim Burton, which started with the previous article I wrote. While looking into his original movies and their supposed connection, I got to thinking. And today, I’d like to share a short observation about another movie of his: Sleepy Hollow.

Now, since I quite like this movie and don’t have any overall criticism to write about, this will be a pretty short article.

My observation has to do with the basic setup for the movie. Short summary: Ichabod Crane, a police constable in New York City, is being a nusiance to his fellow officers. The reason being that he insists on bizarre concepts like examining dead bodies to determine cause of death, questioning confessions extracted through torture and overall advocating modern, scientific methods to examine clues in order to solve crime.

As such, he given chance to prove his beliefs to be correct. He is instructed to go to Sleepy Hollow and, with the help of his scientific methods, find whoever is responsible for the multiple murders there and bring them back to face justice. This is cemented by the Burgomaster, played by the late, great Christopher Lee.

Remember. It is you, Ichabod Crane, who is now put to the test

This is a fairly crucial plot point, the whole reason Ichabod Crane is in Sleepy Hollow at all. While it is not the reason it is all happening, it is the reason the mystery is resolved.

And here is where my observation comes in. Namely that this crucial, pivotal plot point is NEVER FOLLOWED UP ON.

It is completely forgotten about after the opening, and is never brought up again!

It tells Crane, and by extention, the audience, to remember. Well, movie, out of the two of us, I was the only one who did!

And at the end of the movie, Crane returns to New York, along with Katrina and Masbath (either as a protegé, surrogate son or manservant), and they walk home in the light snowfall.

It’s very touching.

But now, I can’t help but wonder. Within the context of the story, what happens next? What is the result of Cranes test? I mean, he failed, didn’t he? What will he tell his superiors?

That with the help of logic, reason and science, he determined the culprit to be a witch, in league with the devil, who used the skull of a dead, psychotic hessian horseman to have his spirit kill all who stood between her and her inheritance? And instead of bringing her back to stand trial, Crane gave the head back to the horseman, who then dragged the woman into portal to hell, hidden inside a tree full of blood, gore and decapitad heads?

This, to me, seems a bit like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

Either he keeps the whole affair secret and concede his methods and beliefs to be invalid, because they did not help him to solve the crime…

Or he tells them the story, in which case they will put him in a lunatic asylum.

Best case scenario, he just tells them that he found the guilty culprit, but she died, after comitting several other murders.

But even then, he has seen absolutely extraordinary things! He has seen the dead rising from their graves, proof that magic is real, the possibility of there being an afterlife, or at the very least a hell!

The stuff he has seen has deep, theological consequenses, and I’m just wondering… does he really keep that to himself for the rest of his life?

Now, I understand that they wanted to emphasize his eccentricity. But in the process, they present the current justice system to be crude, cruel, narrow minded and medieval, and that Cranes methods, while unorthodox, is something it desperately needs.

It really bugs me that nothing ever comes from this. And a big reason it bugs me, I suppose, might be that very few movies by Tim Burton tend to leave loose ends like that.

With most of his other movies, like Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Edward Scissorhands, if you don’t know what happens after the end of the movie, you can at least make educated guesses.

Here, with a central plot point forgotten or ignored, you’re kind of just left hanging.

So that’s my view on Sleepy Hollow. I should make it clear that overall, I still really enjoy it. Great cast, acting, atmosphere and it’s clearly a massive loveletter to old horror movies, with the stylistic choices made in it. I’m just a nitpicking pedant that’s bugged by small details like this.

But really, if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that already.

The Warriors

Strap in, folks. This is going to be a long one.

It’s been a long time coming, but I have finally decided to write about the 1979 cult movie The Warriors.

And I’m going to level with you people right away….

I don’t like this movie. Not one bit. I’ll admit, it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think it is a terrible movie.

If you like it, you will probably not enjoy reading this, and I would recommend you stop reading now, because this article will just be me criticizing this movie.

For those of you who may be curious as to my reasoning, let’s get to ranting.

I suppose we may as well start at the beginning.

The movie begins with several New York street gangs, all going to a meeting called by Cyrus.

Who is Cyrus, you ask?

I have no fucking idea.

We get some scattered descriptions about him. He’s apparently the head of the Riffs, the biggest gang in the city. But really… who the hell is he?

It’d be one thing if people were just impressed by his status, but everyone starts talking about him like he’s this mythical, legendary figure. All information we get about him is “A whole lot of magic” and that he’s “the one and only“.

Ok, so what do you mean “magic“? The one and only what? Why do people admire him? Why is he the leader of the biggest gang in town? What’s special about him? Simply put:

Who the fuck is he?!

Because to me, he looks like an asshole in a silk bathrobe, holding court from a damn jungle gym!

Whoever he is, he has called a meeting, asking every gang to bring 10 members to the gathering. And he tells them to not bring any weapons.

And then, despite him being the leader of the biggest gang in town and therefore someone at a slight risk of assassination, he seems to just assume everyone will agree to his proposed truce.

(Street gangs, of course, being famous for obeying authority figures and always follow orders.)

But it turns out that Luther, the leader of a gang called the Rogues, does indeed bring a revolver, and proceeds to shoot “The One and Only” Cyrus to death. Turns out that “whole lotta magic” doesn’t do much against a .357 Magnum to the chest. Go figure…

And despite a massive handgun being fired in the middle of a crowd of people, only ONE PERSON seems to notice who fired the gun, allowing Luther to blame the murder on the eponymous Warriors.

So because none of the Riffs think of asking “hey, if the leader of the Warriors shot Cyrus, why did he rush forward and tried to help him” and instead BEAT HIM TO DEATH, the rest of the Warriors have to make their way back to Coney Island with a bounty on their head.

So about the rest of the warriors. We’re introduced to Swan, Ajax and the rest. I would give you their names, but apart from Ajax and Swan, none of them have much of a personality.

Swan is the closest this movie gets to a hero (and even that is a stretch), and Ajax is an bickering asshole who gets arrested halfway through the movie for trying to rape an undercover officer.

There’s also Cowboy, who’s defining characteristic is “wears a hat”. The rest barely have personalities at all, so much so that when one of the Warriors, who again are the MAIN CHARACTERS, falls in front of a subway train and dies, I couldn’t even remember his damn name, let alone what he added to the plot.

It’s almost like having NINE characters as the focus wasn’t a brilliant move. Maybe cut three or four or combine their characters instead?

Suppose it was just it Swan, Ajax and two more. You know, so we have time to get to know them, so we actually CARE if one of them dies?

Hell, Peter Jackson had 9 main characters in Lord of the Rings, but at least he had NINE PISSING HOURS TO FLESH THEM OUT!

None of these characters have any real personalities, so it’s a bit hard for me to give a crap if they make it or not.

But after avoiding police and rival gangs, they finally make it back to Coney Island, having travelled and run and fought across all the way from Manhattan. They’re home free, they’ve made it. They’re safe!

And Swan looks out across Coney Island. Does he tell his friends that “We’ve made it. We’re home“?

Some rousing speech about how they’ve proven that they are truly warriors, perhaps?

No, he looks around in disgust and says

This is what we fought all night to get back to?

What the piss are you talking about?! Is this the first time the actor saw Coney Island and they left the camera on!? It’s not like you set out for some mythical, distant land of milk and honey. You LIVE HERE!

What the hell did you expect!? This is the place you started from at the beginning of the movie! You have been gone for less than 8 hours! And now, you’re on the verge of leaving, because it didn’t live up to your fucking expectations!?

Glad to see you think this has all been worthwhile, Swan!

And this is when Luther and his gang arrives in Coney Island, calling the warriors to “come out to play“, which frankly is one of the most memorable moments in the movie.

Now, this is Coney Island, remember? The Warriors have been trying to get here the whole movie. They brought 10 members to Cyrus’ meeting. The warriors have fought across the city, dealing with other gangs along the way. But now, they’re on Coney Island. Home turf.

So Swan, having been chosen as war chief of the Warriors, steps forward and calls out, at which point the rest of the warriors, the ones that DIDN’T go to the gathering, appear and chase Luther and his Rogues out of Coney Island. Because this is Warrior territory.

At least, that’s what I thought would happen.

But appearantly, the Warriors just consists of 8 morons with three personalities and a stupid hat between them.

So instead of something really impressive and awesome, and a nice reversal of the rest of the movie, they all just go to a beach for the face off with Luther. And here is when we finally get answers.

After all, Luther snuck a gun into the meeting and assassinated Cyrus. He planned this ahead of time. He purposefully blamed Cleon and the Warriors. It’s the catalyst for the entire movie. So why then did he do it?

Did Cyrus wrong him somehow? Was he a former member of either the Riffs or the Warriors? Did Cleon kill a friend of Luthers and this was all for revenge?

No, nothing like that. Luther gives a very simple and straightforward answer.

No reason. I just like doing things like that.

You fucking what!?

You mean to tell me that this entire story is a result of this one guy being bored and deciding to kill someone for shits and giggles?! And none of the other members of the gang decided “Maybe this is a bad idea, just randomly killing the most powerful guy in town out of boredom“?!

Fuck you, movie! The only way this is culturally significant is because it shows a culture before BASIC FUCKING CHARACTER MOTIVATION!

And to top it all off, Luther is armed with a handgun, facing off against a guy with a switchblade.

And he not only manages to miss the guy RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF HIM, but also gets stabbed in the arm and falls to his knees screaming like a little bitch…

THIS was the main villain of the movie, folks! This sniveling punk who is on his knees, grabbing his bleeding arm and almost weeping.

This is your villain! Look upon him and tremble!

And you know what the most frustrating thing of all is?

This isn’t the dumbest thing in this movie!

It’s not even close!

I saved this for last, because it is absolutely unbelievable in how insane it is.

And it requires us to go back to the beginning of the movie, because now I’m gonna tell you about Cyrus’ plan.

Cyrus had the idea that all gangs in New York should unite, to form one single gang, thereby effectively controlling the city.

Now, he starts this monologue by presenting a question to the crowd.

Can you count, suckers?

He then proceeds to point out that at this gathering, there are 10 delegates from a hundred gangs, and that there are over a hundred more.

This, he says, equals 20.000 hardcore members. 40.000, counting affiliates.

Firstly, what the hell does that even mean? Is he talking about subordinates? Don’t they count among the hardcore members?

And then, he adds another 20.000 who are “unafiliated, but ready to fight”. Presumably just thugs without gangs.

Here’s the thing, and this is where his original question really starts to bother me. Can I count? Why, yes I can, which is why I can see why your plan is fucking broken, Cyrus!

200 gangs with 10 members each equals 2000, not 20.000!

At most, we’re talking MAYBE 4000 members. By extention, let’s be generous and say that in total, he has between six and nine thousand members. Not exactly the army of 60.000 soldiers he envisioned, is it?

He proceeds to say that “There ain’t but 20.000 police officers in the whole city“.

The city, I remind you, is NEW YORK CITY.

Fun Fact: The NYPD is the single biggest police department in the entire country! While I don’t have the number for the 80’s (though not for lack of trying) in 2013, they had over 49.000 employees. Out of them, roughly 34.500 were uniformed officers, and an additional 4.500 Auxilliary officers.

So far, it seems that instead of outnumbering the cops 3/1, they outnumber YOU 4/1, Mr. Whole Lotta Magic.

But maybe they had fewer officers in the 80’s. Like I said, I don’t have the numbers. But let’s say that you’re right, and they have 20.000 officers. Now, you’re STILL outnumbered, but on top of that, each of them is a trained law enforcement officer, whereas you people are street trash. You’re therefore outclassed. Oh, and your weapons are baseball bats, switchblades, steel pipes, maybe the odd revolver here and there…

They, on the other hand, all have standard issue firearms, and access to riot shields, shotguns and rifles.

Oh, and there’s another big fucking problem you’ve forgotten, Your One and Onlyeness.

Guess what the NYPD can do, which you can’t?

They can ask other police departments for backup! Even if they haven’t got enough people, they can call for assistance!

How well do you think you little takeover will go, once the national guard gets called in, with their MILITARY GRADE EQUIPMENT!

Somehow, I suspect morale will take a bit of a nosedive once groups like the Baseball Furies start being mowed down by soldiers with assault rifles!

But oh, it gets better! Because Cyrus also says that they can “tax the crime syndicates“.

Are you kidding me!?

New York City is one of the BIGGEST TRADING HUBS ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET!

Do you have any idea how many different criminal organizations have a vested interest in things running smoothly in New York?

Let’s go through some of the more obvious ones. There’s the Cosa Nostra AKA the Sicilian Mafia, there’s the Yakuza, Chinese Triads, the Polish mafia, the Russian mafia, the south american cartels and the various central american syndicates.

And those are just the ones I know of!

And you’re seriously suggesting that you’re gonna stroll up, in your silk bathrobe, to people like Vito Corleone or Tony “Scarface” Montana and suggest that they pay you to keep things moving?!

Best case scenario, all you’ll get is a lesson of what “go fuck yourself” is in about twelve different languages!

And let’s say, for the sake of argument, that they DON’T blow your brains out then and there, and just laugh you out of the building. So to prove how serious you are, you start causing trouble.

Congratulations. Now you’ve made them angry. Now they’re serious, and they will start bringing in THEIR heavy hitters. Now they bring in the psychos they keep for special occasions. The kind of people that break into your home at night and hack you to death with a god damn hatchet, before turning to your family and anyone else you know, love or care about!

Actually, this is fiction, so chances are you’ll manage to piss off Keyser motherfucking Söze!

The guy supposedly killed his own family just to make a point. What the fuck do you think he’ll do to you?!

You want to unite all the gangs of New York, control the city and frighten politicians and crime lords? Because there’s only one guy I know of that could pull that off.

And guess what, you jungle gym pulpit preaching bathrobe bastard…

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You sure as hell don’t look like this guy to me.

Shock Treatment

Here’s a question for you… Can one detail ruin a movie for you?

About a year ago, I wrote an article about the noted cult classic musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show. More specifically I explained my issue when it comes to peoples apparent glorification of the villain, Dr. Frank N. Furter.

I mention this, because it’s part of the reason I want to talk a bit about its slightly lesser known… I suppose you could call it a spinoff of sorts: Shock Treatment.

And this is going to be a bit tricky, because I haven’t actually seen this movie. I have read a synopsis, seen a review and listened to some of the songs. (Unsurprisingly, the songs were very good) but I have never actually watched this movie. To be more precise, I haven’t seen past the beginning.

But before you rage at me for talking out of my ass, and critisizing the movie, let me explain.

You see, the issue I’m going to write about is actually the reason I could never watch past the opening.

Like I said, this movie is a parallel movie to Rocky Horror, and we follow the continued misadventures of Brad and Janet, who have married and are disillusioned by their lives together.

And that, right there, is my issue with the movie.

Why are Brad and Janet in this movie?

We spent all of TRHPC getting to know Brad and Janet, where they decided to marry, we saw their innocence, their naïve, adorable awkwardness, and then their gradual, staggering descent into the mad world of Frank N. Furter. And in the end, they are left shocked and battered, but alive, having survived an insane alien scientist and his servants in a flurry of sex, death and rock’n’roll.

Then we see this movie, and nothing suggests that these events had any impact on the characters here. Brad has gone from somewhat dweeby to socially closed down, and Janet is no longer sweet and innocent, instead being cynical and frustrated.

And over the course of the movie, we find that the main villain of the movie is in fact Brads evil twin brother Farley, who wants to take over the town of Denton.

Now, researching this movie suggested that the events of TRHPS are actually non-canon in regards to this movie. But that just reinforces the problem.

Why are Brad and Janet in this movie?!

It’s possible they’re here as a sort of every-couple. But to me, it doesn’t really work. If anything, this is something that hurts the movie.

Because we KNOW these characters, their history, their personalities, and I can say from personal experience: their addition actually alienated me from the movie.

You can make all the claims you want that the two movies are unrelated, but that idea is sabotaged by the simple fact that you used the same main characters!

My reasoning while watching it went something like this:

They’re married here, and they got engaged in the first movie. Logically, this movie is set after the first movie. So why does nobody bring up the fact that these people watched as a mad scientist bestow life and sentience to a previously dead body, watched said scientist murder another man with an axe, were almost raped, again by said mad scientist, were tricked into eating the CORPSE of the man murdered with an axe, turned to stone, brainwashed, watched another three people die and getting indisputable proof that ALIENS ARE REAL AND WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE!? Why is nobody acknowledging these things ever happening?! What the shit is going on!?

And at that point, it took me out of the movie so much, I couldn’t watch it anymore.

As I’ve said before, I know I’m not a writer. I can only ever voice an opinion, and make speculations as a consumer of media. But if I may offer the very humblest two of my cents, there is actually a very simple solution to this problem. And the fact that it’s so simple is just another thing that is frustrating.

Just change the names of the characters!

It really is that simple! It doesn’t have to be Brad and Janet! In fact, they’re pretty much the only two characters who shouldn’t be the main characters, for all the reasons I just outlined! The actors are different, the personalities are different, their dynamic is different… there’s no reason why their names couldn’t be different as well.

And the thing is, you could do that, and STILL have the connection to the previous movie!

You simply make the main characters Ralph and Betty Hapschatt!

As in the couple who got married at the beginning of the previous movie! It was right after their wedding that Brad and Janet got engaged!

Making this movie a sidequel, with THEM as the main characters would solve every last problem! You could play around with their past, instead of retconning Brad into having a lost twin brother (effectively removing his every-man status), you could write their characters any way you want to suit the plot, without confusing people about continuity, since we don’t know anything about them beyond “excited to be married“. Also, you wouldn’t have the constant Frank-shaped elephant in the room…

You wouldn’t even need to scrap a single song, and really only change one line in “Bitchin’ in the Kitchen“. Call me an optimist, but Richard O’Brien is an excellent songwriter. I pretty sure he can find a subtitute for rhyming “Brad” and “Had“.

And of course, instead of making Brad and Janet some strange magnet for crazy occurences, first facing aliens and mad science, and now lost evil twins and the comercial madness that is Denton, you’d pretty much establish that weird crap like this happens to everyone, because the entire world they live in is simply insane.

Obviously, if you can overlook this issue and enjoy this movie, I wouldn’t dream of stopping you. Like I said, I can only share an opinion.

I’m not calling the movie bad. I am not saying that you are stupid and wrong for liking it. It’s just that I can’t disassociate this movie from the previous one, and I cannot watch it as a result.

It’s just how my mind works. It’s one of the many, many issues and personal idiosyncrasies I vainly refer to as part of my charm.

The Phantom of the Opera (Addendum)

These kinds of articles are always a bit awkward, so I’ll try to keep this one short.

I have made my opinion on the movie adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera clear already, and nitpicked both it and the original version on previous occasions.

However, I have discovered, embarrassingly late, that I have made a huge mistake when I wrote the first article on the subject.

And of course, the reason I’m writing this is the same as when I wrote similar addendum articles, for example about Die Another Day.

And that reason is this: I know that I have my faults. I can be condescending, arrogant, opinionated and get obsessively hung up on small, seemingly unimportant details.

I know that I’m not a writer. I am not a movie maker, I am not an expert in any aspect of creating a movie or a game or anything else I write about.

Bottom line is that I cannot make any claims of objectivity. I can, however, do my best to be honest. For all my faults, I am not a liar. I will not lie or knowingly spread information that I know to be incorrect.

It harms the point I’m trying to make and diminishes my credibility.

It’s true that I could, very easily, just go in and edit the mistake out of the article, and nobody would ever know.

But I think it’s important that, when I find that I am blatantly, obviously wrong, I should admit it and set the record straight.

Which brings me to the subject of this addendum.

(Spoiler: it has nothing at all to do with what I said about Gerard Butler. Sorry if you’re disappointed by this.)

I mentioned that I have an issue with the idea that the Phantom keeps a pipe organ in his secret hideout. And I stated that since this takes place in 1870, that means there was no electricity to supply power to the bellows of the organ. In other words, the Phantom would need someone else to work the bellows.

And as you probably figured out by now… that’s actually a load of crap. By the 1870’s, there were many different methods for working bellows in pipe organs, such as steam or water power.

And while I may have been right that electricity wasn’t an option (which I’m not completely certain about), my claim that the absence of an electric motor means you’d need another person is not accurate at all.

Now, this mistake would be bad enough, but the real annoyance for me is the fact that a simple google search would have told me this, and it would only have taken me about three minutes, if I had bothered to look.

But I didn’t, so I made a big, obvious, stupid mistake, and I apologize.

That said, that detail does not change the fact that the Phantom keeping a pipe organ in his lair is still very stupid and impractical, when compared to having a piano or harpsichord. Even when you play your hardest on a piano, it’s likely to be more quiet than a pipe organ. It’s also far better suited for composing and easier to maintain.

So, as awkward as writing this has been, I can at least take solace in the fact that while the detail was wrong, the main point is still valid.

Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It’s been a while since I’ve done this.

A while back, I wrote about the movie ”Pan”, a prequel to Peter Pan, and I made it clear in that article that the movie was to be avoided.

Today, I’d like to do something similar with one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a very long time.

Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch this movie.

And I know what you’re thinking, because I thought the same thing! You’re thinking ”How bad could it be?”.

And by all accounts, you should be right! After all, the 1971 Willy Wonka movie is a classic. While I may have my issues with it, I do concede that it is a good movie, and people like it for a reason.

And of course, Tom and Jerry are amazing, and are great childhood icons. Surely, mixing the two should be great?

Which is why it’s almost astounding this movie manages to be 79 minutes of missed opportunities and wrong decisions, to the point where it seems intentionally awful!

Now, making a parody of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory isn’t anything new. Futurama did it, Family Guy did it, Johnny Bravo did it… It’s not really that difficult. There is potential in the idea, if one takes advantage of it.

What we should have is Tom and Jerry chasing each other and wreaking comedic slapstick havoc in the chocolate factory. What we get instead is an less impressive animated remake the 1971 movie and a lackluster Tom and Jerry movie being slammed together with all the subtlety of a train crash.

For starters, almost nothing Tom and Jerry do in the movie affects anything or alters the story, and since we already follow Charlie as our main character, they end up being side characters in their own fucking movie!

Their meaningful contributions to the movie are as follows: They steal a box of Wonka Bars to pay back Charlie for giving them food. When Charlie tells them to return it, they put it in a back room in the shop they took it from. This means that it wasn’t sold along with all the others when the competition was at its peak, and it’s from a bar in that box Charlie gets his ticket.

Charlie buys the bar for a coin he found in a drain, and someone decided that instead of just being a random dollar, dropped in a drain, it had to be a coin dropped by Tom and Jerry. Later, they have to rush to the factory to bring Charlie the golden ticket, which had fallen out of Grandpa Joe’s pocket.

That’s it. And seeing as none of this was required in the original to move the plot, it’s just a forced way to justify why Tom and Jerry are in the movie.

As for the rest of the movie, they spend it trying to keep Slugworth from getting his hand on an Everlasting Gobstopper, after seeing him sneak into the factory.

They also meet Tuffy, here playing an ”Oompa Loompa intern” working in the factory, who decides to help them warn Wonka about Slugworth.

Now, spoiler warning for those of you who haven’t seen the 1971 movie.

”Slugworth”, just like in the original movie, is actually working for Wonka, in order to provide a test of character to the five children.

So, when he meets Tom, Jerry and Tuffy (who, again, also works for Wonka) does he explain this to them? After all, it’s not like he has any reason to keep it secret from them, right?

No, instead he tries his level best, not only to stop them from reaching Wonka, but also get his hands on a Gobstopper for NO REASON other than to fool the audience that he’s a villain!

This makes no sense!

(Which incidentally is a phrase that sums up this entire movie)

And when the truth is revealed, his “accomplice”, Spike the Bulldog, breaks the fourth wall by shrugging and says “who knew?”.

Fuck you, movie. Fuck you a lot….

What this means, however, is that everything that happens after the 36 minute mark, when Tom and Jerry follow Slugworth into the factory, is ABSOLUTELY POINTLESS! There is no urgency, nothing they do changes anything from the original, and most of the main story progresses without them interfering, and there was no need for it WHAT SO PISSING EVER!

All they manage to do is get cat fur on a wall, which is used to justify denying Charlie the price, since he ”brought a cat into the factory”.

Of course, this is ignoring A) that Charlie didn’t bring Tom into the factory and B) that this justification is unnecessary anyway since Charlie drank of the fizzy drink in violation of the contract he signed.

Speaking of, the scene where they sign the contract? That incredibly crucial plot point, that is part of the test of character later, where Charlie has the chance to do the right thing, even when treated unfairly, which earns him the price?

That scene is LEFT OUT OF THIS MOVIE!

But oh, we still got the fucking tunnel scene! Except now, it’s TUFFY driving Tom and Jerry in a second boat, following the boat with Wonka and company.

And now TUFFY does the whole creepy-monotone-poem schtick, though without decapitated chickens this time. And wouldn’t you know it, it comes out of nowhere, makes absolutely no sense, doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie at all, and is never brought up again after it’s finished. So I’ll give the movie kudos for that. It’s just as stupid and unnecessary here as in the original.

But again, THAT scene, they left in, but the scene with the Chekhov’s Gun-like contract was left out! See what I mean!? Pretty much every single decision made in this movie is wrong!

So this leads me to a very simple question:

Who the hell was this movie made for!?

It wasn’t made for fans of the 1971 movie, because it’s just a less impressive version of that, taking away, among other things, the charisma and warmth of Gene Wilder. I may have my issues with his portrayal as Wonka compared to the original book, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the greatest things about the 1971 movie.

It wasn’t made for fans of Tom and Jerry, because again, they’re pretty much an afterthought in the movie, and we get very little of the whole cat-and-mouse dynamic we got from the show.

It’s not for young children because the movie hinges on them having seen the 1971 movie first, and what kind of cruel parent would choose to show them this instead of that movie?!

Even if you just want a movie to keep the kids quiet for a while, there are so many other, better and LONGER movies you could show them!

The only reason it exists is because someone said “Nostalgia is hot right now. Willy Wonka is nostalgic. Tom and Jerry is nostalgic. Combining them makes double nostalgic. Double nostalgia = $$$

So, don’t watch this movie and for the love of God, don’t show it to your children. It’s a waste of money and it’s borderline child abuse.

In a way, I suppose it’s fitting that it’s so bad. Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in part to condemn television for making children dumber.

Show this movie to your kids, and that’s exactly what’ll happen.