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Month: November 2012

Thoughts on Rise of the Guardians

I saw the latest animated feature from DreamWorks recently, Rise of the Guardians, and I had the theater to myself, woohoo!  Here are my thoughts.  I think they’re spoiler free.  I can’t promise, though.

The movie tells the tale of the mythical Jack Frost, who is summoned to become a “Guardian” to protect the children of the world from forces of fear and hopelessness, personified by the guy with the British accent, Pitch, aka the Boogie Man.

The Good

I loved the visual look and feel of the film.  They really captured the mystery, wonder, storybook-ish magical-ness, and grandeur of the characters and their worlds.  It was visually fantastic.  DreamWorks can really nail it with their fantasy-oriented features.

I enjoyed the . . . what is it?  Symbolism?  The idea of the moon as God.  If all the story ideas I have were published books, you’d see that I very much enjoy the idea of moons symbolizing powerful mysterious forces beyond human understanding.  There’s something very natural about it, something very primal about being awed by a moon.  It is a definite theme in my current novel-in-progress, Moonrise Ink.

I liked the idea of the main character, Jack Frost, having lost memories.  I won’t give anything away, but that’s another story element I tend to enjoy, mysterious forgotten memories, at least when the characters still have personalities without them.

Finally, there was some good humor.  Overall, it was kind of hit or miss, but I did laugh out loud quite a few times, more than I did in Wreck-It Ralph.

The Not So Good

One of my pet peeves is characters talking to themselves for the sake of exposition.  It is such lazy writing.  In this film, the villain especially loved to speak his intentions to no one.

There were so many moments in the film that could’ve been aided with some epic musical thematic scoring, but all we get are rinky-tink sprinkles of orchestration.  Come on, gimme a melody!  (Ah, sure… I know… it’s not that kind of show…)  I prefer a John Powell How to Train Your Dragon sort of score.

Another thing that annoyed me was the whole idea of children needing to “believe.”  The problem with belief being a force of good in and of itself is that it’s too vague.  Belief in what?  Belief in Santa Clause?  Belief in wonder?  It’s too vague for anything primal to be at stake.  Fear is set up as the opposing force, but belief and fear are not opposites.  You have to believe in something to fear it, after all.  What is the opposite of fear?  That should have been the force of good.  (Of course, fear is also a rather vague force.  Fear of what?)

There’s a little girl in the movie with disgusting messed up hair.  Is that supposed to be cute?  It’s not.  It’s gross.  Take a shower and brush your hair.

Overall, many scenes felt far too rushed.  I really wanted to see some slower contemplative moments, with perhaps characters casually playing around with or using their powers or something.  I wanted to get a feeling for what these characters and their worlds were like in their off-time.  It’s easier to feel a world with the little things.  Being constantly over the top seems to be an American habit.  But when everything is over the top, nothing is.

You belong to Universe

mastery

I’m reading Mastery, the latest book from author Robert Greene (author of the classic book The 48 Laws of Power).  On page 42, Greene writes about Buckminster Fuller.  A depressed Fuller was on his way to commit suicide when he heard a voice from within himself that said:

“From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought.  You think the truth.  You do no have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to Universe.  Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”

I am not sure what the first line means.  What is “temporal attestation”?  From the context, I guess it means that you do not have to wait around to see whether or not your thought is true; whatever you think right now is true, based on your experiences.  It may not be true in the sense that it may not correlate with reality, but it is still valid in and of itself.  If you gain new experiences, as you inevitably will, you are obligated to form new thoughts based on them, not to refuse them in the name of pride or fear.  That’s my Karl Popper-ish guess, at least; it may be something both deeper and simpler than that.

“You do not have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to Universe.”  This certainly struck me.  There are people who have had powerful conversions after suicide attempts who also mention learning that their life is not their own to eliminate.  And certainly much of today’s political and spiritual misery probably arises from the idea that each man belongs only to himself, and not to “Universe” (or God as we might say).

While a man’s significance in this life may forever be obscure to him, I don’t think it will remain that way forever.  I believe part of the comfort and joy of Heaven, that feeling of being “at home”, comes from being able to see oneself fully, and to see the connection between oneself and the rest of existence.  However, I cannot confirm this.  (Yet.)

The “advantage” of others seems a subjective thing.  I can easily imagine someone wanting from me something I cannot or will not give, claiming it would be to his advantage, whether it be my money, my approval of something I cannot approve, my time, my agreement, or my indifference to his words and actions.  That is, you do not get to decide for others or for the Universe (God) what would be to your advantage; it is not merely the fulfillment of your latest natural desire, such as money or the adoration of others.  To know what would be to the “advantage” of others is the wisdom we ask the Universe for, in the name of and for the sake of the Universe.

Anyway, the main principle I take away from this is that I am not living my life for the sake of itself.  While working on my novel or any of my projects, it’s easy to get sidetracked daydreaming of fame and fortune, wanting a piece of the power that the “big names” in the entertainment industry have.  And, on the business side of things, that’s how the world encourages one to think.  Money and power are the validators, and the foundations for getting anything done.  But that’s not where the fulfillment in a project comes from.

It also makes me that much more interested in the life and works of good old Bucky.

Some thoughts on Wreck-It Ralph

Not a review, just some thoughts. A few SPOILERS below, so don’t read if you plan on watching the movie and don’t want spoilers.

I saw Disney’s latest animated feature Wreck-It Ralph today. I was expecting good things from all the positive reviews I had heard about it.

But…

Perhaps I’m overanalyzing it (a favorite pastime of mine), but I didn’t quite connect with the story. I suppose what didn’t quite work for me was that the “be who you are” theme didn’t quite fit the main character’s real problem. That is, the main character’s problem wasn’t about accepting “who he was”; rather, it was about other characters not realizing that he wasn’t the same person as his “game character.”

At the beginning of the film, the other characters in his game (“Fix-it Felix”) treat him like dirt. Why? I have no idea. My best guess is that they believe he really wants to wreck everything just because he’s the villain, when really he just wants what all the characters want: to be loved and accepted as an equal. He doesn’t wreck things after the game is over, after all. He doesn’t go around trying to kill people. Wrecking isn’t what he wants to do in and of itself; it’s what he has to do as part of the game.

So, to me, it seems like the problem of the story centers around the other characters in Ralph’s game not understanding that Ralph is actually a nice guy who is simply “playing” the villain for the sake of the game. And yet it’s Ralph who, as the main character, has to go on an adventure to learn… to learn what? To “accept” who he is? To learn who he is? But that was never really the problem to begin with! The problem was that other people were treating him like dirt.

And then, at the end of the film, they come to love him. Problem solved. Why do they love him at the end of the film? How did he prove himself? Why did he ever have to prove himself to begin with?

All that said, it was a fun movie. Wonderful animation, wonderful look and feel, wonderful use of 3D, wonderful references written in graffiti, and wonderful pixelations.  I just had trouble understanding the overall theme.

Also, have you noticed that, similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story, Disney can somehow get a bunch of other franchises to participate in their movie, even while they’re actually just helping Disney build their own franchise, with Disney’s original characters at the center? Clever Disney.