From the archives: September 2004

Or, if you'd prefer, return to the most recent posts.

Always in motion is the future

Thursday, 30 September 2004 — 4:38pm | Film, Full reviews, Star Wars

I follow a brief rule of thumb when it comes to browsing for books: consider any sign of “Star Wars” on the cover a red flag. This is because I believe the entire Expanded Universe print catalogue to be an abomination, and the only Star Wars-related books I have ever shelled out a penny for are archival, documentary works concerning the films themselves. Do not expect to read a full explanation of my aversion to this franchise “literature” anytime soon; for the time being, it suffices to say that the day will come when the Ewoks take issue with the tree-killing atrocities that reside in every “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series” section and raze Lucas Licensing’s publishing arm to the ground as they did the Imperial base on Endor, and I will be there to say, “They had it coming.” This is a taboo subject for me that I have avoided thus far on this weblog because, as is the case with Peter Jackson’s liberties in translating The Lord of the Rings to film (about which I remain wholly positive), I have already written more than enough on the subject for a lifetime – not mine, but the lifetime of a stout green Jedi Master. By and large, I will continue to avoid it at the present moment.

I only mention Star Wars books because out of the few I own, there exists one that I consider to be an indispensable reference: Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, edited by leading Star Wars documentarian Laurent Bouzereau. The 336-page 1997 paperback coincided with the release of the Special Editions, and is a transcription of the entire text of the Classic Trilogy. Interspersed throughout are interviews with the likes of George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan and Ralph McQuarrie on all manners of things concerning how the films came together. It is not a shooting script complete with, nor is it a draft that represents the dialogue at a developmental stage; rather, the volume is the “quick and easy path” to scooping up valuable quotations without having to waltz over the VCR.

The interviews themselves are indispensible, perhaps even moreso because they offer a 1997 perspective; there are references to the story meetings while drafting Return of the Jedi that established Uncle Owen as Ben Kenobi’s brother, something that Attack of the Clones threw out the window. Should a debate ever degenerate into what New Criticism calls the intentional fallacy, this book was a genuinely authoritative resource amidst a cesspool of “authoritative” printed-page backgrounders like cross-sectional schematics of Imperial Star Destroyers born of a licensee’s fancy.

The Annotated Screenplays also features insets providing the alternate scenes written and edited into the Special Editions, some of which are a source of debate themselves. Here I speak not of Greedo shooting first, but a subtlety not on the screen but on the page, at the end of Jedi (Bouzereau, 318):

1983 Edition

“Luke sets a torch to the logs stacked under the funeral pyre where his father’s body lies, again dressed in the black mask and helmet. He stands, watching sadly, as the flames leap higher to consume Darth Vader – Anakin Skywalker.”

Special Edition

“Luke sets a torch to the logs stacked under a funeral pyre where his father’s armor lies; black mask, helmet, and cape. He stands watching sadly as the flames leap higher to consume what’s left of Vader.”

It’s the same scene and the same shot, only the original one cuts to the “Yub-Yub” celebration on Endor, while the Special Edition segues to a grand tour of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. So why the change in wording to emphasize that it is not Vader’s body on the pyre, but an empty suit?

See, one of the mysteries that has pervaded the saga since Obi-Wan Kenobi vanished at the end of the lightsabre duel in A New Hope – and one that remains largely unsolved even as Revenge of the Sith draws ever closer – is why, and under what circumstances, Jedi disappear only to reemerge as glowing spirits. The corollary of that mystery is an inquiry into whether or not the dead and thoroughly pasty Anakin Skywalker was still in the Vader suit as the flames of its combustion lit the Endor night sky.

The answer, as Schrodinger would no doubt propose, is that we have no way of knowing without removing the mask. But if we were to speak of author’s intent, George Lucas – retroactively or not – seems to have decided on the route that symbolically, makes a whole lot more sense. In burning the Vader suit, Luke destroys the last corporeal remnants of the machinery that consumed, yet sustained the living flesh of Anakin Skywalker, much as the Dark Side of the Force consumed his soul and identity. If Anakin Skywalker vanished upon death, it would mean that he at last found peace through his unity and “oneness” with the Force after a life of slavery. Throughout his life, he was never trapped by his body, but bound by external chains; hence, it is the suit that is destroyed. If we are to think that Luke burns it with his father inside, this closure is lost.

And that’s setting aside how Anakin manages to appear in the form of a ghost with the likeness of Sebastian Shaw – which brings me to the real subject of this post, which is the new 2004 DVD Edition of the Star Wars Trilogy.

As everybody is no doubt aware by now, Sebastian Shaw no longer plays the restored Anakin Skywalker. In his place is Hayden Christensen.

Not everybody is happy about what is, if not the biggest change in the DVD set, firmly in the top two. But when it comes down to it, all value judgments one way or another are best tackled if distilled into three separate questions. These are: a) Does George Lucas, as the artist, have the right to retroactively change his work? b) Do we, as the audience, have the right to commercially access the original editions in digital form? and 3) What impact, for good or ill, do the tweaks in the DVD versions have on the story itself?

Most of the controversy and outrage is squarely directed on the first two axes, and the third is referred to for peripheral justification at best. I am no fan of those fans. With that said, let’s take the entire issue out of the context of creative ownership and look it in the eye for once.

In Return of the Jedi, does the apparition of a young Anakin Skywalker make sense? As someone who actively avoids unsanctioned information on how things blow over in Revenge of the Sith and has yet to sit through the audio commentaries on the Classic Trilogy discs, any answer I could provide here would be on incomplete information. Setting all nostalgia aside, though, we should ask ourselves: did an old Anakin Skywalker ever make very much sense?

The answer depends on what we construe to be the nature of the Force, and the act of achieving spiritual purity with it. An old Anakin Skywalker implies that the ghosts appear to Luke alone, in a form determined by his own interpretation and judgment; that is, Luke sees Sebastian Shaw because having seen that pale face aboard the Death Star, the young Skywalker mentally reconstructs the rest of his father clothed in Jedi robes and with a head full of hair.

Then the question becomes, how do Yoda and Obi-Wan recognize the older Skywalker? Sure, like the audience, they can extrapolate who this guy is despite never having seen him before. Or more sensibly, perhaps the visage of a Jedi apparition is determined by the conscious self-image of that deceased Jedi, and not the eye of the beholder.

If we are to believe the latter, then Anakin appearing in the form of Hayden Christensen makes a whole lot more sense. Remember, his body ages and decays in the Vader suit. Why would Anakin’s perception of his former identity be an extrapolation of what he would look like at that age in a hypothetical progression where he never became Darth Vader? Why would it not be constructed from his memory of himself instead, which is firmly set in the days of his youth?

Let us not forget the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi: “He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.” For all intents and purposes, Anakin dies when he suits up in the armor, helmet and cape. In Return of the Jedi, he is reborn through his redemption. So would it make sense for that rebirth to proceed from the last true preservation of his identity? Preliminary signs indicate yes.

I have been told that Lucas says as much when discussing the change in the commentary track of the Jedi DVD, but like I said earlier, I have yet to check.

Somewhat curiouser and curiouser is the big change in The Empire Strikes Back – the modification of the scene where Vader bows before a hologram transmission of the Emperor. For the sake of continuity, the face and voice of the Emperor have now been replaced by those of Ian McDiarmid, who plays the ruler of the Empire in Return of the Jedi and his younger self in the Prequels. This is not the shocking part. The shocking part is the addition of some new dialogue in the mix.

1980/1997 Editions

EMPEROR: We have a new enemy – Luke Skywalker.

VADER: Yes, my master.

EMPEROR: He could destroy us.

2004 Edition

EMPEROR: We have a new enemy – the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

VADER: How is that possible?

EMPEROR: Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.

This poses more questions than it answers, and one must wonder if it is a setup for something that will be revealed in Revenge of the Sith, like the minor change in Return of the Jedi where Sebastian Shaw’s eyebrows have been erased.

Prior to this, the implication has always been that Vader discovers Luke’s identity between Episodes IV and V – hence the line in Empire‘s opening crawl: “The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space….” Mind you, this was never conclusive. We know that by the time Empire opens, Vader is aware that the Force is strong with this one kid who is suddenly with the Rebels, and was somehow under the protection of Obi-Wan Kenobi. His imperative for searching for the young Skywalker could conceivably be, at that stage, part of his search for this disturbance in the Force that has turned the tables in the Rebel Alliance’s favour.

But how common is the name Skywalker, anyway? Aside from Brock Skywalker of Alberta’s finest folk-rock band, Captain Tractor, there are only so many out there – and certainly any of them would have raised some suspicions about the boy. One is tempted to remark that perhaps the good side, the remnants of Anakin Skywalker buried deep beneath the armor and behind the mask, were so most sincerely dead by that point that there was no recognition here. But that would be patently false, as Vader clearly has some memory of his former self. Take this iconic line prior to his duel with Obi-Wan, for instance: “The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.”

The best explanation, and one that I can hardly take credit for given how it has been deduced by many in the week since the DVD release, is that Vader most certainly had his own plans for Luke once he was found. We already knew as much from the “I am your father” scene on the Cloud City propeller, when Vader suggests to Luke that together they can overthrow the Emperor and “rule the galaxy as father and son.” After all, one of the tenets of how the symbiotic power struggle works within the order of Sith Lords, as the Prequels continually impress on us, is that “always two there are; no more, no less” – implicitly because both master and apprentice have the motivation to seek out a new recruit in order to pass down the ideals of the Dark Side. In this game-theoretical construct where the apprentice depends on his master, but has a desire to break free of that enslavement and become a master himself, is at the core of how a Dark Lord of the Sith operates and thinks. The “circle is now complete” line mentioned above corroborates this in a perhaps unintended, but entirely consistent fashion.

So here we sit, baffled by this line: “How is that possible?” And the answer may be that Vader is not referring so much to the fact that Luke is the son of Anakin Skywalker, so much as a double entendre playing on how his plans have been threatened by how the Emperor was now on the case. Playing dumb in this matter is a display of complicity that allows his master to continue dwelling in his bubble of arrogance and illusion of complete control. (As Luke points out in Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s overconfidence is his weakness. Indeed, it turns out to be his undoing, and one that parallels the arrogance that initially blinded the Jedi Order to his nefarious plans in the Prequel era.)

Recall how in the hologram scene, it is Vader who suggests that Luke not be destroyed, but turned. Here we already see that for some reason or another, Vader does not want Luke dead. It would be overly presumptuous to interpret this as a conscious act of charity; rather, the display of that unconscious concern is the first indication that there is a way to get to the Skywalker within, which turns out to be the bond between father and son. As far as we can tell at this point, the additional dialogue reinforces the theory just described.

So in the context of the story, does the change make sense? Possibly. At this stage, it requires one to be a critical observer and not merely a consumer of what is fed by way of bendable concave cutlery. But it should be well known by now that if you are not willing to read deep into Star Wars, this is not the blog for you.

There are few other changes in the DVDs that have a direct impact on the story; most are much-needed cosmetic improvements on the 1997 Special Editions. The new look of the Jabba the Hutt scene in Docking Bay 94 buries its predecessor. The Wilhelm added to Luke’s tumble down the Cloud City ventilation shaft in 1997 has been removed. Greedo still shoots first, but only sort of. Boba Fett’s two lines in The Empire Strikes Back have been dubbed over with the voice of Temeura Morrison, who plays Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones, and deserves some recognition because Maori accents are an objectively good thing.

I was rather surprised to see the Theed Palace in Naboo, down the same street as the celebration at the end of The Phantom Menace, was inserted into the “grand tour of the galaxy” montage at the end of Return of the Jedi. See, its intact appearance debunks a theory I once fancied – that in Episode III, the Empire would pillage it to little bitsies. I guess it survives the Prequels after all.

The best way to sum up the DVD editions of the Star Wars Trilogy is to dub it with the moniker, “the Consistent With the Prequels Edition.” Or the “Sequel Edition,” as the case may be. Naboo, Boba’s voice, Hayden Christensen – a lot of these are geared towards viewers who have the foreknowledge posed by the Prequel Trilogy. Now, due to how The Phantom Menace came together, this does not automatically make the saga watchable for the first time in the I-to-VI order. It does make that order tremendously watchable on a second pass, but that is because the saga has become cyclical. It is in Episode IV, the original Star Wars (or A New Hope) that we have a concise explanation of the story’s internal universe – who are the Jedi, what is the Force. The rest of the Classic Trilogy follows a dramatic thread of unveiling. The narrative drive of the Prequels, on the other hand, lies entirely in dramatic irony, and is predicated on the assumption that the audience knows what is going to happen. But now we have a Classic Trilogy that has retroactively looped itself back into the cosmogonic cycle, like a snake eating its own tail.

It’s a new way of looking at things, isn’t it?

And that brings me back to where this post began: Laurent Bouzereau. Until the release of the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD format, with its PC compatability and chapter selection and all that jazz, the best way to make quick reference to a specific scene was through The Annotated Screenplays. But now, Bouzereau’s book is even more archival than it was before, as it refers to not only the originals, but an intermediary as well.

With the new perspectives offered by the prequels and the release of yet another edit of the Classic Trilogy on DVD, we need a new Bouzereau. With any luck, we will have a whole new set of annotated screenplays in six parts after Episode III has come and gone. The presence of audio commentaries on the DVDs of all five released instalments serve a similar purpose, but I would love to see interviews with the Star Wars team that take the entire saga into account ex post facto.

Until then, may the Force be with us.

Annotations (0)

Albert Hahn is alive and well

Sunday, 26 September 2004 — 10:42pm | Scrabble

Isn’t it funny how every time I promise that my next post will be a dissertation on the subject of a cultural monument, I get distracted by not one, but several interjectory events?

Take, for example, this delightful eight-minute Flash film: “Craziest”, by VidLit founder Liz Dubelman – who, while not a former Scrabble champion, certainly tempted me to check to make sure. An anonymous reader dropped the link in the HaloScan comment box of my previous post, but I feel a need to highlight it, as it is a clever and resonant piece that struck me in more ways than one – all of them personal.

For instance, take the moment when expert player Albert Hahn dies of a triple-triple-induced heart attack. Funny that of all the experts that could have been featured in the short, she picked the one from Calgary. Fortunately, reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated (but at the same time, greatly entertaining). I see this as a good thing, because I spent most of the summer near the top of the ladder in the Calgary club where Albert kicked me around on a regular basis, and I do plan to beat him eventually. The closest I have gotten so far is nine points in the red.

There has been a discussion pertaining to “Craziest” on the competitive players’ mailing list, CGP, and it was amusing to see Albert emerge and post a response. That community caught wind of the link last Tuesday, but I somehow missed it completely.

Current listings for the Western Canadians next weekend indicate that I will be the bottom-seeded player in the 14-player Division 2, which means I will be playing all of them in the 17-round main event. Not so for Dan Lazin, who is one of four unrated newcomers in the 35-player Division 4, barring any drops or additions between now and Friday. Dan nearly scored his first victory against me earlier today when he bingoed out with RETOOLER* on a triple word score, only to have it challenged off.

Albert, currently the top player in Alberta with a rating of 1759, is seeded sixth in Division 1. Top-seeded is California’s Ira Cohen (1868), who walked away with two of the three Western Canadian Scrabble Championships that I have attended. No sign of perennial attendee Bill Kinsella (perhaps better known to Canadian literature buffs as W.P.), but we shall see next week.

My other excuse for not getting to writing about the Classic Trilogy DVDs yet – aside from schoolwork, Margaret Atwood and old lace – is that I spent much of the last two days with the annual UADS-hosted high school debate tournament, named for Lieutenant-Governor Lois Hole. At Friday night’s workshop, none of us participating in the demonstration round could remember Michael Wilson’s name. Wilson is the man behind the counter-documentary Michael Moore Hates America, and the case run by Crossman/Jacobs in the demo was that Moore should grant Wilson an interview for the purposes of the film.

See, everyone in the round also conveniently forgot that the film has already been completed and actually had its Dallas premiere two weeks ago.

The tournament itself, which was held on Saturday, consisted of three rounds in Canadian Parliamentary style, Western times. Word is that some of the beginning debaters had trouble filling eight minutes of speaking time apiece, though I did not bear witness to this phenomenon in the rooms I adjudicated. I judged the final in the Open category, where Will McClary and Joshua Sealy (William Aberhart) attempted to prove that “geeks are inheriting the Earth” on the Simpsons-themed resolution, “This house believes that everything’s coming up Milhouse.” While it was a highly amusing case that scored more than a few brownie points on account of its lavish praise of George Lucas, they did a better job of demonstrating why “values” cases (as opposed to “policy”) are such a rarity in impromptu rounds: they are incredibly hard to navigate without plunging oneself into definitional quicksand.

The Opposition team of Morgan Wheaton and Garnett Genuis (Old Scona) capitalized on that, taking the angle that those who make the decisions have a higher place in the world than those who make those decisions possible – in a nutshell, that we do not live in a technocracy. Buried under the rhetoric were some fairly broad and assertive generalizations on both sides of the house, but Opposition ultimately came out on top. Government, however, showed us all a good time.

Annotations (1)

Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire

Friday, 24 September 2004 — 1:48pm | Journalism

The Gateway offers the following confirmation:

Campus paper moves online to reach students

U of A students and the community at large will have an alternative to The Gateway, as the new student paper The Independent prepares to go online.

The Independent is run by student group Democracy Now, a non-partisan group focusing on more effective democracy in Alberta (previously known as Students for a Stronger Alberta).

The group hopes taking the paper online – after a single printing last spring – will be a temporary move, as they see themselves going back into print in the future.

The Independent also hopes to reach beyond the University of Alberta campus.

“We want to reach a larger audience than just the University of Alberta. We intend to expand to the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and Red Deer College,” said Rob Anderson, the president of Democracy Now, adding the only way currently possible to publish the paper was by way of the Internet.

No sign of it yet, but hopefully it will show up soon.

In response to my earlier post bemoaning the lack of puzzles based on the North American dictionary at the Daily Scrabble Puzzle Blog, proprietor Mohan Chunkath has kindly informed me that OWL anagram crosswords are now available on a semi-daily basis. Need a quick dose of humility? Start with this one. I still can’t believe it took me almost half an hour.

Lastly, from the Tokyo Game Show comes a three-minute trailer for Viewtiful Joe 2. Henshin a download, baby.

Next: the obligatory Star Wars post.

Annotations (0)

The Addendum of Tomorrow

Wednesday, 22 September 2004 — 7:45pm | Film, Full reviews

Most of what I wanted to say about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow didn’t make it into the Gateway piece under my name, some of which was going into more detail than I could fit in the space I was given, others of which were removed or rewritten in the editorial process. (Regular blog-readers accustomed to my writing style should be able to pick out what’s what.)

Most of it has to do with its relation to other films that come before it, seminal works that almost necessitate a mention in a proper appraisal of Sky Captain lest the analysis feel woefully incomplete. I’ve already mentioned its tribute to the Star Wars Trilogy, which I watched in its entirety on DVD yesterday. (More on that in another post.) This is the kind of thing I want to discuss, but I would like to emphasize not so much like references themselves but rather the use thereof.

I’m not going to dwell on specific things that were excised from my original review or comment on some of the changes themselves, due to matters of staff policy and good taste, with one exception. I make this exception because it is of critical import. In the last line of the published review, I call Sky Captain “a special effects showpiece where Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro have taken the place of older techniques.” What I originally did was call it a modern Harryhausen where said movie editing software has taken the place of Claymation.

Maybe it was changed to be more accessible to the kind of layperson who has never watched a film produced before the date of his own birth, but given Ray Harryhausen’s distinctive contributions to animation in mixed-media cinema, my one-sentence capsule of Sky Captain was fully intended to be a very specific reference to the man behind Jason and the Argonauts. I am not going to whine about the omission itself, but allow me to explain something that I think is key to grasping the spirit of Kerry Conran’s killer robot movie.

See, Sky Captain‘s detractors – current, would-be and otherwise – have and will continue to focus their efforts largely around the syllogism that it is by its very nature a special effects film, special effects are bad for you, and therefore the movie is also bad for you. Take David Sterrit’s review in The Christian Science Monitor, for instance:

But, uh, what’s wrong with real images of reality, captured with a movie camera? It’s one thing to use computer-generated imagery as a way of “drawing” things a camera couldn’t photograph – the cartoon characters of the Shrek movies, say. It’s another thing to use computer wizardry as a way of bypassing real things in the real world.

“Look how industrious and ingenious we are!” coo wired-up moviemakers as they mimic things so convincingly on their high-definition screens. In fact they’re a lazy and disingenuous lot, so in love with their own daydreams that they see no need to do something radical – like going outside and filming things that might take them by surprise.

Yes, Sky Captain is unquestionably an effects piece where the live action supplements the animation, not the other way around. Yes, some people will absolutely despise it for being what it is. In some cases (but not all), their reasoning will quite openly reveal a prejudice against animation, and computer animation in particular – or, as in the review I just cited, a thinly-veiled pro-realist prejudice against all visual forms of mimesis. You will hear familiar yarns about how the special effects take undue precedence over the human element – which, when applied to many of the summer-season tentpoles nowadays, is a valid assessment. I still don’t know what everybody sees in X-Men or The Matrix Reloaded, and I despised that other comic book film that opened with a zeppelin. To varying degrees, those three movies (and many others) had light and noise at the forefront, and suffered for the lack of an underlying narrative propulsion.

The difference is that for some reason, in Sky Captain it’s okay. The characters are broad archetypes (“Sky Captain,” for a convenient and obvious example), the plot is in the pulp tradition of hopping from one set piece to the next through a series of escalating conflicts, and the killer robots are the stars of the show. Conran gets away with this because the art design is a pastiche of Golden Age wonders, and the way the shots are composed and edited drives the story at the micro level – not from scene to scene, but from shot to shot. In film, shot flow is as much a part of what we call “story” as what we know as “plot,” which is story on the macro scale.

But Sky Captain still remains an effects movie, and realists need not apply. If you want contemporary character-driven cinema where technical trickery plays no role, go experience the joyous delights of Garden State, though I dare you to keep waving the “realist” flag when you encounter the scene at the ark.

And that brings us to Ray Harryhausen, whom we look upon today as one of the men so thoroughly canonized as the stop-motion legend that he is, he has become no less than a saint of the church of animation. He came from a special effects background and made special effects movies, but ones so legendary that his expression of what we call “movie magic” is still revered today. Heck, the world of Monsters, Inc. even names a sushi restaurant after the guy.

If we can appreciate Harryhausen for his feature films where live actors battle fantastic monsters of all shapes and sizes, I see no reason to discredit Kerry Conran for doing the exact same thing with leading-edge computer animation in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Looking at the social response to motion pictures, which is itself a comprehensive field of study, it still baffles me that computer animation gets such a bad rap for doing exactly what stop-motion figures and matte paintings once did with relative impunity. In Sky Captain‘s case, it’s even very much the same kind of film. It is flatly impossible for anyone who is familiar with the original 1933 King Kong to miss the similarities between Skull Island and the quasi-prehistoric wonderland that Sky Captain and Polly Perkins stumble into late in Conran’s piece.

And while on the subject of stumbling into wonderlands, let’s talk about The World of Tomorrow‘s closest connection to the World of Today, the rickety suspension bridge that hangs between our world and the fantasy world. It comes in the form of a movie with which you may be familiar.

After the opening scene in the Hindenburg III, we are introduced to reporter Polly Perkins as she receives a tip from one Walter Jennings (Trevor Baxter), who claims knowledge as to who is next in the line of scientists that have mysteriously disappeared. They arrange to meet for a film at Radio City Music Hall. Given that the entire film was shot over bluescreen and the backgrounds were later inserted, I wonder if Gwyneth Paltrow was ever told while shooting the scene exactly what scene from which movie would be playing.

That movie is The Wizard of Oz, and it provides one of the simplest, yet most outstanding applications of Sky Captain‘s compositing process. In this scene, Jennings reveals his hidden secrets to an attentive Polly and passes her two metallic vials for safekeeping, objects sought by the enemy throughout the movie. The two are shot directly from the side in profile, framing the picture – while between them, Glinda the Good Witch floats onscreen in that pink bubble of hers. That, of course, is the scene where Dorothy has just dropped into Munchkinland, and Glinda appears to first tell our heroine of the Land of Oz, then bestow upon her a whole other pair of objects coveted by the enemy: the ruby slippers. It’s a superimposition of the beginning of the journey in both stories, what Joseph Campbell calls “the crossing of the threshold.”

Come for killer robots. Stay for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the end credits.

I leave you with required reading this week: a superb Apple feature on the technical aspects of how Sky Captain was made, which should erase any doubt about just what kind of movie to expect, for those of you who have yet to see it.

Annotations (0)

Vingt-et-un à la banque

Tuesday, 21 September 2004 — 1:52am | Video games

The 21st of September: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi finally come to DVD. Much commentary to follow, assuming the availability of a lot of time I don’t actually have.

The 21st of November: The Nintendo DS retails for US$149.

Nintendo really nailed it this time. They are pushing it out before the American Thanksgiving holiday as promised, which is also good timing on account of potentially serving as a solution to post-Hugill Cup withdrawal. The launch price is in the lower range of the estimates that industry analysts have been tossing around since May – most retailers taking preorders actually highballed it at $199, which is somewhat more prohibitive if you convert the figure to loonies. The PictoChat graphical instant messenger is embedded, the unit includes an alarm clock feature, and there are ports for both stereo headphones and a microphone; read the specs. The price is also lower than it looks, given that the word is that Metroid Prime Hunters will come bundled in the initial package.

Isn’t it nice when a company promises its customers what they want?

Three major unknowns remain: the launch title roster, the standard price per game, and Nintendo’s marketing prowess (which has traditionally been somewhat lacking in the North American market and in Canada in particular).

Toss in a new trailer for The Incredibles and you have yourself a good day.

Annotations (0)

A Link to the Past (older posts) »