Positively Fan Street

For anyone not picking up on the gag, the title of this blog is a play on Bob Dylan’s classic song, Positively 4th Street. The song is relevant to a lot of situations, but I chose to make it relevant to this one.

This isn’t going to be a long diatribe about the state of a fandom. This isn’t going to be some lengthy dissertation about the need for positivity. It’s far from my first time addressing this in a public forum (such as a podcast or this blog). It’s just one of those topics that bubbles up on occasion, and so I feel the need to revisit it.

It’s a plea for people to stop characterizing a certain “bad sort of fan” as responsible for “wrecking fandom.” Not because they don’t exist, but because it’s a feature, not a bug.

I don’t think it will ever be solved. Unlike some others, I don’t think that it’s a cause for concern. It’s just a thing that’s true.

Some Perspective

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If they want to loudly and publicly decry the current incarnation of their favorite franchise as garbage, that’s fine. If that conclusion is their starting point, there’s no way to talk them back from that ledge.

Trust me, as someone who has loved the Star Wars prequels from the moment of their release, you can’t. I’ve been personally insulted for the opinion. Every time someone learns I’m a “Star Wars fan,” I’m rolling the dice on it becoming some variant of “the prequels suck” discussion.

I don’t even need to ask for the opinion. It’s just volunteered.

And it’s fine. It doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I engage in a discussion about why I disagree. That discussion carries with it the pitfalls of being called a “fanboy,” having the clarity of my perspective challenged, my honesty about the opinion dismissed and, on occasion, having my intelligence questioned. (That last one happens far less frequently than it did at one time.)

The hysterically funny thing is that it works both ways! When the discussion turns to the Sequel Trilogy (Episodes VII, VIII & IX), I run the risk of having those same critiques thrown at me for not liking it “enough.” In some special circumstances, I have my opinion on the prequels used as some sort of debate point in an attempt to discredit my opinion on the sequels.

It’s fine, and I don’t care. No one else should either.

Because it won’t change. Fan discussions always run the risk of devolving into petty contests of will.

If you doubt me, it’s possible you’re too young to recall when David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Maybe you’re young enough that you just didn’t have a reason to care. It’s possible you simply didn’t have enough of an emotional investment in the band to care either way.

There are a lot of valid reasons for things, I’m not judging.

But the only way I will ever watch Die Hard 2: Die Harder again is if someone deepfakes the infamous “Craigula” into it.

Decades Later…

As of this writing, it’s been about thirty-five years since David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Thirty-five years is a long time.

And yet, some grown-ass adults still can’t get past it. They still harp on how the band was “ruined” by Sammy Hagar. They refer to the band by the supposedly-derogatory nickname “Van Hagar.” They dismiss the idea that there are plenty of people who loved Van Halen with both singers, or there are those who prefer Sammy.

The reason I point to this example is to help anyone who’s worried about “the state of fandom” put it in perspective. The only difference between the venom you might see in discussions about Star Wars or Star Trek is that those are your focus and…there was no easily-accessible Internet connectivity back then. There was no social media.

There were just friends and acquaintances who would occasionally be stupid about these sorts of things. I did it, too. We all did.

The funny thing is that, before social media, if a stranger on the street came up and said the same sort of caustic thing that starts Internet fights, you’d have laughed about it.

Sure, if you were particularly dysfunctional, you’d have started a fight. That was more the exception than the rule anyway. Most people walking down the street don’t care about your opinions on movies, books, music, or television.

Imagine this with plastic lightsabers and far less athelticism.
Photo by ginu plathottam on Pexels.com

In Conclusion

The point is, caustic fandom is never going to be “resolved.” You can ignore it, you can engage it, you can lock your accounts, or you can do some combination of all of it. But it won’t change.

Because if people can hold a self-imposed grudge about a band changing singers for nearly four decades, I can promise you they’re not going to stop being jerks about…anything.

Patton Oswalt doing a routine about how he’d kill George Lucas with a shovel before he had a chance to make the prequels was a bit. At least, I hope it was. This this type of bit had an effect, though.

Patton Oswalt’s onstage persona is exactly the type of comedy that pushed outrageous “fan” reactions into the realm of violent hyperbole. It functions in the same way that Howard Stern’s show shaped people’s attitudes about a lot of things.

It’s a bit, and it’s meant to be outrageous. But people key off of it and it influences their own outrageous declarations. All the world’s a stage, as one guy once wrote.

If anything, I pity the people who rage about franchises the same way I pity the Van Halen grudge holders. If they take their entertainment that seriously, it’s more a plea for help than anything else.

Is It Time to Remake The Godfather Part III?

Recently I happened across a foolish post on Collider.com, and I’m not providing a link on purpose. I may be a teeny little blog in the vast cacophony of the Internet, but I’m not giving them any added traffic for their clickbait.

The question of the article was whether Lucasfilm should remake the Star Wars prequels. I was prepared to rail against the idiocy of this article, because the prequels are beyond “just fine.”

They’re art. As with all art, there are detractors. That’s fine.

After all, a lot of people “hated” Picasso’s works, and other artists’ for that matter, at first. Citizen Kane wasn’t regarded one of the greatest films of all time until decades after its release.

So I decided not to go down that road. Instead, I decided to examine it as a symptom of a very troubling and lazy trend. The trend of franchise reboots by erasing previous continuity, but retaining the mythology of at least one of its predecessors.

To be sure, one of the easiest examples is the Halloween franchise. The 2018 sequel was a direct offshoot of the story of the first film, ignoring everything else from the predominantly-respected Halloween II to the Rob Zombie’s whole-cloth remake.

To be sure, so much garbage had accumulated in the intervening years – it’s a horror franchise after all – that it was the only way to move forward. But the remaining question is, why did we have to “move forward” with this at all?

Wasn’t it good enough to leave our entertainment behind? It happened. We reacted. We argued. Let’s move on.

But this desire to remake franchises by hook or by crook is a self-sustaining circle that’s powered by the studios and our own crippling nostalgia. So I decided to ask a simple question.

Is It Time to Remake The Godfather Part III?

Is it time to remake The Godfather Part III? What is your initial reaction to that question?

I imagine that, like me, the very idea is preposterous. The Godfather Part III is a much-reviled sequel, and considered to have besmirched an otherwise sterling example of incredible filmmaking.

Whether I agree with that is immaterial. Whether you agree with that is immaterial.

The fact is that The Godfather Part III exists. You may hate it. You may love it. It is a product of a team of filmmakers that belongs to its time and their vision.

If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it. This sickening drive to try to recast the past by erasing what we don’t like, and reshaping it to be more in line with that which makes us happy and content is a sickness.

But remaking The Godfather Part III would be completely in line with today’s sensibilities. If we just remade it, we could make it go away! We could pretend it never happened, like some sort of character from an early season for a television series.

“Every time I think the Terminator movies are done, Arnold comes back again!”

An Alternative Idea

Alternatively, we could collectively grow the hell up. You’re going to encounter things you don’t like, and there are going to be things you cannot control.

Even if you remade The Godfather Part III, or the Star Wars prequels, or created the latest in a series of sequels to Terminator 2: Judgment Day by promising that this time everyone can get it just right, so that “everyone” can be happy and spend time with each other again.

This makes no sense, and is a painfully childlike way of approaching things. There are two great reasons why.

Reason 1: The original versions will still exist. Unless you are concurrently mandating that every copy of the existing version be confiscated, collected, and destroyed, it will still exist. Remaking it won’t erase it. You’d have to go on a rampage of finding and destroying every print, disc, digital copy, and memory of the original.

Reason 2: You’re considering your opinion superior to everyone else’s in the world, and mandating that every person must like what you like. Without exception, you’re telling the world that just because you didn’t like something, they shouldn’t even be given the opportunity to make up their own minds.

Both of these reasons expose the fundamental truth that the people calling for the remake of sequels and prequels they don’t like have an unhealthy obsession with their own opinion. They’re showing that they can’t handle disliking something.

One of the first lessons parents teach their children is that you’re going to encounter things you don’t like, and you’re just going to have to deal with it. If you cannot, you have no right to call yourself an adult.

“Wrong us…shall we not remake?”

But There’s Money to Be Had from We Suckers

Movie studios used to be able to handle this, and franchises as well. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country gives you the space to ignore Star Trek V: The Final Frontier if you wish, but also doesn’t contradict it in any substantial way. Hell, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan allows you to ignore Star Trek: The Motion Picture if you want.

Now, we’re in a feedback loop where any series can “just keep trying” to make the “perfect” sequel. The Terminator franchise is going to give it another shot, too, by ignoring everything after Terminator 2 so we can have the…whatever.

How about we all just call it quits while we’re wherever we’re at, quit obsessing over things we dislike, and just try to see something new? Seriously, let’s all just grow up.

[Also, I think I’m finally going to rewatch The Godfather Part III for the first time in decades. I just watched Beverly Hills Cop III, so I can have a Three-Off and see who wins.]

“Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me three or four times, and I’ll keep coming back. Wait. That’s not right. How does it go again?”

Could #Sybok Have Stopped #Thanos? #AvengersInfinityWar #AvengersEndgame

This is one of those posts that I know, in my heart of hearts, only I could have written.

One of the few properties Disney®©™ doesn’t own – yet – is Star Trek™©®. However, I have a terrific idea for how they could bring this property over to interact with Marvel©™®’s Avengers. Even if only as a part of the upcoming What If television series, there’s an incredible multi-franchise crossover opportunity here!

Look, humor me on this one. It’s worth it. Just refer to my previous post asking whether Sybok could have saved Darth Vader for proof!

Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok in Star Trek V which is a Star Trek movie featuring Sybok in Star Trek V The Final Frontier a Star Trek Movie with Sybok this actually works.
Sybok arrives with his cohort to deliver Thanos from his pain.

The Pitch: Sybok, Spock’s Half-Brother in Star Trek, Could Counsel Thanos into Finding Another Solution in #Avengers #InfinityWar

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds! After all, Avengers: Infinity War goes to terrific lengths to make Thanos seem less than absolutely bat-guano crazy. It even makes him sympathetic! The movie proposes that his goal is to be lauded, even if his methods are somewhat questionable. He’s turned into a pitiable figure who doesn’t want to murder people, but feels like he has no choice, so he may as well enjoy it.

Thanos’ psychological profile doesn’t really answer a whole lot of other questions, but we all agreed to go along for the ride. You can’t change your mind now.

Given that he’s an empathetic being, albeit a psychotic one, means that he’s dealing with pain. He admits at the end of Avengers: Infinity War that he’s haunted by the environmental devastation his own home world visited upon itself with unchecked growth and development.

Arguably, if only someone had helped him come to terms with his feelings on the matter, he may not have gone on his universal death march. He would have looked toward a more sensible approach like I suggested in a previous post, of using the stones to ensure unlimited resources and to mitigate environmental impact. After all, he had the power to do just that!

So we have to accept at a baseline that Thanos was merely misguided about how to help the world. By dealing with his pain, he could have been encouraged to find better solutions.

This is where Sybok comes in!

A Primer on Sybok

In case someone is reading this by chance and not intent, and you don’t know, Sybok is a Vulcan in Star Trek who uses his powerful mental powers to get people in touch with their emotions. He places them in a mental space where they encounter, grapple with, and theoretically release their most pronounced grief. They are placed back in that moment, to overcome whatever tragic weight they are carrying with them.

This intensively hallucinatory therapy bears the fruit of making the beings he encounters peaceful. They are open to lives of peace, love, and happiness.

That’s where we get to work with Thanos!

Sometimes Bad Guys Just Need a Hug?

If there’s any theme that’s gained traction with regards to our collective concepts of justice, it’s that sometimes people stray just because they weren’t hugged enough. Thanos sure seems a candidate for this category, considering the fact that Avengers: Infinity War leans so heavily into the idea that I laid out earlier.

Thanos is a haunted soul who’s got love to give…he just doesn’t know where to put it.

WIlliam H Macy as Quiz Kid Donny Smith in Magnolia which is a character I really laid myself out in terms of a reference in a post about Sybok and Thanos.
Quiz Kid Donny Smith would want Thanos to know it’s OK.

Sybok could put Thanos in touch with his pain, and open him to the possibility of releasing it. This weight being lifted from his shoulders would free him of the burden to save the universe by any poorly-planned and mathematically flawed means necessary. Everyone survive and, instead of taking the infinity stones to wreak mass murder, he’d lead all of reality to an unbroken existence of peace and plenty.

This even makes a certain sort of symmetrical sense in the fact that Sybok defeated a creature that pretended it was God by trying to hug it and unseal its pain. Thanos is a creature pretending to be God, and so the same tactic should work.

Even More Opportunities Open from Here

For this reason, it’s clear that Disney®©™ needs to purchase Paramount in order to join the Star Trek and Avengers franchises. As an added bonus, they could also have Sybok travel to the X-Men universe when it reboots inevitably. Sybok could help Magneto through his pain, and prevent all that loss as well.

I foresee a mighty series where Sybok traverses each franchise, acting like Sam from Quantum Leap to set things right. It could run on the Disney+ app, minimizing cost and maximizing exposure.

You know that you’d watch. I know I would, at least, in between viewings of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

William Shatner as Captain Kirk in Star Trek V which is a Star Trek movie with William Shatner as Captain Kirk.
I expect many of you have expressions like this at the end of the post.

P.S. As of the time that this publishes, I still haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame. For all I know this is exactly how it goes down. No spoilers in the comments, please, either way. Not just for my sake but for anyone else who might happen along. Be a sport.

 

Dear Disney, Please Remake The Black Hole

As Disney®™© continues to delve into their archives for things to regurgitate on the masses, there’s one that cries out for a loving remake. It’s a film that cried out for a longer production timeline and bigger budget at the time, as it was rushed to production to compete in a changing market.

I’m neither talking about a reboot nor a quasi-sequel-reboot like Star Trek. This is a film from their past catalogue that demands a truly big-budget remake that matches its great concepts.

The film I’m discussing is The Black Hole.

1979’s The Black Hole, Disney’s Answer to Star Wars…and So Much More

Released in 1979, The Black Hole was Disney’s big foray into science fiction, followed soon after by Tron. They longed to capture the changing zeitgeist in the shadow of George Lucas’ Star Wars. This was before the days when media companies just bought each other, and tried to compete for the public’s attention.

Oh, what a world we’ve allowed to be.

I won’t belabor things with greater production detail simply because I’d just be repeating what you can read elsewhere, in hopes of maximizing “link juice” (real term) and as we all know, I’m just doing this as a hobby and don’t really care about that stuff.

I’m just happy that you chose to spend this time with me.

Disney's The Black Hole is a film called The Black Hole released by Disney as Disney tried to match Star Wars by releasing The Black Hole.
I will be honest with you. I kind of adore this ship design.

More Than An Answer to Star Wars

Recently I was part of a discussion about The Black Hole over on a show called Words With Nerds. Give it a listen if you’re so inclined.

In a nutshell, any real examination of the film revolves around how much of a challenge Disney took on in making this movie. The fact that the director, Gary Nelson, turned this around so quickly is a testament to incredible resource management.

The ideas here are so big, any filmmaker or studio would have had issues with fully realizing this. It’s a bold, memorable foray into science fiction and touches on some incredibly interesting themes.

Maximillian the Robot from The Black Hole which is Disney's The Black Hole film released by Disney where Maximillian is a robot in a film by Disney called The Black Hole I can't believe HubSpot told me to do this.
Our perception of robots’ propensity for…evil…hasn’t changed much.

The rising awareness of technology’s further encroachment on our humanity, our pride, our sense of fragility as we attempt great leaps forward, and the inevitable madness of those who obsess to control what is uncontrollable, are all layered into this story. Where we go when we break the barrier between the known and unknowable results in a journey that suggests the Black Hole is a doorway to somewhere beyond our perceptions of space and time.

The conclusion of the film is an attempt to recapture not the magic of Star Wars, but rather the heady postulations found at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a film that simply needed more time to gestate.

More than anything, it’s caught between the world of “kid friendly” and “high concept.” Disney was open to going for a PG rating, for the first time in its history, but they needed to commit to pushing the edge.

I think one of the reasons I love the film The Black Hole, despite its shortcomings, is that it’s a clear display of a studio encouraging imagination. Their motivations may have been mercenary, but you can see that the artists were allowed to try for art. This was a big playground, and everyone was learning the rules.

An Influence Despite Everything

I think one of the most fascinating aspects of the film is that it’s had an influence far beyond its prestige. Its stronger imagery stays with you, and many of the concepts are beautiful extensions of a science-fiction embrace of the impossible. This was created in a time when the average viewer didn’t fancy themselves a scientific expert and hold court with their friends to prove the extent of their perceived knowledge.

They went along for the ride. Well, I like just going along for the ride. If I’m going to buy something as absurd as what Marvel®™© movies have served in the present day, let’s go back to something with more thematic content than what the sausage factory likes to spit out every couple of months.

It’s a time when science-fiction creators, on the whole, hadn’t become bogged down with anything more weighty than telling a good story. You can see elements of the original Star Trek series in here, with a lusty embrace of the impossibly bizarre for the sake of exploring themes.

In essence, this is a work that acknowledges what’s unknowable and enjoys the satisfying art of speculation. Perhaps that’s why I want a remake. I want to have someone go back and recapture the essence of this era in film when everything felt boundless.

For a mediocre film, it creates more of an impression than a lot of Oscar®©™ winners I’ve seen. It’s worth a solid remake just for that.

Disney's The Black Hole is a film called The Black Hole released by Disney as Disney tried to match Star Wars by releasing The Black Hole.
Gorgeous Concept Art!

A Reply to “The Happy Borg”

A lovely comment came in to my recent post, The Happy Borg, wherein I postulated that the Borg should/could have pursued a softer sell to assimilate people. While rightly pointing out that it would have gotten a quick and vicious response on YouTube, I want to focus on what I think is a contradictory item about the Borg.

The core of the retort was:

The “soft sell” was used on Data because it was the only effective way to assimilate him, given the formidable defenses in his neural net. The Borg are all about efficiency, and all the trappings of “happiness” would royally mess with their ideal of perfection.

I take issue with this reply simply because, if anything, the Borg came to be known by their core inconsistencies. These inconsistencies are the groundwork for the very idea of The Happy Borg.

I’ll also take the opportunity to plug Words With Nerds, that I cohost with my pal Craig Sorrell. It’s an episode of that which led to these musings. (We also mused that Twitter-At-Large is like the Borg, which I stand by.)

Inconsistent Borg

When we first met the Borg, they were a hive mind. The chilling efficiency of them came from their soulless lack of individuality. It’s been said that it was meant to reflect American cultural imperialism; I think they resonated as a villain because they plainly work as a reflection of the philosophical horrors of Groupthink and Collectivism, as well.

Then, when First Contact came out, we found out they had a Queen, just like the “xenomorphs” in Aliens. I mean, insect analogies are a thing.

The very existence of a Queen was antithetical to how the Borg were first presented. It also undercut the stated reason, on-screen, of their abduction of Picard and the creation of Locutus. They took him because they “needed” a figurehead since humans reacted better to leader-based structures.

Yet they had a leader. Granted this was retconned into the lore with First Contact, and pursued further with Voyager, but it’s still fair game to point out that it’s a contradiction both to have a leader and need a leader at the same time.

Locutus picture hosted on the Star Trek Memory Alpha wiki. No rights implied or reserved.

A More Personal Touch

Regardless, once they have Locutus (née Picard), they present him to the Enterprise crew as this ashen, dour shell of the man they once knew and loved. It’s an immediate backfire!

I’m saying, imagine Locutus coming forward and instead of blathering on the typical Borg line, saying, “Hey guys! This is pretty neat. You really should try it! Sure, the food sucks, but you get all this badass tech for free!”

You’d cause some a moment of hesitation, at least. Some would say they saw the glimmer of Picard in there, and want to hold fire. Others would be emotional dominoes and say it was worth talking to him. From there, it’s easy street.

And this is why the Borg would elect me Class President.