Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Time for a few more answers to questions poses in Ask Me Anything! 2010.

Longtime reader DavidS asks: What do you think about that guy who did the 70 minute youtube rant on Star Wars Phantom Menace do you agree or disagree?

I mentioned this in brief in a Fixing the Prequels: AOTC post, but to answer it here: I know it's out there, and I have little intention or inclination to watch the whole thing. Why?

Well, I've seen this thing discussed a lot in the various haunts I frequent around Blogistan, and I've even seen it discussed in places I didn't particularly expect to see it. To me, that last is the more interesting phenomenon here; there are folks out there who apparently just love it when they get a new reason to bitch about George Lucas. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about, from a post by one of my favorite political bloggers, Kevin Drum, in which he briefly decides to talk about LOST:

From Carlton Cuse, co-creator of Lost, explaining why they're going to leave a few things still mysterious when the show ends this season:

To sort of demystify that by trying to literally explain everything down to the last little sort of midi-chlorian of it all would be a mistake in our view.

It all sounded like a cop-out until he put it that way. Now I totally approve!

Ha ha! See, it's funny because it's a shot at George Lucas! See, if you want to tell a good story, just do the opposite of what George Lucas would do! Heh indeed!

Of course, never mind that the Prequels actually leave tons of stuff unexplained. Things are implied, but not stated outright, and even the hated midichlorians aren't really an explanation for anything. I'm always amazed by the tendency for people who hate the Prequel Trilogy to critique it on grounds that are simply wrong.

But back to the 70-minute review guy. As I note in the earlier post, I did watch a few minutes of it, and I found it terribly off-putting. The guy's voice is grossly unpleasant, and he lost me as soon as he made a joke about his son having committed suicide. From the commentary I've seen 'round the Interweb, it seems that grim stuff like that tends to form the backbone of this guy's sense of humor. Fine, I guess, but my understanding is that part of the video has the guy pretending to be a serial killer who keeps women prisoner in his basement? Huh?!

Also, the commentary I've read about the review is odd in that everyone cites as pure genius the way this guy makes criticisms that somehow they have never considered before -- and yet, with every cited example, I realize that I've heard these criticisms many times. There are no emotional stakes in the final battle! There's no main character! There's no Han Solo-esque character to root for! And so on.

The Phantom Menace is nearly eleven years old. I see no reason to view a 70-minute cavalcade of all the complaints about the movie that I've heard before, and rejected. Especially if there are jokes about child suicide and serial murder. I realize this sounds dismissive, and in all honesty, I suppose it is.

(Plus, there's my general jealousy and bitterness inherent in this guy's review shooting all over the Web while my own "Fixing the Prequels" series languishes in total obscurity! Why yes, I would like some cheese with my whine!)

Dave in Rocha asks: What's causing the noise coming from the right-side rear wheel of my car when I take a right turn?

Something is rubbing on something it shouldn't be rubbing on; or maybe, something that is supposed to be rubbing on something else has ceased to rub, thereby causing inappropriate rubbing someplace else.

The proper course of action is, of course, to take your car out back and shoot it.

(One thing to check, if you haven't already, is your mud flap. If it's loose, it may be making contact with your tire in certain situations or wheel configurations, such as a right turn. I actually had this problem myself a month or so back: my driver's side front mudflap lost all but one of its screws, so sometimes it would actually get twisted outward and stuck with its back surface against my tire. The sound this made was awful, until I just removed the flap entirely. But this probably isn't the problem on a rear wheel, since those don't turn. Hmmmm. Maybe a bad bearing or joint between the wheel and the drive shaft. Forget the mud flap thing and just shoot your car. It's the humanitarian thing to do.)

More answers to come! Good questions this year. Thanks, folks!

(Hmmmm...must remember to close off comments on the Submissions post, lest new questions keep showing up....)


Jason said...

Re: Carlton Cuse's comment about midichlorians, I don't read that as a shot at G. Lucas or saying "do the opposite of whatever Lucas would do." Rather, it's just an easy example that Cuse knew most readers were going to get.

You know I agree with you that the constant bashing of Lucas is unfair and unwarranted, and that the prequels aren't as bad as most people believe. But I personally think the midichlorians, along with Anakin's "immaculate conception," were perhaps the biggest creative missteps Lucas has taken in his entire film career (Yes, even worse than Indy Jones riding out an atomic blast inside a refrigerator). I completely disagree with your assertion that "the midichlorians don't really explain anything." Perhaps they don't, practically speaking, but there's no question in my mind that they were Lucas' attempt to give The Force some kind of "scientific" grounding.

I think people tend to fixate on them not merely because it was so unnecessary to explain The Force, but also because the explanation seemed to change the rules of the Star Wars universe in some fundamental way. The Force was supposed to be mystical; that was how we understood it for 22 years. But now suddenly Lucas was saying that it was scientific, and that felt wrong to a huge number of viewers, even those you couldn't really classify as fanboys. It would be like Tolkien suddenly applying quantum physics to explain why the elves are immortal, or how Gandalf managed to return from the dead. Such explanations are alien to the established rules of that universe. Magic exists in these worlds, and we're fine with that.

As for the immaculate conception, well, there's magic and then there's magic. Myself, I like to think that Watto loaned Shmi out to some passing spice-freighter captain one night.

They're both cases of Lucas overthinking his concepts and trying to come up with explanations for things that no one is ever going to question (while leaving other things that people do question maddeningly untouched, as you yourself point out).

Kelly Sedinger said...

Hmmmm. I'm now starting to see the roots of what I believe the fundamental error is of many who hate the midichlorians...but that will, of course, require another post of its own!

But of course Cuse is referencing Lucas there. There's no need to go all meta on the point; he's saying "We're gonna do it better than Lucas did." Which is silly in a number of ways. A better metaphor for Cuse would have been to say "We're not going to end the show like an episode of Scooby Doo." That's much more applicable to the point he's clearly trying to make about not explaining everything.