Category Archives: Review

Sunk Costs and Chuck McGill

Note: This post contains minimal spoilers for Better Call Saul season 3, episode 3: “Sunk Costs.” Go watch it if you haven’t already.

 

Just when you think you couldn’t hate Chuck any more than you already did…

Last night’s episode “Sunk Costs” picks up right where we left off last time, for both the main plot and sub plot. Jimmy waits patiently for the police to arrive after his bull-headed breaking and entering. Mike finally encounters Gustavo Fring, who informs him (in his patented “Gus” way) that while he is free to screw with Hector Salamanca’s business to his heart’s content, the man’s life is not an option. Yet.

As usual, we have another stellar episode from the writers, cast, and crew of Better Call Saul. I particularly like the cinematography; how the camera always shows you something seemingly innocuous, or focuses on what appears to be the least important thing in the shot, but not only does this get elaborated further into the episode, it also gives you subtle, even symbolic hints about the characters present. Even the short title sequences at the start of every episode do this to a certain extent; not with characters, but with the tone. Pretty much every one tells me that the traditional “American” ideal of justice will be ignored or bastardized in some way, and good old fashioned vigilante justice will prevail, even in the darkest shadows.

Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, I would just like to elaborate what I said at the start, as well as in my character study: Chuck continues to reach new lows as a character. It astounds me that someone who seems like an unambiguous “good guy” can become not just unlikable, but downright loathsome. Especially in comparison to a glorified con artist.

His frustrating, pretentious assertions of moral superiority and perhaps somewhat unconscious decision to do everything that he can to punish and hinder Jimmy is exacerbated by the fact that he maintains a façade of innocence and concern for everyone else around them, and he uses that to his advantage. In the last season, Chuck even used it against Jimmy himself, causing his younger brother to worry enough for his sanity that he blurted out a confession to a felony in order to reassure him. A confession which Chuck was counting on, and thus secretly taped.

 

I’m not condoning or forgiving Jimmy’s actions; in fact, during last week’s episode, I was shaking my head at the T.V., beginning him not to do yet another stupid thing (in this case, playing right into Chuck’s hands). But Jimmy’s fall is inevitable; we already know the end result, so all we can do now is look at what precisely pushes him over the edge.

While personal choice should not be ignored or downplayed, Chuck is helping to create the ideal environment, and the irritating thing is that he acts like he’s so much better than Jimmy, when really, they are two sides of the same coin. Flashbacks have shown us pretty clearly that Chuck is jealousy and resentful of Jimmy, and his insistence that Jimmy should do everything his way now seems less about “doing the right thing” and more about the fact that Chuck believes he deserves success and security more than his younger brother. For all of his posturing, the older McGill brother is, at the end of the day, a proud man, and while he is no Walter White, that quality of Chuck’s certainly makes him arrogant and entitled, feeding his insecurities rather than putting them to rest.

 

In “Sunk Costs”, I see even more of Chuck’s insidious, calculating side being revealed, and it’s the subtlety of it that makes it even worse. He is doing whatever he can to isolate Jimmy and take his desires away from him, all under the guise of wisdom and help. Any genuine care he had for Jimmy’s “best interests”  is long dead; it’s about revenge, plain and simple, and though Jimmy is upset, he’s not oversimplifying anymore. He knows exactly what he’s looking at, and his response is the epitome of, “You’re dead to me.”

Granted, Jimmy should be punished for his illegal actions, but he wasn’t doing them just to be petty or superior, and to be so thoroughly used, betrayed, and antagonized by his own brother, his only remaining family – whom he has taken great pains to care for in Chuck’s time of need, I might add – is too harsh. It’s unjust, and I can pretty much guarantee that Chuck is going to be the main reason Jimmy officially breaks bad. Kim may have something to do with it, but if so, I have a feeling she will just be the final nail in the coffin. Officially sealing the deal, but not the killing blow or funeral prep by any means.

But we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Breath of the Wild: The Balance of Gameplay and Storytelling

Also known as “A Few Post-Game Thoughts.” As such…

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Breath of the Wild.

 

After finishing the main quests, does anyone else feel like starting a new file and playing through all of this again?

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is truly a unique experience in the series. I’d hesitate to call it my favorite entry, if only because I enjoy each of the 3D titles for various reasons, but it is certainly memorable, compelling, and most importantly, tons of fun.

A bridge between 2D and 3D Zelda is long overdue, and while the story suffers a little bit in conjunction with the open world exploration, realistically, it was to be expected, and it is not nearly as noticeable as I feared. While I, as a writer and consumer, am personally very story-driven, I understand when the plot must take a back seat in favor of engaging, immersive gameplay, and Breath of the Wild delivers on that front in all but a few of the puzzles utilizing motion control. And even then, the developers were smart enough to often allow for multiple avenues to complete said puzzles.

 

For example, in the Myahm Agana Shrine, the following puzzle shown above can be solved fairly easily by simply flipping the area upside-down and then catapulting the ball across with an even flick of the wrist.

 

This is easier said than done, however, and I will grant you that the motion controls can be downright infuriating at times. That said, I would argue that it is very difficult to create a challenge that does not have the capacity to become frustrating at some point. In my case, most of the time, I felt so satisfied when I finally completed the tricky shrines, and even more so if I managed to succeed in my first few attempts.

But back to the story. In this game, we have sacrificed any character Ganon (or in this case, Calamity Ganon) could have potentially had. Unlike in Wind Waker where, despite his crazed demeanor, Ganondorf did express concern for his people (as well as contempt and jealousy for the easy life that Hylians lived, thanks to the Goddesses), in Breath of the Wild, he has (off-screen) supposedly renounced his rebirths in insurmountable rage and hatred, in order to take revenge and destroy the land of Hyrule completely. This is still interesting, but a lot less personal, and it also demonstrates that this game would not be a good entry into the Zelda series for newcomers.

It’s simpler, in essence, but at the same time still quite nuanced and well woven.

Over the millennia, the various Link and Zelda’s deeds have become great legends, but to ensure that Ganon will always be defeated, the ancient Sheikah tribe built great technology – the shrines, towers, Gaurdians, and Divine Beasts, most prominently – to protect the land and stand against him, supporting the chosen heroes. In the last 10,000 years, Calamity Ganon was once again defeated, but the technology was left to break down or be buried, as the people grew more confident in their prosperity.

Much later, but 100 years prior to the start of the game, Princess Zelda threw herself into researching and recovering all of these technologies. She depended on them far more than any incarnation before her, because she greatly doubted her powers and her inner strength, considering herself a failure when she could not instantly understand and utilize them, as her mother and grandmother before her.

 

While Tetra will always be the “best” Zelda in my opinion, Breath of the Wild makes up for this version’s occasional lack of  “personality” (flat English dialogue delivery and reserved expressions) with much more dialogue, screen time, and backstory, developing her much closer to a fully-realized character. She grows on you after a while, assuming that you do go after Link’s lost memories.

If I had one genuine complaint about Zelda in this game, it would have been nice if she was a competent swordswoman, as was implied in Twilight Princess. I know that Link is ultimately the hero, but to see her stubbornly go off on her own and then fail to put up any kind of a fight when she is attacked is somewhat understandable, but still irritating.

 

At least try to defend yourself, woman! Don’t just pull a Frodo Baggins and fall to the ground like a helpless waif!

But it’s okay. She redeems herself in my book when she tries to force you to eat a frog on the spot, just to see what would happen. I’m not joking either. Look at this!

 

“Here, Link! Eat this frog I found! Be my test subject right here and now, because I’m a nerdy mad scientist with no understanding of what’s wrong with this scenario at all! Tee hee!”

I mean it. Zelda really grows on you after a while. She’s downright adorable, even when I (or Link, for that matter) should probably be mad at her.

Link is implied to have character…through journal entries. Also, I suppose, because why would any of the characters carry on talking to themselves so much if Link never responded at all outside of nods and head shakes? He’s apparently just solemn and soft-spoken, focused on becoming a knight like his father before him, and so Zelda constantly compares the two of them throughout the flashbacks, noting how Link never seems to question his destiny or waver in the face of very real danger.

It’s almost funny how Nintendo has lampshaded Link’s muteness without really affecting the seriousness of any given situation.

 

Calamity Ganon returns just as Zelda’s feelings of guilt and self-loathing peak to typical teenage levels, and only once half the kingdom has been murdered and Link is about to face a similar end does she find the strength to summon her powers.

…I’m not sure if this game is aware of all of the implications of Zelda’s angst and dependency on Sheikah technology for victory, but it’s certainly an interesting angle to take. It doesn’t paint her in the best light, but it’s interesting.

Incidentally, at one point, Zelda’s father mentions that there are gossip mongers who are putting her and the royal family down, saying she is “heir to a throne of nothing. Nothing but failure.” But what I don’t understand is this: with the amount of time spent reminding us (and Zelda herself) that she is a reincarnation of a very powerful goddess,  you would think people would think it unwise to mock her so openly.

…Who knows? Maybe, as with the ancient technology, most of them have forgotten that little fact, even if the royal family hasn’t.

 

I’m loving her new dress, though.

Despite the princess’s efforts, Link is mortally wounded and must be laid to rest in the Shrine of Resurrection until he has recovered enough to fight another day, and Zelda, with fresh confidence and newfound power, returns to Hyrule Castle and actively fighting Calamity Ganon for the next 100 years…huh. So maybe Nintendo was paying attention after all. Nice, because this helps us to keep sympathizing while still giving her a punishment of sorts for her arrogance, as well as the contempt borne of her frustrations with not being unable to unlock her power sooner.

Remember, kids: don’t mess with the plans of the Gods. It doesn’t bode well for you.

The champions of each of Hyrule’s respective races also have memories that you can find in the course of your journey. My biggest issue is with Mipha, the Zora champion, because in addition to her robotic voice acting, her backstory with Link and subsequently developed affections for him are hilariously rushed and unconvincing. I had an easier time believing it when Ruto grew feelings for Link back in Ocarina of Time. The player took an active part in her rescue, however begrudgingly, and despite herself, she appreciated that effort and commitment.

 

Yes, she’s a textbook Tsundere. Say what you want about her; Ruto had the most defined personality of any of the female characters in that entire game. That’s probably why so many people dislike her, because she dared to be more than just a blankly smiling pretty face for dudes to interact with and save.

But I digress. Again.

As I said in the beginning, the story is still fairly compelling, despite not being the major “drive” of the game. It’s rare for the 3D Zelda games, but no so much for their 2D counterparts, which had minimal story but tons of exploration. It’s a blend of the two approaches, so it obviously won’t be completely without its hiccups, but for a first conscious effort, I think Nintendo mostly succeeded.

I’m still enjoying the game a lot, and the main story has officially run its course. Now, my sole purpose in life is Korok seeds, taking obnoxious amounts of screenshots, and watching Link cook various, bouncy food.

 

Best time sink ever.

8.5/10

*The images used in this post are all owned by Nintendo. 

In Defense of Beauty and the Beast

This is my final rant on the matter. Cross my heart. After this, no matter how much the remake and its lover stalk me, I’ll just let it go. I just can’t stand being barraged with post after post about how much better Beauty and the Beast (2017) is compared to its predecessor, without offering at least some defense of the reverse.

And yes, I am definitely biased, but I wanted to like this new movie. You have no idea how hard I tried to give it a chance, only to be bored, irritated, and let down at almost every turn. It’s not the worst movie ever made, but it doesn’t deserve half of the critical praise it is receiving, or the credit for “fixing” the original film.

Doesn’t anyone else remember that Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award, because it was just that moving and beautiful and well-structured?
1) The Animation Supplements Where the Acting Might Fall Short

Not enough lines of dialogue for you? Or maybe you’re just not crazy about their delivery? Just add animation!

Personally, I think most of the lines were decently acted, but the nice thing about having an animated story is that it can help carry a lot through fluid movement and even over-exaggeration of expressions.

Communication is about 95% non-vocal, and you would be surprised how much you can learn about a character by looking at things like posture, proximity, touch, and gesture, as well as facial expressions. While the remake adds a few good things such as Belle’s laundry innovation, which shows her as an inventor and innovator in her own right, Emma Watson’s flat delivery of lines and particularly her default to annoyance over fear in stressful, emotional situations makes her feel less human, whereas Paige O’Hara’s Belle and the other animated characters can be silly, but get across much more about who they are in simple gestures. The live-action cast (most of whom I have adored in other films) had a lot to convey, and probably not a lot of good direction, so when they fall flat, they really fall flat.

 

2) The Original Movie Featured Talented Singers

Emma Watson is not a singer, but that is fine if you can fake it or at least bring some character to the table. The filmmakers clearly had no confidence in her abilities, however, because they polished and autotuned all of the humanity out of her performance. She and the other actors constantly sound as though they are in a studio, not the world of the film itself, and that can be heard distinctly in the lack and diminishing of other sound effects going on in any given scene. They clearly wanted the main showcase to be the singers, so things you might hear like chickens, cart wheels creaking, and other normal town sounds are pushed to the very bottom of the master tracks, if they are even there at all.

Audra McDonald is an actual singer, and a very talented one at that, but she is relegated to “comical” narcolepsy half of the time, and her “song(s)” either get cut short or dial up the silliness that most modern listeners associate with traditional operatic singing.

While the animated singers are less polished to robotic perfection, their flaws provide character and relatability, and their voices are fitting and pleasant to listen to. Paige O’Hara is truly scandalized and outraged by Gaston’s marriage proposal at the start of her reprise, whereas Emma Watson sounds mildly frustrated, but also somewhat uncaring about the situation.

 

3) Subtlety and Symbolism (Yes, Believe it or Not, in a Cartoon)

Did you ever notice how Belle and the Beast are the only characters in the entire movie to wear the color blue? Particularly during the “Belle” musical number, when said protagonist walks through a town filled with reds and earthy hues? That was done on purpose to set the character apart visually from everyone else, which nicely compliments the song about how weird and different she is without being too overt. It also connects her to the Beast, a fellow outcast.

The new movie doesn’t seem to get that, because half of the townsfolk wear blue. It’s missing all of the nice, subtle little touches of symbolism like that, presumably because its creators either didn’t understand them themselves or assumed that the audience was too dumb to pick up on that.

Instead, it chooses to answer largely irrelevant questions, like how Belle got the Beast onto her horse after the wolf attack. Nevermind that in both versions, Beast probably should have broken Phillipe’s back.

Another example is the introduction of Gaston. He is shown killing a defenseless, harmless animal, for seemingly no reason other than that he could. Its body is then picked up by a slobbering lackey, and immediately after that, the scene cuts to Gaston standing confidently in the shadows, before he then swaggers out into the light. Film language is screaming at you that this guy is a jerk before you even hear him speak a full line of dialogue. He is subtle even in his utter lack of subtlety, and it foreshadows his latter cruelty.

Come to think of it…

 

4) The Old Movie was Dark and Scary

The Beast’s first speaking scene shows him as a towering, jagged, feral…well, beast. His early behavior and demeanor contrasts with who he becomes later on, as demonstrated when he starts walking upright, wearing nicer clothes, and attempting to eat in a polite, civilized way.

The other dark, scary visuals and tone convey a mean-spirited world that not only drives home the message and warnings to children, but also makes it more satisfying when the main characters emerge victorious and happy at the end. The bigger and more difficult a trial is, the better it feels when finally surmounted.

The new movie’s wolves are kind of scary….but that’s about it. The new Beast looks computer-generated, but not particularly intimidating. I almost don’t blame new Belle for not being even remotely afraid of him.

 

5) LeFou is Unambiguously a Bad Guy

So LeFou doesn’t live up to his name anymore…I’m not sure why we didn’t just rename him, that being the case.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: how is this new version considered a positive LGBT portrayal? LeFou clearly knows right from wrong here; he’s not as ignorant and stupid as his animated counterpart. And yet his unrequited crush on Gaston makes it okay when he looks the other way, actively choosing to leave an old man to be murdered by wolves in the woods? And then again later, when he has a chance to defy Gaston and stop Maurice from being falsely imprisoned in the explicitly (directly stated in the movie) terrible and corrupt mental institution?

Maurice being rescued in the former case and Belle arriving just in time to stop the latter doesn’t excuse LeFou for his cowardice. Sure, Gaston is clearly unstable, but there is no explicit threat against LeFou and no given reason why he can’t put a stop to the proceedings. He just doesn’t because he’s in love, and therefore that makes it okay.

Nevermind that he backs out of the castle assault at the absolute last minute and thus gets rewarded with arm candy in the end, as if he were one of the good guys all along.

 

6) The Pace Doesn’t Drag Like a Constipated Elephant

Boy howdy, does the new movie drag on at times! The original was much shorter, but still utilized effective build-up and foreshadowing.

In storytelling, particularly in film, there is a set-up and a payoff for just about every major element. The remake introduces a magical book, as yet another item that the ridiculously cruel Enchantress gave to the Beast, but it is brought up and used once, only to disappear when it could have been useful. Instead of riding off on Phillipe in her medieval prom dress, Belle could have used the book to get back to town instantaneously. She and the Beast don’t even use it to find “adventure in the great, wide somewhere,” so what was really the point of introducing it at all?

There are some decent payoff moments in the new film, don’t get me wrong, but they tried to add too much to make the story fit the longer running time, and it just makes it feel flabby. The added scenes go by too quickly, and the scenes reminiscent of the animated feature constantly remind me that I could be watching the other movie. You know, the one I already own? The one that was perfectly fine by itself, but which people were apparently complaining that it didn’t cater to modern sensibilities enough?

…Sorry. There probably wasn’t a serious demand for this, but Disney manufactured one in their attempt to restock bank accounts and (hopefully) fund more ambitious, creative projects from the studio.

 

 

7) Dehumanizing the Villagers Actually Had a Good Point

To paraphrase Lindsay Ellis (the former Nostalgia Chick of Channel Awesome), Beauty and the Beast can be read as a story of innovators being othered by society, which instead glorifies bullies and braggarts.

It’s not just about seeing the beauty within; it’s also about how people ostracize those who are different due to fear and groupthink tendencies, basic tribal inclinations of “us vs. them”. Gaston is attractive, so his behavior is not only excusable, but idolized, whereas Belle is barely tolerated because she is pretty and her father Maurice is held in complete contempt by pretty much everyone. He is tolerated even less than his daughter, and that tolerance is easily and quickly withdrawn once Gaston realizes that he can use him.

The remake has one scene where it attempts this point, when a younger girl is curious about Belle’s donkey-laundry contraption and Belle tries teaching her how to read, only to be yelled at by the child’s father. But a major conceit of the original story is that Belle is the only person to offer the Beast a serious, genuine redemption, in a world that completely shuns and reviles him. The new film goes out of its way to humanize the villagers, including Gaston and LeFou.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad idea – I think that seeing a film where Gaston is actually the hero might be very interesting – but in the context of the original Disney story, it weakens the clear, unambiguous warning that bullies should be discouraged and intelligence and uniqueness should be accepted and celebrated. Because the curse is now specifically said to have caused people to forget the castle’s existence, the story hand waves away the villagers’ responsibility for their fear mongering and attempts to harm others, whereas in the original, they are driven away and never seen again.

It fixes one problem while creating and effectively ignoring another. I don’t think Belle was automatically dismissive of the villagers; no, clearly they dismissed and belittled her first, and she realized that she cannot change their attitudes. She can only persevere and be herself, and she wishes for a world where such a task is easier, but more exciting and challenging as well.

Who among us hasn’t felt misunderstood and left out at one point, left only with the option to try your best to blend in?

 

You see, when it comes right down to it, Beauty and the Beast (1991) is not without its flaws and problematic elements. But it was a quaint little story with well-paced and well-chosen scenes, which did exactly what was required of them and sometimes no more than that. Fairytales are meant to teach one or two basic lessons in creative settings and situations, but the animators and other filmmakers somehow managed to imbue their adaptation with so much more depth and meaning, far more than anyone would think possible.

The remake, meanwhile, is padded with logical indulgences, and “character development” that is brought up briefly and then never expanded upon, making it seem like superfluous details. The Beast’s tragic backstory and makings of his monstrous new attitude? Barely touched upon, and then forgotten. The significance of Belle’s mother? Not really relevant, and certainly not used to add some connection between her and the Beast, who also had a strained relationship with his parents.

When you watch a film enough times, you start to notice plotholes and logical issues that you once could have glanced over. A good movie is not one that has no issues at all, but simply one that can distract you from them effectively until a few more viewings. Was the original Beauty and the Beast really that distracting and terrible, or is it just that that we’ve all seen it so many times and done all of the jokes and criticism of it to death?

All of the questions that it tries to answer were being supplied by my imagination back in the day. Why was the castle staff cursed along with the Beast, when they technically didn’t do anything wrong? Probably because they kowtowed to his every whim and lead him to becoming extra spoiled and contemptuous of basic human worth when no title or status was attached to it. Why would the Enchantress curse a little boy for one mistake? Probably because people aged faster in the past and children were basically regarded as mini adults once they reached a certain age.

How did Belle get the Beast on her horse if he was unconscious? …Who cares. That’s not what the focus of the story is. It’s fun to crack jokes about, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s unimportant. What is important is that Belle saves Beast’s life, just as he saved hers, and they begin to act more conscious and considerate towards one another as a result. Belle is probably the one person in Beast’s life who has repeatedly said no to him and meant no, and he slowly grows to appreciate and respect that about her.

More than any of the previous remakes, Beauty and the Beast is trying to be the original film, when it clearly doesn’t understand half of what made it work. It’s also trying to update some elements, but not trying too hard, or else we might have had something different and new.

I have tolerated and even genuinely enjoyed some of the other live-action remakes thus far, but at the end of the day, this latest movie drives home what hollow cash-grabs they really are. In the case of the Disney Princess films in particular, they are just new vehicles for selling sparkly dresses and merchandise to little girls under the guise of strong, female empowerment.

Clearly nothing like their original iterations, right?

Top 20 Favorite Legend of Zelda Themes of All Time

 

The Legend of Zelda is, without a doubt, my favorite gaming franchise ever. There are probably plenty of other titles that are smarter, deeper, or just as fun and engaging, but Zelda will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first serious introduction to video games.

So today, with yet another list singing its praises, I’m offering my top 20 favorite songs that ever came out of the series.

Note: Please forgive me if some of the audio clips are shoddy. Uploading to YouTube drastically reduces the quality.

 

20) “Guardians Awaken”, Skyward Sword

 

This track is great because it does exactly what it’s meant to, and it’s damn effective at it. “Guardians Awaken” juxtaposes with the more tranquil, almost soothing Silent Realm themes; adding to the suspense and anxiety as you race to gather all of the Sacred Tears before the Guardians awaken. When they do -especially if it was triggered by accidentally stepping in Waking Water or being spotted by a Watcher – a single strike from their swords is enough to send you all the way back to the beginning of the trial, no matter how close you may be to the end.

 

 

“Silent Realm Guardians” is loud, clashing, and metallic, banging in your ears and spurring you into panic, as you are hunted down by silent, unforgiving giants. Once you’ve heard this track, you don’t ever forget it, and once each Silent Realm trial is completed, you feel all the more accomplished for having successfully staved it off.

 

19) “Hyrule Field”, Ocarina of Time

 

Who doesn’t love this theme? It’s just so iconic!

I also love the (for the time) fairly subtle shift from major to minor when you are confronted by an enemy.

 

18) “Hytopia”, Triforce Heroes

 

The music of Triforce Heroes generally has a certain…je ne sais quoi about it. I particularly like the accordion parts in this theme for the main hub area. It’s classy, but fun at the same time.

 

17) “Tarm Ruins”, Oracle of Seasons

 

This track hasn’t aged the best, I must admit, but I still enjoy it. Especially in various remixed forms.

If I close my eyes (and hear past the chiptune element of it), it feels like I’m exploring an ancient forest, littered with walls, archways, and crumbling buildings from some lost civilization. That’s pretty much exactly what you are doing in-game anyway, so it fits. There’s really not much more I can say about it than that.

 

16) “Skyloft”, Skyward Sword

 

Hajime Wakai has written some truly breathtaking music for Skyward Sword, and it is further accentuated by the choice to use an actual orchestra in composing the game’s soundtrack.

The theme for the floating city of Skyloft is, as you might expect, light and airy. To me, it represents the peaceful, joyful existence of living in a sort of ivory tower; almost a Garden of Eden, of sorts, where people and animals work together in harmony. The world on the ground far below is not even a distant memory anymore, and only a few people in Skyloft still wonder about it in any way.

 

You hear the song throughout the game, but it also comprises a fair amount of your introduction to the world. Possible symbolism aside, it’s just very nice to listen to, and much like the “Hyrule Field” theme from Ocarina, it draws you in and provides an upbeat start to your adventure.

 

15) “Bazaar” and its variations, Skyward Sword

 

Same game, different tune.

The Skyloft bazaar is where you shop for weapons, supplies, and potions before heading down to Hyrule proper. It contains about 5 vendors (if you count the potion shop wife and husband as 1), and each has a unique variation of the bazaar theme that begins to play when you approach his or her area. I recommend listening to all of the shop tracks, even if you can’t play the actual game for whatever reason. Each iteration uses different instruments and sets itself to a different pace, conveying both the general bustle of the marketplace and the energy/personality of the vendor.

 

14) Original “Fire Temple” Theme, Ocarina of Time

 

I realize that this version was replaced due to its insensitive use of a core Muslim prayer, and I don’t mean to support appropriation or exploitation. However, I don’t believe that it was meant to be malicious or purposely disrespectful, and before people jump to condemn someone for ignorance, I think that the original intent of the action should count for something.

That said, I don’t know what Koji Kondo was actually trying to do at the time. Personally, as a kid, I thought that the original track was cool and interesting. Of all of the temples in Ocarina, the Fire Temple felt the most like somewhere people might actually go to offer prayers to the gods, and the theme was a major part of that interpretation. A sudden echoing, rhythmic chanting fades in and out throughout the track, making it seem like an ancient, spiritual place; one which has now been corrupted slightly by Ganondorf’s evil influence.

 

If this genuinely offended people, then I am glad that it was cut. Everyone deserves to enjoy this game without feeling like it’s insulting their religion. This was just my 2 cents, as a once ignorant white kid who later went on to love studying world religions in college. It confused me when I picked up a more recent copy of the game several years ago and the chanting was just gone, with no real explanation.

 

13) “Fire Sanctuary”, Skyward Sword

 

Here is a cool fire theme that is pretty cool and doesn’t offend anyone, as far as I know. The “Earth Temple” theme is decent too, but it didn’t get stuck in my ears like this one did.

 

12) “Inside the Great Deku Tree”, Ocarina of Time

 

The “Forest Temple” theme is probably better. It’s definitely creepier, to say the least, but “Inside the Great Deku Tree” is soothing and spacey. It really does feel like being inside something truly empty and gigantic, and I love using this as writing music when I’m trying to clear my mind and focus on something new.

 

 

11) “Stone Tower Temple”, Majora’s Mask

 

Foreboding, but not as in-your-face unsettling as the “Ikana Canyon” and “Ikana Graveyard” themes. To me, it feels like a hopeless, endless climb upward, and that’s not too far from my actual feelings whenever I try to make it up to the Stone Tower Temple. You just keep messing with switches and playing that godforsaken “Elegy of Emptiness” song, over and over and over…

 

It’s a fairly fitting prelude to a fantastically challenging Zelda dungeon, though. I used to try to play the base tune on my elementary school recorder.

 

10) “Farore’s Silent Realm”, Skyward Sword

 

I can’t remember what the exact instrument is during this track, but the closest I can describe is “if a tinkle and a clang had a baby, this is what it would sound like.” A glass cowbell, maybe? What kind of bells would forest spirits use, anyway?

I can already picture my audio engineer/high school band boyfriend ashamedly shaking his head at me for that one…

 

But this is my favorite of all of the Silent Realm songs. It is a simplistic, staccato rendition of the “Faron Woods” heme; calming, but also distinctly lonely and otherwordly. I like it a lot.

And, by instinctual association, its accompanying Silent Realm is the easiest and least stressful of all of the trials.

 

9) “The Great Sea”, Wind Waker

 

ADVENTURES ON THE HIGH SEAS! WOO-HOO!

 

Need I say more?

 

8) “Deku Palace”, Majora’s Mask

 

This theme feels like it’d be fun to dance to, and lucky for Link, his Deku form has a spin attack that is adorably twirly.

 

7) “Fi’s Theme”, Skyward Sword

 

Skyward Sword seems like it’s taking up most of the list, doesn’t it?

 

Fi is easily the most annoying companion character in the 3-D games, possibly even the entire series. She is essentially a robot who states the painfully obvious, telling you that you’re low on hearts or the likelihood of a bokoblin shocking you with an electric cattle prod right as he is swinging it at your face.

That said, her theme music is beautiful. I cried at the end of the story, which I won’t go into for the sake of spoilers. I can’t imagine I’m the only one who often has trouble completing games in a year (sometimes a few) or less.

 

Suffice it to say, “God damn it, but Fi made me feel!”

 

6) “Hyrule Castle”, Breath of the Wild

 

Here’s a new one.

Outside of the iconic Zelda retreads, the music in Breath of the Wild is nice if basic and repetitive at times. But this version of the conquered Hyrule Castle theme is a nice compromise of old and new, managing to be feel hopeless as well as looming and sinister.  It even harkens back to Ganondorf’s organ-playing as you ascend the castle steps in Ocarina, but it doesn’t get louder as you approach the sanctum.

 

5) “Lake Hylia”, Twilight Princess

 

Such a beautiful instrumental. Lake Hylia is a big open space where you could just imagine sitting down and watching the clouds and the tide go by.

Incidentally, proportionally-speaking, Lake Hylia in Ocarina of Time should be a similar massive size as it is in Twilight Princess. Even though it looks much smaller (and is, compared to that later game), it does takes Link a while to swim across it; the rising and setting of the sun is what offers the illusion of largeness.

 

…Sorry. That’s just an annoying nitpick I hear from some fans. Either a day in Hyrule goes by really quickly, or the game makers did what they could with size and system limitations of the time, folks. The Nintendo 64 was still damn impressive.

 

4) “Kakariko Village”, Twilight Princess

 

This version of Kakariko’s theme has more character than it did in Ocarina of Time, and that is due to the addition of what I assume is an eagle-bone flute. Or something in that family, at least.

 

 

Renado, the village leader, and his daughter Luda have a distinctly Native American character design, and Kakariko resembles a town in the old west, complete with sparse vegetation and a faded earthy color scheme. The theme ties it all together, keeping a few recognizable chords intact but changing enough to fit the new set up. It’s very pretty, and definitely worthy of being one of my favorite songs in the series.

 

3) “Gerudo Valley”. Ocarina of Time

 

Did anyone else go out and learn about Mariachi music entirely because of this one song?

 

2) “Dragon Roost Island”, Wind Waker

 

What’s not to love about this one? It’s practically bursting with energy and fun!

The “Dragon Roost Island” theme is definitely a spiritual sibling of the “Gerudo Valley” theme. It is probably the closest another Zelda track has come to it, and I would even go so far as to argue that it surpasses “Gerudo Valley,” if only in sheer awesomeness.

I apologize if that was sacrilegious.

If Mexican music being applied to desert amazon women didn’t quite fit perfectly for you, this theme seems completely appropriate for the Rito, a seaside race of bird people who worship a giant dragon that sits atop their mountain. I’m not sure I can explain exactly why, but it just works.

 

Don’t ask me why they all wear powdered wigs, though. I have no idea.

 

1) “Zora’s Domain” and ” The Serenade of Water”, every incarnation

 

 

Sorry to mush together two songs for the top spot, but they are both gorgeous, and they essentially go hand in hand, as common themes for the aquatic Zora people. If you don’t know what they are, how did you even get here? imagine a  reversed-mermaid.

Or don’t, and just look below.

 

In the case of the latter song, I particularly love “Queen Rutela’s Theme” from Twilight Princess. It’s hauntingly beautiful, yet oddly comforting, much like the ghost herself.

 

The general “Zora’s Domain” song is what I most want to hear when I’m baking, writing, lounging, or swimming, for some reason. It just makes me happy to listen to it, and it definitely makes me think of water. It may not be as epic as something like “Dragon Roost” or “Gerudo Valley,” but it doesn’t have to be. It soothes the soul and cheers the heart.

 

*The images and sound clips used in this post do not belong to me. Please let me know if you notice any of the audio being missing or not working properly, and I’ll find another link.

What are your favorite Legend of Zelda tracks? And why?

 

A Few Thoughts on Fans and Fandoms

It’s a damn shame and a sad fact of life: sometimes a fandom is enough to ruin your enjoyment of the thing itself.

You would think that meeting fellow fans of something is a great way to make friends with like-minded people, but just as often, if not more so, it just angers or disheartens you. It’s not just about alternate interpretations and theories; with a series like Steven Universe, for example, it’s the idea that people would take a show with a message of love, kindness, and acceptance and use it as a justification to bully someone that they don’t agree with. However wrong you think that person might be, it does not excuse you and your despicable actions.

 

 

Another issue, though generally less reprehensible, is when you feel that avowing your fan identity lumps you in with the less savory parts of the community. For example, while there are many “bronies” who are reasonable, well-adjusted grown men or women who just happen to genuinely, un-ironically like a cartoon made for children, the world at large will always focus on the numerous fans who post creepy fetish stories and pictures for My Little Pony. The fans who, while maybe not actual pedophiles, still clutter up yours and your children’s Google searches with unwanted content that can’t be unseen, if you ever accidentally left the NSFW filters off.

 

The less you have to see those sides of the fan community, the better.

Or how about the jerks who suddenly swarm out of the woodwork to complain every time a character doesn’t fit with their worldview?

 

 

Personally, I also dislike people who insist that what they love is perfect, because in my opinion, a true fan of something can enjoy it without blindly worshiping the ground upon which it and its creators tread. I love The Lord of the Rings (both the book and movie iterations), but I’m not afraid to look at them critically and admit where aspects could be improved. I’m definitely not afraid to criticize Peter Jackson for his choices in making The Hobbit movies, even though they are parts of an established world and mythos that I love.

I realize this argument smacks of No True Scotsman, but that is just how I look at things. As always, you are welcome to disagree with me, but have you ever heard the phrase “media digestion”? To me, there are those who wolf down food and those who actually eat it. It’s the difference between gorging on autopilot, caring more about the good taste than if it might be bad for you, and taking the time to chew, swallow, and actually enjoy the food, and maybe making a few notes to better the recipes for the next time around.

My personal fan pet peeves are weeaboos, a.k.a. hard core anime fans who behave like cutesy cartoon characters come to life, and who usually assert that they “speak Japanese” when they only know 5 words tops (and all of which they learned from watching T.V.). But they are by no means the worst kind of fans ever. They tend to be bullied more than they bully others, at least.

 

But generally speaking, it’s irritating that the ‘extreme examples” of anything (fans, politicians, etc.) become the immediate, quintessential image of that entire group in the public consciousness.

 

I’ve said before that some escapism can and should be mindless, and sometimes all it needs to do is make you feel a cathartic emotion. Movies like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, or video games like Mario Kart and Mario Party, don’t have a lot of application outside of their original, intended purposes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have value. But I also believe that skepticism and criticism are important to have, whether you are a kid, an adult, or somewhere in between, and sometimes the flaws of something can just make you love it all the more. Just look at cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show; it makes no sense and amounts to basically nothing by the end, but its unorthodox storytelling and utter shamelessness, among other things, making it an enjoyable watch, especially at special group showings.

In a similar vein, I get tired of being told that I expect too much out of my media diet. That may be true from time to time, but what is so wrong with asking for better quality stuff? I’m not just bickering for the sake of being contrary.

It seems to be coming from the same people who always argue that kids are stupid, and therefore it’s okay when the things we make for them are stupid too. Or those who complain when a movie or T.V. show is too “high brow” or “artsy” to be good .Most of these folks clearly mean well, but the bones of that message seem awfully familiar somehow…

 

Hmmm…I’ll figure it out one of these days…

Anyway, when fans and content makers can embrace the flaws of their favorite works and take them in stride, and argue their points respectfully with other people in the community, that makes a fandom great. More importantly, it doesn’t drive new and casual fans away by getting all up in their face right off the bat, then refusing to leave them alone. Sometimes, that actually just inspires an equal and opposite reaction.

Why does it seem like moderation is the key to everything?

If you do have a serious axe to grind, however, try not to be a belligerent ass about it, and always make sure you sincerely follow this advice. I try to.

 

*The images in this post do not belong to me.

Character Studies: Sherlock vs. Sherlock

So, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downy Jr. Which of the two is the better Sherlock Holmes?

 

Like many such questions, the answer need only boil down to individual taste. Both actors play the same fictional character in a similar way; sometimes quirky, sometimes downright eccentric, but always with a killer wit and a British accent. Both Holmes’ portrayals also have a playful, on-again-off-again relationship with his sidekick, Dr. Watson, and while both have their share of very thinly-veiled homoeroticism (one version is a bit more obvious about it than the other), Sherlock Holmes and his partner in crime-solving are always congruent with mainstream, unread ideas about the character.

What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, what does the average person who has never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle know about Sherlock Holmes?

…If you answered something along the lines of, “he’s weird, but very smart,” that is probably correct. As long as a portrayal sticks to that basic description and comes across as fairly likeable, the average movie-goer is satisfied.

Let’s look at some of the basics of each role:

Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a bit more suave than his scruffy Downey counterpart, and while he too has many funny lines (usually revolving around his misunderstandings about social norms), his writers explicitly label him as a high-functioning sociopath. Because of the TV show format (every episode of the show is as long as a full-feature movie), we are allowed to see his flaws more highlighted and expanded upon, as he struggles to relate and care about others beyond the potential of challenges and amusement. The movie, on the other hand, mostly uses Sherlock’s faux pas strictly for humor, and virtually nothing he does has lasting consequences on the relationships in his life.

 

In both versions, Holmes is also heavily compared to Professor Moriarty, a criminal mastermind whose intellect is frequently described as being on par with that of Holmes himself. He was less prominent in the original book series, but has since become a major enemy and foil to Sherlock, contrasting what little humanity he can sometimes feel with wanton cruelty and depravity, emotionalism that is expressed and directed in socially-unacceptable ways.

It is heavily implied that, had these men chosen a different path in life, they could very well have switched places.

Interestingly enough, Movie Moriarty contrasts with Downey’s character by literally being everything that Downey isn’t; suave, debonair, perfectly blending in with the world around him. This man contributes to society by teaching and donating, rather than assisting the police force and insulting them the entire time.

TV Show Moriarty, on the other hand, is fairly underwhelming at first glance. He blends in too much until his villain persona is revealed, and that appears to be very immature and almost child-like, as he giggles, wastes time, and occasionally has to stop himself from full-on, screaming rage.

 

TV Show Moriarty was built up and kept a secret more effectively  than Movie Moriarty, whose voice gives off enough presence by itself. Listening to him speak to Irene at any given time, you know pretty much everything you need to know about him on an almost instinctual level, before his face and machinations are truly revealed.

TV Show Moriarty had a bit more ease with which to hide, as the show is set in modern day and deals with themes like abundant, fully-integrated technology. He almost seems to revel in his anonymity, and the ease with which he can disappear, spy on, and command other people, whereas the movie’s character sits calmly and quietly, pretty much right up until the very end, like he is playing a difficult but engaging game of chess.

 

Smooth, maybe, but a little too traditional.

This gent is more of a typical mustache-twirler villain – an upper class Snidely Whiplash, if you will – while his TV show counterpart is less polished, but new and interesting. And how he relates to Sherlock is a bit more compelling than just “we’re not so different, you and I.”

A point goes to the TV show!

 

Sorry, boys.

But hey, that’s a nice segue! Let’s now consider the Dr. John Watsons.

Depending on whom you are, you might get a kick out of the fact that Bilbo and Smaug are now awkwardly flirting and solving crimes together. They have good friend chemistry, as Watson seems to have his own Diet-Sherlock tendencies (like being bored with the peaceful, post-military life and longing to go back to the excitement and bloodshed). He’s interesting and compelling, definitely, but personally, I’m just not sure he can beat Movie Watson, who tends to be a little less lost and befuddled and more drily witty and irritable. His bickering with Downey, as well as the fact that his partner keeps dragging him back into crazy Sherlock world no matter how much he tells himself he wants to escape, is adorable and hilarious.

Here, at last, I award a point to the movie. Props to you, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.

 

But what about the brother character? Another figure who is close to Holmes, bringing out his complex personality through their interactions with one another?

 

Mycroft Holmes is also similar to Sherlock in many ways, but in the movie he seems to have a good relationship with Sherlock, while in the TV show it is clearly strained, perpetuated more by a grudging need for favors than genuine care and respect. Here, we can definitively say that the brother serves a very real and defined purpose in one version while being mostly superfluous in the other.

Movie Mycroft doesn’t challenge or change “Sherly” in any meaningful way; he’s just there for the sake of the plot, the humor, and the very necessary scene where he talks to Watson’s new wife, unashamedly naked.

 

Ugh…the point goes to the TV show, once again.

Finally, I address Sherlock Holmes himself. While Downey’s character is amusing and does more than enough to fluidly carry the rough-and-tumble films to their full 130-ish minutes, Cumberbatch is better at delivering dialogue and coming across as more socially stunted than just a generally eccentric weirdo. His movements still have tons of energy, and his face reflects the same speed and excitement of his thoughts as well, but it never really comes across as too hammy or played-up for the camera. It seems more natural and plausible, which helps to ground the story when it goes off into downright otherworldly sinister schemes and towering crime organizations.

Also, Sherlock uses certain book plots as a basis and changes them up a bit, which, while not the most faithful way to adapt a story, may intrigue book lovers enough to draw them into the show.

 

Some episodes drag a little, though, so you win some and you lose some.

I’ll happily go see a new movie if one comes out, but face it: Downey’s version is almost as cartoonish as Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective.

If only they’d had Vincent Price…

 

*None of the images in this post belong to me. Thank you for reading.

Beauty and the Beast (2017): Monstrously Arrogant and Terribly Overrated

Just…go see the stage musical and pretend that Hermione is in place of whoever is Belle. It’s more worth your time and money to do that than to go see this live-action remake.

This is the only one so far that I would not consider buying. And spoilers below, so be warned. I respect every other Disney remake way more than this movie, and I might even go so far as to say that even the cringe-inducing Disney sequels tried harder than this did.

This remake is Diet Animated Beauty and the Beast. I’m honestly appalled that it’s getting as much critical praise as it is (not even audience praise; honest-to-goodness cristcs calling it a masterpiece), because it tries so hard to not just live up to its namesake, but be it as well, and it can’t possibly do so. It just doesn’t understand what made that movie work, even on the most basic, fundamental level.

The music is noticeably over-polished and poorly mixed. It’s the opposite problem of Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables; it’s not raw and emotional enough. It sounds like it was just made to sell the soundtrack as close to the “pop” section as it could get.

We (meaning my boyfriend and I) checked to see if it was just our cheap movie theatre that was behind the bad mixing, but no, there are plenty of problems still present in the music itself. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens sound as great as they possibly can, but only the latter has any raw emotion in his voice, and both definitely sound like they’re singing in a studio, rather than in the actual movie. And the in-song dialogue is stripped of all emotion, as the producers were clearly more interested in making everyone sound “pretty” than giving them any semblance of character.

 

Notice how Belle gets really pissed off at the beginning, almost yelling? Imagine in this scene that she has a British accent, and then picture she’s in a chair at the salon casually complaining to her girl friends. That’s essentially how powerful and compelling it is; mild annoyance vs actual shocked outrage.

Yeah, the animators actually put effort into that so-called kids’ film.

Also, Gaston doesn’t get humiliated with a wedding fiasco. Belle shuts a door in his face, and then the next time we see him, he’s mildly disappointed at the tavern. How does this fuel the fire of his depraved ego, making him into the true monster of the movie? What leads him to make the drastic jump of deciding to throw Belle’s father into a mental institution? I have no clue. It was in the original, so let’s put it in here too, I guess!

Incidentally, Gaston becoming a truly crappy human being is paced weirdly, and the seemingly simple catalysts of “I want to marry the hot girl” and “if I can’t have her, no one can” have no backing behind them. It really feels like it only happens here because something similar happened in the original version. Character and morivation are only very loosely connected.

The actors (all good people clearly trying to do their best with crap direction) almost never seem like real people, except Belle’s dad. Belle herself seems less terrified and more put-out most of the time, and otherwise, she’s smiling blandly. I think Watson was trying to be more confident in an effort to seem stronger, willful, and more independent than the original Belle, but it just comes across like she’s not a real human being dealing with a terrifying and stressful situation. She’s not quite at Anakin Skywalker levels of bland, but still not very compelling, which is a damn shame.

 

The original Belle, voiced by Paige O’Hara, was a likeable character who also managed to be human, if a bit more forgiving and kind than most of us would be in her situation. But hey, it’s a fairytale, not an in-depth procedural manual for how to live your actual, real-world life.

Emma Watson has very little charm or character, provided you can take off the rose-colored, lightning scar-shaped glasses. The film keeps telling me she’s odd and different and awesome, like the previous Belle, but she doesn’t show it unless she’s directly speaking, and even then, there’s no genuine emotion or commitment behind the dialogue. There’s a lot of tell, don’t show that happens here, and it’s not just because it’s a musical. The original was a musical as well, practically virtually identical to this one, but even during moments where the characters were silent, a lot of personality comes through in their designs and the “cartoon-ish” animation.

For example, when Gaston comes a-calling with a whole impromptu wedding party, Belle’s eye roll upon seeing him through her peephole is incredibly pronounced, even maybe overexaggerated. But it shows what she’s feeling perfectly and its relatable, which is incredibly important.

That said, Watson does look the part. She is gorgeous and I will always love her, even when her performance is sadly kind of bland and lackluster.

The story is too much retreading of old material (word-for-word dialogue and essentially shot-for-shot scenes), to the point where you can’t help but compare it to the original animated feature. Some things are changed completely, while others are changed not nearly enough, and there is far more of the latter than the former, too much more for my liking.

This isn’t “recapturing the spirit of the original, with some new twists to make it fresh.” This is riding the original’s coat tails and throwing in a few scraps of difference to try to throw us off their scent. This does to the first movie what The Hobbit movies did for The Lord of the Rings: nothing but cheap lip service and inadvertently making you appreciate the early movie even more.

 

The visuals are over-gilded and painful to my eyes; I had to look away for most of the Be Our Guest number, it was so hideous, overcrowded, and just overdone. I don’t care if it’s period-accurate; it’s a Disney movie. Historical accuracy has always been regarded as optional.

The castle never feels lonely, ominous, or terrifying in any way, demonstrated best by the fact that Belle shows up at it during the day, in brilliant sunshine. Sooo dramatic!

But don’t worry. God will still send that out-of-nowhere thunderstorm to the climax for dramatic effect. Some Disney tropes never die, after all.

The wardrobe is hideous and makes no sense. Most of the other objects I can tolerate, but she was too much, with her haphazardly flailing curtains and utter lack of a face. Her actress/singer was totally wasted in this role.

The pacing is whack. I was checking my watch all through the first half, and then, to my surprise, numerous scenes in the second half went speeding by like the Road Runner.

For example, the moment when Beast gets angry about Belle trying to touch his enchanted rose isn’t literally a minute, but it feels like it might as well have been. There’s virtually no drama behind it; Belle barely touches the case, Beast appears and says “Don’t do that,” and then she leaves, looking like the Beast just told her to go to the kitchen and make him a sandwich. I have no idea why she’s running or why she just up and decides to leave after this; the look on her face is minor frustration, and nothing more.

She doesn’t even look all that scared staring down a pack of angry wolves that are about to eat her face off.

That said….the added songs were nice. And some of the jokes were pretty damn funny. And Maurice’s actor is great. Gaston and LeFou were passable. Some of the added scenes were interesting, if superfluous or largely irrelevant.

Why did Belle’s mother getting the Plague matter? I could have sworn they were leading up to some Sweeney Todd-style rape ambush; you know, maybe something related to the fact that she was apparently a weirdo like Belle and her father, and people ganged up on her…?

 

As far as I can tell, nothing was added to Belle and the Beast’s relationship other than her telling him about her family a little bit…Cool? Belle didn’t even know her mother, and was a baby when she died, so I’m not sure why she remembers much or why this is so important to her.

Yeah, I was pretty much right in my pre-movie fears. But even before that, I should have started having misgivings once it was mentioned that they were going to be using the original songs and score. There is taking inspiration and changing context, and then there is copy-pasting in someone else’s work instead of doing your own.

But hey, that’s how the film basically pays for itself. Who needs creative marketing when you have simple brand name recognition?

I tried so very hard to go into this and be fair and objective, but the movie begs so much to be compared to its predecessor, and in that light, it fails miserably. I’d rank it below Maleficent, and it didn’t even have the gall to do the “here is the true version of this story, lost to time and retellings” bullcrap. At least Maleficent was working from an already fairly flawed movie, and tried to switch the sympathy to the villain.

It just feels so lazy. I was of half a mind to go back to the cashier and ask for my money back before we had even reached the halfway point, and not because I was all that angry.
I was bored. I’d seen this all before. It was like going to the stage musical without the novelty of it being live, and after a short time, I stopped wondering how they were going to handle the scenes from the original movie differently. The CG was just so fake and hideous…I almost stopped caring until the “Days in the Sun” scene.

The stage musical, at the very least, had some intrigue. What props will they use? How will they set up and work with the stage? The “movie magic” on the screen isn’t true movie magic anymore. It’s all done with computers. That’s the answer.

The Beast isn’t scary or even all that intimidating. The household objects are confirmed to be frozen in their forms once the last petal falls (left ambiguous in the original movie, but a major plot point in the Broadway musical), and it is needlessly sad, even for Disney. Someone told me to bring tissues, but I wasn’t even crying. And guys, I cry at everything! I cried when Ash got turned to stone in Pokemon: The First Movie, for Pete’s sake!

Honestly, that was the darkest thing about the entire movie, and doesn’t it make the Beast so much more likable that he screwed them over, just for a hot girl?

 

I’m sorry, petrification is one of the most universally scary things ever. Being frozen alive, but aware for the rest of your life sounds absolutely horrible and torturous. Waaaaay worse than being a Beast who can travel anywhere in the world on a whim (the Enchantress gave him a magic book for some reason), and yet this guy just lets Belle go knowing this is going to happen to his servants?!!!! 

If I were one of them, I’d probably beat him with the hardest, sharpest part of myself right up until the very end. Yeesh…and people call the original Beast a jerk.

 

Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with the scene in theory. I have a problem with how unearned and out-of-place it feels in this virtually charmless, wooden movie.

Oh, also, Disney took a page from the original story, in that Belle’s father takes a rose from the garden and that’s what pisses the Beast off initially…lame. It’s not like Maurice went after the enchanted rose or anything. Hell, he took food from the Beast’s table, but no, Maurice. You picked a flower, you heartless thief! How dare you?!

If there anything that the original movie did right, it was picking and choosing what to adapt out of the source material. Maurice trespassing pisses off the Beast, and the Beast only cares about the rose (not a random rose from his garden) because its wilting is tied to his curse. His despair leads him to act more like the animal he had become, and guess what? Animals are territorial. It makes sense on a simple, but also brilliant, level, when you think about it.

What was the point of her father’s taking one leading him to be locked in a dungeon? Also, why is it randomly snowing in Beast land?

 

New Beast still seems too human, but ironically he also doesn’t emote very well, and his voice is princely but not remotely beastly. It’s a wonder that anyone can take him seriously.

There is so much to complain about in this movie that I can hardly keep focused. LeFou is officially gay now, and I’m surprised more people are pleased by that portrayal. I mean, he knows Gaston is doing bad things the whole time, and he seems genuinely regretful,  but LeFou stands by and lets things happen (a near brutal mauling and false imprionsment in a horrible, explicit snake pit insane asylum, need I remind you?) just because he’s got a crush on Gaston.

Once again, I must say, “Wow! How likeable!

 

In the end, Gaston snubs him pretty casually and pointlessly, and that’s all it takes to get him to be a full-on good guy. Not that it amounts to anything. LeFou talks to Mrs. Potts, and then a few scenes later, he appears again with dancing with a new guy….Cool? I guess it pays to be an obvious walking-stereotype that compromises his morals for a hot person and then gives up being a bad guy immediately.

No sir, nothing questionable or poorly-thought-out there…

But hey, I can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t find insulting. Visibility is still visibility, after all, and the “women scorned” trope can probably work just as well on a man…who didn’t seem all that committed in the first place. Last minute redemption, anyone?

I just think it’s weird to praise it simply because it’s Disney. There is a much better LGBT victory AND first from Disney that we should be talking more about, in my opinion…

 

Gaston is okay, but like LeFou, he’s not nearly as despicable as his animated counterpart. His scene at the tavern is probably the best thing in the whole movie, but again, I’d personally rather be watching it live, on a stage. The script tries to make him cartoonishly, unambiguously evil, but it’s more funny than damning.

I’d still rank his acting higher than just about anyone else in the film.

The Enchantress appears very obviously throughout, especially at the end, but we never get her thought process on the terms and conditions of this curse she’s evidentially so proud of. Never once does anyone think to question her about her actions, even when she’s standing right next to them. Mrs. Potts handwaves a short explanation that she and her fellow servants let the king brainwash his son, turning him into a fellow scumbag, but that’s the only indication we ever get of what the Beast’s father was like.

Oh, and if we’re going for realism here, the servants were probably a step up from property, so what choice would they have really had, movie? You want to elaborate on that one a little bit more?

See, the animated movie had its unfortunate or questionable implications, but it didn’t draw attention to them nearly as much as this one does. The remake tries to explain a few things (such as why no one in the surrounding area remembers the cursed ruler of the land and his castle in the nearby woods), but utterly ignores several crucial others.

It DOES answer one very important question right at the end, however…that yes, Belle was very much into the bestiality of the situation.

 

No, seriously. Belle teasingly asks if the Prince-Beast can grow a beard, and he roars at her, making her laugh.

Um….ewwwwww……Thanks for that, Disney. That is one part of the story that I never wanted to seriously ponder.

To cut this disjointed rant short, the new movie is not the worst thing ever. It’s okay. But it is pretty bad and pretty shamelessly just coasting off the love and prestige (duels deserved) of a much better movie. You can argue that all of the Disney remakes, retreads, and sequels do that to some extent, but this film is the live-action iteration that tries the  absolute least, and it’s arguably the one that should least be allowed to get away with that.

Despite their flaws, Cinderella, Maleficent, and The Jungle Book gave me enough that was new and likeable for me to acknowledge their existence. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, truly feels like a hollow, whore-ish cash-grab, and given what it’s trying to be, that’s depressing.

But hey, Hermione’s in it, so that automatically makes it good, right?

Not for me, thanks. I think I’ll stick with the original, despite how much it traumatized me as a child. At  least it was well-paced and creatively put together by clearly passionate people.

At least that beast had some bite to it.


*3/10

*Please note: none of the images, songs, or video clips in this article belong to me. They are owned by Disney (except the Medusa one).