Wednesday, June 28, 2006

out of the picture and wimping out

It was a rainy day today, so no beach. Ideally, I would've bundled the kids up to Boston to museum hop a little, but none of us really felt like doing that, least of all me. So we kicked around in the morning, and then after lunch went to see the latest Pixar flick, Cars.

It was OK, draggy in some places, and DS2 had trouble following the story as it meandered all over the place. He enjoyed the racing scenes, though, as did I. The scenery, with which I am very familiar here in the real world, was beautifully rendered. The short ("One Man Band") and the credits bits were hysterical. But this one won't be one for the DVD library unless someone else buys it.

Here's my problem, and it's the same problem I had with Robots: the conceit of an entire world "populated" by machines is just not workable, IMO. Sentient animal pictures have the same problem, but it's not as bad -- why is it that some animals, like fish, are almost always OK to eat (except of course in Finding Nemo), but others aren't? Why can some animals talk and act human, but other's can't or don't? I don't get it. I'm not looking for perfect internal consistency here, just something that makes sense within the framework of the film.

So, in Cars, we've got, well, cars... acting human. Let's just ignore the issue of reproduction, as the movie did, too. But let's just take a look at what is there. I can buy racing being the "national pastime", but I can't buy there being a United States. What, did the colonizing wagons revolt against the Loyalists? It just doesn't make sense. At least in Robots, they had the sense to put them on a completely different planet with Earth-like qualities. The decision to tie Cars to Route 66 hamstrung them tremendously.

I know, it's just a kid movie, but when I'm sitting there bored in movie theater as my kids snarf down the popcorn, this is the kind of thing I think about. There's a scene where the Porsche explains how the road used to follow the land, and then they built the interstate so everyone could get where they are going, faster. Honestly, that made sense to me: if I were a car, I'd want to go fast! I can imagine it feeling great to go full throttle and just eat up the miles. But no, we have to have anthropomorphized the cars so thoroughly that we can't have any understanding of them as essentially alien creatures.

But they are! They're cars! If a car really could think, do you really think it would think human thoughts?

I've experienced waaaayyy too much science fiction, obviously. But the movie was boring and the milieu had huge gaping inexplicable inconsistencies, which constantly pulled me out of the picture. For instance: the bit with the tractor-cows and harvester-bull was cute and funny, but why would cars farm anything? They need fossil fuels, not lettuce or cabbage or corn -- although a biofuel explanation could be made for the corn, I suppose. But I distinctly saw something lettuce-y or cabbage-y among the crops, too. Why? How could there possibly be a Hendrix recording of the "Star-Spangled Banner" if there are no humans anywhere? Are you telling me that cars play electric guitar?

Yeah, it was funny that the old Jeep had a drill sargeant personality and the VW bus was a hippie, and it was beyond funny that the insect population is made up entirely of tiny, be-winged VW Beetles. Obviously they put a lot of thought into this film, but unfortunately most of the thoughts were of the "this will be so cool," and "it would be cute to do this," variety.

If the writers had treated the cars as the truly alien species they should be, maybe I wouldn't have been so annoyed.

Better, but we'll see how long it lasts: Spike TV's new "Blade:The Series." I watched the 2-hour premiere tonight and found it a better than usual setup for a tertiary-tier cable channel series. What can I say, I like vampire stories. This one follows the new-familiar pattern of setting up the vampires as "families" similar to the Mafia. It makes a lot of sense. Interestingly, Blade got his butt kicked, which surprised me. There was some cool tech but there was also tech that screwed up. There was an appropriate amount of grit and thankfully only one blood-spurting-gratuitously-everywhere scene. Obviously it could suck in the long run, but I'm willing to give it a chance... especially since it's summer and there's nothing else on.

My only "huh?" moment was when Blade told the lead chick that holy water and crosses don't do jack against vampires. I'm pretty sure that's a contradiction from the movie trilogy. I'm also pretty sure it was a cop out on the part of the writers and producers, who want to do the whole action/sex/violence thing without having to mix any religion in whatsoever. But they must have some balls among them because we saw in flashback/vision that the lead vampire guy was an Englishman who was captured by Native American vampires I'd say about 400 years ago. And there was a Native American tough guy acting as the "pure bloods" doorman. Maybe vampire chic is OK with Native Americans, but they figured the Catholic Church is too tainted to deal with now? I have no idea.

I also have no idea why writers can present a world with so much evil in it, but then completely deny that there is any countering force from/of Good, except for humanity itself. And we all know how weak and venal humans are. Why is it they're afraid to show us using the powers over evil we already have?

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