Friday, August 7, 2009

An Evolutionary Snapshot of Wizardry

So, it's the dead of summer and it's not always easy to come up with compelling blog material. Naturally, I don't have this problem (Ignore the month-long break I just conveniently took and my generally slower blogging pace in recent months. Those are all optical illusions - all of them.), and that's cause for celebration. (You over there, that jig isn't merry enough! JIG MERRIER!)

Summer's generally the biggest movie season of the year, of course. Blockbuster after blockbuster crams itself into the box office roaring "HEY WATCH ME I'VE GOT EXPLOSIONS YOU LIKE EXPLOSIONS DON'T YOU?" Of course, they're lying, and instead of bringing your childhood to the big screen, they're redesigning the robots and snuffing them out while trying to convince you that Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox can act (Or that we're supposed to care about them because the tabloids are obsessed) or simply making a generic action flick (I'm looking at you, G.I. Joe. Joseph Gordon Levitt gets a pass for his involvement in both having one of the best roles, and for Brick and 500 Days of Summer, the latter of which I'm looking forward to seeing whether in a theater this summer or by DVD release.).

Personally, all I've gone to see so far this summer are Star Trek (Basically classic Star Trek meets big budget Hollywood action. Doesn't live up to the previous works at their best, but it certainly beats their worst and makes for a fun popcorn flick, so it gets my recommendation for some geeky fun.) and Up (While not flawless unless you're wearing the Pixar blinders that many do, still a thoroughly enjoyable and at times genuinely evocative family adventure. The talking dogs were epic.). But the next film I'll undoubtedly be catching yet this summer just hit theaters a few weeks ago: Harry Potter and the Wicked Headcheese. I mean, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As longtime Spiral Reverie readers (All 3 and 2/3rds of you) know, I've already addressed everything you need to know about the adventures of the always-popular boy wizard. (Particularly in juxtaposition to another popular fictional character presumed to have some super powers of his own. Subpar powers are more like it. Even Aquaman could kick that guy's ass, and all he does is talk to fish!) But this time, speaking as an expert on the subject (No, you can't see my credentials.), I'll be taking you on a guided tour through the evolutionary history of WIZARDRY ITSELF! (No, not the classic PC games. You'll have to go elsewhere for that.) There's a lot people don't know, you see.

"Why should I care?" you ask? Why should you care, indeed. It's only a matter of national security, after all. So why should you care about some pithy little thing like the imminent threat of MAGIC TERRORISTS on US soil!? That got your attention, didn't it? Good, now vote for everybody I tell you to, otherwise you're all doomed. Also taxes are bad, no matter what. Don't stop to think - let alone think critically - where do you think you are, Iraqistan?


We begin our tour of MAGIC HISTORY back where it began: at the DAWN OF TIME! (After the Earth developed an oxygen-based breathable atmosphere and fish began to crawl onto land and evolve. The giant bugs that dominated the globe beforehand had no imagination, the philistines, so let's not even acknowledge them.)

The first wizards were, oh, let's say they were essentially primitive amphibians. But their little three-toed appendages had just enough gripping power for them to pick up pine needles and bits of twigs and wave them around while shouting things like "Bippity Boppity Boop!" The other animals would only pick on them for this, as no matter how you look at it, it wasn't a particularly cool thing to do, even back then. I mean, what were those spazzes thinking? (Do not confuse this with "Bippity Boppity Bacon!" That results in much greater things.)

It wasn't until they found a hidden passage under rock ungh - they didn't have numerical systems back then - that they discovered the convenient fantasy-fulfillment parallel world of MAGIC Savannah. Or at least, that's what they would have called it if language existed back then. But it didn't. This is merely the scientific term retroactively ascribed to the locale. Don't argue with science.

At any rate, Magic Savannah was a pretty gnarly place where the amphib-wiz-kids could LARP in peace until Newt "Newtie" Ginger-itch stumbled upon the entrance in a drunken stupor and invited all his friends. (Interestingly, every era of life on Earth seems to have been ruined by a "Newtie" of some form or another. Funny how that worked out.) By the time they were done with Magic Savannah, the whole place was littered with empty beer cans and excrement. (Don't ask me where the beer cans came from. THESE ARE FACTS.) After that, our poor magical amphibian friends became pretty despondent and gave up on everything that made life enjoyable to become mid-level corporate executives trapped in the dead-end hell of materialistic careerist middle class primitive life. Sure, they eventually got to reproduce in swarms, but without MAGIC what was the point?

THEY EXIST! Shamelessly stolen from ahead to the next important era, we come to the dinosaur wizards. Unfortunately, dinosaur wizardry continued this wizarding low point for another few million years. Nobody was really interested save for the Ankylosaurs, and even then, nobody talked to them anyway. A couple of Tyrannosaurus Rexes gave it a shot once, but they couldn't very well hold a wand in their little vestigial arms, and that only infuriated them, much to the Ankylosaurs' dismay.

Most other dinosaurs were too busy doing cool things like smoking to take up nerdy pursuits like magic and games like Caves & Carcasses. The latter dinosaurs never even got to reproduce. Whether on Pangaea, Gondwana, Laurasia, or any of the other supercontinents, magic-using dinosaurs were never widely accepted. They couldn't even fit through the entrance to Magic Savannah, which had really begun to stink by then and some of the excrement had begun to develop consciousness. That's never a good sign.

Hit the fast forward button again on that time distortion device of yours and we arrive at the Ice Age(s). (So technically it looks like there were several. At least four major ones, in fact. Ignore your cute children's movies. THEY ONLY LIE TO YOU. You also might want to ignore anything Year One tried to teach you. The box office certainly did.) Watch out, things were a wee bit nippy back then. As such, the mighty mammoths - the ONLY CREATURE OF NOTE at the time(s) - were too busy surviving the harsh conditions to focus on magic. Sure, magic could have helped, or perhaps even transformed the Earth at the time, but technically, the occurrence of ice ages at all could be blamed entirely on the wizards of the time - mammoths who DUAL-WIELDED their magic-wand-tusks and caused quite a few historical disasters. Which ones? None of your business - THOSE ONES.

The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer used to demonstrate early forms of magic on SNL in the '90s.Time to leap forward again. The rest of history? That's just filler. Boring, dull filler. You can't make explosion-filled movies out of that. Early humans would beat each other to death with massive wooden clubs in mockery of the nerds with their magic powers. Granted, back then, "nerd" was a hard word to pronounce, but cut them some slack, phonetics was a new concept. And let's be honest, fire's only impressive when created through rocks and kindling without any of that fancy shmancy twinkly magic crap. And who needed to fly on those specialized stick bundles then there was that wheel to roll around? That thing was round. Round was a big thing back then too.

By the 18th century, some humans - mostly groups of young women - decided that it was time for them to see what that magic hoopla was all about for themselves. They'd start fires and pronounce words in tones before unthought of, moving their feet in ways deeply wholly unchristian. In fact, they were better dancers than Jesus himself - every single one of them. His envious rage moved the peasantry to burn these magical goody-two-shoes. In America's early days, fun was expressly forbidden, mostly because people with poor imaginations had a hard time figuring out the predecessor to The Hustle. (Doot-doot doot-doot doot-doot doot-doot-doot doot-doot doot-doot doot-doot doot-doot-doot~)

The cat is out of the ba- uh... the cat HAS a bag. OKAY THEN.In the 1950s, popular cartoon character Felix the Cat returned to prominence with a "Magic Bag of Tricks." Exactly how you can fill a bag with such an abstract concept dumbfounded audiences across the globe and caused seizures in those overthinking the concept only matched since by a "Pokemon" cartoon in 1997. (Which incidentally also has something to do with a MAGIC RAT. Coincidence? THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THAT THAT COULD BE THE CASE.) Felix's popularity was not to last, of course, but despite that, America's fixation on bags sustained, as James Brown would go on to famously exploit in 1965.

Shamelessly stolen from Shih Tzu's The Rad Project. Google it!The '80s were relevant only in what a disgraceful era they were for all of humanity, wizards included. While you could dance if you wanted to, you probably would end up leaving your friends behind. (Though some argued that if they did not dance - yes, in fact did not dance - they were probably not your friends to begin with.) Conservative Christian America panicked as its young people sold their souls to the devil over a game of Dungeons & Dragons, the wizardry it involved destroying even a young Tom Hanks. The era also suffered from the fact that Ronald Reagan wasn't a wizard (And this was an era where wizards were only just starting to be socially accepted - allowed to leave the MAGIC closet, so to speak.), but frankly, he probably could've used a wizard in his cabinet to manipulate him like a puppet into making BETTER policy decisions. (Reaganomics? Only a 'muggle' would think that was a good idea.) Sadly, conservative forces have conspired to deny the existence of the recently deceased John Hughes' mid-'80s wizardry teen angst classic, Nedrick McGee, Teen Wizard to the point of purging all evidence of its existence from the internet by the early 2000s. That film was a major step forward in humanizing our wizards the public eye, and there were a bunch of memorable cauldron jokes too, all now lost to the ages. When will you learn, America?


There is NOTHING magical about Ron Paul. NOT OKAY.BOOSH. (That's the latest time travel sound effect. Learn to live with it, perhaps someday even come to love it.) Now everyone's waving wands about willy-nilly, even non-wizards - wizard-wannabes. (Wizabees, if you're particularly bigoted, but you didn't hear that from me.) The Harry Potter literary craze (WHAT DO YOU MEAN PEOPLE ARE STILL LITERATE) of this past decade helped wizardry to finally achieve full mainstream cultural acceptance in most parts of the globe. Canada made history in 2002 when their parliament voted to finally extend suffrage to their growing Yukon wizard populace. (They live in a tree up there. A MAGIC TREE.) But unfortunately, with growing wizard acceptance has also come an increasing rate of before unheard-of enslavement of "house-elves." At this point, no government has gone as far as to recognize these scrawny little creatures that have an odd habit of abruptly disappearing from movies to never be seen again as humanoid creatures deserving of any particular civil rights or protections. So for now, keep beating those house-elves of yours halfway to death if they don't get the starch in your work coat just right, I guess. (WHY DO I FEEL SO DIRTY WRITING THIS) Otherwise, things still aren't quite peachy-keen for the wizards just yet. Texas and Oklahoma are presently attempting to enact legislation to deport the wizards from their states - keeping their eye on Massachusetts and New Hampshire as their ideal places to ship "these goddamn lib'rul magic freaks." Once again, the bulging veins of angry-Jesus have reared their ugly head. Former presidential candidate and internet libertarian icon Ron Paul has openly supported these efforts, citing, "States' rights. Yep. Let's be 50 different little countries instead of one big one. States can decide if bigotry's okay." Getting back to summer season pop culture, reports indicate that he has yet to recover from his recent appearance in Sasha Baron Cohen's Bruno.

With that, we seem to have come full circle. (Full MAGIC CIRCLE, even. HAR HAR HAR why did I write this joke.) I hope that this has been enlightening for you, because if it hasn't, you just wasted your time reading this. If you take nothing else away from this, it's that we're only a few years away from our first MAGIC world leaders. So you'd best work on overcoming any prejudice you have as so to prepare yourself to vote for our first MAGIC presidential candidate in 2016. Because if you don't, you're probably going to end up being turned into a newt or something. You might not necessary get better after that.


CrazyCris said...

that was fun! ;o)

I hope you enjoy the movie! I saw it 10 days ago and even though I had a good time... the book is still sooo much better! They left out a few too many important elements for my taste!

Benjamin Fennell said...

Glad you enjoyed! I figured I'd try to do something silly and enjoyable for everyone after my abrupt month-long hiatus. I've got some other subjects to work with, so I'm gonna try not to take any more breaks from blogging that long this year, haha.

I may finally be going to see it this weekend, so hopefully I'll get to enjoy it soon. I've been hearing lots of positive things as is. The book aspect doesn't detract from the series too much for me yet, since I've only read the first book (And that was over 7 years ago now), and I figure I'll read the rest after I see the remaining two movies, so I can fully enjoy all of those on their own terms. But yeah, with the final book being split into two movies, maybe they'll finally do the story justice in keeping most of its elements and developments for once. I've always thought that seemed like the sort of thing they should've started doing sooner with the series.

livenomad said...

Hey, welcome back. :) I enjoyed the Harry Potter movie, even though I missed the two or three movies before and only read HP until the book before Half Blood Prince. Star Trek was also good, though have not been able to focus on the series. Have fun watching the movie this weekend.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Thanks, it's good to be back. I'm hoping to get another post up within the coming week as well.

I went to see the movie just last night, and of all of them so far, I think this one may have been the best. They did a really good job balancing the plot and action with character development and humor, and made a relatively long film really fly by. Considering how much material they've had to cut from each of the adaptations, I can't help but wonder how different and perhaps how much better the other films - which were all still a lot of fun - could have been with someone like David Yates at the helm, perhaps splitting more of the books into multiple films like they're doing with the final book. Considering how incredibly popular the series is, it probably wouldn't have been that much of a financial risk to release even more than the 8 films they will have by the end, if only to get more of the story in there.

Though that undoubtedly would've had a lot of other challenges too, considering that it probably would've amounted to overworking the kids in the cast, seeing as we've just watched them grow up in the spotlight through these movies.

livenomad said...

Its odd to watch them grow up with the HP movies. Still recall the second movie where Ron was trying to be act scared of spiders - was not a good look. I did not know they want to split the last movie into two parts, hope it does not fragment the storyline too much. Should probably read the book first. Sigh.
Also, regarding movies, I have just watched GI Joe movie - Rise of Cobra, its really good! Another movie to add to your list. :)

"Carrie Blackshaw" said...

wow, that was great. by far the best blog posting i've read this summer!

Benjamin Fennell said...

@livenomad: Yeah, it's a strange and uncommon experience, getting to watch a group of kids grow up in the spotlight with these same rolls over and over. But with each successive film, we've gotten to watch them grow as actors as well.

The only non-Harry Potter film I've seen any of them in was Rupert Grint's (Ron) turn as the lead in a movie called Driving Lessons a year or two back, basically a teen angst story about the friendship between Grint's character and an elderly retired actress (Julie Walters, who plays his mother in the Harry Potter movies) he gives driving lessons to. It's a fairly middle-of-the-road film loaded with cliches, but pleasant and not unenjoyable, and showed a little more range on Grint's part, since once they're done with these Harry Potter movies, we'll undoubtedly see all these kids really start to branch out into even more types of films.

As for the final two films, I have no idea how the plot of the last book is structured, but the last film I can recall such a split working in was Kill Bill. (Which is only finally getting a full version this year with both halves reunited on DVD.) Given the job Yates did with this latest movie, hopefully he won't disappoint in how he plans out the cut. The better he can make the film work and the more of the overall story (And original material, as Half-Blood Prince was rife with as a movie) he can include for one hell of a finale.

@Carrie: I'm glad you enjoyed it! I figured that if I was going to take such a long break (Which ended up being much longer than planned.), I should return with a bang of sorts and give people something to really laugh at. :)