Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Portrait of a Badass: Maximilian

Character: Maximilian
Actor: N/A
Film: The Black Hole (1979)
Badass Moment: VS Alex Durant

At the end of the 1970s, Star Wars had the science fiction world in an inescapable Dianoga stranglehold. Any and all challengers to George Lucas's throne would be thrown into the Sarlac Pit and slowly digested over a thousand years. Those who would attempt to stand on the shoulders of AT-ATs and capitalize on Star Wars mania with their own knock-off product would find themselves under a mighty, metal foot in quick order.

Conditions were perfect for an underdog.

Along came The Black Hole, Disney's space opera counter-attack. (We'll treat it as such for the purpose of this essay, even though its conceptualization pre-dated the release of Star Wars by two years.) This movie had guts. It blazed dark, new, PG-rated trails for a studio whose edgiest movie to date had been The Apple Dumpling Gang. More importantly, it stood in the face of Star Wars's iron-fisted oppression and said, "Oh yeah?"

Even though The Empire Strikes Back effectively responded with, "Yeah and so's your mama," while using The Force to crush The Black Hole's throat, The Black Hole stands out as an important science fiction film (and I'm not just saying that because it's the Walt Disney Company's most expensive box office failure ever, although that's always been a plus in my mind, too).

Contributing significantly to The Black Hole's dark tone was a silent, bucket-headed robot called Maximilian. This metal "mystery monster," as he is called by another robot in the film, floats around scaring the beezus out of everyone with his glowing red eye, his reluctance to speak and let's not forget his arm-mounted retractable food processor blades of death.

Glowing eye
Blades of death
What else do I have to say?
We didn't start the fire.

Speaking of fire (spoiler alert), some of the infernal imagery at the end of film seems to suggest that Maximilian's trip through the black hole lands him in charge of Hell itself. Talk about going over the top! The filmmakers couldn't have made this robot more badass if they showed him riding a Harley Davidson into an erupting volcano while killing John Wayne with a shuriken between the eyes from five hundred meters away.

Of course, I'm glossing over the fact fact that, despite boasting some relatively edgy themes and a particularly badass robot, The Black Hole is a really silly movie. It's full of sketchy science. It's packed with stiff-legged extras pretending really hard that they're androids. It even has a scene where a robot with a British accent laments the death of a robot with a southern accent. It's not exactly a masterpiece...but then again, neither is Star Wars in many ways.

Maximilian, you are a badass who could kick the crap out of Threepio any day. We salute you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

When There's Nothing to Write About, I Make Fun of Other Writers

It's come to my attention that, despite being in the midst of a two-week summer vacation with very little to do, I haven't updated this blog since before Soul Calibur IV came out. (Hmmmm....Soul Calibur IV. I wonder if that has anything to do with it.) As happy as I am to be on summer vacation, however, something is missing. You see, as a blogger, I cannot be truly happy unless I'm making fun of someone who can't defend himself. If you recall, one of my most celebrated conquests was that of Japan newbie Erica Belling, a young Australian who came to Tokyo and allegedly had Japan all figured out within six to eight days of her arrival. I dissected her overly excited Tokyo Notice Board essay with a zweihander battle axe, leaving no paragraph un-cleft.

Her destruction was delicious.

Fondly remembering that day of reckoning, I began to show signs of "writer ridicule withdrawal syndrome" (WRWS) and found myself reaching for the latest issue of TNB to quench my proverbial bloodlust. Walk with me through its pages, won't you? A-destroying we shall go.

First I open to an essay entitled "Span in Japanese!" (yes, with an exclamation point) by someone who calls himself Harvey. Span? What does that mean? My curiosity is piqued. Little do I know, I'm in for trouble:

I've got another item for the "you know you've been in Japan too long list". [sic] You know you've been in Japan too long when you start getting tons of Japanese language spam (meiwaku mail in Japanese) in your email box!

Oh, spam? Not span? OK, my curiosity is now un-piqued. And Harvey goes the extra distance to annoy me by putting his sentence-ending punctuation outside his quotation marks. Worst part is, this dumb slob is probably an English teacher. I scan quickly through this five-paragraph essay and see that four of the five paragraphs contain at least one exclamation point each, in addition to the one in the title. This Harvey is one emphatic son of a bitch.

Skeptical that Harvey will be able to tell me anything I don't already know about....anything, I flip to another page and find an essay by Michael Curley called "To Bow or not to Bow, that is the Question." The seemingly arbitrary capitalization is not mine; it's printed like that. Once again, paragraph one does to my interest what penicillin does to an ear infection. First, he repeats the title (just in case you've blacked out since reading it):

To bow or not to bow, that is the question. This is how the honourable William Shakespeare would undoubtably have modified his most famous "to be or not to be" quotation from Hamlet, had he ever had the good fortune to visit Japan.

Thank god you explained the title like that, Michael. But I disagree. If the "honourable William Shakespeare" (what is he, a judge?) had indeed written anything about Japan, I'm pretty sure he would have come up with something more clever than just a rehash of his most famous line. On to paragraph two, if you dare:

The Japanese tradition of respectful bowing is a source of never ending and unfathomable fascination to me, and I feel sure that "the bard" himself would have been equally intrigued.

Continuation of this nonsensical Shakespeare theme notwithstanding, Mr. Curley is right about one thing: I, for one, cannot fathom his fascination with bowing. Six completely uninteresting paragraphs later, the author delivers his killing blow:

These are the questions, but alas, dear reader, I have no answers. Would Shakespeare have faired any better?

That depends. Do you mean, would Shakespeare have faired any better at understanding Japanese bowing tradition? Or, would Shakespeare have faired any better at writing this essay? Because I think you know my answer to the latter. I can't take any more of Michael Curley, so I jump backward a few pages and find Mathew Chromecki's opus magnum entitled "Right so, what am I doing here?" God, it hurts just to think about what might be contained in this essay. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I go in for a closer look.

Ever feel like you've wandering [sic] through your life with no real sense of direction?

Sometimes, yeah. But at times like those, I do the world a favor by NOT WRITING ABOUT IT, DUMBASS. I want to offer a more constructive analysis of this essay but I just can't. It's depressing and clich├ęd. At one point, Mathew writes:

Weekdays, work work work. Weekend, Roppongi or Shibuya or Shinjuku or some other busy place. Somehow, you always end up going to Roppongi, claiming you hate it but you go anyways.

Stop, Mathew, before you get stomped on. Somehow the fact that this moron is telling me what I do is the most offensive aspect of this foray into life-threatening stupidity. And he's dead wrong because my dislike of Roppongi results in me NOT going there. Why don't I like Roppongi? Because it's full of people like Mathew Chromecki.

I have to stop. Writing this blog post has been an exercise in rage-fueled self-destruction, and has probably shortened my life by about five years.

Tokyo Notice Board, I blame you.

ADDENDUM (April 12, 2009): It's a conspiracy!