“I Don’t Like To Lose”

In the dream, I find a way to move out of check…but then the board rotates, and I find that way is blocked. I think hard, and find another way, this one perfect. The other one was wrong, I see that now…and I see why, thanks to the new move’s lucid answer to my inner chess-player’s question. In just one second more, I’ll make the move, and then…I’ll be…finally…

The board rotates again.

We all know the score, in today’s shock thriller: the unforeseen twist, the almighty surprise, the dreadful reversal. That’s what gets people talking. That’s where you make your money. SPOILERS!! That’s what you want to hear people shouting…

But these aren’t spoilers of the murder-mystery type; we all know that, too. Because the classic whodunnit doesn’t end in a modern “reveal” (detestable neologism!) where unexpectedness is All. How could it? When the grand tradition of the mystery, since the interwar period anyway, has been all about the potential figure-out-ability of the murderer’s identity? If you follow along carefully, and if you’re sharp enough, you can beat Poirot to the solution…but if the author is sharp enough in her turn, you won’t. This is how “twists” used to work — actually as integral elements of the plot. And actually when one looks at many of the first generation of “Twist Movies”, one sees this bargain standing unbroken — I don’t have a lot of time for M. Night Shyamalan, but even bitter old me has to admit that The Sixth Sense played fair, if for no other reason than I figured it out pretty quick, and was subsequently proven right.

But in the modern use of the almighty Twist, I can’t expect to be proven right just because I have figured it out…and to even get a Twist that’s actually just part of the plain old plot is rather a rare treat these days.

In the dream, the little old lady removes her mask, to show the face of the villain I thought I’d just caught…

Everybody is shaking hands and congratulating each other, but in the background a tension starts to build so high you can almost hear it…footsteps and glad calls, harmless in an ordinary context, seem to begin falling into an inexorable pattern, a groove, an urgency of time and fate that draws the unknowing celebrants closer to the de rigeur last-minute swerve of the bomb in the car or the shooter outside the jail cell…

Bear with me, Bloggers, if you would; I’m taking this somewhere.

So we all know the old Mark Millar trick of the shocker that you didn’t see coming only because it doesn’t make any sense, right? Not the business wherein the detective figures out the murderer’s identity unfairly, due to the author concealing information from the reader, but the thing where you can’t figure it out no matter what, because nothing points to it and it doesn’t add up? Mark Millar isn’t the only person who loves to do this, of course, but since he’s the most shameless about it I might as well pick on him…he won’t care…so let’s call it a half-Millarism when it turns out Kevin Spacey’s story in The Usual Suspects is also known to people outside the interview room (because I really think that was just a slip-up), and a full Millarism when, say, the island on Lost turns out not to be Purgatory after all, and you never even find out what the deal was with the polar bear. Of course Mark Millar probably really would reveal that Captain America’s really been a Nazi this whole time, as that highly-amusing Twitter account proposed, but that’s Millar, and that’s how he makes his bread and butter — few plotmakers can match his commitment to the brazen nature of such rug-pulling, perhaps because they haven’t seen that’s really what it’s all about, or possibly because fear has made them avoid staring that particular fact in the eye — but that doesn’t mean they spurn the (ugh) “Big Reveal” either. It is, after all, another tool in the kit; just another convention, now, of the modern film-based story. It isn’t about surprise anymore, exactly! But instead it’s just about what people expect in this post-Twist world. What they want.

So is it any surprise, that so many think it meet, to give it? Man, if somebody doesn’t die at the end of this Joss Whedon movie, then I’m gonna feel really ripped off, you know? And it had better be my favourite character, too…!

Otherwise, however will I experience the feeling, that I go to Joss Whedon to get?

This isn’t quite what I want to talk about, but it’s getting closer. Not to be mean about it or anything: because of course Joss wants me to feel something, right? That’s Screenwriting 101. So can I really blame him for executing well? Similarly, can you really do anything but applaud the Pixar people for focussing so assiduously on the heart of the story, even if it is the same story every single time? I mean, they do bring it off with aplomb, and stick the landing. Every father in the end does get that reconciliation with his son — “Son, I’m…I’m proud of you.” “Thanks, Dad.” — and, well, do I blame James Cameron for that time when Catwoman showed up to punch the Navy Seal in the head so that Luke could turn off his targeting system and Christmas could be saved by Zuzu’s petals? So it’s a crappy culture, I admit it; but it isn’t the fault of the filmmakers that we need just so damn much reassurance…and if feelings have become conventions, and conventions have become brands, is it not all our own fault, and not theirs, that we’ve accepted “brands” as such an essential part of our pop-culture reality? There’s a type of charades-based board game out there that’s all about who can be first to recognize the Nike logo or Tony the Tiger…that shit doesn’t happen by accident, people! This stuff is part of our culture, and we’d be silly to deny it; admittedly, no one outside of 50s science fiction magazines could make this shit up, but as bad as it may seem it’s still us, and we have to accept that it is. Recognizing brands is a part of what “intelligence” is, in the twenty-first century Fortunate Lands; the kind of verisimilitude we’ve become accustomed to in our popular entertainment would not be achievable if the people inside our fictions weren’t wearing Reebok or buying Electrolux. Indeed, it is likely a skill on par with knowing how to interpret the Walk/Don’t Walk glyphs. It’s a consumer culture, basically. And people have to make a living in it, not out of it!

Isn’t that right?

Hmm…

It isn’t a blanket excuse, though. I look at someone like Steven Spielberg, and think of his inner-child-like fascination with cars, with Santa Claus Vs. The Martians, with Howdy Doody, with WWII, and I can’t really find it in me to say this makes him suck…because I don’t think it makes him suck! He’s not a stupid man, you know; he’s just a man who’s actively engaged in talking about the culture he lives in, that he’s grown up in, that he’s watched change over time. And to be perfectly fair, anything I might’ve found annoying about Hook has been completely eclipsed by the egregious bad-touching of Up…so maybe Spielberg is tragically stuck just going eternally back and forth on the Peoplemover in Tomorrowland, but to be completely fair you have to admit that’s where he’s fucking from, and who among us would’ve been willing to take up that torch, if he’d laid it down?

But not everybody has the particular excuse of Steven Spielberg, that weird antimatter-universe version of J.G. Ballard. Besides, Spielberg has also moved with the times enough to comment on his own contribution to pop culture — I think I may have mentioned his awareness of video games before — and down that road who can say what chewy centre, sickeningly candy-coated though it may be, might be crunched through to? Of course it may not happen…but then again it may, and that we can’t even predict that, means I’m not here to criticize Spielberg.

In fact, I’m not even here to criticize J.J. Abrams…though I certainly wouldn’t blame you if, knowing me as you do, you had by this point naturally figured I was. Because criticism of the uninspired stuff he does is so easy that it’s too easy, when I have to admit to myself that I don’t know why exactly it is that he succeeds so well. Looking back over my recent deep dissatisfactions with contemporary SF moviemaking, I can’t help but have it stick in my craw a bit that my old friend Tyche’s drinking buddies frickin’ LOOOVED these movies that I hated, and that so far I’ve only let myself come up with the most superficial reasons why that might be. Accidental reasons, mostly…or at least, reasons I never anticipated, so they seem accidental to me.

But to J.J., these reasons must be his bread and butter, and so totally expected.

So…

What does this contemporary of mine know about “the young people”, that I don’t?

And so at long last I “reveal” the point of this here exercise: to bash out a little bit of a theory, in plain and embarrassing view of everyone, about what that thing might be. That J.J. Abrams and the rest of his ilk don’t get to be covered by a blanket excuse is close to the heart of the theorizing; if they could be so covered, there’d be nothing to see here, folks…

I’d just be a cranky old man who doesn’t understand that noise the young people call music these days…

…But then, it really isn’t them who are making it, is it?

*

“I don’t like to lose,” explains James Kirk in Star Trek II, and so oddly uplifting, even reassuring, is this egotistical remark when it comes that we fail to notice that it does double-duty as foreshadowing. An hour or so later he has lost something so important to him that words can’t capture it…and found, paradoxically, that in the cashing of that bond his own life has been returned to him. The two events, naturally, are two knots on the same string…Kirk doesn’t first enjoy nothing so much as pushing his luck to beat the odds, before then in a completely unrelated affair finding himself unable to avoid confronting the fact of his mortality! So Spock’s death isn’t the coda to this story, but its climax; and it isn’t that the movie is about Captain Kirk in the sense that “a whole bunch of different things happen to Captain Kirk in different scenes” and his Kirktasticness thus accumulates episodically, but instead that over the course of a few days Captain Kirk changes from the old young man he used to be, into the new old man he now is.

And you may be thinking “hey, that distinction isn’t exactly hard to make”. And you’d be right!

But!

It’s got a couple of hidden subtleties locked away inside it, once we start comparing and contrasting episodic development with thematic arc. In the old Star Trek TV series, episodic development was exactly what we got, as characters started afresh at the beginning of each hour with no apparent memory of what happened to them last week — amnesiac, but that just meant the characters changed in a less conscious way, learning from things they weren’t aware of, building up and deepening their relationships, accreting texture to their portrayals because of what the audience remembered, or the actors, or the writers…but never the fictional people themselves. Until the movies came along, that is, and made fictional memories longer and more durable. Captain Kirk could even remember things that had happened in the last movie, for heaven’s sake! So the changes in his character became more partial to him — he could be understood as being responsible for who he was, and who he wanted to be.

Well…but that’s just the simple difference between TV and the movies, right? A “Star Trek movie”, that’s all such a possibility ever portended: “like the Star Trek show, but not just a series of open-ended episodic developments.” Like the Star Trek show, except the characters do all their changing in front of your own (and their own) eyes? Rather than doing it in the “gutters”, the offscreen lacunae.

That’s all the difference there ever was!

But, not so fast. Because once-episodic TV didn’t stay the same forever, did it? Nowadays we have “arcs” there as well, and characters enjoy personal memories as well as institutional ones…indeed, cannot escape from these. Everything is explicitly additive, knots on a string: like a soap opera, one might argue, but then if you’ve ever watched soap operas you know that the past is very fluid there — the soap opera being almost like a halfway house between episode and overplot. Past a certain number of episodes, their histories get fuzzy, the better for their characters to inhabit an eternal present with mere permutational quirks: personal memory is the servant (and instrument!) of institutional goals, a scenechanging device of some sophistication and intrigue, but still a scenechanging device at its core. And so this isn’t precisely what we find in contemporary TV dramas, even if we call it “soap opera” out of convenience when we do find it…no. The frisson generated by the conflict of audience-memory and character-memory in an afternoon soap, the dreamlike contact with a mutable reality one is enlisted by even in the very act of recoiling from it or solving it, has no place in Alias or The Sopranos — even Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t want this for itself! So we say “like a soap opera” in these cases, but we really only mean “like” a soap opera; Hill Street Blues may have been more Peyton Place than Wagon Train, but its show-internal past wasn’t a mere shimmering mirage…and in truth, it couldn’t maintain an overplot anyway, after a time, and descended into thus-disappointing episode from that point on until cancellation. At the end, it was all Belker-as-Wolverine, with nothing at stake for the viewer…the decadence period that all such self-serious TV shows slide away into, whereupon we just hope they can manage to craft some decent gag-humour or something in order to keep being marginally worth the time wasted on them. Shit just starts happening, at this point, and whether it’s good shit (a rarity!) or bad, it’s still just “shit that keeps happening” in the end, as the machine drags itself to the scrapheap.

Well…

Maybe because the show’s internal consistency becomes a liability once the initial overplot it was designed for is concluded?

I’m not complaining about it, mind you: actually I quite enjoy watching TV shows that aren’t all structured like Gunsmoke, if you want to know the truth! But I’m just attempting to argue that what used to be “the difference between TV and a movie” doesn’t really apply, anymore…basically because TV shows have acquired movie-like ambitions, which is not even a bad thing. But it does mean the “what TV is like” side of that equation has changed.

But what about the “what a movie is like” side?

That’s changed too, I think.

“I don’t like to lose,” Kirk says. And he really doesn’t, you know? After all, up until Star Trek II, he’s never had to. He even says so!

But, what he doesn’t say is why. Maybe because it’s just too, too obvious…too implicit in the very idea of “a Star Trek movie”, that it was episode itself that acted to save Kirk from significant loss. He could always win, as long as shit just “kept happening”…as long as Theme never walked in the door, he was forever safe, at least in what we as viewers could understand as his core identity. Yet that was in the televisual scheme of half a century ago, and Kirk’s transition from creature of episode to creature of theme took place a scant fifteen years afterward — thus the nature of his passage from one storytelling mode to another is already a relic of a bygone age, and the conceptualization of Star Trek that held sway then no longer exists in any case. A Star Trek movie can no longer be a transplantation of TV characters into a more “adult” setting, a proof that the show really did have something to it after all — because that point’s already been proven! — and movies aren’t necessarily more elevated than television anyway, at this point. Steven Spielberg could probably tell us something about it: movies don’t just call upon the familiar tradition of the camera in 2013, but the more recently-established tradition of the gaming console as well; every lens flare shouts out “simulation”, not “documentary” — a trick of verisimilitude ported in straight from the land of cut-scenes: film imitating an imitation of film that was contrived for another medium, to the point where actual camera tricks look like they’re CGI replicas of things you can only “really” do with cameras. In a like manner, Kirk’s encounter with Theme is also simulated…bounced through mirrors until it achieves a technically-perfect replication, but one that’s at a remove from consequentiality. Like a game? It is like a soap-opera, too, where consequences are unmoored from continuity, existing only in the present: and only for the needs of the present. The soft reboot of Star Trek in ST: 2009 has left New Kirk with certain degrees of freedom that Old Kirk couldn’t even have thought to employ, and the feeling of investment in the character is perhaps of a different kind now — you don’t just identify with New Kirk, but you can feel like you’re playing him, because he steadfastly maintains the position of playing a role himself. In the turbolift with Uhura, before they hit the bridge, there’s no sense at all of rank: they’re social peers in a social setting, not professional peers in an institutional setting. They chat like they’re having coffee, dramatically astonished at the weirdness and wildness of this crazy thing they’ve got themselves into, and its myriad unexpected social implications: “I know, right?” They look and sound like visitors to their own milieu, different people under the masks, checking up on one another’s drama while the doors are closed and the action’s off: you as he and she as me and Mary Sue as we are all together. Spock and Kirk, if you boil away the impurities, aren’t just friends in this new Star Trek but they’re bros — hey, for one thing they are both just beginning to discover women, right? And the underlying sense is much like when you and your college roommate or frat-brother leave school to get jobs in an office, really — during the day it’s all “yes, Mr. Peterson, I’ll have that report on the third-quarter projection ready by Monday”, but after work at the bar you’re the same regular guy you always were, as indeed you are at work except you’ve kind of got to get through the day. And so every day, some way or another, you are Chandler from Friends: your job really isn’t who you are.

And, who you are isn’t really who you are, if you’re New Kirk — since you’re less the viewer’s identification-figure than you are his or her avatar. I talked before — damn, where is that link — about how a typical conflict in contemporary SF film and (especially) TV is the conflict between you and your “authentic self” — a conflict whose context is all about how the authentic self is really the gravest danger to the persona floating on top of it. Of course this “enemy within” stuff is just about as old as the hills, but the modern-dress version is one in which the scariest thing about the inner antagonist is that he or she may not actually be the antagonist…but the protagonist instead, and so where does that leave you? The “outer protagonist”, it may not be such a nice thing to be, and I think when you’re young you really feel that…but you never used to see people making hay of that feeling until we all walked through the door of the post-9/11 world, and even then it took about eight or nine years to take off. Which I’m not calling a bad thing, even if I do think you’d be much better off reading A Scanner Darkly than watching Jekyll…but what’s interesting about things like ST: ID and “TDKR” and all the other product that Tyche’s friends react so positively to is that they’ve taken that new and extra-caustic derivative of the Terrorist Within stuff and found a way to denature it. Totally neutralized: New Kirk’s authentic self may well just be you, as you’re watching the various game-dynamics unfold…and to you, nothing is really going to happen here, so that whole “enemy within” thing is rendered just a trope, just a motif. Thus an essential flavour of episode is restored to ST: ID…as Kirk just does a bunch of things, and even his self-sacrifice is just another way for him to kick ass at this scenario. Well, and how could it be any other way, really?

Because…well, isn’t he a pretty young dude, in this?

And he speaks as a young dude…he behaves as a young dude. And there appears to be no reason at all for him to put away young-dude things. When it comes right down to it, that may even be the actual point, here, and the reason why the twists are just Twists, and don’t really need to make sense or add up to anything. Everything about ST: ID screams that New Kirk is not growing up, it’s just not going to happen, and he doesn’t want to and shouldn’t have to — every time some spirit of consequence is introduced into his story in accordance with the dictates of Screenwriting 101, everything subtextual in the movie suddenly aligns to pull strenuously against it. Kirk doesn’t like to lose, and now he doesn’t have to; Kirk no longer has the same stuff available to lose, as he once did, since this Kirk never graduated from a world of televisual episode to a world of filmic thematization. Never had three years of episode under his belt, to be destabilized once an older William Shatner returns to his iconic role! That stuff just isn’t there.

So, what is even available to replace it?

Game-playing, I humbly submit, is all about recognition: using an imbibed sense of how things work, to figure out puzzles that aren’t quite real, along the way to an achievement that’s largely satisfying to the same extent that it’s purely symbolic. When I was a kid, I knew all about the telephone in a way my parents never did. Not how to build one, and not why it worked — my parents, actually, knew far more about that than I did — but what its conventions were, how it functioned, what I could make it do. And for me it’s by turns alarming and amusing, that almost all that phone-knowledge has been rendered useless over about the last fifteen years or so…phone systems now replicate those old conventions in the same way lens flare in J.J. Abrams movies now replicates “stuff that can happen with a camera”, as the ringing sound you hear on your end doesn’t coincide with the ringing sound heard by the person on the other end you’re trying to call…you folks may have noticed that?

Noticed that it’s bullshit now?

It’s just something they stick in to make it sound like it’s still the same machine, doing the same thing, when it really isn’t: essentially a retro touch. You know they were talking about putting speakers on the outside of electric cars, to make them generate more of a noise? More of a familiar roar of internal combustion, so no one would have to go through too steep of a learning curve as far as readjusting their notions of “what a car sounds like” goes?

Tyche tells me, with a mixture of rage and glee, that people her age don’t know a thing about computers: only about interfaces. Interface knowledge is broad and deep, and skill with interfaces is extraordinarily pronounced, among the younger folk — if they can touch it, they can do amazing things with it, as long as it’s working. And we are starting them younger and younger on that all the time: the famous boasts about how babies try to finger-scroll through the TV or the newspaper, how they’re being educated to not understand anything that isn’t a touchscreen…shining beacons of evolution in action!

“Look, my kid doesn’t even understand what paper is!”

Everywhere a proud consumerist parent.

“If there’s ever a power outage, she’s going to starve to death!

O brave new world, that has such deliberately-disadvantaged people in it. Hey, you know what was funny? When the entire Rogers network went down for a day all across Canada. Last month, I think? Anyhow, the news had a field day with it, cautioning people to not let go of their land-lines so easily, because in an emergency you may need one. But, shit, I don’t even know if you can get a land-line from the phone company anymore, do you? I remember you used to have to pay a $200 deposit on one…it could be more, now…

…Now that the ship has sailed, but pardon the digression: let’s get back to the games. Recognition, that’s “intelligence” in the modern world, like understanding the Walk/Don’t Walk glyphs, and rewarding that understanding is what game-playing is all about.

What movies are all about, now, too?

Film Crit Hulk, I’ll remind you, is probably right when he says that for an audience passively consuming a movie, the replication of a Thing is good enough to be treated as the Thing ninety-nine times out of a hundred…to return once again to the recent remake of Total Recall, we can see that sometimes it’s even okay to have a movie that merely replicates what would ordinarily happen in a movie, and then slap a quick nationwide release on that lemon and just see what happens. Earlier in this long (very long, I know!) multi-post exercise in being an old man yelling at a cloud, I had intended to talk a bit about Michael Bay and James Cameron, and how I would sooner watch Transformers 2 AGAIN than watch any more of Avatar than the ten minutes I made it through before switching over to The Best Of The Joy Of Painting…and how it baffles me that Cameron could’ve got it so monstrously wrong (er…when he blended Aliens with The Word For World Is Forest?) (maybe not actually that baffling!) that Michael Bay could show him up with TRANSFORMERS 2

And then I was going to point out that at least in a Michael Bay movie, it may be all about the explosions but at least the explosions retain their “explosion-like” quality…

…But then I decided not to do that, because I don’t like saying “at least” that way. We do say that too much, don’t you think? “I may be an asshole, but at least when I ruthlessly fuck someone over I’ve got the courtesy to laugh right in their face about it”, how many times do we run across sentiments such as these in this achingly-modern world of ours? Our most badly-needed excuse, it seems, and the reason for that need is still unclear to me. So: leave it out, I decided. But now I’m thinking maybe it does deserve a mention? Because Transformers 2 is a ridiculous pile of crap, but at least it’s not pretending to be anything more than a ridiculous pile of crap? Whereas ST: ID is making a pretense like that, and the hilarious thing is that they were both written by the same guy. But…

No, that isn’t quite it.

It’s really about the recognition factor. Transformers 2 is certainly a ridiculous pile of crap, but it has redeeming virtues, to wit: there are explosions. And the explosions matter. Very little else matters! But the explosions are there, and the total carnage brought down by the big alien metal monsters who turn into…trucks and cars, well nevermind, but anyway the explosions and the carnage are hilarious things when they happen, in an exceedingly strange way they are almost joyous things, and I’d maybe rather see this kind of a “zombie” movie than any World War Z? Since the whole thing is extremely formulaic, but “at least” the formula is something I know all about going in. Shocking twists just aren’t necessary: would only be a distraction. I’m really not supposed to care that much. I’m not supposed to feel.

And, miraculously, I don’t!

So sometimes that abstract distance from emotionalism really is what you want in a piece of entertainment, though of course sometimes it isn’t, and even when it is it’s only empty calories, but empty calories have a place too. Is what I’m saying, I guess. Very easy anaesthesia after a hard day of stressful predicaments, well sometimes that’s merited, and after all it isn’t like anyone’s coming away with a deep thirst for more shitty Transformers movies, because it isn’t that it’s “a Transformers movie”, really, is it? By which I’m trying to say that, well, those words don’t really mean anything special, do they? It’s just a Thing: “you know, that Transformers movie”. It just is what it is, it’s a lot of explosions, and a lot of people had the toys and read the comics and watched the cartoon. It doesn’t really matter, it’s just diversion, it’s just a recognition-exercise, it may be pretty terrible but it isn’t actually bad. So maybe it’s a bit unreasonable to judge Michael Bay for it? Maybe this is not the thing to judge him on, maybe that would just be absurd? Maybe one day he’ll make something that judgement could reasonably be applied to, but this probably isn’t it?

It’s pretty easy to judge someone on something they’re honestly trying to make exceptional, though…so judging James Cameron on the unwatchable Avatar is really very easy, and indeed I don’t expect to ever run into anyone who says “what do you mean you thought Avatar was boring and stupid, it really spoke to me!”…because I don’t believe it really “spoke” to anybody, I just think it was about the 3D effects, and whether or not people liked them. And that all comes down to recognition too, possibly…you know, in a “do you think Second Life is cool” sort of way, or maybe it’s about if you think Brazil could’ve been improved if it had more Space Marines and yiffing in it? I don’t know, honestly, with that movie…it’s conceivable to me that James Cameron simply misread, for the first time in his life, what lengths his audience was willing to go to, to care about a story. Perhaps all that was wrong with Avatar was that it had too much story in it, and that the story wasn’t very good. Maybe people would’ve rather just looked at the pictures on their own. Or maybe they would’ve been more willing to put up with the story if it wasn’t getting in the way of anything else. Who knows? Not me…

But the point is, like I say: I don’t see anyone furiously disagreeing with me about this.

But meanwhile back at the bar downtown, one friend of Tyche’s was telling me that Bane was really awesome and cool in “TDKR”, and another was telling me that he really liked ST: ID, so although we’re definitely in agreement about Avatar and Transformers 2 it seems as though we’re not on the same page about recognition when it comes to these other instances of gestural excess. So…what’s different about these gestures, is what I want to know…

And I think, after all this, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed to find out…that I think it may be pretty simple. Just as simple as…

Bane’s the spitting image of a Level Boss?

Bane, as Justin has already pointed out in comments doesn’t even really look like he belongs here…looks like a standard-issue Bond villain, or something out of a Dolph Lundgren movie. He is there to fuck with Batman and to brutalize Batman (sweep the leg, Bane!) in a way instantly recognizable from places other than Batman stories. Heath Ledger’s glorious Joker was a different story — he never beats Batman by applying the ol’ overwhelming force, he talks and tricks but never wins, but he is definitely a better class of criminal as well as a better class of cinematic baddie, and Bane is kind of shit as a cinematic baddie but it doesn’t matter because in terms of gameplay he makes more sense than that. Whether Christopher Nolan intended this or not (my money’s on “not”) is an open question, even maybe a pointless question, but for my question — “why did Tyche’s friend think Bane was awesome when actually he sucked?” — it is, at least, an answer I can live with. Bane ticked the boxes for him. Batman got beat and had to go to a different environment before he could come back and try Bane again. Batman, your karate’s a joke! Out of comics and movies and TV, things go into games; then they come out of games again, and into comics and movies and TV. It all starts with Will Eisner and Citizen Kane, you know! But maybe one of its termini is here, in the grand scenery-chewing shitness of Bane…and the near-on psychodramatic need for Batman to absorb something of The Child into himself in order to win. Which detail is actually fairly stupid filler since we’ve been through ALL THIS before in Batman Begins, but then just like the Almighty Twist this sort of thing doesn’t have to make sense anymore, it just has to BE THERE because it’s part of the set of expectations…

And then again also, another little pet theory of mine, maybe it just has to do with Tyche’s friend having grown up most of his life in a post-9/11 world, to the point where ANY halfway-coherent challenge to the forces of Normalized American Good is like rain in the desert…and sure, to me the stab at Occupy, whether intended (“intended”, like that matters) by Nolan or not is reprehensibly under-thought and garbled and possibly even BAD, but to him maybe it doesn’t matter that it’s just so much shit thrown at the wall, if at least it so much as is thrown? And maybe he isn’t reading this anyway as the “knots on a string” of thematic arc, so much as a stained-glass window of Episode, and maybe in fact I’d abominate it less if I could talk myself into reading it that same way? Because if you sever Bane from his Reveal, as well as from Batman’s eventual Response, then there’s nothing all that wrong with this movie except the music? So maybe I can see now, or at least imagine, that Bruce Wayne making his redundant way out of the Pit counts for more even in its redundancy — especially in its redundancy! — than anything that could be counted in its place were this not an absolutely shit excuse for a Batman movie…?

…Which brings us around to Tyche’s other friend, and his mystifying liking for Star Trek: Unjustified Title, which is perhaps explained by another kind of recourse to gaming culture…by simply allowing that the most important thing in the game is the playing of it, and anything else is just gravy. Perhaps he’s never even seen any old episodes of Star Trek, and doesn’t know from Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock, not really…maybe they’re just cultural touchstones to him, so it truly doesn’t matter what’s done and what isn’t done. I think I’ve gone over this and over this enough to know that there’s not too much hope of finding any higher meaning in ST: ID, when it’s so obviously just a bunch of shit that happens and neither the characters’ memories nor ours are the slightest bit reliable if we are trying to use them to stand against the plot…there are no “Warp Factors”, there aren’t any phasers, the costuming is arbitrary and the disagreements are window-dressing and the environments might as well be out of Myst…the cut-scenes of the couple with the sick child in London don’t matter, and oh yeah THERE IS NO STORY…

But!!

New Kirk is there. Everything else may be absent, but he’s there, and you know what? He’s a lot like you!

He doesn’t like to lose.

Well…

And who does, after all?

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