Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Dark Truth About "Back To The Future"

Analyses of the dark implications of Back to the Future have been done to death.  But this is the internet, and if I see a dead horse, then I’m sure as hell going to beat it.  But I want to do something more.  Most of the aforementioned analyses only refer to the first movie, but I’m going to look at the trilogy as a whole.  If we pick up immediately after Doc Brown flies off in his time-travelling train, we find the epilogue is quite…unfortunate. 

But a word about the train first.  If it’s been a while since you’ve seen the movie, you probably remember that a train smashed the Delorean, then Doc Brown showed up on a flying, time-travelling train, with his wife and kids in tow.  You might have forgotten that right after the Delorean is destroyed, Marty says, “Well, Doc.  It’s destroyed.  Just like you wanted.”  The dangers of time travel and messing with the past was a constant theme in the trilogy, and Doc Brown realized the havoc his creation could cause if it ended up in the wrong hands.  So when he comes back in a new time machine, the best case scenario is that he is a huge hypocrite. 

But let’s put that aside.  Doc Brown flies off into the sunset, and Marty goes back home.  Until he is taken away be the government.  You remember the terrorists from the first movie?  Yeah, that storyline never really got wrapped up.  In fact, their van crashes into a film development booth, which probably wouldn’t kill them.  So the police get there and arrest the terrorists.  In exchange for leniency (this was pre-9/11) they give up the name of the guy who got stole the nuclear material: Dr. Emmet Brown.  They also mention that there was a kid with him.  It wouldn’t be hard to connect Marty with Doc Brown, as even the high school principal is aware of the friendship. 

So Marty is brought in for questioning.  And he can’t adequately answer any questions about his own past, because he didn’t grow up in this timeline.  He grew up in a world where his family was timid and unsuccessful.  The events and people that populated that life occurred differently in his current reality.  If he tried to answer their questions, he’d come across as delusional.  Even if he told them about the time machine, they wouldn’t believe him.  Except…

The only reason no one knew about the Delorean is because it was kept quiet.  Between 1885, 1955, 1985, and 2015, only one person found out about it that they didn’t want to.  Because a car, even a flying one, could be easy to hide.  But a train?  It’s impossible that no one would notice a flying train.  Which, might I add, was built only with parts that existed in the late 19th century. 

So Marty would become a valuable asset to a government that now has to worry about a madman hurtling through time and space with his family in a flying locomotive.  Because Marty is the only person who has any experience with time travel at all (and is guilty of aiding and abetting Doc Brown), he would be held indefinitely and used to help capture his friend.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

House Series Finale: Did House Commit Murder?

            The House series finale begins with House waking up in a burning building next to a dead heroin addict/patient.  The majority of the episode is a series of flashbacks and hallucinations with dead or departed cast members where he debates whether or not he should just die in the fire.  As he decides to live and rushes to the front door, he sees Wilson and Foreman are there.  A beam collapses and they pull out a body that they declare is House’s.  House is revealed to be alive, having switched his dental records with the addict’s.  When did he switch them?  He couldn’t have switched them after the fire, because that would involve going to a hospital that was filled with people who knew him.  So he switched them before he ended up in the burning building, which means he had planned the whole thing.
            Consider: House recollects all the events leading up to his being trapped in a burning building with a corpse, except the period of time between him  diagnosing the patient (with a curable disease) and his waking in the building, which is notably absent.  Furthermore, when he sees Foreman and Wilson outside the front door, he stops.  We’re supposed to believe this is a sentimental thing, but if he was planning on faking his death, he couldn’t have witnesses seeing him leaving the building.  Not to mention that the cause of the fire was never examined.
            Also consider: There were no apparent signs that he had just shot up.  Hallucinations are common in House's life.  If nothing else, the fact that he was still in pain and able to think clearly, meant that he wasn't high.  So if he wasn't doing heroin, why was he there?  Also, the suicide debate he has with his subconscious.  If we accept that he had planned to fake his death the whole time, we have to conclude that he wasn’t originally planning to kill himself.  What could cause him to black out, and consider suicide?  Murder.  House murdered his patient.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

'Literally' Is Dead

            Language is a living thing.  It changes with usage and context.  Words like ‘epic’ and ‘ridiculous’ are modern examples of the shifting meaning of words.  Emphasis on shifting.  The meaning of a word generally changes gradually (except in extreme cases, e.g., the word ‘titanic’ after the ship sank), and follows a logical progression.  For example, ridiculous meant ‘deserving of ridicule’ but like other terms (e.g. incredible), it can also be used to refer to something that is bizarre or so impressive that it seems beyond belief.  The use shifted over time, from describing something foolish then incorporating things that were bizarre or confusing, then incorporating things that are so beyond belief that they seem bizarre or impossible and finally including mundane things that seem strange or unlikely.  There is a path between the original and current meaning.  Which is why I can’t stand it when people justify misusing ‘literally’ with the ‘living language’ argument. 

            The problem with people misusing ‘literally’, as opposed to almost any other common misuse of language, is twofold.  1. They are using it to mean the exact opposite of its definition and 2. it completely obscures the meaning of the sentence it’s used in.  If a sentence is obviously figurative, using ‘literally’ to mean ‘figuratively’ adds nothing to the sentence.  I wouldn’t say, “I was figuratively scared to death,” because it’s obviously a figurative statement.  Using ‘literally’ instead of ‘figuratively’ doesn’t add anything.  But that’s only a minor problem compared to sentences that are not obviously figurative.  If I said, “I was so scared, I literally passed out,” it’s possible that I’m being figurative or literal.  If I said that to someone who didn’t know me, they couldn’t tell whether I had actually passed out, or was just very startled. 

            Words are meant to help clearly express ideas and events, and this word has lost its ability to do so.  If used incorrectly, it does not provide the listener with any more information.  If used correctly, it adds uncertainty to the meaning of the sentence. It had a good run, but I think it’s time we laid this word to rest. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How to Make a Good Superman Movie

         The reason it’s almost impossible to make a good Superman movie is because Superman is perfect.  Not just physically, but morally.  If you take that away, you take away everything that makes him Superman.  The first two movies worked because the first was about him discovering his abilities and the second was about him facing a moral dilemma, choosing between Lois Lane and his duty as Superman.  The fact is, his idealism is why people like him.  So instead of changing him, why not change the world he inhabits?  Instead of the cold war era moral certitude that went hand-in-hand with “truth, justice, and the American way,” put him in today’s society.

        At what point is he overstepping his boundaries?  Would a real-life Superman be morally obligated to overthrow brutal dictators?  What good is having a nuclear arsenal if one man can stop all your missiles single-handedly, and you can’t hurt him?  Who is he accountable to? 

        The story would be the logical progression from the first two movies. Part 1: Superman hones his ability, and becomes a force for good.  Part 2: He decides to dedicate himself to his position as Superman, instead of his civilian life (including personal relationships).  Part 3: He learns the limits/consequences of his actions. 

        The story would start with Superman coming back after years, maybe decades, of absence (I know Superman Returns did that, but bear with me).  So he gets back (having aged much less than an average person), and everyone is understandably excited.  But the world is drastically different.  He would stop a military action against civilians in a stand-in for Syria, and the international reaction would be extremely negative.  The military will be trying to stop him, and will contract out to Lex Luthor to develop technology for a contingency in which Superman would need to be killed/contained.  The big thing would be the moral quandary for Superman.  Even at the cost of alienating governments, and in the face of plummeting public opinion, should he do what he thinks is right?  He has to come to terms with the god he could be. 

        Luthor’s plan would pay homage to the original Superman movie.  He would be secretly selling a nuke and guidance system to a North Korea stand-in.  However, unbeknownst to the Koreans,  the guidance system would allow Luthor to remotely launch the nuke, and crash it into the San Andreas fault.  Not for beachfront property, but to cause a disastrous earth quake.  And the only construction firm big enough and prepared enough to take over the government contracts for a reconstruction project are owned by Luthor, making it a multi-billion dollar payout. 

        Superman stops the nuke, but at this point, he’s completely disillusioned.  Instead of sending the nuke into space, he hurls it back to a Pyongyang stand-in, destroying the city.  When he discovers that Luthor was behind it, he goes nuts, and almost kills Luthor.  Luthor makes some comment along the lines of “This is what you really are.  You’re not a hero, you’re not even human.”  And Superman lets Luthor live, if only to prove to himself that he can still hold that moral high ground.