Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What-the-Flying-Fairy-Dust Was THAT! - ABC's ONCE Upon a Time S.3 Finale

While live tweeting during the show, I made it clear the issue I had with the story decision surrounding Neal's death. Now at the end of the season I continue my disappointment with the downward spiral of some bad story decision making. The ending of the finale was like the thick layer of crappy store-bought icing on the cake. Strap in folks! I will first dissect the many things going wrong, but I will still share the few things they got right at the end. Here I go...

First on the menu, the commercialism. Wow... I mean it was more than just the shameless plugs of the Mickey plush doll at the beginning of "Snow Drifts" or the timing of using Princess Leia as a name... yeah very subtle Disney now that you own Star Wars and episode 7 is right around the corner. But that wasn't the problem ultimately, the problem is the greed is really starting to show.

Because of social media being a link between fans and creators, TV creators are now catering to their fanbases instead of catering to their story. This is huge mistake. Story comes first, PERIOD, end of discussion. However, due to the pressure to have high ratings and make money, we are seeing good shows being cancelled left and right. ABC has taken the low road by kowtowing to what viewers might want to see. Captain Swan is a HUGE product of fangirling tweets and facebook comments. I mean why give Neal a half-assed death and knock him out of the picture if not to create a path for the pirate to swoop in and steal the girl? As I explained in my previous post, Neal's death was a rushed, sloppy mess and a pathetic waste of a fantastic character who was not done telling his story. Now he's reduced to being (as my friend Jenny puts it) Emma's personal "Yoda" guiding her in flashbacks. These moments are so sweet though, and because of that it's even more infuriating. His character deserved better, much better, and so does the story.

But Neal wasn't alone, the very last clip of Elsa coming into Storybrooke is another steaming pile of evidence that it's all about the Benjamins. Frozen was an insanely popular film. While I personally don't think it's quite as amazing as everyone else does in comparison to other Disney films, I do still love it. However, it feels completely forced and out of nowhere to suddenly have Elsa be a part of this story. To me, it feels like they are feeding off the leftover fat from Frozen's popularity. The natural flow of the ONCE story doesn't have room for Elsa yet. There are still so many undiscovered and underdeveloped villains to work with, why suddenly bring in Frozen when the theater seats still have butt marks on them from people who just saw the film? It's too soon! But it's also guaranteed viewership because of the roaring fan base and therefore $$$ cha-ching. (I suddenly hear Abbas "Money, Money, Money" playing in my head).

I don't have much hope of Elsa being a very deep or memorable part of the story. My proof? Zelena.

Zelena was unfortunate. Not that her place and her story wasn't interesting, but that it was so much so that the fact it went underdeveloped and rushed through ruined any potential of greatness it might have had. Regina having a sister is a HUGE deal, yet it always felt smaller than it actually was and very soap opera-esque. Rather than really take off this amazing concept of Regina having a sister and this witch's downfall being envy and jealousy, they made it into a melodrama, girl fight fit for a day at the Kardashian home.

There was so much left unexplored with Zelena. Unlike the Peter Pan and Neverland story the first half of season 3, which was incredibly clever, twisted, and interesting, Zelena's story ended up being just a gimmick to get OZ somehow into the world of ONCE. The entire finale she was barely alluded too, and by the end you totally forget about her. It goes without saying, but that is not good storytelling, not the way we know this show is capable of doing. I heard a lot of rumors that fans didn't like her, but who cares! If this is your story, you tell it the way you originally intend, don't worry about appeasing your "fans."

Additionally, since when did ONCE become LOST? I know they have a similar presentation structure as both come from writers from the same teams, but ONCE is not LOST! They aren't even close, so stop trying to use the same gimmicks to keep viewers, it has destroyed everything! I loved LOST, but they made some pretty obnoxious mistakes in that show and it seems the ONCE is following suit.

Mistake #1: Cheap Deaths

We already covered this regarding Neal, so no need to explain again, it's obvious.

Mistake #2: Using love triangles as method to keep a story "interesting."

I cannot express with enough words how much I hate love triangles and what wretched plot devices they make. Especially in cases like LOST and now ONCE where they are only thrown in as an effort to keep people watching by throwing a wrench into relationships.

Now granted, love triangles CAN happen in "real life" and I am not naive enough to believe they don't. However, they do not happen at the level that television produces them where they seem to come flying of the conveyor belt of the plot.

I like Hook and I like Emma APART, but I don't like Captain Swan at all. I find it incredibly forced and contrived, but the real atrocity done here with romantic relationships happened to my beloved Outlaw Queen. Regina's redemption and story arc was one of the best things about this third season. She rocks my socks, and FINALLY we got to see her have a shot at a happy ending with her destined True Love, Robin Hood. Their relationship represented and symbolized so much, but especially themes like: guarding your heart, right timing, and second chances. They have one of the hottest romances I've ever seen, but it's also one of the most beautiful because of what they mean to each other, it's so much deeper than meets the eye.

So then why, for the love of heaven, WHY did they have to go an ruin it by going... "Surprise! Emma brought back Robin's wife from the past who would have died but they ruined the timeline and saved her, so here she is!" REALLY? An insanely forced love triangle was the best you could do to give Regina and Robin some battles to overcome? Personally, I waited excitedly all season for them to get together, they finally do, but then this happens and it completely destroys the payoff. It also reverts Regina's character back to the way she was with hating Snow White for destroying her happiness, now it's going to be with Emma... been there, done that.

Love isn't easy, duh, but there has to be at least a dozen more clever ways to give Regina and Robin something to work through than to bring back his "dead" wife to throw a wrench into things. Especially because Regina already went through this with her first love she lost. It's almost identical. It totally cheapens the development of her and Robin and the meaning of their new life and second chance. Additionally, we already went through this true love struggle in the first season with Mary Margaret, David, and Kathryn. Again...been there, done that. This move does little more than frustrate the audience with it's pointlessness. I can bear Captain Swan for now (though I don't think it will last) but I cannot bear what has been done to Outlaw Queen. One of the worst mistakes this show has ever made.

Mistake # 3: Making Characters Take 180 Degree Turns for No Reason

Speaking of cheapened developments, what the heck was that with Rumple's proposal to Belle? That was horrible! Finally we get the proposal we've been waiting for from one of my favorite love stories ever, and it's drenched with lies and deception. Rumple is a changed man, everything he went through with Pan should have re-birthed him into the new person he was becoming. Instead, we find him making a choice that sets his character back lightyears in development. I'm sorry, did you mean to completely destroy everything you've built, ONCE writers? Because that's how it looks from here. It made absolutely no sense. Rumple reverted before he had a chance to even relish in his redemption. STUPID.

But yet here we are finally getting to witness the wedding of Belle and Rumple. Their vows are just exquisite, every word brought me to tears, but even moreso the tears of knowing they are setting out on their life together with this huge lie underneath their feet that one day will trip them. It was just another bad story move. We were finally getting to a good place with Rumple, but instead being forced to endure it drag out even longer simply to keep things "interesting." It' isn't a good enough reason, dang it!

So basically, season 4 has A LOT of fixing and explaining to do, but at this point, I am losing some of my hope. Things like Neal can obviously not be undone. But what amazes me is that this is a show based solely on fairy tales. They've barely hit all the characters and stories they could dive into, their pool of ideas and is boundless, yet they are turning to overused, ordinary television plot devices to keep the story interesting? I can't fathom that! Rather than reverting the story and it's people backward, move them forward by giving them new challenges to overcome, not recycled challenges that ultimately belong on soap operas. I know in my heart that these creators have it in them to blow us away by tapping into that pool of endless fairy tale possibilities. Please, please start doing that and stop using conventional methods of contemporary television. This story is better than that!

Okay I've been scathing enough for now, I will go on to say there were some completely awesome moments and messages in this messy second half of season three. Namely, The Charming family. I really loved Emma's journey to finding home and to finally feeling like she is truly apart of this fairy tale world.

The bond that holds this whole show together is Snow, David, their children, and their legacy. They symbolism of family holding together through literally every evil storm is so beautiful. Of course in playing with time, their daughter Emma has missed out on growing up with them and being a part of their fairy tale world, her REAL world.

Emma is definitely her father's daughter.
I love the dynamic of the actors so much. Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin have been able to pull off being the parents of someone who at the time they meet her is the same age. Especially Josh Dallas, his fatherly presence is so perfect. One of my favorite scenes was his dream he had about Emma. Even though it ended up being sad, the way his face lit up seeing her in her ball gown and him saying "This is what I always wanted for you." I mean come on, who wasn't choking up? Then they shared a beautiful father/daughter dance. The feelings between this family are so believable, which is an amazing accomplishment considering they are fairy tales characters.

When Charming and Snow finally get a chance to have a second child and get to truly experience parenthood since their first experience was taken from them, things blossom even more gloriously. They name their son Neal to honor the father of their grandchild who was a hero. It's a beautiful moment.

But leading up to that, I thought it was clever that Emma ended up going through Zelena's time portal to the moment her parents met. She and Hook mess up a few things, but she gets to witness Snow and Charming coming together and see them fall in love. Like Hook tells her when she begins to cry, "It's okay Swan, not many people get the chance to see their parents fall in love." It is at this point that Emma realizes she is a part of their world 100% and she can't wait to go back to tell her parents how much she loves and misses them. This whole thing really got the waterworks going, it was wonderful. Even in the midst of all these mistakes, ONCE remains true to it's roots of family and true love being the bonds that hold all things together.

Though I am sure Captain Swan shippers are ecstatic right now, are there any of you who had the same problems I did with the second half of season 3? It felt to me like the writers were drunk or something for this last half and it steered the show off course. I am a Oncer to the end, but season has been a true trial for my hope in the show.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Noah Movie Analysis & Discussion Part III - The Rest

Wow, so I am WAY overdue on part three of my Noah series, but I was hoping to be able to go see the film a second time and I was waiting for that. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it a second time, but I am going to attempt this anyway! This will be a shorter post is all about Tubal Cain and "everybody else." Listening once again to the AMAZING score by the brilliant Clint Mansell.

In the trailer for the film, Tubal Cain (played by Ray Winstone) seems like a typical epic villain. I didn't expect much from him, but that was a very wrong assumption. I should have known that Darren Aronofsky wouldn't have created a two-dimensional "villain" and also that he would, of course, be a symbol of something greater.

I really love what they did with Tubal Cain's character. He represents man's inhumanity to man, to creation, and to the Creator. This is achieved by his hugely misinterpreted version of what it means to have dominion over the earth. True dominion means sovereignty, authority, ownership and within that is caretaking and stewardship over what you have been given dominion over.

Cain kills Abel with a rock, very cool scene
Just like any time of history, when dominion is misinterpreted it is followed by suffering, death, and destruction. When the descendants of Cain break away as their own people, they then create generations and legacy of the folly of this misinterpretation in dominion. They consume without sharing, take without giving. They make man into an idol and even dethrone the Creator in this new vision of dominion. They leave the world so ravaged that there is little nearby enough for them that they can partake of. They have stripped the earth bare and placed the desires of the flesh over the desires of the Spirit.

This has corrupted not only their view of the rest of creation, but of each other too. They trade their women in for meat giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "a piece of meat." They kill anyone who gets in the way of their own desires without blinking. They savagely take from the earth without respect or gratitude to their Provider. In their eyes, whatever they wish can belong to them. It's a survival of the fittest mindset and it is bloody.

Tubal Cain is the leader of Cain's descendants and they look to his leadership for provision, making him a god among men. He is ruthless and barbaric, but he is also intelligent and spiritual though he thrives on a complete misunderstanding of the Creator's calling for mankind. He is a nemesis for Noah in that way, they both believe they are doing what they should be, but the difference is Noah's humility and complete reverence to God's will, Tubal Cain only has reverence for works and what man can do, though he thinks he follows the Creator's will. When Tubal Cain bites the head off a lizard even knowing it's the last of it's kind, we know then instantly all he truly cares for is himself.

The conflict rises when Tubal Cain realizes Noah is building a vessel and though he thinks Noah is foolish, there is something in him that becomes frightened. I loved Ray Winstone's performance in this film. He showed that this bloody tyrant was very, very human. One of my favorite scenes is when he sits in a tent the night before the storm and asks the Creator. "Why do you not speak to me?" he reaches out in fear because he knows in his heart he cannot atone for what he's done. If Noah's words are true, he will die and be judged for his crimes in eternity. You can see the fear all over his face. His mouth quivers to even speak his prayer. This hard man has now been made completely vulnerable.

But his conviction only lasts only the night and in his fear he sets out with his men to attack Noah and his ark. Of course, they all fail. The rains come and water also comes from the earth and wipes them all away. In this film, Tubal Cain sneaks aboard the ark in a cowardly effort to save his life and to also give conflict for Ham, but his death naturally is inevitable as his sin cannot live in a new world.

There is always this question of why everyone was killed when there were innocents among Cain's descendants. But the truth is, no man is innocent, man's nature can only be made good by God's righteousness, grace, and love. Noah and his family did not follow in the wickedness of Cain, but they were not perfect by any means. Noah was chosen and favored by God, but Noah isn't God. He humbly accepted his role, just as the Creator knew he would which is why he chose him. Noah's obedience, reverence, and humility were gifts given to him by the Creator and why he was favored to carry out this task.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I absolutely loved the ending scene. And the main reason why is because it was made abundantly clear what true dominion is and now man would have a second chance to live faithfully to that vision of dominion. To be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth, to be caretakers and stewards, to be the hands and feet of the Creator here on earth. It took Noah some time to truly understand dominion too, but the Lord knew his heart would be turned by love and grace and with it the understanding of the Creator's vision for man and dominion.