Last night, tired from not-writing all day long, I watched television with Spooky. First there was a National Geographic documentary on the London sewers and Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and then, on FMC, The Doctor and the Devils (1985), which would have been a truly stellar film if not for Timothy Dalton's atrocious overacting. And then I spent three hours or so playing The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. This truly is a wonderful game, probably the best I've played since Primal, and I say that as someone with a general dislike for first-person shooters. But the story flows so well, unimpeded by senselessly difficult game play, so it really does feel like an interactive film. And, for Riddick fans, there's loads of stuff in here relating to the two films. Last night, for example, we found out how Riddick got those shiny eyes, and it added a bit of meaning to Jack's frustration in The Chronicles of Riddick, when she asks, "Was anything you told me true?" (or something to that effect). And trying to play with those eyes, looking through them, talk about intense and disorienting. Every light source, every reflective surface, could be your downfall. By the time I quit playing for the night, my eyes were stinging and watering, and I had brilliant orange afterimages floating about before me. And killing those asshole guards just feels right. Sneaking up behind them and breaking their necks feels about a hundred times better. And speaking of Riddick, while standing in line on Friday I overheard a conversation that managed to both mystify and throw light on the problem of the audience's (that is, the Mass Audience's) whining need for "sympathetic characters." Immediately behind us, a white teenager, stinking of Suburbia and the New South, struck up a conversation with an extraordinarily talkative young Hispanic woman. It went something like this:
Her: Did you see him [Vin Deisel] in that other movie?
Him: Pitch Black?
Her: Yes, that's the one. Did you see him in that? Wasn't that a good movie?
Him: I don't know. It was okay. It was sort of weird.
Him: You know, it was full of weird characters. I didn't really get a lot of those characters.
Him: It was weird. Like, you know, how they [the aliens, I presume] were tracking that girl's blood, that girl they all thought was a boy, that was weird. All those characters were really weird, you know. I just couldn't get them.
Her: But I like Vin Diesel. Don't you?
Him: Yeah, well, his character had some potential, but the plot wasn't much. All those people were just too weird. It'll be interesting to see what they do with his character in this film. I hope it's, like, better. I just couldn't get into those characters.
Her: Yeah? He was sort of an anti-hero, wasn't he?
Him: Yeah, and that was cool, but all those other characters were too weird.
And so on, and on, and on, until I though my head would surely implode before Spooky and I were finally allowed into the theatre. If you're familiar with Pitch Black, I hope that you're scratching your head, trying to recall the "weird" characters therein. Because, having seen the film a few dozen times, I find them a fairly mundane lot. Sure, Johns has that morphine probelm, and Jack was pretending to be a boy, but otherwise, and adjusting for however many centuries from now the film is set, I just don't see any weird characters. The Imam and his boys, because they're Muslim? The antiques dealer, because he might have been gay? If anyone in the film was weird, it would have been the homicidal sociopath with night-vision, not his fellow travelers. If I were a more social person, I'd have turned and asked this kid what the hell he was talking about, but I have enough trouble talking directly to people I know, much less to strangers in a movie theatre. It's overheard conversations like this that tempt me to wear ear plugs in public. I mean, how much second-hand stupid should anyone have to ingest, just to see a movie? And, being me, I can't get it all out of my head. I can't stop thinking about how many billions of times I've heard complaints about how "weird" my characters are (and they are, admittedly, often a lot weirder than anyone in Pitch Black).
I'm walking in little circles.