Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Review Must Go On

When I was packing to come to Newcastle back in September I wrote this post. It's one of the best things I've ever written,  part eulogy for a character and part review for the film that killed him. I am of course talking about the Nostalgia Critic, killed off by creator Doug Walker so he could move onto new things. It was a brave decision, explained to the fans in a lovingly crafted 210 minute movie which made people laugh and cry and spill their hearts on the internet. It was epic in just about every definition of the word and while there are always those who are afraid of change, the majority of the fan responses it inspired were truly beautiful.

Except it's not over. Because when I got back to Newcastle for second semester and checked the ThatGuyWithTheGlasses site I found this waiting for me.

He's coming back.

Not as often as he was: reviews are scheduled once every two weeks and he's still going to be working on other projects but he's back.

...And I don't know how to feel about it. Obviously I love the Nostalgia Critic and want to see more of him. But Doug Walker made an artistic choice and it was that choice that made people cry and write fanfiction and quote Slaughterhouse-Five. To Boldly Flee was so good in part because it dared to kill of its main character, someone who many fans had thought was untouchable. It was such a good lesson about growing up, moving on and letting go that it seems to burn just a little less brightly now that the consequences have been absolved.

Obviously a lot of this is my own personal feelings. When I was writing To Boldly Flee I was starting an MRes course and so pathologically terrified about the future I was having actual physical symptoms. Seeing the Nostalgia Critic choose to die and be reborn made me feel a lot less awful about facing the scary world of postgraduate education. And now I'm living in a building I love, doing a course that is challenging in all the best ways and producing work which makes my previous creative writing project look like it was written on the back of a napkin, while I was drunk (a state sadly not unknown in my life). It's not unlike looking down and realising that the crumpled feather in your hand is just a feather and holy shit, you just jumped off a building! What if those bastards had been wrong and you hadn't been able to fly?

But those are my personal feelings and this isn't about me. From an artistic point of view I'm worried because it's long been a tennent of mine that if a character is Killed Off For Real then they should stay dead and the weight of the huge boulder you should drag on top of their grave to make sure they don't go wandering is directly proportional to the emotional impact of their death. We all know the jokes about Jean Grey having a revolving door for a headstone and Rose Tyler (of Doctor Who fame)'s ressurection might have worked better if they had not spent an entire series foreshadowing her death/estrangement from the Doctor and an entire two part episode establishing that travelling between universes should be impossible and the fact that it is happening at all is threatening to destroy all of space and time and then cap it off with a final goodbye where it is established that Rose is trapped in the other universe forever where she is cut off from the Doctor but reunited with her family including the alternate version of her late father. Rose had to leave the Doctor behind but was essentially in heaven. It was a really brave and mature decision for a family show: a strong, bittersweet ending that treated the character with respect and didn't pull its punches to appease the fangirls. It's just difficult to hold any happy memories of it when, a few series down the line, Rose popped up again toting a gun bigger than she was and, contrary to the show's own Canon, the universe was not destroyed. That was the moment where I stopped being a Doctor Who fan and became merely a person who watched Doctor Who.

I'm not saying that a character can never come back from the dead: I thought it was amazing when the late Alex Meade from Ugly Betty turned up, unwrapped her bandages, announced that the whole death-by-helicopter-accident was only a cover for a sex change and could people please call her Alexis? That was awesome. Especially as Ugly Betty had established itself as that kind of show. It also helped that Alex had been "dead" when the show started so not only had we never actually seen a body, we also assumed that 'he' was just some standard Daniel couldn't live up to and not in fact a she who had been dealing with some pretty major issues of her own. Most importantly, the writers had always intended Alexis to come back and her resurrection served the plot, not some hardcore fanbase, a group so deluded in the Doctor Who fandom that they actually expected David Tennant to light the torch at the London Olympics as the pay off for a six year old joke from a TV show that Is. Not. That. Important.

It is of course too soon to say how the Nostalgia Critic's ressurection is going to pan out. The only work I have to judge him on is what's already out there. To Boldly Flee was a triumph: one of those rare low budget films that manages to turn its low budget nature into part of the humour while still spending money on the important things. It is a film where a man drives a car into a black hole and the captain's chair is some kind of recliner they obviously just had lying around. When in stealth mode a woman turns CGI invisible and her partner hides inside a cardboard box. It is a film that's obviously just been made on a prayer, some special effects wizardry and whatever was lying around in their cupboards. It's silly and fun until it isn't. Until you walk in on a friend who pulls a power drill on you and you realise he's not your friend at all but something that has flayed your friend and is wearing his skin and wants to do the same thing to you. You don't need money for that kind of horror. You just need a good enough story.

If To Boldly Flee was an explanation to fans then The Review Must Go On is very much in the same vein. It takes time to focus on the issue, creates a real sense of pathos and... I won't say dread but there's this creeping claustrophobic feeling, isn't there? It's its own story. It has atmosphere. It sets out why what's going to happen has to happen and tidies up any lingering loose ends behind it.

I for one am excited for what the Walker brothers have to show us next. Because different things work for different people and just because moving on did not turn out to be right for them at this time doesn't mean that it's not right for me, or for you. And this is a different kind of lesson isn't it, one equally beautiful and important. Sometimes you'll try to fly and fall but that doesn't mean your wings are broken. Mistakes can be unmade. And if you do let go of something you wanted, and you are very very lucky, you might just get it back.

~A Pertinent Quote~
“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit"
Everything changes and nothing is truly lost.

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