What we can learn from ‘The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time!’

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45 weeks ago, we took a look at ‘Sharknado 5: Global Swarming’, and now, at long last, it’s time to take a look at the final film in the venerable series: ‘The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time!’

After five long years of sharknados taking out cites, going into space, becoming radioactive, and destroying the world, the series finally comes to an end with ‘The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time!’ which, having exhausted all other possibilities, sends the title monster back through time (the only other sensible option would have it going to the afterlife), with surfer-rurned-barternder-turned-sharknado killer Fin Shepard on a journey to stop the sharknados for good. Let’s journey along to see what valuable story lessons we can learn by watching sharks terrorize people throughout history.

Avoid abandoning a greater-scope villain after establishing them

In the previous film, ‘Global Swarming,’ we learned that the sharknados were not just a freak of nature, but were created by a malevolent shark god that Fin and friends (I never get tired of writing that) set out to stop. While they did stop the sharknados at the end of the fifth film (at the cost of every other human alive), it’s odd that the shark god isn’t mentioned in ‘It’s About Time’.

When we introduce a supernatural threat – or any threat so big that it effectively becomes the main antagonist for a franchise – it’s imperative not to have that threat dropped so quickly, especially when it’s a supernatural one. It’s logical to think that Fin would have to take out the shark god to prevent any further sharknados from being made, but its nowhere to be found. If our own greater-scope villains need to be dropped, a good reason needs to be established instead of never mentioning them again, hoping that audiences won’t notice. They will.

Establish solid rules for time travel, lest audiences get hopelessly confused

While traveling through time offers nearly endless possibilities for exciting storytelling, it can quickly become a mess of intersecting timelines, cause and effect, and how actions in the past affect the future (and that’s without getting into the grandfather paradox). ‘It’s About Time’ tries to make things simple by stating that everyone can only travel back in time once, but then it has Gil continuously going through different eras. When it comes to time travel, it’s best to make things as simple as possible. Better to have our audiences focus on the fun shenanigans going on, then wondering how such things are possible.

When doing time travel, consider bringing back minor characters for big roles

One of the things that ‘It’s About Time’ does best is bringing back minor characters for bigger roles in the story, like Bryan and Skye. While they may have served as cannon fodder in their original appearances, or had a small role that didn’t affect the story all that much, we don’t expect much from them. They’re background characters, ones who don’t take the spotlight. Thus, when they come back as main characters, they become underdogs who have a chance to shine and help save the day. Even better is if they’re in a completely new time and location (like the prehistoric era), as not only do they have to contend with being in the spotlight, but now they also have to try and survive in an environment they’re not familiar with.

Consider having monsters and antagonists from the future battle people from the past

One of the most enjoyable aspects of time travel stories is seeing people and technologies from different eras interact with one another. How, for example, would a modern-day person fare in the Revolutionary War era? Or in Ancient Egypt? How do technologically disadvantaged people fight off opponents from a different era? ‘It’s About Time’ has medieval knights, Revolutionary War soldiers, and Cowboys fight off sharks, and those battles are easily the highlights of the movie.

The reason these fights are so interesting is that the people of the past are automatically the underdog and have to fight harder to win. Cowboys have the advantage of guns when fighting sharks, but revolutionary war soldiers only have muskets, while knights are stuck with swords and bows, which makes audiences wonder how on earth they’re going to win. An even cleverer version of this trope is to have the people of the past take advantage of futuristic tech: When sharknados attack Revolutionary America, the British use a sharknado to gain an advantage in their war, almost changing the course of history in their favor.

When writing historical characters in time travel stories, the more authentic they are, the funnier they are

Another draw of time travel stories is being able to use famous people throughout history and put them in exciting fights and teamups with monsters and people from other times in history. Part of this draw is seeing how someone from one era coping with another, and how they would react to, say, modern weapons and technology. However, for this trope to be most useful, it’s important to make historical characters as accurate as possible; much of the humor/awesome factor in their appearances is that they take things seriously. While comedic or light-hearted time travel stories can make famous people goofballs (Think ‘Bill and Ted’), it is possible to go too far: When Finn and his friends go to the Revolutionary War era, I was excited at the thought of seeing George Washington fighting a sharknado. Instead, we get a man who’s more interested in taking a nap and cracking jokes instead of fighting or taking the situation seriously.

Consider having someone alter history in a time travel story, even when they know it’ll hurt them

While ‘It’s About Time’ engages in all the standard time-travel tropes (meeting famous figures, having historical characters and groups fight monsters from other eras, etc.) and get into debates about changing the future to avert a personal catastrophe (Nova trying to save his grandfather), the film smartly changes things up by giving Finn an impossible choice: He has a chance to stop sharknados forever by traveling through time, but at the cost of losing his son, who will never be born, and even be erased from Finn’s memory.

So often, time travel stories are about changing the future for the better, or preserving it, but rarely do we see stories where travelers doing the right thing know they will suffer greatly, even if its for the greater good. By having our characters lose something important to them, whether it’s a loved one, a job, or a dream, and being willing to let them go to save so many others, we give them an unparalleled chance to shine and show how brave and heroic they can be.

If it fits the theme of a series, there’s nothing wrong with a happy ending

It’s a classic trope: The characters of a story manage to succeed in their fight. They achieve their goals, get what they want, and live happily ever after. It’s so overused that it’s a scenario that could easily turn into a parody, and many stories try to subvert it by using a darker, or more bittersweet ending where not everything is right or well. But there’s nothing wrong with a happy ending, especially if it’s well-earned, and the end of the Sharknado series has a very well-earned one indeed: Fin manages to restart history and create a timeline where sharknados don’t exist, saving all his friends and acquaintances, and even Gil, with the very last shot of the series has Al Roker declaring that it’s going to be a beautiful day with nothing unusual going on. It’s a satisfying conclusion that ties everything up, and gives everyone a happy ending without any tease or hint of further adventures, giving the characters – and us – closure.

And so, after a year, we finally finish our marathon of all the Sharknado films. Turn in next week, when we’ll do an analysis of the series as a whole.

Favorite Moments: Hey guys, what’s going… uhh, nevermind, I’m out of here.

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The movie:

‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’

The scene:

Why it’s great:

Years before ‘The Matrix’ blew up a government lobby, ‘Terminator 2: Judgement day’ had Arnold storming a lobby and taking on armed guards as well (but without killing anyone, which is something Neo and Trinity can’t say). It’s a great scene that oozes 90’s nostalgia for me (blue, silver, and black color schemes, 90’s architecture, synth music, etc.), but I only just learned something about it that’s been hiding in plain sight for decades that only a few people have noticed, which makes me like this scene even more.

At 1:36 in the video, the SWAT team start shooting at the Terminator. But if you look closely in the background, you’ll see a random guy casually walk to the outside windows and peer inside, then turn to walk away. It’s a goof, something that’s easily missed because our focus is on the SWAT team firing away. But I love the idea that in the middle of this big, corporate espionage operation, where the police have barricaded the building and sealed it off, one bored officer decides to take a peek inside, only to see the shooting start and decide that maybe it’s a good idea to turn around and walk away.

It’s little details like this that remind us that, in the world this movie inhabits, there are ordinary people just going about their lives, and, like us, they can be overcome with boredom or curiosity. It’s fascinating to imagine what the events of this movie are like from the perspective of this random guy who has nothing to do with John, Sarah, the Terminator, Skynet, or Judgement Day. I like to think his name is Daryl, and he’s a career cop who really would rather be back at home watching a football game, and is so jaded from his years on the force that not even the sight of a SWAT team blasting away at a guy wearing leather is enough to faze him anymore.

SUPER FUN BONUS FACT: When I was preparing this post, one of the Youtube comments on the video pointed out that there is, in fact, a second random guy in the video, this time at the right of the lobby at 1:47, apparently wearing 90’s oversized headphones. Who is he? Why is he there? Does he even see all the destruction taking place? We’ll never know.

What we can learn from ‘Frog and Toad at Magic Mountain’

Recently, I was walking home from work when I came across an oddly shaped piece of paper on the ground. Intrigued, I picked it up and found myself in possession of one of the most gripping, heartwarming, and inspiring piece of literature I have ever read: ‘Frog and Toad at Magic Mountain’

FrogAndToad

For those unaware, Frog and Toad were the creations of author and illustrator Arnold Nobel, who wrote four stories starring the aforementioned amphibians as they lived a happy life together. But not once did they ever go to Magic Mountain, an error that has now been rectified by the anonymous author of this masterpiece of literature, a tale that will no doubt eventually adapted into a full-length motion picture for the entertainment of millions. I can already see it winning every Academy Award in existence, along with several dozen more that will be invented to properly honor its unrivaled quality and splendor.

Now, let us sit back and take a look at this endearing tale, and eagerly receive the lessons it can impart to us all:

Protagonists who never, ever give up are the most inspiring of all

If there’s one thing ‘Magic Mountain’ demonstrates perfectly, it’s Frog and Toad’s sheer determination to press on in life, no matter the odds. Despite being approximately five inches tall, these two amphibian friends not only manage to reach Magic Mountain, but also ride human-sized rides. But, alas, they not only fall out of rides twice, but keep going, even after poor Toad gets smashed after falling from who-knows-how-high. And then, after going to the hospital, they decide to break their leg and arm broken after getting X-rays. But do they weep? Do they cry? Do they curse life and the merciless whims of a heartless god, who laughs at amphibians who want to enjoy amusement parks? No; even when crippled with broken limbs, they go home and live happily. Like all great protagonists, they refuse to let life get them down, and press onwards, no matter the odds. So inspiring!

Consider giving your protagonists a crippling mental defect

As noted above, Frog and Toad break their own limbs after getting an X-ray at the hospital. But why? What strange malady compelled them to injure themselves? By withholding the answer, the author invites us to meditate and reflect on what has happened to our brave protagonists, leading us to two possible answers:

1. The two have a mental illness, possibly Self-Injury Disorder,

2. The two have a brain defect that makes them immune to pain.

Either answer brings up all sorts of intriguing questions about Frog and Toad: What happened to them that makes them want to hurt themselves? Did they go to Magic Mountain not for fun, but to die, or experience the euphoric high of being injured? Did they decide not to go back because they failed to get that high, and have deemed the amusement park ineffecent for their desires? We don’t know, and probably will never know, but by withholding clear-cut answers, readers are allowed and invited to come to their own conclusions about Frog and Toad’s mental state, a course of action that all writers should remember: By not revealing everything about our protagonists, we invite readers to use their imagination, and to dream up far grander things than we ever could.

When all else fails, know when to call it quits

We never learn why Frog and Toad went to Magic Mountain; presumably it was to have a good time and enjoy all the fun and enchanting rides with each other. But despite their best efforts, Frog and Toad’s day of fun turned into a day of pain and suffering. Thus, at the end, despite their perseverance and eventually living happily, they decide to never go back to Magic Mountain.

In our day and age, popular culture tells us to never give up and never give in when faced with difficult times. But sometimes it’s more sensible to realize when our struggle is is futile, and when letting go is the wisest course of action. Having our protagonists realize this makes them not only brave, but smart, as it shows that they’re willing to let go of unrealistic dreams in pursuit of ones they can achieve.

In conclusion, ‘Frog and Toad at Magic Mountain’ is a timeless classic, an inspiring investigation of the paradox of never giving up on a dream of having fun, yet being willing to let it go when it only causes misery, broken limbs, and unhappiness. Truly, my life has been blessed at reading about these inspiring amphibians and their journey to Magic Mountain. Thank you, God, for nourishing my soul with the lessons this tale has to offer. May others be blessed with its priceless wisdom forevermore. Amen.

Favorite Moments: ‘Titanic SUPER 3D’

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The video:

Why it’s great:

While it’s always fun to imagine crossovers with our favorite stories and characters, one crossover that’s rarer is to imagine a writer or director doing a famous film or book and adding their own unique touches to it, such as:

What if George Lucas directed ‘Gone with the Wind’?

What if Steven Spielberg directed ‘Robot Monster’?

What if Michael Bay directed a Teletubbies movie?

Thanks to this hilarious video by PistolShrimps on Youtube, we get a glimpse of what might have happened if JJ Abrams, Mr. Lucas and Mr. Bay directed 1997’s ‘Titanic’. The result: there’d be a heck of a lot more digital effects, lens flares, and explosions (oh gosh, that chair).

Favorite Moments: ‘Famous Movie Lines, Animated’

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The videos:

Why they’re great:

I was originally going to post a discussion today about my favorite background characters, but a friend introduced me to these brilliant shorts by Youtube animator Nick Murray Willis, and I just had to show them to the world for two reasons:

1. They take famous movie lines and reinterpret them in new and hilarious ways.

2. To help such a talented animator get more exposure.

Also, if you happen to see this, Mr. Willis, please do a video with nothing but Gandalf sketches. Thank you.

Favorite Moments: To Infinity and Beyond!

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The video:

Why it’s great:

Buzz Lightyear’s catchprhase is one of those sayings that so catchy and memorable, but falls apart when you apply logic to it. Robot Chicken takes that logic to show what would happen if Buzz really tried to go beyond infinity, proving that applying reality to inspirational or motivational catchphrases can result in some really funny moments.

What we can learn from: ‘Two Best Sisters Play – Red Dead Redemption 2’

(Note: This video contains language that is not safe for work)

If you’ve been following cartoons over the past several years, you’ve probably been exposed to the phenomena that is ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,’ a cartoon that transcended barriers and gained fans outside of its young girl demographic, inspiring a great number of fan artwork, music, crafts, and video series. One such series I’ve enjoyed over the years is, ‘Two Best Sisters Play’ (I’ve pointed out one of their episodes before), but the latest entry, which features the two playing ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ (Actually the PS2 game ‘Gun’), is my favorite one yet, thanks to one fantastic joke.

For instant comedy, consider having animals doing routine human things

My favorite part of ‘Two Best Sisters Play Red Dead Redemption 2’ isn’t the fact that we have two anthropomorphic horses running around in cowboy outfits in a Playstation 1 styled game, but that the non-anthropomorphic animals engage in hilariously unexpected antics: When Celestia gets into a duel with a small dog, the dog whips out a revolver and blasts her, horses take six shooters and shotguns to blast buffalo, and a grizzly bear duels Luna in a game of scrabble (before shooting her with a revolver).

While Hollywood wisdom says not to work with animals if you can help it, animals – whether real, CGI, or written – can provide instant comedy by doing ordinary human things, like flying fighter jets, getting into gunfights, trying to get a printer to work at the office, and attacking zombies with chainsaws. Audiences are caught off guard by the absurdity of animals behaving like people, and will be gripped as they try to wrap their heads about what’s going on (as well as trying to figure out just how a horse can hold a shotgun). Note that this applies to everyday things we humans do, not tricks done for novelty’s sake.