Favorite Moments: ‘My Slam Will Jam On’

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

The 90’s were a magical time for cinema. From that era, we got such classics as ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day,’ ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘The Matrix,’ ‘Toy Story,’ and the juggernaut that was ‘Titanic’… and then we got ‘Space Jam’, which features Michael Jordon teaming up with the Loony Tunes to save them from being kidnapped by aliens by playing basketball.

Uhh… Yeah.

However, from this unlikely tale came a title song that has gone on to become a low-key, but steady internet legend, a song that can be mixed with anything. I myself only recently became aware of its existence, through one of the most unexpected mashups I’ve ever heard. It shouldn’t work; there’s no logical way a song about outer space basketball and doomed teenage romance on a sinking ship should work… but, incredibly, it does. I have no idea why, but… gosh dangit, this is one catchy song, and it is my sacred duty to expose it to as many people as possible so they, too, can weep at its glory.

What we can learn from ‘Sarah Conner vs. Jason Vorhees’

Ever since his first appearance as a masked killer in the 1981 film ‘Friday the 13th Part 2,’ Jason Vorhees has become the poster child for slashers who take out horny teenagers as brutally (and creatively) as possible. Being such a staple of pop culture, it was inevitable that he’d eventually face off against other pop icons, the most famous being a fight against Freddy Kruger in 2003’s ‘Freddy vs Jason.’ But many of these fights have taken place in fan videos, featuring Michael Myers, Pennywise the Clown, Leatherface, and even Barney the Dinosaur. Today, we’re taking a look at what would happen if Jason Vorhees took on one of the toughest women in cinema: Sarah Conner from ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day,’ courtesy of Youtube creators WTFLOL

Having a plausible explanation as to why two characters are fighting makes it easier to accept such a fight

When most pop culture characters fight, plot usually comes second to seeing them duking it out. But having a strong reason why two different characters from two different universes are fighting each other makes said fights easier to accept. ‘Conner vs. Jason’ has a particularly good one: Sarah, while en-route to foil Cyberdyne yet again, has car trouble and breaks down near Camp Crystal Lake. While searching for help, she comes across helpless campers being slaughtered by Jason, and rushes in to help. Not only is this a plausible way for the two to meet up, but it also helps us root for Sarah by showing how she doesn’t hesitate to help others in trouble, even if she doesn’t know them.

In our own stories, it’s a good idea to set up the fight in a way that feels logical. While it’s tempting to throw your two (or more) duelists together as quickly as possible, setting up why they’re fighting will make your story more believable, and tell your audience that you’ve thought this out beyond the standard, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if ______ and ______ fought each other!?”

Consider limiting how much of your intercontinuity fight doesn’t revolve around the title characters fighting

Perhaps more than any other type of story, your audience knows exactly what they want when they see a duel film (watching the title characters fighting each other). They won’t be interested in anything else that doesn’t lead up or add to those moments. Thankfully, ‘Conner vs. Jason’ smartly limits those scenes to Sarah going to Crystal Lake, and the camp’s campers being killed off by Jason in quick order, knowing that audiences don’t have any interest in the campers being developed when they’re only going to be killed off.

In our own stories, while some buildup and setting the scene is always necessary, cutting out everything that isn’t necessary to set things up, or that doesn’t relate directly to two famous characters fighting is a good idea; our audience will thank us for getting to what they came to see in a quick and timely manner.

Consider having the nerd help save the day

Pity the poor nerd: this unfortunate character continues to be relentlessly mocked in pop culture, portrayed as being wimps, cowards, and having zero social skills. Yet, don’t underestimate them: while the nerd in ‘Conner vs. Jason’ first comes off as the stereotypical game-obsessed dweeb, he quickly comes through by using his smarts to tell Sarah about Jason’s only weakness, and risks his own life to lure Jason towards said weakness at great risk to himself (and saving Sarah in the process).

While it’s easy to use the nerd as an easy source of humor and comic relief, it’s much better to have them have hidden depths: Nerds may have a love of all things video games, movies, anime, and cartoons, but they’re still people with weaknesses and strengths, and showing those, whether it’s bravery, strength, or resourcefulness will help make them memorable.

Consider poking fun at a character’s mythology in your crossover fight

Little moments of humor can often be the most memorable parts of any story, and in a crossover fight – where drama and strict adherence to the rules of either universe are put aside for the sake of awesomeness – poking fun at both story’s mythologies can make funny moments even funnier: my favorite here comes when the nerd loudly yells about smoking and having lots of premarital sex with naked women, causing Jason to immediately ignore Sarah and head after the nerd. Another has the Terminator, after blowing Jason to pieces, saying his classic trademark about how he’ll be back. Is it cheesy? Yes, but it’s funny, and a good reminder on that we watch these crossovers to see how awesome they are; having some humor – even if it’s slightly out of character – only makes a fun experience even more enjoyable.

Avoid having someone come in and steal a victory at the end of a crossover fight

While having the Terminator suddenly show up to save the day at the end of the video is undeniably awesome (The Terminator vs Jason? Heck yeah!), it does have the unfortunate effect of making the whole ‘Sarah vs. Jason’ fight somewhat pointless, as neither of them determine the outcome. While it’s common for crossover fights to end in a draw (so as to not offend fans of either character by having them be defeated), having neither side winning, or having both off each other, having a third party arrive and end the fight by themselves feels like a cop out. Even Freddy vs Jason made this error by having one of the teens decapitate Freddy at the climax of the big fight, instead of Jason.

When writing our own crossover fights, having them end because of the results of the fighter’s efforts – instead of an outside force – will avoid the feeling of the fighters and the audience being cheated out of a fair match. If you must bring in a third party, foreshadow it before the fight, or at the very beginning (such as how Sarah Conner helps Pops during the Terminator vs Terminator duel in ‘Terminator: Genysis’), but still avoid it if you can.

An Alternate Universe version of ‘Sarah Conner vs. Jason Vorhees’ that learned from its mistakes

While en-route to take out a subdivision of Cyberdyne, Sarah Conner’s car breaks down outside Camp Crystal Lake. Setting out to search for help, she hears helpless campers being slaughtered and runs to help. While she’s too late to save everyone, she does save one nerd from Jason. The two quickly hatch a plan to lure Jason to the camp’s lake, eventually managing to get them there, thanks to the nerd’s smarts, and Sarah’s combat skills.

However, when trying to knock Jason into the water, Sarah – injured from her fight – runs out of ammo for her weapons. Using herself as a battering ram, she tackles Jason, managing to shove him into the water.

The nerd anxiously tries to decide whether he should jump in after Sarah to save her. Then she appears: Injured and bleeding badly, but alive. With Jason defeated and trapped at the bottom of the lake, the nerd helps her back to the camp’s main building to patch her up and call for help. Along the way, he asks if she’s interested in a date, to which she replies that he’d better not hold his breath.

What we can learn from: ‘Ring One’

 

One of the greatest pleasures of our digital age is how easy it’s become for fans to create crossovers of their favorite franchises and play around with all manner of ‘what if?’ scenarios. Most of these revolve around characters and factions from different franchises fighting each other, but every so often, we get a crossover that tries something a little different.

This mashup of ‘The Return of the King’ and ‘Rogue One’ sounds like it would focus on, say, the Fellowship of the Ring infiltrating Scarif to steal the Death Star plans (Oh, how I would love to see Legolas taking out stormtroopers with his arrows), but  ‘Ring One’ tries something we don’t see very often in these mashups: Tragedy.

While it’s fun to imagine the Empire and the free people of Middle Earth fighting one another, and our heroes saving Middle-Earth, this mashup shows how it would really go: Everyone would die. Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Sauron, and everyone else are obliterated by the Death Star. Yet, while such a situation can be depressing, ‘Ring One’ makes it a great example of the ‘Face Death with Dignity‘ trope. We’re so used to seeing characters be brave and courageous when facing impossible odds in everyday life, but what happens when they face their inevitable deaths? Are they still brave and courageous? Do they try to flee, even when it’s hopeless? Do they pray? Do they try to comfort others?

For writers, having our characters know they’re going to die is a fantastic way to see their deepest qualities, to find out who they really are when they face the end. Here, Frodo still tries to get to the Crack of Doom, Sam spends his final moments of life trying to comfort him, and Gimil and Legolas finally reconcile from their trilogy-long distrust of each other.

Is it sad to see the Fellowship all die? Yes. But it’s beautiful in a bittersweet way: some of fiction’s most memorable moments occur only at the end of a character’s life, moments that can stay with us like nothing else can. We remember those who give their lives to save others, who spend their final minute trying to comfort someone else, or refuse to give in to fear. When you bring your character’s stories to a close, you have a chance to give them one final, shining moment of glory. Take advantage of that, and you’ll give your audience a moment that will stay with them forever.

What we can learn from ‘The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny’

 

 

 

There’s one question that has dogged mankind since the moment we could walk upright, form languages, and come into contact with other cultures, a question that every nerd, writer, and child asks at one point in their lives: Who would win if __________ and __________ got into a fight?

There’s no denying how cool it is to see two characters from different franchises, eras, and universes fight it out for dominance, survival, and bragging rights. Admit it: When you were a kid, you loved having all your toys fight one another for no other reason than it was fun. I did; granted, most of my toys opponents tended to be dinosaurs, but it was great. But as we grew up, such questions become relegated to fan fictions or our imaginations as we put our toys away.

Then, come 2005, an animation was posted on NewGrounds that changed Internet culture forever.

I don’t remember when I first saw ‘Showdown,’ but it hooked me from my very first viewing. Here it was, a showdown featuring dozens of pop culture characters duking it out for no other reason that it was cool, set to the beats of a disturbingly catchy song. Now, 13 years later, that song is still as catchy as ever, but what’s great is knowing that this song and video were, at one point, the peak of crossovers, long before the Avengers and cinematic shared universes came into our culture outside of comic books. In a way, this is the precursors to all those things, and though it wasn’t the first, it’s one of the most important.

Though short, this song and music video offers some valuable lessons for those of us who want to write our own crossover fights:

If logic is no object, then nothing is off the table in a crossover

How can Shaq take on Godzilla? Where did all the good and bad guys come from when they started fighting in Tokyo? How can an ordinary human deflect bullets with his hand? Such logic isn’t needed to enjoy the sight of so many characters fighting each other: One part of crossovers that makes them so special is how rare and unique they are. Remember how excited everyone was when Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ was first announced and then released? It was a once-in-a-decade event and was so exciting because a movie crossover involving so many characters from different films, all fighting together for the very first time in Hollywood history. While we’ve gotten three more such superteam crossovers (soon to be four), ‘The Avengers’ was so memorable that we were willing to accept any flaws or cliches the film had (ragtag group of different individuals fighting amongst each other – literally – before coming together to fight a common enemy), and ‘Showdown’ is the same. It’s so cool to see all these characters fighting that logic is temporarily thrown out the window.

Consider having a good guy fight to save others even during a free-for-all

In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the video, Optimus Prime rushes in to stop a skyscraper from falling after Godzilla hits it with his tail. Though this moment costs him his head, it speaks volumes about Optimus’ character, in that in the middle of a battle to the death between every fictional character, he stops to try and save innocent lives. Doing a similar act for your own fights is a great way to show that someone really is a hero who puts others ahead of themselves.

Consider the pros and cons of focusing on a small group of main characters in a free-for-all

Every story needs a main character that the audience can focus on or follow, and free-for-all battles are no exception. Here, the protagonists are Batman, Abraham Lincoln, Shaq, and Jackie Chan, and most of the video focuses on them. However, consider changing up the roster of secondary characters as your story goes on; while it’s cool seeing Abraham Lincoln wielding an assault rifle, a machete, and go pole-vaulting to try and take on a shape-shifting robot from outer space, I can’t help but feel it would be cooler to have other characters come in during the song’s second act to shine, even if only for a few seconds each. Who wouldn’t want to see, say, Spider-Man running around with a machete, or Solid Snake pole-vaulting into Optimus? Part of the charm of these giant fights is seeing a large group of characters fight, so it’s smart to give everyone time to shine, no matter who they are.

Consider including a character so powerful that it requires others putting aside their differences and teaming up to defeat them

He only does two things in the song (kick Indiana Jones in the crotch and kill Batman), but Chuck Norris’ appearance marks him as the most powerful and badass character in ‘Ultimate’ He’s so powerful, in fact, that it takes the combined might of over 20 other characters to take him down in the bloodiest battle that the world ever saw. And even cooler, most of them would be mortal enemies outside of ‘Ultimate’; where else would you see every single Power Ranger fighting alongside Darth Vader and Benito Mussolini?

The advantage of bringing in uber-powerful characters into your story is that they immediately dominate the battlefield, forcing other characters to to put aside their differences, even if only for a few moments, to work together for their own survival, giving you a unique opportunity to have characters who would never otherwise tolerate each other be forced to do so, leading to moments that are either awesome, funny, or a mix of both as they interact and play off each other.

Consider making the survivor/winner of your big fight an unknown who isn’t a fighter

Just who would win in a winner takes all fight of pop culture characters? Depending on who you ask, there’s an infinite number of possible victors, ranging from the strongest, the fastest, smartest, or the most clever. ‘Ultimate’ bucks that trend by having the victor not be a muscle-bound warrior, a magical wizard, or a dictator, but Fred Rogers, host of ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’.

What’s great about this ending is that the victor of such a bloody battle isn’t even a warrior, but a kind, gentle man who, by all accounts, never raised his voice or said anything unkind about anyone. It’s unexpected, it’s novel, and even heartwarming to see someone opposed to violence standing as the greatest character in pop culture, and mourning all those who perished (though, personally, I think the seppuku was going a bit too far).

The Takeaway

When doing an incredibly awesome crossover that involves lots of fighting, you have more leeway to break the laws of physics or logic in order to get something cool. Consider following a core group of characters, but remember that your audience will want to see everyone get a moment to shine, especially when dozens of them have to team up to take down a particularly powerful character, and to see good guys/gals doing little deeds to try and help others, even at the cost of their own personal safety. And when it comes to endings, consider having someone unexpected win, instead of the most popular character.

Favorite Moments: Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, best friends forever!

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

‘Horror Friends Forever’

The Scene

Why it’s Great

Ask most people what would happen if two famous horror icons met, and most would probably say that they’d fight. This isn’t surprising, as watching two famous characters from different franchises fight each other is always going to be a treat. A quick Youtube search of Michel Myers and Jason Voorhees comes up with dozens, if not hundreds of videos of the two fighting it out in both live action, video games, and animation.

But while there’s an undeniable satisfaction in seeing two famous characters duking it out, we rarely get to see the opposite: Having them become best friends and going on adventures together. Robot Chicken’s video has them doing exactly that, and it’s a hoot.

What I like about this video – aside from the subversion of these two famous characters becoming friends instead of killing each other – is how it pokes fun of the standard ‘two people form a happy relationship and have lots of fun’ montage we see in films and TV shows: We get to see two bloodthirsty sociopaths happily cutting down people left and right to bright colors, relentlessly cheerful music, and even making best friend bracelets. It’s a classic example of contrasts: dark subject matter and bright and cheerful ambience. That, and it’s just fun to see these two having so much fun together, doing what they love.