Favorite Moments: ‘When Death Troopers Try Going Through a Drive-Thru’

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

Today’s video is another perfect example of fish-out-of-water comedy, by taking the Empire’s elite Death Troopers off the battlefield, and having one of them try to order fast food… and learning that his (her?) voice-scrambling helmet isn’t the best thing to wear when trying to talk with an ordinary person.

Another subtle nugget I didn’t notice at first when watching this video is that this is a great example of how even the most intimidating, faceless people in stories are still human underneath all their armor, complete with dreams, hobbies, and not liking certain foods. Keeping such things in mind can help us when we write henchmen or elite soldiers: They may be dangerous and dedicated to their cause, but there’s more to them than what organization they serve or what kind of armor they wear.

Favorite Moments: ‘Conan the Librarian’

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 Scene

Why it’s great

I’ve written before about my love of Fish Out Of Water humor, which makes this scene from ‘UHF’ one of my favorites from the film. Not only do we have a giant, muscle-bound barbarian plucked out of the dark ages and in the modern era (the 1980’s), but he also has a job that’s one of the least suited for his particular skills.

While having people from different time periods dropped into the modern age is always great for comedy, extra humor can be gained when they get modern jobs that don’t always mesh with their talents and abilities. Even better is when they throw themselves into those jobs without hesitation, striving to do their best. When you combine that formula with the almost endless types of characters from history to choose from, you’ve got a formula for comedy gold.

 

Favorite Moments: Soaking Vengeance

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

Ah, the Noir film: A genre unafraid to portray the dark, seedy underbelly of humanity, a genre where hope dies in the drains, bloated and soaked with the rain of an uncaring sky… which means it’s a good idea to have an umbrella in hand.

Though it’s astonishingly short (5 seconds), ‘Soaking Vengeance’ features my favorite type of comedy: Fish out of water. In this case, it’s the hard-boiled guy heading out into the darkened night with a scowl on his face, and a bright, blue umbrella in hand. The contrasts between the dark tone, the childish umbrella, and the dramatic music makes a strong case for two storytelling points:

*Any dramatic character becomes hilarious when wielding something made for a child.

*The Noir genre can be a gold mine for parody, especially if their tough guys stay tough, no matter how ridiculous things get around them.

What we can learn from ‘Jimmy Kimmel Hires Dr Strange’

 

Of all the comedy tropes out there, which one is your favorite? Slapstick? Ironic? Dead Baby? Mine is Fish out of water: a character is placed in a situation they have no experience in dealing with, and have to try and make the most of it.

While there are countless examples of this trope happening in fiction, one of my favorite happened two years ago for the release of ‘Doctor Strange,’ where talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel has the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange, come to perform tricks for a birthday party. Predictably, shenanigans ensue. Let’s see what we can learn from this amusing tale of an infinity stone wielding sorcerer taking on the terror of hyperactive children:

For instant comedy, have your larger than life character go to a child’s birthday party

There are a handful of situations all-but guaranteed to generate instant comedy, and having your character go to a child’s birthday party is one of them. Think about it: Any character who goes to a birthday party in an attempt to entertain children will look ridiculous . Don’t believe me? Imagine the following people and characters making balloon animals for kids:

•Darth Vader

•Master Chief

•Joseph Stalin

•Sauron

•Barack Obama

•Batman

•Dracula

•An Imperial stormtrooper

•Jesus

If you want instant comedy, putting your character at a child’s birthday party is a great way to make it happen, especially if they’re larger than life, out-of-the-ordinary characters.

Consider having your character not be above being bought for a service

Heroes are supposed to be above such pitiful human failings as greed, selflessly devoting themselves to helping others free of charge… which makes for a nice subversion whenever they decide to do something just for the money, especially if it’s an embarrassing task. Here, it’s amusing to see that Dr. Strange, master of the mythical arts, isn’t above doing something just for the money. Sometimes, a little touch of greed can show that, underneath all the superpowers, abilities, and willpower, even the most powerful humans are still… well, only human.

Consider having your character be terrible at their attempted task

We all admire someone who, when faced with something they’re not prepared for, still tries to do it anyway. Of course, not everything goes as we’d hoped, and sometimes they fail, as Strange does here. For all his skill at fending off inter-dimensional demons and creating time loops, Strange has zero skill in making balloon animals, and he looks hilarious just trying. Better still, he knows it and doesn’t care; he just wants that $150 dollars. While we may admire someone who tries and fails, we can laugh at seeing someone not giving a… well, you know, as they barely try at all, and carry that same attitude over to their interactions with people who don’t like that ‘I could care less’ attitude.

The Takeaway

For instant comedy, consider having your character try to entertain children at a birthday party, which, in addition to making them look utterly silly, gives a chance to show a little more of their human side by having them do it just for money and not really caring how it turns out.

Perfect Moments: ‘Combat Rangers!’

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

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The Video:

Fedex’s ‘Combat Rangers’ commercial.

 

Why it’s Perfect

There are some moments in media that beg for deeper explanation, moments that causes us to pause and think deeply on why they move us, prompting lengthy soul-searching in an attempt to better understand ourselves and our desires, our frailties and vices. From such deep prompting, growth and understanding can result, and possibly even enlightenment as we come to understand our place in the cosmos, and what we can do to contribute to it… Or we can just laugh at the sight of muscular toy soldiers going into war wearing tutus and wedding dresses while wielding handbags and umbrellas.

I remember watching this commercial as a kid back in the mid 90’s; back then, I had little comprehension of shipping, manufacturing, and the unseen side of the retail industry, but I didn’t care, as I thought the Combat Rangers were hilarious. Over twenty years later, they still are, and this remains one of my favorite commercials for its use of humor to illustrate what could happen if a mistake is made in shipping goods from overseas. Most of that humor comes from the sheer absurdity of warriors charging into battle wearing attire and weapons so inappropriate it’s absurd, making it an excellent example of ‘fish out of water’ comedy that I love so much: Someone or something taken into a situation that they have no experience or business being in, and doing their best to make it work. In this instance, men dressed in women’s clothing, yet still charging into battle.

To take this idea to it’s logical extreme, imagine how ridiculous, yet hilarious it would be for any modern war movie to have it’s soldiers wearing wedding dresses into combat. ‘Hunter Killer’ may have gotten triple its box office revenue if Gerard Butler and the Navy SEALS were wearing pink ballerina outfits as they battle to save the Russian president. It would be a comedy goldmine.

The very best commercials stay with you years after you’ve seen them, and long after their products have left the market. ‘Combat Rangers’ easily earns its place among those hallowed ads… and I have to confess, that squishy mud sound effect six seconds in never fails to make me laugh.

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.

What we can learn from ‘Halloween 60’

With Michael Myers’ return to the big screen only three days away, it seemed fitting to take a look at… well, a ‘Halloween’ film that hasn’t happened yet, and probably never will (though with Hollywood’s history with sequels, it’s not out of the question).

‘Halloween 60’, a parody trailer by Fuzz on the Lens, imagines an 81 year old Michael Myers breaking out of prison – again – in 2038 and heading out to kill Laurie. Although it’s a parody trailer, there’s still quite a few goodies and tidbits for writers to learn from, so let’s take a look at at what that lovable goofball Myers is up to twenty years from now.

Consider showing what happens when homicidal killers grow old

If there’s one thing we rarely see in horror films, it’s homicidal senior citizens. Plotting, scheming, elderly masterminds? Yes. Evil dictators and politicians? Totally believable. Axe/knife/chainsaw wielding murderers? Not so much. Considering how our bodies inevitably decay with old age, the idea of an 80 year old going after teenagers is laughable, since it’s easy to imagine those teenagers just kicking away his walking stick and having him break a hip when hitting the ground.

However, there are always exceptions to every rule: For every crippled old man in a wheelchair, we have a Jack LaLanne, Sylvester Stallone, or any number of older people who don’t let age stop them from being fit, and in an era where more and more people than ever work to keep themselves healthy in old age, the idea of an axe murder collecting social security checks isn’t as far-fetched as it used to be. Choosing an older person as a killer offers some unique traits you can’t get with a 20 or 30 year old: an older killer will be more entrenched in their evil ways (and less likely to be redeemed),  be deeply set in the local community to avoid drawing suspicion to themselves, and even have numerous sidekicks who can help him/her carry out their vile work. Even having them be physically weaker can make battles more interesting, as they’ll have to be more clever than the protagonists to compensate for reduced strength, relying on wits and fooling their prey rather than endless stamina.

Consider showing what happens when homicidal killers grow old… and play it for laughs

With all that said, it’s still hilarious to see an 80 year old heading out to kill youngsters. Despite his formidable determination, poor Michael:

*Uses a cane to hobble around

*Drops his dentures to frighten people

*Takes viagra

*Gets crippling back pain after being bumped by children

*Can’t keep a grip on his knife

*Uses oxygen

*Has a heart attack and uses LifeAlert to call for help.

Even Laurie – determined to end Michael once and for all – has to get around with a walker. In short, the trailer relishes in the fish-out-of-water comedy trope of taking near-mythical characters and having them suddenly deal with everyday problems… in this case, old age. Just imagine Darth Vader having to fight Jedi Knights as a 90 year old in a wheelchair, or Leatherface trying to chase down and carve up teenagers when he doesn’t even have the strength to lift a chainsaw over his head, yet still trying with all their might to make it happen. This can also have the bonus of making them laughably ineffectual villains, leaving us feel sorry for them for them, even as we laugh.

The Takeaway

Consider having your evil mass-murder be a senior citizen instead of a fit, young person; while a bit far-fetched, it can offer the chance to write a more interesting character who has more interesting ways of killing people beyond hacking and slashing, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to poke fun at the inherently silly concept of an old and weak killer trying his best to kill people.