The Last Storytelling.

  • October 20, 2007
  • Kids

I’m from a family of story tellers.  Structuring thoughts into stories is something I remember from generations on both sides of my family. 

I assume this is something that happens in all families.  The passing of lore, of shared memory, of myth and fact and family dinner stories.  You know.  The good stuff. 

One of the things I remember from growing up is that I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of superhero-type shows.  It seemed so unfair - my friends watched whatever and I got left out.  Oh sure, I could jump around and kick the air in front of me with the best of ‘em, but I really didn’t know whom fought who and what the outcome was. 

Naturally, I snuck as much superhero stuff as I could.  And most of it was pretty lame.  But hey, I was a kid. 

On the other side of parenthood, I see my kids taking in a lot of stories.  Most of which are crap.  Of course.  I’m truly unsure if Saturday morning cartoons are better now than they were when I was a kid.  I think I’m more inclined to just believe 95% of everything is crap. 

One of the ugly trends I see continuing is having my kids overcharged and hyper-stimulated after watching the sixth or seventh good vs. evil battle in a row.  Of course, the white hats always win - although they don’t always wear white hats any longer.  There’s no collateral damage.  There’s little price to pay other than digging deep into the protagonist’s soul to find the faith and confidence that was always there.  The black hats skulk away, vowing to fight again another day.  Nothing ever really changes, the characters come back the next show to perform another variant of the same plot.  Then the next show comes on and it’s a new batch of characters performing the same plot.

Of course, the majority of the crap I’m seeing is the “Power Rangers” mentality.  Characters going out and pummeling other characters using fancy martial arts moves, flying back and forth through the air sending flying kicks at each other.  The problem is, it shows a very narrow view of martial arts.  All emphasis on the screaming, flying fight and nothing on the meditation and the spirituality.  Nothing bigger than the immediate conflict.

Life is not a constant conflict of the moment.  Well, not a good life.  Handling the minutia of the mundane day to day living is critical because it is in that day to day living that we spend most of our lives.  There’s nothing wrong with telling stories on the extremes, but we need to make sure we tell stories with other storylines. 

Let’s go back to grade school.  Remember those all those types of conflict that you can have?  It’s pretty basic.  Man against himself - that’s the internal conflict I live every day.  Man again another.  Man against society.  Man against nature.  Man against God (or some reasonable facsimile we call superheros).  We have a lot more choices than the same humdrum epic battles betwixt good and evil.

Now the one thing I’m not saying is that everything I read is Don Quixote.  In fact, the last book I read was passed up to me from my daughter.  Don Quixote has stood the test of time for 400 years and it remains a great book - one of the best I’ve ever read.  Eragon probably won’t be revered in 2409, but it’s a perfect story for a maturing young lady with a dragon fixation.

Tonight I picked up a movie to watch with the kids without really knowing what I was picking up.  It’s a bad enough idea to send me into a video store in the first place.  It’s a doubly bad idea to send me in looking for “family” entertainment (the kids like Spinal Tap, don’t they?)

Okay, I’ll come clean.  My Lady-love gave me a list of three or four movies and I couldn’t find one of them.  I panicked.  I managed to find a copy of “The Last Mimzy” on sale and I vaguely remember seeing an add or something for it.  My kids will watch anything.

The plot moved more slowly than I would have liked.  It plodded along setting up the story, sometimes driving home a point much more bluntly than necessary.  There was phenomenal talent with a hand in the making, and points really shone, other parts fell apart as if they were unattended.

I really appreciated Rick Norwood’s reveiw quoted in Wikipedia.

In films, of course, emotion is everything, and so The Last Mimzy has carefully expunged all of the ideas from the story, and replaced them with the New Age nonsense that passes for ideas these days. They have also taken a very personal story about one family and a box of toys from the future and turned it into an epic story in which childlike innocence saves the human race.

The story was watered down, laden down with modern politics (Department of Homeland Security?  Hopefully that will be dated in a year or two.)  and suffered from a large special effects budget without the wisdom of when to use it or the storyline to back it up.  On the face of it, the whole movie was quite mediocre.

On the other side, it had some great music (always a bonus for me) and it was truly an epic tale that could pull in both the kids and I with a good, basic story.  Best of all, it still was imaginative without the spinning, hacking, slashing manic super-kung fu put in to (lamely) build tension.

A nice try on a good story.  Glad I picked it up, glad the kids got into it, hope it inspires the kids to read the original story and figure out it’s more than the movie was.