I’m not fond of excuses when it comes to critical thought. You hear a lot of them thrown around consistently, usually that a given film wasn’t supposed to be winning awards, so why are you critiquing it? Because apparently it’s impossible to both be a good action film and not insultingly stupid, never mind that Pacific Rim showed us exactly what Transformers could have been with a better script instead of the blaring obnoxious films that we’ve seen for years now. Just because a film is meant to be entertaining action doesn’t mean it also has to be bracingly stupid.
We need to tear down the idea that critical thought and questions somehow need to step out of certain discussions. It is possible for something to both be a straight action piece meant to show off cool hardware and explosions while also being a likable piece on its own merits. You do not get to defend blockbuster titles on the premise that they’re meant to just be action extravaganzas, as it’s possible to have both. But that’s the least of the defenses that I want to skewer and be rid of.
Harmony Gold, at this point, is a spite house that happens to be incorporated. And pretty much all of its spite is directed toward the license that it’s sitting on for the original Macross, which ties into its pet property of Robotech, which is used for nothing. Because wow, that thing is a mess.
The short (and glossing/inaccurate) version is that back in the 80s, Harmony Gold had gotten its hands on some anime that it wanted to syndicate. Unfortunately, syndication rules required 65 episodes to exist before a series could be distributed, and the three series in question (Macross, Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, and Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross) didn’t individually hit that mark. So Carl Macek’s job was to sit down and stitch these three separate shows with different characters, premises, and setting into a single continuity. The result was Robotech, which subsequently had more material produced, making it a distinct entity from any of its predecessors.
As fascinating as that whole nonsense is to talk about – and it really is, right down to lots of polarized reactions that never approach the subject of whether or not the new series is any good – that’s not what I’m here to discuss. Because while Harmony Gold is busy not actually making more Robotech material, a video game seems like an easy way to extend the license. Yet at the same time, making one is really hard to do.
It’s Halloween! By which of course I mean it is October, which might as well be a solid month of Halloween for all I care. I say this while also having a wedding anniversary and a professional anniversary in October. Halloween all day every day, from October 1st to October 31st. Possibly a bit further in either direction, too. I like Halloween a lot is what I’m getting at.
But as I settle in for another annual trip through every horror-themed movie, game, and novel I can find that I had held back for October, I know I’m going to run into some of the same stupid and tired crap that I find every single year. There’s a reason that for a long while I disliked horror in general and survival horror in games, and it was simply a result of getting so accustomed to crappy half-baked non-horror stuff that gets shoved along with it that I sort of tuned the whole thing out as terrible. I’m better now, but let’s be frank – what’s following is not really scary.
The dancing bear joke really isn’t; it’s more of a punchline in search of a setup. It’s simple enough, though. If you see a bear dancing in the circus, you’re not concerned with his form. You’re just impressed that the people training him got him to dance at all. Sure, it’s mostly just shuffling back and forth, but does it really matter as long as it counts as dancing?
A lot of media has the dancing bear problem. Strictly speaking, for instance, it doesn’t matter if the Transformers cartoons are any good, it just matters whether or not they sell toys. Skylanders toys could come to life at night and try to kill your pets, but the important thing is that they tie into the video game. You get the idea. When you’ve got any piece of media tying into something else, you’re starting out with a dancing bear.
Defiance falls into that category quite handily. It’s a show that’s made to tie into an online game running at the same time, with the promise that the two will feed into one another – events in the game are reflected by the show, and vice versa. The problem being, of course, that a show not aimed at supporting a merchandising line can’t survive for long on novelty. It’s not enough to be a dancing bear here; you have to be a bear that turns out to be a pretty good dancer.