Posts Tagged ‘G.I. Joe. renegades’

It comes as no surprise that last week I watched The Hunger Games. So did everyone else in the world, plus a few citizens of the moon. And for good reason—it’s a well executed, faithful adaptation of the book, which itself was a fairly well written page turner.

The most legitimate complaints I’ve heard so far about The Hunger Games (the first book/movie; I haven’t read the rest of the series) is, first, that it’s a little too convenient. For starters, we follow the protagonist, Katniss, throughout—so we’re entirely certain that she’ll not only survive but go on to win the Hunger Games competition. No surprise there (a more original novel would have had her dying off at some point, but none comes to mind where the protagonist that we’re following suddenly dies partway in… excepting, perhaps, the Cohen Brothers version No Country For Old Men).

Throughout the competition, the sympathetic characters are killed off by the villainous competitors (the spoiled rich ones; it’s a given that the hero of the story is an underdog—at least in terms of her background, if not her skills; here’s a great article, btw, on how movies trick you into rooting for the hero.). Katniss herself only directly kills one competitor, and that’s after he stabs a 7-year old girl—so, clearly, he has it coming. (It’s akin to Arnold Schwarzenegger explaining to his wife in True Lies, that yes he’s killed people, but they were all bad.) Even at the end, Katniss’s partner, Peeta, is also allowed to live through a twist in the rules.

It’s not an entirely rosy ending. The first novel concludes with its unresolved love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale; and, although she’s won this competition, her defiance has made her a target of President Snow. Still, for a story about a murderous battle royale between children, the heroine gets to keep her hands remarkably clean of any morally ambiguous bloodshed. The good guys wear their white hats throughout, and the order of the killings naturally leaves our heroes to duke it out in the end with the main villain. Tidy!

The other complaint is that The Hunger Games is fairly derivative. The story about a deathmatch competition is nothing new, and Hunger Games’ more recent cousins include The Running Man (more Arnold Schwarzenegger), The Long Walk (and hey, more Stephen King)—and, as Amazon.com recently figured out and added to their rental queue, the Japanese film, Battle Royale.

The concept of derivative stories just happened to bite me in the ass this weekend. I’ve been working on my own writing, most recently on a chapter involving one of the main characters—the brawler—being arrested and thrown in prison. It’s the revision to an earlier version where the brawler is involved with underground fighting and is then arrested at one of his fights, but I thought it would be more compelling if the arrest came first—and the brawler is then forced to fight in prison. This alone is already derivative.

Add to that, I happened to be watching an episode of G.I. Joe: Renegades. (It’s a great cartoon that has fun with introducing old characters in new ways, and I’m a sucker for all things G.I. Joe*). They had a prison break episode, and I wanted to see how they wrote the escape.

The escape itself was nothing novel (Snake Eyes codename should really be deus ex machine, as he perpetually turns up out of nowhere to save the day). Worse (for me), the prison itself made use of the very same concept I was exploring—the heroes were made to fight, organized by the warden in order to gamble on the fights as sport. The entire concept, I realized, was enough of a trope that it’s now cliché—a gladiatorial arena in prison—that I’ll need to rewrite much of the chapter.

I have some thoughts on it, and may end up leaving it in. In a revised version, the hero may not need to fight for the warden’s entertainment or gambling. Instead, there may be an element of competition to it. This prison houses the worst of the city’s criminals, and to ever be paroled, the prisoners can only earn years off their sentence by defeating other prisoners (and earning whatever parole their opponents have accumulated).

*As a side note, boing boing recently posted a link to a Toy Fair article that effectively summed up my feelings on G.I. Joe. The author is a little cynical about what she sees there, until she comes to the Breyer horse exhibit—her favorite toys as a little girl:

“I’m going to get a little nostalgic for a moment, so bear with me, but do you remember your favorite toys as a child? And maybe you wondered why adults didn’t seem as enchanted with your toys as you were? I used to swear I’d never lose interest in my figurines and dolls, I feared it would mean losing my entire sense of self. But of course I grew older and started leaving those beloved things behind.

“I can pick up a Breyer horse, admire the smooth plastic and artful details, but … that’s it. I’m not going to sit on the floor with it for hours, making it talk to other toys, acting out my latest conflicts and fantasies, forming pretend relationships. I wish I could enjoy toys on that level again.”