Friday, August 07, 2009

Fanboys


Fanboys
Directed by: Kyle Newman
Comedy, 2008
USA, 90min
Distributed by: SF

Story:
Set in 1998, five die had Star Wars fans set to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a work print of Star Wars Episode I so that their friend, who is terminally ill, can watch the most awaited prequel of his life.



Me:
If you have been anywhere near a Star Wars movie since 1974, then you HAVE to see this movie! It was made for YOU! It’s a complete riot. I honestly can’t remember when I last laughed so much at a big, dumb comedy. Sure, I’ve laughed at some good stuff in the past months, but Fanboys took the trophy and ran with it. Its jus tone big nudge-nudge, nod nod, parody, homage in joke, reference bonanza. And there will be laughs!

It’s a simple plot, a group of friends, Linus [Chris Marquette], Hutch [Dan Fogler], Windows [Jay Baruchel] and Eric [Sam Huntington] used to be a geeky clique at school. Hutch and Windows run a comic book store, where also Zoë [Kristen Bell, who once again does nothing for me onscreen.] works with the two dudes. Eric works at his father’s car sales shop and therefore has fallen out with the rest of the gang due to breaking the deal he and Linus had as kids, to become the biggest comic book authors/illustrators ever. The falling out is primarily what split the group. Then the knowledge of Linus terminal illness is what motivates the quest, hence reuniting the group, with the new addition of Zoë, who they all look upon as one of the boys. Relationships are rebound, love is found, obstacles are overcome, death strikes. It’s all classic storytelling 101.

Perhaps Fanboys isn’t really a movie set for analysis because it plays straight off the bat and doesn’t try to disguise it’s self as anything else but a big goofy comedy. But if you know your Star Wars, and other sci-fi mythologies you will spend a fair deal of this movie laughing at references, cameos, familiar Star Wars faces in new roles, classic dialogue twisted around (there’s a hilarious Solo-Leia “I Love You! – I Know!” joke that will have you in tears.) There are even sound references throughout the movie to add to the constant array of well crafted jokes. Unfortunately no Wilhelm scream, but R2-D2’s classic scream of despair. And if you think that it’s only Star Wars, think again, Indiana Jones, THX 1138, Star Trek are all brought into the circle of laughs. Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Ray Park (see if you don’t know your Star Wars those names mean nothing to you and you won’t get this movie), add Seth Rogen, Danny Trejo, Ethan Suplee (in a great Harry Knowles disguise) Jamie King (who now two years later becomes an in-joke unintentionally as she provides the voice of Aura Sing in Star Wars The Clone Wars) Kevin Smith (who always refers to Star Wars in his movies) Jay Mews, William Shatner all turn up in bits that you easily can connect to earlier science fiction worlds seen on TV or Movies.

What makes this movie so much more sophisticated over say, the parody movies like Epic Movie, Superhero Movie, Scary Movie, etc, is that this movie instead of mocking the movies it refers to jokes lovingly with them. It uses popular cultural references to show feelings towards everyday situations, Vader/Skywalker references to show animosity towards parents, Death Star references as metaphors for achieving that one thing you will be famous for and so on. It’s really excellent stuff.

But if you want analysis, you will get it. Its safe to say that Fanboys plays straight off a classical Joseph Campbell / Chris Vogler Hero’s Journey structure. The twelve steps are all there, and here’s a breakdown. You might want to see the movie first, but this is just the narrative, not the absolutely fantastic writing and jokes, so it won’t bust or spoil your Death Star at all.

Stabilize your rear deflectors... Watch for enemy fighters.


1. THE ORDINARY WORLD.
The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

Linus, Windows and Hutch, all arrive at the Halloween party in full Stormtrooper/Darth Vader regalia. Their childhood friend Eric, [I chose to see Eric as the Hero] is the only one without a disguise. He comes in his salesman suit, straight from work at his father “Big Chuck’s” car shop. Eric gave up on his promising career as a comic book artist, and grew apart from his “Geek” friends when he started working for his father. In reality he doesn’t want to work for Big Chuck, but get back to his comic art.

2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.
Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change.

Linus, drunk and too impatient to wait six months to see Episode One, presents the guys with the plan to break into Skywalker Ranch. The three friends are disappointed with Eric for dropping out of the gang, and are humiliated when he says their plan is ridiculous. Windows tells Eric that Linus has Cancer and they have to make the journey. Eric sets up a plan, but points out that it’s only over the weekend. He has to be back at work on Monday.

3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL.
The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.

Eric thinks that the guys are losers, wasting their lives. But still follows with the guys. On the road to Texas they make a stop, where they fight the Trekkies. In Texas they learn that Rouge Leader isn’t who they think. Eric really makes clear that he has to be back at work on Monday. He hasn’t got the time for silly games because his Father has given him the car company.

4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.
The hero comes across a seasoned traveller of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.

After the debacle in Texas they are confronted by the Mentor, Ain’t it Cool News’ Harry Knowles. When confronted by a Star Wars quiz, Eric gives the final answer to prove they are worthy of the Mentor’s help. The gang meets the mystical “Chief” who helps them fix their van and gives them guidance.

5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.
At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values.

The guys are busted by the cops, Zoë arrives, busts them out and they are all stood before the Judge. The Judge lets them go, after learning that Big Chuck is demanding Eric come home right away or gets fired. Eric feels confused. Looking out over the Grand Canyon, he makes a life changing decision, Linus and He reconnect, and Eric re-evaluates his goal in life, he sets forth towards his own Death Star. Going to Las Vegas They have to enter enemy territory as a Star Trek Convention is at large in the rendezvous location. Eric and Linus re kindle their friendship. They meet the “mystery man”, gain the floor plans to Skywalker Ranch, and escape the vengeance of the Trekkies. Now they have everything they need to enter the Ranch.


6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.
The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.

Las Vegas: Alliances are tested, the gang split up, should they pick up some chicks or should they stay on the path of the quest. Linus and Eric stick to the plan, Hutch and Windows go home with Call Girls. Windows understands that he really loves Zoë. The pimp tries to beat them up, the Convention Trekkies try to beat them up, and the battle on two fronts re-unites the group. Linus is forced into hospital and the group finds a surprise ally there.


7. APPROACH.
The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.

Suiting up, prepping for the break in to Skywalker Ranch. Iconistic Armageddon, Rambo, preparing for the approach montage.


8. THE ORDEAL.
Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear. Out of the moment of death comes a new life.

Inside the Skywalker Ranch. The security guards spot them and start to chase them. But at the risk of being caught they finally find the mothership!


9. THE REWARD.
The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death. There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

They finally have their goal in hand. Inside George Lucas office, turning on the laptop on the desk they find the rough cut of The Phantom Menace. The goal is reached, the reward is at hand. But the guards break in and seize them.


10. THE ROAD BACK.
About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.

They are captured. Set for punishment, but ....All the gang escape punishment through one last Star Wars quiz where they together use their knowledge and weaknesses to master the quiz. Only Linus gets to see the movie. Later he and Eric reunite and talk about Linus impending doom.


11. THE RESURRECTION.
At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.

Outside the cinema theatre. Six months have passed. Linus has passed, Windows and Zoë are now a couple, Eric has stopped working at the car shop, and pursued his career as a writer/illustrator and has released his first comic book. Eric and the gang’s sub-plot nemesis Eric’s older brother embraces his brother’s change and passion for Star Wars. After all it is THE WARS BRO!


12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.
The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

The gang settles down to the movie. They salute Linus, and ask that final rhetorical question that need’s no answer; “What if it sucks!”

So there you have it, a comedy that plays off the Hero’s Journey (more or less) which is the template used for Star Wars. Fanboys, a movie that runs safe and sound along the tracks of security and convention to make a great movie that is one of the most entertaining films of its kind in a long time ago.

There was a bit of controversy around the movie after it was completed, because Miramax Bosses, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, wanted to re-cut the movie (and did conduct re-shoots, although director Newman took part of these re-shoots in post) and eliminate every single reference to Linus terminal disease. Thankfully the fans of Fanboys rose against the studio threatening to boycott other Weinstein movies and to some extent the movie is as Newman intended. Which is a great benefit to the movie, I don’t think it would have been as grand without that cancer sub plot.

And there has been a lot of varied reactions to the Cancer sub plot, and many thought that it should have been removed, others not, but I feel that this is one of the finer elements of the movie (although Chris Marquette’s Linus looks nothing like a cancer patient with only a few months left in life) as it brings an empathetic value to the story. In all honesty, it is a heart-warming sequence after Linus finally gets to see The Phantom Menace, and how he now accepts his fate in those final moments. It works like a charm to bring all the “silliness” back down to solid ground. And without that subplot there wouldn’t really be anywhere to go after the break in to Skywalker Ranch. Yeah they would have achieved their goal, but to what cost? Nothing. Sure it could have been the story of how Eric decides to change his life, stand up against his father and not work at the car shop, but then there would have been no noble reason for the quest.

Nah, I have to say it, Fanboys surprised me. I thought that it at the best would be along the line of the David Zucker/Jim Abrahams'Wayans Bros. school with a few gags, some in-jokes, a bunch of humoristic references, dorky comedic acting all taking the piss out of the movies they where parodying. But instead I found this wonderfully crafted, well told story that humorously made jokes in context to the Sci-Fi / Star Wars/Lucas Universe with out mocking it. And as I mentioned in the very start of this piece, if you have seen the Star Wars series at least once, then you should check this out.

Image:
Widescreen 1.78:1

Audio:
English Dialogue (with some Klingon!), Dolby Digital 5.1. Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish subtitles are optional

Extras:
Well being a Scandinavian release coming from one of the larger studio/distributors, who still think that DVD consumers don’t really care about extras this disc has nothing at all to offer as far as the extras are concerned. Which is a crying shame. I’d easily sit though this disc again to hear a commentary track and discover all the references I missed, or spend an hour checking out deleted scenes. Just like the US release offers. Commentary, deleted scenes and much more. This is a niche comedy; you know that Star Wars fans are going to watch it so this ridiculously sparse disc is a disgrace. If you are going to pick it up, get the US version.

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