March 12, 2004
One of the reasons I liked Star Wars was because it showed a future built in the mind-set of the past. Because once you get over the spaceships and the lasers, a lot of the things in the Star Wars universe weren’t very modern at all – they were old things (a sword) built with new technology (a laser) to make something that was, when you compare it to Han’s pistol, pretty impractical (the light saber).
I bring this up, because probably the most impractical thing in any Star Wars movie (as Kevin duly pointed out once) was the AT-AT. It was built on a kind of medieval logic – most animals walk on all fours, we ride large animals that walk on all fours, we need to transport large amounts of people, let’s just build a really big transport device that walks on all fours. And it worked great, until it didn’t, and you wonder how things on Hoth would’ve turned out if the AT-ATs were giant tanks instead of clumsy camel-legged things.
With that said, I’d like to give out this week’s AT-AT Logic Awards – for devices that make sense, but then really don’t.
Thank you, Lower Extremity Exoskeleton and the trumpet playing robot.
Posted by elia at March 12, 2004 11:02 AM
Here is the video. WARNING: 16.7 MB mpg.
Not necessarily worth it either.
The Empire Strikes Back, the Star Wars movie that introduced the AT-AT should be seen as a Wagnerian opera set in the future. AT-AT's are analogs to Hannibal's elephants marching towards Rome. There's something ancient, Teutonic, and frightening about AT-AT's and I think it is this fear of the elephant-riding barbarians coming to sack civilization.
The movie also has a city in the clouds (Valhalla?) snow monsters, light sabers, and of course a dark shadowy father. When Darth Vader asks Luke to join him to rule the galaxy, "Father and Son" he reaches his hand out like a tenor hitting a high note. The cinematography only makes the pose more heroic.
Der Ring des Nibelungen never looked so good as when it was served with popcorn. Even the music has got a lot of Wagner in it.
A robot playing the trumpet doesn't make sense when you can pay a human to stand there with a digital trumpet and pretend to blow in it.
The trend started because all the WWII veterans are really dying off now and there are too few military buglers to play at their funerals. So dress up a national guardsman in dress uniform and have him press play on digital trumpet.
Dare I mention the wooly mammoths in LOTR3? Someone please refresh my memory -- were there horned elephants in Tolkein's Middle Earth or was that just another setup to exploit the David/Goliath, four-legs bad-two-legs-good battle scene in which the tiny little rodents/gnats fly circles around the legs of the quadrupeds to bring them crashing down to earth.
Also, I suppose someone could write a paper on Howard Shore's use of leitmotifs (and hence necessitating a comparison to Wagner) in the LOTR score. To me, it's more a matter of necessity than anything else. You've got 10+ hours of music to write, dozens of characters to keep straight. It makes sense to use leitmotifs (or as we say, "code libraries") to make things efficient for both the composer and the audience.
I believe they were called "oliphants" in the book, but I don't remember them being described as horned.