It’s that time again, Unrealtors. Dial up, Pam Grier, we’re experimenting once again with “The Jackie Brown Effect”. If you missed any of the previous entries, the Jackie Brown Effect takes a look at various pop culture creations considered by many to be perfect, and whether or not their follow up efforts either equaled, exceeded, or failed their predecessors. Got it? Go to.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME VS. THE WIND WAKER
Calm down, Hylians. Yes, I know, technically Majora’s Mask is the follow-up effort to Ocarina, but to me MM always felt like the second half of Ocarina. Or, at least, a really killer (literally, according to some theories) epilogue. Either way, there are a good amount of similarities, and you definitely get a much stronger sense of an all-new Zelda game with Wind Waker. So, we’re sailing those seas.
Not much can really be said about Ocarina. Some folks call it the greatest video game of all time. Some say it changed the landscape of gaming completely. And some will compare every game they ever play, and especially those in the Zelda series, to it for the rest of their lives. And the justification for all of these is quite obvious.
When I first played it, Ocarina felt like the future of gaming come to life. It was truly difficult to imagine gaming getting any better. It was immersive, haunting, and epic before epic became epically misused. This was playing in your backyard with sticks as swords come to life. It taught many of us about music for the first time. It evolved a franchise further and faster than anything before.
It was everything we ever wanted. With fishing.
How the hell do you top that?
There’s only one way. Make like the Pythons, and do something completely different.
Despite fans clamoring for a grim and gritty next-gen Link and Co. outing, Nintendo washed Hyrule clean…and then left the sink running overnight. The Wind Waker was a cel-shaded, nautically-minded absolute phase shift of a game. While most Nintendudes and Lady Links were expecting something more in line with Ocarina’s more mature second half or the doom and gloom of Majora’s Mask. Instead, they got sunshine and high seas. And most fans had not yet found their sea legs.
Wind Waker was long considered the King of Red-headed Lions stepchild of the Zelda franchise. Many skipped it outright due to its more cartoony artstyle and kiddie feel. And that’s a shame. While the tunic may seemed foreign, the heart of this game was Zelda through and through. Liked exploring? Epona only wishes she had as much room to stretch her hooves as we had in WW. Love your weird Zelda minor characters? We got all the Tingle you can eat! And dude! NO WATER TEMPLES!
I love the Wind Waker. Power gloves down my favorite Zelda game. I love the setting, the shading, the unbelievably metal way that you (spoilers, but, come on) defeat Ganondorf at the end, all of it. I honestly believe it’s the best of all the Zelda games. All of them. Even you, Link’s Crossbow Training.
The Jackie Brown Effect means more than just craftsmanship. When you follow the best, if you don’t leave as heavy a footprint, you have not reached their level. And while Wind Waker literally improved upon every aspect from story to swordplay, it simply didn’t live up to the worshiped status that Ocarina has. Again, remember, I think Wind Waker is superior, but in the annals of gaming history When we look back at what once was, Wind Waker will always be The Third Man to Ocarina’s Citizen Kane.
I’m not saying it’s fair. But I do realize it’s true.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD VS. HOT FUZZ. VS. THE WORLD’S END
The Cornetto trilogy is a familiar name to most cinephiles. They refer to the three movies directed by rising film auteur Edgar Wright, co-written by Wright and main engineer of the Enterprise Simon Pegg. Commonalities run rampant throughout the flicks: casting, genre-bending, and, of course, ice cream.
Shaun of the Dead was Wright and Pegg’s follow-up to their successful BBC sitcom Spaced. Inspired by a brief sequence of zombieing in the show, the pair decided to go full-length with the undead and gave us an incredibly off-kilter take on the walked dead. How? They turned it into…a romantic comedy?
Well, kind of. Rather, a romantic comedy that hangs out with a buddy comedy during a horror-con. Shaun of the Dead was a multi-leveled, surprisingly human take on inhuman creatures. A movie that had no right being as deep as it was, it wound up transcending most zombie flicks and landing its way to the top of many horror fans favorite flicks.
Shaun of the Dead was a critical and fan favorite and helped bridge the gap between the UK and USA for Edgar Wright, and we all couldn’t wait to see what the man perennially confused with the guy who sang “Frankenstein” would film next.
The sci-fi/horror fans out there were expecting another take on their favorite style, but instead Wright decided to stay more within the letter of cinematic law and give us a cop flick. The subject? A tough-as-nails London cop with more arrests than most entire police departments. The location? The quiet, sleepy English countryside. The result? A bubbling bucket of Hot Fuzz.
Hot Fuzz continued in the tradition of trope-mangling and expectation annihilating that film fans had witnessed and celebrated with Shaun and the gang. They even took it to the next meta-level by openly commentating on the various similarities between cop movies through Wright staple Nick Frost’s character. Shaun certainly had some winks to the camera. Hot Fuzz outright showed clips from Bad Boys 2.
Some fans didn’t embrace Hot Fuzz as much as they did Shaun of the Dead. There’s a pretty heavy community of horror junkies in the world of film entertainment, and when Wright decided to make a film commenting on a more “typical” Hollywood genre, some fans tuned out.
But in making Hot Fuzz, Wright brilliantly freed himself from being labeled as the guy who makes funny horror flicks. Instead, he cemented himself as the sharp, subtle satirist making incredibly polished flicks that both poke fun at and celebrate everything we love about various genre flicks.
Sure, I liked the White Lines sing along in Shaun of the Dead, but I loved when they argued about the “zed” word. Yup, the indecipherable old man in Hot Fuzz was hilarious, but the Godzillaesque smashing up of the model city proved that Wright doesn’t just know cinema, he understands it. Humor takes intelligence, and these might be the most well-made comedies of the last decade.
So then what?
Well, end the freaking world.
After some time off, Wright, Pegg, and Frost teamed up one last time for a final round with The Worlds End. This time, Pegg put on his silly pants leaving the usually funnyguy Frost to don the suit of the straight man. This time the genre to be skewed dipped a toe back in the waters of geek-chic with a sci-fi infused, apolalytpic robot extraterrestrial extravaganza.
On the surface, at least. While we were sold on alien action and robot rampaging, what we were given was a stunningly insightful, deeply moving commentary on what exactly dreams can be and how growing up is never simple, rarely comfortable, but always inevitable. Were there laughs? You bet, and plenty of them.
But there were also tears. Really. The Worlds End is that movie to watch ten years after you graduate high school. Then ten years after that. And so on. For my theatre geeks out there, this is the closest I’ve gotten to Our Town on film. Yeah, it’s that deep. I expected to love this movie, and I did. I never expected it to be one of the best movies not only of 2013, but that I’ve ever seen.
And it all felt so natural. From Shaun to Worlds End. While I’m sure there wasn’t really a plan for all this, you can tell that these films were crafted to compliment each other in ways beyond genre and comedy style. There’s a harmony within the Cornetto Trilogy that most filmmakers try, but almost always come up short. This is the type of movie making that should be seen by any student of cinema, or any true fan of the arts.
But since they’re comedies, they’ll never get their true due and proper. Sigh.
The team of Wright, Pegg, and Frost continue to make good moves individually and the world of entertainment is a richer place for it. But it’s when they come together that, for me, the Jackie Brown Effect takes on entirely new dimensions. And that’s no easy feat. On their own, each of these films is a masterpiece. To know that this team didn’t rest their laurels on that and continued to outdo themselves? Well…
VERDICT: EXCEEDS, AND, THEN, TRANSCENDS.
And that’s the effect for this week, Unrealtors. Agree? Disagree? Sound off.
Adam Esquenazi Douglas is a playwright who was born in Texas, grew up in Arkansas, was raised by a Jewish man and a Cuban woman, and, somehow, he doesn’t have an accent. His plays have been produced across the United States, as well as in Canada and Japan.
He is co-host of two podcasts, The JimmyJew Podcast Extravaganza and Schmame Over, which can be found at http://jimmyjew.libsyn.com/ and http://schmameover.libsyn.com/ respectively, as well as on iTunes. He is a contributing writer to www.GamersSchmamers.com.
He currently lives in Brooklyn where he drinks far too much coffee.