"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, May 23, 2009

If 'Hamlet' had been written by...

I've been imagining what the play Hamlet would look like if it had been written by someone other than Shakespeare. What I've imagined is not pretty. Take that famous monologue for example, "To be or not to be..." What if that speech were penned by Hemmingway? It might read as follows:

Hamlet enters. "Suicide's a bitch!" Hamlet exits. End of Scene.

Well, I've brewed up a couple other possibilities. Like I said, they aren't pretty. Read on if you dare!

Dan Brown’s “The Yorick Will”:

Professor Langdon stood over the grave. The long kept secret was almost in his grasp. Standing next to him was the courageous, yet sweetly vulnerable Italian chemist, Illaya.
“'Alas, poor Yorick.' 'Alas poor Yorick.' What did Hamlet mean by that?” Langdon asked while examining the skull in his hand. His gaze kept drifting off the skull and onto Illaya.
“Were they ever associates?”
Langdon noticed the glisten on her lower lip as she spoke. Damn! He needed to focus on the mystery of Yorick's Will. And even worse, the ghost of Hamlet's father was actually a radioactive hologram threatening to contaminate all of Denmark at sundown.
“Alas.” Langdon thought deeply. “A…lass?”
“A Lass!” Her emerald eyes began to sparkle. Langdon’s mind burned urgently, the way it did after a good lecturing.
“’A lass. Poor Yorick.’ That’s it! Yorick wasn’t a man. He was a woman!”
“But Robert, what does this mean?”
“It means we need to find the rest of Yorick’s skeleton.”
“That would be at the Lendurbee Chapel,” said the grave digger nearby.
“The Lendurbee Chapel? Lendurbee! Neither a borrower nor a Lendurbee!. Don’t you see Illaya? Polonius wasn’t giving a trite lecture to Hamlet. He was trying to keep Hamlet away from the secret location of Yorick’s skeleton!”
“Which is buried beneath the Lendurbee Chapel!” He loved it when she completed his thoughts. Together they would solve this sacred and holy mystery. A tear rolled down Illaya’s olive cheek. Robert, defying all of his professorial instincts, wiped it away. She cast him a grin and said, “Robert, when this is all over, perhaps…”
END OF ACT III

Or imagine 'Hamlet' in the hands of J.K. Rowling in her next novel “Hamlet and the Mystical Thumbs of Notyetland" ACT V (Abridged)

The poisoned sword fell from Hamlet’s hand and he collapsed. Horatio knelt beside him, watching for what would surely be Hamlet’s final breath. Hamlet, so near the end, wished he and his buddy could enjoy one final picnic together, complete with a hearty serving of Extra-Sharp Cheese Danishes and Holland Daze Punch. But it was...not to be. Hamlet's heart was most certainly taking its last beats.
“I die, Horatio.”
Horatio heard Hamlet’s harangue, but his mind was elsewhere. Nearby in the stables, unaware she could be heard, the castle's one-eyed cook was talking to Hamlet’s horse Barrybodkin.
“Ophelia is still alive old steed. Gallop fast to the river! But whatever you do, don’t let Horatio know I told you.”
“I heard them too,” said Hamlet. “Go Horatio! Save Ophelia!!”
Just then the ghost of Polonius drifted over to Hamlet and looked gravely down at the forlorn Dane. “Hamlet, before you die I have seven pages of things to explain to you. Can you hold on that long?”
“Uh, I think so,” Hamlet replied.
“Good, let’s begin. Long ago your father had a thumb wrestling match with your uncle. Now you have always been told that your father lost the match; however, we musn’t forget your father had two thumbs. Two thumbs, my boy! And there was second match!! Now your mother…”
End of Volume 1

Well, there you have it. If I come up with any others, I'll try to avoid letting you know. Or if you come up with any, feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Once Upon Some Bull Crap...

Many of the movies we love are fantastical: Star Wars; Lord of the Rings; James Bond, to name just three franchises. These stories require great suspension of disbelief. And suspend belief we do, liberally and often...but not always. Within the context of a far-fetched tale, we sometimes find certain elements implausible.

I watched the new Star Trek movie yesterday. Almost every frame of this movie is, strictly speaking, implausible. Most of it didn’t bother me, but occasionally I felt the story trending doubtful. Consider this scene: Character A’s escape pod crashes on a remote world. Okay. Then Character A gets chased into an ice cave by a gigantic insect. Cool! Once in the cave Character A runs into important Character B, who happens to live in this particular cave on this particular remote world. Gimme a break.

Here is another example. I’ll accept light sabers, telekinetic power, and lasers that can explode planets. But if Luke Skywalker were to “beam up” or time travel, that would seem hokey and improper to me. Why?

The same thing goes for James Bond’s gadgets. When Timothy Dalton’s Bond was issued a skeleton key that opened 90% of all locks on the planet, I found that reasonable. But when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond hopped into a car that became invisible, I thought, “Bull Crap!” Even when a character in the film explained the car's technology, I still found it ridiculous.

How do we determine what is and isn’t plausible in our fantasy films? I’m not sure. But we do. And if we employ such subjective decision-making when watching movies, where else in life are we making similar non-empirically based judgments?