austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Magic and mystery are part of their history

Thursday night I caught on the Chiller channel the very modestly sort-of famous 1982 made-for-tv movie Mazes and Monsters. I was thrilled since I'd heard of this as an infamously bad movie of the kind in which anything those kids are into leads inevitably to horrible death, doom, and perhaps even dancing. I don't do much ironically, but I do enjoy grand ineptness. (If you missed it, it'll probably be on again frequently, what with Chiller being a semi-obscure cable channel and this being something they have ever aired.)

I figured it would be a hilarious ride when pretty near the first line is a nerdy, underaged, promoted-too-often-in-school kid being told by his mother that he has an IQ of 190, in the classic style of tell-don't-show, like when everybody on Enterprise insisted Jonathan Archer1 was the brilliantesterest captain and diplomat ever. Soon we meet Tom Hanks's and a few other characters and establish how socially inept they are (Hanks's character blames himself -- not without reason -- for his brother's disappearance and apparent death), and how deeply they're into Mazes and Monsters. That's reasonable, I think, particularly exchanges where the gang pressures new kid Tom Hanks -- who promised his parents he wouldn't play because he flunked out of his old school for the game, a phenomenon I'm sure never happens in reality -- to join: ``Hey, we're not fanatics.'' Hanks: ``How often do you play?'' ``A couple times a week.'' And, yeah, schemes for it threaten to overwhelm their schedules.

I was surprised how much I liked it. Internet-based legend makes it out as an ``if you ever play a fantasy game you will lose touch with reality and end up DEAD or INSANE or BOTH'' hysterical panic show, but I don't see that in here. Hanks's character goes insane, but the presentation, to me, suggested he was probably schizophrenic to start with and the game was something by which he could function for a while.

The other players were much more into the game and found it a good thing. While their character arcs aren't the focus of the movie, it's presented that the game is a way for them to build their creative and their social skills, and they end up being better able to fulfill ambitions they only dimly understood at the start of the movie. And at various points a few Respectable Adult figures, including police officer That Guy Who's Always Playing The Police Officer, mention they know the game, their kids play it, so what's that got to do with the weird missing kid? Without the tragedy of Hanks's character there'd be no story (``a couple schlubs pretend to fight lizard monsters and discover their inner student theater group director!'') , but given that, I don't think the movie falls into the ``kids are doing something strange so it's probably Satanic!'' trap. It's kind of endearing.

Trivia: The first 247 was handed over to Boeing Air Transport on 30 March 1933. Source: The Boeing 247: The First Modern Airliner, F Robert van der Linden.

Currently Reading: Imperial Earth, Arthur C Clarke.

[1.] I checked on Wikipedia to make sure I had the correct form of ``Jonathan''. There I discovered Wikipedia has a little box on the bottom to list ``Captains of Star Trek vessels named Enterprise''. They do a fair job naming the ones established on-screen, but they miss two. I can't believe no one in the Wikipedia Minion Reserve has failed to notice the oversight, which means there must be a very funny Discussion page about the issue.

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