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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Sunday, March 20, 2016


I return to the subject of the narrative-significant value-schism with respect to the ways in which a narrative value, such as that of the combative mode, may appear in a given story, and yet fail to acquire a concomitant significant value.

One of the foremost examples in my system was mentioned in 2013's OUR ARMIES AT WAR, WITH MONSTERS. The 1953 George Pal film THE WAR OF THE WORLDS pulls off one of the cinematic decade's most impressive displays of contending megadynamic forces, but that battle does not decide the war, or the mode. The Martians are defeated by a third presence in the mix, the microscopic germs that bring death to the invaders. The movie credits the victory to God himself, which was probably not an interpretation H.G. Wells seriously supported. But even if God himself had entered the fray, I might tend to regard the Deity as a "peripheral" presence to the struggle between humans and aliens. Certainly the germs are peripheral to the struggle, since they aren't consciously coming down on either side.

In DJINN WITH SUMMONER PT. 2, I cited four examples where protagonists were empowered by presences peripheral to them. In THE COURT JESTER comic hero Hubert is given the skill of a great swordsman by a hypnotist, but because he loses that skill, and because he defeats the villain largely by a contrivance rather than with megadynamic potency, this victory also lacks the significant value of the combative mode. The other three examples all involve protagonists receiving aid from genies, or genie-like entities, who are similarly peripheral to the protagonists themselves. Going by this train of logic,not only are none of the cited works in the combative mode, neither are any of the protagonists.

While the genies allied to those protagonists are powerful, the protagonists are not empowered by their influence: what is lacking is what I'll term the "transitive effect," using the definition provided by the Free Dictionary:

Expressing an action carried from the subject to the object;
requiring a direct object to complete 
meaning. Used of a verb or verb construction.

The same inconsumation of the transitive effect can take place in regard to the effects of phenomenality upon the combative mode.

Shakespeare's HAMLET is a narrative in which it's clear that the protagonist dwells in a world where strange, metaphenomenal events take place. However, though it may be some Satanic power that inspires Hamlet, it certainly does not empower him, and everything that transpires between the melancholy Dane and his opponents takes place on an isophenomenal plane.

Alongside a review of a 1969 film-production of HAMLET, I also reviewed the 2006 film SERAPHIM FALLS. The presence of metaphenomal entities is even more ambiguous than it is in HAMLET, and the questionable entities have no visible effect upon the struggle of the film's two protagonsits, which also takes place upon an isophenomenal plane.

I haven't yet reviewed 1998's MULAN, but although the heroine receives aid from two unambiguous metaphenomenal entities-- a tiny ancestral dragon and an intelligent cricket-- nothing that they do makes any difference to Mulan's isophenomenal struggle against the invading Huns. So, even though Mulan exists in a metaphenomenal world in terms of dynamcity, in a combinatory sense-- as described here--Mulan's conflict is also isophenomenal.

In this group-review post, I scrutinized three low-budget westerns, one of which was unquestionably metaphenomal in terms of the potency wielded by the villains against the isophenomenal hero. However, the other two films dealt only with a cowboy-hero fighting other mundane crooks. The only metaphenomenality in either PHANTOM OF THE RANGE or its remake is that the crooks hire a henchman to pose as a ghost-- albeit in one of the least convincing disguises of all time.

Because the phony ghost adds no power to the villains-- the main hero doesn't even contend with the ghost, who is shot by his confederates-- his slight metaphenomenal presence does not activate the transitive effect, any more than do the cricket and the dragon in MULAN. Thus PHANTOM OF THE RANGE is an unusual example of being a combative film with a peripheral metaphenomenal precence, but not actually a film that is both combative and metaphenomenal in a transitive sense-- which is what brings all such films into the realm of what I still call the Superhero Idiom.

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