Notes on Notes: How “Run-Around” gives the listener the runaround

Hello and welcome to Notes on Notes, the internet’s only series of articles that combines terrible clip-art with musical analysis.

Last year in a Cracked.com article I wrote, I discussed Blue’s Traveler’s “Hook” and its meaning, which some people might have (understandably) overlooked when first hearing the song. Basically,  when you take a closer look at the lyrics and musical content, what sounds like a generic 90’s pop song is actually an ironic send-up of generic pop songs. Here’s a great AV Club article that elaborates on what I’m talking about.

After Cracked and AV Club covered it, it seems like “Hook” and its true meaning is pretty well-tread territory online. But there still is more Blues Traveler ground to cover. Or should I say… travel? Yes, I should. Because it’s a very funny joke to start off this article.

In hopes of becoming the internet’s preeminent Blues Traveler scholar, I’d like to now take a look at one of the band’s other huge hits: “Run-Around.” A song that, in my mind, rivals “Hook” in terms of its terms of its surprising depth and overlooked meaning.


This horse is here because horses like to run and this song is about running.

From a quick reading of the lyrics–or really just an educated guess based on the title–it’s probably pretty clear what the song is about. The singer is lamenting that he is being led on by someone he is attracted to. He is confused and frustrated by these mixed signals giving his mind and emotions the “runaround.” This is the internet, I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate much more. If “The Social Network” is to be believed, the internet’s main source of energy and innovation is just such indignation.

So, OK, now that we’ve got the core concept down, let’s look closer at how the song works. Not only does it repeat its chorus several times throughout it’s run time, but–and here’s where it starts to get cool–the same 4 chords are repeated in a 4 second loop for the entire song. There isn’t any kind of change for the entire 4 minute run time.

Just like with “Hook’s” use of the overused “Canon in D,” this may come off as a case of pop simplicity, but given the song’s subject matter, and Blues Traveler’s track record for such things, I think it’s safe to say the looping guitar exists to reinforce the song’s theme.

Similarly to how the narrator of the “Run-Around”  finds himself in an infinite romantic loop of emotional ups and downs, the song’s guitar repeats the same chord progression throughout the entire song.

But that’s only one example of Blues Traveler using songwriting techniques to reference the song’s subject matter.

With “Run-Around’s” themes in mind, meta-textual meaning begins to emerge in its lyrics.

Take a look at this stanza from verse 2:

But I’ve been there I can see it cower
like a nervous magician waiting in the wings

Of a bad play where the heroes are right,
and nobody thinks or expects to much.
And Hollywood’s calling for the movie rights,
singing”Hey babe let’s keep in touch.”

What starts as a simile representing the narrator’s nervousness with dealing with his crush suddenly becomes a tangent about Hollywood fat-cats and a magician being in a play for some reason. Again, what could be hand-waved away as a literary device that got out of hand actually becomes intentional when looked at in context. Just like this girl is giving the guy the “runaround,” the singer of the song is also giving the listener the same treatment. And since the song is seemingly directed at the narrator’s crush, these extended musical metaphors may be a case of the narrator giving her a taste of her own medicine.

Instead of getting to the point, “Run-Around” often gets sidetracked with shaky metaphors about fishing, or the aforementioned one about magicians, or my favorite, one near the end of the song where we go from the narrator comparing himself to a pilot weathering an emotional storm, to a fun tangent about waitresses and drink orders. The whole song is filled with unnecessary similes, references, and other literary devices.

So what might seem like a repetitive song with some half-baked lyrics suddenly becomes a fairly interesting musical representation of a frustrating relationship.

And if you really want to get fancy about it, “Run-Around” serves as a meta-texual criticism of repetitive pop music and manipulative record labels just like “Hook” did before it. Just imagine this song is being sung to some record executive or it being directed at Blues Traveler’s pop contemporaries, it suddenly becomes pretty scathing criticism of the business of music.

This short passage here becomes a lot more poignant as well when you realize it can represent both a romantic relationship, or a love/hate relationship with pop music. Check it out:

And Hollywood’s calling for the movie rights,
singing, “Hey babe let’s keep in touch.”
“Hey baby let’s keep in touch.”

But I want more than a touch I want you to reach me,
and show me all the things no one else can see.

The song seems to be begging pop music to get to the point and stop wasting time with meaningless fluff and repetition.

So yeah, if you don’t mind donning some protective gear and diving past the dated 90’s jam-band pop veneer, you’ll find a pop song with some considerable depth that is absolutely worth a second look.

This is a picture of me in real life.

All that being said, and even though I really, honestly do like the song (clearly), anyone that dislikes it is absolutely not wrong. Even if they understand what it was trying to do with the metaphors and repeating chord progression.

So let’s talk about why. Yeah. There’s more. Feel free to pretend this is me referencing the song and giving the readers the “runaround” with a way too long and analytic blog post, but the truth is, I am a sick fuck and I enjoy discussing such things for far too long. So please excuse the self-indulgence for a moment.

So here’s why “Hook” and “Run-Around,” despite clearly having a lot of thought put into them, don’t seem to connect with people on a deeper level–especially now, almost 20 years down the line. Blues Traveler seemed to have misunderstood how music affects us and what we actually take away from a song.

OK, that sounds really harsh. I should repeat: I like this song. It’s just, the whole infinite repeating guitar thing is a cool idea, and I definitely not am one to discourage songwriters from trying to connect ideas and themes with the musical content of a song–god knows we need to see more of that in every genre–but this particular instance ends up doing the opposite of what it was intended to do. Instead of reinforcing the emotions of the song, it hinders them.

This might sound obvious, but chords play an enormous part in songwriting when underscoring emotions at play. Just like in a movie, we have an implicit cultural understanding of what certain images or colors represent, in music, different chords evoke different emotions. By repeating the same chords over and over, “Run-Around” effectively strips itself of a crucial songwriting tool in favor a thematic decision that only really works on an intellectual level. It’s like the musical equivalent of a joke that’s clever, but doesn’t make you laugh.

This is sounding overly critical, but in the song’s favor, John Popper and drummer Brendan Hill do their best to inject emotions and dynamics into the song, and they do a hell of a job. I’d say “Run-Around” has some of the best synchronicity when it comes to a vocal performance enhancing lyrical content. And Hill’s drums are right there behind Popper’s vocals, supporting him each time the tone switches around from defeated to triumphant to frustrated and plenty others. Seriously, go back and pay attention to the vocals read along with the lyrics. Popper and Hill channel the emotions at play throughout the song in a really masterful way.

But that damn repeating chord progression going on with the guitar not only doesn’t contribute to the emotional narrative present in the vocals, lyrics, and drums, it ends up holding up them back.

I think that’s what we can take away from “Run-Around.” If you want to get right down to it, the guy in the song is wasting his effort, trying to make make himself sound like a victim of manipulation in a relationship where the object of his affection simply doesn’t share his feelings but is trying to let him down easy. Similarly, Blues Traveler ended up putting a lot of thought and energy into a song element that ended up holding the song’s emotions back. Their heart was in the right place, but the effort might have been a little misguided.

Music works best when all its elements come together. Going back to a movie comparison, it’s like our implicit understanding of the language of cinema. A director wouldn’t use a frenetic shaky-cam and fast cuts to show a couple having a romantic dinner. Even if the scene was beautifully lit, acted, and written, the camerawork would prevent the audience from appreciating the full emotion of the scene.

This isn’t to pick on Blues Traveler (sorry guys), really this speaks to a bigger issue that applies to pretty much all music across all genres. Music, for whatever reason, isn’t discussed like other media, and as a result, we lack an understanding of how choices in music affect us emotionally. We get caught up in small surface-level aesthetic choices, when often, the problems lie elsewhere. In the case of “Run-Around,” the focus on surface-level choices caused many people to not appreciate some ambitious and smart songwriting.

Similarly, probably because it is so highly valued, musicians, songwriters, and producers end up putting their main effort into surface-level elements while neglecting deeper, more emotional elements. It’s absolutely fine that a song uses numerology to dictate its time signature, or that a song is part of a 30 song series about a robot, or that a track features the most modern farty synths on the market, but I feel like we should step back and be honest, none of that stuff is what makes us connect with a song is it?

So I think the best we can do is try and figure out and discuss what exactly it is that makes a song make us feel feelings. So if you wanna talk about it, you are more than welcome to do so below! Or if you want to call me a swear word or a virgin, you are welcome to do that too. If you got this far, you earned it.

Thank you very much for reading. If you’d like to read more stuff similar to this, or if you wanna just scroll around and enjoy some of the internet’s best clip art, click right on this word here. Or any of those words will work. Or this one. Click anywhere you like. My blog is your blog. Enjoy. Thanks again. Bye.

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A demo for a serious song about the moon or something

Hey everyone, so in addition to doing writing and other things, sometimes I write songs. I’ve been sitting on this one for a little while because it’s a little rough and it’s a song about emotions and shit, which is not what I normally do, but I figured “why not? I’m sure the internet will be forgiving.” So I’m putting it out there. Enjoy or don’t, either way is cool with me! Thanks byeeee

How M*A*S*H snuck past Fox Studios and became the first studio film to use the word “fuck”

Hey, so I write for Cracked.com sometimes. Occasionally, I’ll come across an obscure story that doesn’t quite fit into a particular article I’m working on, but it will strike me as particularly interesting. Since stories like these often can’t be found anywhere but the shady recesses of the internet, I figured it would be worth it to take a few minutes to put the story out there where more people might be able to appreciate it. 

M*A*S*H is well-known for spawning one of the most successful shows in TV history, but before it was beaming into your grandparents’ impossibly small and low-res TVs, it was a hugely successful and critically acclaimed war film. M*A*S*H the movie has pretty much everything censors and studio executives were afraid of at the time: excessive violence, subversive anti-war themes, nudity, and the first ever use of the word “fuck” in a studio film.

Keep in mind, M*A*S*H was released in 1970, only a couple years after the extremely shitty and conservative Hays Code was abandoned. Film studios and the newly created MPAA were still testing the waters as to what was “acceptable.” One thing that certainly was not acceptable at the time was characters dropping fuck-bombs, but M*A*S*H included one all the same.

But how did they get manage to get all that groundbreaking stuff in there, you ask?

Well, after the film got turned down by at least 15 directors, the studio got desperate and asked the relatively unknown TV director Robert Altman to look at the script. At the time, the studio was already dealing with three bloated, big-budget movies: Patton, Hello Dolly!, and Tora! Tora! Tora! All the executives seemed to be extremely busy with green-lighting any expensive movie with extreme punctuation they could find (exclamation marks ain’t free, ya know?), and Altman saw his chance to make the kind of fucked-up film he wanted to make.

Altman realized that if he stayed off the very busy movie executives’ radar, he could do whatever he pleased. He made sure to come in under-budget and stay off the studio lot so no eyebrows were raised, and then went hog wild. He started by basically throwing out the script and allowing actors to improvise their lines. Then he orchestrated some incredibly gory surgery scenes where blood was literally flying everywhere. Finally, he went back and edited the movie together in a completely unusual, un-linear fashion. All while making sure to include all the sex and nudity he wanted and a time where an actor improvised the word “fuck” in a piece of dialogue, just because he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to.

You don’t even want to know where this hand thing ends up.

The studio executives then sat down to watch the completed version of a movie they all but forgot about, and were understandably shocked. Monocles shattered in champagne glasses and top hats shot into the stratosphere. Outraged, they gave pages upon pages of notes and demanded multiple re-edits and re-shoots. But the filmmakers dug their heels in the ground and demanded that the studio first show a test audience the uncut film.

The studio eventually agreed when they realized the filmmakers wouldn’t budge. The screening was such a huge success that the paranoid studio executives thought Altman might have planted people in the audience to give a fake reaction. Realizing they had a crowd-pleaser on their hands, the studio executives allowed the film to be released unaltered, with all the fucks and titties the movie was meant to have.

M*A*S*H went on to win multiple awards and make the studio boatloads of money. Not to mention, paving the way for subsequent movies to include even more swearing, gore, and nudity. So next time you see one of those titty swear blood movies kids these days love, send Robert Altman a thank-you tweet for being a crafty motherfucker.

Notes on Notes… the webshow?

My Notes on Notes series of articles–believe it or not–were originally inspired by webshows centered around video games and media like Extra Credits and Errant Signal. Given the fantastic video game criticism and analysis that can be found online (not to mention unbelievably insightful film and TV criticism from the likes of Devin Faraci, Film Crit Hulk, and many others), I found myself frustrated I couldn’t find anything about music that engaged me and entertained me like these online sources did.

So I figured I’d have to do that bullshit where you are the change you see in the world or whatever, and I began writing. But in the back of my mind, I always hoped Notes on Notes could utilize the visual and audio elements that writing was lacking and become some kind of web video thing like the shows that inspired it.

Since I’m incredibly old now and only getting older, I figured now is as good of a time as any. So I wrote a theme song and I’m working on a script for the first ever Notes on Notes video thing. Now all I have to do is learn how to edit film. So yeah, some day this might be a thing.

Notes on Notes: “Leitmotifs” and Improving Music in Video Games

I’ve talked about it many times before, but the way music uses sounds, notes, and pitches is no different than the way films, video games, or any other visual medium use imagery and color. Just like how we assign meaning to certain colors and images, we also assign emotions and meanings to certain sounds. For example, on a cultural level, red represents passion or violence, and a minor chord represents sadness. We have an implicit cultural understanding of certain sounds, and when they are all put together, they can form a certain feeling, progression, or narrative that ends up creating a satisfying listening experience.

Basically, whether anyone is aware of it or not, we all speak a musical language, where sentences, words, and alphabets exist as musical phrases, chords, and notes. I guess I’m mixing metaphors here. Let’s just say that instead of doing bad writing, what I’m trying to do is demonstrate that all forms of expression–from music to imagery to language–are not as different as we might think. It’s mostly just lousy writing though.

But it is also possible for composers and musicians to create their own musical languages in individual works. Richard Wagner was a composer that understood the idea of a musical language, and used it to his advantage when writing operas. He was one of the first people to popularize the idea of “leitmotif.” Basically, a leitmotif is a short musical phrase that is associated with a person, place, thing, or idea. Like, let’s say he had a leitmotif that represented a main character, then he had a leitmotif that represented…. uhh let’s say stabbing. If there was a scene where a guy got stabbed,  he could put the two phrases together to better represent the emotion of the scene (is stabbing an emotion?). He used these leitmotifs to create operas that used musical phrases to drive the narrative and emotion of the opera forward, allowing him to create some of the genre’s most acclaimed works.

This idea has carried over to film scoring. Take for instance the iconic John Williams Star Wars theme music, which is often called “Luke’s Theme.” “Luke’s Theme,”(or parts of it, at least) is actually used throughout the film at many different points to underscore Luke’s emotional state. If he’s doing something heroic, then suddenly we hear the theme in familiar Star Wars fanfare. But when Luke is scared or uneasy? The theme is softer, and more subdued to reflect the tone of the scene and Luke’s emotions.

So, what does this have to do with video games? Well, an issue I’ve experienced with many modern titles (especially in more open-world, sandbox kinds of games or games that go for a cinematic feel) is that they often lack musical cues that can heighten the emotion and satisfaction of gameplay. Scripted sequences and cut-scenes often have cinematic scores that punctuate the moods of the scene to great effect. But when it comes to user-dictated gameplay, the only thing a player hears is ambient noise or possibly an extremely subdued score. The music very rarely reacts to the player’s actions, which leads to a less satisfying experience.

Game composers and designers could work together to create leitmotifs that are triggered at key moments, by key characters, or by picking up certain objects. Pick up a powerful new weapon? The game reacts with an empowering leitmotif layered into the soundtrack. Losing health? A suspenseful leitmotif could occur. By layering different themes on top of one another, a dynamic soundtrack could be done in a subtle but effective way. Suddenly, the soundtrack becomes just as interactive and reactive as the game itself. And more importantly: the music of the game underscores the emotions of the player.

I’m no game designer, mostly just a game appreciator, but given my very basic understanding of game programming, this could be implemented pretty easily. I mean, games already use certain checkpoints to cue music, so I don’t see why that concept couldn’t be expanded and used in other ways. Plus, it’s been done plenty of times before.

There are examples of where this idea has already been put to use to great effect. For example, the “Yoshi Theme” in Super Mario World that layers on top of the main theme of the level only heightens the “hell yeah, I just got Yoshi” feeling a player gets. Or the sudden leitmotif that plays when a character is spotted (and the getaway theme) in the Metal Gear Solid series is effective enough to trigger a Pavlovian response in gamers even when it is completely divorced from the gameplay experience.

Or I’m sure others could think of a million more examples. I know in Banjo-Kazooie, when you are higher up in certain areas, the level’s music becomes lighter and airier with wind sounds overlayed. Or when you are submerged underwater, the music sounds much more midrange-y, just like sounds do when you are actually submerged underwater. Not quite the same, but along the same lines.

It all shows what is possible in terms of giving video games more immersion and atmosphere through the use of dynamic and constantly changing music. More importantly, it gives the player’s actions more weight and consequence, something all games can benefit from. It’s just a shame that the examples I outlined earlier are all only specific instances, and there aren’t more games that allow player actions to dictate the musical score on a larger scale.

While plenty of examples exist, there still is endless potential for this idea to be discussed and developed, and for video game music to become a much more integral part of games as they grow as a storytelling medium. However, in order for this to happen, collaboration needs to occur between composers and game developers the way it does between visual designers and game developers. Meaning, the first step to making video game music better is to work on our communication regarding the extensive musical language we all implicitly understand, yet struggle to discuss.

But games are still a growing medium, and if people care enough, there’s still plenty of time to make music in games better.

Check out my tribute to the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy

In anticipation of The World’s End, the final final film in the “Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,” I made this song. For anyone not in the know, this is a series of films that have been made by writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg, and actor Nick Frost. Maybe you’ve heard of Shaun of the Dead?? Hmm?? What about Hot Fuzz? Anyway, I don’t have all day to sit around and explain this concept to you so just go ahead and click on the song if you wanna hear it! OK I can explain if you really want. It’s a series of 3 movies set in modern day England that all share certain themes as well as the British ice cream treat: the Cornetto. Thanks and goooood bye

Perfect Dark’s Farsight and secret, practical game design

The other day I decided to fire up the ole Nintendo 64 and try out that nostalgia thing I’ve heard so much about from the internet. I decided to play one of my old favorites: Rareware’s Perfect Dark, and I noticed a design choice that had been overlooked by myself–even after countless hours of gameplay–and seemingly by the internet as a whole.

For anyone that has played Perfect Dark, the “Farsight XR-20” gun is probably one of the first elements of the game that they remember when reminiscing. The Farsight is a piece of alien technology that allows the player to aim through walls and shoot enemies anywhere in the level for a one-hit kill. In single-player, it’s a powerful gun that’s a lot of fun to mess with. With a little practice in aiming, you can pick anyone off in the level from a safe point.

But in multi-player, it seems like it’s cheap as hell. It’s no fun to get immediately killed by some jerk on the other side of the map you can’t even see. I’m sure in many circles of friends, the Farsight was banned from multiplayer matches. But Rare may have accounted for this potential imbalance.

When aiming with the Farsight, the walls and floors suddenly change into these futuristic, psychedelic colors. It not only fits with the idea of the gun being alien technology that can see through walls, BUT–more importantly–it makes it very obvious when someone is aiming with the Farsight. Even the most scrupulous players who refuse to screen-look can’t ignore the bright flashing colors emanating from their opponent’s screen. With the knowledge that someone is trying to pick people off with the Farsight the other players have the chance to wiggle around and try and outrun their friend’s slow-moving cross-hairs. Thanks to this clever, out-of-the-box kind of idea, the split-screen element of the game can be key to a player’s survival.

It’s still up for debate whether or not the Farsight is overpowered, but this subtle, semi-4th-wall-breaking choice by Rare allows an extremely powerful single-player gun to transform into a manageable multi-player weapon without any actual changes to the gun itself. The balancing happens outside of the screen and in the player’s hands, which is pretty impressive.

I’d try and put some overarching theme here about game design and the importance of lateral thinking or something, but really, let’s be honest, I doubt many game design issues could be solved as simply and creatively as this one was. But if you make games or do anything creative at all, don’t let it stop you from trying next time you run into a problem! Give your crazy idea shot anyway. You never know what might end up working. In the meantime, let’s all remember things from the past. Back when things were simpler and we were carefree. Hey, what about Palm Pilots? Or Pogs? Sega Genesis. The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Sorry, I’m still getting used to this nostalgia thing. I’ll keep at it. Thanks for reading goodbye.

Check me out telling jokes to people

HEY!!! Oops sorry didn’t mean to scare you online there, haha. Just wanted to get your attention and ask you to check out a new video on the web of me telling some terrible jokes on the stage. I think it went mostly well I guess. I had some fun and everyone shared a laugh and a touching moment where we all pictured a guy laying his jorts over a puddle and that’s something you can’t put a price on in my mind. So yeah give it a click if you are so inclickined. That’s not even a joke. Who cares. It’s my blog. Goodnight buddy.

I made more songs about podcasts

I’m at it again!!! What a rascal I am. I’m always up to some funny trick and today is no different.

It’s a pretty long story, but here I go anyway. I’m a big fan of the Reality Show Show podcast, and they often have call-in shows. So one time I called in and they happened to be discussing the hit ABC diving show Splash, and how odd it was that each contestant had their own funk intro theme song. So I asked them if they wanted their own funk intro and they said yes, so here we are.  Even more music about podcasts.

Oh but wait there’s even more music!! What am I NUTS?? Sometimes I think I might be haha just kidding. Anyway Comedy Bang! Bang! the TV show was doing a twitter contest where they were asking people to post their Comedy Fantasy. WELL I put my making-songs-about-podcasts skills to the test and made a quick little Instagram video about my comedy-related dream. It’s a little music number about a musical about podcasts so hey that is a very specific thing and they say specificity is an important thing in comedy so there you go. OK I guess I’ll stop typing now. Take a look. Thanks. I don’t know how to embed the video so just take a look by clicking if you please

A submission to a Comedy Bang Bang contest about ultimate comedy fantasies

A post shared by Andy K (@kneisage) on

Some thoughts on Hellboy 3

With Pacific Rim coming out in a matter of days, director Guillermo del Toro and his long-time collaborator buddy Ron Perlman have been making the press rounds. Naturally, the question of Hellboy 3 has come up. The good news is they both want to do it, and the timing may be right as far as studios handing over the budget needed, especially if Pacific Rim ends up being the satisfying, successful blockbuster this summer desperately needs. Sorry, looking at you Man of Steel.

People aren’t just clamoring for Hellboy because they enjoyed the first two and they want more of the same. The Hellboy story still needs to be finished. Well, technically the story of Hellboy could go on endlessly, as it has roots in adventure serials, detective novels, and of course, comic books. All of which are more episodic in nature (more on this shit later). I’d gladly pay to see Ron Perlman and Doug Jones be supernatural buddy cops and fight new and interesting foes until the end of time, but Del Toro clearly has an ending for the series in mind. Each movie so far has foreshadowed a very clear finale for the movie: they have mentioned that Hellboy’s true destiny is to destroy the earth. A final movie in the trilogy could not only provide closure to the series, but it could give del Toro a chance to perfect the amazing mish-mash of genres that is Hellboy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Hellboy films. Hellboy 2 has so much imagination, heart, and humor packed into it it’s astounding. But I was watching some Hellboy special features where Guillermo del Toro was explaining what first drew him to the character in the first place, and something he said stuck out to me. He said, “It’s like if an X-file was investigation X-files.”

Which got me thinking about an aspect of Hellboy we have yet to see. We haven’t gotten a great sense of him just doing his job–day-in and day-out. There are plenty of ways to show this, but it might be helpful to take a cue from classic detective and adventure movies. Like I said before, Hellboy at its core is just a great adventure/detective story. Think about the gold standard for all adventure movies: Indiana Jones. The opening of each film (except maybe Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I think?) has Indy on a mission searching for an item that is unrelated to the film’s main plot. The golden idol in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in Temple of Doom the ashes of an emperor, and in The Last Crusade young Indy is trying to retrieve the cross of Coronado. Sure, each opening segment introduces important characters and themes, but the point is, the unrelated openings show that Indy does this shit all the time, and he’s good as fuck at it.  A detective/private eye movie does the same thing. Take one of the gold standards of that genre: Chinatown. The film starts with the main character, Jake, investigating a run-of-the-mill case. We see how he handles himself, how he conducts his work, and that he is clearly too skilled and overqualified for such a simple job. By the time the film’s main conflict is introduced, the audience is completely on board, and shares in Jake’s curiosity about a high-profile new case.

Starting a film like with the character already in the middle of a job is the equivalent of watching an episode in the middle of a season of the X-files, or reading a random issue of Hellboy. The story stands on its own, but we have an innate understanding that these characters are taking care of business regularly. That these characters and this world is rich with backstory and history. But films work differently. They must work as their own, full experience. Which is why a character as iconic as Indiana Jones still needs to have establishing moments 2 movies deep into his franchise. It strengthens the character, which in turn strengthens the plot.

That’s one thing I think that the Hellboy films have been without. The main conflict is introduced, and Hellboy must struggle against powerful foes to stop a bad thing from happening. Each monster he fights is an obstacle in his path blocking him from accomplishing this main goal. Now, in most films this wouldn’t be a problem, and unrelated plots would only distract from the movie’s main source of conflict. But to see Hellboy struggle to overcome impossible odds has less meaning because we as an audience don’t know what this Hellboy is capable of. Even if we are familiar with the comics or have seen the previous films. Hellboy 3 would be a great chance to see Hellboy and Abe Sapien show off their monster hunting skills to their fullest and really succeed at a task. The audience will understand how they handle things and do their job. Then, when the shit seriously hits the fan and Hellboy and his crew begin to falter, we’ll understand just how powerful this new enemy is.

At the heart of it, this may be just a case of “show, don’t tell.” We are told throughout the movie that Hellboy and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense are always dealing with some kind of crazy monster, and Hellboy reacts to these terrifying creatures with a “eh, just another day at the office” kind of attitude, but we never really get a full sense of how things function before the film’s main conflict comes along and screws everything up. Hellboy’s job, and his attitude towards it could be developed through us seeing him tackle multiple cases throughout the film.

I think del Toro nailed one of the main reasons the whole concept of Hellboy is so fascinating with the “an X-file investigating X-files” line. The only problem is, each movie has only been one file. Hellboy 3 could be an opportunity to get a more in-depth look at what Hellboy’s job entails, and what his strengths and limits are by seeing him handle two or more cases in succession.

But the bottom line is, Guillermo del Toro clearly knows what he’s doing so I’m not really worried about Hellboy 3 and the future of the series. I’d just like to see more of Hellboy and Abe and the rest of his buds at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense being fleshed out as much as possible, and this may be a way to do it effectively.