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July 12, 2018

Kingdom Hearts III NEEDS A Goofy Movie World (Part 3)

Would it be too untoward of me to use the meme of the month…okay, last month…ish…to summarize the mission of this series of posts as well as artificially generate hype through an easily-repeatable phrase?  Yes, inevitably.  On the other hand, it’s still pretty funny.  So let’s go once more.

Kingdom Hearts III.

A Goofy Movie.


If you’re just now joining us, here’s a quick rundown (and courtesy links to the earlier parts).  Kingdom Hearts has endured for almost 20 years now (feel old yet?), and its third official console release is going to close the book on an overarching story arc.  I hope.  With the tech and budget behind it, we can only assume that KHIII is going to break the walls down on multiple fronts -- ideally the right walls, but we’ll see.  As it stands, I.e. given loads of potential thanks to so many unknown variables, this really could be the one that lays the complaints to rest.  More on that in a bit.

What’s more important right now is that I summarize where we are in the “plot”.  After an unwelcome crash landing in Spoonerville (part of the overarching world of “Open Road”), Sora and crew get entangled in a plot that involves getting Max to the impending Powerline concert -- and parallel to it, the Organization’s latest scheme.  With that world’s Goofy MIA, the KH Goofy steps into the role of Max’s dad, and takes the gang on a road trip to Lake Destiny -- all the while acting uncharacteristically adamant.  Despite the growing rift between Sora and Goofy, the pseudo-dad can’t keep Max from nearly biting it at the hands of Saix, or offering the emotional support the teen Goof needs.  Though the battle is won, a heartbroken Goofy relinquishes control to that world’s version of Pete -- even though the Organization’s plot is rushing toward a climax through a mass distribution of Powerline tickets.

Like I said last time, I’ve formatted this what-if scenario to accommodate for the KHII format -- in other words, the likelihood that the full release will double-dip (if only to get the most out of the assets).  So this is picking up where I left off narrative-wise; the big issue is when and how it’d link to the rest of the “game”, knowing full well that a major character arc was put on hold for who knows how long.

It’s probably not something worth dwelling on for a scenario like this -- under normal circumstances, at least.  But there’s a crucial issue with KH that’s getting harder and harder for me to reconcile.  Like I said, it’s a franchise that’s been going for almost 20 years now, with the games, compilations, side materials, and merch to show for it.  Fair enough.  Here’s the problem, though: over the course of all those years, how much progression has there been on a character-by-character basis?  As in, if I asked you to chart out a character’s arc, could you really do it?  Could you do it with anyone?  For anyone?

The short answer to that is yes.  The slightly-longer answer is yes, but.  You could probably do it with Riku; having finished 3D semi-recently, it’s not impossible for me or anybody to go over his arc over the course of the franchise -- over his corruption via his zeal and ambition, his entanglement with the darkness, and the slow-yet-certain rehabilitation from it half-steeped in his quest for redemption.  Forgiveness, even -- from himself for himself, ostensibly.  You could probably do it with Sora, too, particularly if you’re going on a game-by-game basis.

But the fact that I have to say “probably” with the main character of the franchise says some pretty damning things, eh?  I mean, who else have you got after that?  Roxas, I’d say.  He goes through negative character development (twice, given II and Days), wherein he ends up in a worse place, and a worse person, thanks to the suffering he goes through -- which is good in a sense, but it doesn’t change the fact that he exists almost exclusively to suffer and almost exclusively to give the audience someone to feel bad for.  At that point, he’s less of a character and more of a concept.  A sketch.

But hell, I’ll take him over everyone else.  Kairi’s out, which is a given since she spent 90% of the first game in a coma.  Aqua comes out of BBS mostly intact (and to be fair 0.2 does wonders for her, but I’ll get to that), but BBS doesn’t do anyone any favors, including her.  The incidental nature of the Disney characters (if not the lawsuit-happy overlords in Disney Castle) make it so that Aladdin, Jack Skellington, and the rest can’t move too far out of line in terms of portrayal.  And the villains?  The Organization?  I don’t want to remind anyone that half of them aren’t even properly named aloud in KHII, and they’re killed with just as much fanfare.  It certainly doesn’t help that the motivations and overarching goals of the villains seems to change from game to game…and the villains themselves change like the world’s dumbest game of musical chairs.

I’ve said something along these lines before, so forgive me for repeating myself.  But it needs to be said plainly: what KH needs most, and desperately, is something concrete and consistent to anchor it.  Something to pivot around.  Ideally you’d do that with characters, plots, and themes, but the volatile nature of the franchise (and the Nomura crew’s “writing”) has made that a crap shoot.  It’s all built on a nebulous miasma of abstract concepts, like light and darkness and hearts, and whatever themes it does focus on (like friendship) are used so insipidly -- and poorly as per the later games -- that they end up being anti-themes.

What am I getting at here?  It’s simple.  I’m not just writing this scenario to cram in a cult classic.  I’m doing it because KH would be infinitely stronger if it just answered a few basic, storytelling 101 questions  And this is an example of one -- one I’ll try to answer with this post.

Who the hell is Goofy?

Goofy has been there since the beginning.  We’ve gotten glimpses of his character in the time since his KH debut, and we can make statements about his personality as a result -- easygoing, plucky, loyal, etc.  Is that enough?  Well, yes and no.  I won’t act like there haven’t been instances where Goofy got to shine, but in hindsight it feels as if KH as a whole has done the bare minimum with multiple characters to get by and push toward the next inane plot point.  

I know Goofy, but I don’t know Goofy.  By now there should have been a greater effort to represent him in the context of KH, but to be fair that’s pretty hard when he hasn’t been a proper party member for over a damn decade.  Like, we’re talking about a character famous for being a lovable, clumsy oaf, but pound for pound hasn’t gotten nearly as many chances as he needs to be a lovable, clumsy oaf.  The alternative is to flesh him out as a character, which is ideal if you’re not going to give him pratfalls every other scene.

And this is where A Goofy Movie comes in.  It may seem like a fool’s errand to flesh out a character whose name was very nearly Dippy Dog.  But you know what did it before?  A Goofy Movie.  And dozens of other Disney movies have done it with dozens of other Disney characters.  Hundreds of other movies have done it for dozens of other characters.  If Marvel Studios can make a gun-toting raccoon into a deep, sympathetic character, Squeenix can exert a little bit of effort to make a member of the core trio into more than a background voice that occasionally wanders into a scene.

So here’s where things get crazy.  I was going to save this for deeper in the post, but I’m changing tactics and revealing it right now.  The reason why Goofy’s so hell-bent on taking OR Max to Lake Destiny isn’t just because he’s doing it as a favor to the currently-captured OR Goofy.  It’s because Da Goof himself is seeking redemption the only way he knows how.

As it turns out, in the KH “canon”, Goofy’s son Max is already dead.

Ever wondered why a doofus like Goofy ever became a knight?  It wasn’t just out of a sense of duty to his friend (and eventual king) Mickey.  It was because in one instance years ago, he got to see firsthand what it meant to encounter the heartless.  He wasn’t able to protect his son Max, so the poor boy lost his heart in the ensuing struggle.  After that?  Despite being overwhelmed by the tragedy and left alone in the world, Goofy decided to become a knight -- a master of the shield and guardian arts -- so that he would never fail to protect someone again.

It’s not the most original or complex backstory, but it’s something for a character who effectively has none.  Besides, what’s more important is how that backstory informs the character’s present and future actions.  And by extension, how it impacts the characters around him -- Sora well among them.  He doesn’t know about KH Max, or anything about Goofy besides “is a talking dog”, so he doesn’t think too heavily on why Goofy’s acting oddly, let alone how to fix it.  The only confidant around for light-years is Donald, and he swore to Goofy that he’d never spill the beans on his dead son.

So the plot picks up right where it left off.  Max rides with Pete and PJ to get to the Powerline concert, unfazed by the fact that seemingly everyone else is en route to the same concert with seemingly-legit tickets.  Sora, Donald, and Goofy follow a safe distance behind in the old hatchback, if only as a formality (and to pretend like the road trip is still going as planned).  It turns out following behind was a good plan; Heartless attack while they’re on the open road, forcing a conflict in heavy traffic and atop rushing cars.

Things seem to be going well, but the fight turns south when Demyx pops in from a dark portal.  Instead of going through his “dance, water, dance” routine, he busts out a new sitar and gives it a whirl, with a fat lady Heartless backing him up.  The end result?  Countless ticket-holders lose their free will and mindlessly attack the good guys -- Max included, who rejoins the party -- alongside the hordes of dark denizens nipping at the heroes’ heels.

Sora breaks off from the rest of the group to chase down Demyx, and nearly rams the Keyblade straight down his throat -- only for Saix to pop in and intervene at the last second.  Demyx being Demyx, he reveals the plan: he’s going to use Powerline’s concert and his new sitar as a conduit to enact mind control on a massive scale, and thus harvest the power of their hearts…and also become a superstar with a legion of adoring fans.  Mostly the second one, if he’s being honest.  Saix admits that while he finds the prospect of such a powerful concert intriguing, he also has a plan in action.

The blue-haired brawler reveals that he has Open Road’s version of Goofy in captivity, with no hope of ever escaping the darkness without his permission.  If the gang wants to give Max his dad back -- his REAL dad, as he’s just now discovering -- they have no choice but to follow him to Lake Destiny.  The problem is that if they take up his offer, there won’t be enough time for them to reach the Powerline concert and stop Demyx…meaning that Pete, PJ, Bobby, Roxanne, and all the rest are doomed.  Basically, someone’s been taking lessons from Willem Dafoe.

Saix leaves.  Demyx is already gone.  That leaves Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Max to make a critical decision with time running out.  Sora chooses to fulfill his promise to Max (albeit with great difficulty), especially since doing so will put him in position to save more people.  Goofy is still obsessed with getting to Lake Destiny, because it means more than just inserting a father back into Max’s life; it means making sure his not-son is on the right path.  Donald doesn’t know what to do, outside of kicking whatever ass stumbles in reach.  Max is even more indecisive -- and it reaches a point where he risks having a complete nervous breakdown.  Goofy thinks their only option is to head to the lake, to the point where he tries to physically drag Max along.  Max decides he is having none of that.  He smacks Goofy’s hand away and tells him -- a stranger, an impostor, a freak -- to stay away.

Goofy’s so taken aback that he ends up stumbling over the railing of the road and tumbling into the canyon depths below -- not one of his standard, comedic pratfalls, but a dive he purposefully took to escape that awkward situation.  Naturally, the remaining members decide to chase after him, clobbering Heartless along the way while the clock continues to wind down.  Eventually they reunite with Goofy, who’s standing on a mesa in the middle of some rushing rapids and right in front of a waterfall -- safe, thankfully (if inevitably), but no less dedicated than before.  Max has to go to Lake Destiny, he asserts once more.

Sora calls him right the hell out.  As dumb as the kid can get, even he knows the score; travelling to some lake in the boonies isn’t going to cure Max of what ails him.  Sora argues that he needs to be able to find his own way -- to follow his heart -- and make his own decisions without having to get an adult’s permission.  In the midst, the chosen one realizes he’s being a huge hypocrite by stringing Max along on a different journey, especially if it means sacrificing his actual dad.  But before he can dwell on it for very long, Goofy makes a decision of his own.

Donald catches wind of Goofy’s plan beforehand, and asks him if he’s sure.  Goofy confirms it, then proceeds to tell Sora the truth -- about his past, about his dead son, about his failure.  Open Road gives him a chance to redeem himself, and set right what once went wrong.  Yes, he knows that his actions won’t bring back his version of Max.  But at the very least, he can do what he thinks is right -- mold Max into the son, and the man, he always wanted.  The man he always thought he could be.  It’s never said outright, but Goofy implies heavily that if need be, he’ll step in and become the Goofy of Open Road…and leave the OR version to his fate, if need be.

Sora’s ready to call him out again, but decides against it.  He knows the score.  With such a grave tone and determined look, he knows there’s no way around it.  No way to reconcile their differences.  There’s only one way to solve this problem, and they both know what it is.  With only a few more words passed between them, they agree to end it the only way they know how.

That’s right.  In this scenario, Kingdom Hearts III would have a one-on-one rival battle.  Not with a Heartless.  Not with a Nobody.  Not with an Organization member.  Not even against Xehanort(s).  You fight against Goofy.


No wait.  I can do you one better.

Now, I’m not saying that Goofy would fight exactly like Vergil, buuuuuuuuut that’s a topic for another day.  So I’ll see you then…given that I’m an easy mark for rival battles, and now I’m motivated.

You were still an asshole in Marvel 3 though, Vergil.  Just make life easy for me and my Phoenix Wright, and stop doing things.

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