Friday miscellany

April 8, 2016

I had a bunch of things I was going to blog about, and wouldn’t you know it, I can’t remember them now. . .  Well, I’ll come up with something!

Next month, May 6-8, I’m the author guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival in Vancouver.  It promises to be an excellent time full of writing and art and fun!

The April issue of Lightspeed Magazine is available to purchase and has a new story by me:  “Origin Story.”  Yes, it’s a superhero story — actually it’s a supervillain story.  And yes, it takes place in Commerce City.  It’s the backstory of a character in the third Golden Age book.  The story goes live next week, but if you want to read it early, here’s your chance.

So, how about that Rogue One trailer?  I’ve only seen it twice because, I confess, it reduced me to messy tears the first time, and the second wasn’t much better. Why am I having such an emotional to reaction to it?  Well, I think it’s because it feels exactly like the year-long Star Wars RPG campaign I was part of back in college.  We were a band of secret agents and rogues running missions for the Alliance, and it was fun and serious and gritty and everything Star Wars should be, and way back in 1993 thought we would never get in movie form ever again.  And here we are with what looks like pretty much exactly the movie that would have happened if they’d pulled it straight out of my twenty-year old brain.

It’s a little overwhelming, when pop culture caters to one’s id so directly.  Whew.


The short review:  That totally didn’t suck as much as everyone said it did!

Let me explain.  By the time I got around to seeing this, I was actually eager to find out what had raised so much vitriol among so many people.  I avoided all reviews and spoilers — but really, the headlines were enough.  What was this unholy trainwreck people were describing?  Let’s find out!

To put this in perspective:  Batman v. Superman is a better superhero movie than Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, Green Lantern, Daredevil, all the Fantastic Four movies, the Shumacher Batman movies, and that Captain America movie from the early 90’s that was so terrible it was never released.

In the end, my only real criteria for the movie was “It’d better not screw up Wonder Woman.”  And — it did not!  Wonder Woman was great!  I’m so happy that my prediction from a couple of years ago was totally wrong.

The breakdown, with SPOILERS!

The Good

  • Wonder Woman.  Just great.  During the big beatdown, she’s lost her sword, her shield, she’s losing, and she gets this wicked little grin on her face before diving back into the battle.  Yeah, that’ll do.
  • Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne.  I’ve been an Affleck fangirl for years, and he didn’t disappoint.
  • Jeremy Irons as techie Alfred.
  • All the superhero meetings.  i.e. First time Superman confronts Batman, first time Bruce sees Diana.  Delightful.
  • The post-apocalyptic dream sequence that turns into another dream sequence that was possibly the John Stewart Green Lantern from the future spouting stuff and then Bruce wakes up?  Goofy as hell but I loved it.
  • Seeing Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman together on the big screen.  Been waiting for this my whole life.
  • I actually cried a little at the end.
  • If someone told you you had to gracefully set up an MCU-style continuity for the Justice League and you had exactly one movie to do it in — this would actually be a pretty good way to do it.  Cyborg!  Aquaman!  Dear Reader, I squeed.

The Bad

  • It’s too long, with too much stuff that just isn’t important.  Like blowing up the Capitol, which never really got mentioned again.  Wut?
  • It’s too preachy, and suffers from the same ponderous self-importance as Man of Steel.  It needs fewer scenes of Clark looking worriedly at the TV while talking heads discuss whether Superman is a good guy or not.  If you cut out all the dialog of people discussing Superman’s moral standing in the world, the underlying themes would still be there and it would be a shorter, more interesting movie.
  • I think Clark/Superman wore exactly the same mildly worried expression through the entire movie.  What are you so worried about, Clark?  Did you leave the stove on?  Is that it?
  • At least a couple of plot threads could be removed entirely and not really affect the story.  Then maybe we’d have more time for that whole Clark and Lois in a relationship thing?  Because I guess they are?  Wut?
  • Cut the stupid prologue already, how many times do I have to say it.
  • While we got the Holy Trinity of superheroes beating down on a baddie, it was muddy and hard to follow, and I wish it hadn’t been.
  • The actual Batman and Superman smackdown wasn’t fun and wasn’t interesting.  I imagine the dudebros were all supposed to be like “Yeah awesome woohoooo!”  But I just thought it was sad.  It also didn’t need to happen, and only happened because of dumb plotting.  More about that in a sec.

The Ugly

  • Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, played as Heath Ledger’s Joker.  Who apparently is doing all this because he’s just crazy or something.  Painfully dumb.  Just no.

More Commentary, Because this is Me

So I rewrote the start of that Batman Superman fight, which didn’t need to happen, because A) I don’t believe this Lex is smart enough to outwit both Bruce and Clark, and B) stupidest dialog imaginable.   “Wait!” Superman yells and marches into Batman’s face, because that’s totally what you do to an armored psychopath, right?  No.  Here’s what should have actually happened:

Superman (keeping his distance):  “I need your help!”

Batman (confused):  “What?”

Superman:  “Lex Luthor has played us both, manipulated this whole thing to get rid of us, he kidnapped my mother to force me to fight you–”

Batman:  “You have a mother?”

Superman (blinking):  “Yes.  I grew up in Kansas for goodness sakes.  So will you help me get Luthor?  Please?”

Batman:  “Right.  Let’s go.”

Which gives us a movie called Batman v. Superman in which they don’t actually fight, which I think is beautiful and hilarious.  And doesn’t have an entire part of the plot hinge on Bruce’s and Clark’s mothers both having the same name, which I also thought was kinda dumb.

So, let’s talk about Superman, and violence, and heroism, and all that.  This whole question about whether Superman is too powerful to be a hero, is he a god, he could totally use his powers to take over the world, etc. etc. — this isn’t a new theme for Superman.  It’s been constant story fodder since the introduction of “gritty realism” to superheroes in the 80’s.  I’ll never forget the episode of the animated Justice League, where there’s an alternate Earth where Superman really does take over, and we see Arkham Asylum, and all the familiar villains have been lobotomized, and we realize the two little pinprick scars on their foreheads are the same distance apart as Superman’s laser vision — holy crap, y’all.  That was a kick in the teeth.  The “Superman is a god on alternate Earth” storyline is a staple.  I read it most recently in the graphic novel Red Son (which I was disappointed with, but I won’t get into that here).

This movie is obviously interested in those questions, but not in any depth.  It just keeps asking the questions over and over, offering no answers or conclusions apart from:  well, Superman must be a hero because he’s dead, right?  Whatever, we’re all thinking.

I was careful to judge this as its own thing, and not compare it to some external measure of what I want a Superman movie to be.  I think that’s where so much ire about this movie is coming from — there’s a powerful external measure of what Superman should be, and this movie is something else.  Like the episode of Justice League with the laser-eye lobotomies.  The difference being that was purposefully set up as an alternate world, and this movie is meant to be canon.  Which is disappointing, right?  Well, I still got my superhero Holy Trinity on the big screen teaming up against a big bad, and that made me very happy.  I walked out of the movie satisfied.

To paraphrase the line from Alan Moore — Superman isn’t ruined.  This movie hasn’t destroyed anything.  The character is still there.  The Christopher Reeve Superman is still there, the comics are still there, and at any rate the whole shebang will get rebooted again in another ten years anyway.

Seriously, Zach Snyder isn’t good enough to ruin Superman.



March 21, 2016

Okay, this was kind of adorable.

In the first place, it did that same thing that Ratatouille did, where the main character announces a great big dream that not only goes against his family’s wishes but also seems to work against his basic nature.  I’m a sucker for that kind of story. (I should probably go see Eddie the Eagle, yeah?)  Judy Hopps wants to be a cop.  But there has never been a rabbit cop.  But she has a dream, dammit, and she works really hard, and everyone’s against her, and. . .  sorry, got something in my eye there.

As for the rest, the way I put it:  it’s just as heavy handed as it needed to be, which is to say that this is also a movie about bigotry and racial profiling, and there’s really no subtle way to handle those topics.  But I think it did okay.  We all had a good time.

Whatever else I could say about the film, the scenes with Mr. Big were worth the price of admission.


some movie reviews

March 14, 2016

I’m falling behind on movie watching and I can’t say I even really care.  I’m on spoiler lockdown for Captain America: Civil War.  Not going to watch any more trailers and I don’t want to know anything else until it comes out.  That’s not until May, and I think I may even be out of town that weekend.  Can’t even figure it out right now.

But I do have my long review of Deadpool up at Lightspeed.  I don’t think I linked to it yet so there you go.

I’ll have a review of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny out next month.  Yes, it’s a sequel to the 2000 Chinese martial arts movie, released on Netflix only.  It’s a strange new world of distribution, and I’m getting closer and closer to cancelling cable and picking up a few online subscriptions instead.  TV ala carte.  I can hardly remember the days when we had to read the TV schedule and wait for things to come on and make sure we were in the right place and the right time to see them.  Remember when you watched a movie with the realization that you might never get a chance to see that movie ever again?  Me neither.

What I did watch this weekend:  The Sting was on TCM.  This is one of my favorite, favorite movies.  The classic grifter movie, with so much style and charisma and Newman and Redford and oh my gosh the music.  Scott Joplin would be virtually unknown today if not for the score to this movie.  The thing I learned this time:  the actor playing Luther is Robert Earl Jones.  James Earl Jones’ father.  I did not know that.  Thank you, internet search!


Friday stuff

March 5, 2016

The March 2016 issue of Lightspeed is now available to buy — this has my long review of Deadpool.  And I do mean long.  This thing where I get a couple of thousand words to talk about movies and culture and context and everything is pretty sweet.

I didn’t watch the Oscars this year.  It’s gotten hard for me to watch when they cut off the speeches of people for whom this may be their only time on stage at a venue like this and they’re clearly nervous and trying to say a lot that’s really important to them.  But the A-listers all seem to get as much time as they need.  It makes me anxious.

That said, I did watch my Facebook feed fill up with people smack-talking Mad Max: Fury Road for winning as much as it did.  I’ve watched the movie a couple more times since it was in theaters and I stand by everything I said about how brilliant and beautiful it is.  Every frame is well-planned, well thought out, and artistically framed.  The sound — Max’s point of view is expressed in the sound, if you’re paying attention.  And the message is surprisingly hopeful and uplifting, given the setting.  Because of the setting.

Seriously, a genre movie taking home more Oscars than any other film?  I’m going to celebrate that.  And it couldn’t happen to a nicer movie.

And over on the TV side of things with The Flash, my friends and I are collecting Jay Garrick conspiracy theories.  Love that actor, and I hope it all gets crazier before it gets cleared up.  My second favorite show after Agent Carter.

Oh, and I’ve finally delved into Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  And yes, it’s just as lovely as everyone said it was.  Those clothes.  That music.  Hmmmm…

And now it is the weekend.  Have a lovely time, everyone!


Deadpool and Zoolander 2

February 15, 2016

These two make for a strangely compelling double feature.  Especially if you’re between the ages of about 38-50 and have an undying penchant for 30-year old pop culture references.

I’m reviewing Deadpool for Lightspeed next month, so I’ll save the bulk of my thoughts (and I do have them) for there.  But I’ll say this much:  it’s exactly what it says on the tin.  Which given that the fans were worried they wouldn’t get what was on the tin — that is to say a raunchy, catty, chatty, fourth-wall-breaking, iconoclastic badass — is doing pretty well.  I liked it.

Zoolander 2.  I saw this because I love Zoolander, which is one of those movies I have to watch whenever it happens to be on and my friends and I all regard with awe and affection.  The sequel doesn’t disappoint at all.  SO FUNNY.  The cameos are off the rails.

Basically, the Zoolander movies are alternate reality science fiction superhero movies.  Of course I love them.


when movies become rituals

February 12, 2016

I’ve been noodling around with this idea for awhile.  Especially two months after The Force Awakens, and watching how the fanfic, the memes, the theories, and the love show no sign of slowing down.  Especially after grappling with my own difficulties in figuring out how to approach reviewing the movie.  How can I possibly separate my love of the world and judge the movie simply as a movie?  And now, there’s an amazing fever pitch surrounding the release of Deadpool.  All the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of the last couple of years have had this immense hype and love around them, and as I mentioned in my review of Ant-Man, I’ve pretty much given up approaching these movies with any kind of objective detachment.  Moreover, the movies don’t actually care about being considered as movies.  They don’t really stand alone.  They’re chock full of inside jokes and easter eggs.  They have a laser focus on their audience, and in giving that audience what it wants:  a really good time in the worlds that they love.

Star Wars, the MCU, Harry Potter, maybe a couple of others but those are the ones that stand out for me:  these aren’t really movies anymore.  They’re communities.  The movies have become the periodic rituals that these communities celebrate.

There are lots of media fandoms and fannish communities.  The phenomenon’s been going on since at least the first Star Trek conventions in the early 70’s.  And in most cases the communities persist even if no more movies or episodes are forthcoming. (Captain Power is 25+ years gone but there’s still a small group of us who can’t stop talking about it.)

But this is something else.  Something different.  Something spawned and fueled by the internet, huge and pervasive.  These franchises seem to have reached a tipping point where these aren’t just movies that we’re excited to see.  They’re events.  The anticipation is part of the experience.  We’re not just looking for entertainment, we’re looking for new information to add to what we know, to fuel more fan theories and musings that will go on long after the film is out of theaters.  It helps that so far these movies have generally been good by most standards.  But I’d argue:  they don’t stand alone, really.  They wouldn’t exist without the fervent devotion of these tremendous communities.

And it’s a feedback loop:  the communities support the movies; the movies fuel the communities.  That loop generates power.

There’s more thinking to be done with this idea, but for me it’s helping provide a framework for why my critical approaches to Star Wars and the MCU have been changing, becoming different than my approach to other movies.  I love these worlds and characters, I consider myself part of the communities that are bound by them, and that changes my thinking about them.

Must ponder some more.



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