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Archive for the ‘comic book’ Category

batman-v-superman-trinity

Sorry about the clickbait-y title, guys; I couldn’t resist

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theatres this weekend, and love it or hate it, seems like everybody’s talking about it. Whether it’s Vox’s piece on Nineteen Things That Don’t Make Sense coming down on the Hate It side, or articles about the film’s impressive box office returns being used as evidence for Team Love It, everyone has an opinion.

And here’s the shocking bit. Are you ready?

Love it or hate it, that’s your opinion.

I have friends who adored it, who will probably go see it fifteen more times. I have friends who deplore it, who have written at length on why they think it is so terrible. I also have friends who haven’t seen it yet, or don’t plan to see it at all, who are indifferent, or who were genuinely unaware that this movie was happening. (Me, I don’t have an opinion; I haven’t seen it, and likely won’t until it hits Netflix.) But the thing is, whether you think it is the best thing since individually wrapped cheese slices (let’s face it, those things are amazing), or a big steaming pile of terribleness–

That’s okay.

It’s your opinion.

You can like what you like, or hate what you hate.

Think on the old Latin saying: De gustibus non est disputandum. Roughly, “Guys, we shouldn’t argue about matters of taste.”

It’s not just that you can like what you like, or hate what you hate: my opinion of a work of art (which BvS arguably is) in no way diminishes or counteracts your opinion, even if we disagree.

When it comes to matters of taste, we shouldn’t fight. Certainly I’m the last person who can throw stones; one of my favorite movies of all time features two hours of giant robots punching giant monsters, and I’ll happily argue its excellence to you if you have the time and patience for it, but if that’s not your cuppa, that’s cool too.

Opinions aren’t objective, no matter how pleasing to our egos it might be to pretend that we ourselves are the Final Arbiters of All Aesthetic Goodness (or whatever your yardstick is). Now, whether or not the thing you like is objectively good or terrible is a separate question, and one people smarter than me have been tackling for many and many a year, and outside the purview of this little blog post–but even if it is terrible (as many folk said about Pacific Rim, and are saying about BvS), it’s still okay to like it. Something in it feeds your soul, or fires your heart, or sparks your imagination. It’s downright cruel to try to take that away from a person.

So, guys, let’s not fight about matters of taste.

(Although, if you think Pacific Rim is terrible, you’re just wrong, and that’s a fact! 😄 )

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No, I haven’t seen it.

But I was reading a review, and it got me to thinking: the problem with all these “gritty” or “realistic” or what-have-you superhero movie adaptations is that they try to soft-shoe around the original material. “Look,” the filmmakers seem to be saying, “yeah, we know it’s based on a comic book (shudder), but it can still be A Serious Movie.” And they downplay all the elements that actually make the comic book awesome.

Take Doctor Doom.

Sideshow Collectibles' Dr Doom figure--look how cool this guy is!

Sideshow Collectibles’ Dr Doom statue–look how cool this guy is!

This guy is awesome, right? He’s a super genius ruler of his own small European country, a dictator, a scientist, he talks about himself in the third person, he does not at all care what you think for HE IS DOOM.

Awesome.

So why the heck would you downplay or straight-up remove all of that from your movie? You think maybe a European genius dictator named VICTOR VON DOOM is too goofy, audiences won’t buy it? Then why the heck are you making a movie with someone named Victor Von Doom in the first place? No, the only way to make a movie, a good movie, with a supervillain named Doctor Doom, is to thoroughly own it.

Own your premise. Don’t be ashamed. People who think comic book material is too goofy or low-brow or campy or cheesy or whatever are not going to go see Fantastic Four anyway, I promise. But you have to own it.

This is a thing in fantasy and sf publishing, too, this feeling that elves or lasers or time travel or whatever are inherently less serious than, I don’t know, whatever real life things people prefer to elves or lasers or time travel, so we have to downplay those elements, or say “but it’s really a metaphor for cancer!” or something. Why you would prefer real life to elves et al is a question I am not equipped to answer, but some people are embarrassed by fantastic (hehe) elements in their fiction.

But you can’t do that. If you’re telling a story about elves, or spaceships, or zombies, or a the ancient, bitter rivalry between the dragon kingdom and the unicorns (I would read that novel), you have got to own your premise, own it to the hilt. Don’t be embarrassed; shout it from the rooftops! Say, YES! MY MOVIE IS ABOUT GIANT ROBOTS PUNCHING MONSTERS IN THE FACE! And if you do that, with passion and verve, you may not have told a serious story (although you can sneak the serious stuff in there, I promise, Pacific Rim forever), the “realism” crowd isn’t going to love it (they weren’t going to anyway, it’s okay), but you will have made something AWESOME.

SO SAYS DOOM

SO SAYS DOOM

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SPOILER WARNING!  Lots and lots of spoilers.

WARNING: Lots and lots of spoilers.

So, Age of Ultron having made approximately a squillionty dollars this weekend, it’s fair to say people want to see it.  It’s got a lot of good stuff for the Marvel fan, loads of action, artsy camera angles, and wow the first half was a whole lot darker than I had anticipated, even knowing it’s a killer-AI story.  (Fortunately they front-loaded all the really dark stuff, leaving the second half free to be mainly about punching, shooting, smashing, and lightning-ing evil robots.)  The following is not a review, just a bunch of reaction thoughts.

Clint, you and Wanda are the sexy ones; show us your backsides.

Clint, you and Wanda are the sexy ones; show us your backsides.

Yes, Tony’s prima nocte joke was gross. But was it in character? Keep in mind that Tony until very recently was a womanizing cad, and old habits die hard. Plus he strikes me as the kind of guy who willingly sacrifices good taste for the funny, and if you’ve been drinking steadily all night with your buds, your standards for funny are going to be low. (Plus–not to wax all philosophical, but are we to outlaw all crassness and all … for lack of a better word … unattractive flaws in our flawed characters? Tony’s on a dark path, and it’s interesting that some commenters are willing to forgive a little bit of creating-a-killer-AI-that-almost-wipes-out-humanity but not a tasteless quip.)

Thor had more good character moments than in the previous team outing. The first time the team assembled (see what I did there?), it seemed like Whedon sympathized more than a little with Loki’s view of his adopted brother, and Thor’s only moments of humor were inadvertent. This time the future king of Asgard has a lot of lines that showcase the sly humor we haven’t seen from him since his first solo film. (Also a little bit of Hemsworth’s no doubt contractually obligated chiseled torso.)

I deeply appreciated that the team’s efforts during the final climactic battle were evenly split between Defeat Evil Robot Menace and Get Civilians to Safety. Especially after all the discussion about Man of Steel and its flagrant disregard for collateral damage, it was cool to see the issue explicitly addressed. Also, I don’t know about you guys, but when Hawkeye went back for the little kid, I was gripping the arms of my theatre chair thinking DON’T DIE CLINT/DON’T YOU DARE WHEDON.*

Of course, Whedon dared. That man has a pathological need to kill off characters. Is that somewhere in the DSM? I had been all ready, going in to the movie, to gripe about the MCU version of Quicksilver (I enjoyed the DoFP version, but I didn’t think Singer and his crew got Pietro right)–but I kind of fell in love with him, despite the dark roots and the weird sweater. He and Wanda made a great team, and their backstory is both poignant and horrifying on its own terms, and another marker on the road to Tony Stark: Evil Dictator.

But is Pietro really dead? I’m thinking of Barry Allen, aka The Flash, who not only runs amazingly fast but heals amazingly fast. Does Whedon’s recent griping about Marvel’s Hand of God returning other dead characters to life mean good things for fans of the silver-haired speedster? Fingers crossed, true believers!

So many hearts

So many hearts

Aaaaand … hands down my favorite part of the movie, the character I was most looking forward to seeing on the big screen, Paul Bettany’s absolutely note perfect VISION. I am in danger of falling into fangirl squeeing just thinking about him. The movie condensed a whole lot of rather complicated comics history into a nice compact little story, there, and Thor’s charging in and powering him up while everyone else bickered was just so take-charge-y and perfectly Thor, and then the business with the hammer! I am swooning, and little hearts are coming out of my eyes.

Might have some more coherent review-ish thoughts once I’ve slept/seen the movie again. I know bits of it frustrated me, and in parts I was actively bored, and I also know that I’m glad this is Mr Whedon’s last Marvel movie. Whether or not Age of Ultron succeeds as a story, or an action movie, it sure was full of robot-punching action, and it provides plenty of food for thought.

Ex-shell-sior!


*I know “Joss” is already a verb, as in, “Oh man, my pet fan theory totally got jossed by the new episodes,” but can “Whedon” but the new verb for gratuitously killing off characters? “You totally whedoned my favorite character, you unprintable swear!”

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Not a review!

Also there are probably spoilers ahead.

So, Man of Steel.  So desaturated!  I felt like I was watching an early episode of Supernatural.  Which I guess is appropriate, since both are about Kansans saving the world.

Do you miss the red underpants?  I don't, because I'm too busy gazing at those cheekbones.

Do you miss the red underpants? I don’t, because I’m too busy gazing at those cheekbones.

Actually, the film did pretty well by us Kansans, although I’m not sure why Smallville had a 7-Eleven, a Sears, and an IHOP.  One of those I would believe (probably the Sears), but not all three.  But the Kent farm looked beautiful and perfect, and Kevin Costner, while a lot more ambiguous than you’d expect from Pa Kent, did a fine job.  And they worked in a tornado and never once used the word “twister.”  Well done, writers.

I appreciated especially the line: “I grew up in Kansas, General.  That’s about as American as it gets.”

The artsy way in which the flashbacks were shot and edited had the effect, I thought, of distancing the viewer from Clark.  Now, Superman must be the hardest character in the world to write, because none of the screenwriters who have ever tackled him, have ever succeeded in making him seem human, sympathetic, or relatable.  He is a distant figure, opaque and unknowable.  This I believe is the greatest weakness of Man of Steel and any other Superman film.  (I don’t read the comics, so I don’t know how he comes across there.)

Nice seeing some old friends from geekland, though: Harry Lennix and Tahmoh Penikett from Dollhouse (yes, I know Penikett was in BSG too), along with Alessandro Juliani also from Battlestar, not to mention the ever-wonderful Laurence Fishburne, and Richard Schiff, whom I recognized from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  Good times.

Amazing that a film with so much chaos and destruction could have felt slow and over-long.  I think, again, that the alienating way in which it was shot contributed to the problem.  We never feel invested in the characters.  At least not the main character.  (See above.  Though, as the mother of a son, seeing him interact with his mom gave me all the feels.)  One can’t help but compare it with last summer’s Avengers, which was much brighter both in color and in tone, also levelled much of New York City, and yet had a care for the random unnamed civilian population in a way Man of Steel didn’t.  Oh, except for that one family.  Who knows how many people died in those buildings Clark and Zod were smashing up, but letting that little family die was somehow over the line?  Filmmakers, I do not understand your brains.

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