Today’s rant comes in the form of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, the bad and the ugly are the same thing.
Sorry for the radio silence, but I’ve been spending rather a lot of time with an alien, and eventually got infected with a disease a friend deemed, “gargle lung.” Symptoms include fever, congestion, and attempting to expel slime from the system with such force you’re afraid the lungs will end up expelled as well. This is, as you imagine, gross. But my fault really for hanging around an alien. So while I finally feel human enough to post, I don’t have the energy to get into too much detail. Enjoy the randomness.
For those Who Came in Late
I watched a lot of cartoons as a child. Like, a LOT. In general, there were two blocks – Saturday Morning Cartoons, and weekday afternoon cartoons. At some point in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Warner Brothers and Disney ended up facing off for those afternoon ratings. Disney had reinvigorated the animation department for movies (see The Little Mermaid) and decided to take that new attitude to television with likes of Ducktales, Gummi Bears, and Darkwing Duck. Disney also decided to reboot/reinterpret some of its older properties for the small screen and created Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers and Tailspin.
At the same time WB did the same thing and used the success of Batman to bring DC superheroes to television. WB also tried to reinvigorate the old Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies properties (which may be the reason Space Jam exists). The first effort was almost a literal sequel in the form of Tiny Toon Adventures. This was a fine program in its own right featuring the next generation of Looney Toons being instructed by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. But following the success of “Tiny Toons” was the spiritual sequel, Animaniacs. This show was by the same creative team, but featured original characters not directly linked to any existing ones. Animaniacs was much more of a homage to old sketch comedy shows and often the segments had no link except cameos to show these characters did exist in the same world. It was amazing, but all good things have to come to an end. That is, until Netflix acquired the rights…
No spoilers, at least no worse than anything you’ve already seen in the trailers.
1) This should have been titled “Avengers 2.5: Civil War.”
2) Tony Stark really, really needs to seek professional psychological help for his issues.
3) Ant-man gets no respect.
4) The answer to Black Widow’s question to Tony Stark is, “No, no he can’t.”
5) The villain problem is circumvented by pretty much eliminating the need for a villain in the first place.
6) While an admirable effort to fit in, the Vision really should not try to wear normal clothes. It just looks weird.
7) The ordinary citizens of the MCU are really ungrateful.
8) Marvel Studios gets Spider-man.
9) The credit teaser in Ant-man is actually a scene lifted from this movie.
10) If you are an ex-secret agent, for goodness sake don’t take any of the incriminating documentation with you when you retire/defect. Especially if you defect.
I liked the movie quite a lot. It’s pretty good and one of the best of the MCU movies especially for having to feature so many characters. For those who don’t want to watch all the movies, the only necessary precursor is really Captain America: Winter Soldier. This movie helpfully provides a recap of the Avengers‘ past adventures (which leads into point number 7 above). Also, just know that pretty much everything that’s happened is Tony Stark’s fault. Heck, I may turn that into its own musing.
Captain America: Civil War – Early reviews are that the movie is very good. I’m still doubtful, but I know which reviewers share my taste so that helps allay my fears. Also, a local theater is hosting an event for the movie and my friends were interested, so I in fact have a ticket to see this in the upcoming weeks (not opening weekend; I’m not insane). Hopefully I won’t be disappointed.
Dr. Strange Love (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Aplomb) – I saw the first trailer and I’m excited. The A-list cast, the top-quality special effects (a movie like this requires advanced visual effects), and an origin story that appears to follow the comics, well, it’s as much as I could have hoped for (although I still want to hear Benedict Cumberbatch yell, with conviction, “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggath!” [which is going to sound weird because this most British of British actors in the world will have an American accent]). There is some controversy about the casting of the Ancient One, but, well, my thought is that the Ancient One was recast for the same reason as the Mandarin was…
But besides the movie, I’m interested in how this narratively fits into the rest of the MCU. Thus far, the other MCU movies have all but disowned the concept of magic. Most of the Avengers get their powers from technology or science except Thor, and in his case the Asgardians are portrayed as having technologically sufficiently advanced enough to appear to be magic (hell, the dark elves were just another alien race). Only Loki has been shown to use magic and none of the movies have really gone into whether he truly uses magic. This would be a good place to introduce the Soul Stone though.
WB/DC – And far from the cohesive and well-regarded MCU, there’s the sad excuse for a cinematic DC universe. I really don’t pay too much attention to the individual pieces of a film-making team unless said team screws up something royal. And the film-making team behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been giving out multiple interviews explaining the critics are wrong and the box office numbers are wrong. But out of all this, I only want to remark on one point – Zack Snyder and “fun” (also, spoilers).
"This word you keep using. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride.
Some sharp-eyed and dedicated fans remained to read the credits and realized that an entirely forgettable CIA agent who gets gunned down before he’s even given a name was in fact Jimmy Olsen. When asked why he chose to kill off Superman’s long-running sidekick (who had more than a few solo comics) and fan favorite in such an ignominious fashion, his response was, “…We don’t have room for Jimmy Olsen in our big pantheon of characters, but we can have fun with him, right?” … Um, what? And as to why there’s a Robin costume on display in the Batcave, “In my mind, it was that Robin had died 10 years earlier, during some run-in with the Joker. So there was a fun backstory there to play with.” … Um, what? Okay, maybe that last one was sarcasm, or maybe both were sarcasm. But another WB executive said the movie was “just fun.”
"Obviously this is some strange usage of the word 'safe' I wasn't previously aware of." - Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
And this is from the studio that gave the world Looney Tunes, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Animaniacs. The inherent contradiction here just boggles the mind.
Ghostbusters – And speaking of poor reviews, this movie isn’t even out. I admit, I don’t pay a lot of attention to trailers, especially when I’m not interested in the movie in the first place, but I’m baffled at the response to this. I’m talking about the trailer for the 2016 all-female reboot. When I watched the trailer, it had over 600,000 dislikes. I admit, having the distaff-Peter get thrown up on in the opening seconds didn’t endear me to the movie, but it doesn’t look as bad as all that and certainly not earning three times as many dislikes as likes. It’s probably going to be mediocre and frankly what did anyone expect of a reboot of a classic comedy like that? What’s with all the hate?
Danger Mouse – And speaking of reboots, I know why this old, low-budget, British cartoon series suddenly showed up on Netflix. I was delighted when I saw it show up because of course I like dry British humor (with more than a dash of insanity). So it seems Netflix decided to reboot the show because why not, I guess? There are some noticeable changes. The world is no longer the human world but an anthropomorphic animal one and the evil Baron Greenback is no longer a parody of an American Mafia godfather but German (although Stiletto is still uncomfortably close to an Italian stereotype). Danger Mouse is also less suave and more silly. Still, it’s pretty good, all things considered. The reboot keeps the theme song and the voices of Danger Mouse and Penfold are really, really close to the originals. The meta-humor is increased a bit too. But as much as I enjoy it, I still ask myself, why does this exist? The original show had 10 seasons, which is crazy long for a kids’ show. It had a good run. There’s plenty to binge on already.
Well, it is what it is, and at least it’s something I’ll probably watch, which is more than I can say for other reboots.
DC Rebirth – Hey, DC’s rebooting their universe again, to the surprise of no one. All I’m going to say about this inevitably short-lived new status quo is that I am liking the previews of Black Canary’s new costume. Yeah, yeah, she’s still got the same Naughty Biker Chick Halloween costume, but it actually has a bird on the jacket! In yellow and black, even! Wow!
Marvel Legendary –
a) I got a chance to play with the Secret Wars 2 expansion and I realized that Marvel is attempting to push the current canon of the comics, hard, with this game. I suppose that comes as no surprise to anyone but me. New characters include Ruby Summers (the other-dimensional daughter of Cyclops and Emma Frost), Soulsword Colossus, Phoenix-Cyclops, and Beast, who is associated with neither the X-men nor the Avengers but instead the Illuminati. The ’92 X-men are included as villains.
Now, the game has included hero groups that are played as villains. These include the Thor Corps and the Ultimate Avengers (universe 1610). Once defeated, these villains become playable heroes. What makes it particularly interesting to me about the ’92 X-men is that there are several of them already in the game as straight heroes – Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, and Gambit. I remarked on this choice before and used it as evidence that the ’92 X-men were the target amalgam of many Marvel fans.
However, this particular choice, and the cards obviously inspired by recent comic events, seems to me to state clearly that the ’92 X-men, while certainly popular and important, are not the relevant heroes any longer. Of course, they can’t take back the characters that are already in the game. And it may be petty of me, but when I purchase Secret Wars 2 myself, I’m going to remove Ruby Summers, Soulsword Colossus, and Phoenix-Cyclops from the deck. I’m also going to reassign Beast to the X-men and the Avengers. Marvel’s “creative teams” aren’t the only ones who can re-write a universe through a game.
Or maybe I just need to get out more.
b) Another new card is “Time-travelling Jean Grey” who appears to be based on the version from the “First Class” set of X-men comics (which is in no way related to the movie). While I’m all for more female characters, there is one card of hers that I really don’t see the point of. I feel like a condition was left off of it. There’s a card that if the bridge space is empty it allows the player to draw an extra card next turn. This bridge card costs four recruit and there are no other effects. Why would a player want to effectively reduce the current hand to five in order to increase the next hand to seven? I feel like that card should have at least a value of one for fight or recruit.
Gloom – Since I’m on a game kick (I am such a geek), I was introduced to this game recently as well. The morbid premise is to make your unhappy family suffer horribly before you kill them off and then count up points. There are modifier cards that make the characters unhappy that stack on top of each other, literally. There are also modifier cards that make the characters happy, which are usually played on opponents’ characters. The really fun part to me is the storytelling aspect. Players are encouraged to explain why such miseries (like “Pursued by Poodles”) have befallen the hapless characters. I didn’t win either game, but I did learn not to keep the dog in my family.
And that’s all folks. I am exhausted beyond all expectations these days and sadly the reasons for it are in no way as interesting as being pursued by poodles.
I often wonder how certain decisions in my beloved comic book medium come about. As a writer, I often ponder other stories and the thoughts behind them. I’m interested in that creative process, which is of course complicated when more than one person is involved. But because I am not a third-person omniscient narrator, I can only speculate as to how certain stories came to be…