Thursday, December 29, 2016

This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel.

Rogue One thoughts...


I’ve seen Rogue One twice now (once in 2D and the second time in IMAX 3D). It’s a very good, if unconventional, Star Wars movie. There’s no title scroll, it’s more dark in tone and everyone dies in the end but the story is fairly good overall.
    I like Jyn Erso very much. Felicity Jones brings both sympathy and hope to the character (I think it’s her big sad eyes that help sell the character. When I gaze into them I just want to kiss her on the head and give her a puppy!)
    I do think the character could’ve had a bit more personality in the present time. First, she’s a sweet little girl then a grown woman who’s quiet, full of abandonment issues and...that’s about it. The trailers had her with an attitude–she’s defiant ("I rebel") and a bit of criminal. More of a female Han Solo type but, for whatever reason, that didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie and I find that unfortunate. She’s not a terrible character by any means but she could’ve used a bit more color in some fashion to help distinguish her better. (Conversely, at least we get some kind of back story for her–unlike Rey, who is still a mystery after the end of her first film).
    I also think that maybe there was a bit more back story between Jyn and Saw. It would’ve helped flesh out her character a little more. Also, Saw’s “what will you become” speech must have been somewhere in there so it make sense we may be lacking a flashback somewhere early on in the final cut. His character is just barely in this film, after all is said and done.
    Also, where does Bodhi’s use of “Rogue. Rogue One” come from? Did Jyn or someone originally say something about being a rogue? There’s no set-up for it in the final film. It seems like there should be.
    Why does all the promotional material call Jyn “Sergeant” when she never seems to get any kind of rank given to her in the movie? Again, could we be missing something that established that originally? Or was in creative license on someone's part?
    The scene where Jyn and Cassian are scouting out Jedha City from a distance is also either from early in the shoot--or much later on. Jyn looks slightly different here and it's obvious the scene was not filmed at the same time as most of the other stuff was.
    I loved the inclusion of Chopper (from Rebels) in the background in one scene on Yavin IV. We even hear his distinctive chirping amidst the noise in the background as Mon Mothma and Bail Organa are speaking. Also, the inclusion of the Ghost in the background in one shot as well as the Hammerhead cruiser’s role in saving the day.
    My biggest disappointment in this movie is how everyone dies. Not that I can’t stand a dark ending but Jyn’s whole life is a shit sandwich. After finally believing in something and pursuing it she ends up essentially being further penalized for it. It’s sad! Also, I feel like everyone dying was the most predictable route to go–everyone expected the characters would all die–and they do! I would’ve preferred they zigged instead of zagged and at least had tried to have Jyn and Cassian survive.
    The callbacks to the older films are great but I think throwing Doctor Evizan and Ponda Babba in there might’ve been a bit much. They really don't matter at the end of the day and this almost makes them seem more important then they actually are. I also don't think we really needed to see Leia's cgi face either. A shot of her from behind was sufficient to establish her presence.
    Also, if the Tantive IV goes into hyperspace at the end of the film, how does Vader’s Star Destroyer ever find it before A New Hope begins? We know from Empire that once ships get into hyperspace they’re safe from pursuit. So... how's that supposed to work?
    One thing I’ve noticed about both The Force Awakens and Rogue One is that they pay a lot of tribute to what has gone before. That’s fine and all, but eventually Lucasfilm/Disney is going to need to break away from homaging the material and strike out in a new direction. Nostalgia can only sustain a concept for so long... we need new reasons to care or it eventually becomes redundant. A Han Solo film or Boba Fett film or whatever is fine short term but come up with new ideas already!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Playing Favorites...

Just for the heck of it I thought I'd list my favorite comic book movies of all time (hey, everyone else does it! :) The films here are the best of the best, in my opinion, regardless of if they're superhero flicks or something else in the genre.

Here they are now, in no particular order...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

The original live action interpretation of the popular indie comic. This film borrowed heavily from the early comics to great success. It was my introduction to the TMNT and I've had a fondness for the concept ever since. The subsequent efforts missed the mark and even the more recent Michael Bay produced films just aren't as special.

Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980)

I consider Superman: The Movie to be the granddaddy of them all. Sure, there were a few superhero movies before that but this was the first to go big budget in its era and transcend the genre. Superman showed us studios could take men in capes seriously from a budgetary and storytelling perspective.  Superman 2 was half done by Richard Donner as well before he was fired by the film's producers and replaced with Richard Lester. Regardless, his efforts shine through in the sequel as well.

Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Technically, Transformers was a toy line first but the comic dates back to 1984, well before the first big screen effort. Transformers: The Movie is what got me seriously into Transformers. It raised the stakes for the characters, killing several off and introducing new ones. The animation was top notch in its day and the music was both great and fun.

Spiderman 2 (2004)

Sam Raimi's Spiderman film was very good. It was an excellent proof of concept but ended without Mary Jane discovering Peter's secret and their love going unfulfilled. Spiderman 2 changed all of that while introducing us to Alfred Molina's excellent Otto Octavius. All of Raimi's Spiderman films are simultaneously realistic and fantastic. Spiderman 2 is the best of the series and hits all the right marks.

Captain America (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

What impressed me about Captain America was how they got the character totally right. Chris Evans nailed the portrayal of the character and the story was very good. Haley Atwell was both gorgeous and capable as Agent Carter, a great counterpoint to the idealistic boy from the Bronx who just wanted to make a difference.

The first film worked great as a period piece but could the sequel match it? Fortunately, yes. The Winter Soldier is an action movie and a spy film at the same time. A juxtaposition of Steve Roger's classic American morals versus the modern cynicism that has seemingly permeated our society. Cap's unwillingness to give up on his friend, despite his programmed killer tendencies, is touching and powerful. The film also expands upon the Black Widow in meaningful ways, proving she's a complex character and not just another pretty face.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

People loved the first Iron Man film. The second? Not so much... the third film, written and directed by Shane Black, proved polarizing. Many loved it however some did not (mostly because of the whole Mandarin plotline). I've seen it a few times now and the writing is excellent. Tony Stark has to deal with post traumatic stress, without his armor and out on his own while dealing with an incredible new enemy. This film, while relying on technological enemies, avoided the cliche of the second film's need to have more Iron Man-like villains. In Killian we also get an intriguing antagonist. He's out to cause chaos but we wonder if things could've gone another way if Tony had helped him initially (contrast this with IM2's largely forgettable foe). Tony is still whip-smart and fun despite his predicament and the story is interesting.

X2: X-Men United (2003)

Pretty much every X-Men movie is "Wolverine and friends" but this film got very close to the best of the X-titles Marvel has done (while still spotlighting Logan). The film is involving and we get to see Magneto (sort-of) on the good guys side. Magneto is a complex grey character and I appreciated this nod to that aspect of him. He's a man who thinks he's doing what's best for his people as opposed to a cartoony super villain (sadly, X3 got this really wrong, among other problems).

X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)

This film was Bryan Singer's triumphant return to the X-series. And it works very well...again, spotlighting Wolverine but it works well in the context of the story. Both generations of actors come together to tell a past-future tale with the fate of mutant and humankind alike in the balance. Despite Wolverine's presence this is more a tale of Charles, Magneto and Raven with Mystique coming to terms with her own conflicted loyalties. And Quicksilver was awesome too! (Sadly, Apocalypse just wasn't as good by comparison).

The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012)

Batman Begins started this trilogy and is a solid film, introducing a Batman set in a much more realistic world. Bruce Wayne needs justice from the world and goes to extraordinary lengths to attain it. The second movie introduced us to Heath Ledger's amazing Joker and the third film wrapped up the storyline with Bane and Catwoman. All three films are long and packed with story. A lesser filmmaker might have not been able to make it work but Christopher Nolan does an amazing job of each film. The movies are dark in tone but each have an aura of hope. In the end, Gotham can be saved and Bruce Wayne will find his peace and his vindication.

The Rocketeer (1991)

This movie came out at a time when cgi was barely even in its infancy but they managed to pull off some amazing special effects. It's also set during the 1930s and is an entertaining period piece. In many ways, it's old fashioned in its approach (compared to today's films) but it's well done with a good story and characters.

Batman (1989)

It's a film of its era, but the Tim Burton film is an interesting and entertaining pulp superhero film. My only real complaint is that Batman is more of a killer then he should be. Despite this, it works very well overall. Nicholson's Joker is unique, scary and entertaining all at the same time. I also love both Danny Elfman's instrumental score (one of the best superhero ones. Period) and also Prince's music. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

It's a movie about a lot of characters I'm not that familiar with and despite it all works better then it should. The comedy really sells this film. We like the characters and their journey as they slowly become a team. Also, some of the visuals are amazing (like the bazaar world they go to inside the dead Celestial's head). Also, 99% of the film is not about Earth, which is a welcome change.

The Crow (1994)

When it was released, this film got a lot of press due to Brandon Lee's tragic death during the filming. This was the first time I'd ever heard of the Director, Alex Proyas. This is a simple revenge story with a supernatural twist. But Proyas' vision of this dark, ethereal world is fascinating and really sells the story. It's a fairy tale and a horror story, combined with an action movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010)

My initial reaction to this movie was that it was unlike anything I'd ever seen. Watching it again several times, I can see the clear video game influences here. This movie is full of great characterization and some truly entertaining fights. It's a unique entity in its own right and deserves to be seen!

Friday, December 25, 2015

May The Force Be With You!



    It’s December 2015 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out. As of this writing, I’ve seen it twice. I know, I said I wasn’t all that excited about it and that was true--initially, at least. But something happened a few months back and I allowed myself to get caught up in all the hype. I collected a lot of action figures, a couple of posters, some Christmas ornaments, followed the Marvel comic (which is pretty good, incidentally), the soundtrack and even got some of the collectible cups (this time from Subway).
    I figured, why not? Let’s give it 110% one final time. I do still hold by my stance that I’m not going to go all-out and support every single SW release every single year. I’m not made of money, for one thing, and I just don’t have the energy to do this all the time. In taking SW full-swing, Disney has canceled out the special-ness factor of getting a new film every few years and opted for the full-on money machine that Marvel has become (not that I blame them exactly, but I don’t feel the need to support it constantly either. I have to right be selective in the face of such sheer volume).
    So, you might wonder, what did I think of the whole production?

The Jedi, The Dark Side and Whatever Lies In-between...

    The story was pretty good overall. The plot and dialogue felt more natural then George Lucas’ prequel films (although that was likely a given after that bad response to them. Lucasfilm couldn’t really afford to screw this one up and I’m happy to say they didn’t). There was also a lot of humor and it didn’t feel forced.
    I was surprised and impressed Han Solo got so much screen time in this one. I’d thought the original cast members would just show up for extended cameos, much the way Leonard Nimoy’s Spock did in Abrams’ previous Star Trek film efforts. I also liked that Chewbacca got treated as a character too and not just a glorified set piece. Leia didn’t really do all that much, neither did Artoo. Luke’s presence was non-existent (I’m hoping Episode VIII will remedy this).
    The new characters, Rey, Finn and Poe are instantly likeable and seem to fit well with this universe. I’m glad Poe survived his initial “death” (apparently they had originally intended to leave him dead but changed their minds). I’m hoping we’ll get to see more of him next time around.
    Rey, it turns out, is strong in the Force and takes on Kylo Ren at the film’s climax. I instantly liked her character. She’s a bit of techno-wiz, but it felt plausible in the context of the story–she’s a scavenger and tinkerer by necessity.
    Finn was a bit of an enigma by comparison. We know he has a heart and wants to do the right thing but I was left wondering if he is also Force sensitive. How did he shrug off his Stormtrooper conditioning otherwise? For that matter, how was nearly instantly good with the TIE and Falcon’s weapons systems? He even wields a Lightsaber, how ever briefly. I really do hope this is explored in the next film... Rey could return a Jedi (or near-Jedi) and Finn could find temptation to turn to the Dark Side as he begins his own journey.
   And then we have this film’s big bad: Kylo Ren. He looks like a wannabe Darth Vader (but in a good way) and as the story moves along we learn he is the son of Han and Leia, gone evil. It intimated he may have had some Daddy issues (he tells Rey she wouldn’t have like Han if he’d been her actual father when he senses she sees him as a bit of a surrogate one). He has an arc in the film as well and he’s interesting enough that we wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of him. At the climax, I wanted to see him die but was ultimately glad he didn’t (Lucas made that mistake when he introduced Darth Maul then killed him off in the same film). He can pay for his crimes (or redeem himself) in the third part. For variety, I would like to seem him remain irredeemable and get destroyed (we don’t need an exact retread of Vader). I would also like to see more of his back story get filled-in over the next two instalments so that we might understand him better.        
    His master is Supreme Leader Snoke, a cgi villain with a flair for the dramatic. There are rumors online he might be Darth Plagueis reborn. I honestly don’t know one way or the other (Palpatine intimated he’d killed him). I do know that, so far at least, Palpatine was a more compelling antagonist. Ian McDiarmid did an amazing job of the character in his four turns at it and he is a very hard act to follow.
    John Williams is back to do the music and he mostly dispenses with the older themes in favor of all-new ones. There doesn’t seem to be quite as many memorable themes in this film but Rey gets one (and it’s good. A mixture of curiosity and yearning). The rest of the score is fast paced and fairly solid.
    I don’t have a lot negative to say about the film. My biggest complaint is the death of Han Solo and even there, I’m of two minds. Everyone loves Han and nobody wanted to see their hero die. On the other hand, it served the story well and felt meaningful (better then if he’d died getting blown up while taking out the second Death Star, as was originally planned way back when). Also, if Harrison Ford doesn’t want to keep coming back as the character ad nauseam, it made sense to give him a proper send-off rather then trying to come up with excuses for why he’s not there in future episodes. (At least his death meant something in this story–rather then being totally pointless sensationalism like Captain Kirk’s death in Generations).
    Another major complaint is yet another Super weapon. Sigh. It was bad enough the old EU did this crap all the time. Now an official film does it too. Still, I can forgive it if they don’t do again in future instalments. It really pushes credibility to say the bad guys have endless time and resources to keep building massive doomsday weapons (it's also lazy writing).
    The film also follows A New Hope’s plot points almost perfectly (which is a bit annoying) and even calls back stuff during the movie–the training sphere Luke used on the Falcon, the 3D Chess set, the Trash Compactor references, Starkiller Base and the good guys sneaking around it... And the bad guys only seem to employ one type of TIE Fighter (promotional material says it’s actually two but on film it might as well be one) while the Resistance only seems to have X-Wings (which seemed odd. But it occurs to me this is probably also a call back to the original film). I hope future parts stop pushing the nostalgia in-film so hard (I don't want to see the exact same movie over and over!)
    This film also differs from the previous movies in that it has no “wipes” (old school-y transitioning between scenes). This was a Lucas thing and it may seem dated, but that was sort of the point: a call-back to pulp space opera serials of the 40s, like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. For whatever reason, JJ Abrams chose not to use these in his film.
    Also, the opening fanfare is gone. Granted, the music belonged to 20th Century Fox (the older films distributor) but this movie needed something there. New triumphant “light” music–or even dramatic “dark” drumming. Just something to give people that one final “this is a Star Wars film! Get ready!” sentiment that all the previous films had. In its place, we have a silent “Lucasfilm Ltd.” logo and it just isn’t the same.
    I also feel like this movie lacked the...I dunno, whimsy, of the previous films. It was a bit darker in tone and it felt like there wasn’t really a spirit of “fun”. The sense of going on a grand adventure with the characters and some scenes of just pure joy. We all love Empire, of course, but even a dark film like Revenge of the Sith had its moments of goofiness. I'm not saying we need all-out Jar Jar Binks here but someone needs to remember that these are supposed to be kids films too.
    But I admit most of this is nitpicking what is generally a pretty solid film and a welcome addition to the franchise.
    For Episode VIII, I’d like to see Rey return from Luke some time later, a full-on Jedi. Finn waking up can either be her catalyst to return–or perhaps he’s already been awake and she’s back for some other reason. I’d like it if he was also Force sensitive and in his learning in this film, he is heavily tempted by the Dark Side (but ultimately overcomes it due to his good heart). I also want to see Luke do much more in this film and not get killed off (that would be overdoing it, imo). I want more of Poe and Kylo Ren, as well more explanation for just what made him turn evil and why Luke left. I would also like to learn just who Snoke is, where he came from and why he seems to be in-tune with the Dark Side. They also need to figure out what Rey and Finn’s relationship is. This film left things intentionally vague. Are they just friends or is there something romantic under it all? If so, that might be a good jumping off point for further drama...  And I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Captain Phasma too–she seemed to have hardly anything to do in this last film.
    Go see this film, if you haven’t already. If you have, go see it again! :)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Never Ending Battle...

    I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy geek since I was really little and first saw a little indie film called “Star Wars”. For me, Star Wars was always my first love. There was always sci-fi shows–Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Star Trek, The Black Hole, etc, etc. and then there was Star Wars. It was simply the gold standard in my mind. There was Star Wars and all other things.
    My first exposure to Star Wars was when I was three years old. My parents and I went to the now-defunct Zellers store at Kingsway and I got a C3P0 toy. I also remember seeing lots of promotional material for Star Wars–catalogues, collector cards that came with gum, posters, picture books, records with books, etc. I also remember going to the theater and seeing a trailer for something called The Empire Strikes Back and having my mind blown.
    I’m pretty sure I saw ESB first in the theater and later on, seeing ANH on TV. In those days, VCRs were scant. If you wanted to see a movie again, you had to wait and hope it played on TV or it got re-released in theaters (Back in the day, Star Wars and its sequels got re-released a lot). VCRs were for rich, progressive people (those first units were damn expensive. Also, my parents were cheap and backward when it came to new technological marvels–but that’s a story for another time).
    By the time Return of the Jedi came around, my memory was more developed and I can still remember what an awesome time it was (I was seven, btw). Luke had a cool new green light saber. I also remember all the colors–red guards for the Emperor; green rebel commandoes, the black and grey sterile look of the Death Star II... I recall the looong line outside Londonderry Famous Players theater as my mom and I awaited for the movie. I remember going to West Edmonton Mall and seeing it again later (I used the excuse that my sisters hadn’t seen it yet as justification. That same trip, I bought a copy of one of the issues of the ROTJ mini-series from Marvel Comics and recall seeing another kid and his father as they’d just purchased one of those cool miniature die-cast Star Wars toy sets that existed at the time. They were sitting on a bench fiddling with it as my mom and I furiously tried to find our way back to the theater and the rest of the family in the behemoth mall).
    About a year later, in 1984, Star Wars was over and I discovered something else called Star Trek. I’d always been aware of its existence, of course, but never gotten into it until then. It also blew my mind (what can I say? I was a kid! Everything’s exciting at that age). Of course, Star Wars was still the ultimate gold standard but Star Trek rocked too (and, truth be told, was better constructed overall).
    I was always a toy collector (in the kiddie sense. I’d buy them, open them, play with them, lose parts and/or have toys break or get lost). I collected everything. Star Wars, the scant few Star Trek toys I could ever find. Masters of the Universe. Go-Bots. G.I.JOE. Transformers. Etc, etc.
    This also lead me into comics. I started with scant issues of this or that and eventually went full-on collector with G.I.JOE, Transformers and myriad other comics–Avengers, X-Men, X-Factor, Captain America, Spider-Man...I sampled much of the output of the time and mostly enjoyed it.
    As you grow older, tastes change. So do writers, artists and the like on comics, TV shows, etc. You’re supposed to grow up, discover the opposite sex, get a job, move out and so on. The toys, comics, etc. are supposed to be put behind you as become an adult and become respectable.
    Of course, many of us still love this junk anyway. And that’s okay. There’s no law against it and, really, some of us have the spare time and want to keep up with it. Everyone needs a hobby right?
    Sometimes, though, I wish some of these money making franchises would just end, like chapters in everyone’s lives. Star Wars ended in 1983 with ROTJ. After that, we had the Ewoks and Droids cartoons. Then nothing for about five years....finally, Tim Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy hit stores shelves, followed by eight million books and comics of varying quality. Several new movies and TV shows and way, way more toys. As I write this, Star Wars Rebels is about to debut on TV and Episode 7 is coming out next year...
    Star Trek had a Next Generation then Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise.... TNG movies, a reboot with a new Kirk and crew and a sequel to that... also, a bazillion books and comics too.
    Everything old is new again. Battlestar Galactica came back re-imagined. Transformers and G.I.JOE never really went away... those Marvel and DC comics? Still grinding them out. Some are awesome while many are also terrible
    For me, new Star Trek just isn’t the same as the classic series. It’s still characters with the same names but they just don’t do it for me anymore. I’ve actually reached a point where I’m burned out on Star Wars. I really don’t think I care about the new trilogy... it can’t possibly match people’s expectations any more then the prequel trilogy could (it will likely be better but can anything match the memory of the first trilogy in people’s minds?)
    Marvel and DC have restarted, retconned, killed and resurrected, and everything in-between so much that none of the characters are the ones I grew up with. Fundamentally, they’re the same archetypes, of course, but the history and characters are gone. The people who worked so hard to maintain it are long gone. Retired, fired, dead... in their place are new blood who don’t always understand just what it is they have in their charge.
    So, you say, we should just end it all because one blogger is sick and tired of what’s out there. Abandon years of creativity and scorch the earth? Yes and no.
    I’m not opposed to new concepts, new characters and new stories. Back in the day, that’s what kept my personal odyssey going after all. After Star Wars, I moved onto Star Trek. Later on, Babylon 5... He-Man beget G.I.JOE which beget Transformers and so on. After Marvel/DC, I discovered Darkhorse and Image... The Avengers gave way to Watchmen and Miracleman (which is old but I actually only discovered recently).
    Sometimes, though, I wish we could truly retire some of the tried and tested things. Star Wars only exists now to make money for Disney. They even said they intend to release a new film every year! Paramount keeps churning out Star Trek movie after movie... Marvel’s going full steam on their superhero movies while DC tries to play catch-up. (There’s nothing inherently bad about Marvel’s movies, at the least, but how many super powered escapist films do we need per year before the general public gets burned out?)
    I wish these corporate money machines would risk more on new properties and concepts. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time out but it would be nice to let some stuff die–or at least rest a while (absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all) instead of constantly going back to the well for more. Of course, lately every time Disney does risk money on something we get a flop like John Carter or a project that doesn’t perform as well as expected, like Tron Legacy (okay, that was a sequel but at least it hadn’t been beaten into the ground in the intervening years).
    In the end, though, we’re powerless to stop the cycle. Only when people start voting en masse with their wallets will things truly change. Until then, each and every fan must be choosey about what they love and will accept–and what they will not. If you love a comic/book/show/movie/toy, support it if it’s good (and you want to, of course). But don’t just accept everything with a familiar brand just because... if you do, the people making it will just churn any old crap to satisfy their quota and the whole will suffer. Nobody needs that...


Friday, August 29, 2014

Women Get The Vote!

Recently, IDW Publishing did a mini-series where a female writer (Mairghread Scott) and a female artist (Sarah Stone) produced a comic about the newly created female Transformer character called Windblade.
    The story was highly hyped for the fact it was the first ever TF comic written and drawn by female artists. On a related note, the forthcoming G.I.JOE comic will be written by Karen Traviss and the story will focus on prominently on both the Baroness and Scarlett (conveniently the Joe’s new Commander). I haven’t read the Joe series yet (it’s out next month) but the spin on it also appears to be a female writer prominently spotlighting the female characters, just because, well, they’re the girls!
    I also attended the annual Transformers convention–BotCon--back in June and was surprised to hear a couple of male fans talking about how only recently women seemed to be getting into Transformers in large amounts. I found this comment odd as I’ve been aware of female TF fans since at least as far back as the early nineties.
    I have nothing against women writing or drawing comics, of course, but I am surprised that in the early twenty first century that people are still concerned by who’s writing/drawing what. I grew up in the eighties and was exposed to women comic writers at an early age. The greats like Louise Simonson, Ann Nocenti, Jo Duffy, Wendy Pini, Colleen Doran, etc. More recently, Samm Barnes, Fiona Avery, Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, etc. Women artists may be a minority compared to the men in the field but they certainly are present.
    That’s why IDW’s advertising ploy baffles me so much. A good writer is a good writer. A good artist is a good artist. Who cares what gender they are so long as they give us the goods?
    Similarly, why should a female artist constrain themselves to writing/drawing only their own gender? I understand that a woman is likely writing from her own perspective (just as a man would likewise do) but certainly it helps stretch one’s talents as a writer to try writing characters of the opposite gender. Indeed, none of us are all the characters we write (psychos, evil people, etc.) so it only makes sense to try and get in the head of something we are not and put it down on the page.
    Were IDW so worried no one would care about Windblade if they didn’t have some kind of hook to sell it? It certainly seems so... (although in my case, I still don’t really care. Female TFs go back to the second season of the cartoon in 1985...nothing new to see here. Move along).
    People constantly talk about how sexist comics are toward women–and I agree. There’s far too much pandering to adolescents with skin-tight costumes and women-as-objects rather then someone bothering to portray them as actual, honest-to-goodness characters. But it can be done. Read some of Chuck Dixon’s run on Birds of Prey, for example, or his Batgirl: Year One (which was excellent).

   Women don’t have to be damsels in distress or militant lesbian warriors. There are other options out there if the writer takes their time and the audience is open-minded enough to accept it.
    I guess what I’m saying is this: support good storytelling in comics, regardless of the writer’s gender. If a woman writes/draws it and you like her skills, great. If she doesn’t have a clue, don’t. The same as if it were a man. Ultimately, judging talent, not gender or any other factor, should be the deciding factor in supporting art.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Oh My! The Sulu Conundrum...

    Is Mr. Sulu gay? We all know the actor who played him, George Takei, came out several years ago. Since then he’s championed gay causes and been omnipresent with his “oh my” catchphrase on social media.
    But is the character of Hikaru Sulu also gay? Nothing is ever conclusively stated in-story about Sulu’s sexuality. Star Trek seems to be void of gay people in general. In part, this is a product of its time. People simply didn’t have gay characters in TV shows in the sixties (Takei related an anecdote how he tried to get Gene Roddenberry to put an openly gay character in the show but Roddenberry was reluctant to, citing that he couldn’t go that far and get away with it on network television). Why the 80s The Next Generation and subsequent spin-offs are also devoid of gay characters is less clear since things had changed a lot by then.
    Looking at the story as it played out, we notice Sulu never has a romantic interest in the story. Not ever. (The mirror universe Sulu does seem to express an attraction to Uhura but since he’s from a parallel universe it’s possible he is straight. This doesn’t really answer the question of whether or not main universe Sulu is gay though). Every other character gets a romantic interest to some degree–Scotty dates a dancer in one episode (Wolf in the Fold); Chekov has a lost love (The Way To Eden); McCoy marries an alien priestess in another (For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky); Uhura has a thing for Scotty (Star Trek 5. Admittedly, a stupid movie but...)
    The only time we get any sense of a family for Sulu is in Generations when we meet his daughter (Demora Sulu) at the helm. Even there, though, we’ve previously never heard any hint of Sulu having a family and this comes out of the blue. (Several books expound upon her back story, notably The Captain’s Daugher by Peter David. The books however are not canon).
    The truth of the matter is Hikaru Sulu was a named background character in the original show and he was kept around throughout the movie era, being given further drips of character here and there. There was never much attempt to develop his character, any more then Chekov, Scotty or Uhura got much in-depth characterization. They always had to play second fiddle to the series leads, Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The movies were worse in some respects–two hours to tell a Kirk-centric story. While fans were salivating for more of Sulu et al. we got some scraps thrown at us–Sulu gets a promotion and his own ship, etc. But there simply wasn’t the time or ability to focus much on Sulu, Chekov and Uhura.
    There’s no concrete evidence Sulu is gay. But there’s also no evidence contradicting the idea either. Sulu never seemed to marry or even express any interest in women in the filmed canonical stories. His daughter exists in Generations but her existence comes from out of nowhere. It seems likely the initial script called for Sulu himself to be at the helm but they couldn’t get Takei to sign on and decided to amend the story to include his “daughter” instead. (Ronald D. Moore co-wrote the script and has stated the film was rushed and not his best work). In my opinion, Generations is a story best forgotten–particularly the parts concerning the original crew (ironically, the story doesn’t really work without Kirk...)
    There is the one instance in The Motion Picture where Sulu is flustered when showing Ilia the controls at the Navigation console (I can’t remember if that scene is in the final cut or not. That movie’s been re-edited so damn many times it’s gotten confusing). It could be he’s excited by the thought of an alien woman who’s culture is sex based–because he’s straight and into her. Or it could be that he’s gay and simply unable to comprehend the sheer alien-ness of her cultural heritage (okay, this is a bit of a stretch on my part). But it’s possible. After all, humans are simply more private about such things and the Deltans are very much open about their sexuality.
    Perhaps Hikaru Sulu was gay all along and we just never realized it... if that’s true then Star Trek was even more revolutionary then we ever realized.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Real American Hero

    In 2013, after a year of delays to reshoot and add in 3D effects, the sequel to 2009's G.I.JOE: The Rise of Cobra was finally released. It was entitled G.I.JOE: Retaliation.
    It was originally slated for a June 2012 release but pushed back into the following spring instead. The rumor at the time was that some of the film executives had seen the finished product and decided it needed a bit of fixing and also that since 3D was such a big deal now, it could use with that addition as well. (The delay came after the initial trailers had already been put out to theaters and the toys were well into production by Hasbro, the company that owns the property. After the delay, several stores put the toys out anyway since they had the stock in-hand).
    The post production 3D conversion rumor appears to have been a fact while the re-shoot rumors may or may not be true (I’ve never actually seen anyone connected with the film confirm they really happened. All I saw was fan sites stating it like a fact). Regardless, the film was delayed by nine months.
    The film is an interesting project all on its own. Numerous articles cite the film’s director, Jon M. Chu, as stating that he wanted it to be a stand-alone film and/or soft reboot. Several fans disliked the first movie since it deviated some from the established concept, making the Joes an international force and having more James Bond like elements rather then militaristic ones.
    When watching the film, it’s clear the film is a sequel to The Rise of Cobra. Cobra Commander and Destro are prisoners of the Joes; Storm Shadow returns from the dead; Zartan is still impersonating the President... Duke is the same actor; Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow’s back history employs much of the same footage from ROC.
    And yet it clearly isn’t.
    Now, the Joes are an American Special Forces unit. Only “One man can give that order” (to kill the Joes), which is in reference to the U.S. President. Cobra Commander has an established hierarchy in place for Cobra when he returns from imprisonment (Firefly tells him, “Welcome back, Commander”, implying that he was already waiting not just hired new). Also, Zartan lead Storm Shadow down the path of servitude to Cobra when he was young (which would be odd if Cobra didn’t even exist yet).
    The film is full of contradictions. Much of the second film is thematically more in-tune with what Joe fans want to see (Cobra Commander looks right; Storm Shadow changes sides; both sides have cool futuristic tanks; Firefly has a similar costume to his 80s incarnation; Zartan’s powers work more like the ARAH comic, etc.) But in many places the story decisions imply it should be a reboot while others imply it is a sequel.
    It seems likely Chu went into the project with a clear vision to make a reboot film, ignoring the first one completely as he’d stated in earlier interviews. But then somebody, most likely Hasbro, decided to the two films had to connect for continuity (for obvious marketing reasons). Perhaps they reasoned viewers would be confused how and if the films related. Recall the two Ghost Rider movies–both star Nicholas Cage as the titular character but are intended to be separate films. Also, the Ang Lee Hulk film and Louis Letierre’s The Incredible Hulk were originally intended to be a series but the latter film was made into a reboot instead.
    I can understand their logic here and agree with the decision. To write-off the first movie is silly. No, not everyone liked it (judging by the fanboy vitriol online) but I don’t think it was that bad of a film actually (different then what was expected, yes, but not necessary bad per se). To throw away the first film makes it worthless in a sense and for the casual viewer (i.e. most people) it would be confusing. What if Paramount chose to the bundle two films together later? What if Hasbro wanted to re-use some of the first film’s toys? Also, it was only a few years in-between the two films (contrast this with Superman Returns–a film that came out nearly twenty years after Superman IV. Now there’s a film that never should’ve tried to connect with its predecessors and needed to be standalone).
    In-story, it’s hard to rationalize the contradictions. I suppose Zartan could’ve been in a position to poison Storm Shadow’s perspective and did so with the idea of using him in the future–which he did when Cobra was eventually formed. Perhaps the U.S. conceived of the idea of the Joe team and after the ROC debacle, downsized it back to a U.S.-only operation. Or perhaps there are other Joe style teams in other parts of the world? This would account for why we never got a clear explanation where most of the first movie’s cast was. Maybe the Cobra organization was fully formed before Cobra Commander went to prison and Destro was duped into believing it was all his plan all along? Maybe they needed his monetary and/or technical resources long enough to subvert them for Rex’s personal army (aka Cobra).
    In the end, I like both of the films for different reasons. Both are at least decent films about our favorite soldier heroes. Retaliation has more familiar RAH elements but I think ROC might have a slightly stronger story overall (that is, a better thought out or composed plot while Retaliation felt a bit weak in places).
    Chu is coming back for the third outing apparently. Truth be told, I’d rather have a new director come onboard and see what new take they bring to it all. Keep it different from film to film and allow those differences to add some new flavor to each story.