Pacific Rim: Beyond the Smashing

Pacific Rim met and shattered my expectations. Initially, after seeing the trailer for the first time, I remember feeling disappointed once giant robots showed up. I have a deep ambivalence to giant robots. They are the reason why I will never watch Neon Genesis Evangelion, although I have received multiple lectures on why it is one of the greatest anime ever. But I love monsters, and armored female characters with cool hair, and dramatic speeches performed by Idris Elba. The more I learned about the movie and Guillermo del Toro’s intentions while making it, the more interested I was in seeing it. Del Toro addressed basically every fear I had about the movie.

On my wariness of glorifying the military in every movie about apocalyptic situations: “I carefully avoided the car commercial aesthetics or the army recruitment video aesthetics. I avoided making a movie about an army with ranks. I avoided making any kind of message that says war is good… I am a pacifist. I have been offered movies that have huge budgets that have war at its centre and I said, ‘I don’t do that.’ What I wanted was for kids to see a movie where they don’t need to aspire to be in an army to aspire for an adventure. And I used very deliberate language that is a reference to westerns. I don’t have captains, majors, generals. I have a marshal, rangers . . . it has the language of an adventure movie.”

On my love of well-drawn female characters: “I was very careful how I built the movie. One of the other things I decided was that I wanted a female lead who has the equal force as the male leads. She’s not going to be a sex kitten, she’s not going to come out in cutoff shorts and a tank top, and it’s going to be a real earnestly drawn character.”

What I love most about these comments is that del Toro was successful in his goals. He avoided the perils of “army recruitment video aesthetics” (which, by the way, is my new favorite phrase). He featured a complex female character who, although she was unfortunately the only major female character, was also the most interesting character. Period.

There has been some undeserved criticism about the character of Mako Mori. Despite the fact that Raleigh the Typical White Guy was ostensibly the main character of the film, Mako Mori was not just the film’s emotional heart, but also the most developed character. Mako is afraid and vulnerable, but wants to pilot anyway. She faces and overcomes fear and weakness, which is the true meaning of bravery, not swaggering unthinkingly into danger.

There were times I wished that we let Mako comment on the events instead of Raleigh, and I don’t think she got equal screen time during the end’s triumphant battle. Those are legitimate issues. When thinking of the role of women in the film, it’s unfair to criticize the characterization of Mako. What the film really needed was more female characters, not a single “perfect” female character.  This is one of the many problems that arise when a movie only has one central female character: people burden her with the weight of representing a “strong female character.” As other bloggers before me have said, I don’t care if fictional women are “strong.” I want them to be interesting, well-written, and three-dimensional. Mako was all of these things.

(Now get ready for a few spoilers.)

It is very easy to read the film’s emotional conflicts as showing the negative effects of barring women from traditionally male pursuits. While the given reason why Mako isn’t allowed to pilot is that she is Pentecost’s adopted child, it is hard to believe that Pentecost would prevent his adopted son, especially when he has quantifiable talent, from piloting. It is never explicitly addressed, but there is only one other female Jaeger pilot, and the candidates for the job as Raleigh’s co-pilot, all male, clearly underestimate Mako’s abilities in a physical fight. She proves herself, as so many of us do, only to be shut down unfairly by a paternalistic figure. Ultimately, Mako’s persistence pays off, and she and her super-buddy Raleigh save the day. Far from having a  “woman problem,” Pacific Rim warns us against the dangers of underestimating women. I would even go so far as to argue that, after meeting Mako, Raleigh functions mostly to assist Mako on her journey to personal growth, reversing the typical character trajectory that features the token woman functioning to support the male protagonist. The fact that Mako and Raleigh have such a deep, platonic emotional connection is also commendable and practically unimaginable in most movies.

I haven’t even mentioned Idris Elba yet. Idris Elba brought nuance and depth to Stacker Pentecost, a character who otherwise might have alternately bored and infuriated me. Had the role gone to Tom Cruise, as it almost did, I think I would have disliked Pentecost’s controlling nature, his fear of Mako’s power. But as Idris Elba, Pentecost became complex and loveable, a man who I wanted to respect with Mako’s intensity.

Although the importance of the father figure is one of the oldest tropes in fiction, it should be noted that black men rarely get to be fatherly in movies. The complexity of both Pentecost’s love for his adopted daughter and her love for him is remarkable in itself, partly because the reasons behind it are explored at all. In general, when a character has a conflict with her or his father, it is taken as a given that this person would want to love and respect her or his father. Fathers deserve these things because they are fathers. But Pacific Rim acknowledges the complexity of paternalistic attitudes, rather than suggesting that all fathers inspire love and respect simply by being fathers. Pentecost has earned Mako’s respect, a feeling she pointedly distinguishes from obedience. Furthermore, sometimes Pentecost’s paternalism is harmful, resulting in him preventing her from being the pilot she is qualified to be, because he wants to protect her.

While Pacific Rim may seem to be yet another blockbuster about various things smashing each other, it would be unfair to dismiss it as such. It may not have been perfect, but for me the depth of the characters was the true heart of the movie, a judgment I usually don’t make on summer blockbusters. While del Toro may insist that the movie is not a homage to anime or monster movies (Japanese or otherwise), he did take a variety of genre tropes and breathe life into them, giving us the kind of monster movie all monster movies should be.

-Joanna

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Hobbitmania!

Here’s my take on The Hobbit trilogy, or Why I Don’t Actually Care Whether Or Not Peter Jackson Is Manipulating Me For My Money.

I’ll admit I was rather cynical when news first dropped that The Hobbit would be in two parts. Ever since HP7, it seems every studio is realizing they can exploit fans into spending more money without getting better movies in return. And, though I may love Tolkien, The Hobbit isn’t quite as long or complex as would justify two films. Then the cast list appeared, and I began to realize this adaptation might not just be The Hobbit. Otherwise, what are people like Galadriel and Saruman doing in it?

Now that it’s been confirmed that The Hobbit is becoming a trilogy, it’s also clear what else Jackson et al. are using as sources, namely appendices from LOTR. Some people are complaining that this somehow devalues The Hobbit as a work on its own, others are just too mad about the existence of a third movie to really say much else.

But you know what I say? Bring on the trilogy. Yes, I’m skeptical of the idea that Jackson et al. just thought they needed more time to tell the story, that money didn’t even sort of cross their minds. But honestly, I don’t even exactly know what that story is, other than that it’s based partly on The Hobbit and partly on LOTR appendices. So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here, especially because Peter Jackson is like Christopher Nolan in that he’s completely incapable of making a movie that’s shorter than two and a half hours. So it’s possible he really does think he doesn’t have enough time.

You know what else? Three movies gives me three opportunities to dress up like a dork at a midnight showing with BatCat here. And it gives me three opportunities to see Aidan Turner’s beautiful face (even covered in dwarf beard) on the big screen. It gives me one movie to be really excited about, each year for the next three years.

So maybe I’m just being an easily-duped Tolkien fan, and maybe those aren’t good enough reasons for me not to care, but I’m completely indifferent to what Jackson et al’s reasons are for making The Hobbit into a trilogy. I just want good movies. And if the Peter Jackson team delivers with The Hobbit like they did with LOTR, I’ll be more than happy to spend my money on all three movies.

-Joanna

Invisible No More

Serious trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and trauma

One day I’ll write up a suggested reading list for the human race (the only book right now is J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, but I’m sure I can think of more). Once that’s done, I’ll write up a suggested viewing list for the human race. The Invisible War will be included.

The Invisible War is a documentary about the epidemic of rape in the military. It tells the stories of survivors, how their cases were either ignored or swept under the rug, how the military mangles both the prosecution of the assailants and attempts at rape prevention. It shows how rape culture has permeated the military and, by allowing most assailants to go unpunished, does nothing to stop rapists.

It’s a harrowing film, very difficult to watch, but incredibly necessary.

If you’re someone who might avoid seeing this film because you’re very sensitive about stories of sexual assault, please see it anyway. (Unless you’re a survivor yourself. Then that’s ok.) If these women and men were brave enough to share their stories, we need to be brave enough to listen. Then, having listened, we need to be brave enough to act.

It isn’t just that men in the most prestigious Marine Corps unit tell women they’re asking to be raped by wearing their military-issue skirt or because they’re wearing makeup, or that they spread rumors about women supposedly having sex with various men. It isn’t just that commanding officers are overwhelmingly the ones raping their subordinates. It isn’t just that these officers then get put in charge of their own rape cases, effectively acting as judge, jury and executioner for their own crimes.

It isn’t just that 40% of homeless female veterans were sexually assaulted while serving. Or that there is a higher rate of PTSD among women who’ve been sexually assaulted while serving than among men who’ve been in combat. It isn’t just that there isn’t a military sex offenders registry. Or that sex offenders have an average of 400 victims each.

It’s all of these things. All of them, and all of the stories these women and men share. It’s that one man, after raping one woman, put his hands all over her body and said, “I own all of this.” It’s that one man said he can still hear the laughter of his assailants. It’s that most of these men go completely unpunished. It’s that one assailant was actually awarded Airman of the Year during the rape investigation. It’s that evidence is “lost” or claimed not to be incriminating enough.

It’s hearing how proud and excited these women and men were to be joining the military, and then hearing that they would never want their daughter enlisting. One woman tried to dissuade her waitress at a restaurant from enlisting. One woman saw a high school-age girl wearing a Marines shirt and wanted to tell her not to have her life destroyed.

It’s seeing one husband sobbing while talking about having to stop his wife from killing herself. It’s how common suicide attempts are among this group of veterans. It’s hearing another husband say he left the Coast Guard because of the way they treated his wife. It’s a father in tears recounting trying to convince his daughter that she’s still a virgin.

It’s that this is a civilian issue as well as a military issue. It is a societal issue, not just a women’s issue.

I would like everyone to see this film. Then I would like people like Daniel Tosh (and the person I unfriended on Facebook over that incident) to fucking look me in the eye and tell me rape can be funny.

You can look at the film’s website to find a theater or screening. If it isn’t playing anywhere near you, I would suggest either contacting a local independent theater or an organization that might be willing to host a screening. This movie is too important to ignore. Our civilian judicial system is certainly flawed, and many challenges facing rape survivors are the same for both soldiers and civilians. But even among civilians, the rapists are never the ones who get to pronounce themselves innocent.

All of us, regardless of our feelings on the wars or the militarization of the US, need to take action to ensure that sexual assault survivors are not treated like criminals, and that the real perpetrators are punished.

The culture of silence is not just a military issue; if we do not do something to secure justice for sexual assault survivors, we too are complicit. We too perpetuate this violence and trauma when we say nothing. Tell the world, the country, the survivors, and the guilty: Survivors of sexual assault are #NotInvisible.

Because, to borrow from Janelle Monae, this is a cold war: you better know what you’re fighting for.

-Joanna

Why We Need a Black Panther Movie

I’m anxiously awaiting actual information about this proposed Black Panther movie. I only know two things for sure: 1) that Stan Lee has said he would like Black Panther to be a part of the Avengers sequel (which would rock) and 2) that Romeo Miller (or Lil’ Romeo, as I will always know him) said he was approached about the role (which makes no sense to me).

In any case, I definitely want him to get his own movie before he gets thrown into The Avengers 2, and I will be disappointed if it gets cancelled. (And with all the Marvel movie rumors swirling, I think they’ll have to cancel some of them, unless Marvel is ok with biting off more than it can chew.) Without his own movie to star in, he’ll just be a supporting character lost in the background with all the other new Avengers. (Which reminds me: I’d also like Marvel to decide and announce who will actually be in the sequel. There are more proposed characters than even Joss Whedon could handle in one cast.)

It’s not just that I like T’Challa and Wakanda and think he could easily carry his own movie. It’s that we, as a culture, need a Black Panther movie.

The first reason is probably pretty obvious: the world needs a black superhero movie, and the world needs it now. Yes, the colorblind casting of Heimdall in Thor (despite the racist backlash), War Machine, and Nick Fury (who is infinitely more likeable as Samuel L. Jackson) are steps in the right direction. But they’re itty-bitty steps. We need a black hero, not just a black character, no matter how important or likeable or complex.

Not only would Black Panther be a hero, he and his movie would subvert typical American notions of civilization, Africa, Western superiority, as well as typical movie executives’ notions about whether or not moviegoers would be interested in seeing a black superhero on the big screen.

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but I was spurred into action by an article by Costa Avgoustinos called “Black Panther: The Progressive African Avenger.” In it, Avgoustinos analyzes the BET-produced Black Panther TV show (which is excellent, streaming on Netflix, and you should watch it), and how it criticizes the way the West sees the world. As Avgoustinos writes,

“the series asks a big “what if?”: What if there was a country in Africa untouched by Western intervention? What could it look like today? Black Panther presents Wakanda as the (exaggerated for comic book purposes) utopian answer—a thriving technologically/medically/culturally/economically advanced African nation which gained such prosperity, not only from following a strict protectionist policy but by rejecting any imperialist impulses of their own that come with power.”

Wakanda is an (admittedly fictional) African nation that is highly insular as well as extremely advanced. Ever self-sufficient, Wakanda creates and perpetuates its own knowledge and power, not simply relying on paternalistic Western imperialists. America tends to pity Africa, thinking of those poor Third Worlders with their backwards, failing everythings. But, if Wakanda and the United States were to get into a fight to prove who is the most advanced, the United States would get its ass kicked.

T’Challa typifies his country well: he is intelligent, well-spoken, regal, as well as endowed with super-abilities. He would be an excellent fictional ambassador from fictional (though plausible) Africa, an ambassador who might make people re-consider what they think they know about Africa.

However, Wakanda is still semi-tribal. On the outside, Wakanda and its people look like the kind of Africa that the West sees as backwards and uncivilized. The Black Panther is the name for the ruler of Wakanda, who wins his (or her!) title through a physical fight. They’re well-acquainted with magic, and refuse to trade with foreigners. For all their civilization, they still cling to notions that Western culture deems uncivilized.

This mixture of civilized and tribal is what makes the progressivism and independence of Wakanda so inspiring. Wakanda does not teach us that we must abandon the qualities that make the West see itself as civilized. Instead, when both the “civilized” and “barbaric” are joined, a country can be wealthy, happy, and strong.

Because Hollywood tends to depict Africa in a highly negative way, it would be as wonderful and progressive as Wakanda to see a vision of Africa (even fictionalized) that is strong, admirable, and not beholden to Western ideals. A Black Panther movie could help to remove the stigma attached to (black) African men in film, who are usually seen as the angry, violent stereotypes this video points out:

 

Maybe a successful Black Panther movie could change the way we Westerners simultaneously victimize and vilify black Africans. Or maybe I’m getting a little carried away about a superhero movie, as usual. In any case, I hope Marvel gives us the opportunity to find out.

-Joanna

Gender and Creation in Prometheus

My quick, spoiler-free review of Prometheus goes something like this: It was incredibly enjoyable, despite a few minor script-related flaws. I want to write books and books of feminist analysis about it, and I plan on seeing it several more times. It was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, partly because it managed to deeply disturb me while also raising fascinating questions about creation, creators/the created, and the place of gender in all of this. 8.2/10

Now for the in-depth, spoiler-ridden version:

The difficulty of writing this post

This post has gone through several re-writes, way more than I usually bother putting in for a blog post. (Sorry, blog and blog readers, you’re unique and special and deserve good writing, but I don’t have the time to write the same blog post five times every week.)

The issue wasn’t so much that I couldn’t find the best way to order and phrase my thoughts, though that was certainly a factor. The issue was that, initially my impulse was to write this grand, feminist psychoanalysis of the film, because, after the credits started rolling, that’s exactly what I felt it deserved.

But then I went on the internet. I found out that for whatever reason, Prometheus was as viciously polarizing as Pepper Potts wearing denim shorts around her house. Probably more so. So then I thought, even if it means dumbing down the blog, I must point-by-point defend the (often hyperbolic) attacks on this film! People are overreacting, and damn it I will stop them!

But then I realized that IMDB is IMDB, and me posting that the critics are allowed to dislike the film, but they need to relax about it because this was hardly the worst movie ever, really isn’t going to change much. It definitely won’t change the minds of ultra-super Alien fans who probably wouldn’t have been happy with the film regardless. So now this post is a hybrid analysis/defense/general speculation collection. Enjoy!

All these questions!

One of the primary criticisms launched at the movie is: plot holes/they raised all these questions that were never answered! I think this is partly because Damon Lindelhof is an easy target, having been one of the writers responsible for ruining one of my formerly favorite shows with total nonsense.

One of the enormous problems with Lost was that the writers became infamous for introducing a whole bunch of bat-shit things that they never explained. So from now on, every time Lindelhof writes a script that doesn’t explain every single thing, people are going to wave the Lost flag all around.

I’m not going to say this is entirely unfair. After all, my bitterness about Lost runs so deep that whenever I see that a former writer for or producer of Lost is working on a project, my instincts tell me not to bother. So I can understand where people are coming from. However, there is a major difference between the questions that Lost didn’t answer, and the questions that Prometheus didn’t answer.

Lost made you ask questions like, Where did that polar bear come from? Why are they weaving that tapestry? Wait, so who’s Jacob? Are they all dead? These are all storyline and plot-related questions; questions the writers should already know the answers to. Unless I’m forgetting some major unexplained plot points, the questions raised by Prometheus were more like, What is the purpose of creation? How do the created react when they encounter their creators, and vice versa? How does this relate to real-life parent-child interactions? These are fascinating, thematic questions, ones that I’m sure Damon Lindelhof doesn’t have the answers to. Because no one does. I would have found it condescending of him to attempt to answer these questions, as though he is somehow privy to the secrets of the universe.

There were a few storyline-based questions I had (i.e. what David’s motivation was for putting the worm thing in Charlie’s drink), but I still had enough evidence from the film to allow me to arrive at a few possible conclusions. I may have wanted one particular motive to be hinted at the most, but I’m also content with being able to choose which one I prefer. Similarly, both sides of the “is Vickers a robot?” debate have plenty of logical arguments in their arsenals. Giving the potential for many answers is not the same as giving no answers.

Blah blah realism

Another accusation pointed at the film surrounds the believability or realism of various characters/situations/motivations. This is usually my least favorite criticism of films and books, and it remains so for Prometheus. Ignoring the debate as to whether a scientist actually would approach a strange, seemingly hostile creature on an alien planet, etc., I have this question to pose: Honestly? If we’re going to talk about realism… what is realistic about Ripley taping her two guns together at the end of Aliens? Furthermore, why do I even care about whether or not Ripley could feasibly tape together and carry around two heavy guns, and then fire them? It was incredibly badass when she did. Similarly, I don’t really care how after a present-day Cesarian, no one could run around and what not. Not only is this the future, but it looked badass as hell! I don’t care if Shaw would have been, realistically, fainting or stumbling everywhere or dying out of exhaustion. This is a movie, not real life. And if Ripley is allowed to tape two guns together, Shaw is allowed to run around and be awesome after just having a Cesarian.

Body autonomy, gender issues

This now-infamous Cesarian scene was one of my favorite scenes in any movie. Everything about that scene was horrifying. My mouth hung agape as I watched, and I have a fairly high tolerance for gross things. What I found even more intriguing about the whole situation is how it reflects and comments on the current state of women and healthcare.

This picture describes the current state of women and healthcare.

Like many authoritative men with ulterior motives, David was being rather shifty in giving Shaw all the information about her pregnancy. He was uninterested in giving her a clear-cut objective answer to her questions and request to see the fetus. When she demanded to have the fetus removed, she ultimately had to do it herself because he would not, even though it posed a health risk to her. Sound familiar? Of course, it wasn’t necessarily an abortion, but the subtext of the ability of women to make their own health-related choices despite facing resistance from men was definitely there.

Which brings me to how this “health-related choice” was described as a “Cesarian” (terminology I’m using for the sake of clarity and because I’m on the fence about the whole “abortion” thing). Right before Shaw told the machine the procedure she wanted, I was practically on the edge of my seat waiting for her to say “abortion.” But she doesn’t. She chooses a Cesarian, not an abortion. While that doesn’t erase the fact that Shaw still chooses not to be pregnant, I think it it’s a significant point. Abortion or not, the fact is that she, despite David’s efforts, chooses to be un-pregnant and will be damned if he stops her.

Furthermore, the med pod being programmed only for men’s bodies is a larger statement on the healthcare system in general. The American healthcare system refuses to acknowledge the existence and particular needs of women by allowing special interest groups (like David) to get involved by telling women what they do and do not want to do with their bodies.

So even though that scene grossed me the fuck out, I was cheering for Shaw not just because I didn’t want her to die, but I didn’t want anyone telling her she couldn’t have a life-saving medical procedure done to her body. Of course, the fact that birth/quasi-birth scenes are usually portrayed in film as disturbing and traumatic definitely underscores the idea that to men, the female body is mysterious, terrifying, and very much an Other. The female body is a disturbing place full of gory weirdness. Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress made an interesting point about this scene, which was evidently why the rating got pushed from PG-13 to R: “It’s funny, how we have a tendency to treat damage done to women by other people as less threatening than women asserting their own autonomy over their bodies.”

Creation

In addition to raising questions about women’s body autonomy, the movie raised interesting questions about creation and the creators/created. What is the purpose of creation? For what reasons do entities create? What do they intend to do with the created? How do the creators treat their creations? How do creations treat their creators? Is it worth knowing who created you and why? These questions are developed not only through the human quest to discover the Engineers, but through David’s unusual position as quasi-human created by humans. I could write a book on all the fascinating things about David’s character, but I think that deserves a separate post. Suffice to say that, just as sometimes your creators don’t turn out the way you hoped, the same happens to your creations. When David says, “Doesn’t everyone want to kill their parents?” I could have stabbed out my eyes with Freudian excitement (ha, Oedipus joke, get it?). That comment alone significantly raised the quality of the creation subtext.

The questions about creation can all be further applied to gender theory, since women are traditionally seen as the creators. (Despite Judo-Christianity telling us that a man made the universe.) Speaking of that: the gender or lack thereof of the Engineers is rife for exploration. Were they actually intended to look male? We saw no genitalia, but the Engineers certainly had a typically masculine look to their bodies. Was this an attempt at gender-neutrality, or were we supposed to assume they were in fact male? If they were genderless, we would need to decide why a genderless race would create a gendered species. If they were intended to be male, we would need to figure out why female Engineers were absent, other than because Hollywood is sexist. Was it an intentional inversion of the typical notion of women as creators? Was it a thoughtless omission of women? Was it meant to make a statement about patriarchy? I can’t really answer any of those questions, but I find them interesting to consider.

Men with boobs

One final gender-related thought: There were some complaints that Shaw is nothing to Ripley, Shaw’s two-dimensional, would get her ass kicked by Ripley, etc. etc. Ignoring the obvious “she wasn’t supposed to be Ripley” and “I don’t see why Ripley would fight Shaw unless Shaw started murdering her crew” arguments, I’d like to pose a question: Are those people angry because Shaw isn’t Ripley, or are they angry because, unlike Ripley, Shaw displays more “feminine” characteristics?

I like Ripley, I like her a lot. In fact I love her. I think she’s one of the greatest examples of how to write an effective female lead in an action role. Effectively, Ripley is gender-neutral in Alien. We don’t see her being overly-macho/purposefully unfeminine (see: Men with Boobs) or being overly feminine. Even the motivation in Aliens of saving a child is sometimes shared by male leads.

More women in movies should look like this.

However, Shaw is very much a woman, sometimes doing the kinds of things that men mock women for doing. She cries about being infertile (this was actually a scene I hated, but not exactly because of what she was doing), she has a visible male love interest, she displays the irrational aspect of negative female stereotyping because she holds on to her faith, etc. And, as important as un-gendered female action stars are, it is perhaps even more important to write action protagonists who are consciously women. I mean to say that instead of ignoring the fact that the character is female, embracing her feminine qualities, for example the ability to create life (another big theme in Prometheus). Now, this isn’t to say that I think all female action stars should paint their nails while wearing frilly pink dresses and reproducing. They don’t have to be caricatures of femininity, and certainly the apparently inherent link between women and motherhood is one that not all women desire and does not describe all women’s experiences with femininity. I’m simply saying that I commend Prometheus for being daring enough to occasionally remind the audience that the hero was a heroine, rather than ignoring it.

Furthermore, the fact that some people mocked Shaw for not being supa-tuff like Ripley reflects the way society stigmatizes female and/or feminine behavior. They don’t want to see a woman in an action role acting like a woman. They want to see a woman in an action role not acting like a woman.

There are practically a million other things I’d like to say about this movie, and about gender in it. Perhaps, upon a second viewing, I will revisit this topic for a later post, one that includes Vickers.

But for now, I a million percent agree with Tally Art:

-Joanna

Rumors and a Mini-Obit

Geez, internet. Where do I begin?

This week has been pretty crazy. First, what BatCat posted about on Tuesday. Then, Republicans (you know, those guys who are all, “All we care about is the economy and regular folks!”) vote down the Paycheck Fairness Act. Then, Scott Walker wins the recall vote (I just… what?). Then, one of the greatest American short story writers, a writer who shaped my adolescence, dies. Then a slew of comic book movie announcements, including Wonder Woman and Black Panther. And then the Phoenix force possesses all present mutants, evidently because Iron Man threw a glowy blue thing at it in A vs. X #5, an issue stuffed with filler intended to lead up to this unsatisfactory WTF twist. All of this on top of a fire in my apartment building and stabbings outside of my university/place of employment.

I can only assume that either the Mayans were right, or that this is the universe’s screwy way of leading up to the release of Prometheus.

Seriously, though, internet. With all this news rife for the reporting and commenting on, what do I choose for today’s topic?

The fun stuff first:

I think I need to make a spreadsheet with all the comic book movie rumors that the internet has been throwing my way,  just so I can remember them all. From Marvel, there’s Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Ms. Marvel (!!!), Iron Fist and/or Heroes for Hire, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. This is on top of all the Avengers-related sequels, the sequel to X-Men: First Class, the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and X-Men Origins: Deadpool. Since Marvel can’t possibly make all those movies, I’m curious as to which ones will actually make the cut. I will say this: I’m all for B heroes getting their own movies, but if they make an Ant-Man movie, but not a Ms. Marvel or Black Panther movie, I’m going to be pissed. I’ll even settle for Heroes for Hire just so Luke Cage can bring some diversity to the MMU.

From DC, there’s the Justice League (nice try, DC, but you can’t keep up with Marvel), Wonder Woman, The Flash, Lobo, and Green Lantern 2.

Hopefully both publishers will release some actual information at Comic-Con, and stop teasing the hell out of us (I’m talking to you, Marvel).

If they did make a Ms. Marvel movie (and/or put her in the Avengers 2), Charlize Theron would also totally be my pick.

Now for the not-so-fun stuff:

I will end with a few words on what Ray Bradbury means to me.

Ray Bradbury introduced me to the perils of colonialism before I even understood what that word meant. He told me to be wary of wars, to love literature, its language and its people. He transported me to Mars and the Midwest alike, with only the sparse beauty of his words. He showed me what in the fantastic is real, and what in the real is fantastic. He showed me how scary everyday life was, and how wonderful horrors could be.

I will always be thankful for the many, many journeys, near and far, on which his work guided me. And while others may, because of his age, merely shrug about his passing, I regret that we cannot allow such brilliant minds to live forever. Instead, his words and all that they told us about our society and ourselves will survive, which I suppose is something to settle for.

-Joanna

The Avengers: Final Words

Since Tuesday night, I thought this week’s post would be about my disappointment in my home state for passing Amendment One, and all of the reasons why, despite my heartbreak, it’s still unfair to blame/shame rural areas (i.e. usually the poorest and least educated) for being less progressive than metropolitan areas. However, though I’ve cleared up my mind enough to write that post, it would probably turn into that book on the South I’m going to write one day. So instead, I’m going to share my almost-week-old thoughts on The Avengers, like everyone else on the internet.

Now that I’ve gotten that explanation out of the way, bring on the exclamation marks! I fucking loved this movie! I already want to watch it again. The day after I saw it I wanted to watch it again. Everything was so amazing! I walked out of the theater and texted Bat Cat: THE AVENGERS WAS AWESOME. I WOULD CHANGE LITERALLY NOTHING. That’s how excited I was. It currently has an 8.8 rating on IMDB, which is pretty ridiculous, but is it really that ridiculous? Probably. But it was so awesome! Before this post gets too stupid, here’s some specific thoughts:

1. Joss Whedon should write and direct all Hollywood movies. Hollywood would be so much fun. (And if Joss Whedon wasn’t confined by the storylines of others, he’d put in more than 1 1/2 female characters.) I had my concerns that, since Joss Whedon hasn’t had this kind of budget before, he might screw it up. But I think the balance of action, banter, and character development was perfect. It was the right kind of funny, with the right kind of action, with the right kind of emphasis on character’s motivations and personalities.

2. I’m in love with this portrayal of the Black Widow. I want to redo every superheroine movie (all three of them) and have Joss Whedon write and direct them, and then erase the old versions from history, and then make a movie about every superheroine who should have a movie but doesn’t (like STORM!). Seriously. Not only was Black Widow an actual character with non-gendered spy/assassin motivations, but they did an awesome job choreographing and filming her action sequences. The only ass we saw every five seconds was her badass! Whedon also did a great job emphasizing her excellent interrogation skills, and didn’t only allow her to do one or two badass things in the movie. She consistently kicked ass and was more important to the movie that the poster (or any advertising) might lead you to believe. (This is yet another reason why Joss Whedon should be given the title of Writer/Director for All Movies Ever, Especially Superhero Ones.) This picture only shows about 1% of her total awesome:

3. It didn’t even feel like 2 1/2 hours. After the first 20 minutes or so, the movie flew by, unlike some movies of similar length (see: Christopher Nolan’s entire catalogue).

4. My fears about Mark Ruffalo playing the Hulk were unfounded. I actually really liked him as Dr. Banner, but possibly because of how peripheral his character was. I’m still unconvinced he could star in a movie, especially as the Hulk. (When I think about Mark Ruffalo being the protagonist of a movie, my mind starts to melt.)

5. The Captain-America-doesn’t-know-anything-about-the-21st-century humor didn’t go overboard. I thought it was just perfect the way it was. (I’m also glad Joss Whedon took out the other scenes that focused on Cap. I just can’t stand people who are lawful good but aren’t Aragorn.)

6. Like I mentioned above, the way the characters interacted was perfect. Take this moment:

Some people said that they thought the humor was too obvious, but I disagree. Put these people in a room together, and that’s exactly what would happen. Captain America and Iron Man wouldn’t get along. The Cap would say something like that, and that’s what Iron Man would say in response. In addition to being funny, it’s good characterization.

Those are my main reasons why The Avengers definitely lives up to the hype! I haven’t been this excited about a movie I’ve seen in a while. It makes me wish it didn’t cost a zillion dollars to go to the movies, because this blog could benefit from some consistent movie reviewing. (Although, come June, expect a post about Prometheus and Michael Fassbender’s beautiful robot self.) Thus concludes my final post (probably) about The Avengers!

-Joanna