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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Amazon, a guy whose only other writing credit is "Star Trek Beyond", and a guy with no writing credits at all undoubtedly knew exactly what kind of furor they would stir up with their casting decisions on this show. Predictably, the subject of race has dominated the initial online response to the show's trailer, giving both reactionary and progressive voices plenty of windmills to tilt at. 

Is that too cynical? Probably. But Amazon as the voice of progress and equality? Amazon? Pee in a bottle warehouse workers Amazon? Come on. I think fucking not. 

From my admittedly distant, half the world away remove, it feels more like someone ticking a box, and that casting a couple of black folks is what passes for racial representation in American pop culture today. In short, an utterly empty gesture with no meaning beyond its own performance. 

And thus not really worth debating.

As a result, I don't care either way. The one thing I have long regretted about the success of the movies is how they have nearly drowned out all other representations or visualizations of Tolkien, but frankly no movie or show is going to affect how those stories live in my imagination. My Middle Earth owes more to Angus McBride or John Howe than it does to Peter Jackson.

So black elves, sure, why not. Knock yourself out. A beardless black lady dwarf, okay. Go for it. We've been through this half a dozen times already. The BBC's Troy series, the Witcher, and so on and on and on. The usual people will try to score points by squawking about it, the usual people will try to score points by defending it, years ago this might have been a productive battlefield but however sincere or heartfelt the emotions of the writers in the moment may be, I've been here, I've done this, it just feels like watching people go through the motions.

No, what turns me off from Amazon's effort is how generic it feels. Unlike the Lord of the Rings movies, which had the book to go on, this show is being stitched together from Tolkien's sketchy history of Middle Earth. And when you get a bunch of TV fantasy writers to sit down and write a show, they write the kind of show that TV fantasy writers write. Which is to say, they write the Witcher and The Wheel of Time and Letter for the King and Shannara Chronicles and the last three seasons of Game of Thrones and this looks no different from any of them.

They've turned Galadriel into a warrior princess because of course they have, that is the only way the writers can conceive of portraying a character as powerful. She has an anguished human friend because of course she does, shows these days are full of miserable people wallowing in their misery. There are hobbits because of course there are.

To a certain extent that comes with the territory of being the pioneer--all the later imitators have got their shows in first, so Lord of the Rings looks imitative, but at the same time the unique and wonderful thing about the LotR movies was how grounded and historical it looked. Not fantasy at all.

The other obvious rebuttal to complains about loose adaptations is that if you liked the LotR movies you should be fine with writers adapting Tolkien, as the movies changed plenty of things. And indeed, I am rather fond of the movies--the bits that don't reek of cookie-cutter movie plotting 101 oh-no-i-need-a-dramatic-beat-here. Which the LotR movies have plenty of.

What works in the movies:

1. The Balrog and the bridge of Khazad-dum. The balrog in particular is A-1. Jaws like a refinery blast furnace. Superb.

2. The death of Boromir

3. Helm's Deep

4. Smeagol in all his slimy slippery glory

5. The ride of the Rohirrim

6. Eowyn confronts the Witch-King

7. Sam's indefagitable po-ta-toes down to earthiness

What is bloody stupid in the movies:

1. Aragorn grabs a ghost by the neck--a ghost, a being whose single, universal attribute is that its neck is non-grabbable

2. Frodo tells Sam to "go home" at the border of Mordor, something like 3000 miles from home, because he suspects Sam ate a bit of bread

3. Faramir drags Frodo and Sam all the way to Osgiliath, nearly gets them captured, then abruptly lets them go

4. Sam, the most down to earth character imaginable, is asked what they are "fighting for" and instead of saying the most in-character and obvious thing possible ("home") gives some moronic speech about there being good in the world

5. Arwen is sick because of the ring or some shit, I don't know

6. Aragorn goes missing for a bit so he can have a wet dream

7. Treebeard is utterly unaware that Saruman has been cutting down trees until it is pointed out to him

Guess which of the two lists is entirely made up of things adapted by the writers.

Given Peter Jackson's track record since the trilogy, I tend to ascribe virtually all of the success of the movies to the quality of the production design and the folks at Weta, with some left over for the stellar cast, and virtually none to the writing team. The changes were nonsensical and baffling and precisely what you get when people trained to write scripts write scripts. 

I will forever remember an interview in which British medievalist and Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey said no modern author in their right mind would write the Council of Elrond chapter as they wouldn't trust their audience to bear with them. There's a lesson there, as I sometimes think there's a lesson in the enduring popularity of that other oddly-written SFF tentpole, Dune, in that what is seen as sensible or "necessary" for the medium is not always so. 

To quote no less an authority than my own brother, there are two ways to succeed: do what you do better than anyone else, or do something different from anyone else. The former is almost impossible, so it's a wonder so few people try the latter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Book of Boba Fett: Chapter 7

"That's Boba Fett! He's from that other movie!"

This may just be the algorithm talking, but pick a show, any show, then go online and scroll through the hashtag, or the subreddit, or the Facebook group, or the YouTube search results, the official Discord server, pick your poison. My utterly unscientific analysis is that the posts you'll find tend to fall into one of about four categories:

1. Attempts to stir up controversy for clout

2. "What everybody gets wrong about... "

3. "... ending explained."

4. "Hidden Easter eggs in... "

Actual reviews by critics tend to get drowned out in the online forums that are our modern-day intellectual Boston Molasses Disaster. Instead you get numbers 2 through 4, and the tenuous thread I'm going to try to establish here is that all three are about the minutiae rather than the gestalt. Obsessing over tiny details rather than questions such as "What bits of it are good or enjoyable, which less so, and why?" All trees, no forest. 

"That's Luke Skywalker! He's from that other movie!"

Now, God and Coles Notes knows hand-holding people through the plot is nothing new, but what's interesting to me here is how much of #4 there seems to be. People with nothing to say about story or mechanics or drama or tension or humor or any of the things that make a story work will instead focus on the sports stats of every minor character briefly visible in the background of scene 3, or the provenance of the thing held by the protagonist in scene 5.

The Book of Boba Fett was a show made for such people. It is a show uniquely geared to generate the maximum neutral, opinion- and insight-free online chatter without actually telling a coherent narrative. 

"That's the Mandalorian! He's from that other show!"

Nothing, not one single thing in the entire show stands on its own. Boba Fett is only the protagonist because he became a fan favorite 40 years ago for having a cool helmet. He's on Tatooine because RotJ was on Tatooine. He lives in a RotJ palace, with RotJ pig guards and has a RotJ pet rancor. He's friends with the guy from the other show. Who gets a ship from the prequel movies. And then goes to visit, you guessed it, RotJ Deep Fake Luke Skywalker. And a lady from the Clone Wars show. Boba is also pals with a Wookie from the comics, but enemies with some blue dude from the Clone Wars show. Mando recruits another crossover guy. But then they're attacked by prequel concept art droids.

You know what I mean? Nothing original here, just a stream of actor and object cameos for people to compile lists about.

"That's Cobb Vanth! He's from that other show!"

And here's the thing: The online fans love it. Oh, they grouch about the fact that the plot is completely nonsensical and the putative protagonist disappears for 1/3 of his own show, but they forgive all when given a stream of things to identify and recognize from elsewhere.

It's just baffling for even mildly casual fans. I mean, I'm a moderate Star Wars nerd, but the final showdown between Boba Fett and Some Guy He Knows Apparently lacks any weight or tension because Some Guy appeared in all of one scene before the finale so we've had zero in-show buildup to this. I've got to go back and watch seven seasons of the Clone Wars just for even the remotest hope of understanding what this moment is supposed to mean to the two characters.

But okay, this show is for the fanatics, not the fans. It appears to exist as trivia list fodder, a string of facts to be recited to show how big a fan you are.

"That's Cad Bane! He's from that other show!"

The episode itself was rubbish, but does that even matter? It's essentially an hour-long gun fight directed by a man with absolutely zero flair for directing action. Two soldiers with jetpacks stand in the middle of a street and sportingly let their opponents shoot at them. Combatants take shelter behind a combustible hover-car, instead of the fairly incombustible stone building two meters behind them. Someone gets shot half a dozen times, limps to safety, and then is up and running around the next scene. People run away from invincible giant robots by fleeing down a street in a single group, rather than splitting up or taking cover or doing anything really. In order to fight against droids with shields impenetrable to lasers, our heroes decide to do lasers at them FROM SLIGHTLY HIGHER UP. 

All ends well though, when One Guy from That Other Movie kills Some Guy From That Other Show.

A fitting end to a show about other shows.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Book of Just About Everybody Other than Boba Fett: Chapter 6

Just... what an odd choice for the structure of this series. It's like Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau and the writers ran out of Boba material halfway through and said, "Screw it, let's do The Mandalorian again". So after four episodes of backstory and build-up, you get two episodes in which the putative main character appears for less than 5 minutes and has maybe one line. While Boba standing in the background and saying 3 words might be very on-brand for ESB-era Boba Fett, it is one of the weirdest, oddest things I've seen in a serialized SF show since serialized SF shows became a thing.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Book of Boba Fett: Chapter 5

What a great episode of "The Mandalorian" that was... Wait. What?

This episode kind of highlighted how aimless and flat "The Book of Boba Fett" has been--the most enjoyable episode all season has been the one in which the titular character never even appears.

It was a Mandalorian crossover.

It was a Halo crossover.

It was a Terminator 2: Judgement Day crossover.

The one thing it was not was an episode in a show that had anything to do with Boba Fett.

Also, prediction time: Grogu is going to escape the Knights of Ren by going full Frodo with a mithril I mean beskar undershirt.

I realize that sentence appears to be the work of a man suffering from a stroke, but you'll just have to trust me that it makes sense, 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Munich--The Edge of War

Yes I know after "Bodyguard" and now this, this blog's putative mission to discuss science fiction and fantasy now stands even more exposed as the hollow travesty of a lie that it is. Ah, but here's the thing, you see: Fuck you. Also historical fiction is kind of fantasyyy so there. 

This is one of those historical fictions that might as well not be. There's a fictional main character, played by whatsface from "1917" (I used to pretend to care and put the actor's names in brackets like this, but really, who am I kidding?) and a fictional counterpart on the German side (ditto), but they exist purely to provide an outside perspective on events and don't actually contribute much to the plot other than allow it to happen around them while they either look flabbergasted (1917 guy) or like they are biting down on seething rage (other dude).

The subject is the Munich agreement between Britain, France, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to hand over the Sudetenland. It's mildly revisionist, arguing that British PM Neville Chamberlain's (Jeremy Irons, the one man who has a decent role here to sink his teeth into) desire to keep Britain out of a war in 1938 was both principled--as a man who had witnessed the horrors of WW1--and the smart thing to do as the Empire was unready for war.

The main plot is a bit dull, really. The whole point is that attempts by the fictional British and German protagonists fail to achieve anything, and they never try especially hard, so the rest is sort of watching people toing and froing to little effect. The movie only comes to life when Jeremy Chamberlain is in it, and does his stuffy British best to play a man with a conscience trying to play a lousy hand.

As to whether or not Chamberlain deserves to be rehabilitated, I have my doubts. If the Empire was unready for war, then surely so was Germany, and allowing Hitler some easy wins probably not only cemented his popularity and hamstrung the opposition, but also gave him access to greater resources, such as Czechoslovakia's industrial base. For an amateur like me it's impossible to judge whether the "betrayal" of Chamberlain had any effect on British morale and determination to fight 

Still, as far as the narrative goes the movie makes its point and executes it well enough, though it could easily have done so without the useless fictional viewpoint characters.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Bodyguard (BBC Series)


Naw, no the wun wiz Whitney an Kevin. Or thother with whatsface Reynolds.

Nae, Ahm talking aboot the 2018 six-part BBC wun, wi Robb Stark (Richard Madden) duin is neitive Scots ahksent, oreit? He pleys this ex-Afghan army vet oo joins the police n gets assigned tae protect a British politician introducing the UK version of the Patriot Act.

Ah thought it was gud, ye no? S leik James Bond, oanly without aw the Ollywood glitter n gadgets. Leik Robb is a copper instead of werkin fir MI6. He’s goat undiagnosed PTSD instead of alcoholism. Ee bangs the leading lady, sure, but she’s a 50-year-old politico. She does get rubbed oot arf way thru, true to Bond form, which is why uir goal as a hen in these things is to ensure ui’re never the first person the protag sleeps with.

She’s also a bit of a villain, an Bond never slept with Blofeld now did he, even after he found oot they were step-brothers.

Bit of an internet porno joke for the cheap seats there.

The first arf is smashing at any reit, until the increasingly improbably number of assassination attempts start tae wear at the believability. It’s right proper pulpy it is, everyone scheming and conniving, including Robb, just tae keep you off-balance n unsure if he’s really the gud guy or no.

Only downer s the ending, ay because it’s a bit naff an tropey, with man forced to swear a suicide bomb vest trying tae prove is innocence, and bee because it relies on aw the conspirators just suddenly admitting wit they’ve dun like some kindae Scooby Doo episode.

Otherwise issa bonnie lil show. Well done, that Ricky Madden. Aweys nice tae see him in something new and he’s the dog’s bollocks here. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Book of Boba Fett: Chapter 4

I’d like, if I may, to talk about structure. May I? Yes I may. The one advantage to screaming into the abyss online is that it’s an uncaring abyss. It doesn’t care, that’s its whole thing. Do whatever. Talk about the structure of a kid’s science fiction show to your heart’s content.

So I will.

Boba Fett has a two-track structure, a present-tense story where our protag tries to establish himself as the successor to Jabba the Hutt, and a past-tense series of flashbacks that show what happened to Babs in between “Return of the Jedi” and this show.

It doesn’t work. And I think I’ve figured out why.

Because the two stories are totally unrelated.

Now let’s imagine you’re a massive Star Wars nerd and enjoy arguing about nerd shit like this. Well actually, okay, first let’s imagine you exist. Congratulations. Happy birthday. Now let’s imagine you’re a nerd. Lol, fucking nerd. Right, now let’s imagine your objection:

“How can you claim they are unrelated? The flashbacks are filling in the backstory and showing how Bobbie Boo got to where he is in the present day.”

Sure, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The question is, WHY? Why is this show intercutting the present-day narrative with flashbacks to tell us the backstory and show us what Bobbity Babs was up to? Why are flashbacks the best way to do that? How does the flashback structure contribute to the story the show is trying to tell?

The structure doesn’t work because it doesn’t answer any of these questions. The two stories are disconnected. Oh sure, at the most basic level it shows the ‘what happened’, but guess what—that is exactly what a traditional linear story does. And a linear story is much easier for our linear brains with their linear perception of time to understand. If you just want to show what happens to a guy, then a flashback structure is most definitely and emphatically not the best way to do it. At all. If that’s all you want to do, just show us what happened, in the order it happened.

Here’s our structure so far, with flashbacks in italics:

Boba gets sassed by the Mayor’s representative—he escapes the Sarlacc and is captured by Tuskens—he is ambushed by assassins—he saves the Tusken child and is accepted into the tribe—he interrogates the assassin—he witnesses the Tuskens being attacked by train guards—he confronts the Hutts—he leads the attack on the train—he recruits the Mods—the Tuskens are killed by bikers—the Mods save him from Krrrsantan—he rescues Fennec, tells her he wants to be a crime boss because he is tired of taking orders, gets his ship and kills the bikers—he holds failed talks with the other gangs.

Now here it is again, in chronological order:

Boba escapes the Sarlacc and is captured by Tuskenshe saves the Tusken child and is accepted into the tribehe witnesses the Tuskens being attacked by train guardshe leads the attack on the trainthe Tuskens are killedhe rescues Fennec, tells her he wants to be a crime boss because he is tired of taking orders, gets his ship and kills the bikers— he gets sassed by the Mayor’s representative—he is ambushed by assassins—he interrogates the assassin—he confronts the Hutts—he recruits the Mods—the Mods save him from Krrrsantan—he holds failed talks with the other gangs.

Here’s the question: Does your understanding of the story change in any way whatsoever with the linear version?

Nope. Not a jot. There’s no “EUREKA!” moment. No insight. If anything, it’s a helluva lot easier to follow. That’s because the flashbacks are being used just to deliver plot, but the plot points are totally disconnected from the present-day story.

Even as a standard, boring old mystery-box approach to withholding information from the audience in an attempt to get them to keep watching, this approach fails, because the answers the flashbacks are revealing aren’t the questions the audience is asking. When you tell us Boba Fett is now a mild-mannered, gentle man who wants to raise a family, our first question is not 'where did he get his gaffi stick?'.

There is no reason for the flashbacks.

Movies and TV shows and books should have a reason for what they do. A reason for their structure. A reason for shots and angles and edits. A reason for background music. A reason for dialog and why characters say what they say. There should be a reason.

“1917” should have a reason for its single-take cinematography. “Game of Thrones” should have a reason for killing off its characters. “Use of Weapons” should have a reason for telling half the story in reverse chronological order.

“1917” is a tense story and a single take heightens the tension. You are right there with these two soldiers through every agonizing, nail-biting step across the mud and barbed wire and rotting corpses of No Man’s Land. They can’t escape and neither can you.

“Game of Thrones” is a revisionist high fantasy that aims at psychological realism and kills of characters to drive home its theme: “In real life being a goody-two-shoes would just get the hero killed—See? SEE?”

“Use of Weapons” splits its narrative so that both the reader and the characters discover the key revelation about the protagonist’s past at the same time, at the end of the book. You and the other characters both get that sudden rush of EUREKA at the same moment.

While I’m on a roll, let’s take another example I saw recently: “King Arthur Innit Mate?” or whatever the title of the Guy Ritchie Arthurian movie was. So bonkers I won’t bother reviewing it, only to mention the premise is Arthur grows up on the streets of London rather than as the ward of Sir Ector and Sir Kay. So there’s an early scene where he’s being interrogated by Roose Bolton from Game of Thrones that is composed of a series of lightning flashbacks—"Where were you yestiddy lad?” “Aw, oi dindu naffin’ guv.”—Cut to: Young Arthur beating the shit out of some Vikings. It works because it has a point. It reveals Arthur’s character, eye ee the fact that he’s grown up to be a street thug, at the point of the movie where that is relevant information, eye ee he’s being interrogated by a guard about his activities.

It works (although the movie itself gloriously and weirdly doesn’t) because it has a point.

There could be a point to the flashbacks in Boba Fett, if, and this is a big IF, if they were related to the present-day story either in terms of revealing character, motivation or theme.

Revealing Character

A lot of people have commented that the Boba of this show is not the Boba of the movies. The man who had to be specifically told not to disintegrate people now prattles on about respect and keeps letting his enemies go or else hiring them. So the question is, “What happened?” and the show has now, four episodes in, told us that living among the Tuskens changed him.

In that case, the present-day narrative needs to center around this change. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Other characters should be commenting, questioning or challenging Boba on his new direction and the flashback scenes need to focus on the catalyst for the change in Boba’s character, not acts of derring-do as he kills monsters and boards trains. (Why does he save the child Tusken? Unclear! What aspects of Tusken society does he admire and why? We’ll get back to you on that one!)

Revealing Motivation

Another big question the show raises is why Boba even wants to be a crime lord in the first place. The last we saw him on the screen, the man was a ruthless mercenary, a lone gun, an outsider. What made him decide being a crime boss would be a good idea?

Once again, halfway through the season we’ve finally been given an answer: Because he claims he is tired of taking orders from incompetent bosses who almost got him killed.

Again, that’s not the struggle that has been dramatized. Yeah, working with Jabba nearly gets him digested by the Sarlacc right at the start of episode 1, but we’ve had no indication that this has sparked any crisis of faith until Boba just blurts out his motivation over a campfire.

If that’s the point, THEN MAKE IT THE POINT. Use flashbacks to show all the other jobs that went sour because of idiot orders from incompetent bosses. In the present day, make that his key appeal to the underlings of other gangs—for example, have him recruit Black Krrrsantan based on the fact the Wookie was sent on a suicide mission to try to kill Boba (instead of just saying, “Hey man, do you want a job?”).  

Revealing Theme

I left this one for last, because it’s the hardest as honestly there hasn’t been much of a theme to the show yet, other than maybe “everybody needs a family” or something along those lines. But again, if that’s the point then the editing between the two timeframes has to highlight the juxtaposition of the past (Boba as loner) and present (Boba as trying to create a family), or contrast the character of Boba (loyal to friends) against the antagonists (backstab each other). Focus on the focus.

The Hutts abandoning the Wookie when the assassination attempt fails fits this theme, but there needs to be more of that, really zero in on it, because right now the scene just comes off as strange and out of place, rushed storytelling, a sudden writing out of two characters only just introduced. Just spitballing here, but have the assassin start singing as soon as he is captured, have the train guards immediately turn on each other, trying to point fingers at one another for attacking the Tuskens (it was his idea—no it was HIS idea), dramatize for us the difference between their approach and Boba’s.

All I’m asking is that writers and producers of stories think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Why is this the best way to do it?

Is, for example, a 1700-word blog post the best way to talk about this subject? Well obviously fucking not, it’s never the best way to do anything, ever.

But.

Still.

Ah, fuck.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Eternals


I’ll admit I watched this, as opposed to say, “Shang Chi”, precisely because of the critical drubbing it received (47% on Rotten Tomatoes, 52 on Metacritic). Just naturally contrarian that way I suppose.

It’s definitely the least Marvel-y Marvel movie, though I’m not sure that makes it actually good. The differences are kind of refreshing. The heroes do not spend the whole movie trading quips back and forth to ironically comment on the action. The final battle is not fought against a faceless army of CGI monsters. More to the point, the movie is easily at its weakest when it tries to do all the typical Marvel things—the action sequences are kind of rote and uninspiring CGI fests shot in near-darkness, the humor mostly falls flat, and attempts to tie it into the greater MCU feel incredibly forced.

Whatever the talents of Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao (haven’t seen her other movies, to be honest), a Marvel movie was not the best fit. There’s some genuinely intriguing and original dynamics going on between the characters and some beautiful cinematography, but it all feels squeezed into the straitjacket of the superhero action genre.

It is overstuffed, even at two and a half hours long. We’re introduced to a team of 10 superheroes called the “Eternals”, or rather, we’re introduced to three superheroes, and then another one, and then another two, and then another and then and so on and so on.

About three-quarters of the movie is spent on scenes of people standing in a rough V formation somewhere with austere natural beauty, and then explaining the rest of the movie to whichever character they’ve just met. This doesn’t leave much room for the villains, of which there are two, just to further compound the problem.

The premise is that these Eternals have been sent to the Earth by a “Celestial” super-being called Arishem, supposedly to protect humanity from alien predators called the Deviants. In flashback we see the Eternals killed the last Deviant sometime around the year 1500 and then they… just kind of hang out for a bit. Jump to the present day, when Deviants start to reappear and the Eternals have to get the crew back together again. One. Person. At. A. Time. By standing in a rough V somewhere with austere natural beauty.

It turns out though that the whole mission is a cover story, and their real job has been to ensure Earth reaches a big enough population for a new Celestial to be born out of the planet’s core, a process which is going destroy the Earth and kill everyone living on it. Celestials, in turn, are responsible for birthing new stars, which leads to the creation of new planets and new life. The circle of life etc. thank you Lion King. In theory the dilemma facing the Eternals is whether it is better to sacrifice humanity so that other worlds and other species may get a chance at life, or to save the Earth at the cost of the unborn godling.

The trouble with this, as in all of Marvel’s high stakes “save the universe” stories, is that as part of a franchise the result is a foregone conclusion, so the dilemma never feels like much of one. Oh, two or three characters voice reservations, but human-genocide is too extreme to make us feel it’s a real option and the majority of the team is just instantly and immediately on board the “save the humans” train without a second thought, so we never really explore the question in any detail.

It’s just one way the movie raises interesting questions or ideas, then immediately discards them.

The concept of a superhero movie where the superheroes discover they are not, in fact, heroic at all is an intriguing one, but like I say the instant they discover the truth (after Arishem just blurts it out) they immediately start behaving heroically. In some ways it does feel like a rehash of the concept from Captain Marvel, but there at least her immediate switch to hero mode made sense, whereas with the Eternals it’s just baffling—if they were created-slash-programmed by the Celestials, why lie to them about their mission? Why not program obedience into them?

Another casualty of the obfuscation of the plot is the Deviants themselves, which are revealed to be another creation of the Celestials, originally designed as a kind of predator-extermination device to ensure humanity has enough ecological space to evolve, but which escaped the Celestial’s control and ran amok. The parallels between Eternals and Deviants are kind of toyed with, but ultimately the only narrative purpose of this thread is to act as a red herring to distract you from the big twist/reveal. 

Along the way the movie also raises and then skips over things like the dementia of Thena (Angelina Jolie), the loss and (almost immediate) recovery of faith by the group’s tech whiz Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and the philosophy of telepath/mind control guy Druig (Barry Keoghan) who thinks humanity would be better off if he was allowed to force us all to be nice.

One or two characters say the word “family” a couple of times as if that was the movie’s theme, though I think it works better as a tale about duty versus emotion or empathy.

Cut the number of characters in half and focus more on the dynamic between the putative leader, Sersi (Gemma Chan) and not-Superman-but-c’mon Ikaris (Richard Madden) and I think you would’ve had a decent flick. Madden in particular is the best thing here, with a juicy role and a character torn between duty and affection (the romance with Chan lacks on-screen chemistry though, especially compared with the instant and easy affection of Keoghan and Lauren Ridloff, who plays yet another hero I haven’t had time to introduce yet).

The conclusion, mid- and post-credit stingers are all typical Marvel fare, setups for future sequels and introductions of some character you’re supposed to know from the comics. Two people who were quite happy to see humanity exterminated are suddenly friends with the family again. Someone hugs another character who quite literally stabbed them in the literal back with a literal dagger literally two scenes ago. Ha ha, no hard feelings. Some dude shows up and after a dramatic pause says, “Hi, I’m Gleepwurp.”

For all that, I do feel a lot of affection for this movie. A lot of it is just seeing guys like Richard Madden and Kit Harington again. I kind of feel bad for them the way Game of Thrones ended, so seeing them in other roles is like seeing an old high school friend doing okay. Like, I was delighted to see Madden in his little part in ‘1917”. Good for you Rich, don’t let that show get you down, keep on doing your thing. Same for you Kit. I have this irrational urge to give them a hug and tell them it will all be okay. Dad’s here, buddy, dad’s here. I got you.

Hm. Guess it did turn out to be about family after all.

Book of Boba Fett: Chapter 3

It’s either feast or famine with these streaming services and we were stuffed for Disney content last Wednesday with both Eternals and Book of Boba Fett. Though nobody has The Green Knight yet as part of their standard service yet. Come on you bastards, I want to see the movie, just not enough to expend any effort to do so.

Anyway, back to Babs. I’ll do Eternals next.

A bit of a filler ep this week...

The fight with the Wookie was fun to watch but maaan is Boba the worst crime boss in the universe. Has maybe three guys in his gang until he hires the punks. Posts no guards on his palace. Is totally unaware that the water merchant is overcharging, or that the city's economy is depressed.

Hope that isn't the last we've seen of Black Krampusatan or whatever, though he has now downgraded Boba to the fourth-coolest guy in his own show.

Idk about the punk gang. "Cyberpunk Long, Long Ago" feels like the wrong aesthetic for Star Wars. Droid tech in Star Wars is very retro-future, with metal robots that look like metal robots, you know? Thought the chase sequence was quite badly done too: Looked like it took place at a brisk walking pace.

Saving the best for last: DANNY MF TREJO! The whole rancors are lovers, not fighter shtick is just the right kind of absurd, though I really feel bad for the old rancor keeper in Return of the Jedi now.

This will all make zero sense if you haven't watched the show.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Mother/Android

Another Netflix original, starring the girl from Kick Ass and a guy who isn't Will Smith. 

It's kind of the baby plot from Children of Men but with zombies only they're robots.

I thought it was above average for a Netflix op, 7/10, like a pretty good B movie y'know. It's kind of a mishmash of familiar elements, but Ms Ass is a fine actor who carries the movie and the pregnancy outfit the whole movie.

Although the geography makes zero sense: They want to escape to Boston so they can take a boat to Korea and have any of these people ever looked at a map before. In any case, the Korean lady wears a bearskin hat which is cinema language for Communist so the whole plan is pretty sus tbh.

I think the point, and the title, is that one dude says humans are soft and emotional that's why we'll lose the robot apocalypse, but Kick Ass keeps doing the ruthless, cold blooded, rational thing to save her baby, right to the end. So she was just as biologically programmed as the robots were? Maybe.