| Post on Critical Arguments that don't work
||[Jun. 15th, 2014|11:18 am]
We all want people to be like us. That isn't a deep psychological study, just an observation. It probably comes down to simple herd mentality, I dunno.
Only a slob or a sociopath truly doesn’t care what other people think.
Which is why, I think, we're always trying to persuade others to share our opinions. We've all seen flame wars on the 'net because somebody likes something somebody else doesn't.
In those flame wars, several arguments will come up every time, ones that never, ever work; I'd like to take a moment to debunk a few of them so we can move on to the ones that stand a chance.
I'm talking specifically about movies, and then mostly about adaptations, but most of these can be applied to any work - movies, books, comics, songs, computer games, whatevers.
It's not lost on me that most of these arguments I'm attacking work best in defense of something; which makes me sad. It implies I'm either overly critical of everything, or everything is awful. OTOH, when I say 'Avengers is an awesome movie!', I don't usually hear counter-arguments; so maybe it's all cool.
Anyway, the arguments:
12. You can't expect them to cram 50 years of continuity into one hour-and-a-half movie!
Obvs, this one is specific to comic book movies. The problem? It's a strawman. I've heard it used to defend many movies, even ones I love (ie: X-Men 1 & 2 ... but also 3). I've never heard anyone asking for all 50 years of any comic to be put into a movie. Just a good version of their characters that's true to what's in the comics. Anyone who does want an entire run of an ongoing series crammed into a 1.5-3hr movie deserves to be ignored. But I've never heard of such a person; maybe because they've been ignored.
(And, using it when people who loved the first two movies complain about the third? Really?)
Richard Donner did a great job with a comic book movie; so did Bryan Singer (but, uh, not with the same character). It can be done.
11. Just plain telling me how I feel. ‘This is just as good.’ ‘This is worse because it has –’
Yeah, people do that. People tell you this is a "good" movie, therefore you like it; this is a "bad" movie, therefore you don't.
Tastes are subjective, people. Get over it.
10. "But if they did it your way, it wouldn’t be taken seriously."
So? Being taken seriously doesn’t make it good. In fact, from a certain point of view, being too serious makes it dull.
Also, who’s doing the taking? The people who argue this one never answer that.
9. If you read / watch the sequel or the book or the comic or the supplemental material…
Sorry. If it doesn’t work in the movie or book, that work has failed. Especially if that sequel isn’t out yet. That stuff can be cool, and easter-eggy (I love me some easter eggs in comic movies!), but if I come out of a movie questioning it, it's a problem. It should be self-contained.
Obviously here I don't mean sequel-hooks (the end of Back To The Future) or things that make you question the nature of the movie itself (the end of Inception), but things that come across as plot holes (where was Nero for 25 years in Star Trek '09? - Held prisoner by Klingons, but you have no way of knowing that by watching the movie.)
8. "You can’t compare it to the earlier version of the same thing."
You can't compare the remake of Robocop to Robocop.
Sure I can. I can compare every movie ever made to Citizen Kane or Casablanca if I want to. Or Star Wars. The other movies prove that, while *I* can’t do better, better can be done. And if there’s an earlier version – whether it’s an earlier movie or whatever it’s adapted from, you bet I’ll be comparing.
8b. The original was a book, this is a movie. They’re completely different things.
The media are different, but it’s supposed to be the same. They didn’t acquire the rights to Fellowship of the Ring with the intent of making a generic fantasy movie; they wanted to make a movie of Fellowship. I didn’t buy a ticket to a generic fantasy; I bought a ticket to Fellowship. I wanted to see them adapt Fellowship.
(And a mighty fine job they did, too.)
7. "The Director wanted it that way"
I don’t even know what you’re trying to achieve with this one. If I don't like something, telling me it was deliberate will not help in the slightest, and I don't know why you think it would.
6. But it's realistic.
That's the defending side. The attacking side is:
Your way / the older version you like is cheesy
If I'm saying I don't 'believe' something on screen, by all means, tell me it's realistic and make an argument. You could sway me.
But if I'm saying I don't like it? And you tell me it's "realistic"?
You will only anger me.
My favourite genre is fantasy. My favourite comic book genre is superhero.
I didn't choose stories about gigantic flying reptiles that breathe fire, or aliens with super powers walking the earth because my A#1 priority in fiction is realism. I like a bit of believability, a bit of verisimilitude, but if 'realistic' is your driving force, if trying to write kitchen sink dramas about nasty people doing nasty things and throwing the fantasy lable on them is what turns you on, you can count me out. And don't ever try to sway me with that argument. You'll get me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...
... I get all whiny and obsessive, and go on and on about things long after the moment has stopped. Nobody likes that.
Here are a few words that are not synonymous with realistic: gritty, dark, depressing, colourless, joyless, humourless. Good. Entertaining.
For me, that last one is an antonym if anything.
5. Parroting the press release.
I've recognised this mostly with Man of Steel.
The director has said he wanted a relatable Superman; so all the defenders say 'At least their Superman is relatable'.
Really? A mopey, depressed emo who smiles, what, twice in a two-hour movie that covers his entire lifespan from birth to 33 is 'relatable'?
'He had to kill, that's how he learned not to kill'.
Again, straight from the press release. And deeply stupid. You don't learn how to do something by doing the exact opposite, you learn by practicing it.
And it wasn't explored in the slightest in that movie ('But it will be in the sequel!'). See above.
And am I the only one who's worried about a generation that needs an explanation for why somebody won't kill?
4. It’s the modern way. Suck it up.
Do you ever wonder why I keep complaining about the modern way?
3. Ignoring my reasons.
(See also ‘#1, below’; they’re often tied together).
I've seen a lot of people list a bunch of reasons why they do / do not like a movie. 'It was cynical, nasty, mean-spirited'. 'It was entertaining, I enjoyed it, I found the characters charming'.
Then the defender / attacker comes back with 'You just don't like it because you don't like intellectual movies'. 'If you'd read the source material, you'd...' 'The director slept with your girlfriend.'
This makes you look stupid; you clearly haven't read my points, and you don't make me want to read yours.
2. You couldn’t do any better.
True. Completely irrelevant. It's not my job to make movies; but it is the director's. And they're asking for my money to go see it. So they'd better to do well.
And, as mentioned above, directors can do good jobs of movies (and writers / actors / cast & crew... I'm not ignoring people, just using a shorthand.)
It's not my work on trial. And telling my I couldn't do better won't make me enjoy something I don't enjoy.
1. You’re stupid.
The 'Emperor's New Clothes' argument; I see this used a lot, with varying degrees of subtlety, ranging from 'You’re stupid' to 'You just don’t get the subtlety and themes of this movie' to 'Why don’t you watch The Barbie Movie instead?' to 'You just don’t like intellectualism'.
Personally, I'm not insecure enough about my intelligence for any of these to work on me.
I'm not going to break down the first of those, because it's stupid (NB: every time I've called an argument stupid in this post, it's the argument I'm attacking, not the person who made it. Debate 101, people!)
‘You just don’t get the subtlety and themes of this movie.’
I once watched a movie with a couple of people, and heard them dissing it afterwards because it wasn't funny, though it was sold as a comedy, and they started questioning some of the artistic decisions. I thought, 'well, that symbolised the Greek myth or Shakespearean play they were obviously referencing throughout, and that decision was based on the character's earlier comments about his growing up...
I thought about making those counter-arguments, but didn't. Because I hated the movie, too, because it was supposed to be a comedy, but was depressing instead.
The point is, you can get the subtlety and themes of a movie, and still hate it.
You can also completely miss them and love it.
‘Why don’t you watch The Barbie Movie instead?’.
(Not an actual suggestion I've heard, but I've heard ones along those lines.)
This is binary thinking: 'either x, or -x; nothing in between'. It's reductionist, and is an attempt to insult a person's tastes if they don't like what you like.
It's childish, basically.
‘You just don’t like intellectualism’.
I like entertaining movies. If a movie fails that, I won't like it. Period.
These 'you're stupid' arguments are more likely to turn me against the work than for it. They make me suspect you only 'like' it because somebody's told you you're stupid if you don't. It’s an Emperor's New Clothes thing.
So, can we now move on to good arguments?
|Man of Steel
||[Jun. 30th, 2013|09:15 am]
|||||Only Women Bleed (live)||]|
I went into the movie expecting certain things, none of them good.
I thought it'd be bleak, and grey, and depressing; I thought it'd suck out all the humour and life from the character and concept - and get rid of any sense of heroism, in favour of seriousness and 'realism'. I thought all the geeks would rally around it and praise it for exactly the things I liked least about it, thereby ending any chance of me getting a comic book movie I could truly love for decades to come.
I was wrong on all counts.
However, that was mostly a wrongness based not on fact, but on degree:
It wasn't depressing at all.
It was a little bleak, but nowhere near as much as I thought (I could attach the word 'bleak' to it, but it's not the first word I'd use to describe it. That word would be 'brutal').
It took heroism away, but not as much as I expected. It injected seriousness and 'realism', but nowhere near as much as I expected.
It wasn't even as grey as every single bit of promotion made it look. Even the soundtrack is grey.
(Even the name is grey! 'Steel = grey')
There were a lot of grey scenes, but mostly, it was orange-and-teal (is it sad that that's now a relief?). BUT - there was green! Actual green!
I'm not talking pond-scum green. I'm not talking The-Matrix-filtered-it-green-let's-all-copy-that-without-realising-they-did-it-to-make-the-world-look-wrong green; I'm talking actual, living-plants-in-a-Kansas-cornfield green.
I know! I was shocked!
I don't usually complain about shaky cam on its own, (frankly, I've never had the same problem with it others do) but this movie contained the single worst use I've ever seen. There's an opening scene where Jor El is talking to the Kryptonian Council, and the camera shakes. During a straight dialogue scene. It was really stupid and distracting.
That said, once that scene ended, the shaking went to the normal levels of any recent blockbuster, which, as mentioned, I don't have such a problem with.
BTW, has anybody ever heard of any audience ever saying 'that shaky cam really made the movie-going experience so much better! I'm glad they did it!'? Anybody?
The geeks are divided on it, which is reassuring to me.
Some are attacking certain aspects of it - like the amount of destruction. To them I say 'I don't know what you were watching, but Superman never had the slightest choice there'.
Others defend by saying there was time to evacuate. To them I say 'No, there wasn't. You saw that there wasn't.'
(Oh, and yes, there was a scene of idiots running across the road long after they should've left the scene. A common frustration in this kind of film.)
Some complain about the Christ imagery. I appreciate that, and it's hardly unique to this film... but, filmmakers? Guys? 'Subtletly'. Look it up.
(Others complain about the 'S' shield being a Kryptonian symbol - again, that's hardly unique to this film. Jor El wore it in the '78 version, for example; and Smallville did the same thing.)
(Oh, and the twist ending - do you see what I did there? - was in the comics, too. I'd complain more about how that was done than that it was done. Though I could've done without it.)
Time will tell its legacy, though since it's a product of The Dark Knight's legacy, I'm still expecting a ton of dark, too-serious films.
In fact, one of the reasons I expected what I did was simply the year it was made. Sooo many movies are like that these days.
Speaking of, did it suck out the humour? Yes, but not to the degree I expected. There were still parts where we were laughing with the movie.
The opening, while it was working hard to win me over, did a good job. I was basically watching
Jor El flying on a dragon through an sci-fi war zone directed by Michael Bay.
That said, a lot of those visuals were lifted (which I hadn't expected). It felt like:
'On Pandora, Aragorn awoke from the matrix, only to be confronted by Feyd Ruatha (played by Sting) saying "I will kill him!".'
One of the problems it had was that it never quite let you connect to the characters - I agree with most of what Doug "Nostalgia Critic" Walker and his brother say about it - but not everything.
(This review comes in plain and spoiler flavours; but they're completely different reviews.)
They keep starting you towards a connection, then cutting away before you can establish that connection.
The acting was all fairly bland. I found Zod stiff and speaking accent stilted and slurred - but one of my co-viewers thought he was great and scary. YMMV.
I thought Cavill looked the part - but only once or twice. Most of the time, he was nothing like
The Last Angry Geek describes Kevin Costner as the worst Pa Kent ever, and I have to agree. He's raising a coward, and tries to put his secret identity above everything else, even life and death (as seen in the trailer). That ultimately leads into one of two scenes that really kicked me out of the film. Really stupid and drains the heroism of the character.
Despite this, this is one of the most unbelievable cases of secret identity on screen. You just can't believe by the end that anybody who cares doesn't know who he is.
A lot of the action went on wayyy to long, which is part of why I call it brutal. Also, the action was brutal.
All this has been nitpicks.
I don't hate this film. Will I buy it on BluRay come the day?
I don't know - but I'm leaning towards 'yes'.
Edit: After seeing a couple of other reviews and thinking about it, it is now a definite 'no'. I will not be buying this movie. I probably won't watch the sequel in theatres, either.
It'll never be my favourite anything, and I'd certainly recommend the '78 Donner film over this one, but I'm not gonna be a hater about it, either.
Was it as fantastically better than I expected as my wildest dreams wanted to suggest? No, but it was better than I expected.
||[Apr. 22nd, 2012|03:39 pm]
|[||Tags|||||avengers, black widow, captain america, chris evans, chris hemsworth, incredible hulk, iron man, movie, review, scarlett johansson, thor||]|
|||||Metallica, Until It Sleeps||]|
I haven't been able to review because there was a moratorium until (I hope, or I'm in trouble) a couple of days ago; and when you pick a fight with Marvel, you court death.
Now that the Tesseract has awoken, I'll review it.
This is a really good movie; if you liked the lead-ups, you'll (probably) like this. I think I like Iron Man better, because of Robert Downey Jr.'s screen presence (he's in this, too, of course), but this is great.
The main thing you want to see in a movie like this is the main characters in action together. You get that, oh you get that!
They even fight each other from time to time. Because.
It's about the villain from Thor looking for the phlebotenum from Captain America, and kind of touches on the Iron Man stuff, too - a good way to tie all the movies together.
Then Loki sends an evil army to attack Earth. There's been a lot of speculation about who they are - having seen the movie, I can reveal:
I had to look it up. I found an article with Joss revealing they're the Chitauri from the Ultimate universe, but they're the CannonFodder of planet Boomia. It really doesn't matter. They're an army; deal with it.
Speaking of Loki, he has a side-plot on his way to world conquest that just makes no sense; I won't say what it is exactly, but Iron Man outlined it in one of the trailers.
Also on that general subject, it's always bothered me in comics uiverses that they insist on having multiple 'gods' running around... it's actually hand-waved in the movie. Cool.
There was talk of Captain America being the focus, or the POV character so the audience can get into the movie better.
Never happened. He was good in it, but there was no main POV character.
He seems to be developing a girlfriend? Bernie Rosenthal? Not blonde enough. Sharon Carter? Too working-in-a-bank; but there is this woman who seems to fixate on him.
Ooh... twist... Viper? Oh, Joss so would!
The Hulk had some great moments! He's never been my favourite character, but he was really good in this... except, except...
I didn’t quite buy Mark Rafael as either him or Banner – and his ‘secret’ to not hulking out makes no sense.
Yes, I said Mark Rufio as Hulk – for the first time ever, the Hulk looks like the actor for Banner, and noticeably so. Well done, there.
No, I can't spell his last name. Deal with it.
And who was that security guard who found Banner?
Black Widow was also great; it's fun to watch her interrogate a subject. After Iron Man 2, I wondered why they needed it to be her instead of, say, Mockingbird. Now I know.
In fact, the only wasted character was Hawkeye. He was... generic, at best.
Iron Man still probably the best of them.
Sometimes the dialogue is hard to understand – it just kind of drops out (also, there are long expositions which are hard to listen to – especially the opening monologue; TLDNR).
There are basic’ly none of the expected references to the broader MU; at least, I didn't pick any up... not 'til... anyway, I've heard there was a Wakanda ref somewhere in there, but I didn't catch it.
The whole thing doesn't feel very Jossy; it's more a Marvel movie that he directed. As somebody has said, that means he was doing his job.
It isn't all great; Loki's secondary plot (and tertiary?) doesn't make sense, as mentioned.
There's a dramatic “We’re not soldiers” line that absolutely doesn’t make sense in the context.
Alan Silvestri's score was serviceable; but I’ll know more when I have the CD.
His Captain America theme turned up, as you'd expect, but so did the Iron Man theme.
I wouldn’t know the Thor theme if I heard it on my first viewing, but I've been playing that CD a lot in anticipation of my next viewing; and I don't even have the Hulk CD. The only theme of his I'd know is The Lonely Man, and I didn't hear it there.
I also noticed strong echoes of The Abyss in there; it took me a while to figure out where I'd heard that. It was in a scene set on the ocean, so vaguely appropriate, but is Alan Silvestri turning into another James Horner? Good, but repeating himself too much? (He also scored The Abyss.)
We actually heard Shoot to Thrill, which is on the Iron Man 2“soundtrack”, but not (?) in the movie. (Iron Man played it.)
Is there a post-credits moment? I still don’t know. There wasn't when I watched it, but I have reason to believe there is now. There was a bit during, perhaps 12% of a moment, but the alleged scene wasn't filmed yet.
Overall, this is a great movie. Watch and enjoy!
|The Avengers Movie sans spoilers
||[Apr. 18th, 2012|05:51 am]
I can't say much about it, so I'll give you 12% of a review:
It's really good.
I'll want to write a more comprehensive review when the embargo is lifted on the 20th, but until then, if I fight with Marvel Studios I court death.
|Whatever Happened To The Heroes?
||[Mar. 4th, 2012|07:59 am]
|||||Theatre Of Pain - Blind Guardian||]|
This is kind of a multi-title review.
Oh, great, an excuse to be even wordier.
This covers three titles from DC’s new 52, and a common problem I had with all of them: Supergirl, Teen Titans, and Superboy.
I’ve read the first five issues of each.
The common thread throughout all these has been a lack of genuine heroism. Which is a little lame in a superhero comic.
We’ve got these characters we’re supposed to look up to, supposed to see as heroes – and they even say so – but they never do anything.
I expect heroes to save lives, to be noble and self-sacrificing. These guys spend almost their whole serieses trying to get out from under oppressive groups.
Out of the fifteen issues, I’ve seen three actual instances of villainy (one small town taken over by a machine, mind-controlling the citizens – but, see below; one pair of thrill-killers; and one possible dangerous soon-to-be alien invader); and only one instance of the heroes stopping them (the mind-controller mind-controlled Robin into forgetting about it; the invader was a set-up for issue 6; and Superboy stopped the thrill-killers).
It’s not much for fifteen issues. The rest of the time? They mostly just fought each other.
Superboy wandered around in a VR reality, and worked with the shadowy group who made him and fought the Teen Titans.
Supergirl fought a shadowy group who came to take her, then Superman, then got taken to a satellite by a company, then escaped. Then she went to outer space and fought the possible evil invader.
The Teen Titans mostly just fought each other. And ran away from Superboy’s shadowy organisation. Their one attempt at heroism (stopping a creature from controlling a town) failed.
Let’s look at the first five issues of other, older, more interesting serieses, shall we?
By issue five of X-Men (1964), they'd stopped a terrorist from taking over military bases and missiles, a bank robber, a dangerous bully from doing all the above, that terrorist again, and a conquering Atlantean.
Within the first five of Alpha Flight, they'd stopped a creature destroying Canada, a would-be world conqueror, and a bunch of drug dealers.
Fantastic Four A terrorist, invading aliens, Dr. Doom, and a conquering Atlantean (yes, the same one as the X-Men).
How ’bout older series with these characters?
In the first five issues of Supergirl (1996), she stopped a demon, defeated a gorilla turning a town into gorillas, and fought a biological nightmare.
Superboy 2011, he stopped a thing turning a town comatose, fought Poison Ivy, and set up for the final showdown against an ancient Atlantean evil (but not the same one as Fantastic Four and X-Men). (By last year, decompression had really set in.)
Teen Titans 1980; in the first issue, they stopped invading alien slavers. I don't have the next four.
To be a hero, you need a good villain.
What are they doing? What makes them so villainous?
Yeah, I get that, but what's the evil?
Mind control! Mind control!
They’ve captured our heroes.
Yeah, well, until our heroes start doing anything heroic, that’s not quite enough to make me feel their villainy.
You support mind control! You’re twisted!
... I like it.
No, I’m not saying mind control is good; all I am saying is
All hail the Hypnotoad!
... but on its own, mind control isn’t evil enough to carry the story for me. I mean, sure, poor guys, sorry that they're captured and stuff, but what are the stakes? Mind control, by its nature, is a means to an end – so what end? If I don’t know that, it’s hard to care. Not when that’s the only story an ongoing comic series tells.
I mean, saving a small town of innocent bystanders is one thing, but if all our ‘heroes’ do is try to save themselves from mind control, it’s not compelling. And it is all they do.
Besides, unlike a couple I could list *cough*Alpha Flight volumes 2 and 4 fell victim to it, and I was no fan of either (in part because of that).
There’s no stakes for me.
If I wanted all action with no stakes, I'd watch sports.
If the protagonists fail, so what? What happens next?
Next, you die!
I mean, imagine if you’re an ordinary citizen of the DC Universe. These characters have torn up half your street, destroyed your home and your car and possibly seriously injured or killed you and your loved ones.
If they lose, they’ll be locked away where they can’t hurt you anymore. If they win, so what? You’re not helped in any way. Why should you support them?
Because they’re killing and maiming, tearing up the world wherever they go!
Yeah, but imagine if you were the one being killed, maimed, torn up, folded, spindled, and mutilated.
What? That would be awful! Boo, hiss!
Until the comics have established that these characters actually save the world, I’d see locking them away as a good thing.
Let’s take a few positive examples:
If the Rebels failed, the Empire would keep its grip of terror over the galaxy, blowing up planets willy-nilly. If the Enterprise failed, Earth would be destroyed. If Frodo and Sam failed, Sauron would send his Orc army across the land, devastating it. Even if Westley and Buttercup are fighting only for their own love, they’re doing it in such a sweet-natured, light-hearted story that you can actually care about them.
If I lived in their universe, but wasn’t them, I’d care.
But these comics have been so self-important, so serious, and so what?
They’re not stopping bank robbers, they’re not fighting villains or space invaders, they’re not making the world a better place; they’re just failing to rescue themselves from vague vague shadowy organisations.
If you want a ‘our hero is trapped by a shadowy organisation’ story, it can be cool – but you have to buy it. Establish that your hero is a hero. Show them saving the world, helping other people, then have them captured. That way, we’ll know the world is a worse place without these people in it.
Writing a bunch of stories about characters who do nothing but try to escape from shadowy organisations is getting real old real fast. And not really suited to the superhero genre.
Is this some wonderful new trend? I wouldn’t say so; at least, not a universal one. It’s just a style of story that’s been happening a lot since, oh, the 90’s?
Is it indicative of the New 52? No. I’ve been reading Green Arrow and Justice League International. In their first five issues, Green Arrow stopped a team of thrill-killers and an assassin bent on killing Oliver Queen. (That second part was a little like what I’m talking about, but never quite fell over the edge). The JLI spent the whole time saving the entire world from a group of massive invading aliens. Heroic.
These comics are telling me that just being a shadowy organisation is evil; but so what? These aren’t even really playing up the mind control angle; they’re just capturing our ‘heroes’. Heroes who, when they’re out on their own, are doing nothing but causing property damage.
Um... boo? Hiss?
Would I say don't read these comics?
No. First, I imagine some of my readers would read them just to be contrary.
Second, they're not actually bad. They're written okay, with characterisation and some good ideas. They're well-drawn.
They just don't have anything compelling for me. I just don't care.
So, I neither recommend them nor say you should stay away.
|The Call is Coming From Inside the House
||[Feb. 24th, 2012|09:05 pm]
|||||Glittering Prize, Simple Minds||]|
Spoiler Warning: Stop reading. Stop reading now.
You’re going to hate this. And me for writing it.
Is This Just Fantasy?
Why do I read fantasy in the first place?
Because you suck!
That’s only part of the reason.
Very early on in life, I realised I enjoyed escaping to other worlds; spending time in places where the laws of science don’t have to apply, where anything can happen, where heroes fight and sacrifice for things greater than themselves, where good triumphs over evil.
The best way to do that was to escape into fantasy; fantasy novels, and sci-fi movies and TV shows. (I’d also read sci-fi and watch fantasy, but as a rule I enjoy fantasy more, and there was a dearth of good screen fantasy at the time. The effect was, I mostly read fantasy and watched sci-fi.)
What do I like / dislike? What do I look for / dislook for?
I get my kicks from science fiction.
I learned early on that I love going out of this world into a world of spectacle and wonder. I loved spending time with good characters (in both senses of ‘good’), who I can relate to and like.
Right, I’m calling the men in the white truck. You can’t go to those places, you can’t do those things. Hello?
This talk is semi-metaphorical; I’m not saying I actually physically leave this world and go into another. I’m talking dreams. If you can’t understand that, stop reading now. This essay isn’t for you.
I want stories that are fun.
I love good-natured stories, worlds where I actually want to imagine myself in the heroes’ places – or better yet, befriending them, fighting for justice alongside them.
I want to see heroes fight against the odds and defeat the villains. I want to see heroes and villains, and I want to be able to know the difference.
I love spending time in a better world than this one. One where I’m not bound by the rules of science, where dragons fly, unicorns run, and elves hold sway.
What I dislike is bleak, morose stories. Stories that depress me or bury me with too much cynicism. Stories about nasty people doing nasty things to other nasty people. A bunch of yelling and screaming. No background music (that one mostly applies to movies). Too much realism – why mire me down in an utterly real world when I can be free to fly? That’s the beauty of fiction; it should free you from worldly constraints, not tie you up in them.
Science and politics are fine as background, and can even make the story better. As background.
If they’re in the foreground, if they’re all that the story is about, I’m not interested. If I want politics, I’ll read a newspaper. If I want science, I’ll read a textbook.
I don’t like it when their ‘rules’ take over, and become the whole focus. Yawn.
No, it’s more interesting if you obey the scientific laws. Like, if there’s a spaceship travelling between stars and you allow for the fact that it will take hundreds of years to go between them…
No. That can make for an interesting story, but not to me. Well, rarely to me; there are no hard-and-fast rules here. In fact, what I demand is a total absence of absolute facts!
However, insisting that every story in the world follow current scientific thinking to the letter is dry, literalist, and boring.
Well, I’m not trying to be a noveli—
The Drama Queens and the Cold War
Then, came the war:
Maybe I’m alone in this--
You’re alone in this.
*cough* Maybe I’m alone in this, (I kinda doubt it), but I’ve always felt like I’m on the front lines of a cold war: between literary fiction and imaginative fiction.
(I know that term ‘imaginative fiction’ unfairly implies that literary fiction is unimaginative; but their term implies that ours is unliterary. So I don’t care. This is revenge, not justice.)
‘War’? Really? Pretentious, much?
It’s metaphorical. I’m talking about writing; specifically, fantasy writing. Writers give the truth scope.
I’m sorry if you can’t understand metaphor, and take everything literally, but if you really can’t, you probably shouldn’t be reading fantasy. Or this essay.
Anyway, it was obvious early on that I was in an us-vs.-them situation; imaginative fiction readers vs. literary fiction readers. They keep telling us that their fiction has merit, and ours does not.
Imaginative fiction can’t talk about real world issues, and lit fiction can! Hah!
On the contrary: imaginative fiction is free to do anything literary fiction can do; but the reverse is not true. And imaginative fiction is more likely to make real-world discussions palatable by adding a layer of symbolism.
Meanwhile, the drama-lovers seem to keep telling me that morose and depressing stories are good; sometimes it seems like they think stories have to be morose and depressing to be good. They may not say that, but so many of the stories they say are ‘great’ are morose and depressing that it ends up feeling that way.
I don’t want bleak and depressing in my fiction. I have real life for that. In fact, that’s what I read fiction to escape.
The lit-fic types talk down about fantasy, calling it silly or light, or unrealistic.
Maybe; but silly and light are not synonyms for bad. Dark and bleak are not synonyms for realistic. Humourless and unemotional are not synonyms for realistic. Realistic is not a synonym for good. Good is not a synonym for semprini.
I would rather read something silly and light and fun than morose, bleak, and depressing.
Why don’t you watch something like Sucker Punch, then?
Ah, now we get into style vs. substance. To really explore that would be a topic for a different post, but for now I’ll just say this: I don’t like things that are all substance and no style, but I don’t like things that are all flash and no substance, either. I need a good balance between the two.
However, the latter will probably entertain me; the former almost never does.
You just don’t like stuff that appeals to the intellect.
I’m quite secure in my intelligence, thank you. Implying it’s lacking because of my tastes won’t ‘force’ me to your side.
But you’re right – I prefer works that appeal to the emotion over those that appeal to the intellect.
Inside the Bunker
This will be a period long remembered. It has seen the death of the hero, it will soon see the end of fantasy.
It’s an Emperor’s New Clothes-style snobbishness, and that puts me in a bunker mentality. Sometimes, people don’t admit they read fantasy at all.
Because the lit-fic types have some kind of social respect and we have a stigma, like we’re listening to the Emperor’s tailors, fantasy readers ghetto ourselves. We hide away with embarrassment about what we enjoy. Sometimes that means putting it behind ‘respectable’ covers so we can read it on the bus – Terry Pratchett’s books and, worse, the Harry Potter books have ‘respectable’ adult covers. Make no mistake, those covers look great; but the snobbishness behind them is so offensive to me that I’ve taken to wrapping all my books in a comic-book cover as I read them. (Also, it protects the books.)
The whole thing has given me a bunker mentality. I’ve ended up carving my own little bunker to get away from the voices saying ‘you’re dumb if you read fantasy;’ ‘culture has to be serious to be good’; ‘it must be mean-spirited and cynical, otherwise no good.’ and all the other little things I’m talking about.
I’ve hidden away in a fantasy, ‘genre-fiction’ ghetto (as if any fiction can not have a genre). And you know what?
I’ve found a bunch of other people hiding in the bunker with me. At first, that was a really good situation. Then… Then, it turned dark.
You see, I hid in the bunker to get away from the voices saying ‘serious=realistic = good.’ (etc). Oh, I had to surface from the bunker from time-to-time to forage for food, and I’d often run into the ‘everything must be serious’ zombies stalking out there in their apocalyptic, unimaginative wasteland. I’d hear their conversations, but manage to keep my distance and not get bit.
I don't want to be a lit-fic zombie.
She Blinded Me With Science
Speaking of zombies, you might've noticed the new trend with zombie fiction - where it's less zombification, and more a virulent form of rabies. Y'see, science has now got such a strangle-hold on us that, not only do they treat people like morons if they don't blindly follow everything scientists say (this month) in real life--
Hey! Nobody expects you to blindly follow science!
That's okay. I'll just put that down as your first… fabrication.
It's a lie, and you know it. Try, ever, disagreeing with some esoteric scientific theory and see how you're treated. Tell 90% of the population you believe in Creationism over Evolutionism, watch the reaction, then tell me again nobody expects you to blindly follow science.
You moron! Are you saying you're a Creationist?
See what I mean?
Look at how dragons look in so many movies lately; two legs, two wings. No fore-limbs; four-limbed creatures, clearly designed to suck up to scientism. Even the Harry Potter movies fall into this one. Harry Potter!
What about --
I didn't say every dragon in every movie. I didn't even say all the Harry Potter dragons.
I said it happens.
It seems like you can't even publish a comic book without it first going into a peer-reviewed journal.
So much for fantasy. So much for fun!
Lately, I’ve figured out, I’m still hearing the zombie voices of lit-fic types and drama queens; of scientismists and Professors. All the time.
Only now – those voices are inside the bunker with me. Somebody got zombie bit, and the infection is spreading.
Then, and only then, has it been a real problem for me.
You see, I don’t care what lit snobs like. I really don’t; but when my fellow fantasy-fans are saying the same stuff?
I’ve heard, at a spec-fic convention, somebody saying ‘When I look for good science in science fiction and fantasy’… and then complaining about the scientific accuracy of Magician. He can’t even say ‘A wizard did it’ for a book about a wizard?
Even the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild advertises ‘no elves!’, as if that’s a good thing. Among fantasy (and sci-fi and horror) writers.
I mean, if a speculative fiction group can’t accept fantasy tropes, who can?
And so I write this to mourn the death of fantasy.
If fantasy readers no longer accept fantasy, my fantasy truly is dead.
All Generalisations Are False
This is nothing but a bunch of gross generalisations. That means it’s completely invalid.
*sigh* Yes, I suppose I do need a few specific examples. So here are some:
The new series, obvs.
This is science fiction. There is more than enough of the sci fi in it to leave no room for doubt.
However, in tone, it’s a gritty, militaristic drama. It’s got this claustrophobic, submarine feel underlying it.
What about the episodes on Kobold? They’re not like that!
There are exceptions, of course, but they don’t change the overall tone of the entire series.
He’s always been anti-romantic and literalist; a lot of his humour derives from that. Nowadays, though, he’s getting further from fantasy as he goes along.
Oh, he’s still definitely fantasy, nobody could dispute that. But it feels more and more like a crime drama than a fantasy novel.
(and, although this is a comics blog, don’t get me started on comics in general now; ‘serious’ ‘realistic’ catfish or orange colouring; the powerless characters more powerful than the powered, the taking-everything-to-literalist/serious-extremes… Ugh. Comics could have their own essay.)
‘Realistic / scientific’? There’s, what, one character with actual superpowers in this superhero comic? Check.
Cynical? The characters go out beating up bad guys (more than solving crimes or saving the world) out of some sadistic / sexual perversity. Check.
Dark and gritty? Oh, so very check.
The whole thing comes across as a parody of what people who don’t read superhero comics think superhero comics are like, much more than as an actual critique of the genre medium.
An entire 148min movie (according to IMDb) all about dreams, set entirely in the dream world, and there are two scenes – no more – that aren’t entirely bogged down in real-world physics.
This from the same director who brought us a “Joker” who was just an ordinary guy with make-up. (And scars, allegedly.)
But it has such a complex plot! And such a strong twist! You know what? You only want something predictable. You can’t appreciate the clever writing or scripting behind all this stuff.
Maybe I do only want the predictable.
Cool twist? A complex plot? Look again at my above lists of what I like and look for, and dislike and dislook for. Cool twist and complex plot aren’t on either list. Sure, those things will help if I’d enjoy the work anyway; but they won’t make me enjoy something I’d have hated without them. I’ll love a cool twist on a movie I’d generally like. But it’s not something I look for.
Predictability? Maybe. I want the heroes to win; I want the good characters to survive – or at the very least have meaningful deaths. Yet again, I don’t read fantasy to get a bunch of depressing real-world garbage. I read it to escape that.
Why is that so hard for fantasy writers to understand?
Yet, I keep seeing so many of them acting snobbish about how their works are better than those commercial things. Y’know what? That makes me not want to read your work.
Just so you know.
The worst example of all, though, is A Game of Thrones:
I’d rather read fantasy than George R.R. Martin. If pushed, I’d rather read Twilight. At least Stephanie Meyer knows what fantasy is. Not horror, but fantasy.
If you put A Game of Thrones in a chamber with Lord of the Rings, the fantasy and anti-fantasy would create a reaction that could power the Enterprise for a month. (You’ll need to regulate the reaction with Dark Crystals.)
Minor spoilers: There’s a couple of pages of ‘elves’ (which could as easily be a human invader from another nation), 500 pages of family feuding and nasty people doing nasty things, then a dragon hatches.
Fantasy readers accept this as total fantasy. High fantasy.
They keep saying
But it has such a complex plot!
What did I just say?
If you have to sacrifice all sense of fantasy for a complex plot, I don’t want to know.
The book (I’ve only read the first, and before you try to get me to read any more, put an elephant in a Safeway bag) is historical fiction with unfamiliar country names. Not fantasy.
See, you can’t appreciate good writing when you run into it!
Sure I can. I acknowledge that it’s well-written. I can admire the craft behind it – as I do for all the specific things I’ve just listed. (Which is by no means meant to be a complete list; just a few examples.) There’s not a thing on the above list I wouldn’t say was done well.
But I will also note that in all of them, the idea of fantasy has taken a back seat. They aren’t about the things I want to read / watch about. They just have those things in them.
Even the rebooted James Bonds are affected by this. They were never literal fantasy or sci-fi, but they had OTT elements that skirted the edge. Those are gone now.
And fantasy fans embrace all of the above, and accept it as fantasy, when it minimalises fantasy. When it’s embarrassed by its own genre’s tropes.
I Get My Kicks from Science Fiction
Okay, you hate all stuff that don’t fit your narrow little definition. Now who’s snobbish, Snobby McSnobberson?
No. I don’t even hate everything I just listed. In fact, I put my favourite author on that list.
Nor am I saying that fantasy is better than non-fantasy.
I’m saying I’m interested in fantasy, and not in dry, dull, dreary doldrums. I didn’t start that sentence by planning to alliterate.
Well, you did, and you can’t take it back now.
Technically, I can. I can still edit it out.
To get up, get back, get right on track:
What I am saying, though, is that I am a fantasy reader, and as such, I want some fantasy mixed in with my fantasy, thank you.
If you’re not doing fantasy, don’t call it that.
Don’t try to sell anything to me as fantasy or sci-fi if it only contains trace elements of those genres.
And, fantasy readers and writers: Don’t be embarrassed by your genre. You read / write fantasy. Do it.
Embrace the inner freak!
Learn to love fantasy for what it is again!
Don’t let a bunch of outsider snobs dictate to you what you like!
Really cool slogan!
I doubt I’ve made a single person think about this stuff, so I’ll sign off by saying enjoy your ““““fantasy””” fiction. I’ll be over here, in the kids’ section, where they still know how to write fantasy.
|(Uncanny) X-Men giant size #1, 94-100
||[May. 16th, 2011|07:47 pm]
This image is from My Comic Shop, who I have bought from in the past. They were great.
Writer: Chris Claremont, Len Wein. (Bill Mantlo, assists on issue 96)
Penciller: Dave Cockrum
Penciller: John Bolton (a lot of the time).
I'm going to do something a little different this review--
You're going to write a good one?
Yeah, way to go for the obvious jokes.
You set yourself up for it.
I did. I really did.
I'm going to do a three-way review (and, at one point, four-way). I have three different printings of some of these comics, and in one case, four. That is: the Marvel Masterworks edition (pictured), the Classic X-Men version, and the original.
Except Giant-Size #1. I have the Marvel Masterworks edition (pictured), the Classic X-Men version, the Marvel Milestones edition, a random reprint, and no original. As if I could afford that. Ever.
How very mature.
The Classic X-Men added not only extra stories - mostly sweet character pieces - but also extra pages within the comics themselves. I'm used to the later ones, where the art was by Kieron Dwyer, and really jarred me out of the comic; it's completely different in style.
For these early ones, they had the same artist, and there were some where I couldn't even tell which pages were added in (and I was looking for them). (I figured it out by comparing pages in different editions.)
I just think that's cool.
#1 is different.
Anyway, the thing that separates them all is the colours. Bear with me for a long, dull credits section.
It'll match your long, dull, review.
Not tryin' to hear you.
The Masterworks edition is credited to Steve Buccellato (Gt. size 1 and #100), George Roussos (98), Michael Rockwitz (99) and, reigning champion: Evelyn Stein (94-97).
Glynis Oliver did Classic #s 1-7, except story 1 in #s 3-7.
Elaine Lee did #3-6, and Michele Wrightson (presumably related to Bernie?) did 7.
Glynis Wein did the Milestones Gt. size 1 and the 'Special Edition'.
Petra Goldberg did X-Men #95, Michele W. did #99 (presumably 'Wrightson', who did the equivalent Classic issue), and Bonnie W. (presumably 'W.') did #100.
For the observent and the curious: I checked Wikipedia. Yes, Glynis Wein was married to Len Wein; and yes, she and Glynis Oliver are one and the same! Twist!
Saw it coming a mile off.
Everyone did. It's not a real twist.
So, to sum up, they've all been recoloured every time they're reprinted. Never the same twice.
The question is, which is better in each case?
The question is, will you shut up?
Marvel Masterworks has the best colour reproduction, no contest. It fits between the lines, and for that alone it scores the points. But in terms of style?
Let's start with the first one.
That's brilliant. Come up with it by yourself, did you?
Okay, let's not.
Aww, I didn't mean it.
Yes, you did.
The first Classic X-Men is different to the rest. Instead of reprinting the original with a couple of extra pages, and adding a story to the end, they scattered extra stories throughout; and lost quite a few, too.
The Marvel Masterworks and Marvel Milestones editions seem to be matched. That'd make me think they were the original, if not for the fact that the originals I have don't match the Masterworks version.
The big question is, which of these colouring jobs is best? Which is the flattest, which the most colourful, which the most realistic? Which best uses colours to draw the eye to the focus of the panel?
They're not consistent; sometimes one will be best, sometimes another. It's weird; why re-colour, if you're not going to do a noticeably better job?
It'd be nice to say 'this one uses colours for depth more' or 'that one has more highlights' or 'the other one uses more dynamic range', but it doesn't work that way. Each one will do any of those things better than any of the others in one image, worse in another.
There's at least one panel (in #96) where one creature is done better (higher contrast) in the Classic, and a different creature is done better in the Masterworks. A single panel is inconsistently better or worse across the colouring.
Which do I recommend you get?
Ah, forget it. If you can get these issues, get them. They're good stories, solidly told; not the best X-Men ever, but a bakjillion miles from the worst.
|Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #5
||[Apr. 4th, 2011|07:55 pm]
I wonder if Comicsmedia know I have this?
Writers: Jason Aaron and Justin Ponsor
Pencils: Adam Kubert
Previously, on Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine:
Spider-Man and Wolverine went through time. There were dimensions involved. And a giant Doom head.
Now I shall sing the Doom Song! Doom-doom, doomy doom-doom, doom doom doomy doo doo doom!...
Why aren't you stopping me?
What? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering ka-Doom?
Go ahead, you're more entertaining than this comic.
Nuts. doom doom, doomy doom...
In this issue, somebody gets their Mojo working, Wolverine unhands the bad guy and raises his batting average, there's fights, there's blood, and then they get pimped out. Bling!
Sometimes my mind hates me. I hate leaving a series incomplete, even when I hate the series. If this is only 6 issues, I couldn't stand to have a few, but not all issues.
And that's terrible.
Hah! You suck!
... ... shut up.
Oh, it has its moments. Gotta love a line like:
"Spider-Man in a long an lasting relationship? Now there's something we haven't seen before."
Zing!, Quesada. ZING!
I don't get it.
Joe Quesada didn't like the idea of Spider-Man happily married, and got Peter Parker to sell his marriage to not-the-Devil (Mephisto). Fans were generally not happy.
I refer you to this review, by someone who's actually read it. Watch the first one.
Spider-Man sold his soul? What's wrong with that?
If you don't know, I can't tell you.
But it wasn't his soul, it was his marriage.
For reals? Even I think that's dumb.
This issue isn't quite as incoherent as the others, and there's no dinosaurs and neanderthals in the same time period, but it's still not great.
Calling it 'average' would be generous.
The artwork gest, face it, ugly:
Please don't show me pictures like this while I'm eating!
Barf! Barf! Barf! Barf!
Hah! I'm not that easy!
... now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in the bathroom... for completely unrelated reasons. I, uh, have a sore foot. yeah...
Yeah, he's Mojo, he's supposed to be ugly - but not that ugly.
Adam Kubert is better than this.
There are two real problems with this issue. One of them runs throughout the series; the guy on the cover, with the baseball bat. He's a major character, but he never quite rises above a stereotype. So much for growing beyond that.
He just always comes across as a street thug, with brilliant lines like "Kang the Conqueror? Kang the ain't-never-conquered-S#*@ is more like it." "Word." (from his diminutive off-sider... or on-batter as it were...)
I like it.
It makes the villains look stupid.
I always hated it.
They cut away to 'reality-TV' style interviews at one point. It's appropriate to a Mojo story, though a bit fourth-wall breaking for the Marvel Universe (ouside of She-Hulk... or Deadpool).
Thing is, I don't care about Reality TV. I don't want to know. I don't even care enough to want to read parodies of it. Bleh.
Oh, and backgrounds? They're often nothing more than gradations of grey. They're bland, random, senseless...
This istn' a world I can be in. It's just... bleh.
Here's what I really want to talk you you about.
The other problem, unique to this issue, is lines from Mojo, like:
"This is the one... I want them to remember me by.", about the fight between Spidey, Wolvy, and the Gangsta (I really never bothered to remember his name. Tsar?)
Really not seeing a problem.
Mojo has pretty much always stood for Marvel Editorial. Often a nasty parody, but a parody.
They've basically got the 'powers-that-be' stand-in telling us this is the best fight ever.
Talk about your mouth writing cheques your butt can't cash!
Okay, first you say something, then--
That's not what I meant and you know it!
It has no place anywhere, let alone in such an average book. Instead of making me think 'this is the best fight ever', it makes me think 'it so is not!'
Aspiring writers, learn: Never write your own praise. It makes you look bad.
Not the worst issue in this series, but not great.
doom doom, doomy doom...
||[Mar. 29th, 2011|07:59 pm]
X-Factor then and ...then, but less so.
Cover Browser is real helpful at times.
Writer: Howard Mackie
Penciller: Jeff Matsuda
Yes! The 90s! One of the best periods in comics!
You're an idiot.
A man walks into a base... Sabretooth turns to the Canadian and guts him.
And everybody else.
Yesterday, I told you about X-Factor #1, with the original X-Men running an "anti-mutant" company. It had open, airy art and colours, fairly realistic.
It told a pretty good conflict, stemming from natural characterisation.
'cept the anti-mutant public.
This one has cartoonish art, a team of Forge, Mystique, WildChild, Polaris, Shard, and Sabretooth. They're an ex-government team going 'underground'. (I don't think they've done so yet this issue).
What have these two comics got in common?
I don't know either.
Do you see the cartooniness of that cover? Did you read the wonderfully subtle and classy dialogue?
Really, that should cover the whole issue. But I'll entertain you with a review anyway.
Bore them, you mean.
The art is cartoonish right through, and the colour and storyline are (mostly) dark.
Who thought that was a good match?
That was the look in the 90s. Oh, how well remembered they are.
The 90s were gr--
We all know what you think.
I keep saying comics should spend more time on pure characterisation. This one does it. It does a decent job of it too, though it does seem to be all about creating faux conflict (though that doesn't entirely happen in this issue). Wildchild turns whiney - he's acting like a stereotyped teenager.
Mystique sets him up, claiming to be practising.
Shard... Shard is the least worst. (She's Bishop's sister, btw.)
Sabretooth gets his inhibition collar off and guts everyone else.
Yeah! You go, boy!
It isn't in a DC gorn kind of way, lovingly dwelling on views of blood and guts... well not of 'and guts', anyway.
Aww, that's boring. I wanna see guts and body parts spilled everywhere!
Well, you don't get to. Read 52 if you want that. Or something less classy.
This one's so sterile that right after Sabretooth slashes his claws across Polaris's back, her skin is undamaged. Really. With her top, you can totally see.
Aww, man, really?
Also, at the opening, you have a soldier letting a guy in the base because his clearance is 'level 12 alpha!' 'I thought they only went to level 10 as well...' So why let him in? Why assume that that level of clearance is real! And you shave that moustache while on duty, soldier!
I have level 13.
Of course you do.
A lot of the characterisation takes the form of the kind of 'I'm bad!' humour that's taken the place of character development in so many X-titles these days, again, setting up false conflict. It's not always worth it.
The dark colours, the 'I'm Bad' characters... Who says the 90s are over?
Not me! 90s and Twenteens forever, bub!
There were pages of bright colours in here.
What? How could you?
I don't recommend this period in X-Factor history. This issue isn't the worst, and it has its moments, but overall it isn't fun comics.
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