Texts from Wonder Woman: Weaknesses

One of the brilliant takes among The Best Wonder Woman Texts From Superheroes (No Movie Spoilers):

Texts from Wonder Woman Weaknesses

  • Batman: So what are your weaknesses?
  • Wonder Woman: What do you mean?
  • Batman: I’m just making a list. Green Lantern can’t affect yellow, Superman is hurt by Kryptonite, Flash is bad with cold. What about you?
  • Wonder Woman: Put down nothing.
  • Batman: You’re saying you don’t have any weaknesses?
  • Wonder Woman: I’m saying if I did I wouldn’t be dumb enough to tell people what they are.

Go and read more!

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Ending of Rogue One Seamlessly Connected to A New Hope

This nine-minute video by Barre Fong combines the very ending of Rogue One seamlessly to A New Hope:

“Rogue One” Spliced with “A New Hope” by Barre Fong

Nice job! It was pretty clear from just seeing Rogue One in the theaters how well the team not only wrote but propped, set-dressed, and costumed their movie to match the George Lucas -led original. This merger makes it very explicit, though. A hat-tip to all involved.

In general, I really enjoy comparing originals and recreations (or originals and adaptations), and the pleasure is multiplied when the successor is expertly and thoughtfully made. That’s one reason why Peter Jackson et al.’s making-of documentaries for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies are still the gold standard for movie extras—hearing about the design process is fascinating.

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Some Random Thoughts on Logan

Random thoughts on Logan in no particular order. Spoilers ahead.

Logan Promo Poster Silhouetted Sunset

  • The movie was an interesting take on westerns. I know very little about that genre, but even I could thell the homage was there.
  • As expected, Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman were phenomenal.
  • It was very, very bleak, bleaker than I thought, and I went in expecting a certain amount of bleak.
  • The “Logan and his peeps” story was touching, but the “evil corporate types are evil” story I found cliched, boring, and corny. Those two facets of the plot didn’t really mesh well in my opinion. And speaking of evil corporate types: what’s with the mechanical hand attachments that so many of the evil army types sported? Their version of a goon uniform?? It was odd.
  • I was left wanting an explanation of what it was that Professor X did in Westchester that traumatized him so. (I may have missed it if it was there, since we didn’t see Logan subtitled.)
  • It was great to see something of the midwestern states (instead of the ever-present New York City, for example). For one thing, I had no idea Oklahoma City was so big.

Image via Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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Random Thoughts on Kong: Skull Island

In no particular order. Spoiler warning in effect.

  • Kong: Skull Island is a much better movie than anything called Kong: Skull Island has any right to be. We went in with pretty low expectations and we were pleasantly surprised.
  • This movie is a fine demonstration of how important good acting is, even in a movie that is mostly about a giant ape smashing stuff. Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson stand out, but the entire cast is solid. (After this movie and Avengers, I’m going to say yes to any movie that includes Hiddleston and Jackson squaring off.)
  • Kong very smartly avoids two of the major tropes for what happens when modern white westerners encounter native cultures. One is the Heart of Darkness / Apocalypse Now trope: the westerner goes out of control and loses his sense of humanity. The other is the Dances With Wolves / Avatar trope: the westerner “goes native” and becomes a better native than the natives. In Kong (despite the ways the movie plays with Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now), the newcomers and natives achieve mutual understanding and respect while still remaining who they are.
  • The movie is littered with the sorts of characters who always die in this kind of film: the nerdy sidekick who provides occasional comic relief; the soldier who keeps talking about how much he wants to go home; the crazy old man in the wilderness who has information vital for everyone’s survival. Two of these guys are even black. And they all survive to see the end credits.
  • It’s so nice that we have started to see movies that respect that men and women can go through difficult experiences and form close bonds of friendship without automatically becoming romantically attached.
  • It wasn’t a surprise when Deadpool used the post-credits scene for a meta joke, but when big action movies like this start doing it, that might be a sign that the post-credits scene is getting played out.

 

Additional randomness by Eppu

  • I agree—KSI is an exceptionally good monster movie.
  • I also noticed the presence of several competent black men who weren’t clones of each other and who didn’t die first. (About fricking time!) Now do the same for black women!
  • Speaking of women, it’s really rather pathetic that there are only two female characters with a major speaking role in this movie. Even more pathetic than that, we saw the photographer (played by Brie Larson, whose coat check girl in The Community is fantastic) shoot plenty of film throughout the story, but the biologist (Tian Jing, whom we first saw being awesome in The Great Wall) had hardly anything to do that showcased her expertise. Jing’s character didn’t get an arc, either. Boo.
  • Also seconding the merits of no forced romance.
  • KSI was also brutal, as it should, what with the predators the size of skyscrapers. I hesitate to say “refreshingly brutal” because I don’t find explicit gruesomeness appealing (like Game of Thrones, blech). On the other hand, I’m also quite fed up with sanitized movie violence (Warcraft: The Beginning was particularly ridiculous in this respect). I guess what I’m trying to say really is that, for my taste, KSI danced the line between making the stakes high and turning off the audience expertly.
  • It was nice that Kong got to stay on his island instead of being dragged off.
  • I saw several reviews that praised KSI‘s visuals. I was sceptical—how special can you make a war movie with a giant primate?—but, boy, was I wrong. It. Was. Beautiful. The directing and cinematography (as far as I can tell, being a complete civilian) were fresh and innovative.
  • KSI referred to historical events from the storytelling point of view effectively and efficiently, and the movie was really well styled and propped. The usage of archival film footage, photos, and other visuals was plentiful but not overwhelming, and the invented elements fit in seamlessly. Kudos. (And I don’t even like the 1960s-1970s style!)

Image: Kong: Skull Island poster via IMDb

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Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer

It’s six months till (yet another) Spider-Man reboot drops. The first trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming has been out for a few weeks, and it’s looking cool:

FIRST OFFICIAL Trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming via Jimmy Kimmel Live

Very MCU! There’s one thing that I very much hope: that Tony Stark will only be making a cameo. I’m so, so thoroughly done with that character already. Instead, I’d love to see other faces get more attention now, kthxbye.

So, I’m still not entirely sure whether I want to see it, because Spidey’s never been that interesting to me and there’s the possibility of Stark overload. I guess it’ll depend on how movie-deprived I’m feeling come July.

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Captain America: Civil War and Red Herring Overload

170105civilwarWhen I saw Captain America: Civil War in the theatre, something bothered me about the story. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I find Civil War one of the best, most polished films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In my headcanon, Civil War is the actual Avengers 2 while Age of Ultron is Iron Man 4 at best. But still, something about the story just bugs me and the first couple times I saw the movie I couldn’t put my finger on it. (To be fair, that movie gave us plenty to talk about.) Now that it’s out on DVD and I’ve gotten to see it a few more times, I think I can name the problem: red herring overload.

Here’s what I mean. Going into the movie, having seen the trailers, you think it’s going to be about Steve Rogers / Captain America and Tony Stark / Iron Man having a falling out. But it isn’t.

Then the movie starts and you think it’s going to be about Bucky Barnes / the Winter Soldier. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about the blue goo in Howard Stark’s trunk. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about a stolen vial of disease. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about the Sokovia Accords. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about Steve’s relationship with Bucky. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about T’Challa’s quest for revenge and his rise as a hero. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about Zemo and his all-new all-different gang of Winter Soldiers. But it isn’t.

Then you think it’s going to be about the Avengers splitting up over different ideas of what it means to be a hero. But it isn’t.

Finally, finally, at the end of the movie, we discover what it’s actually been about all along: Tony Stark’s unresolved emotional issues.

I still think that Civil War is an excellent movie and one of the highlights of Marvel’s cinematic work, but this is a serious weakness in its writing. Not only did we not really need another movie about Tony’s unresolved issues (we’ve got four already), but it deflates the narrative power of the story to have so much of the plot either fizzle out or just be left hanging at the end. By the end of the movie, the mantelpiece is littered with unfired guns and instead we get to watch two exhausted, angry men slug each other.

Maybe, if this had been a different movie, that would have been a satisfying ending. But it wasn’t.

Image: Captain America: Civil War still via IMDb

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R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher, actor, author, advocate, script doctor, and Resistance General extraordinaire, has passed at the age of 60.

Carrie Fisher Homepage

Rest in peace, dear Ms. Fisher. Your honesty, fearlessness, and spirit will be missed.

In the words of Tough Love Leia on Twitter:

 

Image via carriefisher.com

Post edited for formatting.

2 weeks to Rogue One—Check out This R1 Trailers Supercut

The peeps at GameSpot Universe went through Rogue One trailers and combined them into this supercut:

Trailer Supercut: All Rogue One Clips In Chronological Order by GameSpot Universe

Their goal was to put the clips in chronological order, by which I’m guessing the order they will appear in the movie. Looks like a reasonable guess to me!

Two weeks—can’t wait!

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Arrival Recap

So, here are some initial thoughts on Arrival. Spoiler alert is most definitely in effect!

Twitter Arrival Movie Poster Aug 16 2016

Things I loved:

  • No stealth female protagonists here, but an actual, full-time, proper female lead who isn’t there for her boobs and butt, but brains!
  • Top notch plotting, dialogue, and characters, all in all. Also the directing, sets, music, and effects were impressive.
  • Some of the trailers make it look like the linguistics lecture in the very beginning is in a huge auditorium with only a handful of students attending, which might have meant that the movie university was going to have a neglected linguistics department or lukewarm students. Not so. There was a good reason why students didn’t show up, i.e., the alien landing.
  • Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) was treated as an expert almost universally. Notable exceptions were a CIA bloke at the Montana camp and Dr. Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), the male lead. The latter, upon meeting Dr. Banks for the very first time, quoted something she’d written and said something to the effect of “Too bad it’s wrong.” Tut tut. He got over himself, though.
  • Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), the army liaison for the civilian consultants, was an actual ally to Dr. Banks and Dr. Donnelly, not an antagonist. It would’ve been so easy to take the lazy road. (Then again, they did take it with the antagonistic CIA bloke.)
  • The complexities of language and communication were explained with easily understandable comparisons.
  • Languages were treated as the complex systems that they are, i.e., other levels beyond the lexicon got attention.
  • Many of the English translations of the heptapods’ language were messy (e.g., “Abbott is death process” = “Abbot is dying”). As a non-native English speaker who operates with two languages on a daily basis, I found it very realistic. There are times when quick and dirty is what you need, and others when you can spend more time pondering. In a first contact situation where political and military pressures are high, there might not even be a need to polish the English syntax as long as the message is unambiguous.
  • Some of the aliens’ language was subtitled. I’m a visual person; in addition, I can’t always hear everything in noisy environments such as movie theaters or restaurants. ❤ subtitles!
  • The story is very explicit about the need for people work together to solve problems without feeling preachy. YMMV.
  • A male hero doesn’t punch an alien in the face at the end. I’m all for punching the bad guys—now and then. I explicitly do not want all of my reading and viewing rehashing the same old stories over and over, because SFF is explicitly about examining other possibilities. It feels (’cause I haven’t seen any statistics or anything) like lately we’ve mostly gotten the punchy kind of SFF. It was so nice to face a different fare for a change.

Things I didn’t think were quite as successful:

  • Only one prominent female speaking role. For realz. Surely you’re better than that, writing team.
  • The conflation of linguistics and translating. Of course the two disciplines are related, but each comes with its own set of principles and tools.
  • Dr. Banks and Dr. Donnelly each got their own team in Montana, but the teams were hugely underused. They might have been completely omitted for all the difference they made.
  • Dr. Banks’s visions affected her thinking and behavior, but weren’t integrated into the dialogue terribly well. The one time they tried (“Are you dreaming in their language?”), she responded very defensively, and the matter was dropped without further exploration.
  • Non-linear time as part of the plot. It’s a very difficult concept to pull off successfully. I haven’t come across a story yet where I think it works to its full effect. (I might feel differently about “Story of Your Life.” Note to self: Find it & read.) Even so, the execution in Arrival was one of the most elegant I’ve encountered, and the reveals were well-paced.
  • At the end, the aliens indicate that they’re sharing their full language with Dr. Banks because in 3,000 years they will need humanity, but that was it. What a cliffhanger!

I’ll finish with a couple of links:

How the writer of ‘Arrival’ spent a decade getting his sci-fi Oscar contender made. An interview with screenwriter Erik Heisserer that sheds light to the difficulties in getting a movie project greenlit and adapting the inspiration story.

‘Arrival’ Author’s Approach To Science Fiction? Slow, Steady And Successful. An interview with Ted Chiang, whose short story “Story of Your Life” (1998) was the basis for Arrival.

Ted Chiang, the science fiction genius behind Arrival. Another focus piece on Chiang.

Image via Arrival Movie on Twitter

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.