Lord of the Bloat

A common (and quite fair) criticism of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films is they are expanded and bloated. They often are incredibly busy and sometimes overwhelming in their additions.

And yet, it seems almost ironic. I read The Lord of the Rings books in my late thirties. Truth is, I find them bloated with needless story diversions, such as a 100 page excursion about a guy who proves the threat of the One Ring might be a bit overstated. It goes on and on and on.

Tolkien certainly loved world building (and really, language creation)…almost to the detriment of the story… He wanders on endlessly about the minutia of various languages. He also will spend pages telling us about historical myths and legends of Middle Earth that supposedly give us insight into the world, except they tend to drag the actual story down.

Really, I find the Jackson films are completely in spirit with Tolkien’s works. Entertaining, but bloated with needless detours and an obsession with minute details.

The Unfair Files: But the Real Victim Is The Perp!

Over the weekend I watched a documentary on HBO called Valentine road.

It tells the story of Larry King, who was tragically shot to death in 2008. You might recall the story from the news. On February 12th of 2008, Brandon McInerney(age 14) walked into class, behind Lawrence ‘Larry’ King (age 15) and shot him twice (at least once in the head). The motive turned out to be that Brandon was embarrassed and angry because Larry, a young man trying to find his identity (the information I have seen both suggest a young gay man or a trans girl… Two weeks after Larry started to accessorize (how the school referred to his wearing makeup and jewelry) and generally express himself, he was dead. This time frame matters, because there was something rather horrifying that developed.

A defense of Brandon’s actions crept into the public. We needed to consider just why he killed Larry. And yeah…things like motive matter. But this bizarre defense came about. It was Brandon who was harrassed…he was the victim in the situation and it is unfair to punish him.

This comes up in the documentary several times. He was greatly embarrassed because Larry had asked him to be his valentine in front of Brandon’s friends. And shortly after called out “love you, baby!” And one other time paraded around “flamboyantly” in front of Brandon and his friends. This was portrayed as a hard push campaign of harrassment by Larry against Brandon.

And you know what? I get being generally embarrassed by general activity like that… Sure, if someone you are not interested in makes a few overtures for your attention, it can be a bit uncomfortable and awkward….especially when your friends tease you about it. Young women are faced with that stuff all the time. They get uncomfortable because a boy they are not interested in is attempting to get their attention. And some of those incidents develope into real harrassment. There are a lot of factors that go into it all.

But the cold hard truth? Brandon’s embarrassment was his own. He could have told his friends to stuff it. He could have shrugged it off. He had a girlfriend, so he did not have to “prove” his heterosexuality to them. There is a long list of ways to handle the attention he got from Larry. Shooting him twice in the head was never an acceptable option. Terrifyingly, you would not necessarily know that from the reaction of some of the teachers and jurors interviewed in Valentine Road. It is heartbreaking to hear people take the side of a killer who killed with malice and forethought.

Imagine this… It was the unpopular girl. She is seen as a joke by classmates. Made fun of… But she takes the risk and asks out the cute basketball player. His friends tease him mercilessly. So, a day or two later he walks up behind her and shoots her twice in the head. Tell me, defense attorneys, jurors and teachers… Would you feel so comfortable suggesting she brought on her own death? That Brandon should be granted leniency?

RoboCop No More…

I must be honest folks…that RoboCop trailer has been bugging me. The primary problem?

Murphy and his wife appear to know who he is from the start. But part of what makes the original RoboCop so great (Aside from the scathing satire of corporate culture) is that Alex Murphy is unaware he had a past. He is a machine. He is haunted by memories that he cannot comprehend. And as he learns who he is, he reclaims the identity that was ripped from him.

In one of the second film’s best moments, RoboCop’s wife wants to meet with him, shocked that he is alive. But the corporate heads convince Murphy that he cannot truly return to being a husband. It would be impossible to fulfill the role, due to his condition. It would be better for her to move on in a life without him.

When his wife tearfully tries to reconnect, Alex plays the role of machine…he claims he is merely a monument to the man who died. Weller does a great job with this moment, because the conflict within Murphy is evident.

The new film removes all of that. Murphy has no self discovery…he is not a machine that rediscovers his humanity.

The Donner Illusion

Some segments of the film and comic community are being extraordinarily tough on Man of Steel.  And some are, bizarrely, appealing to the Superman given to us by Richard Donner, Richard Lester and Bryan Singer.

I am not addressing the folks who are equally critical of those films. But the people appealing to The Donner/Lester/Singer version either have poor memories or are willfully ignoring celluloid history.  I am about to really blow it if you have not seen the movie.

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Game Enders

So, there is a lot of argument about the boycott of Ender’s Game. The gay community has both supporters and detractors of the boycott. What I find interesting about some of the detractors is that they are the same folks that had no problem boycotting a previous film.

When the Golden Compass movie was announced, reputable Christian organizations and publishers started beating the drums of boycott. When the film was announced, they challenged the executives. When the cast was announced, they questioned the decency of the actors. And they denounced the film before seeing it, based on it’s Christmas time release.

The goal was to prevent the movie from being made, or at least destroy the chances for any sequels to complete the book trilogy in film form. There was no hemming and hawing, and little dissent from Christians. And I suspect the defense is, Ender’s Game is not anti-gay itself, while the His Dark Materials books were Anti-Christian. But that is not the real difference.

See, Pullman was not using his financial success to bankroll attempts to restrict or take away the rights and freedoms of Christians. He was not funding huge political campaigns to marginalized Christians. Seeing the Golden Compass was not going to fund attempts at anti-Christian legislation. Seeing Ender’s Game is putting money in the pocket of a guy who has already done so to gays.

So, yeah, I won’t be going to Ender’s Game.

Wonder Woman

Open on a beach on the island Themyscira.  It is raining, lighting striking…we see a young woman, Hippolyta, sculpting something.  As we close in, we see it is a baby.  The woman steps back, looking to the sky…lightning strikes the clay form…she steps forward and starts to wipe away clay, revealing a little baby girl beneath the clay.  The skies clear, the rain stops and the seas calm.  The woman is smiling and crying, speaking a name (Diana) as the camera pulls in close to the baby’s face.  We pull back to a girl of about five, face covered in clay as she makes a lopsided statue.  Her mother (the woman from before) is relating the story of how the Amazons left behind the world of man, a world incapable of peace.  We jump ahead to fifteen year old Diana sword fighting.  Hippolyta is continuing the tale of the Amazons.  The fight comes to an end, Hippolyta and Diana walk into a temple.  There we can see a floating orb.  As Hippolyta speaks, images of war and destruction.  Diana stares.  Hippolyta leaves and and young Diana reaches out and touches the orb.  The images of war dispell in ripples.  She sees peace protests, people sacrificing themselves for others, feeding children, etc.

We then would jump to the present.  Steve Trevor is part of a meeting with Lex Luthor.  Luthor is trying to convince them he has assembled the most advanced plane ever.  Trevor is being enlisted to test fly it for the military.  In this meeting is also General Swanwick from Man of Steel.  Trevor is visibly unimpressed with Luthor.  As he and Swanwick are walking away, he expresses distrust of Luthor and that working with him is a bad idea.

Of course, the test flight goes wrong, Trevor and the plane are lost.  He crashes, of course, on Themyscira.  He is discovered by Amazon warriors who bring him before Hippolyta.  He is taken by Diana, who is standing in the back.  She looks to be about 25.  He responds respectfully to Hippolyta.  She is unsure he can be trusted.  Is he part of an invasion?  After he is taken to a cell (unlike any prison he has seen, this is almost a hotel suite).  Diana is more curious.  She looks at the possessions taken from the plane…trying to figure out things like an iPad, cell phone, iPod…  Trevor is only honest.  He is not a neanderthal, instead treating his captors as hosts.  Addressing them with titles.  It is intriguing for both Hippolyta and Diana.  Diana is sure Steve is proof that the Amazons do not need to be hidden from the world.  Hippolyta is not as sure.  But she decides she trusts Steve enough to send an ambassador, so to speak.  Someone to look into the world.  To see if the world of man has truly learned it’s lessons and is moving towards peaceful resolutions.  After some debate, Hippolyta reluctantly allows Diana to be this ambassador, to return Steve to his world.  Hippolyta gives Diana a gift.  There is a formal Warrior attire (which would look something like this), bracelets a sword and a golden lasso.

At a few points, we would meet professor and archeologist, Barbara Minerva, who has passionately been trying to prove Amazons were real.  She ends up in a seeming dead end.  She finds the remains of a village in Greece.  Oddly, the tribe seemed to be full of idols of Cheetahs.  She takes the most ornate idol, and several scrolls.  As she works to translate them, she discovers a ritual.  She works out the incantation and the ritual…only to merge herself with a “cheetah demigod/spirit”.

Steve helps Diana find a way to fit in, helping conceal where she truly is from.  In the meantime, she is forced to reveal herself as a person of a super-powered nature.  She enjoys the adventure and saving people…she starts to show up in costume, saving people, stopping crimes.  She is Christened the Wonder Woman.  At the same time, there is something romantic growing between them.

After Wonder woman reveals herself, Professor Minerva desires the Bracelets and Golden Lasso.  She starts to devise a plan.  She attacks Wonder Woman to learn more about what she is up against.  There is a penultimate fight between Wonder Woman and the Cheetah.

The film would end with Wonder Woman meeting with Hippolyta.  While they agree mankind may not be ready for the Amazons, there is a value to Wonder Woman being present in the world of Man.

In the background is Aries.  He is not prominent… maybe we learn who he really is in a post credit moment.

I threw this together over the course of half an hour.  Of course, maybe folks will think this super rough treatment sucks.  But the point is…it just is not that hard DC & WB.

A Foundation of Steel

Dave Poland, among others, have harped on the fact that the Man of Steel never really addresses “What do you think will happen when people find out there are people like Clark Kent out there.” It really doesn’t. There is just to much action to get around to it. But it seems likely it is a setup for another film. People seem to be forgetting in their criticism that this is the start for a franchise. Man of Steel is not meant to be a “done in one tale”. It is a setup for more films. And that matters. You cannot ignore that.

A franchise film should tell a story, but it also will leave some questions unaddressed. Batman Begins did not tell us anything about the Joker other than his calling card. X-Men introduced all sorts of questions about Wolverine answering pretty much none of them.

The film shows a Lexcorp truck, which suggests we will see a businessman Lex Luthor in the sequel. In the comics, Lex has, in more than one incarnation, been driven by a fear of aliens. And Man of Steel certainly sets that up. I can easily see a subplot where Lex is ranting against Superman and trying to get people to his side, while the Daily Planet is championing Superman.

The funny thing is we DO see how people react. There are civilians thankful Superman saved them. The soldiers accept him. Lois and the scientist accept him. We get our answer. Jonathan Kent was wrong.

You just cannot force a Franchise starting film to follow the rules of a one off film. You cannot hold them to that standard. There are a lot of problems with Man of Steel, but not answering every question is not one of them.