Thursday, March 23, 2017

Whatdunits - Mike Resnick

Whatdunits is a series of short story mysteries where Resnick presented another writer with some sort of prompt, and let them write a story fitting said prompt (so Resnick is the editor, rather than the author). The idea came out of a desire to see some genuine mysteries in a science-fiction setting in short-story format.

As with any anthology, the selection is a mixed bag, but it's interesting to see what approach different writers take. Some take the bog-standard hard-luck private investigator, and toss in some sci-fi trappings like telepathy and robot secretaries (Michael Stackpole's "It's the Thought that Counts"). Esther Friesner and Walter J. Stutzman's "Dead Ringer" is ostensibly about telling whether it was the clone or the original version of someone that was murdered, but also examines a world where the wealthy clone themselves to have someone to attend functions they don't want to deal with, while workers or cops with valuable skills have their genetic material taken and are cloned if they die. It looks at how the clone would struggle with that, and how their friends and loved ones would adjust to the dead being back among them.

Some are written to be funny, like "Monkey See", where the story is presented as a letter from the scientists explaining how an alien scientist being killed by chimps is not murder. Others are more grim, like "The Colonel and the Alien", where a non-earthling is elected President of the interplanetary federation for the first time, but they only did so by crooked means, and we exposed thanks to a vast, always watching security network ultimately run by One Man, whose steadfast commitment and calm protects us all.

Some of the authors more rigidly follow the prompt than others. John DeChancie wrote "Murder On-Line", which was supposed to be about somehow proving someone who could teleport killed a person, but turned into a story about people getting completely absorbed in virtual worlds to the point the outside world falls into disrepair. Anthony Lewis' "Loss of Phase" seems more concerned with having a dolphin for a detective, to the point the murder is almost an afterthought. I'd say that the ones that strayed furthest from the initial prompt were the ones I enjoyed least, maybe because they seemed to forget it was supposed to be a mystery?

'It was Dr. Nestleroth who hit upon the brilliant solution of registering the Institute as a state mental hospital, and arranging for the involuntary commitment of all the chimps as patients of the hospital.'

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Different Sort Of Twisted Reflection

I wish Tim Roth's Abomination had survived the Incredible Hulk movie. Maybe he did, but I've always assumed Hulk broke his neck or strangled him with that chain at the end. Regardless, he hasn't made a return appearance since. Mostly I wanted him to encounter Captain America.

Ross initially pumped Blonsky full of an incomplete knockoff version of the Super-Soldier Serum, but beyond that, Blonsky is what Erskine was afraid of, what would have been the result if Colonel Phillips had his way and somehow got Gilmore Hodge chosen as the subject. Erskine feared giving more power to someone accustomed to it, that they wouldn't have any respect for what they could do with it. They'd regard everyone else as lesser, weaker beings to abuse as they saw fit. Here's Blonsky, used to being the baddest, toughest guy on the block, but fearing not only the loss of some of that prowess due to age, but also to being completely outclassed by this big, green monster.

Him taking the knockoff serum is understandable, since at the time he was going to be confined to a hospital bed for the rest of his likely short, certainly painful existence. But once he had it, saw what it could do for him, and saw that it still wasn't enough to stop Hulk, he wanted more. And once he had that, the world was a playground, something to smash and destroy as he saw fit until he could find a proper challenge.

Blonsky isn't Johann Schmidt. He doesn't have larger aspirations of ruling the world, any more than Steve Rogers does. Still, he might take orders from anyone, or attack anyone, simply for the chance to test his power, prove his superiority. A super-soldier with no interest in serving, or helping anyone but himself*. The Abomination is trashing a city, Captain America, or whatever Steve is going to call himself now, shows up with his team trying to figure out who Blonsky is working for and what the goal is. And the answers are "No one and nothing," Blonsky just wanted to draw out some Avengers to see if they could give him a challenge. Maybe the Hulk would show up and he'd get a rematch. Let Cap contend with someone who isn't working to some greater, awful goal. It would at least be a good starting point, if someone had perhaps suggested to Blonsky where he should try causing a disturbance.

Also, considering how Thunderbolt Ross berated Captain America for not keeping Hulk and Thor locked up, it'd be nice for the monster he stupidly created to show up and start wreaking havoc.

* To a certain extent, Frank Grillo's Brock Lumlow becoming Crossbones could have filled this role as well, although he did have an ideology he acted in service of. Irrelevant since they put him on screen for five minutes then blew him up in Captain America: Civil War.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Perils Of A Licensed Game

I asked for Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. What I wound up receiving was Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Well, if I really wanted Shadow, I would have plunked down the money for it myself already. That's on me.

So instead of sneaking about, stabbing Orc war chiefs in the back and terrorizing their ranks*, I was playing as part of a Human/Dwarf/Elf trio, trying to stop some wannabe wizard king named Agandaur from causing a lot of trouble. Which involves chasing him all of the place, thwarting his various schemes. Like trying to conquer a dwarf stronghold, or convince a dragon to throw in with Sauron. I was surprised the game doesn't make you fight the dragon, but maybe I was too accustomed to wiping them out with ease in Skyrim. In this case, the game has you make a counteroffer, which will require you to ultimately kill Agandaur. Which we were gonna do anyway, so sure, kill him and give the dragon his house.

The game gives you the option of playing as any of the three allies: Eradan's a human Ranger, and the one I stuck with. Farin's a dwarf Champion, and Andriel's an Elf Lore-master. You can switch between them if you want at certain checkpoints, but I was satisfied with the ranger. Combat is fine, the game doesn't have it set-up where your character gets tired if you have your bow drawn for too long, which is OK with me. This isn't really a game where you spend a lot of time waiting for that perfect shot. Usually by the time you see enemies, they're already rushing you en masse, so it's time to fire any and every arrow you've got, then cut them to pieces when they get too close for that.

The game feels very old. It isn't a new game by any stretch, but I'm also replaying Resident Evil 4 on my Gamecube right now, and this game feels older than that one does. Granting I play a lot of games which boil down to "enter a specific area, kill enemies until the game stops sending them, go to next area, repeat". Those games usually offer some sort of distinguishing stylistic quirk to make them stand out. That didn't seem to be the case here. You kill, you pick up some better gear, kill some more, level up, maybe make yourself better at a certain skill, kill some more, boss fight. Extremely straightforward.

Shouldn't have expected more from a licensed game, and sometimes I do just want to hack and slash a bunch of enemies, and it does suffer because I was expecting a different game. Still, the pacing was off. The end came on suddenly. I'd been chasing Agandaur for some time, but once I caught up to him, things ended quickly. Which at least meant it wasn't one of those final boss fights that goes on forever because he keeps escaping and you have to keep giving chase. But it was still a moment of surprise that the game was over. Maybe I was thrown because an hour earlier, I'd been repeatedly stymied by one of those irritating missions where you have to make sure something doesn't get too damaged. I was stuck fighting two Trolls by myself, trying to keep them swinging at me and not the door in question, because my allies were being useless. I almost gave up on the game entirely because of that. Agandaur was comparatively easy.

There are a few sidequests you can do or not, fetch this or that and receive something. But the map screen only pops up when you're getting ready to progress to a new area in the game. If you forget there's a quest you can complete by returning to Rivendell during one of those instances, you're shit out of luck.

* I know there's more to the game, but that's how I envision myself playing it, a spectral scourge attacking from every angle.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Puppet Using His Strings

There's a scene in one of the early issues of Gwenpool, where she explains the truth of his existence as a comic character to Batroc. When Batroc questions why he has never experienced his happy moment, his great trumph, Gwen points out that he's the villain. He's not meant to experience success, but he doesn't realize that. He goes into fights with Captain America or Misty Knight of whoever, and thinks that maybe this time he can win. From Gwen's perspective, there are outside forces that have put certain rules and conventions in place which dictate Batroc's actions and fate, which he doesn't perceive.

Gwen, because she thinks of it all as a fictional universe, doesn't operate that way. She knows what the conventions are, and so treats it like a minefield she has the map for. It was the in the Rocket Raccoon and Groot book, but there was a bit, once Civil War II started to intrude, where Gwen forcefully states she is not going to New York with Rocket and Groot because minor characters get killed in Big Crossovers, and she knew she wasn't a big enough deal to be safe. It was entirely possible that if she went with them, the Guardians spaceship might have landed on her. She wasn't going to play Arcade's dungeon by his rules, because she saw the larger pattern of what he wanted, and didn't see any reason to play along. Why fight these other mercenaries who aren't doing anything to her? Just find a way out, trounce Arcade, who is the one actually trying to kill them, and get on with your life.

She did make the mistake of buying into her own hype and thinking she'd be able to kill Deadpool, when, as Wade pointed out, there is no way she's popular enough to get that carrot. But she doesn't like Deadpool, and her plan to take him down through teamwork had worked spectacularly well, so you can't blame her for getting a little cocky. It happens to the best of 'em, and for the most part, she's avoided being jerked into pointless scuffles and dangerous situations.

But then there's Deadpool. Wade knows he's a fictional character, but unlike Gwen, he plays by the conventions of his universe. Normally he limits his awareness to commenting on the stupidity of events, or the convenient happenstances that keep certain plots moving. Wade knows all about two heroes having a misunderstanding fight, then teaming up, but he embraces it, looks forward to it. He knows Arcade is trying to make people kill each other for him, and Deadpool pretty much shrugs, says, "Sure, why not?" and gets to be stabbing. Wade explained it to Gwen as 'We all just live here, right?' Deadpool knows there are strings on him, but much of the time, he doesn't seem to mind. But sometimes he does. The second story in the final issue of the previous Deadpool volume (either #45 or #250), he gets the Infinity Gauntlet and has a roast in his honor. At the very end, he talks directly to us about how much it sucks sometimes that all the misery in his life is for our amusement of us, and that we treat it at disposable entertainment, but it's real for him.

That, combined with what he told Gwen, makes me wonder how much Deadpool uses what he knows about his existence as an excuse. Wade is capable of compassion, but generally demonstrates it towards people he regards as innocent victims. Agent Preston, his daughter, Ratbag from Simone's run, Weasel when he's gotten in trouble for helping Wade. When it comes to people he regards as having made bad decisions of their own accord, he's indifferent. He was supposed to be protecting Michael from having his soul claimed by Vetis, so Wade shot him in the head to send him to Hell as a way to outflank the demon. that it send Michael to Hell didn't bother Wade much, seeing as Michael was the one who made the deal.

I've tended to attribute this to Wade's traumatic experiences at the hand of Department K, the people who experimented on and tortured him in the process of giving him his healing factor. Wade didn't know what he was getting into, he was a victim, and so he feels sympathy for those he sees as being in similar straits. And because the world has been so cruel to him, he can therefore justify being cruel back. No one was there for him when he was in trouble, and even now, years after, even having saved the world a couple times, a lot of people, including heroes who ought to understand what he's experiencing, still treat Wade like something they'd rather scrape off their shoe. Deadpool struggles against those impulses, frequently tries to be good, tries to help people, builds connections with others, but he often fails, and ultimately it all goes to hell.

But if Deadpool knows his life is a story others read for amusement, that it's being crafted by other beings in whatever ways they deem fit, how does that impact what he's doing? Deadpool goes through a lot of supporting casts. There are certain characters who will carry over - Weasel, Sandi and Outlaw, Taskmaster pops up a lot - but most new writers want to introduce their own set-up (when was the last time Blind Al was a major part of his book? Early 2000s?). Wade goes from having a small, but solid core of friends who will come have a TV night at his decent apartment in the final issue of Cable/Deadpool, to living alone in a warehouse at the start of Daniel Way's Deadpool. What did Wade do to screw everything up that fast? Did he sabotage friendships because he knew he was supposed to be isolated for the new run, or did he choose to isolate himself so he could destroy his friendships, so he could hang out with his friends again somewhere down the line?

Does he jump at the chance for the misunderstanding battle because he knows it does lead to a team-up, so he'll get to hang out with Spider-Man or the Thing or whoever? He could try talking to them, but that might not work. They might see Deadpool and just hurry away. At least this way they'll hang out with him. he does get lonely, he would like for these heroes to like him at least a little, though he's often unwilling to show the more decent parts of himself to them.

Does he kill nameless cannon fodder because he knows they were put there by the writers for that purpose, that nobody cares whether they live or die? If so, is it because it makes it easier for him, or because he's trying to put on a show for the audience, or maybe he even thinks he's doing them a favor. The Nameless HYDRA guys he and Preston killed in issue 24 were put in the story for that purpose. To die in a manner that shows how serious the protagonists were about all this. They were created to suffer, and he's sparing them any delusions otherwise. It wasn't all strictly necessary; some of the HYDRA guys surrendered, but Gerry Duggan was trying to be dramatic, so they were coldly murdered anyway.

Wade in 2099 told his daughters and Preston he never asked for any of them, to have this weird family full of people who all kind of hate him now. And for most of us, we'd interpret that as life moving in unexpected ways, if I hadn't been late for that train, blahdeblah. Wade knows it wasn't random, it was written in that he'd take that job from Dracula, meet Shiklah, marry her to keep her free of Drac, and they'd have a kid. From his perspective, does he see it as something he had any choice in whatsoever?

Thinking about it, even Wade's memory problems, which are usually attributed to either the constant regeneration of his brain, or more recently, the drugs Butler was giving him, could be instead laid at the feet of the creative teams who add new stuff into his backstory. Butler wasn't part of Deadpool's history, until he was. Or T-Ray, or the idea that Wade went into the future and saved Young Cable's life multiple times, so that Cable knew Wade before they fought the first time back in New Mutants #98. The Deadpool who appeared in that New Mutants comic probably didn't even have memory problems, because nobody had bothered to write that into his character yet. His mind might have been reasonably sound (by Deadpool's standards), but has gotten progressively more wrecked over the years as writers put him through the wringer, adding new layers to his history, fixing the memory issues one way, adding them a different way later. And Deadpool, unlike Wolverine, knows he's never going to get that moment where he remembers everything. Because even if he thinks he does (ala Logan post-House of M), some other writer will come along with some other thing out of his past he didn't recall for some reason.

What does that do, if you know at any moment someone is going to come along that 5 minutes ago, you had never heard of, but now it turns out they were super-important to you in the past, you had just conveniently forgotten until right then? It's happened before, it will happen again. Would you still be able to be surprised after awhile? Would you still be able to care? "Yeah, I know we were best friends in 7th grade and I stayed at your house when things got ugly at home, but you didn't exist until three pages ago so piss off."

I started this with the idea that Deadpool used what he knows about his existence as an excuse, and it might still be. When things start to go south for him, if he backslides more towards being a bad guy at some point, he might claim it's what Marvel thinks is most profitable, not his fault he's ruining everything. But looking at it, all the jokes and jabs about pointless fights or losing his co-star to a better-selling X-book feel like Deadpool taking the one bit of solace he can in the shitty hand he's been dealt. He doesn't see anyway to get free of the strings. He won't be allowed to step off-stage until Marvel decides he's not popular enough to keep alive. So he shittalks them because it's the only little way he sees to get some back at them.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Foyle's War 8.3 - Elise

Plot: It's the final episode, and we start with Miss Pierce being shot by a young man who declares it to be 'for Elise'. Pierce survives, but is certain this has something to do with a mysterious "Plato". Sir Alec had already assigned Foyle and Valentine to investigate black marketeering kingpin Damien White, who is consorting with Soviet spy Arkady Kuznetsov, and now they have this to deal with. As well as the Director of Operations for MI6, Ian Woodhead, who worked with Pierce in the SOE during the war. Foyle's initial investigations show Miss Pierce occasionally visited the Special Branch Club, where a Mr. Stafford proves willing to help. Foyle also finds photos pointing to a working relationship between Pierce and Elizabeth Addis during the war, a working relationship Foyle knows continues to the present.

Stafford learns that Elise was the codename of one Sophie Corrigan, who died on her first mission into France, in three days. Sophie's mother reveals her son Miles hasn't been seen since he delivered a radio for her birthday two days ago (the day of the shooting) and was agitated about something. Also that is was Pierce who recruited Sophie personally, and who even came to pick her up when she joined. Elizabeth reveals that Sophie was the 9th of Pierce and Woodhead's agents to be quickly sussed out and killed by the Gestapo in a matter of months, and that she was brought in to search the SOE for a mole, which Woodhead named Plato. Addis narrowed the suspects to three people, five if you count Woodhead and Pierce, but couldn't reveal the traitor. Curiously Miles, who was in the RAF not Intelligence, knows about Plato, and is going after all the suspects. The guards Valentine placed around Mr. Caplin ultimately kill Miles. And Caplin is innocent of that crime, though he has certain connections to Damien White. .

Of course, that still leaves the question of who was the mole, and how Miles learned about all of it. Foyle's going to suss those out, but Pierce will be the one who finishes things.

In other threads, Adam, at Glenvil's urging, tries to get the police to crack down on black market goods, and ends up framed for possessing several cartons of stolen cigarettes. But Chief Superintendent Usborne has made the critical mistake of making an enemy of Sam. It's one last high adventure for Sam before embarking on the biggest adventure, throwing up in every bar in New Orleans in one night. I mean, being a parent. That doesn't sound like much of an adventure.

Quote of the Episode: Pierce - 'For head of communications, he was an extremely uncommunicative man.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No. And now I'll never learn to fly fish.

Things Sam can do: Imperil herself and others trying to bust a crooked cop. Have enough sense to call a professional badass ahead of time as backup. Recognize when she needs to get out.

Other: Watching Adam in this episode, I was reminded of Charles Roper from 7.3, "Sunflower". he said at one point that he never thought government, at least if you wanted to accomplish anything, would be so complicated. And, of course, Roper ultimately resorted to illegal tactics to keep George Gibson from getting his land back. For noble reasons - to keep the land in food production - but all the same, doing things by the book wasn't cutting it, so he tried something crooked. In this episode, Adam is initially unconcerned with black market selling of goods. He sees it as a way for people to get things they're looking for that the government and its policies seem unable to provide. What's the harm in a guy selling socks from a suitcase on the street, if people can't get socks in the shops for a reasonable price?

Damien White makes a similar argument to justify his actions in selling such goods. The people are tired of hardship and rationing, the war is supposed to be over. They want to be able to enjoy themselves, feel good, and he provides that. He provides it by a combination of bribery, murder, extortion and ultimately treason, but the customer don't need to know that, does he? It does feel like a cop out, because it doesn't really address what the average person is supposed to do if the government is failing to look after its citizens. The answer appears to be, "Suck it up and hope your government gets its shit together before you starve or freeze or catch pneumonia because you're walking to work in worn out shoes and socks because you can't afford anything better." Which is not a great message, frankly.

Didn't really mean to start with a discussion of Adam's thread, but it had been in mind, so it gets the coveted lead off spot. I would have liked to see more of Sam and Glenvil interacting based on this. Glenvil has continually surprised me with his generally high character. Probably because I keep thinking of him as a campaign manager, which he isn't, and my impression of them is they're willing to do anything to get their person elected. He and Sam share that desire to help people, but Sam is more hands on, do it yourself. Micro level, rather than macro. Also much more of a risk-taker. But it was fun to see Sam get to be the voice of experience in this scenario, and not have someone trying to hold her back who has any level of authority over her.

Also, Sam being completely unimpressed at being threatened by some mobster and his goons was fantastic. I hadn't considered she would contact the person she did for back-up, mostly because I didn't believe she'd interacted enough with him for it to work. I was tickled by that whole scene.

I was sure I'd watched this before, but apparently not because I didn't remember any of the end. Not how Pierce settles things, not how Miles learned about Plato, or any of the stuff about Caplin, Tellier, and Hawtrey (the three suspected traitors), and not how things end between Foyle and Addis. Damien White keeps making references to an Archie and the Blue Lantern. That, combined with every single person Foyle asked stating they had no diea where Hawtrey was, made me believe Hawtrey was some silent partner of White's coming in from his hidey hole to handle some business. That was not the case.

I also had thought Foyle and Elizabeth Addis were going to build to some sort of relationship. She was an intelligent older woman, and they seemed to have some natural chemistry when she helped him investigate David Woolf's murder. The lack of trust turns out to be a stumbling block, assuming a relationship was ever on the table at all.

That's it for Foyle's War. The last two seasons seem like they should feel strange, putting Foyle in a job he doesn't seem to want to be in, and which everyone keeps insisting he's ill-suited for. In practice, Foyle is still dealing with people who committed, at best, morally questionable acts, but feel the war or their position excuses them. That he's now more within the government apparatus hasn't reduced the stumbling blocks to seeing justice done. But he's been able to see a sufficient amount of justice done to avoid leaving in disgust, as he did with the police after season 4. Does he really not have anything else worth doing that he wouldn't enjoy more? I'm not sure if he's planning to stick with it or not. Sam finally tells him she's pregnant, and leaving, they say so long for now, Foyle sees Elizabeth in the distance, and gives her that sideways look and sardonic grin he favors. The one he usually gets when someone says something so stupid or bullshit he's torn between being disgusted and laughing at them. I don't know what that means.

Next week, a new show. I've narrowed it to two possibilities. Either one will be very different from this.

Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Bought 3/15/2017

Four comics I wanted this week, and I've only managed to get one of them so far. On the upside, an issue of Darkwing Duck came out at some point recently, so I have that to add to the mix.

Ms. Marvel #16, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Myazawa (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - And this is what happen when you use cheat codes so you can deflect annoying axes rather than dodge them like you're supposed to: The game gives the boss a tank to hunt you down with.

The virus, created by some imbecile game designer with delusions of grandeur (who will probably end up recruited by HYDRA Cap), wants Kamala to upload it into SHIELD's systems. Or it'll reveal her secret identity, and Zoe's crush on Nakia, which Kamala was blissfully unaware of. Kamala almost goes along with it, but ultimately refuses, warns Zoe, and calls Bruno for help. And she has a plan to win, which I assume will be exposing the virus to more positive influences so it's less of a dick.

It's a "set-up" issue, getting the pieces in place for the conclusion. It does bring the subplot about Zoe's crush on Nakia to a head, although we'll see what happens with it going forward. They're going to still be friends, but nothing romantic, that's fine, but I am curious if we'll see the awkwardness Kamala was so afraid of. Also if this is going to be the push for her to finally tell Nakia her secret identity, so it's on her terms. That feels like what this is building towards, though what's wrong with having a secret? Not everything has to be shared.

This issue did give Miyazawa a chance to draw expressions and postures he doesn't normally. Kamala's nervous, hair-grabbing stance as she frets about the awkwardness isn't something I've seen get used in the book. Or some of Zoe's more shocked and panicked reactions. Not responses characters have often in this book. Anger, yes, smiles, yes, sad, sure. But this kind of comically nervous or worried, not so much. But it was fun, nice to see.

Darkwing Duck #8, by Aaron Sparrow and James Silvani (storytellers), Paul Little (colors), DC Hopkins (letters) - I'm not sure any of those are proper implements for dealing with vines.

The villain responsible for the zombie potatoes is the dean who drove Bushroot into becoming a plant/duck hybrid. He stole Bushroot's work, got some funding from various nefarious sources (including an old rival of Scrooge's), and found the secret to giant vegetables (that lack nutrition) by unearthing Bushroot's old vampire potato bride. Who is calling all the zombie spuds to her aid. Fortunately for our heroes, Gizmoduck shows up to help. I guess that's fortunate, depending on how you feel about him. It's ultimately Bushroot who defeats his would be potato bride.

The parts I was most interested in were all the future plots they set up. Quackerjack has something planned for the toy expo. Negaduck's got something planned for new resident of St. Canard prison, Splatter Phoenix. Steelbeak made off with the research on giant vegetables. Someone helped themselves to Quackwerks' Herobots. Morgana is still MIA. I don't know when Volume 2 will come out and possibly resolve any of those threads, though.

Darkwing admitting he's sustained a lot of cranial trauma as part of this job made me laugh, though. It was funny in context. Also, Gizmoduck using the power of shadow puppets to try and call Darkwing, and just winding up with determined haberdashers. But, Dean Tightbill as the villain is lacking. The idea of someone taking Bushroot's ideas and focusing solely on profit makes perfect sense, but it feels flat. Partly because he's obviously a patsy villain, being used by Steelbeak and others, and because so much of the story is still about Bushroot. Tightbill helped create Bushroot, taking a guy who wanted to make the world a better place for people, and making him love plants and hate people instead, but that doesn't necessarily make him an interesting character in of himself.

Also, Darkwing's distaste for and jealousy of Gizmoduck gets tiring, so I'm not particularly thrilled to see him. Which adds up to a two-part story that isn't the sum of its parts on the writing side. The art side of things is still solid. Silvani can sell the physical humor, and he can do the expression work to sell the dialogue jokes. The Quackerjack page is colored almost entirely in grey, except for the television screens. It gives a nice ominous feel considering the character in question is usually so brightly attired and gaudy. Creates that sense of him lurking, readying himself. And it's an odd contrast, wedged in between a page of a vampire potato using Darkwing to bludgeon Launchpad into the ground, and one of Gizmoduck fending off said vampire potato with buzzsaws. A different kinds of threat.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stabbing People For A Good Cause One Last Time

There's probably spoilers below.

I'm torn on Logan. It's a good movie. The cast and crew seemed to have a clear idea what they wanted to do, and they pulled it off. But I've been surprised by the level of acclaim it's received, from sources which are not usually hyperbolic about every superhero thing that comes down the pike. Maybe I've watched too many Westerns about the old gunfighter trying to pull it together One Last Time. Or maybe the respective situations of Xavier and Logan touched a nerve.

I'm not, at present, so concerned with the dying part of getting old (assuming I actually get old, we'll see if my feelings change). What weighs on my mind is the physical and mental decline. I haven't ever been able to decide which option was more palatable: To maintain my physical well-being, but for my mental capabilities to decline in some way (as with my paternal grandmother, who lived to 93, but with steadily increasing senile dementia for the last decade), or for my body to fail me, even if my mind remains relatively sharp (as was the case with my other three grandparents). And here's Chuck Xavier, mind going, telepathy still incredibly powerful, but not entirely within his control. And here's Logan, as much there mentally as he usually is, but collapsing physically (and also basically a dead husk emotionally).

My discomfort aside, Jackman and Stewart play their roles well. The sniping and arguing between them, Logan's exasperation with this old man he's looking after out of some affection (even if it's hard to remember why), and Xavier, frustrated with himself and this world, with how things turned out, how Logan turned out. The part where Xavier disgustedly rails on about what a disappointment Logan is, that was pretty effective. I know it's a cliche that "Professor Xavier is jerk", but Stewart's rarely played him as that straightforwardly hurtful, so it's a bit of a shock. Logan falling apart while attempting a eulogy and simply going and trashing his truck was a great scene. Those moments where the words won't come, or you can't make yourself say them, and all that's left is impotent frustration and anger.

Dafne Keen does a good job as Laura. She doesn't say anything for a long time, so it's most down to looks and the screaming she does while she stabs people. Which is unpleasant to listen to, but that's probably the point. A kid shouldn't be in a situation that makes her make that noise, especially since she's killing people who want to kill and probably dissect her at the time. But in some ways, Laura acts like a regular kid. Playing with the door locking button because she can see it's bugging Logan, and because it's something to do on a long car ride. The way she watches Logan, trying to get him to step up and help, getting frustrated when he won't, but still looking after him. All three lead actors did a very good job.

Watching the two react to Laura is an interesting contrast. Charles wants to help her, let her experience as much of life as a free person as she can. Because he's still hoping to help make some chance for a peaceful life for mutants on Earth. He's still holding onto his dream, while Logan, I don't want to say he's taken the loss harder, but he's certainly taken it as a sign to give up, or try giving up. He's working a crap job to make some money to care for this old man until he can get him on a boat somewhere and hide for the rest of their days. Helping anyone, fighting for any dream, is out of the question. And so he doesn't want to deal with Laura, doesn't want to get sucked into trying to help anyone else. Even when he should have some inkling, more than most, or what she's been through. Although it was funny to me the evil doctor says they can't teach rage, it has to be built. Judging by Laura, they taught her rage pretty well. But I suppose it wasn't controllable rage.

I stepped out to visit the restroom during part of the scene at the farmer's home. I was getting antsy (although this is not your typical 150 minute superhero movie, so props to them for that), but I'd read a review of the film that pretty much told me how it would end for them. What? I didn't expect to actually see the film within its first week in theaters, but Alex was all gung-ho. The villains were interesting as archetypes. The oh-so-well meaning amoral scientist, the imbecile who just relishes the chance to kick around minorities, and the monster that mirrors the hero. Plus the faceless corporation that employed them all and presumably is trucking along undisturbed by anything that happened. But as characters? Not so much. Boyd Kirkland's Donald Pierce got the most screen time, and he's kind of amusing, but he plays that outwardly pleasant, but sociopathic Southern gent Walton Goggins gets handed much of the time. The pleasant drawl and some folksy saying, but oops, he's torturing a guy.

The fight scenes are fun. Watching Logan shuffle around awkwardly while Laura flips all over the place makes a nice contrast, and they introduce enough additional pieces to keep watching people get stabbed in the face from being too repetitive. They do one fight where Laura takes the approach of picking off some of the enemies one at a time in hit-and-run style. Another one, they throw in a group of idiots with guns and a sacrifice to keep things pinballing around. The last one has vehicles with weapons and a bunch of other kids with powers. As for the level of violence, limbs being severed and spurting blood, I'm not the best judge. I read Punisher comics written by Garth Ennis. You're going to have to dial that shit up pretty high to faze me at this point*.

Anyway, good movie, worth a watch if you get the chance. For some reason, we wound up at a faux-IMAX viewing, that cost $16 per ticket. I wouldn't recommend that at all. Granted I haven't seen it in not faux-IMAX for comparison, but I can't imagine it would suffer that much.

* Alternatively, get more realistic with it. There's a scene in one of the Evil Dead movies where a character gets stabbed in the ankle with a pencil. That made me squirm a little, I suppose because the camera lingered a second, and it could actually happen. I am unlikely to try to steal Hugh Jackman's car, and he is unlikely to stab me with knives erupting from his knuckles if I did.