Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Luke Cage

In brief, I enjoyed Luke Cage a lot more than the first season of Daredevil (I haven't watched Season 2 yet.) So that's my extremely quick review.

To get more expansive, I loved the music. Especially the opening credits theme. It's a frequent refrain that Marvel's movies lack memorable songs or soundtracks. This isn't a problem that really bothers me, because music is frequently background for me. Hearing problems cause me to concentrate on not missing things that are important to the story. I'm trying to focus on what I can see, or dialogue (it's why I will watch most everything with captions or subtitles on if I can). But Luke Cage really had some great stuff, that made it fun to watch some of the slower sequences and just let things sink in.

But there were a lot of slow sequences. It felt as though the series could have been two episodes shorter. There were so many instances where I was muttering, "get on with it." And there wasn't any particular plotline that was consistently that. Sometimes I was frustrated by Willis Stryker's "I'm crazy, ooh" posturing. Other times it was Mariah, because yeah, she's a sleazy politician, I get it. And sometimes I wanted either Luke or Misty to get the hell on with it. The whole thing with Luke getting shot, he and Stryker kind of hunting each other, Luke looking for help, the trip to Georgia, that seemed to go on forever.

It was that sense at times that, because the series couldn't end yet, certain things were happening because of that. The part where Misty confronts Stryker in the office at the club, gun drawn, and he somehow draws two guns, wounds her, and escapes unscathed. Oh, come on. It just felt as though it occurred because they need him unharmed for a big showdown with Luke two episodes from now.

I liked Mike Colter as Luke. I was surprised people kept referring to him as "corny". I had always pegged Luke as being very cool, but those aren't mutually exclusive, I guess. He can say things people think are corny, but the fact he's genuine, and the way he carries himself while saying corny things, make him cool. Luke seems like a good guy, one trying to live a life under circumstances outside his control, who still feels a responsibility to act, as much as he might try to deny it. He starts out trying to avoid getting involved, then he's in it for revenge. Then it seems like it's almost a macho thing, that he drew a line in the sand, and he can't tolerate Cottonmouth challenging him. And somewhere along the line, he starts actually wanting to just help people, protect them, even if they're criminals, he'll try to keep them from getting killed.

I did identify with Luke in the episode that ends with Pops' memorial. Cottonmouth's goons are beating and robbing people, and telling them to ask Luke about it. So Luke, reluctantly, keeps going and taking their stuff back. He doesn't want to keep getting dragged into this, he's wearing a nice suit, he just wants to attend the service, but he has to help. That, "I'll do this if it'll make you shut up and quit bothering me," attitude resonates with me.

Shades (Theo Rossi) annoyed the hell out of me. I'm not sure precisely what it was. The way he carried himself, like he's a big deal, when he's never anything more than a second fiddle, or someone else's water carrier. Ooh, you wear sunglasses all the time. So did Tony LaRussa, didn't make him cool. Watching Claire and Misty beat him up was pretty satisfying, although I was really wanting to see Luke slap him through a window. (I like how much they emphasize Luke's strength by his restraint. How often he casually tosses someone across a room, or barely taps them and they're knocked out). Anyway, Shades, the yapping dog nipping at your ankles, always darting away before you can punt him.

Stryker (Erik LaRay Harvey) I went back and forth on. Some times I really liked his act, and sometimes it felt too over the top. When he first shows up and wounds Luke, and is mockingly calling out, "Caaarl," I dug that. He has a rasp to his voice that works. Get the feeling he's been calling that name for a long time, even when Luke was nowhere around. I wasn't thrilled with the, "I'm your half-brother!" revelation, but I the level of obsession worked. Like, none of what Stryker is pissed about is Luke's fault. He didn't know his dad was fooling around. He didn't know that was why Stryker set him up to take the fall. That comes up a lot in the series. Luke is frequently the victim of things outside his control. He's judged for being a big, African-American man. That almost certainly played into the prison sentence he got, it certainly played into how that crooked guard treated him (not that he treated any prisoners well, but he's clearly a racist). It plays into how the cops see him. He starts trying to take action, and he's got Mariah, the press, the cops, other people in the neighborhood distorting his actions, blaming things on him he didn't do or expecting him to do x, y, or z, and he just has to deal with it.

I ended up feeling bad for Misty (Simone Missick) a lot. I like Misty; she's clever, she's funny sometimes, sarcastic frequently, dedicated, trying to do her best, but frustrated by limitations. The series really likes kicking her in the teeth, between her partner being crooked, her boss being too friendly with Mariah, and her attempts to protect her witness failing. That one was a real kicker, because I really thought Misty was going to get a win there. Candace had reconsidered, been inspired by Luke's kindness, and Mariah was at least going to have to skate fast to get off that thin ice. Then that fucker Shades wrecked everything, and Misty ends up chewed out by her boss for not trusting the system. The system that treated Misty as suspect because of her partner, that tried to take her badge, that kept letting Cottonmouth skate. Gee, can't imagine why she might lack trust.

That the police response to finding their weapons can't kill Luke was to go buy some weapons that could was sadly unsurprising. Misty tried to point out previously the best was to bring Luke in was to reason with him, and they only accepted that grudgingly, like it was a bizarre concept to them. It kind of operates as a low-rent Sentinel program, which was a superhero universe version of attempts to single out and terrorize minority groups. That Mariah pushes for the armament program is no surprise, since Stryker will help fund her campaigns with some of the proceeds. That she's able to play on the fears of a segment of the community and get them backing, is kind of a surprise. Like, once the cops have these exploding bullets, what's to stop them from using them whenever they like (besides the possibly prohibitive cost)? Just claim, "I thought my life was in danger from a superhuman," and that'll be accepted by the higher-ups, right? Especially considering most of the superhumans in the Marvel movie/television Universe could walk down the street without you knowing they were superhumans. How many men are there in New York City that fit Luke's general description? But I suppose all the supporters are thinking that certainly won't happen to them or anyone they care about, so there's no harm in it.

It's kind of a companion to Captain America: Civil War, which seemed focus on the response of world governments and militaries to the presence and impact of the Avengers, the efforts to curb them, or bring them in line with the goals of those groups. There's still a bit of that in Luke Cage, obviously the cops are freaked out by someone who can defy them if he so chooses, and Mariah sees Luke as someone who might undercut her influence, but the series looks more at how the public reacts. We hear people debating him on the radio. We see people coming out to cheer for him when he fights Stryker, or supporting Mariah, or blaming Luke when goons do something to them on Cottonmouth's orders. People aren't sure what to make of him or what he'll do, because he isn't necessarily following any strict rules or laws like cops are supposed to be doing. Luke acts as he thinks is right, but a) he doesn't always make the right choice, and b) other people don't know that, because it's his thoughts. So to some people he's frightening, and a sign Something Needs to be Done. Scapegoat, lash out, even when they have no clear idea of who they'd be lashing out at. To others he's an inspirational figure, someone to rally behind. And to others he's just a tool to use to accomplish what they want, good or bad.

And that cat is out of the bag. Even if it's revealed where the Judas bullets came from, I doubt the cops are going to relinquish them. Which is sort of a depressing thought hanging over the ending. The evidence to exonerate Luke is available, so he'll get out of prison, hopefully soon. Mariah and Shades are free, but Misty is still there, pursuing them. She may not get them, but they'll have eyes on them, ready to pounce. But those bullets are out there, and probably going to encourage more people to come up with similar ideas. Iron Man 2, among others, showed what happens if someone can get their hands on the resources to construct their ideas. But that requires either extreme brilliance, or shitloads of money. Here, it's starting to trickle down to levels where people not quite on that level can get it. Some mob boss, maybe Wilson Fisk if he didn't die in Daredevil season 2, is going to convince a cop to slip him some of those bullets. That stuff will be out there, going forward.

Anyway, pacing issues aside, Luke Cage was pretty good. And I enjoyed the randomness of the Method man appearance. I saw someone who didn't like it, but I liked it coming out of nowhere (and the robber trying to chat him up while robbing the place).

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