Thoughts on The Force Awakens

First things first: here there be spoilers.

With that out of the way, and having seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now, here’s a rundown of what I thought about the movie (short version: I liked it, but wasn’t blown away, there’s some problems that needed to be addressed).

THE GOOD

1. It’s entertaining.

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Seems like an obvious thing to expect from a Star Wars movie, but it’s not. Not after all the prequels, especially Attack of the Clones. You actually have fun in the movie for a good portion of it.

2. The first act.

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I would say the first act of the movie, which comprises the introduction of our main characters in and around Jakku, it’s pretty much perfect. Up until the moment Rey and Finn escape in the Millenium Falcon, I was impressed. There’s nothing in this first act that I would change, except perhaps the stupid opening crawl, which sounded too childish and simplistic to me and bothered me right away (yes, I know it was done in the style of every Star Wars movie, but… more on that later).

3. The escape from Jakku.

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Speaking of the escape in the Millenium Falcon, I have to say this is one of the best sequences in any Star Wars movie, and certainly my favorite from The Force Awakens. Right from the start, when Rey initially dismisses the (yet to be revealed) Falcon for being “garbage” (cue OT reference), only to be forced into using it after her chosen ship was destroyed, to Rey and Finn’s celebration after finally escaping, it was a beautiful thing to behold.

4. Rey.

4. Random lady doing random things

Daisy Ridley was perfection as Rey, on par with Carrie Fisher’s OT Leia. In the prequels we had potential with Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan, but the scripts never allowed him to fully realise that potential. Rey soars high in this movie, and I would venture to say she had a better start than Luke Skywalker’s in A New Hope.

5. Finn.

1. Stormtrooper

John Boyega as Finn wasn’t quite on par with Ridley, but he was pretty damn good himself. First time I watched the movie I thought he was a tad too comical at times (even Han Solo asks him to turn it down a notch at one point), but on second viewing I’m fine with it. He is comic relief, but without sacrificing good characterisation or his own dignity. I do wonder what his role will be in the next two movies, though, as he seemed to be more of a plot device than an integral part of the trilogy’s overarching story.

6. Poe Dameron.

5. Discount Wedge Antilles

Probably the coolest, most likeable character in the movie. I’ll reserve the negatives for the next section.

7. John Williams’ score.

I placed it here because there won’t be a neutral section to this review, and this score wasn’t bad. It wasn’t memorable, however; the only new theme that stayed with me was Rey’s, and even that one wasn’t all that great. In A New Hope we had Luke’s theme, in Empire Strikes Back we had the Imperial March and Yoda’s theme, in Return of the Jedi we had Luke & Leia’s theme, in The Phantom Menace we had Duel of the Fates, in Attack of the Clones we had Across the Stars, and in Revenge of the Sith we had Battle of the Heroes. All of these themes were memorable. Rey’s was good, but on par with these? I don’t think so, but only time will tell. Besides that, the score itself didn’t have the operatic quality of the original trilogy. I think we will never get that back, Williams is too old at this point (83, the man is a machine!). The prequels also suffered from a less operatic, more standard set of scores.

8. Stormtroopers.

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It was about time that stormtroopers stopped being the butt of most Star Wars jokes and finally got some badassery bestowed upon them. Not only did we have Finn deserting their ranks (so an ex stormtrooper was one of our main characters), but overall they were more intimidating, what with flame throwing that village, slaughtering the people in it, Daniel Craig’s stormtrooper resisting Rey at first, that other stormtrooper who seemed to have a history with Finn and challenged him to a sword fight… I won’t speak of Captain Phasma because she doesn’t belong in this section. The rest of them, though, got thumbs up.

9. Kylo Ren.

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He wasn’t on the level of Darth Vader, but really nobody is. Heck, Rey told him point blank that his greatest fear was never reaching Vader’s level. Ren was, however, what Darth Maul should have been in the prequels, had Lucas given him a little bit more love. He was also interesting in how he wasn’t all badass like the other villains, but was still learning the ropes and we are just witnessing some of his potential. That he had an issue with falling to the light side was a very interesting twist, and like Luke before him his greatest test was facing his own father and killing him. By no means a perfect character, but I’m onboard with him.

10. BB8.

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Perfection. BB8 was to R2D2 what Rey was to Leia.

THE BAD

1. A New Hope Reloaded.

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Yeah, I get that these movies “rhyme” and are “poetry”, but I call bullshit on that. They don’t need to. The movie was as close as you can get to a remake of A New Hope without actually making it a straight up remake. It wasn’t just some stuff like Starkiller base being Death Star 3.0, Rey being Luke 2.0, etc., but a bunch of scenes and sequences like Maz Kanada’s place for Mos Eisley cantina, the escape from Jakku that included stormtroopers asking around for a droid, said droid containing important information to save the galaxy, Han being killed by Kylo as Kenobi was killed by Vader (after being the young one’s mentor), and even Rey hanging from a wall in Starkiller base like Obi Wan was when avoiding stormtroopers in the Death Star. There were many other callbacks, and it got to be too much. I would say that JJ Abrams was just playing it safe, if he hadn’t done the exact same thing with his two Star Trek movies. Since he was a Star Wars fan, I was banking on that to get something more original.

Nope.

2. Starkiller base.

I mentioned it already, but it bears mentioning again because of how stupid it was. So all that Star Wars can manage is to have a big, bad base as the destination for our heroes last desperate attack before facing destruction? And how did the First Order finance it? The Empire controlled the galaxy, so they could afford it, but the First Order is the remnant of the Empire, and Starkiller was far greater than the Death Star. And on a related note, how did people in the Hosnian (?) System able to witness the destruction of the Republic’s bases, as if they were planets in the same system? Should we expect a second Starkiller in Episode IX?

3. The First Order.

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Not that the First Order per se was a bad thing, far from it, but to expand on my comment about Starkiller base, how did they finance it when they are supposed to be what’s left of the Empire? Shouldn’t they be in the position the Rebel Alliance was in in the OT, and the Republic hunting them down? It seemed, at best, an even match, except that the Republic fleet was mostly concentrated on one system, a la Pearl Harbor, which means they aren’t as spread out throughout the galaxy as one would think after overthrowing the Emperor and taking over a fractured Empire. That attack on Starkiller was so dismal they could only muster a few X Wings, when even in the first Star Wars the fleet that flew to the defense of the Yavin 4 base was composed of at least two different classes of fighters (Y Wings, I believe, being the other). The Republic can’t afford a Death Star, and I’m sure they would build something similar if they could, so how can the First Order do it?

4. Captain Phasma.

CaptainPhasmaTrailer

Such a great buildup for nothing. Phasma was barely in the movie, but what’s worse is how her biggest participation was getting captured by Finn and company, and then complying with their demands. I was expecting her (since they didn’t know how to deactive the shields) to use some sort of computer trickery to get the guards on them, but no…

5. Opening crawl.

“Luke Skywalker has vanished! Blah blah blah!” Ok, so? I get that he was an important part of the Alliance, but to rest on Luke’s shoulders the fate of the galaxy, to assume that if he’s gone the First Order will simply take over again, is ridiculous. The plot for this movie was too simple and stupid; in A New Hope R2’s plans were crucial because the Death Star was such a terrible weapon, but here what’s so important in possession of BB8 is an incomplete map to the whereabouts of Luke. Who made that map? Was it Max Von Sydow’s character, who lasted all of five minutes in the movie? If it was him, why not simply tell Poe Dameron? How did he, or whomever made the map, find out where Luke was? If the rumor was that Luke was trying to find the first Jedi Temple, why not raid the old Empire archives for its location, something that Kylo Ren mentions is under First Order control? Wouldn’t that make for a better quest? Let’s infiltrate the archives, which are in so and so planet (Coruscant? Moved elsewhere?), and that’s the final mission, but the horror! the First Order has also uncovered the location of the Resistance’s secret base, and are moving an all out assault that will result in a big space fight, yadda yadda yadda. This way we get rid of the stupid Starkiller McGuffin base as well.

6. The final battle.

My complaint with it is that it didn’t feel epic. The final battles of both Episodes IV and VI were grand in scale, and you felt there was a lot at stake. Not so here, even though the Resistance was at risk. It felt more like the meaningless battle at the end of The Phantom Menace.

7. The epilogue.

It just felt rushed. Like, yay we destroyed the third Death Star, but *sad face* Han is dead… but whatever, and oh R2 woke up from his coma just in time, like this was some sort of Carmen San Diego game where beating the final boss unlocks the map to find her, so let’s get this completely new girl Rey to join Chewie in searching for Luke like Chewie and Lando did for Han at the end of Empire Strikes Back, except that they actually find Luke in this movie, and very quickly, and then Rey climbs the mountain and finds Luke peeing or maybe just meditating, and offers him his old lightsaber but he’s like “nah, I’m not doing that anymore” and leaves her there awkwardly hanging with her hand extended, roll credits.

It didn’t have the force (no pun intended) of the endings of…well, any of the previous Star Wars movies. Except Episode III, that ending was rushed as hell too.

8. Not enough character development.

There was very little more that I knew about our new main characters at the end than at the beginning. I know Finn was raised to be a stormtrooper, but why did he have an attack of conscience if he was raised that way? And this was his first offense (the desertion), so during all that time he didn’t show any signs of not going along with the program. With Rey we got like five more questions for every answer about her character. With Poe Dameron we don’t know anything about him beyond being the best pilot in perhaps the galaxy, and a very likeable guy. He was the most underutilised of the three, by far. The only character that we truly understand much better at the end is Kylo Ren.

THE UGLY

Image courtesy of some spoiler loving asshole.

Image courtesy of some spoiler loving asshole.

There’s only one ugly thing, and it’s Han Solo’s death.

Not that his death was wrong. No, I’m fine with him dying, and I was actually expecting it to happen even before all those damn spoilers in the first few days of the movie’s release. My problem was with how he was treated like some disposable character, to be killed and tossed away, mourned a little, and then move on.

This is Han freaking Solo. He is the Batman of the Star Wars Trinity (Luke being Superman and Leia being Wonder Woman). He is a legend both in our real world and in the Star Wars universe. He deserved to be retrieved by Chewie (no fall into the pit), and given a proper funeral. I wanted to see Chewie go completely berserk and attack Kylo Ren in such a way that he had to retreat; Chewie could have had his own great moment right there. I wanted Leia to mourn her love at the funeral, say some powerful eulogy, and shed some silent tears for him while doing so. No complete emotional breakdown, of course, but something that went beyond a sad face. He deserved a death like Spock’s, not like Kirk’s. It would have been the antithesis of the Throne Room finale from A New Hope.

The way in which he died was a bit clumsy too. Han is a smuggler, and has been for many decades. This guy is a master of escaping ambushes, of smelling the bullshit from far away and taking the necessary measures. You could also tell, by the look on his face when Leia asks him to bring their son back, that he doesn’t believe it’s possible. He knows that Ben Solo is gone, that Kylo Ren is too powerful a presence now, and he only goes through with it because of Leia. So walking so carelessly towards Kylo Ren, without at least a hint of distrust (a distrust that Kylo Ren would have sensed, sending him to the brink of the darkside, away from the lightside forever) was just plain dumb.

Dying was fine. How he died, and the aftermath, was nothing short of insulting. I think that’s the worse important character death I have ever seen, especially in what was otherwise a very enjoyable movie (despite what this long rant appears to say).

An that’s it. Those are my thoughts on The Force Awakens. You are free to leave your own comments on the movie below, whether you agree or disagree with me and what your own thoughts are. Now let’s cross our fingers for Episode VIII: The First Order Strikes Back.

Comic Book Review: Age of Apocalypse

I remember the 1990’s as the decade of the hologram covers, big crossovers and events. The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Maximum Carnage, Age of Apocalypse; all of these were storylines that spanned many issues and… well, forced you to break the bank if you were a jobless teenager like me. Because the money was rarely ever on hand, I usually skipped these big events in favor of shorter storylines (Maximum Carnage being the exception, though I did miss one part). Such was the case with X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse, a saga that saw a world as it would have been if Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men, had died before he could truly establish his team and philosophy of co-existence between humans and mutants.

It’s funny how alternate reality storylines usually are better than accepted canon. I guess the reason is that they allow comic book writers freedoms denied by the mainstream timelines; they can take established characters and go in entirely new directions with them. With Age of Apocalypse you get not only new versions of old characters, but a new setting, with a quite literally apocalyptic world where the United States is under the powerful mutant Apocalypse’s rule, and Europe is the main headquarters for the remaining human nations. With Xavier dead – killed while saving Magneto’s life – it is up to the Master of Magnetism to fulfil the Professor’s dream of peaceful co-existence, leading the X-Men’s fight against Apocalypse’s forces within the United States. Some other changes to the normal timeline include Magneto being married to Rogue, and with a child; Cyclops and Beast working for Apocalypse; Gambit leading his own band of rebel mutants, the X-Ternals; a new and very powerful mutant that has ties to Jean Grey and Scott Summers; and Warren Worthington, a.k.a. Angel, doing his best impersonation of “Rick Blaine” from Casablanca, running a nightclub called “Heaven” while officially remaining neutral in the conflict between the two mutant factions (unofficially, of course, he’s helping the good guys the way “Rick” did at his Café Américain).

'Tis was the Age of Apocalypse and horrible hairstyles, the dreadful 90's.

‘Tis was the Age of Apocalypse and horrible hairstyles, the dreadful 90’s.

Since this was a major event in comics, it had to be a crossover between several titles (cuz $$$), which in this particular case were specially created for it. Each title focused on a specific group of mutants: Factor X would focus on Cyclops and his own unit of mutants under Apocalypse’s rule; Gambit and the X-Ternals would focus on… well, them; The Astonishing X-Men followed Rogue, Sabretooth and a few others; Generation Next the young group of mutants under Colossus and Shadowcat; Weapon X the exploits of Wolverine and Jean Grey; X-Calibre was Nightcrawler’s turn to shine; Amazing X-Men followed Quicksilver and Storm’s group; X-Man would deal with Nate Grey, the powerful new mutant that’s a product of Jean Grey and Cyclops’ DNA. That’s eight main titles, not counting others that either started the storyline, ended it, or provided some spin-off stories.

As you can imagine, this can be a headache to follow. And it was.

I bought the entire saga on a special offer from the Comixology website. It was great that I saved a ton of money on it, but it had the downside of not providing a starting point. Yes, Comixology comics do tell you what’s next to read in a particular storyline at the end of each issue, but how do you figure out which issue is the very first one? Because of this I put off reading the saga for some months after I bought it, too lazy to search for that starting point. Once I did, I realised there wasn’t an definitive consensus as to where to begin, or even in what order to continue reading. In the end, I settled on X-Men Alpha (yet another title!) to start reading. For those of you that haven’t read this story and are interested in doing so, that’s the starting point I would suggest.

It asks you to enter the Age of Apocalypse, but you need a GPS to find that stupid entrance!

It asks you to enter the Age of Apocalypse, but you need a GPS to find that stupid entrance!

The sheer amount of titles themselves made following the story a bit hard as well. Once the X-Men were aware that their timeline wasn’t meant to be the timeline (thanks to Bishop showing up with memories of the correct timeline intact), Magneto sent different groups into different missions, thus launching most of the other X-titles. What confused me a little was the how and why Magneto came up with those missions. For example, he sent Gambit to retrieve a shard of the M’Kraan Crystal located in a very far star system. As I understood it, the point was to use the crystal to change the timeline… or something (a sniff of Wikipedia says it was to verify Bishop’s story, but Magneto was very willing to believe him even while the missions were underway). How did Magneto know to use this crystal, and where to find it? I guess it’s common knowledge amongst the mutants, but to a casual reader like me it felt like something coming out of left field. The crystal was supposed to be channeled through Illyana, Colossus’ sister, so that a gateway to the original timeline be opened and Xavier’s death stopped. This would logically seem like the main goal of the X-Men, the driving force of the plot; since you can’t actually beat Apocalypse and his forces, then undo everything he has done by stopping the incident that sparked it all. However, for this most crucial task he sends some of the weakest mutants in Gambit and his group, simply because they are thieves and the crystal must be stolen. Shouldn’t you commit your main forces to do this? Nothing else that happens – namely, the nuclear attack on the U.S. planned by the Human Council, and the cullings perpetrated by Apocalypse’s forces – will matter so long as you change the timeline. It just felt like a half-assed commitment for the one thing that would solve the problem and end the series.

Don't fret too much, Colossus; if Magneto is successful your failure won't matter. Or will it?

Don’t fret too much, Colossus; if Magneto is successful your failure here won’t matter. Or will it?

But those are the 1990’s for you; juice up the sagas as much as possible, to get out as many issues as possible, and if you couldn’t afford it, too bad! By then there was so much background to so many comics – which they kept referencing for new plots – that it was really hard to follow anything. I remember just going with the flow and accepting things on faith, because those footnotes that told you the issue and series being referenced didn’t help squat if you hadn’t read that issue. This was a big reason why both Marvel and DC sort of reset their universes in the 2000’s, specially DC with their New 52 line; they had to get rid of some of that clutter. Marvel still keeps the old storylines as part of canon, but do not rely so heavily on them anymore so new readers can follow the action. Even so, there will always be new clutter, making this is an unsolvable problem.

Yes! If you want to know what's going on with these Sentinels you gotta read those two other issues, pronto!

Yes! If you want to know what’s going on with these Sentinels you gotta read those two other issues, pronto! Also, Wolverine’s a giant in this panel. Because perspective is for losers.

But I digress.

Ultimately the Age of Apocalypse was a deserving success. It presented us with some of our favourite heroes in extreme situations, with a badass mutant finally getting his just due by conquering… well, not the world, but North America at least. (Was Canada under Apocalypse’s rule?) Anyway, at least a major force like Apocalypse got to have his long awaited reign for a little while, and the story was such a success the timeline wasn’t actually wiped out, but visited back years later. One of those times was for the 10th anniversary of the saga, with a six issue mini series simply titled Age of Apocalypse. In here, after the events that concluded the original storyline, we see Magneto and the X-Men are gaining the favor and trust of the human population by lying as to who actually saved North America from the Human Council’s nuclear strike (hint: it wasn’t Magneto). What did save them is alive and being brainwashed by Sinister – one of Apocalypse’s original Horsemen – into becoming a weapon for his own use. Most of this mini-series was actually very enjoyable, but I felt the ending was a bit meh for my taste. Still, it’s as worthy of your attention as the original saga.

Storm being badass in a way the movies have resolutely refused to let her be.

Storm being badass in a way the movies have resolutely refused to let her be.

Are you a Marvel fan? Then this is a must read. It’s not on the same level as sagas like Civil War or Planet Hulk (both of which I will tackle later on), but it’s a fun and nostalgic read, and a chance to see some unlikely alliances.

TV Show Review: “Attack on Titan” Season 1

That day humanity remembered the terror of being ruled by them. The humiliation of being kept in a cage.

So begins the first episode of the anime series Attack on Titan, as the Colossal Titan rises above Wall María to the horror of the city’s inhabitants. The wall’s breached, and a hundred years of peace are over forever.

Here are some words I can use to describe this anime’s first season:

Wow.

Spectacular.

Gory.

INTENSE.

“Intense” is by far the best description I can give it. In fact, it is such a perfect description that from now on I will use an intensity scale based on this when describing other works (and there will be some future reviews with “intense” as the best description as well). This anime is a Titan 10. 10 is not necessarily the highest level of intensity, but for the purposes of scale calibration I will use it as the point of absolute awesomeness intensity. (Of course, levels of intensity vary according to every person’s stomach).

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But before going into detail about what makes Attack on Titan intense, let’s touch upon what it is about:

So we are on a world. I guess it’s supposed to be Earth, perhaps the Earth of an alternate reality, perhaps another planet, sort of how Middle Earth, or Earthsea, or any other totally fantastic world might be another planet on another universe. They don’t delve into that much detail, but they don’t have to. All you need to know is that this is a quasi-medieval world mixed with some steampunk technology, and that one hundred years before the start of our story, giants popped into existence and wiped out most of humanity. Those that survived built a huge walled city that has two more concentric walls within protecting other… cities, I suppose. The outermost wall, named Wall María, protects the part of the city/country where our hero, Eren Jaeger, lives with his family and adopted sister Mikasa. The walls are too high for the giants – the titans – to climb and invade the city, until one day a titan of colossal proportions appears out of nowhere and destroys part of the wall, creating a breach through which the lesser titans can get in.

At this point I should mention that the lesser titans reason for existence seems to be devouring humans.

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So the first wall’s breached, chaos ensues, Eren and Mikasa barely escape, and while Eren’s father was away on an errand his mother dies a horrible death which Eren is witness to. This death was the introduction to the series’ gore and… well, the intensity I have been talking about. Attack on Titan isn’t pulling punches when characters die; it shows you their deaths in a way that you suffer their loss almost as much as the characters in the story do. It makes you look. And considering how the mindless titans’ way of dealing with people is by eating them alive, it’s pretty frightening to look at.

So of course this is the catalyst our hero needed to finally go over the edge and train to kill titans. Actually, he already wanted to train and join the corps that kills titans before all of this happens, but now this wish becomes an obsession. So he, Mikasa and their best friend Armin join the military, eventually working their way into the Survey Corps – the ones that leave the “safety” of the walls to venture into the open and scout (and kill) titans. There are plenty other mysteries that pop up little by little as the series progress, but I won’t spoil that much to you.

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At its core, it’s not a great story. Nothing really special about it, just humans trying to survive the horror that besieges them. And that’s fine. What actually makes Attack on Titan so special are the technical aspects. For one thing, the cinematography is beautiful. Just look at those screenshots I have been posting and tell me you aren’t impressed not only with the look of it but with the sense of scale. The editing and direction are spot on, with the action sequences deserving special recognition; the steampunk tech that I alluded to earlier helps the soldiers move faster by using a device employing grappling hooks and steam propulsion to navigate a la Spiderman among buildings or forests. This adds much dynamism to the action, and the combination of all these elements makes for a complete cinematic experience. Add to that the gore and the realisation that no character is safe (think Game of Thrones here), and every time you see a titan and an action sequence you will catch yourself gripping your seat tightly while thinking “fuck, fuck, fuck, who will they get this time?!?”. Fear is an essential part of the series. There’s no chivalric heroism to speak of here; everybody’s scared shitless of the titans, and with good reason. Sure, there are the typical badass characters from every anime that appear to be fearless, but they are no heroes. They know what’s at stake, and they know their limits. For most characters, though, the very human emotion of fear grips them whenever a titan is nearby, and that’s contagious. The world seems to be clouded with despair, and so rising above this reality and doing your job – however dangerous and/or suicidal it might be – is the true heroism in Attack on Titan.

The story’s plot twists are good enough to keep your attention beyond these technical aspects I mention, of course, and there’s always a cliffhanger leaving you craving for more. Attack on Titan isn’t so much a masterpiece of literature as it is a roller-coaster ride with great animation storytelling. A definite must-see.

Movie Review: The Amazing Spiderman 2

I’ll make this review based on my Thoughts on the new Amazing Spiderman 2 trailer post from december 2013, so as to explore the answers to some of my questions and concerns from then.

WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

1. Too much omg drama

KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!

KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!

There was some, yes, but nothing like what the trailers lead you to believe. In fact, it had several lighthearted moments, and those were by far the best parts. The most dramatic scene (at the end, when Gwen dies) was very well done. Yes, here and there were parts where Peter moped so much about his lost parents that I was wondering when did Peter Parker switch places with Bruce Wayne, since in the comics as far as Peter is concerned Ben and May were his parents (he knew his biological parents were lost, but he wasn’t traumatized by it).

The only thing that really bothered me – and this is mostly all the trailers and promotional spots fault, since they carried the brunt of this – was how they kept foreshadowing Gwen’s death throughout the movie. It’s as if she was such a major character that Sony was afraid to cause too much of an emotional impact if they didn’t properly prepare the audience for her loss. Even with that there were several people in the audience whom I could hear commenting how they expected her to still be alive after that, right until the funeral scene.

2. The new Harry Osborn

Ugh.

Ugh.

Goddamnit.

I really thought that Dane DeHaan would be a great Harry Osborn, but he was an almost complete waste of talent. Harry was never developed properly (hello, point #5!), he literally came out of nowhere to suddenly be Peter’s old buddy old pal BFF. Not that there was much chemistry between them to make that believable, at least. To make matters worse, his Green Goblin “design” was as bad as the original Sam Raimi’s. This one was more organic, which is ridiculous to begin with, but then apparently they feared to go overboard with it, so they stopped with Harry still looking human but a little green and with a semi-punk rock haircut. Well, just take a look at that horrible picture; he looked so bad I couldn’t get any screen captures from the trailers (show that? hell no!), so I had to get a promo pic.

Awful.

3. What’s with the CGI?

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.10.51

It was bad, but it wasn’t as terrible as it looked in the first trailer. Spiderman’s web-slinging scenes were great (just as good as the original trilogy’s), but whenever Electro showed up in turned into 1995 videogame vision.

4. (Potentially) interesting plot with OsCorp and the Sinister Six

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.11.47

They just teased about it, especially at the end, but at least we get to see the potential origins of some of Spidey’s other enemies. Not much beside that.

5. Too. Many. Villains.

Screenshot 2014-05-05 20.57.19

To the film’s credit, they kept Rhino’s presence to about five minutes of movie, and they were some of the best five minutes of the movie; but there was no point to Electro being there aside from getting his origin out of the way for the future Sinister Six movie. It was supposed to be Harry’s movie, but as I said before, he was an almost complete waste. It wasn’t the travesty that Spiderman 3 was, but it wasn’t The Dark Knight either.

I should add that Electro was overpowered. In this version he somehow got his powers from getting electrocuted and then falling into a tank full of eels… whatever. His powers at first were kind of neat: just an electric version of Magneto, able to manipulate electricity around him at will, and with a compulsive need to consume electricity. But when Harry Osborn asks for his help, he suddenly becomes Dr. Manhattan and is able to manipulate his own atomic structure to the point he basically teleports using electricity. I do remember a villain like that in one of the old Spiderman cartoons, but as far as I know that villain wasn’t Electro and was made up for that series. Either way, Electro per se doesn’t have that power, and if he did he would be too much of a match for Spiderman.

 

Overall, I liked the movie. I know I’m in the minority here just as I was in the minority with liking the first Amazing movie. I recognize the film’s faults, and I know they could have done better – especially in the villains department – but I enjoyed the movie and am more than happy with Peter Parker/Spiderman, which this movie reinforced is played better by Andrew Garfield than Tobey Maguire.

(Funny note: seems like Sony realizes there’s no way in hell they can top J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of J.Jonah Jameson, so they don’t bother with showing him in the movie. Instead, he’s only casually mentioned. One point in favor of the original Raimi trilogy).

Oh, as for that X-Men scene at the end, it’s just a promotional clip for Days of Future Past because of a deal between Fox and Sony concerning NOT Spiderman or the X-Men but director Marc Webb. So yeah, don’t get too excited about that. Also, the editing was sort of weird, felt like watching a movie at Red Bull speed.

Movie Review: Captain America – The Winter Soldier

Warning: minor spoilers ahead.

I remember, several years ago when Marvel first unveiled their plans to make an Avengers movie – and, by extension, a Captain America movie – that I wondered how or even if it would be possible to make a Cap movie that wasn’t laughably ridiculous. Not only is Captain America even more of an out-of-date boy scout than Superman, but his colorful costume – while acceptable within the boundaries of comicbookdom – surely couldn’t survive the transition to film. How could Marvel ever make a Captain America that was cool enough to draw a big audience? I was never interested in the character to begin with, back from my comicbook collecting days; and a movie version? Thanks, but no thanks.

Pictured: an idiot in a costume. This is from an actual Captain America movie.

Pictured: an idiot in a costume. This is from an actual Captain America movie.

Boy, how have things changed.

The 1940's Cap costume from "The First Avenger" makes a triumphant return in "The Winter Soldier".

The 1940’s Cap costume from “The First Avenger” makes a triumphant return in “The Winter Soldier”.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, in my opinion, the best movie yet to come out of Marvel Studios (yes, I’m including Marvel’s The Avengers in that list). While the first Cap movie was just meh, and Cap’s participation in The Avengers was no more than a measured improvement, he really comes into his own in The Winter Soldier. There are several reasons for that, which I will discuss below.

First, this is the first time we truly see Captain America as the legendary leader that he is from the comics. He was a rookie in The First Avenger, but he was supposed to have become legendary by the time he froze in the Arctic; however, I never got the feeling that he was anything more than a propaganda tool with superpowers. The Avengers had a slightly more mature version of Cap, but he still seemed reluctant to take over the team, being instead overshadowed by the overwhelming presence of Robert Downey’s Tony Stark, and thus reduced to being just one of the guys. He does take the mantle of leader during the Battle of New York, but that was more a product of everyone else deferring to him than of him assuming command to get the job done.

It isn’t until this movie (and it’s done right from the start) that we get to see Captain America the leader, as he was meant to be. We also get to see Captain America the badass, kicking butt with his moves, speed, strength, and complete mastery of his impossibly rebounding vibranium shield. Not only does he take on a dozen guys at the same time in the confines of an elevator, but he charges head on against a SHIELD fighter jet… and wins.

Because fuck you, he’s Captain America.

Badass mode on.

Badass mode on.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

Then there’s Natasha Romanov (shouldn’t it be Romanova?) a.k.a. Black Widow, who proves to be a perfect sidekick. We have known since the dreadful Iron Man 2 that she kicks ass, so nothing she does in here is a surprise in physical terms; however, here she shows a more… noble side, if you will, of her character. Heroic, even. There’s an exchange between her and Steve Rogers in which she asks him if he would trust her with his life the way she trusts him with hers (this is after he saved her life from an incoming missile, because fuck you he’s Captain ‘Murica!). His response after having seen her loyalty tested? “I do now“. So I guess that was meant to humanize her a little bit, make her more relatable. Not sure how much that counts as character development, but she’s there to kick ass while looking hot, so whatever.

As for Nick Fury, I think this is the movie where we see the most of him. It’s definitely the movie where we finally see his memorable moment (like how in The Avengers every member of the team had his or her memorable moment), even if it ends with him and his super SHIELD SUV turned upside down and about to be fucked up by the Winter Soldier.

New character Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, wasn’t anything special, but he did his job and I don’t mind seeing more of him in the future, especially since he is supposed to become an Avenger soon. His was another character for whom I wondered how he could get done without those wings looking cheesy and stupid. And they didn’t.

Spread your wings and fly away...!

Spread your wings and fly away…!

Second, the plot is better. The First Avenger was the obligatory origin story with the obligatory “he’s got to fight a major bad guy” third act. The Avengers was fun, but it’s plot was reduced to a not so carefully planned alien invasion that, for some weird reason, chose New York as its first and only entry point. The Winter Soldier doesn’t rely only on the mystery of the actual Winter Soldier, but delves into spy movie territory combined with some very nice action sequences and special effects. I particularly liked Nick Fury’s chase sequence, as well as any time the Winter Soldier showed up to wreak havoc. HYDRA’s overtake of SHIELD gave them more credence – let’s face it, it’s far more interesting to have an evil organization that for several decades has been shaping up the world, instead of fading into oblivion as soon as Cap took care of their former leader the Red Skull; as Dr. Zola said, if you cut off one head, two will spring in its place, like the Hydra of myth. They were a real menace in this film. HYDRA’s twist was one of my favorite parts of the movie.

As a side note, I wonder how said twist will affect the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. I mean, is there any SHIELD left by the end, still standing but full of corruption? Even Maria Hill jumped ship!

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HYDRA’s plan did stumble a little bit at the end…

 

Third is the Winter Soldier himself. There’s actually little of him throughout most of the movie, yet all this does is enhance the moments whenever he does show up… at the expense of character development, I admit. I would make the comparison to Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode I, but you do have some backstory with the Winter Soldier, not only from this movie but from the first one as well. His real identity is another cause for conflict, adding to the drama. The Winter Soldier is every bit the physical equal of Cap, being a Terminator-like presence and giving way to some awesome fight sequences between the two.

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The Winter Soldier takes crap from no one.

The Winter Soldier takes crap from no one.

The movie felt almost like an Avengers movie, with the stakes being just as high. Because of the more interesting plot and the better action sequences, I prefer The Winter Soldier over The Avengers, but the biggest reason might be that this was the movie that made Captain America cool enough to draw in a big audience. This is the movie I never thought would happen.

Movie Review: “Her”, directed by Spike Jonze

I loved Her.

Watching Spike Jonze’s latest (and Academy award nominated) film was in itself almost like meeting a new person not knowing what to expect, then getting to know that person and realizing that you share many things in common, that you understand each other perfectly. That’s also, by the way, more or less the arc that Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Theodore Twombly, goes through as the film progresses, except that instead of a person it is an Operating System. You know, like Windows. Or Linux. And the weirdest thing of all was that it wasn’t weird at all.

The film takes place in a non-determined future where Theo works as a writer for BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, essentially dictating to a computer letters requested by their clients to be sent to their loved ones, sort of like personalized greeting cards. He is going through a divorce and hasn’t gotten over his wife yet. It is during this time that he buys a new operating system called OS1, that boasts being the first operating system with artificial intelligence so advanced, it’s like a friend that understands your every need. The AI of “Samantha” (how the OS named itself when Theo asked for a name) evolves as time goes on, not only getting to know Theo’s every need better, but starting to really behave like a person, with feelings and sentience. Theo’s recent problems with his life are screwing up his social interactions, leading him ever closer to Samantha, eventually starting a relationship with her.

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Theo Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) in one of his attempts at human interaction with a very hot date (Olivia Wilde).

A relationship that, believe it or not, even turns sexual.

There are several things working for this movie, first one being a very realistic and practical vision of the future. The “look” is essentially the same that we have right now in 2014 (hey, we are kind of in the future, right?), except a little bit more polished, with technology that instead of calling attention to itself is already embedded into daily life so deeply, it is almost invisible. What we have nowadays as smartphones are by the movie’s timeframe nothing short of a personal assistant, and when Theo integrates his own smartphone-ish device to Samantha that personal assistant becomes less robotic and more… human. That is how I envisioned smartphones in the future when I got my first taste of Siri a couple of years ago.

The second major thing working for this movie is the love story. At first glance a romantic relationship between an operating system and a human seems completely insane; but if you stop to think about it (and trust me, as the movie went by I was thinking a lot about it), it makes perfect sense. Right now, we are living through something very similar; remember when the internet exploded back in the late 90’s? The new social interactions via chats, that took physical contact out of the equation, were criticized and branded as the end of civilization as we know it, and to an extent that’s true; the world is both much closer and much farther apart than ever before, and things will never be the same. But the point here is that feelings can very easily spark from a completely computerized relationship (I have experienced them firsthand). In other words, you do not need the physical interactions for a deep relationship to spring. And if Samantha is an AI so complex as to appear human, what is the difference, really?

HER

In fact, by the end of the movie, Samantha – as well as the other AI’s from the OS1 program – had evolved into something greater, a new species of sentient beings, if you will, a concept that brought to my mind the end of Ghost in the Shell. And that’s the last major thing that the movie had going for it: how it had plausibly, and unassumingly, told a story that started out as a romance and ended with a very SF touch in a very elegant way. Kuddos to Spike Jonze on making the best SF movie of 2013 (sorry, Gravity!), and one of my new favorites.

Book Review: All You Need is Kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

When the trailer for Tom Cruise’s next movie, Edge of Tomorrow, first started making the rounds on the social networks, I didn’t bother to watch it. It sounded like yet another generic sci-fi movie where Cruise is a superhero like he always is. In fact, I haven’t watched Oblivion for much the same reason, despite actually liking most of Tom Cruise’s movies and science fiction in general.

But then – for whatever reason – I sneaked a peak, and I was hooked.

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Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise star in “Edge of Tomorrow”.

It’s not that the movie seems completely original, or has the potential of being a masterpiece. No, it actually does look kind of like yet another generic sci-fi movie where Cruise is a superhero like he always is. What grabbed my attention were two things: one, the trailer was beautifully made, and two the SF “Groundhog Day” time loop he seems to be trapped in. Looking for more info on the movie I found that it was based on a Japanese military SF novel titled All You Need is Kill, and that was all I needed. To get the book, I mean.

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel has much the same qualities as my favorite SF novel of all time, The Stars my Destination: reads fast, grips you and never lets you go. Neither one of them has the brilliance of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, for example, but both possess good stories set in worlds turned upside down by uncommon circumstances; while The Stars my Destination changed the landscape of human civilization by the advent of mental teleportation, All You Need is Kill does so by trapping its main character Keiji Kiriya in a time loop where death is but the reset button.

The setting is as follows: an alien civilization far more advanced than us is exhausting their planet resources and needs new worlds to colonize in order to survive. They find Earth suitable for those needs, but first they must terraform it, so they send a big ship full of terraforming machines (called “Mimics” by the humans) to do the job. Neither the aliens nor the machines care much about the life they are about to wipe out, so the humans have no choice but to defend themselves.

As we enter the story the war has raged on for years, and new recruit Keiji Kiriya enters his first battle.

And dies.

He wakes up thinking that that was a weird dream prior to his first real battle, except that everything he experienced in the “dream” is happening again. The one thing that changes this time around is how he gets killed, as a spear that had previously done his friend now came straight at him. By the time he realizes what’s going on, it’s clear that, no matter what he does, the Mimics will find him and kill him.

Enter Rita Vrataski, the hero of the United Defense Force, nicknamed officially “the Valkyrie”, and unofficially the “Full Metal Bitch”. Rita is a one of a kind supersoldier, winning so many accolades now the UDF is making up hero awards just for her, since no one else had ever done the things she has. Turns out Rita was the first to be trapped in a time loop and, just like Keiji after her, has used the battle experience to hone her mental skills into something normally impossible for a human. Obviously, at one point Keiji and Rita will unite forces, but the interesting bit here is that Keiji’s time loop is not the same as Rita’s (she eventually managed to get out of hers), so he has to begin at zero every time they meet to train together.

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The UDF propaganda machine in full force for Rita Vrataski.

Since death isn’t the end in a time loop, the real threat comes from dying once the time loop is broken. I have spoiled enough already so I won’t give away how they have to do it; suffice to say that once they were on their way to break it, I was genuinely concerned for them both. You see, Sakurazaka didn’t focus only on the technical aspects of the war and the time loop; he took his time to expand not only on Keiji but also on Rita, so that by the end we know them and are rooting for them to beat the damn Mimics and come out on top. The ending, while I felt was a bit forced, did its job emotionally, and somewhat reminded me of how I felt about the ending of the SF military classic The Forever War. The ride was great, and the ending stays with you. What else can you ask of a good story?

I wonder how Edge of Tomorrow will fare. I’m not really expecting it to be a great adaptation, but so long as they keep the core elements intact and don’t change the end into a Hollywood cliché I’ll be happy. Tom Cruise is as far removed from Keiji as you can get, but Emily Blunt is sort of how I pictured Rita in the novel (although I have a friend that fits the Rita mold like a glove, and that’s who I was picturing as I read it). If the adaptation is at least as good as Ender’s Game‘s was, I’ll be a satisfied customer.

Here’s me crossing my fingers.

Goodreads Review: Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With The Wind 75th Anniversary EditionGone With The Wind 75th Anniversary Edition by Margaret Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Literary speaking, this book is as well written as any I have read. Amazing, well developed characters; perfect story pacing and dialogue; a narrative style that keeps your interest throughout the 1000+ pages of novel; enough historical detail to give it authenticity without becoming a scholarly drag; an epic storyline set against one of the most pivotal moments in U.S. history… there are no faults that I can find from a writing perspective. The only fault, one which I’m sure must have been addressed countless times already, is the blatant racism Mitchell displays at several points in the novel. More on that later.

As I went through the novel I kept going back to the movie sequences of what I was reading about. I have to say, for such a long book the movie adaptation was incredibly faithful, and while a lot of people will point out that the movie is about four hours long, the truth is that what was contained in this novel could have easily taken fifteen to twenty hours of screen time. That David O. Selznick and company managed to “trim it down” to four hours and still appease the public with what would become a classic among classics is nothing sort of spectacular. Remember, this book was the greatest bestseller of its time, and the frenzy it created could perhaps be compared in modern times to Harry Potter (different audience, obviously), and so would the demand for as faithful an adaptation as possible. The casting was spot on, and that, too, made it into my imagination as I read. Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’ Hara got to be some of the best cast roles of all time. They were legendary in the movie, and they were legendary in the novel.

gone-with-the-wind-vivien-leigh

Scarlett O’Hara

The story centers mostly around Scarlett and her growth from a fifteen year old spoiled girl to a twenty eight year old woman. By the end of the story she is by no means a “finished product”; there is still plenty of room for further growth in her character, but she has gone through a lot and she is very different from how she began. The point was never to make her a heroine (if anything, she is sort of an anti-heroine), but to show her relentlessness against all odds, and how that drive will not only allow her to survive the devastating effects of the Civil War, but to prosper – first from the state of economical poverty she was thrown in by the war, and later from the moral poverty she suffered of from the get go. The rest of the cast in the story is there to chip away and mold the character that is Scarlett O’Hara into what she “finally” becomes. They are as much tools in her development as the sequence of events that are set into motion.

Rhett Butler and Melanie Wilkes

Rhett Butler and Melanie Wilkes

Two characters in particular, beside Scarlett, held my sympathy and attention: Rhett Butler and Melanie Wilkes. Rhett is the quintessential dashing rogue, the rebel that will play his own game and get ahead of the rest of his society, a society which adheres to antiquated rules and is eventually forced to change in order to survive. Because of this, Rhett is despised and/or envied by most, except for Melanie Wilkes, whose saintlike (or perhaps, naive) personality only allows her to see the good in people. In the wrong hands this character would have been trite, uninteresting and unrealistic; but Mitchell knew what she was doing, and as with the rest of her cast she built a solid foundation from which Melanie emerged as one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever read. Her last scene – the result of which I knew already from the movie – still managed to move me, and even had me wondering as of what she really knew of the relationship between Scarlett and her husband Ashley Wilkes. Both Rhett and Melanie were perfect complements to Scarlett: Rhett’s personality allowed him to see Scarlett for what she really was and still – and thus, purely – love her just the same, while Melanie’s blinded her to Scarlett’s many faults, allowing her to become the fiercely loyal friend Scarlett needed to endure many of her calamities.

As for the racism, it didn’t bother me for the most part. I simply took it as a Southern story told by a Southerner, to which feeling superior to blacks was as normal as breathing. It gave the story an added authenticity that would be lost nowadays in the politically correct climate we live in. The problem is that at some points Mitchell went on a rampage, blaming the “inferior” blacks as much as the Yankee Republicans (who were the true villains of the story) for all the sufferings of the poor, defeated state of Georgia. While the racism was left to the background as an afterthought it was easy to handle, but when Mitchell pushed it to the forefront for no other reason than to denigrate blacks it became an infuriating experience. Mark Twain was just as authentic with his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without being offensive; Margaret Mitchell’s true colors shone here, and that was the one thing were the movie can claim to be superior to the novel, since David O. Selznick made a point to cut the offensive parts from his adaptation.

All in all, however, Gone with the Wind is one of the greatest novels I have ever read, and a superior product to its classic adaptation. Then again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; books usually are superior to their movies.

View all my reviews

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness, with some Star Wars sprinkled in

I’ll start by issuing a warning: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

I really won’t bother with holding back on them, so if you haven’t seen the movie (unless you happen to be one of those people that don’t give a fuck about being spoiled before a movie) stop now, go watch the movie, then come back.

With that out of the way, I’ll start by talking about my expectations of Into Darkness. As you all must know by now, JJ Abrams will direct Star Wars Episode VII. He has made no secret about being a fan of Star Wars, just as he has made no secret how he has never been a fan of Star Trek; when the 2009 Star Trek alternate universe movie came out, you could tell Abrams was projecting his Star Wars fantasies into it. Sure, you can argue that the franchise needed new life, and that in order to bring it into the 21st Century moneymaking business it had to be more action oriented. However, Abrams is no stranger to intelligent science fiction, as his series Fringe showed for five seasons (let’s not get into LOST, that ended in a clusterfuck), so it was always possible to get the best of both worlds, and have an intelligent Star Trek that was also heavy in action, a la Wrath of Khan.

Well, that didn’t happen.

While I enjoyed the 2009 Star Trek, the end result was anything but intelligent: the villain was so hellbent on vengeance he did not see he actually had the tool to save his planet (the destruction of which sparked his desire for vengeance in the first place); the “science” in the movie couldn’t even make the cut to pseudo-science (and I’m not talking about the time travel); and it never made any sense to put someone so green as cadet Kirk in charge of the best ship of the fleet, no matter his movie heroics. However, it worked as an action oriented movie, and the time travel was the perfect excuse to reboot the franchise with the original beloved characters, so I was sold… up to a certain point. My hope was that the next one would focus more on the exploration part of Star Trek and be more intelligent.

st2

No, we don’t have to go to Star Trek: The Motion Picture levels for an exploration story (as much as I liked it).

So the question is: did it succeed in that?

Well, yes and no.

Star Trek Into Darkness focused just as much on the action as the first one, and it did not cover any sort of exploration. It was, as many had guessed for a long time, a sort of remake of Wrath of Khan, except with the characters switched: now it was Kirk that made the ultimate sacrifice, and Spock the one that learned the lesson at the end of the day (also, it’s now Spock who furiously yells “KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!!” when it seems that Khan has won). It might have added a bit of Search for Spock by reviving Kirk so quickly, but it was mostly the Khan story. So, on the “more exploration and less explosions” side, it wasn’t a success.

On the other hand, the ending completely opened the window into that facet, bringing the beginning of the five year mission of exploration the original series covered and – since Abrams is no longer directing – the possibility to see a shift in the themes from character driven to science and/or social driven (we saw a tiny bit of that with the whole “prime directive” dilemma in the opening sequence). Abrams can still produce and get some writers with real science fiction blood in them to work on the story.

Or, maybe, they will shed the idea completely.

Now, just because the movie was pure action and nearly no science fiction doesn’t mean it wasn’t intelligently approached. I loved the way they mirrored Wrath of Khan so intensely without making an actual remake. No, this was a well thought out story that works well on its own, but for those who know their canon it brings the idea that, maybe, the universe is ruled by fate; things didn’t happen exactly like they happened in Wrath of Khan, but the sequence of events bring very similar results.

As for Khan himself… where to begin?

Khan TV khanintodarkness

We were all expecting this “John Harrison” character to be Khan all along. I actually went into the movie having almost gotten rid of that idea, though, just as I had almost shed the notion that Robin and Thalia Al Ghul would be in The Dark Knight Rises by the time I entered the theater. That helped, of course, when the time came for the revelation. For some reason, even after Kirk tried unsuccessfully to beat the hell out of Harrison, I wasn’t really thinking of Khan, the guy with the superhuman genes and intellect. All the ingredients were there, and yet I didn’t bother to put two and two together until it was already too painfully obvious, and that was because Benedict Cumberbatch was playing a different sort of Khan than the one I saw in Star Trek II. This was Khan before he was desperately looking to avenge himself to Kirk (sort of like what happened in 2009’s Star Trek with the villain), a Khan that was coldly calculating and biding his time to save his crew and screw Admiral Marcus. Cumberbatch did to Ricardo Montalbán with his take on Khan what Heath Ledger to Jack Nicholson’s Joker, and it was awesome to behold.

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Dr. Carol Marcus, 2013 and 1982 versions. Whomever made this, God bless you.

To complete the mirroring of Wrath of Khan was Dr. Carol Marcus. She’s still years away from building her Genesis device (if she’s ever going to build it in this timeline), but she’s already an amazing physicist that, uh, knows how to deactivate torpedoes and shit. I half expected her and Kirk to get it going at some point to plant the seed for the future David Marcus. Plant the seed, get it? Cuz… bah.

I should mention that Kirk’s death to save the Enterprise moved me as much as Spock’s did in Wrath of Khan. I was literally holding back tears at that point, and given how Spock at least stayed dead at the end of that movie, I thought Kirk might as well, since this was alternate Wrath of Khan and all. It didn’t happen, and although that bothered me from a dramatic standpoint, without him coming back the five year mission that I have been waiting for would never happen. For that reason only I can forgive the sleight of hand.

So yeah, it’s a great movie, enjoyable as a popcorn flick and as a Star Trek movie (though there are plenty of trekkers pissed off by it, can’t be helped). What bothers me about the whole situation is how Abrams – unwittingly, yes – was so disrespectful to the Star Trek franchise as a whole. What he made in both 2009 and 2013 were starwarised versions of Star Trek. To top that now he’s actually jumping ship to direct Star Wars. I know he didn’t mean any of it, but it feels very much like a rebuff. The Star Trek franchise has looked up to Star Wars at various points in its history, beginning with The Motion Picture, which was hyper budgeted and filled with unnecessary special effects as a reaction to 1977’s A New Hope. Even in the video below Star Wars ends up pwning Star Trek.

And now Abrams is spurning Star Trek in favor of its arch-nemesis. Star Trek should be better than that. It can be better than that. I just hope that whomever takes over the helm of the franchise treats it with the respect it deserves, and while I think that Abrams was disrespectful I hope he remains as a producer. The man can work his magic even when his heart is not 100% into it.

As for Star Wars, I’m sure he will work perfectly for Episode VII; he will be to Star Wars what Peter Jackson was to The Lord of the Rings: a fan who also happens to be a talented director working on his dream project.

So now, after all the explosions and screams and deaths and rebirths, can we finally, and boldly, go where no one has gone before?

A (brief) look into the character of Sigrdrífa, plus final Cover!

Sigrdrífa is a shieldmaiden. She is a Norse warrior in search for battle and glory. She is inspired by the valkyrs of myth, those women warriors who searched the battlefields for the slain and worthy to enter Valhalla, and join Odin’s army, the Einheriar.

I think my fascination with the valkyrs stems directly from Richard Wagner’s magnificent theme from his opera Die Wälkure. You know the theme, the one that shows up in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, or in countless other movies. The opera version, containing the singing of the valkyrs with their “hoyotohos” battlecries, is even grander than the “mainstream” version most people have heard. This is music that evokes a thousand images and feeds the imagination. It’s music that makes you want to write about it.

So here I am, writing about it.

I still do not know exactly what story will come out of it, but I can show you one image that has come out of it; here’s José Vega’s finished cover artwork:

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For more on José Vega’s art you can visit his webpage below.

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