But Hellboy Has a Kickass Health Care Package

When The Dark Knight came out, there were a few bloggers who saw an authoritarian/Conservative bent to the character. Similar things were said about Iron Man being a shill for the Military Industrial Complex and Superman as a tool of Jingoism. Pretty much any super hero movie gets parsed for liberal/conservative bias. And while there are any number of valid ways to interprit a story, looking at super heros throught he lens of poitics always irked me, but I couldn’t quite explain why.* Luckily, John August has given it some thought as well and explains the issue far better than I could:

Efforts to place TDK’s Batman on a real-world political spectrum are doomed. Sure, he’s tough on crime, but he’s also anti-gun. He holds himself outside the law, but destroys his own phone-tapping technology. Is he a Conservative? A Liberal?2 A Libertarian?

Nope, he’s just Batman. And as a comic book character, he’s allowed to hold simultaneous incompatible philosophies.

Exactly. Batman can be all these things because he is hyper-real. He’s not a citizen or a politician running for office, he’s a psychologically complex avatar, a stand in we can use to explore larger, slightly abstract concepts about Freedom, Free Will and Justice. If you saw The Dark Knight and all you saw was a Billionaire exercising his authoritarian impulses without restraint, then you were sitting way too close to the screen.

________

* Also, Bruce Wayne, Billionaire Playboy would never vote. It’s out of character for the disinterested playboy persona. He can buy whatever freedom he needs, which is a decidedly Republican attitude, but one that would go completely unacted upon, outside of large donations to the popular DA who doesn’t relaly need the gesture. And Batman, while concerned about the plight of the pooor and the disenfranchized, wouldn’t bother pulling the Democrat lever, as he knows all polititians are crooked and fallible.So there.

Whimpers And Bangs In The Dark

Elvira and I saw The Dark Knight on Friday and we’re both really impressed. If Batman Begins was the film that Batman’s Mythology deserved, a crystalline compilation of everything great about the character with the excess fat of seventy years of history trimmed off, then The Dark Knight continues the story, as if it was simply Act 2. In several ways, I’m not entirely sure how Christopher Nolan convinced DC/Warner to let him make such a dark series of films but good on him for pulling it off. Both films work seamlessly as a whole but his film especially takes a long hard look at where the boundaries of civilization and civilized behavior lie. Not exactly the stuff of a Summer popcorn superhero movie. And that’s a good thing. You want that, go see Iron Man. But if your looking for a really, really dark view into what makes humans want to fight and define right and wrong, this is the film for you.

As usual, some spoilers may leak out.

Continue reading “Whimpers And Bangs In The Dark”

It’s All Very Technical

I usually refrain from discussing work or job-related things on the blog, but I have to share the good news: having been unemployed for less than a month, I have a new job! Starting August 4, I will be head of Technical Services and Systems at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.

I am super excited about this job! At the interview, I felt like I was talking to people who really got what I was saying about using new technology (all that web 2.0 stuff you may have heard about) in the Library. That’s a good feeling.

Posting around here will continue to be light as we look for a new apartment (a new new one, closer to work) and continue with the whole “I’ve just moved across country, where the hell am I,” feeling that has been our life for the last week.

But!

We’re still going to Comic-Con at the end of the month! So there will be pictures. And reviews. And blood. OK, not blood. But powerpoint slides! I’ll have the presentation I did for my job interview, on using web 2.0 tech in the library, online before too long. Won’t that be fun.

A Gaggle of Short Movie Reviews

The Incredible Hulk was better than I thought it would be and much better than Ang Lee’s Hulk. It ties into the mythology of the Marvel Universe well, setting up ideas like the Super Soldier program, eluding to Captain America and tying in nicely with a cameo by Tony Stark. The story was pretty well done and the big ‘ol fistfight between Hulk and Abomination was fun. And really, in a Hulk film, that’s all anyone is looking for. The film works better as a link in a larger story, building towards The Avengers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

To my surprise, Kung Fu Panda is a really good movie. It looked kinda dumb form the posters and the trailer made it look like a decent kid film but it has a lot of heart, a very solid story and some first-rate animation. Really beautiful. The writers walked fearlessly into a story about following your dreams, loving who you are, and appreciating your family, whatever shape it comes in, and turning these into real character moments without being too sentimental. It’s hard to do this in any film and next to impossible in an animated family movie. But they did it, making the best movie about talking animals who do Kung Fu you’ll see all year.

I’m not going to see The Happening, as I’ve given up on Shyamalan. He has a certain craftsmanship behind the camera and can come up with interesting if ill thought-out concepts but the man can’t tell a story to save his life. From what I’ve read so far, this one isn’t any better than Signs, which I discussed at length earlier. Pass.

Everywhere, Signs

Over at Crooked Timber, they’re compiling a list of the 101 movies to definitely not see before you die. Someone mentioned Signs, which is my number 2 must-not-watch-ever-again film.* What with M. Knight Shyamalan’s latest turd about to drop in theaters next week, I thought I’d share my thoughts on why this man should be chased out of Hollywoodby the WGA.

Where to begin with Signs? So many plot holes…

A gang of teenagers with super soakers could have repelled the alien invaders, yet the National Guard is nowhere to be found, even in rural wherever-the-hell-they-are. Iowa, I’m guessing. But your guess is as good as mine as to why hydro-sensitive aliens would come to Earth, a planet made up almost entirely of water, only to invade a cornfield in Iowa. It makes only slightly more sense than if they were to invade a nightclub run by a gay couple in Miami. But just barely.

A farmer, even if he’s a preacher, has a shotgun. Wild dogs. Livestock with broken legs. These things happen. But Mel Gibson has Joaquin Phoenix and his magic baseball bat, so he’s good to go.

Aliens who are technologically advanced enough to fly half way across the galaxy decide to invade a planet that has the two things they can’t handle: water and doorknobs.†

And wouldn’t the aliens melt like the Wicked Witch of the West just by stepping outside their spaceships? Aliens who react to water like acid go for long nude walks through an irrigated corn field on, as mentioned before, a planet whose ecosystem is pretty much water, water everywhere. No problem. But splash them with some tap water and they start to do their vampire-in-sunlight impression. Well yeah. Other things these super advanced aliens have never invented: doorknobs, space suits, clothes in general. Towels.

And then the real topper– the alien invasion is apparently all just a test of Mel Gibson’s faith. God killed his wife so that, with her dying breath, she could pass on the secret that will save humanity from aliens: baseball and a tall glass of water. Sure, untold thousands of people died in the invasion‡ but at least Mel Gibson believes in God again.

The fact that there are obnoxiously cute children present would be tolerable in a decent film but here, it’s just one more poke in the eye.

_________
* Number one is The Passion of the Christ. Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick–that would only be slightly more offensive than this film.

† M. Knight’s cameo-doctor locks an alien in his pantry by shutting the door. Faster than light travel is apparently a piece of cake but what’s this?! A strange mechanism is holding this door shut! Our invasion plans have hit their first snag.

‡ Seriously, we have no idea what the casualty count was. It’s implied that there was some pretty big shit going down in Buenos Aries and probably Jakarta. Maybe even Camaroon! But in Iowa it was just the neighbor down the road and a couple of those pesky kids and their dog. Or, maybe all the Jews were killed, which is why Mel Gibson’s world is happy and right again. Fuck if anyone knows because hay! all that’s important is Mel got his Sky Daddy back.

BSG: Telling It From The Mountain

So, I was reading Pandagon yesterday when I discovered that some really weird folk think Battlestar Galactica is secretly a Mormon recruitment tool[1]. Their evidence? The show makes use of religious imagery and mythology. Which is pretty week as arguments for propaganda go. By this definition, Superman,[2] Star Wars[3] and everything Philip K. Dick[4] ever wrote is also super secret (but right out there in the open) religious propaganda.

Once upon a time, this argument might have applied to the original BSG, which was Mormon mythology dressed up in swank, quilted late seventies space opera. But the new series? Not so much. As Amanda Marcotte pointed out, just because a story derives some of its momentum from popular religious ideas doesn’t automatically mean the creators are promoting that religion. Also, religious pluralism, modern gender roles with women in leadership positions and decidedly secular attitudes towards sex, drinking and drug use don’t exactly scream, “Join The Mormons!” As with any artfully done work of storytelling, it’s not that simple. BSG can’t be broken down into simple declarative statements about its morals and message. It’s a nuanced discussion of various current ideas.

But there is one really obvious way you can tell that BSG isn’t telling it from the mountain: stories told with an ideological agenda are no fun. Whether they are serialized TV dramas, movies, comics or novels, an ideologically driven narrative stands out because the author is selling you a flat pack of easy answers to hard questions. And he (usually it’s a he) is not afraid to beat you silly with the truth stick to make his point[5]. This has some predictable effect on the way the story is told.
Continue reading “BSG: Telling It From The Mountain”

Just A Reminder

All-Star Superman #10 is out now and it’s awesome in every sense of the word. This is the Superman story that should be made into a film or three, not some romantic melodrama. And it should star Bruce Campbell.

All-Star Superman gets to the heart of the Superman character and story that it is Science Fiction in the whiz bang tradition. This is the stuff of legend.