Agents of Shield Wimps Out

OK, the status quo of the MCU is a bad joke between Infinity War and the next one, but it’s a joke that should be affecting the plots of Agents and all those Nutflex shows and so on. Agents of Shield should’ve disintegrated half the cast. It didn’t do that to a single one of them.

No big deal tho, right? If I was in the position of creating one of those shows, I wouldn’t want to kowtow to silly world-wrecking ideas implemented on other people’s projects. But I see in this a big missed opportunity.

See, Coulson was revealed to be terminally ill this season, definitely gonna die. If, as in my last post, we suppose Thanos’s victims enter the soul gem, then this could’ve been a real slick way to cross over again. See, the movies have been ignoring Agents because they saw Coulson’s death as dramatically complete, no need to fuck with it.

But if Coulson showed up in the Soul Gem (because he got disintegrated right before he died naturally) the movie could’ve played it off like he was there because any dead person could be, and never have to acknowledge his life on the TV series. And in reverse, if the series wanted him back in full health, they could have him escape the soul gem by the same means as Dr. Strange and the others.

If they’re at all serious about keeping the crossover with the series as an idea, I know how they’ll write it off. Whatever mulligan happens in Infinity Boogaloo will cause the lost to be restored as if nothing happened, and with no knowledge they had been lost in the first place. Ipso facto yadda yadda, their adventures will not seem to have been affected by the event at all. The end.

I just think that’s Dullsville. If they were gonna go big like this, they should’ve had the huevos to stick with it and make the disintegrations happen everywhere. Raspberries to you, Marvel. Raspberries.


John Woo on Netflix

Manhunt! New John Woo joint on Nutflex. Extremely poorly reviewed. I watched it. Don’t feel up for a full review, but here’s the short version:

The plot’s too complicated, the melodrama sometimes seems to be channeling Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and there are a million and one glaring technical issues with the filmmaking. Sometimes it seems like they didn’t have all the footage they needed so there’s a jarring cut or failure of the action filmmaking – which is what you come to John Woo for in the first place. The Japanese / Chinese cast used strained English as a common language and that was hard on the ears. And I’m not used to the look of ultra-high-def high frame rate digital action movies yet. It looked better on my little monitor than my big TV.

All that said, it wasn’t just a sad ghost of John Woo’s old talent. This was the first thing I’ve seen in ages that looked like he was able to put some of that spirit into it. I’m not sure what he needs to take it all the way home. More producer interference? Less? A trusted assistant with strong chops? A better editor?

The good news: For the first time in a while it feels possible to get the old John Woo back. I hope whatever went wrong here can get fixed next time out.


Spoiled Infinity Yak

I saw Avengers: Infinity War, and agree with Scalzi and others who found the drama of the big character deaths extremely weakened by the knowledge they’re gonna get a mulligan. There wasn’t even a hint of a moment of feeling shocked or bad about the deaths. There would have been more feeling if in the film we spent more time with the survivors, got to feel their reactions, but they didn’t do that. It made sense in terms of pacing to skip that – the deaths came super late in the film. But it still fell flat as drama.

A movie that’s an obvious two parter should leave you wanting and wondering about the second, but not because the first ended feeling a bit like a bad joke. Nonetheless, I do think it was competently done, gratifying explodey action 5eva. Just not as good of quality in storytelling as many other MCU joints.

Anyhow, if you wanna talk about the movie with someone without fear of spoiling, I put the word Spoiled in the title, so feel free to be completely open here.

What else do I wanna say? OH YEAH. The stuff from the trailers that didn’t end up in the movie at all! The Hulk running in Wakanda. An entire Thanos speech (one doesn’t consider fun when balancing the cosmos…). That shit feels reeeeally weird. Like we were lied to about the movie. Just a strange experience.

Also, the reason the Hulk wasn’t running in Wakanda – Banner couldn’t hulk out in the movie and I could think of zero reason why except for budget. Was he literally left in a cage to make way for Purple Man Group? If so, W the earthly F?

Also watching Agents of Shield with its half-assed tie-in moments, and shit isn’t adding up there. Thanos attack was supposed to be what precipitated actions leading to the destruction of the Earth, but Thanos wasn’t about destroying the earth, leaving the idea as a depressing wacky temporal comedy of errors.

The season has been hella weak by comparison to the last few, the aliens feel like B movie versions of the Guardians movies aliens, which puts them on a continuum of bad towards the Inhumans show. Yikes. And the show has no choice but to have half the cast members disintegrate, because its finale airs long before we discover the method of Mulligan in the movies.

Then there’s the Netflix shows. They try to tie in but that’s also feeling pretty flimsy at this point. None of those characters got to be in the movies, even in the background. And how will they deform their plots to account for where the movie ‘verse has been left hanging? They just can’t. It’d be ridiculous.

Ant Man and the Wasp has the advantage of being able to bump their plot back in time farther than Agents of Shield can, but I’d like to see the end credit scene be the entire cast disintegrating, just as a way to keep the goof going. Why not?

Mmm, sequel thoughts. I’d love to see a few long conversations between Nebula and Tony Stark, with them stranded on a distant world, tragedy all around and nothin’ to do. That would be an interesting bit of drama. I’d like the dead to stay dead for a good chunk of the beginning.

So how does the Mulligan work? I knew even before I watched the movie what they were going to pull, so I thought maybe they could give the reality stone to the Scarlet Witch and have her pull an Avengers Disassembled or non-mutants-referring House of M style plot. MCU Scarlet Witch hasn’t been shown to have powers on the level she did in the comic, but getting an infinity stone could make the difference. But they killed her, so that’s out.

In the original Infinity Gauntlet story, if I recall, the souls of the dead are, in a sense, inside the Soul Gem. Adam Warlock leads Gamora and Drax back to the land of the living (along with another character who hasn’t appeared yet, and if I’m remembering this right – it was years ago & I don’t feel like researching). If the movie verse is similar, Dr. Strange could take that role. And it would make sense of his action of giving the time stone to Thanos. Like, why would he ever have done that, especially to spare fucking Tony Stark? Only if he was counting on dying to get a peep inside the gem and come up with a better plan.

Lastly, reiterate what I said at Nate’s, they removed Thanos’s original motive — pining for the embodiment of death itself, killing half of everything to impress her. That’s especially weird, given the end credit scene of the first Avengers heavily implied that was his still his thang. Also, it just made a LOT more sense as a motive than this half-assed overpopulation is bad gimmick.

So bad move, and also one that shows the MCU is willing to throw its own foreshadowing in the garbage. The end of Guardians 2 foreshadowed the birth of Adam Warlock, but they might never use him, and certainly it would be weird for him to show up new in the next Avengers joint.

The deaths of Spiderman, Black Panther, and the Guardians means they can’t make any movies for those guys until after the next Avengers movie, so I really don’t know quite what to expect here. It’s a silly state of affairs. I guess we can have fun with it. Oh noes, I’m ded. x_x


Jessica Jones Problem

Content Warnings: Rape Mention, Abuse, Horror

Jessica Jones is a Netflix original series based on a problematic-ass comic. The premise: A woman with super strength falls under the control of a villain with mind control powers. He rapes her and uses her to abuse and kill others as well. Somehow she escapes his influence, and in an ensuing accident thinks him dead. But he returns, and she has to find a way to defeat him without risking falling under his control again.

It’s an intense psychological horror in that premise, that plays out very well in the hands of appropriately sensitive writers and directors during the first season. But as the premise is so based on the “sensational” nature of a hideous sex crime, it would be reasonable to suppose that the elimination of the super-rapist would kneecap any further storytelling with the main character.

I wanted that to not be true. A rape survivor’s story shouldn’t have to be defined by her rapist, in fiction or otherwise. I believe better things could be done with this character, and the second season was their chance to do that.

They failed. At the most basic level of writing, it was all about the hook. The first season had an extremely powerful hook. They were never going to be able to match it, in terms of its potential for horror and intrigue. The hook for the second season? Not as compelling.

But as writers and directors, there are ways to make up for the weakness of a hook. Play up the intensity of local situations and scenes, put in a character arc people will really love even if they don’t care that much for the premise. It’s doable. But they didn’t pull it off, not at all.

Frequently throughout the season, it seemed like they were intentionally trying to draw the drama and events smaller, make them less important, or make things less powerfully felt. Bad guys were soft-pedaled and good guys tarnished to where they were indistinguishable, presumably in the name of artistic complexity, but with the effect of draining all sympathy and interest from the audience.

At its worst, it felt like the budget constrained writing from Inhumans. And the dialogue between Jessica and the big bad in the last two episodes felt almost as repetitive and trite as Luke and Vader’s exchanges in Return of the Jedi. The worst part is that two good guy / sympathetic characters from the first season were turned into sleazy assholes with NO resolution to their arcs of descent.

And in the end? It looks like Jessica is angling toward an ultra-heteronormative domestic situation. My feminism shrank three sizes that day. The show was anticlimactic and just tired.

THE TAKE-AWAY
This season had to potential to show that you don’t need a sensational story of sex abuse to make a compelling narrative about a survivor. It failed to do so, and disappointed my shit out. Three thumbs down. I blame no one but the writers, directors, producers. Better luck in your future endeavors, actors.

In Praise of Marvel’s Flops: Inhumans

So Marvel just finished airing the safe-to-say series finale of Inhumans, their most panned production to date, and it got me feeling like, hey, somebody oughtta stick up for anyone that is getting crapped on that hard. So. Marvel’s Inhumans.

In a moment of perfect timing during the last episode, the words “Created by Scott Buck” appeared on the screen just as the villain of the show was saying, “You realize this is all your fault.” But was it? Must we assign blame? Can we accept this moment, this thing as it is, and move on without recriminations? I dunno. Just sayin’.

Inhumanoids is the story of the inhumans, who are a race of superheroes resulting from the work of Ancient AliensTM. They live on the moon. A lot of them have short foreheads, which makes me think the casting director has a short forehead, and just thought, hey, these people look good and normal. And they do, I mean, my head looks like the comic version of Karnak, so maybe it’s a matter of perspective. Even so, it gets a song in my head.

The faces of Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, and Iwan Rheon crudely photoshopped onto monchichis.
Mon chi-Chi! Mon, chi-chi.

Stop: Spoiler time.

The title of this post isn’t a lie. But I have to mention the bad before I can get to the promised praise…
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Lady Actors Doin’ All the Work

As I mentioned in passing in my post the other day, I’ve noticed lady actors often have to work harder than men. Men in acting are allowed to “go subtle,” probably because the directors have heteronormative notions about what looks cool from masc characters. I think that sucks. Men flipping out have been very memorable and cool in cinema history. Se7en Brad’s “What’s in the box?!,” young Mel tremblin’ and shakin’ in Lethal Weapon, lots of guys in Hong Kong cinema.

High key moments aside, even being expressive in casual scenes is surprisingly amiss in dudes. I feel like a big reason young Bruce Willis was a sex symbol was that he bothered to fuckin’ smile in his movies. Arch an eyebrow, look at someone sideways. Use your facial muscles, guys.

I’m mostly noticing this in TV. Steven Amell‘s tiny eyeballs would be hard-pressed to register an emotion, so maybe he has an anatomical disadvantage compared to the rest of the cast of his show. I’m watching all the episodes of Dead Zone I missed back when it aired, and as much as I want to like Anthony Michael Hall, he is usually dead-faced as hell. This was at its worst in the episode when he had a one-night thing with his ex. All the tension and drama throughout the season, Nicole de Boer looking at him with a face brimming with intense feels, and AMH was just kinda standing there bugging his eyes out.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that due to cultural expectations and dramatic conventions, they just gotta play it cool 99% of the time. They still need to let it out of the bottle when it counts. The aforementioned scene in Dead Zone? Way undercut by the man’s acting.

The most comical example ever had to come from the otherwise pretty decent Sam Waterston early in his run on Law & Order. There was an episode where a lady he’d worked with in the past got busted for an ethical violation, which she said she did in his name, because they were having hawt romantical naked torrid hawt affairs. That actress – Laila Robins – was falling all over herself to show that she had some kind of intimate connection with Sam’s character Jack McCoy. Bedroom eyes all the time, slouching around like Mae West. And for all that? Waterston wobbled uncomfortably in his starched collar like an asexual quail.
 

Laila Robins as Diana Hawthorne on Law & Order
too hawt for quails

 
Not that there’s anything wrong with some quails being asexual, but they seem miscast opposite a siren. It was unintentionally funny, but also emblematic of the prob. Men need to work harder in the acting game. And not like Jared Leto.

Great Shows with Nowhere to Go

HBO’s Westworld and SyFy’s 12 Monkeys. I’ve liked those shows a lot. Westworld was laughably edgy at times, seemed like it was trying to reach a quota of F bombs and tiddies in some episodes, but had several excellent to truly great things about it. 12 Monkeys played with a lot of sketchy mental illness tropes, had all the time travel related foolishness you might expect, and used a child as a character motivation in a way that felt emotionally dishonest and a bit ridiculous to me. And the lead actor looks like a tired otter. But it had a bad-ass two-fisted style and some sweet moments of plot payoff. I love the first season twist ending about The Power of Friendship, and Kirk Acevedo is sexy in a way that I find hard to explain. Plus the lead actress (as usual) does all the heavy lifting on the show, and does it well.

I’ve liked both of those shows a lot, but I have such big doubts about future seasons that I’m unlikely to tune in unless I get very positive spoilers. The places they left off promised nothing good. Spoilers below the fold. Anyhow, do you ever get like this? Find yourself bouncing on a show because you can’t imagine it sustaining the same quality going forward?
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Edgie Comics: on TV

Content Warning: Statutory Rape, Homophobia, Biphobia, Eating Disorders,
Fatphobia, let me know if u think I should mention anything else…

Social justice score: 1 out of 5

So Archie Comics got hella weird in the Nü Millennium, with attempts at maintaining relevance by reaching different audiences. One of those tacks was to make a series of serious adult-ish comics with edgy elements written by Mark Waid. Now adult-ish edgy Archie is on The CW and to kill a minute I’m watching the first episode. Thoughts as they come…
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