Doctor Strange – Formality at its Finest

God damn has it been a long time since I’ve written anything on here. I’ve been very busy with my new job at HiRez and classes and papers and whatnot. Fortunately, the semester is winding down, and I went out and saw this trippy-ass movie and figured “what the hell, I’ll write about it.”

So, Doctor Strange.

No, not that one.

There we go, the one that I’ve been putting in the production studio to scare the fuck out of Toliy.

I want to start out by saying that Doctor Strange is a lot of fun. Crazy effects, good production design, this film is an overall good popcorn flick, whitewashing notwithstanding. It’s a good movie to take a group of random friends to, especially if you guys are on drugs.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to it. The film neglects every possible formal element for the sake of having fun, and does it in a way that makes you OK with it. That’s because telling this story is not the point of this film. The only point of this film is to set up the titular doctor for the next Avengers movie, and that’s annoying to me. For my comic books class we watched Captain America 1, and even that movie went out of its way to make sure Cap got his character development time. Doctor Strange runs through all the important narrative information to get to the fun stuff as soon as it can, because that’s all it’s got, because its one goal is to set up the next Avengers. And Civil War proved that you don’t even need to give characters their own movie to do that, so why fucking bother?

Except, that important narrative information is how we get invested in the character.

In fact, this entire film is self-defeating on that front because WE KNOW he’s going to win because WE KNOW there’s a million other Marvel films in the pipeline. I remember sitting in the theater when the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 came on and everyone freaked out when they saw baby Groot and I was like “YOU KNEW HE WAS COMING BACK IN THE PREVIOUS MOVIE!!

I really don’t want to recommend Doctor Strange to you. I guess I can, but there’s no real reason for you to see it. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and financially supporting this movie does nothing to benefit film as a whole. Save your money for Black Panther instead, so you can support nonwhite casting.


P.S.: I promise I have been working on other things. There’s been a lot to worry about. I’m starting to think about publishing comics via KickStarter instead of publishing them on the web, that way I can put a bigger proof-of-concept up there and you don’t have to be sitting on the edges of your seats waiting for updates from me.


Captain America Civil War: Marketing Masterpiece

I think around New Years last year I had a conversation with the twins, Scott and Storm, about how Marvel is in a bit of a paradoxical situation right now. On one hand, they can do nothing wrong; every movie they make is going to be called great. On the other hand, they can’t afford to make anything less than a great movie anymore, because that has become the standard.

In particular, after watching the trailer for Captain America Civil War, I wasn’t so much hyped about as I was wondering how the heck they were gonna make Cap a good guy in this. I know that it would’ve been really hard to adapt the comic book arc in a world where Goliath, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men don’t really exist, but the one trailer I watched made it seem to me like Cap was acting out of a personal desire to save his friend, which really goes against the themes that Avengers 2 set up of innocent civilians, which I assumed they did FOR Civil War because that’s what the fundamental conflict in the comic was.

I know all the good things that people are saying about this movie, but you clicked on the link on Facebook or Twitter or your WordPress Reader knowing what I say about movies, so I want you to stop before you scroll down and write a comment wishing death on me and all my relatives and think about this movie a bit. What does this movie do that is particularly interesting or unique?

The performances are decent, but this is what we expect from even mediocre movies. The action’s OK. Good for an American movie, but I’ve seen better.

Even the writing’s just about average for a Marvel movie. Joss Whedon quit because he was too stressed out, and he was the one who established the general tone for all the post-Avengers 1 movies. In fact, the writing was what I had a big problem with in this movie. True to my predictions, Captain America fails at being a good guy in this film.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe they spent too much time trying to justify Tony Stark’s support of government regulation (you always have to these days, otherwise you get accused of being paid off by Hilary) that they forgot to make Cap not seem like a stubborn asshole for wanting to not be held accountable for property damage and civilian casualties. After a chain of completely stupid and irrational decisions driven by personal friendships and with no consideration of the other people involved, Cap wins without having earned it. Wow, I thought Captain America was supposed to represent the American Dream, not Corporate America.

This felt more like an Iron Man movie than a Captain America one. He’s the one who gets the real character arc, except it doesn’t even pay off for him. The main conflict in this story felt mixed-up and scrambled, like it didn’t know what its priorities were.

Spider-Man and Black Panther are here, sure. Shoved in with no time for characterization besides some cultural appropriation on the latter’s part. ‘Sides, it’s not a surprise, they made sure to let us know that they would be here in every promotional material they could. All your favorite characters, going head-to-head! The fights are awesome! Never mind that the narrative that contextualizes it all has more holes in it than a Dutch dam made of Swiss cheese.

This film is not a masterpiece of filmmaking. It’s a masterpiece of marketing. The hype train was half the experience of being in the theater for it. You watched a trailer, and they spaced out the release of the next one for just long enough for you to Google who Black Panther was and join the internet debate on whether Spider-Man would be Miles Morales or Peter Parker. And they did a great job, enough that people are pretending this movie is better than it is.

Final recommendation: You saw it already, because you were riding the hype train way too hard. But it doesn’t stand up to a close analysis, and leaves a gross, buttery taste in your mouth. Maybe I should’ve passed on the popcorn.

Your Kids Can’t Watch Deadpool (And That’s A Good Thing)

So Deadpool is a big deal right now. A brilliant but also probably thoughtless tweet from the social media team behind the movie brought this whole ordeal to my attention. Yes, folks, it’s time to talk about the complex interactions between media and sociopolitical phenomena!!

As a 20-year-old, I would be hard-pressed to give a shit about whether they decide to put out a censored version or not. I sure as hell know that I’m going to see the one with the fuck-word and dick jokes, because yes, an “appropriate” version of this particular film and narrative would totally defeat the point. But I’m worried that other people who hold this view, particularly my peers, may be saying so for the wrong reasons.

SCIENCE: South Park is one of the most popular comedies among political conservatives. Sounds pretty weird, right? But the truth is that South Park is incredibly politically conservative. It just does it in a cool, edgy way. It’s all about being shocking.

“We’re the only ones brave enough to be racist and uphold systemic oppression,” they cry. It’s the same narrative that old men on Fox News have been proudly trumpeting from the rooftops for decades, from within their comfortable apartments where they have plenty of food and a decent standard of living, as they rile up the poor racists into thinking that poor black people are their real enemy.

And it is into this quagmire that Deadpool chooses to leap headfirst. Technically, I’m not here to talk about politics. So, OK, let’s talk about stories, as I am wont to do. Deadpool‘s narrative is ultimately reliant on shock humor and irreverence. That’s the kind of character he is, and that’s fine.

But Deadpool is also an anti-hero. An anti-hero is the guy you’re not supposed to want to be. An anti-hero is the guy who takes it upon himself to kill the enemies, the one who chooses not to forgive, the one who does the right things for the wrong reasons. When confronted with a choice between the easy way and the morally correct way, the anti-hero picks the easy way. A hero exposes Lex Luthor’s crimes and leaves it to the judge to sort him out. An anti-hero just snaps Lex Luthor’s neck.

Speaking of which, I think Man of Steel is a pretty key film in analyzing this phenomenon of anti-heroes because Superman is supposed to be a “hero” character but Zach Snyder really just wants to direct an “anti-hero” movie. I get the feeling that Henry Cavill probably felt like the unfavorite child on the set of Dawn of Justice.

So our society is currently obsessed with anti-heroes. Bad boys who play by their own rules and don’t answer to nobody. That’s why we like Batman more than Superman, despite both of them being equally bland characters. It’s why Iron Man is our favorite Avenger even though Cap is the frontman. And heck, look at that. Iron Man’s standalone movies are done, so now they’re making Cap’s third movie an anti-hero movie.

I think it’s interesting how this reverence for the morally ambiguous rose. It’s probably rooted in real-world problems, because it always is, but I feel like it all started with The Dark Knight. And, at the time, Batman in that context was a pretty kickass hero. He fought the billionaire gangsters that were fucking Gotham over, and in real life we have real billionaires fucking us over, and it felt good to see them getting punished, even if it didn’t solve any problems in real life. That’s what escapist fantasy is all about.

But I worry about the direction that the anti-hero takes. Batman was an anti-hero in The Dark Knight because he had to be because the police system was corrupt. And that’s fine. But it led to this interesting phenomenon where the character we’re rooting for is the one that doesn’t care about the context of his problems. I talked about this in a Batman article once, and John Green did a video on it that was much better than my article. In The Dark Knight Rises the problems arise not from mob bosses or supercriminals but systemic oppression of the lower class. This is a theme that is made EXTREMELY CLEAR by the POOR LITTLE ORPHAN BOY THAT JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT TALKS TO.

So we went from a hero that was irreverent because his circumstances demanded it to a hero who was irreverent because… He’s kind of a dick. And it’s the irreverence that we’ve attached ourselves to, because it makes us seem like the strong guy. Morals are for the weak, like Congress, who can’t get anything done! The only way to get ahead is to be not be hindered by political correctness, and be free to mock the struggles of gays and transgenders, and to call NerdyChineseBoys chinks!

Except no, that’s not how real life works. Those things that you think are strengths are just cancerous growths that you’ve mistaken for extra body parts. You think they’re great now, but it’s only a matter of time before the medical bills come in and you start feeling bad about making fun of cancer. I get to be irreverent because white people drove my people like slaves and then when the railroads were done they told us we had to leave and stop taking all the jobs. And it’s not like you can’t be irreverent!

Just make sure you’re being irreverent to the right people. There’s this unwritten rule of comedy that says “always punch up.” We seem to be in a climate where punching down is admired; Heck, it won a goddamn Oscar.

Don’t let your kids see Deadpool. Deadpool is funny, but you’re not supposed to want to be him. He’s not supposed to inspire anything. Wanting to be Deadpool is how we shoot black kids and then not feel bad about it. Superman is the one who’s supposed to inspire things.