Monday, November 28, 2016

Superhero Media: Justice League - Throne of Atlantis

The follow-up for Justice League: War, which I did not care for, Throne of Atlantis is a little better, having an actual plot and something for most heroes to do. Oddly, out of the whole overblown team, only Batman seems superfluous, and the main players seem to be Cyborg and Captain Marvel. Yes, the film is all about Aquaman discovering his heritage and accepting his future as the king of Atlantis, but the heroes that actually seem to be putting any real effort into running the League are Cyborg and Captain Marvel, even if the implication is that this is the case because they, unlike all the other heroes, have noting better to do. That seems a little critical from the other leaguers, really, Cyborg demonstrates that he can run intelligence and strategy for the team from his damn head, which renders Batman pretty much useless from the word go. Then there's Captain Marvel, pretty much almost as powerful as Supes and way more enthusiastic about the whole superhero thing, between the two of them, most of the rest of the team needn't bother turning up most of the time anyway. 

The film is more about Arthur Curry becoming Aquaman than much else, in that, I am reminded about what I wrote back in my Young Justice Season 1 review, about long meetings pitching ideas to make Aqualad cool. Curry's three-day stubble, unkempt hair and hard drinking seem like an attempt to distance the character from his Super Friends days, not necessarily a bad idea, but it's immediately undercut by the orange and green costume and bringing back the "Outrageous!" catchphrase. Also, they just keep calling Ocean Master Ocean Master, like it's a cool name and he'll be a relevant villain for the league moving forward. The New 52 Justice League stuff is full of attempts to make Aquaman cool; that "summoning a sharknado" thing? New 52. Defeating Parademons with killer whales? New 52. I appreciate the reworking of a clunky old character into something new and interesting more than most, but is Aquaman really a good candidate for this treatment? Isn't Aquaman's appeal somewhat linked to his goofiness? He "commands the loyalty of sea creatures", being grim and gritty is a bit of a stretch.
 
 
Overall, Throne of Atlantis is pretty lackluster, not as bad as War, but still far from the giddy heights of New Frontier or Flashpoint Paradox. The new versions of the characters mostly fail to be interesting and any potential for development is quickly pushed aside for a fight scene, Aquaman brooding or Green Lantern being sarcastic. It just seems a bit of a shame to have all these interesting and iconic characters, but not do anything to develop them or give reasons why they're suddenly mean, selfish and stupid. If this is the inspiration for the live action films, I'm not holding out too much hope just now. 
 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Meanwhile, in another universe...

For more supers action, be sure to head over to my clubmate's blog, Little Lead Men of Valour. Link to the side and one right here: 

http://littleleadmenofvalour.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/look-up-in-sky-its-bird-its-plane.html 

Neil has, after a few years of nagging from me, finally caved in and started up on some superheroes. He's done some nice repaints that I hope to have a game against before too long. 

 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Superhero Media: Catwoman

This film is so universally reviled that basically every internet critic that makes a living out of bashing poor cinema has taken a bat to it at some point. So if you want to learn everything that is idiotic and wrong with Catwoman, proceed to YouTube for your information, I'll be taking a different tack, in looking at what inspiration can be taken from the film for Supers Gaming. Don't get me wrong, Catwoman is terrible, the plot makes no sense, the costumes are terrible, there's way too much CGI and the whole thing is shot through a series of weird filters that makes it look like a video game on the PSX. That said, Halle Berry really fucking commits to the role, the villain is pretty interesting and there's a cool fake-out with the identity of the mastermind that would all work better in far better films. 


To start with, there is a running concept introduced in the credits that Constance/Catwoman is only the latest in a line of women divinely empowered to fight evil by the Egyptian Goddess Bast. Now that's actually a pretty cool idea, like a feminist spin on the old Moon Knight mythos, not sure why it's in a film about Catwoman, Gotham's costumed cat burglar, but a cool idea nonetheless. The Goddess Bast gets around as an Egyptian Mau, choosing the next Catwoman carefully and "pouncing" on them in a moment of personal crisis and tragedy. There is an element of feminism and fighting the patriarchy that is spoken about, but undercut by Constance's fetish costumes (her first costume is literally a dominatrix outfit from an adult store) and the villains being tied to cosmetics. It's like someone turned in an interesting and thought-provoking Third Wave Feminist script and the Hollywood machine chewed it up and turned this turd out.
 
Much like Showgirls or the film adaptation of The Crucible, Catwoman is such a "perfect storm" of poorly executed cinema that it cannot help but be fascinating to dissect. The cast act with such determination and professionalism that one would believe that they are either unaware of the low quality of the material with which they are working, or have made an Arthurian pact to overcome it. The use of filters is odd, it seems to serve no purpose, yet gives the film an utterly unique look. The rewriting of Catwoman's character and origin is utterly unnecessary, but there is potential for an interesting character in there. Are the feminist elements an afterthought, or were they watered down with rewrites and studio mandates? Who can tell? I may revisit this at some point if I feel my film academia skills waning, but for now, I can't say I'd recommend it for watching.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Miniatures Finished: Vermin

In my ongoing attempt to stop using some of my board game minis for superheroes, I picked up some Reaper Bones vermin from my FLGS to replace the D&D minis I was using for Creepy Crawler (part of my NewGen team). 


They turned out pretty well for a quick job, I think, and the originals can go back in their intended box. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Superhero Media: Ghostbusters (2016)

For various reasons, this film was highly contentious and it seems that nothing can be put up on the internet about it without a vitriolic argument forming instantaneously. I trust that, with those who frequent this blog, this shall not be the case. I encourage comments, but please, be respectful and polite, as you guys always are. 

I enjoyed it. Was it as good as the original? No, but what Ghostbusters material has ever been as good as the original? Ghostbusters II certainly didn't manage it, so why are people getting so up in arms about it? The characters are funny, the effects are actually pretty good and the ghostbusting looks better and feels more exciting than the original. The plot isn't great and the villain is nothing to speak of, but, then again, is Gozer really that interesting? From a meta-fictional standpoint, Gozer is a brilliant stand-in for an ancient, Lovecraftian horror, returning to Earth to consume the souls of humanity, only to be defeated by ingenuity and the powers of science. Aside from that, I would argue that it is Dana, Lewis and Mr Staypuft that give Gozer any real gravitas. As mentioned above, it is the cast that brings the most to the new Ghostbusters, Erin, Abby, Patty, Kevin and Holtzmann are fun characters, with some great on-screen chemistry and I would be keen to see what they get up to in any sequels. 

The highlight of the film is a massive fight scene in Times Square, where the new team utilise a variety of new weapons to bust a wave of ghosts released by the forgettable villain. Unlike the original, the action is pretty engaging and takes on more than standing still, firing a Proton Pack at ghosts. Stunts, fight choreography and a banging soundtrack bring the ideas of Ghostbusters into a contemporary blockbuster landscape and make the girls look like superheroes as much as scientists and engineers. Patty feels a lot less token than Winston did, as her knowledge of local history and folklore is pivotal in more than one scene. Overall, Ghostbusters (2016) feels more like a remake of Ghostbusters II than anything else, interesting characters, good humour, crummy villain and not as good as the original. All-in-all, I think that's pretty good, certainly far better than some of the remakes that have been touted over the years.



I understand that part of the vitriol against this incarnation of Ghostbusters is the thought that it is somehow replacing or usurping a possible Ghostbusters III with the original cast, but this reasoning is preposterous. Bill Murray has repeatedly denied any interest in such a project for over a decade, I was shocked to see him in this one, until I realised he was playing a pastiche of his own Wes Anderson characters. Ghostbusters (2016) is not an affront to your childhood; it is an ok remake with an interesting cast, poor premise and a few decent laughs. I'm already eyeing off the Crooked Dice set so that I can have a team-up between both teams against Gentleman Ghost and Baron Mordo wielding the Necronomicon... sounds cool huh? 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Miniatures Finished: Inhuman Heroes

Loving painting at the moment! Perhaps it's the sheer volume I've churned out this year (in excess of 400 28mm minis!), or that the last few have really popped in a way I can't define. Progress may slow a little as I finish off some non-supers projects and sell them off to make space. 

 Red Tornado, Martian Manhunter and Allen the Alien (Clix). 

 French Revolutionary Prisoner (Eureka), Reshiram the legendary Fire Dragon Pokemon (toy) and Electro (clix). 
 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Superhero Media: V for Vendetta

Been dreading this one a little. Alan Moore's V for Vendetta is a landmark moment in comics, a grand political statement and the culmination of the leftist, anti-establishment trend that has been part of comics sine the Silver Age. Moore's background in various counter-cultures comes to the fore in his writing, and, as one of the first times Moore was ever unleashed as a writer, V for Vendetta is a vitally important moment in comics as a medium. The only problem is, I didn't care for it. No really. Was not a fan. I was inclined, at first, to think that it was simply that i haven never been keen on my Bakunin, and, yes, Moore does push an anarchist agenda that I'm not keen on pretty damn hard, but that's only part of it. Moore's fans tend to talk the most about three of his works; V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchmen, these are held up as big deals for comics and this is difficult to refute. However, when it comes to Moore, I think his Marvel and DC work is where his genius truly shines. Yes, I am, myself a writer, and respect the creative impulse, but I also believe that editors exist for a very important reason; just look at Moore's LXG Century series or Lost Girls to see what he can get up to when there are no restrictions. 


The elephant in the room is, of course, the V for Vendetta film, which I thoroughly enjoy and think is destined to be a cult classic. The graphic novel is a different beast entirely. To even call it a superhero comic is a major stretch, V is a charismatic terrorist, like Michael Collins or a young Nelson Mandela, he is only a "good guy" because the people he's killing are worse than him. His plan is to, essentially, murder members of the government until "the people" (most of whom are portrayed as largely indifferent) rise up and overthrow his INGSOC stand-in. In the graphic novel, "Father" isn't a British Hitler analogue, but is, instead, a mental pygmy, thrust into power as a puppet, who holds sexual desires for his computerised spy network. By now, it's obvious that Moore probably wrote V for Vendetta as a love letter to both Orwell and Bakunin, V is an anarchist Batman here to chase the enemies of the people away, be they communist, socialist, fascist or capitalist. No wonder he was changed so much for the film.
 

Also in need of mentioning is the urban legend that Evey is a prostitute in the comic; not strictly true, she is attempting to begin work as a prostitute when she meets V, but actually works in a cannery. Evey, like every civilian in V for Vendetta, is not really interested in rebellion, at least until V tortures and brainwashes her into working for him. Hell, I know that INGSOC are pretty terrible, but most people seem to be at least happy slaves, V's agenda seems pretty brutal and doesn't allow for the very people he's fighting for to have an opinion. I'm aware that I sit pretty far left on the political spectrum, but I also wouldn't consider staring a guerilla campaign to overthrow a corrupt government by pulling out Plato's Republic and insisting that we create a rationalist state and ban religious worship. V for Vendetta is worth a read, certainly, but I'm glad I borrowed a friend's copy rather than pay for one myself. What can I say? Sometimes the mystique is better than the reality.