Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Superhero Media: The Mask of Zorro

How come no one talks about this film anymore? And where are all the Zorro films? There should be more Zorro films. I remember The Mask of Zorro being a bit hit when it came out, but I haven't heard anyone talk about it recently, which is a shame, because it's really good. It's the late 1800s and the colony of California is ruled by a coalition of Dons who have just seized power in a coup; the peace is kept by the hero of the people, Zorro. In the opening battle, Zorro frees a group of innocent men about to be executed, is almost captured but for the intervention of a couple of children and then rides off into the sunset. Returning to his villa, Zorro finds out that he has been betrayed, his wife dies, he is imprisoned and his daughter taken by his rival. Years pass and the boys are now outlaws, one brother is killed and the other starts out on a path of revenge, only to run into a recently-escaped Zorro, and a new legend begins! 

The Mask of Zorro is more "fun" than cerebral or literate, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas have a hell of a good time bouncing off each other, Hopkins even carrying off the swashbuckling pretty well despite his age. The strength of the film is in that it never tries to be more than it can realistically be, it's not high art, but doesn't aim for it, which is a nice change of pace after a lot of post-The Dark Knight entries in the superhero film canon. The plot is light and serves just enough to link the film from set-piece to set-piece, which is all it needs really, with plenty of fun one-liners and quippy dialogue to keep up the pace. I'm not personally a huge fan of Banderas as an actor, but this is the kind of role he was born to play, a charming goofball with fun lines to drawl his natural accent a bit thicker on and getting shown up by the legendary talent of Hopkins. Zeta-Jones also deserves some major kudos, her comic timing is brilliant, she should get more roles where she gets to make jokes.

This was never destined to be a great superhero film saga, but who cares? It works well as a stand-alone film or introduction to the broader Zorro mythos or even a history lesson on the origins of Batman. Zorro is a classic hero for a reason, he embodies the 'rich man turned vigilante for the people' archetype almost as well as Sir Percy, but is non-white and free of the complications that drag Batman's privilege and prejudices into the light. Zorro is the kind of hero that should be coming back in this Superhero Cinema Landscape built by Marvel Studios, with a Hispanic actor in the leading role and a new face of colonialism to fight; the resurrectionist. I'm sure that there's plenty that could be done with an enemy who needs to get Zorro out of the way to "make California great again". A solid film well worth another look. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Five Characters I don't want to see in Smash Bros

I have my copy of Smash Bros Ultimate, do you? Looking at the demographics for who reads my blog, probably not, but I'm still excited. Something different this time, this one is about characters I don't want to see pop up in Smash Bros, but it's also more than just a list. This is more about where the Smash franchise has been moving and some aspects that I haven't liked even as far back as Super Smash Bros Melee. Again, this is all personal opinion, what I like and don't like, so shouldn't be taken as a manifesto or list of demands. Seriously, the bile that gets spewed over people's lists of preferred Smash Bros characters on YouTube makes me glad I have so few followers. 

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Mostly I just think that there are already enough characters from the Mario "family" in Smash Bros, but I really don't want to ever see Waluigi be anything more than an assist trophy. There's just something deeply unsettling about him that I can't put my finger on, perhaps some kind of uncanny valley effect or the fact that he's just fucking weird. Also not keen to see Birdo anytime soon, could be convinced for Mouser or Wart and actually happy to see Daisy be her own character in Ultimate. But seriously, enough with the Mario stuff, why not more Donkey Kong, Kirby or Metroid characters?

Shadow the Hedgehog
As I've mentioned before, I would actually like to see more Sonic characters in Smash Bros; Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose and Eggman would all be fun to see, perhaps even Metal Sonic beyond World of Light. That said, Shadow the Hedgehog feels like he'd be the start of a slippery slope, as well as just being something of a lame character to begin with. Also, where does it stop? Does Smash Bros really need Shadow, Silver, Cat, Bat, Rat, Matt, Gat and whoever else is kicking around the depraved corners of the Sonic fandom? You know I'm right, just Google Sonic the Hedgehog with Safe Search off.

I can see why Cloud was included in Smash Bros, he's iconic for his era, has a huge following outside of the Final Fantasy die-hards and FF7 tricked a generation of gamers into thinking everything since then in the series has been worthwhile. That said, does Smash Bros need to become a repository for Final Fantasy characters when there are already more than a few team-up games featuring said characters? Dear god, do I not want to have to play Event Matches as Squall or Titus. Tifa may be a fun counter to Little Mac, though.

I know a great many people think they want Goku in Smash Bros, but I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. First off, does Goku really need to be in more fighting games? Seems like every year there's another big budget Dragonball Z or crossover game featuring the Sayian, not to mention he's now an Olympic ambassador as well. Second, even if Goku were to be included in a Smash Bros game, no one could ever be happy with how he would work. Think about it, if Goku wasn't top tier in competitive Smash, there would be an outcry online, if was unbalanced and needed to be nerfed, there would be outcry from fanboys, if he was just mediocre, there would be endless blogs and videos about how he should be better because in the anime he's just that good. I don't want to have to live through that, sorry. Keep Goku out of Smash Bros.

Anyone else from Fire Emblem 
Not that I have anything against Fire Emblem, or fail to recognise how popular the franchise is in Japan, but don't we have enough of them already? Robin is the only one of the set that really stands out as he/she dosen't have a sword, though I do have a soft spot for Roy from my Melee days. Much like the Mario characters above, I just feel that there are other characters from other franchises that could do with a go before even more Fire Emblem characters join in. Show me Dixie Kong, Funky Kong and Lanky Kong, or Bandanna Dee, Susie and Daroach, or go really nuts and give us The Elite Beat Agents, Cooking Mama and Bob-Louie before another anime warrior with a sword. 

That's it, I'm done, at least until I finish World of Light. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Superhero Media: Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes

In the distant past, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the ubiquitous behemoth of popular culture that is today, Marvel Studios put out this cartoon, and I loved it. Premiering a couple of years after Iron Man, Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes [AEMH] feels like a test run for the MCU with a stronger link to the comics. After a breakout at several supervillain prisons, Iron Man, The Wasp, Thor, Hulk and Giant Man find themselves working together and we have the famous "day unlike any other" that births The Avengers! The characters are all painted in broad strokes, Iron Man is childish, Thor arrogant, Cap dutiful, Hulk angry, Wasp ditzy and so on. AMEH somehow manages to do some of the best takes on Carol Danvers and Clint Barton, much as I love Jeremy Renner's interpretation, he really needs to loose some trick arrows and insult Cap a few times. Hell I wouldn't say no to a "ok, this looks bad", would you? 

The series also manages to cover several major events in comics history pretty well, including "Secret Invasion", the Kree/Skrull War and the "Winter Soldier" arc of Captain America. Classic villains like The Masters of Evil and the Serpent Society are recurring antagonists, which is actually really fun to see, especially when they have to team up with some of the heroes in the second season episode "Assault on 42", probably one of the best in the series. Of all the guest characters, it's actually Spider-man and Luke Cage that stand out the most, even more so that Rocket and Groot, with Spidey falling nicely into his sempai/kohai relationship with Cap and Luke just having some of the best lines and constantly billing Tony Stark for services rendered. 

AEMH is not as good as it once was, now that we have so many great MCU entries, but it is worth watching if you feel like something a bit closer to the comics without getting bogged down in continuity. The characters work, most of the writing is solid and a handful of episodes are really good. It would also work as a primer on the broad strokes of the Marvel 616 Universe if you or someone you know is keen on wanting to learn more, especially with some of the more obtuse points like Yellowjacket, the Supreme Intelligence and Red Hulk. It never reaches the same heights as Justice League Unlimited, but AEMH is still the best animated version of this team to get a full series of its own. Avengers Assemble! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Kill Team Aesir - Part II

Finally got another Kill Team game in with my Deathwatch at the last club meeting. Deathwatch versus Death Guard, playing the "Terror Tactics" Mission. It was a pretty close game and a lot of fun, we're definitely going to have to look at a campaign in the near future. I'm still a bit behind on my painting though, because not all of the parts I need have arrived and I'm making myself paint my Imperial Guard Kill Team first. 

Called to investigate possible Xenos activity in an Imperial Hive City, Kill Team Aesir (Volstagg, Fandhal, Hogun, Heimdall and Thor) move through a ruined area. 

 Death Guard forces gather. 

 Volstagg lines up a shot with his powerful Frag Cannon. 

 First blood to the Deathwatch as an enemy of the Imperium is destroyed! 

 The Mighty Thor charges into single combat against a champion wielding a Great Plague Cleaver. 

A flail-wielding Death Guard decides to challenge the Warriors Three. 

Whist Fandhal duels the Chaos Marine, Volstagg blasts away the Death Guard Champion, proving nothing can withstand the might of Asgardian weaponry. 

"Thou were a fool to challenge the Mighty Thor!" Mjolnir slays another foe in one fell swing. 

Things start to look bad for our heroes as Plague Spewer and Flail cause minor injuries to all of the Warriors Three. 

Thor makes a valiant attempt to take out the Plague-Spewer, but a misinterpretation of the rules leaves the Scion of Asgard in the dirt. 

 Things go from bad to worse as the Flailing Death Guard takes down first Fandhal then Hogun.

Volstagg mops up the last minions and the game falls the way of the Deathwatch, with the Death Guard resolve breaking. 

Despite the reputation on the internet that both Deathwatch and Death Guard have for being "broken" factions in Kill Team, the game was quite balanced and could have swung either way at a couple of points. It helped that neither my opponent, Adam, nor I are particularly interested in playing "unbeatable" armies. I'd really like to get my table and Deathwatch done soon, but time is still tricky for me for a couple more weeks. Once my parts arrive, I'll aim to have the team done by the close of the year.