Sunday, December 17, 2017

Who Would Win?

A few years ago I was reading a thread on some message board.  The subject: Could Superman beat the Hulk?  

Of course, hundreds of Hulk fanboys cited their evidence, while Superman lovers brought up their facts.  At least two canon examples were presented of Superman actually beating the Hulk, but the Hulk fans dismissed those issues for whatever reasons.

I think one problem comes from the fact that Hulk fanboys just picture them trading punches until one falls down.  This turns it into a simple mathematical problem.  Who hits harder?  Who can take the most punches?  But it doesn't work like that.  Superman's had his share of fistfights, but he uses his mind as least as often as he uses his fists.  He constantly faces villains stronger than himself, otherwise his comics would be boring.  If he can't beat them with his fists, he beats them with his wits.

So while a strict boxing match could go either way, an actual comic battle might end up with Superman grabbing the Hulk and flying off into space somewhere.  Or building walls around him at super speed.  Or sucking all the oxygen out of the room.  Or zipping off to the Fortress of Solitude and returning with a Kryptonian device that disperses gamma rays.

The question wasn't "Could Superman beat the Hulk in a straight fist fight where no one flies or does anything clever?"  It wasn't "Could the version of the Hulk in 1997 beat the version of Superman from 1983?"  It wasn't "Would Superman absolutely always beat the Hulk in every possible scenario?"  It was a simple, straight, "Could Superman beat the Hulk", a question which was answered with the first actual example from the comics.

Superman obviously can beat the Hulk, since he has.  "Oh, the Marvel vs DC fight doesn't count because that was a version of the Hulk that gets weaker when he's angry."  Sorry, nope, you didn't put that in the question.  There are always going to be external factors.

The Batman ones are especially funny, because the first question asked is always, "Does he have prep time?"  Batman doesn't need prep time, he's been planning for every possibly fight for decades.  One of his defining traits is that he's always ridiculously prepped.  If the Hulk ever showed up to fight Batman, Batman would already have  plan for it.  Despite existing in different universes, Batman probably keeps an anti-Hulk weapon tucked away in his utility belt.

So I hate to burst your bubble, but here is the answer to every "Who Would Win" question:

Any fictional character can beat any other fictional character if the story is written that way.

There ya go.  If Jar Jar Binks can take out a battle tank by tripping over things, then Superman can beat the Hulk.  If Squirrel Girl can beat Galactus, then Superman can beat the Hulk. If Jeff Goldblum can defeat an alien armada by using a computer virus, then Superman can beat the Hulk.

'Nuff said.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Spoilers Aplenty)

Because some movies deserve two blogs.  I already did a spoiler-free blog about the Last Jedi, but I also wanted to post a few more specific thoughts.  Only read this post if you've already seen the movie.

DANGER: SPOILERS

I realize that cute characters are a Star Wars staple - Jawas, Ewoks, Gungans, mouse droids, and even R2-D2.  They inevitably annoy some adults, but those adults need to come to terms with the fact that Star Wars isn't solely for them.  Now that Disney's involved, I wouldn't be surprised if the number of cute critters increases exponentially.  BB-8 manages to be even cuter than R2, and the porgs are were obviously invented to be marketable.

But you know what?  The porgs aren't nearly as annoying I thought they would be.  Yes, they are completely irrelevant to the plot, and literally only exist to make the audience laugh.  Even Jar Jar moved the plot forward, but porgs are just superfluous eye candy.   But on the bright side, they don't get too much screen time, and they never wear out their welcome like the Gungans did.  And some of their scenes are truly hilarious.

BB-8 on the other hand... I still love the little guy, but he's way overpowered in this movie.  There's a scene where he single handedly takes out several guards, and another where he saves the day by piloting an AT-ST.  I don't know why they even recruit resistance fighters any more, they would be better off building an army of BB droids.

The plot is weird.  A large portion of the movie involves the First Order slowly chasing a resistance freighter that only has shields in the back, waiting for it to run out of fuel.  I've seen multiple reviewers ask: Why they don't just send a few ships ahead of it to shoot it from every side?  The movie sort of answers this question, but not very well.

Meanwhile, during the slow motion chase, Finn and Rose manage to fly off in a smaller ship to look for a hacker in a casino.  It's a very weird sidequest.  "Hey we're going to fly away from the main plot for a while and come back."  If it's so easy to just fly away in a ship like that, wouldn't that have been a better escape plan than the incredibly slow moving escape pods they eventually use?

How many people could Finn's ship hold, anyway?  Seems like they could have at least dropped a few rebels off on a safer planet somewhere.  It would have saved them from getting blown up later.  And yes I know Finn was secretly disobeying orders when he left, but maybe that ship should have been Resistance Escape Plan A.

Of course, when he does finally get back, the codebreaking plan doesn't work anyway.  I know it's a bit of a Shaggy Dog Story, but I like that the plot doesn't turn out like you'd think.  Much like Leia's survival, it's an interesting twist that keeps the movie from being predictable.

Leia's use of the Force to survive in space was... well, it's a neat idea, but it looked cheesy on film.  This might sound cold, but they also missed a good opportunity to write her out of the series.  I assume they already have a fate planned for her in Episode 9, so I guess I'll reserve judgment until I see what happens then.  I just hope they still have some unused footage, since they already promised not to resurrect her with CGI.  I'll be kind of annoyed if Episode 9 just mentions her in passing, like "Oh Leia?  She retired on Bespin."

Rey's origin... is Kylo telling the truth?  If so, I'm okay with her being a nobody.  Maybe it's like Anakin, and she was conceived by the Force itself, because the Force needed her to fulfill some big destiny thingamabob.  However, all the hints of her being someone more, like the Unreveal in the cave beneath Luke's island... those teasers aren't going to age well.  It's like the director was playing with the audience, making fun of all the speculation that Rey might be related to a main character.

Snoke's death was pretty cool, and the fight afterwards was beautiful.  But still... I wish they hadn't killed off Snoke without telling us who he really is first.  He's obviously got a history with the other characters.  Leia, Han, and Luke all made references about how Snoke was a bad influence on Kylo, as if he was some sort of old acquaintance or recurring villain.

So this is the worst kind of movie secret - the kind that everyone already knows, except for the audience.  I know there were a lot of crazy theories about him being a resurrected Vader/Palpatine/Plagueis/etc, but I'm okay with him just being an original character.  But there's obviously a story there, and it would have been nice to reveal it before killing him.

But then, maybe they're planning to bring Snoke back.  If he is Plagueis, then he's a master of life and death, which would also explain his long lifespan.  Darth Maul came back in the cartoons, after dying from similar injuries.  So maybe Snoke still has a role left to play.  Yet another element that might not make sense until Episode 9.

My biggest complaint, though, was just the overall unevenness of the movie.  It felt weirdly structured, and overly long.  There were several places where I thought the credits were going to roll.  Not that I dislike the ending, but it just felt like it came way after the climax.  Still, I was never bored.  Action scenes and humorous moments were spread evenly throughout the movie, and I never felt like I was drowning in exposition.  There were pacing problems, but I was always entertained.

All in all, The Last Jedi felt a lot like The Empire Strikes Back: It's a good linking film, but incomprehensible on its own.  I don't think The Last Jedi will truly be appreciated until Episode 9 is out, so we can see where all the plot threads lead.  Until then, it feels less like a story and more like just a bunch of stuff that happens.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (No Spoilers)

Decent movie, but I didn't like it quite as much as The Force Awakens.  I would probably rate it 7 out of 10 stars.  Enjoyable but flawed, and not as rewatchable as some of the others in the series.

It had tons of great action scenes and beautiful visuals.  However... It was too long, parts of it felt uneven or badly edited, some of the humor felt out of place, and some of the contrivances were just a little too silly.  Still, once again I'm (naively) surprised at how viciously some moviegoers are tearing it apart. It's not perfect, but it's not nearly as bad as so-called "Star Wars fans" are making it out to be.

Right this second, it has a Metacritic score of 86, and a RottenTomatoes score of 93%.  Not bad.  However, the RottenTomatoes audience score is at 56%, and the Metacrtic users are averaging 5.1 (out of 10).  I glanced through the Metacritic reviews, and many of the users are actually giving it zeroes.  I saw multiple reviews that called it the worst Star Wars movie ever. 

I repeat, "the worst Star Wars movie ever".  Look, I'm a prequel apologist.  I gave the prequels higher marks than just about anybody on the internet.  But even I have to admit that The Phantom Menace isn't particularly good.  Do people really think The Last Jedi is worse?

Nope, uh-uh, no way.  Any reviewer who actually thinks TLJ is worse than TPM clearly isn't worth listening to.  If a Last Jedi review starts out with "worst Star Wars movie ever", you can safely skip to the next review.  These people are not worth your time.

Back in 2009 I wrote a blog about "All-Or-Nothing People." To sum up, too many people lack the emotional nuance to give anything a "medium" score.  Everything is pass/fail, and every movie either rocks or sucks. And here we see the phenomenon again, in all its glory.  The Last Jedi is an average Star Wars movie, maybe a little above average, and anyone who gives it a zero is an obvious AON person.

I don't know why I feel the need to defend a movie I didn't particularly love.  It's going to make billions of dollars regardless of how it's received, so I'm not worried about it bombing and leaving us with an incomplete trilogy.  I guess I just want people to dislike things for the right reasons.

Wil Wheaton posted a pretty good (also spoiler free) review here.  He liked it more than I did, and I agree with his reasons why.  His bullet points are spot-on, and any specifics I give on the movie would just be a cheap copy of his list.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My So-Called Gaming Cred

I would define myself as a gamer.  I was practically born with a controller in my hand.  My earliest memories involve arcade games like Asteroids and Space Invaders.  Gaming continues to be my favorite hobby, even if I don't have time to do it as much as I used to.

I've owned the following systems at one time or another: Atari 2600, TRS-80, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, 8-bit Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation 4, Wii, Wii U, X-Box 360, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance SP, Sega Game Gear, and Nintendo 3DS.  Yes I'm including old computers in the list because I used them almost exclusively for video games.  Note that these consoles were new when I had them (as opposed to the modern trend of collecting retro systems).  I also play pencil-and-paper RPGs.

Unfortunately, the modern usage of "gamer" brings to mind sexist guys with neckbeards and fedoras, who only play macho games like Call of Duty.  When I was a kid, gamers weren't respected because video games were considered new and evil.  But today, gamers aren't respected because we're often judged by the loudest of us.  Too many people think all gamers are like the whiny MRAs on GameFAQs, because they get the most media attention.

But really, is anyone not a gamer at this point?  Even my elders are constantly playing Candy Crush on their phones these days, while still looking down at the younger generations for being addicted to computer screens.  When I call myself a gamer, it's not just because I like video games, it's because they've been such a big part of my life that they're part of my psychological makeup.  It's because I think about the stories behind games even when I'm not playing them.  Heck, I used to draw comic books based on Metroid.

So even thought I'm not particularly good at video games, and even though I rarely own the newest systems or play the most popular games, I'm definitely a gamer.

Things I like in a game:

1. Customization.  I love to design my own character.  Some game companies put too much thought into designing a marketable main character, when I’m happier with a generic one that I designed myself.  This is kind of what killed the GTA series for me.  In GTA 3 you were a nameless, voiceless thug, but there was a code that let you look like other NPCs in the game.  But later GTA games put too much work into making your character memorable, when all I wanted was to choose my appearance.

2. If deep customization isn’t available, at least give us multiple characters to choose from.  Bonus points if at least one of the characters is female.  I'm about 50% more likely to stick with a game if I can play as a female character.

3. I like games I can break.  I don’t play games for the challenge, I just want to see what happens next.  I don’t like dying and replaying the same levels a lot.  I love it when I can find armor that makes me nearly invincible, or weapons that let me dominate my foes.  After a stressful day at work there’s nothing more fun than mowing down a swarm of enemies.

4. Easy to stop and resume.  This is a more recent thing, as I’ve gotten older and don’t have as much time to play.  I don’t want there to be hours between save points.  I don’t want a plot so complicated that I can’t remember what I was doing if I don’t play for a week.  If the game has quests, I want a journal system that helps me remember them, and a map system that makes it easy to find my next target.  Skyrim was excellent about this.


My Favorite Genres:
I mostly like RPGs, Fighting, Sci-Fi Action, Horror, and Platformers.  However, I'm pretty selective about what games I see through to the end.  These days I tend to buy a lot of cheap games on Steam, then play most of them for about 2 minutes before trying something else.  Maybe one out of 50 games sticks with me, and I'll play it for years.  As much as I love RPGs, I just don't have time to pay attention to long plots any more.  But I do love mindless dungeon crawlers like Torchlight and Dungeon Siege.

Games I've Played the Most:
According to Steam, my most played game is Skyrim, with 148 hours as of this writing.  Of course, that's only Steam games.  I'm sure I've at least that much into The Sims 3, and my Wii U says I've put over 100 hours into Super Mario Maker.  Also, back when I used to host a NeverWinter Nights server, I probably put more hours into NWN than any other game in my life.  And back when I first discovered the internet, I put hundreds of hours into on online game called JediMUD.

JRPGs or Western RPGs?
I like RPGs, but I am picky about them.  I can only name a handful that I’ve played to the end, but those few I’ve played through multiple times.  So I’m very loyal to a small number of RPGs.  I like Western RPGs because they’re more likely to have customizable characters.  I like Japanese RPGs because of the creative characters and stories.  So I would say I’m about 50/50.

Multiplayer:
I’ve loved multiplayer games since the original Gauntlet, but I dislike competitive online shooters.  My favorite multiplayer games are basically Gauntlet derivations: Torchlight, Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance, Dungeon Siege, and other mindless dungeon crawlers.  I don’t play a lot of these games any more because I don’t see my friends as often, and they never have the same game systems as me.

Consoles or PCs:
This used to be an easy question.  While I had a few gaming computers in the 8-bit era, most of my life has been about consoles.  I really liked how console games were plug-and-play, and you didn't have to worry if your machine had the right specs.  Shove the cartridge in, and you're playing the game within 30 seconds.  But modern consoles are just as bad as PCs about installing games and downloading updates.  And computer games are cool because you can install mods.  So at this point in my life I'd have to say I like both equally.

Favorite System:
The Super Nintendo is hands-down my favorite system of all time.  A lot of that is nostalgia.  It was the first system I earned with my own money, and it came out at just the right time of my life.  The SNES controller is also one of my all-time favorite controllers.

Favorite Games:
That's hard to answer, because I like such variety of genres.  Here's the ones I've enjoyed most.  To keep this list from filling up with Metroid sequels, I’m arranging it more by genre.  For each game, I've listed Runners-Up for similar games that also took a lot of my time.

12. Gauntlet (Best Multiplayer Dungeon Crawl)
Runners-Up: Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Dungeon Siege

11. Super Mario World (Best Action Platformer Starring A Plumber)
Runners-Up: Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario Maker

10. Silent Hill 2 (Best Horror)
Runner-Up: Resident Evil 2

9. Mario Kart 8 (Best Racing Game For People Who Don't Like Actual Racing Games)
Runner-Up: Mario Kart 64

8. Dragon Age (Best RPG That's Not Skyrim)
Runner-Up: Knights of the Old Republic, NeverWinter Nights

7. Injustice: Gods Among Us (Best Fighting Game)
Runners-Up: Mortal Kombat 9, Marvel Vs Capcom 2

6. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Best Action Adventure Not-Quite RPG)
Runners-Up: LOZ: A Link Between Worlds, LOZ: Ocarina of Time

5. Sims 3 (Best Time Suck While Wishing I Lived In A Computer)
Runner-Up: The Sims

4. Skyrim (Best Immersive First Person RPG)
Runner-Up: Oblivion

3. Chrono Trigger (Best JRPG That Isn't A Final Fantasy Game)
Runner-Up: Earthbound

2. Final Fantasy 6 (Best JRPG Period Hands Down)
Runner-Up: Final Fantasy 7

1. Super Metroid (Best Sci-Fi Action Platformer)
Runners-Up: Metroid Zero Mission, Bionic Commando, Mega Man 2

I've probably missed a few in there but overall I think I've hit the most important ones.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Justice League

Just got back from the Justice League movie.

It's still not as fun as the Marvel films, but it's an improvement over Batman v Superman.  Simply put, it's less depressing.  In some ways it felt like watching several mini-films focusing on different characters, until the end when they all fight together.  With that in mind, I'm going to break my thoughts down by character. 

Batman: I'm still not a fan of Batfleck, but I enjoyed his performance here more than I did in BvS. His personality seemed inconsistent to me - there were times when it felt like the writers were trying to make him into Tony Stark, and other times when he was still as dull as he was in BvS.  Technically I think this was the result of multiple script writers, but in-universe I'm going to chalk it up to this being late in his career.  This Batman has been fighting crime for 20 years, so he's learned to lighten up sometimes.

The Flash: He was the tipping point that makes the movie watchable.  Without his humor, the movie would have been another snoozefest.  He's not my favorite version of the Flash, and his costume hurts my eyes, but overall I like him.  I can't wait to see him in future films.

Wonder Woman:  As usual, Gal Gadot is the best thing in the movie.  She doesn't do much here that we didn't already see in the last two films, but she feels like the most solid character to me. 

Cyborg: He was pretty good.  I like what he brings to the team.  However, there isn't much to him yet.

Aquaman: While I generally like his character design, I didn't like the surfer dude aspect of his personality - he's supposed to be Atlantean royalty, and yet he sounds like a caveman.

Martian Manhunter: Made you look.

Steppenwolf: Ugh, this villain was terrible.  I don't know if they should have gone ahead and used Darkseid, but Steppenwolf was so dull.  He was two dimensional and badly rendered.  I did like the his outfit (he looked more like Ares than Ares did in Wonder Woman), but I wish they'd picked someone with more name recognition.  I guess with all the hero backstories going on, they didn't want to use up a villain who would need a lengthy origin story.

Bottom line:
It's not as good as Wonder Woman, but it's fun and gives me hope for the future.  Maybe DC will learn their lesson.  If the next Justice League movie uses a tone more like the animated series, this cast should work just fine.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Wonder Woman, GotG2, and Spider-Man Homecoming

So, in the past month I’ve seen three super hero movies - Spider-Man Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Wonder Woman.  All three were incredible, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Possible minor spoilers ahead.

Wonder Woman
This was my least favorite of the three, but don’t take that as a negative when the competition’s so fierce.  It’s like saying pizza is your least favorite out of pizza, sex, and video games.  It’s just that a lot of my love for the Wonder Woman movie is actually relief.  Relief that the current DC movie continuity isn’t completely cursed, and relief that a female-led superhero movie can actually do well.  The movie’s biggest strength is that it fills me with hope for future movies.  Wonder Woman gets so much right, and was so necessary to the movie industry, that it feels like sacrilege to point out the flaws. 

But to be completely honest, I think the movie is sort of generic.  90% of what I loved about the movie only worked because it was Wonder Woman.  If they’d swapped her out for a male character (let’s say Hercules if we want to keep the general theme), it would have been just another forgettable action flick.  I love the movie, but it’s not going to be as rewatchable as the Marvel films.

Most movies try to save the best stuff for the end, but I found WW more entertaining at the beginning.  The first half of the movie is outstanding, but the it gets a little dull towards the end, and the final battle is just your standard boss fight.  The villains didn’t exactly sweep me off my feet, and the casting of the Big Bad seemed like an odd choice.  More than anything I see the movie as a foot in the door, proof that female superheroes can succeed in Hollywood after all.  In a future where female-led superhero films are more common, I’m not sure Wonder Woman will really stand out much.  But the success of Wonder Woman means that future might actually happen, and that’s very important.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2
This is my favorite of the three.  If you liked the first one, it’s more of the same, though there’s more character development this time.  While I love the first GotG, the characters were one-dimensional quip-generators, kind of like Suicide Squad in space.  The sequel gives them more depth, which slows down the movie but not enough to make it boring.

The opening battle is one of my favorite movie sequences of all time.  From the trailers, that particular fight looked underwhelming to me.  But in the film itself, they actually made the scene better by taking the focus off the fighting itself.  For spoilers sake I won’t to go into detail, but it had me dancing and singing in my seat.

People find me strange because I’m not very much into music.  (Well, that’s not the only reason they find me strange.)  In my life I’ve owned maybe 3 tapes and 6 CDs, and the ones I’ve owned haven’t seen a lot of use.   I don’t have to listen to music while I’m driving, I don’t go to concerts, and I never just sit and listen to music while doing nothing else.  I generally consider music as something to keep it from being too quiet, but I've never been into it.  And yet, roughly 50% of my love for the GotG movies has to do with the soundtrack.  The music ties into the action so well, that I simply can’t imagine the same films with a standard issue orchestral score.  I’m happy to report GotG2’s soundtrack is just as good as the first, if not better.

GotG2 is definitely the most rewatchable of the three movies I’m reviewing here, and I can’t wait to wear out the blu-ray when it’s released.  I will say that of the three, this movie is the least child-friendly (which is a weird thing to say about a movie with a talking raccoon).  I don’t know if I would bring a small child to this one, as some of the language is a little strong for young ears (including a scene where they talk about Ego's penis), and some of the death scenes are a bit graphic.  Not actually bloody, just… explicit.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
A lot of people complain about reboots, and the Spider-Man franchise is their go-to example.  Personally, I’m okay rebooting a series if you have a good reason for doing so.  But I do hold a reboot to higher standards – did you really have an idea worth throwing out the old continuity?   In this case, definitely yes.  Bringing Spidey into the MCU was the best thing that could have happened to the character.  It changes the character so much.  In the previous films he’s pretty much the only superhero in the world (as far as we know), but in the MCU he has people to look up to.  Instead of just “I can outdo myself and help more people,” now there’s the additional element of “I want to impress the Avengers.”

I think the smartest thing they did was skip his origin story almost entirely.  At this point everyone in the audience knows how Peter got his powers, and there was no reason to waste screen time on it.  There’s one short conversation about getting bitten by a radioactive spider, but there’s almost no mention of Uncle Ben or how power relates to responsibility.  Instead Peter’s moral code is just based around “it’s the right thing to do,” which is deep enough for a 15-year old boy, as far as I’m concerned.  I think the Civil War movie summed it up best when Peter said, “When you can do the things that I can, but you don't, and then the bad things happen? They happen because of you.”  Which is basically a different way of saying “with great power…” but sounds a lot more like how people actually talk.

Michael Keaton did a great job, and I found him a lot more believable than the ax-crazy moustache-twirling villains Spider-Man usually fights.  In some ways I found his motivations a little too understandable, and I have to wonder how many of my friends would turn to supervillainy if presented with the same circumstances.  Occasionally he'd lapse into his Beetlejuice voice for a second, which was distracting, but I didn't mind.

I loved the overall tone of the film.  When the Ant-Man movie came out I kept saying how glad I was to see them using different genres.  Instead of everything being just a “Superhero Action” film, some of them focus on comedy, sci-fi, drama, and so on.  Well, Homecoming is a high school comedy that also happens to be a super hero film.  I’ve seen several reviewers compare Homecoming to a modern John Hughes film, which might be giving Homecoming too much credit, but it’s easy to see what they mean.

So if you only get to see one of the above movies, which should you see?

Well, GotG2 is my favorite, but for other people I’m going to have to recommend Spider-Man.  I think it has more universal appeal.  But let’s face it, if you’re fanatic enough to be reading this, you’re probably going to see all three eventually.

Friday, August 12, 2016

DCTV

Gotham - We watched the first five or six episodes of Gotham, but it was just too dark for us.  I've never been able to get into criminal-focused shows.  Real life is depressing enough, and I'd rather focus on the good guys than the bad.

Arrow - I've tried to get into Arrow, but I just haven't.  It's not as dark as Gotham, but it's still a bit too dark for me.  Plus the cheesy parts are a little too cheesy, probably because they stand out more against all the dark.  When the whole Arrow team gets into costume, it just looks like cosplay to me, because the rest of the world is so gritty and real.

The Flash - This is the best super hero show on television.  Yes it's even cheesier than Arrow, but that's the theme of the show and it's just good fun.  It's like a live action cartoon.  The cast really works well together, and I really enjoy seeing their takes on DC villains.

Legends of Tomorrow - It's kind of fun.  I enjoy watching it.  But, I don't know, it just doesn't feel structured enough for me.  They threw all these characters into a blender and hoped something cohesive would come out, but really it's just kind of a chaotic mess.  But it's a fun mess.

I think my biggest problem with LOT so far, is that I feel like I've seen most of what it has to offer.  They spent the first season bouncing around from time period to time period, always with the same mission (track down Vandal Savage in that time).  I like some of the characters more than others, but I don't find myself in love with any of them.  The breakout character is Captain Cold, and even he got less interesting as time goes on.

But some of the things I've heard about season 2 have piqued my interest, so I'm still going to give it another go.

Supergirl - I'm trying so hard to like this.  Supergirl is one of my favorite comic book characters, and I really want more female superhero shows to gain popularity.  Producers are so leery of female superhero movies, because most of them have tanked hard.  Never mind that those movies were just bad on many levels that had nothing to do with the hero's gender.  If we can just get a few good ones out there to break the perceived curse, then maybe it will open the door for more to be made.

But honestly, the Supergirl TV series is lukewarm at best.  I really like the casting job on the title character, but the rest of the cast is kind of meh.  Hardly anybody has a lot of chemistry together, and I just don't like how some characters are portrayed.  The government agent characters are especially annoying, going back and forth from "all business" to "touchy feely" so much I get whiplash.

And I really don't like most of the villains.  There seems to be a tradition now where the first episode sets up where most of the show's villains will come from.  It makes the writing easier, and keeps you from wasting a lot of screen time on villain origin stories.  Smallville had the kryptonite give everybody different super powers.  The Flash's villains mostly got their powers the same way he got his.  Well, Supergirl has Fort Rozz, a Kryptonian prison from which powerful aliens keep escaping.  I'm just not digging that plotline.

There's an overarching plot about a group of evil Kryptonians, and frankly they're just boring.  I've never been fond of having too many Kryptonians in a Superman-family series; the Kryptonians bored me in Lois and Clark, they bored me in Smallville, and they bore me here.  I've always preferred the continuities where Kryptonian survivors were kept to a minimum.

Supergirl's not great, but it's got room for growth, and I really hope it gets better in the second season.  I know there's going to be a lot of changes with it changing networks, so hopefully it will be enough to save the show.

DCAU - Of course, none of these shows are anywhere near as awesome as the Justice League and Young Justice animated shows.   That entire era of the DCAU was some of the best stuff on television.  Unfortunately, as of the “Flashpoint” animated movie, that era is pretty much over.  The new series of movies is a lot more adult, and a lot less fun.  I still keep adding the new animated movies to my Netflix queue, and I don't hate them... but man, they used to be so much better.


DC Twofer: Suicide Squad and The Killing Joke

Much like Green Lantern and Catwoman, Suicide Squad was not quite as bad as everyone wants it to be.  Yeah, yeah, you can't take my word for it; I like a lot of bad movies.  But for me, Suicide Squad was bad in all the right ways.  Yes, the story doesn't make any sense.  Yes, it was re-edited at the last minute, leaving it a bit incoherent.  Yes, there are plot holes galore.

But all that works for it.  The movie is intentionally chaotic, and the schizophrenic editing fits perfectly with the tone of the film.  Why would anyone want this movie to make sense?  I don't want to see a serious movie about a bunch of crazy comic book villains forced to save the world.  Batman v Superman was coherent and serious, and it sucked.  Suicide Squad is the exact opposite of BvS.  It's a series of barely-connected flashes of violence and comedy, and while it's not for everyone, I thought it was quite fun.

Bottom line:  It's not good, and it's not for everyone, but it's crazy fun if you're in that kind of mood.

I also had the the chance to see the animated "The Killing Joke" on the big screen.  I first read the comic back in the 80s, and I've always had mixed feelings about it. Depending on how you look at it, it's either the best Joker story ever told, or the worst Batgirl story ever told.  Since I'm more of a Batgirl fan than a Joker fan, you can guess which way I lean.

For those not in the know (spoilers ahead), The Killing Joke tells the Joker's origin story.  There have been several versions of his origin, but this one has always been my favorite.  It tells how a struggling comedian has one very bad day, causing him to lose his mind.  It flashes back and forth from the Joker's memory to present day, where the Joker is trying to give Commissioner Gordon a similar bad day.

And part of that bad day includes crippling Gordon's daughter, who happens to be Batgirl. Fans will argue all day long whether this was a good or bad for the character.  After all, it did lead to her becoming Oracle, one of the greatest characters in DC history.  But it also uses Batgirl - one of my favorite heroes of all time - as an object. Barbara is not a character in the comic so much as a plot device, who is crippled just to move the story forward.

The animated version attempts to rectify this by adding a Batgirl story to the beginning (and a small scene at the end that wraps things up).  Unfortunately, the Batgirl story isn't very good.  Worse yet, it's too obvious where the new story ends and comic adaptation begins.  The writing is so different once it turns into The Killing Joke.  They barely wrote any script at all, and mostly just read straight from the comic.  Which brings us to the next problem - some lines that read well in print sound silly when said out loud.

They also made one tiny addition that really bugged me.  Fans have debated for years whether the Joker raped Barbara.  Personally, I never felt he did.  Perfectly Blunt Disclaimer:  I'm not trying to argue whether or not stripping her and taking photos constitutes rape.  He definitely did do that, and if that fits your definition of rape, I won't disagree. But for the purposes of this blog, I'm defining rape as actual sexual penetration. 

The Joker is single-minded, and he took the photos hoping to drive Jim Gordon mad. Now, I could possibly see Joker raping her if he intended to include that in the photos, but when we see the photos, the Joker isn't in any of them.  Granted, the reader isn't shown all the photos.  But I think the artist would have shown at least part of the Joker in at least one of the shown photos, if he was trying to imply physical assault.

Plus, there's the scene where Batman visits Barbara in the hospital.  I strongly feel that if she had been raped, it would have been mentioned there.  Harvey Bullock tells Batman that they found her in a state of undress, and Batman replies, "Undress?"  Bullock answers by telling him they found a lens cap nearby, and he thinks the Joker may have taken some pictures.  If she'd been raped, Bullock would have mentioned it here. 

But that's the comic.  In the animated version, they added one short scene where Batman questions some prostitutes about the Joker's whereabouts.  Their answers seem to indicate that Barbara really was raped, at least in this version.  I don't like that at all.  I know it's a weird double standard.  I can accept the Joker as a psycho clown who murders on a whim, but making him a rapist just makes it too real. 

I'd generally prefer if they'd keep rape out of comics entirely, but I'm also against censorship so it's kind of a catch-22.  But then, I'm not really asking them to censor stories.  It's more accurate to say I'm want them to write stories that I find entertaining, and rape is too volatile a subject to use lightly.  I read comics because they make me smile, and I stop smiling when a character is raped.

The internet is full of people who believe Babs was raped.  It just goes to show that people interpret ambiguous scenes differently, and that's fine.  If a feminist tells me BG was raped, and why it's a sign that women are treated terribly in comics, I listen.  But what bugs me is all the dudebros who seem to want her to have been raped.   The guys who argue passionately that it happened, because they just don't like the Joker character as much if he's not a rapist.  Those guys scare me, and it sickens me that comics are written to please them.

Anyway, Mark Hamill did an excellent job as usual, and most of the rest of the voice cast was great.  However, I was not fond of Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise).  His lines were very flat, like he wasn't getting into it at all.  The animation was done well, and they did a great job making it look like the comic.

Bottom line: It was nice to see one of my favorite old comics brought to life, but I can't say I really enjoyed it.  I probably won't watch it again.