Guardians of the Galaxy: some thoughts

I’m a huge MCU fan. Seriously. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers. I have loved each and every entry, and was fully prepared to love Guardians of the Galaxy as well.

And I did! It’s an awesome movie, funny, with a fleshed-out sci-fi world, awesome fight scenes, great characters (GROOT!) and plenty of colour and atmosphere.

The story is pretty macguffin-y, but it works well enough. Ronan is an instantly forgettable villain, with his motivation wrapped up in a single speech and then forgotten. Nebula is more interesting, but has very little to do.

There is, however, a little seed of discontent growing within my love for MCU and it’s about the women.

Marvel is constantly lauded for creating movies with good female characters. And I am truly grateful for Pepper Potts, Black Widow, Peggy, Agent May, Jane… varied, interesting and often given story-centric moments.

But, in part because they are such great characters, I want more.

Every character in Guardians of the Galaxy was fantastic, but it was everyone except Gamora who sang. Heck, Groot and Rocket were more charming and sassier respectively. Gamora was just the straight woman. Black Widow kicks ass in Captain America 2, and is an integral part of the movie… but it’s still called Captain America. It’s still the relationship between Cap and Bucky that takes centre stage.

I want a female villain on par with Loki or Thanos. I want a franchise with a female title character.

I was hopeful that with a team-up franchise we would get more from the woman. But make no mistake, Guardians of the Galaxy is about Peter Quill. He’s the one we open with, he’s the human (our entry into the sci-fi world) and he’s the one who does the most to save the Galaxy. Of the ensemble, three are definitively male and one is presented as male (Groot).

Kevin Feige has been dangling the promise of a female-led movie in front of us for a long time. It’s time he stopped hoping and started doing. Give us Black Widow or pick someone else from your plethora of comic book titles or come up with a female Big Bad. But stop short-changing the female fans. Half naked Thor can only placate us for so long.

 

 

Violence in movies

I just re-watched Zombieland (I have a strange obsession with Zombies) and for some reason it inspired me to write this post about violence in movies.

I used to hate movie violence — I would get nightmares for weeks if anything even slightly gross happened. I walked out of a cinema showing of Jurassic Park because I couldn’t cope with that tied up goat left to be eaten.

Luckily, since then, I have developed a healthy appreciation for the odd gore-fest or creepy thriller. However, I’ve noticed violence can be used in different ways.

1. Violence as comedy gold

These are your comedy-horrors, your splatter-fests, the movies designed to be watched with a group of you cackling away as someone gets a chainsaw through the windpipe. I’ve thought a lot about this type of movie – why is violence funny? And I eventually came up with two answers:

1. Violence is funny because we’re all secretly a little bit of a bully and fall into a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mindset – and enjoy seeing ‘them’ suffer. This, I think, is the reason why people in these types of movies are often entirely unsympathetic. They do stupid things just so that we can distance ourselves from them “I would never go into the dark creepy house by myself!” and then we enjoy what happens because it proves us right.

2. Comedy violence is also, on some level, shocking, and I think laughter is a really common response to shock/extreme situations. We laugh when we accomplish something crazy, we laugh when we’re frightened, it’s a little bit akin to hysteria.

Of course, like all comedy, this is hard to pull off successfully. Funny violence may be the hardest type of violence to write.

2. Violence as punishment or reinforcement of social mores

Very similar to the above, and still playing into that ‘them’ and ‘us’ sensibility, violence can be used to punish transgressive behaviour. Of course, transgressive often just means different. The one man last standing is, in these types of movies, nearly always a white man (with a few notable exceptions).  The ones that die? Women, foreigners, homosexuals, the disabled, and anyone who isn’t ‘normal’.

At it’s best this trope might be used to punish selfish behaviour such as putting yourself ahead of the group, or betraying your group in some way.

3. Violence as art

Yes, sometimes violence is purely beautiful. Think skillful martial arts fights, sword play or even hand-to-hand combat. This type of violence is artistic, often slightly surreal, and will celebrate the way blood splatters onto a camera or the way sweat runs over bare skin. The music will often be hypnotic, rather than edgy.

4. Violence to provoke terror

Sometimes violence is just flat out scary, although it’s interesting that the scariest type of violence is the one that happens off-screen. Now fear is a moveable feast – some people are so inured to violence and so good at separating fact from fiction (or so good at identifying with the psychopath instead of the victim) that there probably isn’t any way to scare them other than actually chaining them up and leaving them to saw their own hands off. However, for the normal population, fear exists and is an essential survival mechanism.

So why watch movies that terrify us? It does, perhaps, make us flex our adrenal glands, ensures that in our cozy suburban lives we don’t forget how to be afraid. It helps us explore terror, so those of us who have been in terrifying situations can process them in a relatively safe way. Or maybe it’s just an adrenaline high, addictive as any drug. Who knows?

5. Violence to inspire sympathy

Some violence is not the product of a sick imagination, but rather violence that reflects reality. When we show the horrors of war we’re showing the truth, and hopefully making a larger point about the brutality and the wastage of war. When we show the violence of domestic abuse it makes for uncomfortable viewing, but it also dramatises a bigger point – that this happens to real people. It forces it into people’s minds and makes them confront it. This kind of violence is used often, but sadly it’s often over-used or used for the wrong purpose – to inspire despair or guilt, to sell documentaries, or it comes from a place of anger and blame. Done well, it could inspire behaviour change or social change that makes people’s lives better.

6. Violence as writer’s crutch

Sometimes, when a movie script is sagging and nothing much seems to be happening the writers will jazz it up by sticking in a fight scene, or some other violent conflict. This is the type of fight scene you often end up yawning through, because it serves no purpose other than to try and keep you entertained. These writers have missed the memo that says violence needs to serve some purpose. You don’t care about the outcome, you aren’t rooting for anybody, there’s no real sense of danger, and it isn’t even funny.

7. Non-violent violence

Is non-violent violence even possible? The answer is yes. This is when we take a violent situation and remove the consequences. It’s a bar fight without any broken heads, a lego man game where the enemies collapse into blocks. Since most storytelling revolves around conflict, and violence is a quick-and-easy way to dramatise conflict… non-violent violence finds its way into a lot of media.

What do you think? Have I missed any types of violence? What kind of violence do you find acceptable in your TV/Movies?

Pacific Rim

This post will contain spoilers.

There’s been a few reviews of this movie already that laud it as a brilliant genre film and it’s true. The mecha are real mecha; heavy, city-smashing and giant. They are so big they need two pilots to operate them. If you try and do it single-handedly – your brain will explode (unless you are a hero).

The movie is big and fun with broad brush characters and some great sci-fi world building. If you like robots and monsters and video games and anime you will love this movie: no questions asked.

The downside? Let’s be honest. The problem has been raised before, but it’s worth restating. One central female role, who – although definitely bad-ass – is still not quite bad-ass enough to finish the mission or carry the movie, but instead plays second fiddle to a fairly flat character. Having said that, it features POC in central roles and in authority and it has disabled people in heroic roles so that is pretty awesome.

Bits of story and character that are brought up and then go nowhere. Raleigh’s brother dies. So what? Raleigh can pilot a Jaeger by himself. So what? Mad scientist gets forced into an underground kaiju refuge and nearly gets tongued. So what? Given that the source material is a bunch of extended anime series, it seems like the film tries to cram a whole bunch of plot into a structure too small to hold it all. Each scene by itself is a masterpiece, but they don’t add up to anything overall.

However. My opinion is not all of the opinions. Some other people writing interesting things:

Disabled characters as heroes

Visual storytelling as opposed to verbal

Is Mako a feminist hero?

Pacific Rim is silly and sexist

On an aside, was anyone else completely thrown by the line “Today we cancel the apocalypse”? I mean – cancel? That makes it sound like it’s kind of easy and normal, like cancelling an amazon order or cancelling a TV show. For a rousing battle speech they could have found some words that were a bit more bombastic. (On the other hand, the acting and delivery were perfect.)

Have you seen it? What did you think?

V is for… Vikings

The letter VThis post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

Did you see the movie Thor?

I did, completely by accident. I am a bit of a comic book fan, but never really liked the Spider Man movies and as a result got put off the Marvel Movie franchise. But I was around a friends house one day and he suggested we watch it and I was like “Meh, whatevs.”

Two hours later I was a committed fangirl to the nth degree (I have a bit of a problem with getting OHMYGOD-OBSESSED with certain things).

Anyway, I adored Thor, bought it for myself and quickly dived into the rest of the Marvel movies (loved them all, but Thor and The Avengers are definitely the best.)

The whole experience spring-boarded me into a light flirtation with Vikings in general. The mythology is more interesting than most (alright, I admit it, I find 90% of mythology absolutely tedious; including judeo-Christian) and a short while later I had my own rune kit. (Did I mention the bit where I have a problem with getting obsessed?)

I have this rather unlikely fantasy of putting together a signature steampunk-viking outfit, but to make it work I am first trying to get my strength and fitness levels up. The reason I’m responding to those valkyrie images is, of course, because of the strength on display.

H is for Home Movies

The letter HThis post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

Basically is about one of my (many) favourite cartoon shows.

I’m a sucker for cartoons. They are almost all I watch these days – that, and the occasional science fiction-esque TV series.

But cartoons vary wildly in quality; from the truly idiotic Aqua Teen Hunger Force to the endless vapidness of the more recent Simpsons to the stellar brilliance of (most of) My Little Pony.

Home Movies is definitely on the better end of cartoons. And, handily, it starts with the letter H and therefore fits nicely into this themed challenge.

It’s pretty old now, the four seasons aired from 1999 to 2004, but I still rewatch it from time to time.

The show focuses on lead-character Brendan Small, an 8-year old, who makes movies incessantly, assisted by his friends Melissa and Jason. The show is pretty grown-up, with adult themes and situations, although the show as a whole is rated PG.

One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is because of the free-form, sarcastic and realistic script. The show uses retroscripting, by which scenes are plotted but then the actors improv the actual dialogue. The result is more fluid, in my opinion, and avoids the terribly obvious boom-boom-bang punchline jokes in other shows that suffer from having been scripted to within an inch of their lives.

The relationships between the characters also feel grown up and complex. Nobody is reduced to ‘mother’ or ‘estranged-father’ – the characters all feel like they have multiple parts to their personality.

The show is has lots of music (Brendan Small went on to help with Metalocalypse, an insanely violent show about a death-metal group) and the movies-inside-a-movie are often hilarious.

Enough talk from me. Go watch them!