Nerds and Bros Are Not That Different
Created by Andy Kluthe & Andrew Bridgman
dear lord its great
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Unless you’ve been living inside a Tauntaun, you’ve probably heard about LucasFilm being acquired by Disney earlier today. Chances are that you’ve also heard about Disney’s plans to make and release Episode VII for a 2015 release date. While this is probably great news for Disney’s stock, the fans of the Star Wars series were a bit more ambivalent, dividing themselves into two factions: one pro-merger, and one anti-merger.
Admittedly, my initial reaction wasn’t the most positive: “Really? A seventh one? Isn’t that unnecessary?” Surely this was going to be worse than the prequels. However, while mentally preparing myself to go into full anti-Disney mode, I realized that this actually might be a good thing. The other pro-mergers have been making these points as well, but this is just an outline of the main ones:
First, you did see the prequels, right? It’s been pretty well documented how George Lucas gradually gained more and more creative control over the course of the years regarding the Star Wars movies. And while Ewoks were tolerated by the fan base, midichlorians and Jar-Jar weren’t. Even if you didn’t think the prequels were all that bad, consider still that Lucas produced the Clone Wars CGI film. A new director is probably a good thing.
Second, Disney isn’t going to half-ass this. This is Star Wars, after all. Consider what happened when Disney acquired Marvel in 2009: nerd culture went into a panic wondering how Disney was going to “ruin” the Marvel Universe. We then got the freaking Avengers movie, and several films leading up to it. Like it or not, Disney made a huge risk bringing comic-book continuity to film, and it paid a huge dividend. As long as they plan out the next trilogy (as it probably will be; things tend to work in trilogies these days), then things will be fine.
Lastly, if you’re worried that George Lucas not being involved is all that bad, then consider the terms of the merger: Disney paid Lucas $4 billion for LucasFilm, $2 billion in cash and the rest in shares of Disney stock, which is around 40 million shares. I think it’s a safe bet that they’ll consider his opinion.
Still, Darth Maul was pretty cool.
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Do I even need to mention spoilers?
Looper is one of those movies that takes a team of graduate students at MIT to write. Playing around with the mechanics of time travel, it concerns a hitman named Joe who is hired by the mob to kill people sent back in time, referred to as a “looper”. The catch is, time travel is extremely illegal, and loopers thirty years in the future are sent back to be killed by themselves, thus allowing the mob to keep their operations covert. This action is called “closing the loop”, and signals the termination of the looper’s contract, who are paid very well to enjoy the rest of their non-whacked life. Failure to close the loop is dire, and ends up with the looper killed in the present as well as the future.
Joe in the present (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is eventually sent his future self (Bruce Willis) in order to close his own loop, but his future self escapes, providing the main thrust of the story. Future Joe is very intent on living, and tries to kill a mob boss in present Joe’s time as a child, in order to prevent said mob boss from ordering his death by his own hand (and as a consequence the death of his wife, who was killed in his detainment). Unfortunately, this puts future Joe in the unsavory position of killing children. Present Joe stumbles onto the house of one of the children on future Joe’s hitlist, and decides to wait for his future self, still in the mentality of needing to close his loop.
It becomes increasingly apparent that the child, Cid, is indeed the mob boss that orders Joe’s death in the future, as he is shown to be a telekinetic boy genius. Cid lives with Sarah, a woman who may or may not be his mother, who present Joe develops a relationship with. In the climax of the film, future Joe shoots Sarah in the presence of present Joe, prompting present Joe to kill himself, thus erasing future Joe, and saving Sarah somehow, allowing Cid to live.
And if you thought that was confusing, then it’s about to get incomprehensible.
At the climax of the film, present Joe has a sudden thought: “And then I saw it: A mother who would die for her child; a man who would kill for his wife." This implies a sudden realization that results in present Joe killing himself. It was around that time that I had a thought of my own: Joe and Cid could be the same person.
Earlier in the film, it’s stated that Joe had no parents in his life. While present Joe says to Cid that he was put up for adoption by his mother, Abe, who is Joe’s boss, states that he found Joe as a runaway before hiring him as a looper. If Sarah were killed, that would leave Cid without an authority figure, left to wander just like Joe did. While under normal narrative conditions this would create great sympathy between characters, time travel creates the possibility of meeting past selves.
However, that would mean that Cid is about thirty-five when time travel is invented. It’s never established whether loopers are hired at the present time in the film (2044), or in the future (2074) and then taken back to 2044. I think that taking them back in time is more likely, as people then would be familiar with the concept of time travel. If Cid/Joe were hired in 2074 and was the youngest looper to be hired, that would mean either loopers are all 35 and older, or that Cid/Joe was hired at an earlier time, say 2064, when time travel technology would probably be closer to the horizon and more in the public consciousness.
This leaves a big hole, though: if Cid isn’t the mob boss and is actually Joe, who’s sending the loopers back to be killed by themselves? Well, the mob boss is never shown to concretely exist. It’s entirely possible that said mobster doesn’t exist, and that future Joe is wildly misinformed. Present Joe can see clearly that his future self is wildly blinded by vengeance for his wife’s death; future Joe’s anger could cloud his judgement, making him act on his hunch.
Though if this is true, that means that Joe had sex with either his aunt or his mom. And you thought Back to the Future was racy.
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Seriously. It comes out in England today, and America has to wait another two weeks. One thing I didn’t expect was the reviews; I was going to see it anyway, it being Judge Dredd and all, but it currently has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not even joking: some critics are calling it a “comprehensive character study” and “a reboot of the best kind”.
Now I’m even more impatient.
All the ways to spell Scott Aukerman
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Why Bane in The Dark Knight Rises makes me experience white guilt.
As always, extreme spoilers.
In my cautious excitement for the upcoming Batman movie, I sneaked off to the bookstore on my breaks during work and read from the Knightfall anthology to learn more about Bane. After reading the first forty or so pages, I understood a few concepts about his character:
-He was born in prison in Santa Prisca, a “country in the northern Carribean”.
-His father was a mercenary
-He’s extremely intelligent
-He’s extremely strong due to a drug called Venom, which he is addicted to
-He believes that killing Batman is his destiny
So Bane is South American. However, upon seeing the movie (which was pretty damn good), I was confused to find that Bane is portrayed as being of Middle Eastern descent. So, why? I’m not innately opposed to the idea; I understand that elements can and should be changed when it comes to film adaptations. But there needs to be a reason for it. Is there any?
The most plausible argument is to make the subplot where Batman/Bruce Wayne thinks Bane is Ra’s al Ghul’s son possible. That’s cool. Bane’s father in the comics Except that we find out ten minutes from the end that he isn’t, nor was he the child born in the prison who escaped, so there goes that whole character trait. But the thing is, Ra’s al Ghul has no real reason to be in the Middle East; the League of Shadows in Batman Begins is established to be in Bhutan, and has probably been there for quite a while. The prison pit could have easily been in neighboring China or India (which would make more sense, given Tom Hardy’s bizarre accent).
Does it inform Bane’s character? Well, Bane is obsessed with getting revenge for the League of Shadows, even though Ra’s al Ghul kinda thought he was freaky, because he has a thing for Talia. He has a group of devout followers whom he sees as expendable and don’t seem to have a problem dying for his cause. He intends to destroy Gotham City by inciting anarchy, and then setting off an oh-so-convenient nuclear bomb. As the climactic battle edges closer to the detonation time on the bomb, it becomes increasingly apparent that neither Bane, nor Talia, nor Bane’s henchmen are very concerned about getting out of the blast radius.
So… they’re terrorists?
It seems so, given Bane’s tactics and disregard for life lost. As to why they would want Bane portrayed as such, I think it’s apparent that either the film is trying to use the fear of Islam to heighten Bane’s effectiveness as a villain (which doesn’t really work, in my opinion), or that Bane’s heritage is being used to make him a more effective symbol of something. This wouldn’t be surprising, since The Dark Knight was seen as a commentary to the war on terror (even though Christopher Nolan denies that any of his Batman films were political). So, malevolent extremists who incite anarchy through the use of a nuclear weapon… Iran, maybe?
I’m not going to claim that Christopher Nolan, his brother and co-writer Jonathan, or Tom Hardy are in any way racist. This change may have been pressured by Warner Bros., or it may be a complete coincidence. But if they really wanted to sell this by making Bane a terrorist, why make him Middle Eastern? There have been countless revolutions, uprisings, juntas, coups, and drug wars that have happened or are still happening today throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America. That’s still scary, right? Especially since it’s even closer to home…
The damage done indirectly to the Islamic community might be damning here. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to point out how Islamic terrorists are an extreme minority and are comparable only to Westboro Baptist Church and similar hate groups. But if someone were to associate a prison pit like the one in The Dark Knight Rises (which seems to be actively maintained) with the tenants of the Islamic community at large, you’d probably get a lot of actual terrorists pissed off.
At least Bruce Wayne’s cell had cable TV.
Or, “What Was His Name, Again?”
I’d put a spoiler alert here, but I’m pretty sure most everyone who wanted to see The Avengers has done so already. Also, I told everyone who gets killed right in the title, so there. Anyway, on with enraging the nerds.
Before I continue on, I’d like to say that I thought The Avengers was pretty damn awesome. Great fight scenes, great sets, and Robert Downey Jr. is as snarky as ever. This is not a condemnation of the film as a whole. I’d also like to make several points regarding any backstory from the comic books that may contradict my opinion:
1) I have not read any Avengers comics. Any attempt to tell me that Coulson is actually a much deeper character because in issue #XYZ he gives birth to himself on an alternate plane of existence won’t work on me. I don’t doubt that issue #387 shows him having to send his one and only love into deep space, but I didn’t know that when I saw the movie. I’ve only seen the movies based on the Marvel universe, excluding The Hulk. Along that point:
2) I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of people who saw the movie are not well-versed in Avengers lore. Granted, some may have a good working knowledge of who’s who and what’s what, but comics are still a fairly limited market. Unless there’s an obscenely rich comic book geek with lots of free time and an ass of steel, I’m guessing that most viewers have never picked up a comic. And as a result of that:
3) I’m pretty sure that the movie was not made exclusively for people who are. They’ve spent five movies just establishing who the hell everyone is just so they could have a movie that actually goes somewhere. This film was put out by Disney, after all.
So where am I going with this? Well, I thought Agent Coulson was the worst part of The Avengers. No, seriously.
The main issue I have with him is that he’s an inconsistent character with three conflicting personality traits. In most scenes, he’s a reserved, near-faceless government employee, a grunt for SHIELD. In possibly two or three scenes, his secret training kicks in, and he morphs into a total badass. And in what is probably only another two or three scenes, he’s a fanboy at heart, excited that he gets to finally meet his literal and figurative heroes.
The transitions between the first two traits don’t bother me as much as the transition to the third. Coulson is an agent for SHIELD, and secret agents are often portrayed as being cold, callous, emotionless, and strictly business-minded, which would’ve been fine. All he basically had to do is be a good-guy version of Mr. Smith.
The previous films don’t offer much characterization, either. In both Iron Man films, he’s pretty much a passive-aggressive sidenote that keeps nagging Tony Stark about joining up to SHIELD. In Thor, he’s the symbolic face of SHIELD, and a direct obstacle in Thor’s path to obtaining Mjolnir. In Captain America, he did nothing, because he’s not even in that movie. What the directors of the previous films seem to understand is that Coulson works best as a plot device. Joss Whedon still does that, but he also attempts to give the plot device feelings that the target demographic is supposed to sympathize with, and it just comes off as hollow.
I’m not saying that Coulson can’t also secretly be a fanboy of superheroes, but it needs to be handled better. Not that I doubt Joss Whedon’s abilities as director, but when you’ve got something as big as The Avengers, some of the smaller details are going to inevitably end up neglected. Whedon focused on the larger stuff, and rightfully so. But also trying to eke out an emotional response from the death of a fairly flat character isn’t a better substitute. I get that he serves as an impetus for the rest of the superheroes to overcome their differences, but why have Coulson’s likability carry it? Why not play off of the heroes’ protective nature, or their value of human life?
So, yeah, I don’t find Coulson interesting in the slightest. Can we please stop pretending that he’s as important as the other Avengers?
Note: After reading the Wikipedia article on Phil Coulson, I’ve found out that he was created solely for the Marvel movie series, and as such is not a longstanding character. However, I’m not going to go back and revise this article, because the part about Coulson’s backstory contains a lot of my half-assed jokes, and it’s really late right now and I’M TIRED, GODDAMMIT.
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With SOPA being effectively dismissed in Congress, the Internet collectively breathed a sigh of relief, content in knowing that they’d still be able to share songs, articles, videos, games, and Tumblr porn (ooh, look at me being so meta!). Of course, I was relieved, too, but protesting the bill became a source of… excitement? Wonder? Entertainment? A combination of the three, really. And now that’s gone. But I still recall all the fantasies I had, thinking of what I’d do if the bill had passed:
It’d be pretty apparent that I’d need to leave. Flee across the border to Canada. Buy airplane tickets to Britain. Live a new life under a fake identity. Imagine: a new name! What’s a good British name? Monty? Yeah, Monty. Let’s go with that. People would ask me where I had come from, and I’d tell them I came out of the states. They’d say “Oh, that must’ve been horrible”. And I’d say yes, trying to look as manly as I could while eating fish and chips.
Or I could stay in America and lay low. A silent rebel like Winston Smith. By day, your average law-abiding citizen. By night, a hacker extraordinare! I could be a valuable asset to a shady rebel group, an indispensable source of information of what life was like on the inside of the oppressive regime. And then when it all came down, it would be thanks to me and other undercover agents like me! SIC SEMPER TYRRANUS, DAMMIT!!!
Or I could travel the countryside like Mad Max, evading military forces out to get me. Driving around pointlessly in my modified and unnecessarily armed vehicle, I would spread copyrighted material on my computer to the masses like some sort of nerdy, modern Johnny Appleseed. They’d call me Jimmy BitTorrent, of course. And why not?
Of course, none of that’s ever going to happen, because people care about something called “civil liberties”. Buncha wimps.
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