movies

Dark Phoenix Trailer - A Dissection

Dark Phoenix Trailer - A Dissection

So, at long last there is a trailer for the Dark Phoenix movie. Now, for those who know me or who are frequent followers of my social media, y’all know that for me, the Dark Phoenix saga is my Very Most Favorite Thing™. I’ve wanted a Dark Phoenix movie since the tease that was the X2 movie. (X-Men 3 was ridiculous. That was not a Dark Phoenix movie.) Anyway, now that we have a trailer…am I happy?

Forget Regret?

Watch 1994 Madison Scouts in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

That right there? That video was the first exposure I ever had to Drum Corps. Some Friday night in October '95 I was sitting in the high school band room. (Go Ben Davis Marching Giants! Animals Forever!) Anyway, twas the night before State Finals and the drumline was busy changing out drum heads, wrapping sticks with tape, tuning the drums, making them sparkle and shine for the big show the following night. Someone put on a video of Drum Corps International finals from the previous year and that served as background noise to our regular chatter and the thumping/hacking of high school drummers.

I didn't notice anything on the tv until ^THAT^ appeared on screen. If you watch the above video, you might understand why at 3:20 the entire room back in '95 stopped what it was doing and stared. It's been a long time since that night. I've seen and done a lot of things in the last 18 years (dear gods, 18 years?!), but I remember the electric awe of that moment. Cymbals, snares and holy god! My jaw was on the floor, and it certainly wasn't the only one. We begged our band directors, our percussion instructor... we hounded them. Please can we do that? Teach us. Can we do it? Please!! 

I said to my percussion instructor, "I want to do that!" "You and everyone else," he slurred. "No, not just the stunts, but THAT. What is that?" "Drum Corps. That's the Madison Scouts." "I want to do that. I want to be in that group." "You can't," he said. "You're a girl. They don't let girls into the Scouts. Men only." "Are there Drums Corps that let girls in?" I asked. "I want to do it!"

He never responded.

I never did Drum Corps.

You know how people always say, "If I knew then what I know now?" or they talk about the one that got away? Drum Corps is my white whale. For years I thought it was something I couldn't have. A teacher told me I couldn't. By the time I realized he was wrong--that I was wrong--and learned how to audition, and had the confidence to do it... I was too old. There's an age limit and I'd exceeded it. I'd waited too long to even try.

I learned from that mistake. This might be why I look fear square in the yellow eyes and say, "Fuck off, I'm doing this!" I don't want to run out of time waiting to be better, stronger, the stars to align or other such rot. I take the shots I'm given even if it's foolish to do so.

If I knew then, though... I totally would've done it. I would've auditioned for every corps I could find.

But I didn't.

I can't tell you how many speed limits I broke listening to that show (particularly with the soul-piercing trumpet at 10:53. Gah! Love it!!) I know that it's been a long time and people have improved upon drill and stunts and all sorts of other things that make this video chump change to some people. But for me, when I see it or hear it, I'm still 15 and wrapping my bass drum mallets with tape...my jaw on the floor.

Damn I love that show.

Loki and Stitch

It's Monday and that means that a lot of us are grumbly zombies. I'm caffeinating in hopes of assuaging myself of this horrible Monday Rage, but that might take some time. However, my beloved Angela posted this yesterday...

The only way this picture could be more ME is if Loki were wearing a bumblebee or something. Seriously! This is teh awesomesauce.

I feel loved just looking at this picture.

And some Hiddlebliss.

So have a good Monday, dammit.

Dissecting Star Wars

So, yesterday Lou Anders posted a link on his Facebook page to an article by Tor.com contributor Ryan Britt. The article posits that in George Lucas's beloved Star Wars universe, the citizens are illiterate. In the comments of Lou's post, a discussion began about why this might have happened and the various ways other sci-fi/fantasy franchises have included reading, art and culture.

What results from this discussion? My brain will not shut off on this and now, I feel the need to inflict it upon you. So, join me after the jump for some dissection of one of film's greatest fantasy franchises...

*Note: Everything I posit hereafter will be using the six canon Star Wars films. I will not be including the Clone Wars, video games, novels or Christmas Special in my considerations. 

Britt's article is concerned that because we don't see the citizens of the Empire using the written word, they clearly don't know how to use it. Let's think about why the written word is used at all in our culture. You've got 3 main reasons:

-Art/entertainment (books, plays, poetry) -Communication (small scale - letters, emails, texts, social networking) -Information (large scale - newspapers, magazines, encyclopedia, record keeping)

All of these serve as a collective memory. Now, as we've seen in our own history, knowledge is power and those with power use the written word. Teaching a person to read has always been touted as the greatest form of empowerment. However, it has become so much more than that. Look at our text-based culture. Email, texts, Tweets... this blog. It's part of every day life. Our key forms of entertainment start at their roots with words. We rely on and revere the written word so much that we cannot imagine a humanoid culture living without it.

While I see where Britt is coming from, I think there are a few aspects of Lucas's worldbuilding that need to be taken into account. And not all of them are pretty. Believe me, I'd rather walk on my own lips than say anything negative about the original trilogy, but the more I think about this the more holes I see. My inner three year old is screaming as I write this, but in terms of storytelling... Star Wars is terribly flawed.

Iconclast

As we see in D&D and other such fantasy settings, there are multiple cultures that make up the Republic/Empire, but they all speak a common tongue. It cannot be easy to get Tridarians and Wookies to talk with one another. Hutts probably don't mix well with Gungans. Something about the inability to gargle, one presumes. Anyway, if you look at the senate scenes in the prequel films you see that the Republic is made of tons of races. We don't know who made first contact or how these many planets and civilizations came to form their Republic, but we do know that at some point they had to start talking.

Now, in his article Britt laments that most of the communication done in the Star Wars 'verse is video (holograms) or radio. "No one texts!" Britt says. When trying to wrangle a bajillion races--each with its own language, culture, nuances, etc--this actually makes sense. Have you tried texting with a Hutt? He fat-fingers everything and even auto-correct can't help you translate. Fuck that. Seriously, though, I suggest that this lack of written communication might be a necessary tool in Lucas's galaxy. When trying to govern and integrate so many different peoples, it might be easier to adopt an iconographic language that everyone can understand.

While it's necessary, it also robs ALL of those delegations of any semblance of culture. In shows like Star Trek and Babylon 5 you get a definite idea that each world has its own culture, its own literature and music and tradition. In fact, on these two shows, preserving that cultural identity is always key. I know that Narn opera is probably the worst thing you could do to your ears and that even Klingons dig the Bard of Avon.

However, in Star Wars we don't see any such reverence of art or culture. That massive library that the Jedi have compiled seems to house history and science. Did it have digital copies of Jabba's self-published romance novel? Or the scrolls of the Wookies' creation myth? The only hints we get of individual culture come in Episode 1 (the celebration parade between the Nubians and the Gungans, and Amidala's costumes), Episode 3 (the bubble opera thing, the myth of Darth Plagus), and Episode 6 with the Ewoks' reverence of a golden idol. But the Ewoks are treated as primitive teddy bears, so how important can their hokey little religion be? In fact the only religion we see is the Jedi faith and it seems that they are tolerated because they also bring peace. After the fall of the Republic, though, the whole system appears atheistic.

An atheistic society in and of itself isn't a bad thing. The problem is that Lucas erased all of these individual cultures--and the richness therein--more swiftly than the Emperor could have with the Death Star. George Lucas just removed any need for the written word for artistic purposes.

All Alone in the Dark Something else Britt brings up is the lack of news broadcasts. Even in the days before the Empire when Naboo is in a snit with the Trade Federation, you don't see evidence that this is being broadcast to the star system. It almost seems that each planet runs on its own. Each settlement keeps to itself. While this does keep with the Prime Directive that Star Trek made famous, it bodes ill for the Republic/Empire as a whole. Naboo can't get word out about the Trade Federation on any sort of grand scale. There isn't a system-wide outrage over what is happening, so Amidala has fewer avenues to seek help.

This punches a hole into the Emperor's grand plan, however. When Grand Moff Tarkin informs the big wigs on the Death Star that the Senate has been dissolved, he says that fear will keep the systems in line. "Fear of this battle station." Here's the thing... if no one but the Empire's lackeys and a prisoner sentenced to death witnessed the destruction of Alderaan, how are the regional governors supposed to use it as an example? Sure, you can say, "Hey, I haven't heard from Bill on Alderaan in a few days. My spice shipment is late," but that then takes manpower (time, money, fuel etc) to investigate. This plan isn't all that great for the Empire.

If Amidala had access to a large news outlet, could she have staved off the dire situation in the Senate that allowed Palpatine to grab power? Could the Rebellion have swelled at the outrage over Alderaan? Possibly, but would the written word have been the best vehicle for it? Doubtful.

It's one thing for someone to write about the tragedies going on every day in the Middle East, but it's more visceral when you see insurgents attacking with bombs and civilians bleeding from their heads. Telling you about 9/11 would not have the same kind of impact as showing you the destruction of the towers. (And part of that tragedy was based in cultural memory.) So, there's that aspect.

There are other benefits to using video/holographic media over the written word when trying to inform the masses. For one, you try an interplanetary paper route. For another, when able to see a person speaking, you get body language, inflection...things that just don't come across as well with words. I wonder, though, if video communication isn't as prevalent as it is in sci-fi because of 1960's earth life. With television becoming a powerful tool THEN, the writers of our beloved franchises are influenced by the visual and see the gains there. That's where the future is, right? Maybe that's the simple answer.

Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Firefly... all of them use video messaging. The Star Wars 'verse is the only one that lacks a widely broadcast news organization. Everything in Star Wars is word of mouth.

So we've eliminated art/culture and informative communication as reasons for the written word...but we've also established video communication and an icon-based system for the Galactic Republic/Empire. So, this negates the need for text-based personal communications. Thus, the need for the written word has been eradicated in Star Wars.

This Bothers Me And no, it's not because I'm a writer and love words. It's because I'm a Humanities geek. I love looking through the arts and mythologies of other cultures. I need to see that preserved as part of human history and hate the idea of homogenization. I don't like the idea that after a millenia of starfaring we lose our roots.

You see culture maintained and revered in Star Trek, Babylon 5 and even Firefly. Characters read (actual books!) in all of these television series. The crew of the Enterprise D enjoys watching plays that are--by their own calendars--800 years old! There are celebrations on Babylon 5 to honor the religions of each critter on that station. On Firefly you see not just high art but folk art and dance traditions throughout the smaller planets on the Rim.

Perhaps the difference is that these three franchises are Earth-based. They are projections of our culture, possible futures. Star Wars tells us immediately that this happened somewhere far far away from us. I've never gotten the idea that Tattooine was settled by some guy from Iowa, but I believe that same cornhusker is the Captain of the Federation's flagship. Firefly is able to establish that common culture immediately with the Sino-American influence and the mentions of Earth That Was.

One of the comments on Lou's feed suggested that Star Wars didn't have as much time for worldbuilding and establishing a culture since it is a film series rather than a television series. I think this is, honestly, a weak argument. It's a poor excuse for sub-par storytelling.

Let's do some math. Over the course of six films, Star Wars had 789 minutes with its audience. Star Trek had 3950 minutes with the original series and 9790 with The Next Generation. Babylon 5's five year arc had 4730 minutes. The numbers should say it all, right? Add a common heritage and of course Star Trek and B5 are richer worlds...they had the time.

But let's look at Firefly.

Firefly had 588 minutes with its audience (not including the film Serenity). That world is fertile. Like the Star Trek 'verse and Babylon 5, you can walk around in that setting and play, get your hands dirty and create. You can LIVE there. I'd say you can do the same thing with Star Wars. It's a world that you can describe and feel on a tactile level. Firefly, however, did more with its time than Star Wars in terms of worldbuilding.

And that's what it comes down to.

Time.

You have a limited time with your audience (be it film, television, radio or the written word). You have a finite resource and you must use it wisely and to the best effect. This is where Star Wars fails. For what it is, Star Wars is good. It is a staple of pop culture and one of my favorite geekdoms. It, like anything else, has its flaws. Limitations due to technology, money etc can account for some, but at the end of the day Star Wars is a story. It's a decent story that resonates with us because we can see ourselves in it, we see the familiar.

But... (and I hate that but)... it wasted many opportunities. And thus it falls short of the bar set by other franchises. That's not a bad thing. Just a sad thing.

He's Just a Boy

So, after the episode of Romper Room Presidential debate last night, my friend started channel surfing and came across one of the two Batman movies that I've tried to pretend never existed. You know, the one where Tommy Lee Jones is grossly underused as some watered-down bullshit version of a cool villain and Jim Carrey makes Frank Gorshin spin in his grave. Anyway, we came in right on the scene between Bruce Wayne and his shrink/love interest (because everyone should sleep with their shrink or use sexual relationships to mop out the guano-soaked caves they call a psyche) and my friend said, "At least in this movie someone asked if Bruce had ever had therapy!" (I should note that this friend is his own Comic Wikipedia. It's scary sometimes.)

Anyway, this got me to thinking about the Dark Knight's origin and comparing him to other characters in comic mythos, pondering the variations of this particular hero through the decades and it led me to this question:

Has anyone ever explored the idea that everything Batman comes from the psyche of a traumatized child rather than a functional-yet-brooding adult?  Meet me after the jump and we'll talk....

Humble Beginnings Okay, I admit that I am by all accounts a Marvel girl. Most of my in-depth knowledge is in the X-Men Phoenix 'verse (up through Endsong...everything after that is non-canon in my opinion, but that's another blog), and my DC is shaky at best. What I know of Batman comes from reading Frank Miller's Year One, watching all of the movies except the newest Nolan installment and discussions with friends. So I'm not able to spout of issue numbers passage and verse, but I know enough about the character to know that Batman was born of a double homicide. Hell the Amish probably know this part of the Batman mythos! However, in case there is a recently thawed caveman reading this, I'll go into it...

...at its barest bones, Batman is a story about a man seeking to right the wrong done to him when his parents were murdered in front of him. This has been tweaked, embellished and exaggerated to fit various incarnations, however this is the root. A child witnessed the senseless killing of his mother and father.

Now, as the years have gone on, we've seen how this single event pushed Bruce Wayne to become a vigilante. He's super rich, so he has had the time and resources to put together his arsenal of wonderful toys. He's well-educated and in various incarnations skilled at physical combat thanks to martial vision quests in the east. However, all of those portrayals make the assumption that the Goddamn Batman comes from the mind of a grown man.

Knowing what we do about psychology, though, I want to posit that no, all of these things we see Bruce Wayne doing as the spirit of vengeance come not from the rational standpoint of an adult but that child who is still screaming over the corpses of his parents.

A Bit of Reality Let's think for just a moment about what we know. Mom and Pop Wayne choked on bullets when Bruce was somewhen in the 6-10 year age range. For a moment let's forget the trauma and focus on this little tidbit.  Bruce was in grade school at the time. Sure, it was probably a prep school where he's learning to dissect griffins whilst eating foie gras to the sound of Stephen Fry lecturing on the merits of Balzac, but at the end of the day, he's a six year old boy. A kid more comfortable with Captain Underpants than cap-and-trade no matter how affluent the Waynes may have been. Take away the butler and the mansion and the Romney-esque silver spoon and you're dealing with this:

One night, he goes to the movies--yay!--and his parents are shot. The rock of his world is shattered. Think about what that scene must have been like. We see it in movies or comics as this silent, swift death. Mother's pearls spilling over a frozen sidewalk. Father's blood splattered on roses. A child kneeling between them as their killer runs away.

That imagery is powerful, but it's probably not what happened. Gunshots--especially those fired quickly and carelessly like those from a mugger--tend to be wild. They don't always hit in a way that kills instantly. Therefore, it's safe to say that Bruce watched his parents bleed out. He had no knowledge of what to do, no cell phone to call 911, and no earthly clue how to help his parents. Can you imagine what sorts of things Father Wayne tried to intone to his son with his last breaths? Did his mother try to hold him one last time? It's even more heartwrenching to consider this aspect of Batman's story, but (in my limited experience) it's glossed over. There's story gold to be mined here! It's drama. It's gut-twisting horror! And it's happening to a kid!

The adults had knowledge of their situation. If they tried to get Bruce to go for help, though, it never came. Why? Because he was just a child. Paralyzed with fear and helplessness because he's a boy.

And, since I'm guessing Alfred's first task after his employers snuffed it was not "Get Bruce to therapy", the kid had to deal with this and process it on his own. I don't care how brilliant the kiddo was, his world was shattered and he didn't have the innate tools to deal with the guilt and rage that followed the collapse. If you think that I can't know this, that this is blind supposition, it's not. My evidence is that we have a comic book at all to talk about. Batman is the result. He IS the rage personified. Every night he gets the shit kicked out of him to assuage the guilt over what happened when he was still in training wheels.

Bruce Wayne--gagillionaire playboy tech mogul--has untreated PTSD. Which means, the guy with all those gadgets swinging around the city? Yeah...

Imp-lications 

If we think of Batman as a kid in a Halloween costume, we can easily explain some of the quirks that should leave people going, "Dude, where's your sanity?"

First off, the gadgets. Seriously, Bruce has all that money and he makes some killer toys. All of them with bats on them, by the way. Helloooooo fixation! He's the kid that got the keys to the coolest candy shop ever and now he has real rocket launchers that make explosions and boomerangs and a wicked awesome car. Kick ass!

Also, everyone always tries to play the "Batman and Robin are gay" card, but psychologically there may be a better explanation for Dick Grayson's appearance. Robin isn't a sidekick, a ward of Mr. Wayne's estate and therefore a tax write-off... he's a playmate. He's another kid. Another orphaned kid. Sure, adult Bruce has his reasons for taking in Young Master Dick, but for the Bruce that is clearly still in control of the show, Dick is a kindred spirit. He's a buddy that gets to come into the treehouse and be part of the creepy nighttime shenanigans.

Then there's Selena Kyle. Okay, so her skin-tight vinyl and whip-work may have more to do with Grown-Up-Bruce's proclivities than I'd care to delve into, however, Mr. Wayne's inability to have a functional relationship could be rooted in the fact that he's running at an emotional level where girls still have cooties.

Think about it. When you imagine that Bruce Wayne's actions (and therefore Batman's) are being controlled by a terrified kid, so much becomes clear.

And Now We Exploit It...

If you think I'm going to talk about how we should get this poor child the psychological counseling he so desperately needs, you'd be wrong. Fuck that, that's not good story. No, we exploit the shit out of this and go to town tormenting the adult he has become.

If you play Batman as some PTSD-stricken rage monster with bottomless pockets, you've got yourself something way more interesting than a dark-and-brooding Christian Bale. It has worked before. No, not with Batman, but with someone from the other side...

In Thor, everything Loki does is motivated by childhood hurts and jealousies. He is a child seeking Daddy's love and trying to push his brother to the side for one moment in the spotlight. Everything he does is to meet that child's needs. And it's written superbly. (And Tom Hiddleston plays it to the hilt so beautifully I can't stop geeking about it.) By the time Loki shows up in Avengers, however, we see a hungry adult who has accepted his role in life as a force of chaos, disorder and dishonor. We see someone comfortable in that shadow. It's a lovely arc and thus shows that taking such an angle with a character can work.

How could you use it in Batman? What are the terrible things that could befall him and what are the angles you could play with if you take off the restrictions that come from functional adulthood? One could argue that you'd simply get The Joker with a different outfit, but I think you get something darker.

And it's something I'd love to see those with a deeper knowledge of the character play with.

It gets even more fun if you throw in that some of the Rogues Gallery know Batman's true identity and then dig in their claws. In this situation I think Hugo Strange becomes one of the top choices for villain. Catwoman's involvement as love interest dies down and we can see her more for her brains and skill than for her propensity for broken zippers. And I think it would put Batman on more of an even keel with the Joker than it does already. Fuck, the story might even put them together on the same side.

I would love to see DC fingerpaint with this for a while. How much fun would it be to take a tortured hero and give him that little push that leads into madness?