Thursday, July 26, 2012



I’d like to clarify before I begin: This blog is about sci-fi, disability, and culture. It has never been a movie blog, and I hope to cover more themes than disability rights in superhero movies. But, the moment you saw Superhero Week, you knew that I had to write about the third Nolan Batman epic. That is my disclaimer. That said, it is a great movie with themes of rising above one’s physical body to help others as one‘s duty. I will attempt to keep it spoiler free.

I can say that there is a lot of action, and a lot of it is relevant to modern issues from terrorism to The Patriot Act and grassroots movements like Occupy Wall Street. Like any good parable though, the movie’s symbols will show you actually what you seek in them, so I can’t really say with any certainty other than the symbols do a good job capturing the modern era, and with that a need for a modern hero, one that encourages others to move beyond concern for themselves as a symbol of righteous law and order. I will say that I think every character represents a part of Batman, and Batman, a part of me, which I have already said; it is a good character study and parable.

I will paint the character study broadly, so as not to give spoilers, but it is a tale meant for the modern world; and as such will have many different, complex meanings. But, we can all agree now, I think, that Batman is possible in the modern world. He fits in our world. We need him now more than ever. He addresses our time.

I think it’s not a surprise to anyone to say that Batman fights Bane. Bruce Wayne himself meanwhile, must decide whether or not to come out of seclusion to save millions from Bane’s plans, even though he is regarded the Batman persona is regarded to be a villain, and Bane is widely regarded as a hero. Tom Hardy as Bane seemed to be channeling Hannibal Lecter with Sean Connery; it was a very commanding presence, very effective. He’s not uncivilized just wants a new order, and power under the guise of a leader.

I could write a whole other post on what this movie meant to me, specifically. But, right now, all I can say is the title is appropriate. Bane is physically stronger, but Batman rises to defend the city. The city hates him, and he rises. He rises from seclusion in the Batcave. He rises to become the idea that anyone can be a superhero, if their heart is in it. It doesn’t matter whether the world fears or hates you or thinks you’re broken. You are in charge of your destiny, and there is a social order. Life can make sense through the pain.

Bane doesn’t believe in the social order or that life is up to anyone else but him; he sort of holds a mirror up to Batman, and his concept of justice. He seems to live in pain and darkness, and is strong, but offers no solutions. Beyond his own pain and selfish motives of vengeance.

I really can’t say a whole lot more (without ruining it.) than Batman is the representation of the Heroes’ Journey in the modern era; and his solution seems to be to rise above himself, and for others to follow his example. I’ve seen a lot of fun movies this year, but probably none as socially and psychologically potent as this film. Avengers was fun. Spider-Man was fun. While action-packed and fun in a darker way, this movie actually seems to instruct the person watching to find the inner hero, whatever that is.

And then, as the end credits roll, you realize that Batman is the hero of our Zeitgeist, in our place, with solutions to our problems. Will machines, death, pain, and mass movements overtake our souls? Not if we rise…and make them serve humane purposes. In conclusion: Go see it. Let it speak to you, as it undoubtedly was meant to do for us heroes. I can’t really say how many stars, because I’m still thinking on it. Go see it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



“This is not about your hands. It has never been.”

- Wong

Doctor Stephen Strange is a world famous neurosurgeon. But, he’s selfish and only takes high profile jobs. One night, he sees a little girl who has nightmares. He tells her to see a psychologist and stop wasting his time. But suddenly, he sees a burning face in a vision. He flips his car after seeing the vision again. So, begins his journey to find a cure for his injured hands.

After visiting every advanced doctor he can think of, he gets a mysterious map for a stranger (Wong) who says his master in Tibet can cure him. Dr. Strange thinks he’s out of options, so he goes to Tibet to be instructed by the Ancient One in the power of magic. They give him tasks like lifting heavy rocks and fighting with “invisible” swords. Soon, Strange learns that by believing the rocks to be light, they are light, by believing his sword to be real it is, and that by believing his hands to be better they are. Magic is the energy of perception. So, he has to forget traditional medical models of the body, and focus on mind.

This is important for disability theory because if we believe we’re weak and injured we will be, as a community. However, our strength is re-working disability as a strength by perception. By changing what we believe we empower certain realities. Dr. Strange learns his True power only after he changes what he thinks. His assistant Wong tells him it was never about his hands.

Meanwhile, the Ancient One’s battle wizard Mordo thinks his master is too weak, and is not dealing with the demons invading Earth quick enough. Dr. Strange learns from the Ancient One that Dormammu, an evil demon, enters Earth through people’s dreams, and soon he and his armies will invade Earth.

No sooner is this prophesied, then Dormammu returns, as a giant body of flame, like in his vision. Soon, zombies, demon, natural disasters and plagues fill the world. Mordo kills the Ancient One, and joins Dormammu. Swords and magic fly, and Dr. Strange becomes the new Sorcerer Supreme. He also receives the Eye of Agamotto which sees all dimensions. He’s then ready to battle Dormammu’s monster minions.

Dr. Strange learns that Dormammu believes he’s made of pure magic, and has the power of a god. He uses this arrogance to get him to show him all his power so he can absorb it, which imprisons Dormammu in the Eye of Agamotto. The doors of Dormammu’s realm are closed. In the end, Dr. Strange accepts his new position, and learns that there are more sorcerers to train.

The action here is rife with metaphors for disability theory and discovering the power of inner experience vs. lust for power. The visuals are amazing, and remind me of Ghostbusters, especially in the inner city fights. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the wizard battles because of all the flashiness. But, if you are looking for a good story for disability and inner power with the world of Mighty Marvel, this is the granddaddy of them all. And, I can finally say who my favorite (singular) superhero is: I LOVE DR. STRANGE.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hulk Vs.

“Bruce Banner, I know thee to be a man of honor. I know thee to be a hero. The lives at stake are not your concern, not even human, but I ask you anyway. Be that hero now.”

- Thor to Dr. Bruce Banner

“Go for it, big guy! Tear this whole godforsaken place down to the ground! DO IT!”

- Wolverine telling Hulk to destroy the Weapon X facility

HULK VS. (2009):

First off, the movie is actually two different scenarios. One is Hulk vs. Thor. The other is Hulk vs. Wolverine. In one, Hulk is captured by Loki, and separated from Hulk by magic, so that Hulk can fight Thor. In the other, Hulk is rampaging in Canada and is kidnapped by Weapon X while fighting Wolverine. Both movies are excellent and have tons of superhero battling action. Though, again, maybe not for the 12 and under crowd.

In the first scenario, Hulk smashes into Asgard and punches Thor into the ground. Loki seems pleased with himself, and goes to pick up Thor’s hammer, but only Thor can wield it, and he zaps Hulk with a lightning storm. This knocks Loki out of Hulk and he becomes free of any control. Thor convinces Loki to let Dr. Banner back inside Hulk, or let Asgard be destroyed. Loki reluctantly accepts. If you know Norse mythology, you know the dead are held in Hel. (One l.) They find Dr. Banner there, where he has been put to sleep and made to believe he’s living a happy life. Loki convinces Hela (Queen of Hel.) that she needs both Banner and Hulk to actually kill him, so she let’s Thor talk to him, and Hela lets him know he’s in a dream, and Hulk is on the loose.

Meanwhile, Hulk destroys Odin’s Valkryies (all of whom are shown riding Pegasus; who’s actually Greek.) Asgard struggles with the Hulk, in some truly great Hulk SMASH action. The sorceress Amora transports Hulk to Hel. Once there, Thor talks Banner into snapping out of his happy dream. Bruce insults Hulk to get him to run at him, and then Loki casts the spell to rejoin their bodies and Hulk transforms back. There are several messages here for disability theory.

One of which, of course, is that we all must deal with the monster within. I already blogged about that in detail in my posts called “Fighting Monsters”. Check out those posts! The other message is that we, as disabled people, mustn’t confuse comfort with satisfaction. Sometimes, we need to wake up from a dream to make our lives actually improve, not just settle for happy illusions, but confront uncomfortable realities and conquer the fear of physical failure. Uncomfortable though it may be, we can rise above it, and make a difference.

In Wolverine’s part of the story, he’s tracking Hulk in Canada when they are ambushed by Weapon X, who wants to experiment on them and turn them into mindless weapons. Unlike Thor, Wolverine convinces Bruce to use his anger to strike out at the villains, and tells him to “stop crying”. The message here seems opposite as to what Thor says. Wolverine and Hulk have anger issues in common, but Wolverine knows anger is useful if you can focus it on a common threat. Anger can also form into passion.

Omega Red, Deadpool, and Lady Deathstrike make appearances. As well as Sabretooth, Wolverine’s old enemy. It’s funny to see the names Hulk gives them. Talking Man, Ugly Lady, etc. Hulk’s vocabulary is hilariously limited to Frankenstein talk. But, he does smash. As I warned before there’s some blood and violence. But if you’re ok with that, it’s a great flick. I was happy to get into some more intense superhero punching. They all take a beating, and it makes the Hulk look very strong and great; with of course some messages about mastering one’s emotions and strengths. And Hulk sure knows what he does best.…HULK SMASH!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

“But before they fell, the Avengers hid their children in a faraway place, where they would grow up safe from Ultron's grasp. Because the Avengers knew that as long as their children were alive, there was hope. Hope for the future.”

- Tony Stark’s bedtime story


The Avengers are dead after a battle with Ultron. Tony Stark takes their children to safety, and raises them as their parents would’ve wanted. Torunn is the daughter of Thor, with a big sword. James Rogers has a cool holographic shield. Azari is the son of Black Panther and Storm, and he has both their powers. Henry Pym is the boy of Wasp and Giant Man. They train for the day when Ultron returns.

Like his father, James Rogers is a stubborn kid. He never forgave Tony for letting his dad die, and in his grief goes down to a basement where he finds giant robots that all look like the former Avengers. He accidentally turns on the giant Captain America, and the robot Avengers assemble to attack Ultron and his army. Vision comes to the base to take the kids to safety as Ultron counterattacks. They’re shot down over the city, and Tony Stark is captured by Ultron, who (ever the robot.) tells Tony that hope is a human delusion.

If the theme of the first movie was learning who you are, and the second was asking for help, this one is about hope for the future. I love this movie based on this alone. I try and keep an optimistic outlook with regard to humanity, technology and progress. It’s what all great sci-fi is based on. A note on Iron Man though: Why does his armor keep breaking? I know it’s dramatic, but we’re 3 movies in, and he’s had 6 Iron Man suits. Robots must pack a punch. No matter. I love Tony Stark.

While battling Ultron’s robots in the inner city (which looks like a giant computer chip.) the young Avengers find Francis Barton, son of Hawkeye, who helps them escape and find the still-living Dr. Banner, who has become a Buddhist monk. Hawkeye starts to doubt they can take on Ultron, and James Rogers reminds him that their parents wouldn’t give up. (In a truly Cap-like moment.) They go off to battle the giant robots who look like their parents who were reprogrammed by Ultron.

Each of the children in turn realizes that just because they look like their parents doesn’t mean they are. Azari says: “You’re not the real Panther! I am!” and destroys the robot with his claws. Cap’s kid picks up the robot’s real shield, and throws it, slicing him in half. I’d say, as a disabled sci-fi nut, this scene really points to the fact that our true abilities are inside, not outside.

Next, they face Ultron himself, with a freed Iron Man. Iron Man realizes to defeat Ultron, they need Hulk, because he’s the strongest. So, he sends the boy Wasp to zap and annoy Dr. Banner until the old monk transforms into the Hulk once again to smash Ultron. Avengers movies seem to always pit modern man against mythology. And that in itself is mythic. After the battle, Torunn dumps Ultron’s body parts into space, and finds her father, Thor. The movie ends with James Rogers shouting “Avengers assemble!”, a sign that the torch has been passed into the future.

Finally, I’d like to add a few comments on animation and the presentation of the film. The animation is notably different, much brighter and smoother. I attribute it to the fact that it’s supposed to be a “kids’ cartoon”. Somehow, in the midst of that sci-fi future dystopia where Ultron rules, it managed a PG rating. Probably because all their enemies are robots. But, I certainly didn’t think it was just a kids’ cartoon. It deals with grief, and moving on, and not giving up. And that’s a universal lesson, disabled or not, kid or adult! 4 stars, I’ll say. Tune in next week for “Hulk Vs.”!

Saturday, July 14, 2012



“ I'm not going back to being a 2-inch superhero.”
- Ant Man/Giant Man
The story begins with Herr Kleiser, Cap’s old Nazi enemy, attacking and killing King T'Chaka of Wakanda. Prince T’Challa now inherits the throne of the isolated African nation. He takes up his father old Black Panther mantle and seeks out the Avengers to repel the impending invasion. This is despite his council’s wishes, as they don’t want outside help.
Meanwhile, Captain America assists military police in a warehouse raid. Nick Fury asks if he’s crazy, and he is asked to rest, but he can’t since he’s been fighting for so long. Nick Fury tells Cap about what happened in Wakanda with Kleiser, and wants Cap then, to lead a team down there. He accepts, and meets with the Avengers and T’Challa in secret.
During all this, Hulk is in containment, being interrogated for attacking the Avengers in the last movie. The room fills with a sedative when he claims he’s innocent. He demands to see Betty, but even she doesn’t trust him. Like everyone, he can’t come to terms with the past and ask for help. There are many times here where I felt the theme was appropriate to disability theory. All the heroes need to learn to ask for help. Ant Man wants to never shrink again and permanently become Giant Man. Iron Man again struggles with his armor and weak heart.
T’challa tells Cap of Wakanda’s experience in WWII, and though Kleiser promised peace, what they got was war. So, Wakanda became reclusive. After that, Black Panther reveals that underneath the nation is a mountain of vibranium, which can be fashioned into any weapon. Kleiser’s Chitauri army invades and blankets the world in an energy shield that blasts down the Avenger’s jet. The Wakandans retaliate with laser turrets. Iron Man and Wasp are critically injured, and Tony switches suits. (His own version of letting go of the past, and asking for help.) He becomes War Machine, a Iron Man outfitted with huge guns. If only my own chair could upgrade itself.
Thor sees in a vision that the Avengers will die, so he flies to SHIELD to help only to find out that it’s under attack, and the team is in Wakanda. Dr. Banner figures out (while watching the video of his rampage.) that gamma radiation weakens vibranium and uses it as a secret weapon against Chitauri ships and alien soldiers. Betty Ross rigs a gamma generator, blasts them all, and returns the generator to Wakanda. The heroes battle there until Betty arrives with the generator and now Hulk is with them too, smashing away.
Finally, Cap knocks Kleiser into a pit and, buries him. War Machine takes out the cannon with a gamma blast, and a few missiles. Ant Man has finally resigned himself to shrinking down so he can fit into War Machine’s gun barrel. What follows is one heck of a battle. For a movie about change, it doesn’t skip on the action, or depiction of death. There are casualities, but no spoilers here.
Overall, I liked this one way better than the first. It was better for disability theory (asking for help.) action, and held together as a fun movie. Plus, it had a Nazi get his butt kicked by Cap.
What we can take from this is that we’re never as alone as we think we are. We have traumatic experiences that may drive us away, but we can’t hide from the world. By focusing on tomorrow we improve today. Tomorrow can always be better. And Nazis can always be punched! Definitely worth your time, though maybe not suitable for children 12 and under.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ultimate Avengers (2006)

Ultimate Avengers  (2006)

“Any questions? Any questions not about the Hulk?”

-Dr. Bruce Banner, to SHIELD lab assistants

Captain America has been found in a glacier after his stopping a Nazi nuclear bomb. SHIELD takes the opportunity to send Nick Fury over, and pick him up for the Avengers Initiative. Dr. Bruce Banner is convinced that Cap’s super soldier serum holds the key to controlling Hulk, so he’s the one who looks after him. Meanwhile, the Chitauri, shape-shifting aliens attack SHIELD 1, their satellite base in the hopes of taking out their source of vibranium and taking over Earth.

The main relationship to watch here is between Cap and Hulk. In this movie, when Cap wakes up, he attacks everyone, and when he is acclimated to the fact that the statue of liberty is outside the window, he is told by Nick Fury that Hulk/Dr. Banner was a derivative of the same super soldier program, and befriends him. However, when Dr. Banner reveals his true interest in the super soldier program (controlling Hulk.) Cap says he doesn’t wish that program on anyone, especially Hulk, and he is best serving his country by sticking to Science. Dr. Banner, storms off feeling betrayed, and begins experimenting on himself.

There are a few changes here in origin from the recent movie. Ant Man/Giant Man and Wasp are present, Black Widow recruits Iron Man by pointing a gun at his crotch, which wouldn’t entice me, and Thor joins a hippie protest before meeting Cap and being recruited. Ant Man/Giant Man has bad blood with Nick Fury for taking over the Avengers Initiative, and so has a rude attitude throughout the whole cartoon, and disobeys Cap, attacking the aliens first as they proceed to blow up SHIELD 1. Cap is disappointed in his inability to hold the team together, and sulks off to find his only living war buddy, Bucky Barnes, who offers him a decaf: “What’s a decaf?” asks Cap, as the scene fades. Together with Bucky, he comes to grip with changing times, and realizes his team needs him.

As a disabled person, I found I identified with Cap the most. I think I always have, but now I understand better why. He fought for freedoms that he in the 21st century is not allowed to enjoy, and now things are strange and alien to him. I am a champion of the ADA and independent living, but have found that its freedoms: equality, accessibility, and opportunity, are far from secure. Also, Hulk’s struggle with trying to get control of emotions is a counterbalance to Cap’s story, and mine as well. Most of the other heroes feel unnecessarily tacked on, with the exception of Nick Fury, who gives Dr. Banner oversight of Cap, and also gives him his signature vibranium shield. The rest just show off, but do not really add to the story, I feel.

In the end, they do come together to fight the Chitauri off the helicarrier. But, that is not the event that unites the Avengers. Hulk sees Cap fighting off the Chitauri and tells him to stay out of it. Cap tells him it’s okay, and that they won, but Hulk attacks him. Together, the Avengers face the raging Hulk until Black Widow injects him with a sedative and his girlfriend Betty talks him into changing back to Dr. Banner. Then, they toast to Cap later at the mansion, who is shown on crutches after the battle.

Overall, I feel like they had a good idea in copying the Ultimate Avengers Mark Millar comics, but the more recent movie had an advantage in that it could bring all the Avengers together, with a better plot. The more I think about this movie, the more I don’t like it; but I can appreciate the funny bits, and the struggle between order and chaos within Hulk and Cap. Here’s hoping the movies get better. Tomorrow is Ultimate Avengers 2. Now, any questions not about the Hulk?

Thursday, July 12, 2012



“Now, I am rather an authority on gods, so I identified the machine—it seems to me to be an Old Testament god with a lot of rules and no mercy.”

                                              - Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth, p. 24.)

Tony Stark (Iron Man) is a playboy inventor at his dad’s company who’s trying to raise an ancient city for the Chinese government. However, he is kidnapped and forced to build a weapon for terrorists. A Buddha monk in the terrorist’s makeshift hospital tells him that if he raises the city, it will awaken an ancient warlord The Mandarin, and he will be forced by a prophecy to fight him. I said this post would be about Iron Man using his suit to overcome obstacles. It’s actually more about how our machines will not save us, and the greatest power is one’s own humanity.

One thing characteristic of Tony is how much of an egotist he is. He has little regard for ethics and there are several women he makes out with all while his buddies are raising the city before they are attacked. But, after he’s kidnapped, he’s told that a mechanical heart (Designed by the monk.) is keeping him alive. Then, he realizes how precious life is, and so he escapes the prison-hospital by fooling the terrorist into thinking the Iron Man (his secret weapon.) suit is for them.

This is not yet the red and gold suit we recognize him in, but a grey, clunky 1st edition. I think anyone with an assistive device recognizes the value of upgrades. Meanwhile, Howard Stark’s company blames the whole terrorist debacle on Tony, in an effort to save face. Disgraced by his dad’s company, he seeks the counsel of one of the former terrorists, a girl named Li Mei. In short, she tells him to face The Mandarin, as she was destined to do, before she was disowned by her disabled father.

The lesson here seems to be that those with disabilities are unfairly blamed, but we are in control of our destiny. Tony updates his armor, adding more military capabilities, aquatic functions, and style. In spite of his weak heart, Tony faces the Mandarin’s minions, but is told that one more remains. That is Li Mei. Like many of us in the disability community to whom every kind act means normalcy, Tony was fooled by her love into her agenda. She wasn’t meant to destroy the Mandarin, but to reincarnate him (this being the Buddhist belief.), and used Tony to help her do it.

I feel that as a person with a physical disability, sometimes we are quick to second-guess our intuition because I feel that my independence is dependent on the machine, when it is in fact, not entirely true. Even without my wheelchair, I have my body and mind. Though I don’t have a mechanical heart, I definitely felt Tony’s moment of betrayal at the hands of someone who helped him make his first suit, and loved him. 

Iron Man starts to fight the reincarnated Mandarin, but his suit is not enough and gets torn to shreds.
However, following his own intuition, Iron Man tells Li Mei that it’s just a prophecy, to remember who she is, and to stop reincarnating the Mandarin. She takes off her magic ring, and with that destroys the ancient warlord. Tony realizes his fate is his own, and exposes the truth about his company. This is a very important lesson straight out of Joseph Campbell‘s Heroes‘ Journey. The machine has the means to provide us with what we want, but eventually it starts to dictate our wants and create evil. So, we have to remember who we are, and our inner human desires, instead of a those of a company, a mechanical suit.

I must admit, there are several times in which I, as a wheelchair user, identified with Tony Stark. He tries to help, but he feels like a burden, so he writes himself off as a clown. Then, he designs the armor, and he’s ready to rejoin life. He’s weak without it. But, even that fails him. Similarly, I must remember that my greatest power is sometimes my greatest weakness. In Iron Man, this is symbolized by his weak heart (compassion), and knowing who he is, that saves him. Similarly, my disability allows me to be who I am, and to remind myself of my own human condition.

So, I’m sorry to say that initially, I got the message wrong, but remembered an equally important one. To remember everything that makes me who I am, not just the wheelchair. We all must do the same. We owe the world not just our disabilities and abilities, but our human experiences as well. That is what makes us heroes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man:

Yesterday, I saw The Amazing Spider-Man. Spider-fans, rejoice! This movie reboots Spider-Man to be grittier, faster-paced, and more respectful to the character arcs than the last trilogy with Tobey Macguire. You will get none of that impromptu “evil Spider-Man” dance scene nonsense here, nor the plain Mary Jane. What you will find is a deeper investigation into character backgrounds and motivations, and finally a movie that shows Spider-Man in the air most of the time, that can do his web-slinging acrobatics justice.

The movie begins by launching an investigation into the character’s motivations. Peter Parker finds out that his father was a geneticist involved with cross-species engineering before he died, and so it is that arc that brings him to have his fateful accident and change from high school nerd (Andrew Garfield doesn’t look high-school aged; but then most actors don’t anyway.) to Spider-Man, in an attempt to pick up his father’s work and gradual quest toward responsibility.

Peter Parker is not a hero here, when he first discovers his powers. Like any of us, he is tempted to use his powers to get what he wants and exact revenge on those who’ve wronged him. Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) is the moral support here, and when he first gives the speech he’s supposed to give, Peter doesn’t buy it and it has dire consequences which motivate him to fight crime and swing from buildings. He also learns to control his powers and use them for good. To my knowledge, Tobey Macguire just put on the mask, and decided he was Spider-Man. Here we get more development. It’s nice to see Peter treated seriously, with real problems.

But each well-developed hero must come with an equally well-matched villain. Here’s where I think the movie really does well. Lizardman isn’t a bad guy, he just wants to grow his arm back. And he works with Peter (again, continuing his father’s work.) to develop a serum that will allow him to grow limbs back, like a lizard. But, he goes too far and injects himself with the whole thing, and the lizard takes over. Many of us, particularly in the disability community, can relate to not having “cures” fast enough and letting it consume us. Too often, we see villains as not people. But, in true Marvel fashion, the villain thinks he’s doing the Right thing. He’s redeemable. I felt the whole cast was better than before, really.

Even the choice of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was good. Emma Stone always plays good quirky love interests, in my opinion, since her character roles since Superbad are often sympathetic to nerds. She even looks like Gwen Stacy. I liked how her job ties in with the plot. Mary Jane is supposed to be a model. So, her being in a lab on a field trip didn’t really work for me. But, Gwen Stacy works in a lab. It makes more sense how she’d come in contact with mutated spiders. It ties their stories together nicely.

Speaking of mutated spiders, the movie shows off his powers in every way possible, and the CGI web slinging shots are fast paced and a joy to look at. But the one power I thought they did really good illustrating was his super strength. Previous incarnations really don’t do this power justice, since a spider can lift many times its weight. He breaks things without meaning to, and sticks to things he shouldn’t get stuck to otherwise. In the end, they’re able to bring all these characters together, throw in some wonderful wall-climbing web-slinging fights, and all the characters grow in a way we didn’t see in the other movies. It doesn’t say “With great power comes great responsibility”, it shows it.

All in all, this is a more serious take on the Spider-Man mythos, which follows the development of the characters. I don’t mean to spoil anything, but he (Andrew Garfield) will be in Avengers 2, for sure. He still has plenty of room to grow. At least another trilogy would be nice this time!

Finally, as a note to all the people following the blog, I recently picked up six Marvel animated movies. So, after this blog, I’ll be watching one every day, and commenting on how it uses the Heroes’ Journey to overcome obstacles. I will also throw in disability commentary when necessary. Tomorrow’s theme will be Iron Man’s dependence on machinery for his superhero powers, like so many of us who use machines to transcend ordinary limitations day to day. Stay tuned, heroes!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Book)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

When I first received Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter from a friend, I was expecting action so bad it was good. Take this line for instance: “I hereby resolve to kill every vampire in America.” (p. 60) That was most exciting the line written by the supposedly 9-year-old Lincoln that for me set in motion the most exciting parts; namely, vampire-hunting. And I got my fresh dose of that so-bad-its-good action. I read about 100 on that first night. But, although most parts were so-bad-its-good (aside from historical tidbits.) the ending and later parts are rimmed with cheesy magical-plot-devices.

The book is divided into three parts: Boy, Vampire Hunter, and President. Or as I call it: Good, Really Good, and Cheesy. First, we learn about Abe’s childhood, which sets him up to become a vampire hunter, and uses great historical context. We learn about his houses, his frontier Baptist upbringing, his love of stories and how his parents were victims of vampires. It’s a great setup, and I learned a lot, such as that Abe was raised to believe slavery was a sin.

Then, you get the vampire hunting. I didn’t really care for Abe’s vampire friend, who I thought undermined the purpose of the book in terms of killing vampires; I know he’s in there as a statement about not judging people, but he sort of gets in way, and much of the book is too heavily reliant on him. These are Abe’s exploits, not his vampire friend‘s, I thought. But, he himself is a magical plot device.

You see, he gives Abe a vampire hit-list, and the hunting spree begins in glorious, dark, graphic detail. He has an ax that can blind vampires with light, and so almost every hunting scene is really dark and suspenseful. There’s a great feeling of “How will he kill this one?”, a thrilling weight, as he confronts each bloodsucker. Some of them end up being people you least expect!

You really get the sense that Abe, going from odd job to odd job (Ferryman, clerk, captain, lawyer, senator, representative, but mostly vampire hunter.) really was a self-made man who had a deep dark secret, and no real interest in selfish political gain. He was interested in the freedom of all men from vampires. Later in the story it does get cheesy, as Abe Lincoln’s vampire friend reveals he’s part of a group of Good Vampires called the Union, who want to live in Harmony with Man. And, well…no spoilers here, but if you know history, you know what happens, and you can guess how the author weaves the Civil War in with Vampires.

All in all, Lincoln’s biography alone makes for a good vampire hunter story. Its historical context is so well-framed. Just take out “________was killed by a disease”, and add “vampires” in place of “disease”. But, here was the story of a true frontiersman who had one purpose and battled with his own inner and outer dark side for a Greater Purpose: To kill vampires with an ax. And that’s something every American can get behind. Apologies to those Good Vampires with those magical-plot-devices. I’m hoping the movie sidesteps some of that, so we can just get the good stuff.