Friday, September 27, 2013

Trigun (1998) Review:


Vash the Stampede: “I'm like a hunter of peace. One who chases the elusive mayfly of love... or something like that.”

Episode 5, “Hard Puncher”

Yesterday, I watched Trigun. Trigun is a 26-episode anime done in the style of a sci-fi Western. It follows Vash the Stampede on a quest to clear his name and recover his identity. Though he’s quite the buffoon, he has a bounty on his head worth 60 billion double dollars for destroying the town of The 3rd of July. Yet, he refuses to kill anyone and dances to pop music and eats doughnuts and generally acts like a kid. The female insurance agents Milly and Meryl can’t believe this childish womanizer is the notorious criminal they call “The Humanoid Typhoon”!  

    But others aren’t so sure and challenge him in almost every town he goes. From gangsters and poor townsfolk to mad scientists in their weird mobile Krang-like bodies, (“Hard Puncher”) this leads Vash The Stampede on a mission to discover who he is, and spread love and peace while wielding two big guns, and a vicious reputation in spite of his childish nature.

   Along the way, he discovers that not only gangs, but demons in league with gangs(!) are after him and he takes a preacher with him (Who also has a tortured past!) by the name of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Honestly, everyone of the characters is very well fleshed out. Though Vash starts out naïve and childish even…even despite his comedic moments…he grows as he must defend himself, and face The Gung-Ho Guns…a band of demons! There’s one that goes invisible, a kid, a musician who plays in the key of “pain”, and even one that sort of looks like a steampunk Hannibal Lecter with a muzzle…and many more.

Honestly, I don’t want to spoil the show, but when Vash discovers who he is, the tone of the show becomes dark and morphs into a miasma of big gunfights laced with what it means to be a brother and forgiveness. Plus, it has aliens and demons in a western sci-fi setting. That’s a heck of a mix, but fortunately the mature tone is set by about episode 12, with a demon looking for Vash (“Diablo”) so it’s not too sudden.

   Between angry villagers, and preachers with gigantic cross-shaped machine guns, and of course, 60 billion double dollars, everyone except his few “allies” are out to get Vash. But, even they begin to grow and form their own agendas. Mille is another naïve one who just can’t deal with killing, but Vash learns he has to! And that a sinister force is behind his framing! The show deals with morality in the same way most animes do…by shooting mounds of bullets at it! But, Vash is determined not to kill.

    Overall, Trigun is one of the most layered identity crises I’ve ever seen in animation. The characters almost do a complete 180 once their agendas are revealed. For example, Vash begins to think it’s strange that Wolfwood carries a machine gun. (“Hey, whatever happened to "Thou shalt not kill"? Episode 10: Quick Draw.) while Wolfwood begins to doubt that his childishness is sincere. Bottom line: Things get ugly! And Milly and Meryl struggle to minimize his damage…as insurance agents…just like Vash struggles with killing. But, the revelation of who he is changes everything…or does it?

    Seriously, the twist is so great my head is still spinning thinking about it! You go into this thinking you know the character and the setting, and then…boom! Sneakier than Hideo Kojima squeezing supernatural conspiracies in Metal Gear, it all turns goes topsy-turvy! Are you ready for this? Well, you’d better be. I’m not telling! Anyway, Trigun has superb animation, great storyline and well-fleshed out characters! And if that’s not enough, it’s got guns, aliens, and demons! Go see it! 4 out 5 stars from me! Okay, here’s a hint!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Pilot Review:


“The secret is out. For decades, your organization stayed in the shadows, hiding the truth. Now we know. They’re among us. Heroes. And monsters. The world is full of wonders.”

- Skye

   Having only watched the pilot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, I have a lot of hope that it will become like a Marvel-based X-Files. The first episode introduces us to many main characters, like Agent Ward and yes, Coulson. A lot of it feels frankly like a rehash of The Avengers movie with none of the main characters in it. I suspect they’ll go around hunting super powered beings until another invasion occurs.

The first episode deals with the organization recruiting a new agent (Ward), and an activist hacker named Skye. Coulson picks up Skye and they investigate into a man with superpowers, and Ward is assigned to take down some of their enemies who I presume are the hackers…of Rising Tide…no doubt working with aliens. I was a little disappointed at the way it ended, but stuck around for the closing scene with Skye and Coulson in a flying car.

I will say this early on it’s too early to say whether I liked it or not. I mean, the setup is good, with it taking place right after the Avengers movie, but they still haven’t discovered what their up against, and most of the show was about introducing the main characters, as a good pilot should. And there are some familiar faces. Maria Hill is there as well as Coulson. I hope in a future episode there might be a Samuel L. Jackson cameo!

It’s way too early to say, but it kind of reminds me of Star Trek DS9...where the characters often wait for the action to come to the lab instead of going it alone. Ward and Skye will end up working together no doubt! I wonder how many Marvel superheroes or super villains they can pull off on a TV budget. Should be exciting! I felt a little uneasy about the ending to the pilot…I don’t think they’d just shoot a potential superhero/supervillian.

So, hopefully that changes. It felt anticlimactic to build up this villains origin, and then just shoot him. Couldn’t they have arrested him? Anyway…they could go anywhere from there though. The Marvel Universe is so big I’m sure we’ll get a few good cameos, and a heck of an invasion! Here’s hoping the world is full of wonders! Excelsior!

Monday, September 23, 2013

All Superheroes Must Die (2013) Review:

All Superheroes Must Die (2013) (Originally Titled “Vs.”) (2011) 

Shadow: “You're not the only one who gets to save people around here…”

Saw meets X-men! This movie is an independent film, and superhero thriller. That being said, it’s obviously low-budget, but does manage to make some good X-men-like characters: The leader is Charge, who has gains power as he gains momentum, or so it seems. He only ever uses this ability once or twice, I think. But because of an injection they all received at the start of the movie, their powers are gone/weakened. It’s a classic villain set-up.

    The nameless superheroes led by Charge (Cutthroat, some sort of antihero ninja; The Wall;  and Shadow; reminiscent to me of  Shadowcat…) are robbed of their powers and made to fight for their nemesis’s amusement. As leverage, he has hostages around the entire city, and he can kill them or blow the place up. The villain is Rickshaw, and he is rather good at outsmarting the captive heroes in a game they can’t win…and he loves it. He reminds me of Joker….or maybe moreso Arcade. Are we meant to think of Jigsaw from Saw?

    I digress…so, he instructs the heroes to pick their weapons and go to the first round. They fight two villains. A big shirtless guy with a Russian accent named Sledgeshaw, and a cannibalistic Uncle Sam caricature named Manpower. This is the only scene that feels particularly comic bookish. I liked it. But, maybe owing to the fact that it had heroes and villains more or less in costume, and Charge actually uses his ability, without giving away too much. Inexplicably, he still has his power...or some power from what I saw.
   The rest of the movie is just Saw with Superheroes, with Rickshaw plotting games and trying to get the heroes to kill each other with tools he’s provided and using hostages as leverage. In one scene, Charge realizes it doesn’t matter…Rickshaw will kill the innocents whether they fight or not, so he decides to use a gun (with three bullets, one for each hero.) to kill three innocents and save themselves.

      Well, the Wolverine-like Cutthroat protests. In another game, one of the hostages is revealed to be Cutthroat’s sister. Now, I know this is supposed to be an edgy thriller, but it does seem like Charge could’ve thought his way out of that one. Why not shoot non-lethally? I only say that because later this is exactly what he does to himself instead of shooting Shadow…kind of him to think of that then!

     Anyway, for all it’s edginess, you do get a good sense of the relationships between the heroes. Hence my X-men analogy. The Wall would be like Colossus. Charge is like Cyclops personality-wise, but with the powers of Juggernaut. He takes charge. Both The Wall and Charge love Shadow…she’s the sensitive one who calls everyone by their first name, and acts like a damsel in distress. (So, Charge is Jon; Cutthroat is Ben; and The Wall is Charlie.) Stereotypical, but it moves the plot along quickly.

The last half of the movie as the heroes begin to kill off each other is rife with melodrama and romance as they avoid killing Shadow. Flashbacks are shown that supposedly heighten the relationships but they boil down to…two guys love Shadow, and Cutthroat hates Charge…hence my Wolverine analogy. (Fact: Lucas Till, who plays Cutthroat went on to play Havoc in X-men: First Class. (2011) Overall, my main problem with this movie is Charge…if he went through all that trouble to (slight spoiler!) spare Shadow…I dunno…why not make more of an effort to save innocents? He didn’t seem to care that it is was just part of Rickshaw’s scheme when it came to Shadow.

That and the melodrama…you really get a sense for the relationships, but it is two-dimensional. X-men is kinda like that, too…but they at least have more villains and thus more stories to go through…and fight for their rights. I suppose I should go easy on the movie. It is, after all, an independent film.

    In conclusion, All Superheroes Must Die is both the title and the moral of the story...though I felt the moral was contrived: All superheroes must eventually compromise their moral characters…or make difficult moral decisions. Especially when there are budget limits! Heh heh! Given it’s small scale though, I think it did a good job… The movie had a good scenery-chewing villain, and built off of immediately identifiable superhero dynamics.

 After first round though, when Charge discovers Rickshaw will kill innocents anyway, it loses steam… much like Charge does. I dunno, maybe some people like to see heroes lose. Still, I’ll give a nice 2.5/5 stars for this underappreciated superhero film. Not my kind of superhero movie, but it has it’s moments…and most of them involve Rickshaw, since he's so happy to be winning!      

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Sorcerer And The White Snake (2013) Review:

White Snake: “Before I saw you I meditated for a thousand years, but those thousand years are worth less than a moment with you.”

The Sorcerer And The White Snake (2013) Review:

    Since I started this blog, it’s taken on a much more international flavor. I like it. So, today’s review comes from a movie done in Hong Kong in Mandarin. A demon falls in love with a human and wants to meet him and make his life better. Jet Li plays a martial arts-type Buddha Monk who tells her that such love is forbidden because they are from different realms. And Jet Li means business. In the opening scene he fights and traps an ice harpy for seducing people.

    But, these demons aren’t all like demons we find so often in Western culture who are inherently evil and seduce people. White Snake is more like Cinderella. She just can’t let her love see her as she truly is, which is a giant white snake. Her love is the herbalist Xu Xian, and she makes his medicine far more powerful. It arouses the suspicion of Master Fahai. (Jet Li!) He knows she’s a demon, but since she is benevolent, he gives her a warning. But, like all fairy tales, the warning is only the beginning. Even though she really loves Xu Xian, the monk shows up and forces her to reveal herself by magic, and of course, fighting. It’s like Cinderella meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…and is as visually impressive!

     Like most fairy tales, it features cute animals that talk. (I like the turtle. He…talks…slowly…) One such animal is a mouse who tells Xu Xian of an herb so that she can come back to him. But, he is captured by monks, and his memory erased…this makes White Snake angry and she and her demon buddies (Including another snake-woman!) attack the temple to free him. This leads the monk to question if what he’s done is right as the temple is destroyed by an epic kung fu battle with White Snake summoning a tidal wave to smash the temple! The monks erasing Xu Xian’s mind are beset by little rats. Great scene. 

    So, anyway, despite being a fairy tale romance, it’s an action movie too! It was pretty good. Although it never really does lose the fairy tale tone…which I guess is all right, because it is a fairy tale…however it does seem wildly out of place when an epic battle suddenly erupts and there’s…talking mice around, and well…Xu Xian’s wife is a thousand year old Snake Demon fighting off monks for his affection! But, that’s the power of love, I guess!  

   Mainly, I like the film’s fantasy portrayal of the demon world. They’re just like nature spirits, I suppose. And I always enjoy learning the fairy tales of other cultures…so I might be a little more biased on my rating in this one. I could’ve used a little more Jet Li. Apparently, the other actors didn’t have as much training as him, so it leads to a lot of jumping around and using big special effects to end the fights. Which is fine, and flashy! But, I wanted to see a bit more martial arts. I wonder if the original fairy tale had martial arts in it?

     Anyway, it’s a good love story/action movie which shows the lengths people will go to for love. And what they’ll do to stop it when they’re convinced the love is wrong! But, ultimately, the monk decides that he’s caused too much suffering, and lets White Snake see Xu Xian one last time! For a rating, I’ll give it something in the range of B+. Certainly it’s artfully done. Even though it is a little weird to see talking mice and Cinderella with kung fu monks. But, different is good! It was nice to look at, even in the slow-moving romantic parts.

 Basically, if you need a cross between kung fu and the fantasy/action magic of Lord of the Rings, with Jet Li as a Gandalf figure, here’s your ticket! Also, if you specifically want that, you must have very unique interests! But seriously, see this movie. It’s got a little bit of everything with a kung fu movie flavor. Note: I know the movie is from 2011, but the USA DVD was released in 2013!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Metropolis (1927) Review:

Metropolis (1927) Review:

 Maria: “The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart!”
   While William Gibson is arguably the father of cyberpunk (having both coined and written the genre in the 1980s.) I would argue that Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis (1927) is perhaps the unwitting grandfather of cyberpunk. But, first we need to ask what cyberpunk is. I could probably write a thesis on it, because it’s my favorite brand of sci-fi, but for now, here’s my simple definition: Cyberpunk is sci-fi where there is no middle class.

Similarly, in Metropolis, you have the “Club of Sons” where the rich tower above the ground…and the Worker’s City deep below the Earth, where people work all day in a living mechanical Hell to keep Metropolis running, but are not allowed beyond the Workers’ City. In modern times, we’ve seen this sci-fi motif repeated more than ever. Though it is usually caused by overpopulation or nuclear war rather than simple economic disparity.

    So many cyberpunk tropes (and by extension, sci-fi.) have been established by the Workers’ City. The opening shot, which depicts the high-rising pyramids of the Club of Sons that dissolves into the whirring of industrial machines of the Workers’ City, can even remind me of films so recent as Elysium. I was told later after I’d first seen Metropolis in a German Film class in 2006, that the Club of Sons also inspired the shape of the Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner, which also deals with robots of a sort and the German concept of a Doppelgänger. (An evil double.)

     The evil double in this case is Maria, who at first leads our hero Freder, son of Metropolis’s founder, into the forbidden Worker’s City. While she operates as a preacher of peace between the two factions in an underground church, he has Metropolis’s head scientist Rotwang conspire against her by creating a robotic double that will sew distrust between her and the workers. Rotwang is the prototypical mad scientist (In fact, the “mad scientist trope was arguably invented here!) with wild eyes, hair, and even a mechanical hand! The creation of the robot Maria is a seminal scene in the world of special effects and was so costly at the time, it bankrupt the film studio UFA. (Universum Film Assoziation.)

    Nevertheless, the film succeeds in using Christian imagery to contrast and compare the lives of the rich and the poor. The robotic Maria is representational of the whore of Babylon in the Bible. She performs burlesque and insights the workers to violence, but Freder knows she’s an impostor. Important lessons are gained here. While the angelic Maria preaches peace (and a great visual parable of the Tower of Babel!) it is the “ Devil Maria” which ultimately spurs the workers to destroy the machines! Freder serves as the long-awaited mediator between the rich and the poor.

    Freder gains empathy with the workers by trading places with one and is inspired by the preaching of Maria (Again, successfully invoking Christian imagery as Maria is the German Mary.) to unite the two classes peacefully, which he does only after the rich cause their own destruction with the robot Maria. Since it is a film of its time and place, it also mirrored the struggle of the rich and poor in 1920s Germany, which was just then recovering from the First World War. I would argue that cyberpunk rises during economically difficult times.

     Though Freder is not a typical cyberpunk (low class.) hero, the elements showing the two cities ultimately reveal a cyberpunk in vitro setting. And since Metropolis is a silent film, it is all done visually, as most cyberpunk films are today. Elysium is the Club of Sons, bright and spectacular. Earth is dark and filthy like The Workers’ City underground.  And while ultimately Metropolis has a happy ending, with the workers and the rich shaking hands and Maria’s famous line above, perhaps modern cyberpunk would’ve predicted the real outcome, with its more realistic portrayal: World War II.

    To this day, even though Metropolis is incomplete as a film (Though I’ve seen versions that always purport to be the full version…they all only replace the missing scenes with intertitles!) it still resonates cross-culturally today through the use of great visuals and great effects that invoke mythology and the Hero’s Journey. Even when I watch it these days, the visuals and contrasts have an almost hypnotic effect on my mind, and I can only imagine what it must have been like for Germans in the 1920s, viewing this film.
    In conclusion, we may think of modern sci-fi as the exclusive realm of cyberpunk, which “peaked” with William Gibson, Neuromancer, and the sci-fi of the 1980s.  But, if we look back through the past, you will see the “seeds” of cyberpunk in periods of economic upheaval. In this case, Fritz Lang uses the cultural bonds of religion to explore human issues, whereas today we might find this same message with the “good” use of technology in films.

    For in modern times, technology can be used to serve or oppress mankind, just as religion can. And I would add that today, technology can be a religion! Obviously, you should see this film for yourself, and I give it a 5/5 rating. Today, we work not at giant clocks and gears, but at computers, and it is perhaps more relevant now than ever!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cowboy Bebop (1998-2001) Review:

Cowboy Bebop (1998-2001)

Old Woman: He called you a cowboy. What did he mean? What are you? 

Spike: Just a humble bounty hunter, ma'am. 

Episode 25.5: “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” (2001)

Cowboy Bebop is a cyberpunk anime about a bounty hunter (called “cowboys”) named Spike and his crew on his ship, The Bebop. Along the way, he meets more crew members including a dog named Ein, a child prodigy hacker named Ed, his buddy Jet Black, and a gambling woman named Faye Valentine, who may have been frozen for 60 or so years but doesn’t look like it. While each crewmember has their story, the ones I liked were the ones that focused on bounty hunting.

    Of particular interest to me was the episode Mind Scratch, where a cult leader (Dr. Londes) is convincing people to destroy their bodies “transfer their soul” on the internet. As a person with a disability, it’s a good reminder that although technology can extend abilities, it can also suck your life out. Also,  the episode “Pierrot Le Fou” deals with perhaps a satirical look at how the military abuses a man with mental illness to turn him into a hitman…when really he has a child’s mind. Unfortunately, the episodes are the exception to the rule as far as ones that deviate from the main story and are good.

    Sometimes the series deviates into romance side-stories like “Ganymede Blues”,
comedies like “Cowboy Funk” or…most of Faye’s story, which is a sort of drama as she reclaims her memory. Not that these deviations are all bad. Cowboy Funk is actually really good and is a nice comedic tribute to some American influences on the show, even if in parody. (Spike meets an actual cowboy calling himself Wyatt Earp!) Another thing I liked about this anime is that…even though it’s Japanese…it’s cyberpunk, so it has a myriad of cultural influences, is full of criminal action…and doesn’t require a lot of knowledge of Asia. (Though it never hurts to be culturally aware!)
 Most of the bounties are shown as being broadcasted in several languages. Most of it takes place in space even…except for a few episodes later on Earth. It’s very accessible to American/international audiences, I think. As Faye Valentine’s story concludes, she finds a VHS tape and discovers where she’s from. It was fun to see the crew fumble with a VCR! I remember VCRs, but certainly they wouldn’t! Anyway, after that, Spike discovers that his former girlfriend Julia  has been hired to kill him, and it ends in an action-packed showdown.

    My main complaint with the series is that it deviates a lot such as the episode “Heavy Metal Queen” where we’re introduced to characters who are never met again, and never developed further. Wyatt Earp’s story had at least a beginning, middle, and end. Seems like they could of done more with “Heavy Metal Queen”. All he does is reveal his name at the end. Then, he’s never seen again. Despite these strange deviations, the rest of the series is an epic cyberpunk romp through space which brings to my mind Neuromancer and Blade Runner as the crew collects bounties on assassins, terrorists, drug dealers, and evil hackers…but, sometimes they’re just looking for food and avoiding the space police!

If you like animation, cyberpunk or crime thrillers this is certainly an easily accessible classic. Maybe you might even like the melodrama! I didn’t, but I prefer the episodes dealing with disability philosophy and gun battles. What can I say? I’m a rare breed. Sci-fi and anime action geeks won’t be disappointed! 4/5 stars! Don’t miss it! See you, space cowboy…

Tuesday, September 10, 2013



Daredevil: “They say your whole life flashes before your eyes when you die. And it's true, even for a blind man.”

    Daredevil is all over the place tonally. The opening scene is of Daredevil crashing through a roof, crawling on the ground and then rolling over before being helped up by a priest. Yeah, you don’t want your superhero to appear physically inept before the movie even starts. That’s not a good sign. Though it offers a portrayal of disability, I couldn’t discern what the ethos of it was, but it definitely wasn’t an uplifting one, and straddles, at times, a tone of pity IN A SUPERHERO MOVIE. Pity doesn’t belong in a superhero movie!
For every client Matt Murdock investigates and then beats up in the movie, he throws a fit and goes to a confession booth to tell the priest he’s not the bad guy. The trouble is, we know that, as an audience. We want to see Daredevil kick butt, and…for as much as he does…he spends an equal amount of time on the ground, in a confession booth, or throwing a fit. The problem is that Daredevil is never given the chance to be a competent disabled superhero.
 In his alter ego as Matt Murdock he’s shown to be a smooth-talking ladies’ man, but he goes passive-aggressive after he loses a criminal who could lead him to Kingpin, and even has to tell the criminal’s young son: “I’m not the bad guy.” He meets Elektra Nachios (A name that makes me laugh because it sounds like nachos.) after the two of them fight and meet cute.

    That’s another problem with this movie. It tries to introduce Daredevil, Elektra, Bullseye and Kingpin (Played marginally well by Michael Clarke Duncan…but he’s just sort of…there to be evil.) Plus, they try to give you an origin story. All that just can’t fit in one movie. It can’t be a comic book movie/noir/rom-com. Another thing that gets annoying is the references to comic book artists…some of the criminals are named Bendis, Miller, Quesada…Murdock’s client is called Mr. Lee. Ha! (But, surprisingly, Stan’s cameo is as a random pedestrian instead of a client!) Also, Kevin Smith is in forensics…okay, we get it, it’s a superhero movie!

   It’s just a shame they couldn’t show that by actually having the hero be heroic. During the course of the movie he’s nearly defeated 3 times (By Elektra, Bullseye, and nearly Michael Clarke Duncan…who you might know as almost EVERYONE ELSE IN THE MOVIE.) The first defeat comes when Elektra outfights him. The second defeat is after Bullseye kills Elektra, and Daredevil’s saved by…wait for it…bats that fly through the church window. Who’s movie is this?

 Oh yeah and Bullseye kills nearly everyone he meets with pointed things, and that gets freakish and annoying. He kills a talkative granny on an airplane with a well-aimed peanut she chokes on! That’s not cool…that’s weird. How do you aim a peanut?
Now, I will give the film credit for at least tangentially dealing with disability and coping mechanisms. Daredevil folds his bills different ways in his wallet, uses adaptive computer equipment, and of course uses his cane, which doubles as a grappling hook/Bo staff. They have him use his radar image trick effective in some scenes, but admittedly, it’s a gimmick to help him out of tight spots. There’s a trick he uses where the sound of water outlines people. I thought that was cool, but still a gimmick.

    I cringed a lot watching this movie again…even if it does foreshadow….(I know I promised no more Batman!) Ben Affleck as a possible Batman. The film even tries to introduce the stories of two main characters…Elektra and Daredevil…just like Batman vs. Superman will attempt to do. Here’s hoping Affleck is older and wiser. And a lot less apologetic.

My main beef with the movie is the portrayal of the disability…although I agree that the noir/rom-com tone was unsettling and that might be the bigger beef with mainstream viewers. But, let’s see…aside from his super senses, he’s easily defeated, constantly needs help from Elektra (Who the movie introduces and then kills.) or random priests, and his super senses are easily overcome by noise…he’s got super hearing! Shouldn’t he have worked that out? In this movie, far from being a superhero, Daredevil looks weak, pitiful, and dumb.

    I watch superhero movies to escape my disabled body. No question about it. But, Daredevil’s disability (at least in the eyes of this movie.) is only a superpower when it advances the plot. The rest of the time it puts him in self-doubt and leaves him ultimately pining for the acceptance (and sex…) of an able bodied woman. (Ben Affleck’s now-wife, Jennifer Garner, whom he first met on this set.)

     If superhero movies should do anything, they should uplift people (of all abilities.) and make them feel like they can do anything. But, what do we say about a man who gets beat up 3 times in his own superhero movie? He looks weak, and trapped by his disability. I realize this film doesn’t exactly cater to disability rights, but it should’ve at least been a superhero movie. 1 star for this dull action/comedy/noir that will make you glad Marvel is sticking to action-comedies. Perhaps Affleck knows noir is more a Batman schtick.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Game Review: Heroclix

Game Review: Heroclix

   Yesterday, I played my first game of Heroclix. I used the Marvel starter set. If you’ve played D&D or Warhammer, it’s pretty much that with superheroes/pop culture miniatures. The one gimmick is that each miniature has a dial that you click to indicate when they take damage. Now, I love the premise of the game. Superhero fights are always (usually) on my mind, like any kid who grew up with fighting games/comics. But, it’s not particularly accessible for me…that doesn’t keep me from playing, I just have a friend help me turn the dial.

    We played 2 games with this one 6-figure set. One 3-on-3 (Wolverine, Elektra, and Hobgoblin vs. Spiderman, Sabertooth, and Wasp.) and one 1-on-1 (Sabretooth vs. Wolverine.) Now, for those you who don’t play Warhammer or D&D, I’ll explain the game simply. Each figure has stats (Movement, Defense, Attack, Damage.) on it’s base.

You use these stats to play the game, along with dice, of course. For example, Wolverine in my starter set has  5 Movement 12 Defense and 1 Damage…but if you use his claws, his damage becomes 1d6. Anyway, all the figures have stats and powers like this. If you equal or surpass Wolverine’s Defense stat, you hit him, and deal the indicated damage on the figure’s base and click the dial. Neat stuff, but I never did click the dials. My buddy did.

    He also set up the map and placed object tokens on it. Light objects increase damage by 1, and heavy objects (Only portable by characters with super strength!) increase damage by 2. In our first official game, it was basically a race to pick up the objects. Whereas I thought any team with Wolverine could win…the teams with Wolverine lost both times!

 To be sure, once was due to bad strategy (I was fighting over a boulder with Spiderman and didn’t wanna spend all day playing catch with super strength.) And the second game, I won with Sabertooth because my buddy kept rolling badly! (It happens…but I got lucky.)

     It’s a great game! I can’t wait to start collecting other neat Heroclix figures. I’ve even seen Star Trek and Watchmen Heroclix as well as more specific ones and weird mods like Earthworm Jim Heroclix. Part of me wants to do Marvel vs. DC, but that’s a little cliché. Marvel vs. Street Fighter, that would be something! Or Marvel vs. Watchmen. In sum, it’s nice to have a neat hobby like this game.

    I hope I’ll learn how to click the dials soon. Another friend told me that sometimes they are hard to click, and each base can be different. So, perhaps I just don’t have the dexterity. Nonetheless, it is a game you play with a friend…so, in the event that I really can’t, I can either just have a friend do it, or make a mental note of the clicks in my head, possibly with a notepad. Practice makes perfect though. Just can’t wait to play again! 3/5 for fun, but there can be slight accessibility issues!
I like Heroclix because it’s a fun little strategy game to play with friends based on heroes! I would love to get more X-men, or a Professor X figure since he’s my favorite. I admit it’s not for everyone, but it’s still really cool! Though I do like the game so far without those pesky object tokens. Then, it just becomes a race to get them. It should be good physical therapy and great fun! Anyone know any cool sets with Oracle, Professor X, or other disabled heroes? Let me know!


Thursday, September 5, 2013



Batman: “There is a difference between you and me. We both looked into the abyss, but when it looked back as us, you blinked.”

- To Owlman, fighting him on Earth Prime 

I think this will be my last Batman analysis for a while, then I’ll cover some more movies and games directly incorporating disabilities. I didn’t mean to get so into Batman, but then Ben Affleck happened. Anyway, superheroes are great sources for disability theory because it’s all escapist fantasy. When you don’t have the ability to deal with issues physically, you develop coping mechanisms that address the conflicts in other ways. But, that’s a theme for The Watchmen or Professor X to deal with directly. 

    Anyway, since I introduced Owlman last time, I thought it would be fun to examine his choices in comparison with Batman’s. In this world, the Justice League (Crime Syndicate) are the villains, and the usual villains are the heroes. Good Luthor travels to the world where the familiar Justice League exists, at the expense of the life of his Joker counterpart, Jester. Every hero has a counterpart and Harley Quinn is a monkey.  
  Ultra Man and Superwoman are counterparts to Superman and Wonder Woman. The evil Wonder Woman is a conqueror and likes the idea of conquering other worlds. Owlman is a nihilist who‘s built a reality-destroying bomb; the QED device. The Crime Syndicate holds their world hostage. 
    Until the other Justice League shows up. Wonder Woman, according to this story,  steals her invisible plane from Owlman. Superwoman actually manages to take down Batman until he outwits her. But, the key here is to recognize that even though they have opposite values, the characters still make choices to act on them, which leads to Batman’s above quote in his showdown with Owlman on Earth Prime. Batman’s a deontologist…someone who believes actions have value…his countepart is a nihilist…someone who thinks our actions are meaningless…in this case, because of parallel worlds.

    This point and its counterpoint are of course paramount to any philosophy, and reveals Batman’s central philosophy, like the abyss. Actions have inherent value. There may be other crime fighters out there, but he makes the choice to punish criminals his way. One of the things this animated movie does well is highlight each heroes worldview, and how they act on it. For example, Superman is adamant about not killing, but jailing, the Crime Syndicate and says: “All it takes for evil men to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” Superman is compassionate, unlike his gangster counterpart.

   Speaking of Superman, I have a few quibbles about Superman’s powers in this movie. Superman claims that good Luthor’s “internal organs are reversed.” but when he X-rays him, clearly only his heart is reversed.  I know this is a metaphor for his heart being with the other side, The Good Guys. But, was it necessary to reverse all his organs? And since we see that they’re not, does that mean Superman lied as justification to intervene on another Earth? And why doesn’t Batman (Who doesn’t want to get involved at first.) double-check? Surely, he’s not going to just take Superman’s word for it. And yet, he totally does. Thank goodness Martian Manhunter can read minds, and discovers good Luthor’s intentions. Otherwise, that would be a major plot hole.

   And speaking of Martian Manhunter, several lesser-known superheroes make appearances, which is nice. Among them are Aquaman, Black Canary, Black Lightning, and Green Arrow. Okay, Aquaman is well-known but, I haven’t seen Aquaman in a position of respect since his comedic appearances in Batman: The Brave And The Bold! Also, Flash’s counterpart is Australian, for some reason? Possibly as a joke about running to the other side of the globe real fast…? Don’t think about it too hard…it doesn’t make sense. (Plus, he’d be The Reverse-Reverse Flash!)

    Overall, I have a lot of minor quibbles with this film. It doesn’t approach its own questions very seriously, and doesn’t obey its own mirror-world logic. I think it’s a noble effort though…to show that how we act with our abilities and values makes a difference. Especially because it shows that everything contains the quintessence of its opposite. (Even if it doesn’t always follow it logically.) Especially for those of us with disabilities, I find that true. Our disabilities are secretly abilities, it just depends how we act on them.
In closing, I give the film credit for dealing with some of philosophy's Big Questions. Are we alone in the universe? What gives our actions meaning? But, it is somewhat ironic that Batman and Owlman fight on Earth Prime. Because in the world we know, superheroes cannot be the solution. Superheroes do not exist. I guess I just worry that some will confuse this reality with the fantasy one. But, even if you do, that’s still your choice. I’m glad to be done with Batman for a while at least. A good film, but Watchmen (The comic, not the movie.) deals with its themes in a more mature way. 2 stars for this Justice League adventure.