2010s

“Go. Don’t be what they made you.”

It’s always tempting, when a creator reveals themselves to be a bit of a shit, to look back on their past work and say “ah, I never liked ’em anyway”. This was certainly the case with comic book creator Frank Miller, whose politics took a hard right turn after 9/11 resulting in such works as Holy Terror, initially intended as a Batman story for DC before they dropped it like a hot, extremely Islamaphobic potato. This in turn led to many comics fans deciding that Miller had never been that good or important a comics creator to begin with. And, frankly, that’s not entirely unwarranted. Dodgy politics aside, a lot of Miller’s back catalogue simply hasn’t aged that well. There were always dodgy undercurrents of racism and misogyny in Miller’s work (he wrote origin stories for Batman and Daredevil that both had scenes of the protagonist fighting prostitutes), and knowing the path he went down makes those elements a lot harder to overlook now. Also, whereas Alan Moore (Miller’s contemporary and the creator he is probably most often compared to) brought a real intellectual and emotional richness to the comics genre, Miller’s most successful works were often empty showcases of style over substance. Sin City and 300 are visually striking as all hell. But ultimately, they’re hollow, emotionally stunted things. That said, there is at least one work that I will defend as still holding up (mostly).

dark knight

There are female characters in this that AREN’T prostitutes! I swear ta God.

The Dark Knight Returns depicts an aged and embittered Bruce Wayne, coming out of retirement to fight the sky-rocketing crime and urban malaise that was such a feature of Reagan’s America. As he becomes increasingly violent and unhinged in his methods, the US Government sends in the only man they think can stop him:

darkknight

What gives the story its power is the incredible weight of the history of these characters and an overwhelming, almost crushing sense of despair. This, Miller, seems to be saying, is how your heroes will always end; either bitter fanatics who were unable to change, or corrupted, toothless stooges who sold out to a corrupt status quo. This is how the World’s Finest Team ends, two old men beating each other to death in an alley way. And it’s depressing, and it’s cruel but it also feels true. And the inescapable knowledge that all those decades upon decades of stories and triumphs and battles of these, THE two greatest superheroes, that it was all leading to this awful, final confrontation? That’s when the story stops being merely tragic and becomes proper, classical, Tragedy. It’s Twilight of the Gods. It’s Ragnarok. It’s epic as fuck.

And that’s why Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice is fucking terrible.

batman-v-superman-batman

Sorry, that’s one of VERY MANY reasons why that movie is terrible but I will never, for the life of me, understand why no one twigged that a fight between Batman and Superman means nothing if they don’t even know each other. That’s what gave the final confrontation in DKR its power. The weight of history. The tragedy of watching two men who once loved each other as brothers reduced to this brutal slugfest. All that goes out the window if they’ve just fucking met.

Sarcastic Map of Wartime Europe

“Uh Mouse, isn’t this supposed to be about Wolverine or something?”

I’m getting there. Okay, with DKR Frank Millar created (possibly?) and popularised (definitely) the stock superhero trope of the Last Story. The Last Story is a tale (almost always out of continuity), that shows you how a certain superhero ends. They are almost always set in a bleak future, and will usually depict the hero coming out of retirement for One Last Job. These stories often will try to serve as a capstone, and a summation of the meaning of that hero. When they work, they work because they are able to deliver the things that most superhero stories by their very nature can’t; climax. Conclusion. Finality. Stakes. Characters can finally die and be at peace without an inevitable resurrection on the horizon. Arcs can be concluded. The story can finally end (at least, in this one corner of continuity). Pretty much every major character you can think of by this point has had a Last Story; Superman, Spider-Man, Punisher and of course, Wolverine, who’s died more times than Kenny McCormack and so has had plenty of opportunity for “Last Stories”. One of these, Old Man Logan was a miniseries that released in 2009 and was written by Mark Millar.

frank miller

unlikely

This series sees an aged Wolverine having renounced violence and living in a dystopian future where the villains won and everything’s awful and the Hulk’s an incestous cannibal who fucked his own cousin and spawned a whole tribe of inbred hulk hillbillies and Jesus Christ we made Mark Millar one of the most successful comic writers of the aughts what the fuck were we thinking?

Anyway, apart from both featuring Old Men Named Logan there is actually very little connecting Old Man Logan and the movie that it nominally inspired (thank fuck). Logan arose out of a desire of Hugh Jackman and The Wolverine director James Mangold to do something radically different with the character and genre. That is, after all, the great strength of a Last Story. You get to take some risks.

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Shin Godzilla (2016)

I suppose I should just make this confession upfront; I’m not a Kaijiu fan. Never have been.

Not writing off an entire genre, obviously but it appears to me to be a genre chiefly relying on empty spectacle as a consequence of focusing on a main character incapable of speech, higher level reasoning or emotional growth.

That said, I have been watching the Kong versus Godzilla trailer on repeat and the sight of the two titular monsters duking it out on top of an aircraft carrier is the fucking coolest thing I have ever seen.

Godzilla King Kong GIF - Godzilla KingKong Kong - Discover & Share GIFs

I am not made of stone.

So…Godzilla. My experience with this character is as follows:

Godzilla 1954

What can I say? Classic of world cinema.

Godzilla 1998

I have a lot of fond memories of this one for purely personal reasons. Yeah, it’s dumb as all hell but it’s not as terrible as people say.

Godzilla 2014

Honestly, I’d fallen asleep before Watanabe said “Let them fight” though I’m told that makes it all worth it. Must have been a hell of a delivery, I wouldn’t know.

Aaaaand that’s it. So yeah, three Godzilla movies and only one of them was Japanese.

“Okay, so you have no cred whatsoever.”

“None!”

Oh wait, I tell a lie, I religiously watched the Saturday morning Godzilla cartoon  in the nineties.

Godzilla: The Series - Wikipedia

SUPER under-rated show.

Man, Adelaide Productions, whatever happened to them? They also did the Men in Black cartoon which was another movie tie-in animation that was so much better than it had to be...

“Hey, hey, back on topic you!”

“Sorry, sorry. You can take the mouse out of the animation…”

“Sigh. Okay fine, this Godzilla movie was directed by Hideaki Anno.”

“Oooh, I can work with that.”

Hideaki Anno is a celebrated Japanese animator and filmmaker who has worked on dozens of films over a long celebrated career and none of that means jack shit because he created Neon Genesis Evangelion and he will never not be the “the guy who created Neon Genesis Evangelion“. Dude could cure cancer and it would still be the second line of his obituary after “the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion died today”. That show, which ran from 1995 to 1996 started out as a pretty typical (if far more stylish than usual) “teens in mechs battling monsters” show before transitioning into an emotionally fraught exploration of adolescent psychology, mental health and abuse served with a heavy dose of surrealist imagery and Christian symbolism.

Diemay Angel | Evangelion | Fandom

Plus, the robot battles were sick, brah.

Godzilla’s home studio, Toho, had put the franchise on hiatus with 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars, but after the positive reception of Ken Watanabe saying “Let Them Fight”, Toho decided to bring back Godzilla to kickstart a new continuity for the character.

Now understand, if you’re a fan of the Godzilla series what I’m about to say isn’t meant as a criticism, more an observation. There are two basic types of Godzilla movie: Godzilla versus Humans and Godzilla versus Other Monsters. It’s a pretty limited schema, but credit where credit’s due, the creators of this series have managed to ring a fair bit of variety out of these two scenarios, particularly in terms of Godzilla’s character, which is doubly impressive when you remember we’re talking about a large non-verbal animal. Godzilla is something of a renaissance lizard, a Kaijiu for all seasons. In the original he was a very deliberate representation of Japan’s lingering trauma over the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as a response to the more recent deaths of the crew of Daigo Fukuryū Maru as a result of US nuclear testing in the Pacific. He’s also served as a metaphor for Japanese war guilt, a gentle Friend to All Children, a reluctant guardian of humanity, a vindictive destroyer and even just a big dumb lizard. After 30 films, you’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t really much else to do with the big lug. That’s probably why Anno got the nod to direct Shin Godzilla, given his success in putting a new spin on the seemingly tired giant mech genre.

How did it go? Shin Godzilla was a massive, and I do mean MASSIVE success in its home country, opening at number one and out-grossing the 2014 American Godzilla by almost a quarter and tripling the box office take of Godzilla: Final Wars, the previous Japanese installment. It also won Picture of the Year at the Japan Academy Awards, which is kinda like a new James Bond movie winning Best Picture.

This thing was huge in Japan, appropriately enough. In the West, though, the reaction has been a bit more mixed. Not bad, by any means, but there’s definitely a sense that this movie is not remotely interested in catering to Western sensibilities as to what this kind of movie should be. And that’s fair, this is most assuredly not your typical Godzilla movie, which is probably why the Western DVD release thought it necessary to put one of the most underwhelming review pulls I have ever seen on the cover:

“Of all the movies to feature Godzilla, this is certainly one of them.”

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“Well, at least we can all agree the third one’s always the worst.”

“2021! We made it, people! We beat the hell year!”

“Everything’s going to be great now, and we don’t have to worry about that awful coronavirus anymore because it just magically vanished at the stroke of midnight like a Fairy Godmother’s pumpkin coach!”

“Uh, Mouse?”

“Who dares interrupt my hubris?”

“Sorry, but it looks like the virus heard we’d created a vaccine and took it…kinda…personally…”

“YAAAAAAAAAAARGGHHHH!!”

“Oh please. So this “mutant strain” is a touch more virulent, how bad can it really be?”

“Oh crap.”

***

Hi. Welcome to the blog. Make yourselves at home. WASH YOUR GODDAMN HANDS AND DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING IT MAY BE TRANSMITTABLE THROUGH THE INTERNET BY THIS POINT WHO KNOWS YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT CAN DO.

Ahem. So, here in Ireland we’re back in full lockdown as the virus runs rampant through the streets, overturning cars and making lewd comments at our gentle lady folk. As a result, we’re keeping Mini and Micro Mouse at home which means I’ve been full time Dadding it for the last few weeks. Which is my weasely way of saying that this review is going to be very short as I’ve been spending every waking hour minding my awful time sucking monsters sweet, darling little angels.

“Can I watch five solid hours of Avatar the Last Airbender again?”

“Does Daddy have the strength or will to stop you?”

“No.”

“Then. Why. Ask?”

Oh and it’s a shame too, such a gosh darned shame that I won’t be able to spend much time on X-Men Apocalypse. Such a layered work. So brimming with craft and ideas and actors clearly giving it their all and happy to be there. So obviously not directed by a man giving instructions from his trailer as the chickens of his past behaviour come home to roost. So…I can’t maintain this level of sarcasm, I’m not as young as I used to be, I HATE THIS MOVIE.

Not fun hatred either. Not the kind of hate that gets you pumped and excited to tear this thing a new critic hole. Just weary, dispassionate disgust at the whole bloated mess.

But I was going to give it a full length review, honest. Just couldn’t because of the mutant corona virus. Which, shockingly, is only the second worst thing involving mutation I’ve had to contend with recently.

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“You’ll see Peter. People need to believe. And nowadays, they’ll believe anything.”

Christmas is almost upon us and so, in the spirit of the season, I will challenge the existing status quo and speak truth to power.

Mysterio sucks. Always has. Always will.

And I think I’m somewhat in the minority on this, since fans have been clamouring to see him in a Spider-Man movie since pretty early on in the Raimi films. Some people even seem to genuinely believe that Mysterio is a good villain, which in my opinion is akin to Climate Change denial or saying “Kingdom Hearts has a good story”. Not simply incorrect, but morally reprehensible. Hell, IGN even named him the 85th Greatest Comic Book Villain of all time, proof if proof were needed that the once noble art of ranking things on the internet has become a sorry, corrupt burlesque.

And, yes, he is a creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and therefore is deserving of respect if you believe that pampered scions of privilege deserve a free ride just because of who their daddies are.

Fine, the visual design is so ridiculous that it shoots the moon and becomes kind of magnificent.

True, the cape. Is. FABULOUS.

But the whole concept of Mysterio is just a one-way train ticket to disappointment. His schtick is that he’s a special effects wizard who uses tricks and illusions to seem like he’s an actual wizard. In other words, he’s a villain who’s no real threat and uses smoke and mirrors to make you think he actually is a threat. But he’s not. He’s not a threat at all. Hit him with a crowbar, you’ll probably kill him. Doesn’t know karate or anything. Completely normal dude.  His first appearence in the Amazing Spider-Man #15 was one long game of “Got Yer Nose” and once Spider-Man realised that he did not, in truth, have his nose, I don’t really think we needed to see the character again. Once Spidey has seen through his bullshit, the only way you can bring him back is to have him secretly messing with Spider-Man from the shadows. And, once Spider-Man has figured out who’s really behind these shenanigans, it will always be anticlimactic:

  1. Oh no! The Daily Bugle is being menaced by a gigantic red snake!
  2. Huh?! The snake was just a red sock on a stick and the use of forced perspective.
  3. Oh, Mysterio was behind it all. Everyone relax, he can’t actually do anything, his powers are just lies and bullshit.

And that’s Mysterio. Disappointment in a cape and a fishbowl.

All that said, he’s not the worst choice as a villain for Far From Home. After the sturm and drang of Avengers Endgame this movie was intended to close out Phase 4 with a light little comedic palette cleanser and Mysterio is probably a better fit for that than…say, Carnage. Which, I suppose, is as good a point as any to bring up the fact that we have for the moment reached the end of our journey. This is, at the time of writing, the last released MCU film what with Black Widow‘s release having been pushed back and Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings being delayed due to the world going viral in the bad way. This also means that I have to make some tricky decisions. Like; do I actually need to review Wandavision and The Falcon and Winter Soldier? I haven’t reviewed any of the TV shows thus far but all indications are that the Disney Plus shows are going to be FAR more impactful on the overall narrative than, say, Cloak and Dagger or Runaways.

Marvel's Runaways Talk Cloak & Dagger Crossover | Den of Geek

“We exist!”

 Or maybe I should just accept that the film and television production and consumption landscape is almost unrecognisable from what it was when I started reviewing these movies way back in 2015 and that by this point the MCU is just too damn large for one blogger to cover and get on with it.

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Over the Garden Wall: The Unknown

Wha’ Happen’?:

Beatrice flies through a blizzard, desperately searching for Greg. She sees him ahead, standing in a snowy clearing with the Beast. Suddenly, she is blown away by a mighty wind.

The Beast asks Greg to bring him a spool of silver thread and a golden comb. Greg brings him a cobweb and a honeycomb, demonstrating the kind of lateral thinking that’ll probably get him a job in Google down the line. For his final trial, the Beast tells him to lower the sun into a teacup. So Greg simply puts the teacup on a tree stump and waits for the sun to set so that it looks like its going into the cup from the right perspective.

The Beast is apparently satisfied by this transparent con job and tells Greg to wait in the cold until everything starts feeling real warm and comfortable.

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Over the Garden Wall: Into the Unknown

Wha’ Happen’?:

We begin our episode in a strange and mysterious wonderland full of great music and childlike whimsy and wonder.

The Nineties.

Wirt is pacing his bedroom nervously, having just created a mix-tape for Sara in the hope that she will immediately consent to be his wife and tend his farm (as was the custom in the nineties) After chickening out and unravelling the tape, he finally mans up and repairs the tape. He then makes a Halloween costume out of a re-purposed Santa Claus hat and a repurposed Civil War era jacket.

Look at the freakin' detail on this cup, man | Over the garden wall, Garden wall, Cartoon

Finally resolving the mystery of why he’s dressed like an idiot.

Of course, this doesn’t actually answer the question of what exactly he was dress as for Halloween. My guess is that he’s going as General Gandalf Ulysses Mayberry, commander of the 11th Ohio Wizards.

Known to his men as “Ol’ Spellface”, he was eaten by a dragon at Gettysburg.

Wirt heads over to the school football field and watches Sara through the fence. Sara is currently dressed as a giant bee as she is the school mascot.

I don’t think this is why Wirt’s into her, but no judgement either way.

Greg, who’s apparently been out trick-or-treating alone (ah, the days before 9/11) and we finally learn what he was dressed as: an elephant.

greg over the garden wall - Google Search | Over the garden wall, Garden wall, Garden wall art

Ohhhhhhh…

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Over the Garden Wall: Babes in the Wood

Wha’ Happen’?:

While Beatrice searches for the boys, Wirt, Greg and the Frog sail down a river in an outhouse. Things are looking pretty grim. The Unknown has gone from Summer Autumnal to Winter Autumnal, Wirt has slipped into a deep depression and worst of all they can hear the Beast singing opera some ways behind them. Or, as Wirt puts it; “The obsidian cricket of our inevitable twilight, singing our requiem.”

Sidenote: Despite blogging for eight years, I still thought it was a good idea to look for this gif by googling “Wanking Gif”. I got everything I deserved.

Wirt says that it’s Greg’s fault that they’re trapped here and that he’s given up all hope that they’ll ever make it home. Greg asks if that means he’s the leader now and Wirt says “Whatevs” and Greg promises Wirt that he’ll be a good leader and won’t let him down because the kid’s a little champ.

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Over the Garden Wall: The Ringing of the Bell

Wha’ Happen’?:

So the…I feel weird calling Wirt, Greg and Beatrice “our heroes” all the time. I really should come up with a name for them. The Unknown Wanderers? The Frog Squad? The Autumnal Avengers? Greg and the Gregettes? What am I saying, the answer is obvious.

So Greg and the Gregettes have split up with Wirt and Greg having ditched Beatrice after her trying to sell them into indentured servitude to an evil witch (God some people are so sensitive).

They’re ambushed by the Woodsman who tries to warn them the Beast is after them after the events of Songs of the Dark Lantern but they of course think that he’s the Beast…or a lunatic with an axe which either way, y’know? So they flee until they come to a creepy cottage in the middle of the woods and hide inside.

Inside the cottage they find a barrel of the mysterious black turtles that have been cropping up all over the forest. The boys are discovered by a thin, pale servant girl named Lorna. They hear a noise outside and Lorna nervously whispers at the boys to hide in the turtle barrel so that they won’t be found by “Auntie Whispers”.

“How’d you do I, see you’ve met my, faithful HANDY man…”

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Over the Garden Wall: Lullaby in Frogland

Wha’ Happen’?:

Nearing the end of their journey, our heroes are riding a ferry to Adelaide’s house and everything seems great. Greg is having a grand old time and even Wirt (Wirt!) is happy and relaxed for once. Plus they’re on a boat inhabited entirely by fancy, fancy frogs and who doesn’t love frogs?

Cutest frog in town | Cute frogs, Cute animals, Baby animals

Daaaaaaaw don’t touch it, it is literally poisonous enough to kill an entire village.

Only Beatrice seems ill at ease and unhappy. Suddenly, two frogstables show up and try to arrest our heroes for sneaking on to the ferry without paying. Beatrice suggests they just surrender and get thrown off the boat but Wirt refuses because they’ve come so far. The cops chase them all over the ship until they disguise themselves using the Ol’ Totem Pole Trench technique.

Over the Garden Wall | Mad Love / Lullaby in Frogland

And afterwards, they can buy beer and go see R-rated Frog movies.

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Over the Garden Wall: Mad Love

Wha’ Happen’?:

We begin In Media Res…

…with Wirt, Greg, Beatrice and Fred the horse having dinner with the fabulously wealthy and utterly batshit insane tea mogul Quincy Endicott who thinks that Wirt and Greg are his nephews. And he thinks that because…Beatrice has straight up told him that they are because she wants his money.

Wirt is aghast that Beatrice wants to scam this sweet old man and Beatrice explains that she was actually thinking of just straight up robbing him.

Good Place Quotes • Chidi Anagonye

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