Tag Archives: things that annoyed me

Divergent Trailer Is Not Very Divergent

I have become so disillusioned with this series.  I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.

Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation.  Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!”  Like, look at this poster:

Really, guys, a butt shot?

Really, guys? Really?

This poster makes me absolutely rage.  WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN  ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!!  And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else?  (Hint: nothing).  Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”

So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:

Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four.  His American accent is not consistent.  Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP!  Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless.  I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.

OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer.   Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.

If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it.  Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer?  What did you think of it?

 

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Filed under Books, movies, trailers

I Suppose I Have To Blog About This Divergent Trailer Now

With every new piece of news, image, or interview related to the upcoming Divergent film adaptation of the book by Veronica Roth, I feel I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the whole thing.  I haven’t been blogging about it much, because it feels mean and unproductive to post public rants about all the things that annoy me about the lead actress, but I assure you I’ve paid attention to the set photos, tweets, tumbls, everything.  For a while I worried that maybe I was getting too old to appreciate the Young Adult genre anymore, but my excitement over the Catching Fire trailer and my enjoyment of the Mortal Instruments movie stilled those fears.  I don’t think it’s me; I think this adaptation is subpar.  Watch the trailer for yourself:

Well, first of all, even though I was originally excited about his casting, Theo James is too old to play Four.  And it’s totally apparent in this trailer.  In an interview at Comic-Con, Shailene Woodley reportedly said:

Theo James who plays the love interest in my film is 28, in the book his character is 18, but in the movie we’re making him about 24/25. He’s kind of ageless in a way. And even though in the book Tris is about 16, we never allude to the fact that she’s that young.

I am not okay with this.  I don’t see how it will be possible not to “allude” to Tris’s age when the choosing ceremony that starts off the plot happens when citizens are 16.  If they’re deciding Four is 24, he’s 8 years older than her and a creepy pervert for getting into a relationship with her, as opposed to book-Four who is only a year or two older than Tris.  I don’t want to watch a man with giant muscle-arms punch people and kiss a young girl.  I wanted to watch two teenagers, tougher than their bodies appeared, face difficult decisions and get butterflies when their hands touched.

Second, Tris is wearing way too much make-up.  I suppose they’re projecting Christina’s makeover to last for the entirety of Tris’s Dauntless days, but the scene at the end where she looks up with eyes rimmed in black irritated me because Abnegation-born Tris just wouldn’t smear that stuff on to go to a training session.  But I’ve seen nothing from this movie so far about Tris being Abnegation-born other than “she wears frumpy gray clothes and a bun at the beginning!”  It’s too intent on selling me Tris as a badass Dauntless to remember she has aptitude for multiple factions and that’s why she’s Divergent in the first place.

Thirdly, why did they feel the need to embellish Four’s back tattoos with these totally unnecessary and meaningless bands on the sides?  Is it because the costume designer wanted an extra outlet for their personal creativity?  Is it because movie makers insist on visualizing characters differently from how they’re described in the books so that no pre-existing fanart or cosplay will be legitimized and fans will be more inclined to just buy the official replica merchandise they’ll be sure to market soon?  (That’s what it feels like.) I just don’t see any reason for all that extra ink.  Each of Four and Tris’s tattoos in the book are chosen with significance; they’re not in it for the body art.  And what would have been so difficult about doing it like the book said, and like the fanart bellow illustrates?

Tris runs her fingers down Four's faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Tris runs her fingers down Four’s faction symbol back tattoos in the Divergent trailer.

Four's tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She's got a lot of really great art

Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user chrysalisgrey (formerly ice-ridden).

I’m not making these grievances up out of thin air; I feel like they’re legitimate concerns. But the reason these flaws are so frustrating to me is that I really connected with the book.  I identified with Tris, as someone who grew up in a very conservatively-dressing, emphasis-on-serving-others household but never felt like I was naturally good at the selflessness I was supposed to be enacting.  When Tris self-consciously noted, taking off her jacket before her jump into the Dauntless hole, that it was the first time anyone had seen her in anything as revealing as her tight t-shirt, I vividly remembered the first times I wore a spaghetti strap shirt or a two piece swimsuit, in college after I had moved out and my parents couldn’t enforce their dress code anymore.

In the book, I loved the idea of asking what the value of virtues like honesty versus bravery or harmony is.  As I’ve written previously, I loved the straightforward way that Tris and Four’s relationship develops.  I loved the Dauntless manifesto’s assertions that “We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” and “We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.”  I loved that Four embraced the value of all faction virtues.  I loved that Four said “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”  I loved that sacrificing oneself for another was a repeated theme.  I loved that Tris chose to get a tattoo of not only her chosen Dauntless but also her family heritage Abengation symbol, to recognize the value in where she came from, to acknowledge that while it wasn’t her choice to live within that strict code, she didn’t reject it entirely.  I felt I could relate to that, too.

I don’t see any of what I liked about the book in this trailer. I see an attempt to market this as an ACTION MOVIE with FIGHTING and GUNS and DANGER OF BEING KILLED.  Yes, it’s true that in the book, Jeanine is attempting to eliminate all Divergents, that others exposed as Divergent have been killed, and that if Tris’s condition is revealed she would be targeted as well.  But that’s not what the story is about.  At least not to me.

The best thing about the trailer is Kate Winselt’s villain (Jeanine Matthews), and that role is clearly being fleshed out more than it exists in Tris’s narration.  But Four is too old.  Tris is too defiant.  (And ugh, this is nit-picking because I know this language use is common, so it’s fine, whatever, but it’s really irritating that she spits out “don’t try and define me!” instead of “don’t try to define me!”).

Ugh.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am really just an old curmudgeon these days.  What do you think?

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Reasons Why “The Last Airbender” Movie Sucked

*I recently rediscovered this rant, which was originally posted as a note on my facebook page in July of 2010, before I started this blog.  I am re-posting it here with additional photos added.*

This is just my rant against M. Night Shyamalan’s murderous destruction of a story that I loved in his live-action movie version of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Book 1: Water).  The main reason it sucked is apparent from the first of the credits: Written, Directed and Produced by M. Night Shyamalan.  I would venture to say few people are actually talented to wear all these hats on a single project, and it’s painfully obvious after about 5 minutes that Shyamalan should never have been in charge of writing the script, or at least should have had someone he had to listen to when they said “this sucks.”  The script is terrible!  The dialogue is terrible!  It would have stood a fighting chance otherwise; mostly great costumes, beautiful backdrops, good CGI, great music.  But it doesn’t matter because the storytelling was terrible.

Shyamalan treats the audience alternately like we already know the story and like we’re stupid idiots that need every plot point spelled out through Katara’s weeping narration.

In the “audience already knows” category:
-Aang is named in narration before we see Katara ask “what’s your name?” and see him reply “I’m Aang!”  So, we’re just supposed to have known during earlier narration that it was referring to him.

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-Momo isn’t named until he’s in the spirit oasis batting at tui and la and Aang says, “Momo! Be nice!”  So again, we’re just supposed to have known that somewhere along the way they named the creature that we’ve barely been seeing Momo.

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-The Avatar state is NEVER MENTIONED!  Even the role and function of the Avatar himself is poorly explained. Gran-gran (excuse me, “Grandma”, who for some reason has a British accent) simply says “With his mastery of the four elements he will begin To change hearts, and it is in the heart that all wars are won.”  Um…what?  Why don’t you say that he will bring balance, that he is the only one with the power to stop the fire nation from taking over the world.  Is this supposed to be clever foreshadowing for the finale?  Because it’s not worth it.  Understanding the purpose of the Avatar is perhaps the most important part of the story, so this is a huge flaw.


In the “audience is stupid” category:

-Sokka says “The Fire Nation’s Plan: supress all other bending.”  To be fair he had to say this in response to Aang’s earlier, “The Fire Nation is up to something” captain obvious statement.  DUH the Fire Nation is up to something, and it’s called world domination, and I can think of hundreds of more interesting, less insulting ways to convey that FN=bad guys.

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-Sokka: we need to go to the Northern Water Tribe, blah blah, “It’s led by a princess because her father died.”  What? First of all, not cannon, second of all, what difference does it make that she’s in charge, thirdly, just say it’s led by a princess, you don’t have to explain how monarchies work, or better yet don’t say anything about the freaking princess.  When we get there we’ll know.

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-Katara: “Aang, the Fire Nation knew the Avatar would be born into the Air Nomads, so they exterminated the Air Nomads.”  *sigh* really my problem with this line is the repetitiveness (“Air Nomads, Air Nomads!” doesn’t M. Night know about co-referential pronouns?)  Also, Aang is 12; does he even know what “exterminated” means?  Do the kids in the audience?  Is this an attempt at a lower rating by not saying “killed” or “wiped out,” or is it, (more likely), M. Night making use of the handy right-click synonym function in Microsoft Word?  Ooo, exterminate, that’s classy.

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-Possibly the most annoying narration was at the North Pole.   Katara says, “We presented ourselves before the royal court.  The princess and my brother became friends right away.  Aang was accepted to learn water bending,” blah blah blah, “The city prepared itself for the battle they knew would come in the ensuing weeks.”  (“Ensuing,” again, I’m sure was a synonym word choice.)  But none of this was necessary because, as I said, we’re not stupid idiots.  If we see people bowing in front of other people who are seated and fancily dressed, we can infer they are the royal court.  If we see close-ups of a girl and guy eye-ing each other and smiling, we can infer that they like each other.  Because that’s what they do in every other movie.   So don’t narrate us to death!  Show, don’t tell!

“He’s bending fire from nothing!” Cower in fright, even though this is totally normal in the show! The reduction on bending powers in the movie was shameful.

In the “just terrible” category:

Sokka: Is he breathing?
*Katara nods*
Sokka: Did you see that light shoot into the sky?

YES SOKKA, we all saw it!  We even cut away and saw Zuko see it miles away.  What a stupid, unnatural thing to say.

FN Soldier: “If you were the Avatar, you’d have to be an airbender. Are you an airbender boy?”
* Aang bends air at him*
FN Soldier: “How is he doing that?!”

He’s BENDING AIR you idiot, you JUST SAID it!

Paku: “Hooooooooooooooooooooooo!” *camera pans down line of Water Tribe soldiers*

This was just…stupid.  It wasn’t even a war-cry hoooo, it was more like a musical note.  Was he trying to do a wolf howl? Fail.

(Roku’s?) Dragon’s great advice:

“You must let this [grief] go. As the Avatar you are not meant to hurt people. Use the ocean. Show them the power of water.”

Did I say great advice?  I meant non-sequitor, nonsensical advice.

Katara: “Did the spirits tell you anything?”
Aang: “Yes. I know what I have to do.”
Katara: “We have to go.”

How do YOU know, Katara?  What if the spirits told Aang to stay right there?  Why are you asking and then telling him what to do?

Yue: blah blah I’m saying exactly what will happen next because the audience might not get it otherwise, they’re stupid you know, blah blah meanwhile i’m about to rub Sokka’s cheek off, blah blah:

“It’s time we showed the Fire Nation that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs.”

Well, way to take an articulate stand for something vague.

picture of sokka and yue kissing

Vague and meaningless statements about beliefs are so romantic!

Aang: “Some of the monks can meditate for four days.” *sits down to meditate*

Um, that’s very interesting Aang.  Thanks for telling us just now.  So, are you saying your plan is to meditate for several days while everyone in the Northern Water Kingdom dies in the battle that is going on right now?

Zhao mentions his “secret underground library” four separate times, “scrolls from the secret library” four times, and “decipher the scrolls from the secret library” twice.  Because we might have forgotten, in the minutes between those lines, where he got those scrolls.  Which is a minor subplot anyway.  Mention it once, and thereafter just say “the scrolls”.  Come on.

Misc. complaints:
Katara should have had hair loopies.  Real ones.  If I can figure out how to do it to wear to the movie premiere, why can’t a massively-budgeted Hollywood movie?

The Fire Nation bow should have been preserved.  The one from the original show, I mean, with one hand in a closed fist and the other a flat sideways palm on top like a flame.  Instead, we see Zhao clap his fist to his heart like some fascist when he’s presented before Ozai.  This really ticked me off because it’s such a small thing, so why, WHY change it? Stripping yet more of the richness and originality away from the story.

I hated the Blue Spirit’s wig.

Apparently all you need to incapacitate a troop of FN soldiers is a dust cloud.  They can’t walk through it.

Apparently, if you’re doing a scene with Ozai your location title can be as broad as “Fire Nation,” but if you’re doing Zuko it has to be as stupidly specific as “Fire Nation Colony 15”.  WTF?!  Fifteen?!

I hated the version of Katara Shyamalan presented.  In the show, she is compassionate, stubborn, hot-tempered, loyal, bossy, strong, courageous and an excellent fighter.  In the movie she is a weeping, emotional, weak mess.  Nearly every line is delivered on the verge of crying.  Even in her self-declaration, which for some reason happens almost at the end during her fight with Zuko:

Zuko: “Who are you?”
Katara: “My name is Katara, and I’m the only water bender left in the Southern Water Tribe.”

It sounds like she’s about to burst into tears.  And why would she bother saying all that at this point anyway?  It’s just so…out of place.  Show-Katara would say something like, “I’m Katara, I’m with the Avatar and you’re not going to touch him! *water whip*” Movie-Katara uses only defensive bending, and except for her two second spar with Zuko and when she randomly ka-tackles a Fire Nation soldier in the Earth prison, she literally stands by and watches while other people fight.  Show-Katara would have been all over the place kicking ass.  Show-Katara wouldn’t be hyperventilating and saying “Calm down, we’ll find him!” to herself.  It’s disgraceful the way Shyamalan has ruined her character.

Movie-Katara ka-tackles a Fire Nation soldier.

Oh yeah, and the bending was not nearly as impressive as it is in the cartoon.  It seems in movie-Avatar universe, you have to do an awful lot of waving your arms around before anything happens.  Either that or it has to happen in slow motion.  And it takes six syncronized-stepping Earthbenders to make a tiny pebble dangle in front of the camera.

p.s.  If you were a fan of the original show and need a place to vent and/or read other fans’ criticisms of the movie adaptation, I highly recommend this forum thread from AvatarSpirit.net dedicated to the “unintentional hilarity” in the live-action disaster.   It’s very therapeutic.

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Stuff I Thought About While I Watched “Savages”

I saw Oliver Stone’s Savages the other day.  It was intense.  I liked some elements and couldn’t stand others.  The main thing I didn’t like was the narration.  Blake Lively’s monotone (as “O”, short for Ophelia), insists on interrupting the action with needless commentary.  I’m sure it’s included because this movie is based on a book, but when will filmmakers learn that book-narration rarely translates to the visual format of storytelling on screen?  Sometimes the narration in this film was distracting or actually more confusing because she’d say “meanwhile, so-and-so blah blah blah” and I’d be thinking, who’s so-and-so?  But when it cut to them I’d recognize the character immediately, so all the narration did was make me confused where I otherwise would have been fine.  Other times the narration forced me to roll my eyes and scribble down a snarky comment; either way it was continually pulling me away from the story rather than helping immerse me in it.  Some of the worst narrated lines included:

  • “Just ’cause I’m telling you this story, doesn’t mean I’m alive at the end of it.  Yeah.  It’s that kind of story.”
  • “Every successful business has an origin story.”  Really?  Like every unsuccessful business doesn’t have an origin story?  Like every person or organization or movement ever doesn’t have one?  Why even say this?!  Total waste of time to even mention it, completely annoying to try to make it sound like it’s somehow unique to this story.
  • “Dope’s supposed to be bad, but in a bad, bad world, it’s good.  Chon says drugs are a rational response to insanity.”  The logic of one pothead regurgitated by another pothead who is too stoned to come up with her own thoughts.
  • [the best pot in the world is] “right here in California, USA.”  Oh great.  Go ‘merica!  We always have to brag about being the supposed best at everything in the world, even illicit drug production.
  • “Ben is Buddhist, Chon is Baddhist.”  I mean do we really need this cutesy description to understand the boys are polar opposites?  No.  We do not.  It’s obvious in everything from their actions, reactions, facial expressions, and movements.  Stop narrating this story to death.
  • “I looked up the definition of ‘savage’…”  NO.  YOU DID NOT.  YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT.  Citing dictionary definitions is the absolute worst.  And it’s completely unnecessary!  By this point the film has defined “savages” very well through the characters!  I actually really liked the “savages” theme and the way that both sides used it to label the other, until O ruined it with her insipid voice-over.

Other things I thought about while watching this movie:

Why do the cartels use emoticons in their threatening cyber-communications with Ben and Chon?  LOL.

I love the code-switching between English and Spanish that ruthless cartel leader Elena demonstrates, mainly when she’s yelling at her underlings.  Code-switching is just cool.  Actually, that scene was released as a sneak-peak before the movie came out, and it’s on youtube legitimately.

That torture scene where the guy’s eyeball is hanging out was just gross.  I couldn’t really look at it, and I distracted myself by thinking about how it reminded me of that episode of The Guild when Codex is flirting with a stunt guy who just came from set and has a fake eyeball hanging off his face, too.  So I’m sure it was just make-up in Savages, but it was a lot more disgusting than in The Guild.  Although Codex does immediately vomit after he makes her touch the squishy fake eye-ball.  (It’s a great show, written by and staring my hero Felicia Day, and you can watch it all online here.)

Stunt guy neighbor makes Codex touch his fake eye-ball in season 2 of The Guild.

What’s with the Shakespeare references?  I’m guessing it’s a theme in the book, since O makes reference to the fact that she’s named after a character in Hamlet, and says that “people are willing to go Henry the 8th on this.”  Is there also some famous Shakespeare quote or passage that directly deals with the idea of who or what a “savage” is?  I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

There’s a scene where, **SPOILER ALERT**, Elena suddenly looses the upper hand in her attempts to manipulate Ben and Chon into doing what she wants, because they kidnap her beloved daughter.  She’s obviously shaken and she immediately agrees to do whatever they want to get her daughter back.  Her voice looses it’s hard edge and becomes more of a shaky whisper.  Then she screams for her entourage to get out, and when she’s alone in the room she collapses crying and pulls off her wig of shiny perfect hair!  She’s not bald, her hair is just in a wig cap.  But I thought it was interesting, this explicit link between a female with power and her beauty.  Earlier, when Elena was still plotting and scheming and in control, she was shown applying face cream, and she always had perfect make-up, that long shiny hair, and expensive jewelry.  And when she looses her power, she looses her beauty too.

Elena, beautiful and bitchy, before she looses her power.

It’s definitely not the first time a movie has implied a mysterious link between female beauty and power.  Movie women are rarely just powerful, they have to be powerful and beautiful, and if one of those attributes is threatened, so is the other one.  We saw another explicit example of this recently with the evil Queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman.  I mean, the entire Snow White story is about women fighting over who is the most beautiful and therefore the most powerful!  Or think of Regina George in Mean Girls–of all the pranks that Caty and her friends try to make the queen of Girl World less popular, the only one that works with the masses is making her “fat” and “less pretty.”

Queen Ravenna, who quite literally derives her power from stealing others’ beauty to maintain her own.

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Prometheus: Second Viewing

Things I Noticed This Time:

  • the barren planet that the Engineers seed animal life on in the opening sequence already has plant life.
  • the earthworms that somebody steps on in the big room swim into the black ooze, and get morphed into the bigger worms that kill Millburn.
  • It’s David that notices that the giant stone head is “remarkably human.”  Like himself.
  • I think David sprayed the canister with liquid nitrogen or something while in the cavern in order to be able to handle it without it oozing all over everything.  when he goes to retrieve the single drop later he has to break apart the ice.
  • David’s fingerprint has the Weyland logo on it.
  • David never smiles except:
  1. when he sits in the Engineers’ Captain’s chair
  2. When he’s standing in the middle of the Engineers planetary projection
  3. When he hears the heartbeat of the Engineer in stasis
  4. When the Engineer places a hand on David’s head, right before ripping it off of his body.

Things That Annoyed Me:

  • the music is unoriginal.  it sounds so familiar, like i’ve heard it before in another movie.
  • Why do i care that there are 17 crew members? we never learn most of their names. they all die.  Shaw ends the movie by saying she’s the last survivor.  Why do we need these meaningless statistics typed across the screen?
  • Why does everyone on the ship drink from sippy cups?
  • Vicker’s push-ups are wimpy
  • Chalier is such an a-hole , the entire time. I hate him.  I think even his death is selfish, he knows he’s dying and wants it to be over faster.
  • They spend two seconds flying around the planet before deciding where to land.  They explore only one location.  Why didn’t they fly around the world once before landing?  Why did they assume the Engineers were all dead based on such limited data?
  • Why would they assume a carbon dating device would render accurate results on a specimen on an alien planet?  They don’t know if the rate of carbon decay is the same here.  Too convenient to get such a fast answer.  Same with the DNA-human match.  “Their genetic material predates ours.” oh really?
  • How does Fifield get lost?!  He’s the one with the readout on his arm from the scanner “pups.”  Earlier they ask him, “which way?”  So why suddenly when he and Millburn split off does he start wandering in circles?  (other than the fact that the script needed them stranded so they interact with the aliens and ooze and die.)  Also when they are supposedly “lost” Millburn tells the captain their exact location.  So…why are they lost?!
  • When Fifield and Millburn find the huge pile of dead Engineers, Fifield warns “don’t touch!” but forgets his advice when dealing with the worm/snake.  (maybe it is arrogance that a non-humanoid creature can’t possibly be a threat to superior human intelligence?) in any case it’s stupid. “here hissing and hostile alien, let me pet you!”
  • Why are there different styles of spacesuits?  The first expedition they wear plain blue, but later they have blue with orange stripes or tubes, and there are some random crew members in orange and silver suits that are more bulky (who are just in the scene to be killed by a raging, morphed Fifield anyway)
  • Why did they try to make the “Weyland is Vickers’ father” reveal such a big deal?  It was pretty obvious.
  • It’s really stupid that Vickers and Shaw don’t just run sideways to avoid being crushed by the ship.
  • It’s really stupid that there’s such an impractically-shaped axe on board the lifepod.
  • It’s really stupid that Shaw spits out a “you have no idea what fear is” retort to David’s “I was afraid you were dead.”  that expression doesn’t usually denote literal fear anyway.  He’s just communicating with normal human language usage. there’s no need for everyone to keep hammering him over the head with the fact he’s a robot. unless it’s actually a defense mechanism the humans are using the elevate themselves above him.

is the captain in on the secret Weyland agenda from the beginning? Is that why he lies to Fifield and Millburn about their feeds not streaming through?

Things I’m Interested in Analyzing Further:

  • David’s humanity
  • David’s motives
  • David’s and Shaw’s similarities
  • What motivates Shaw to keep her ‘faith’?

(see also my other post analyzing Prometheus).

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Things That Annoyed Me About “Wither” (The Chemical Garden #1)

Wither is a young-adult, dystopian novel by Lauren DeStefano, the first in a series known as The Chemical Garden Triology.  The blurb on the back cover summarizes the plot as:

In the not-too-distant future, genetic engineering has turned every newborn into a ticking time bomb: Males die at age twenty-five, and females die at age twenty.  While scientists seek a miracle antidote, young girls are routinely kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.  When sixteen-year-old Rhine is taken, she enters a world of wealth and privelege that both entices and terrifies her.  She has everything she ever wanted–except freedom.

Soon it becomes clear that not everyone at her new husband’s home is how they appear.  With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to escape…before her time runs out.

I thought the premise of genetic experimentation gone wrong sounded intriguing.  A friend warned me that the book made her angry, but I thought it would be like the way reading about difficult or controversial subjects can get under your skin and ignite a passionate fury, (like A Child Called It, Unwind, or Room) but she was right, this book was just plain maddening, and not in a good way.

(Book cover)

The following are specific issues I had with this story and the fictitious world it inhabits.  (Warning, *SPOILERS* ahead):

Story:

The Polygamy.  I just really didn’t expect that it was going to be actual, full-on polygamy.  I thought it would be more like typical young-adult love triangles, only with the twist that they were technically married.  But the girls’ collective husband, Linden, has sex with two of his wives, and the fact that he doesn’t sleep with all three is not for a lack of desire or effort on his part.  Most disturbingly, 21-year-old Linden takes the virginity of his youngest wife, Cecily, who is thirteen.  She is eager to step into the glamorized (in her mind) role of wife and woman, but she is a child.  The fact that Linden impregnates her just about made me sick.

I mean if she’s going to die at 20 I guess 13 is beyond mid-life, but if the goal is pure procreation then polygamy isn’t really the most efficient method.  Why have a wife when you can just have a baby factory, like the Cylons have on Caprica?  (Battlestar Galactica, Season 2 Epsidoe 5 “The Farm”).  There is an explanation given for this, actually; it is said that Housemaster Vaughn, (Linden’s long-living “first generation” father), believes the artificial insemination of the “first generation” is part of what unknowingly caused the virus, and that a cure can only be found in a natural-born child.  Cecily explains his belief to Rhine, in chapter 25:

Housemaster Vaughn is a brilliant doctor.  He’s working very hard.  He has a theory that the problem is that the first generations were conceived artificially.  So if a baby is born naturally, that baby can be fixed through”–she pauses, trying to remember the words, then she says them carefully, like she might break them–external intervention.”

I’m not sure how this theory makes sense, if the first generation doesn’t show any of the symptoms of the deadly virus they pass on to their children.  And just how is “external intervention” of a newborn different from manipulation of an embryo before it’s implanted?  I mean, yes, it’s different, but if genes are being manipulated, does it matter when or how the intervention takes place?  I don’t know, I’m not an expert on gene therapy.  (Sidenote: interestingly, the Cylons reach a similar conclusion to Housemaster Vaughn, that “love” is the necessary mystery ingredient to successful Cylon procreation).

Linden.  I just despised him.  What does he think gives him the right to multiple wives?  I just don’t understand polygamy, so I guess this ties in with the issue above.  But what I really disliked about Linden was the attempt to paint him as an innocent victim, lied to by his father, cruel only because he is truly unaware of the truth.  Yes, Housemaster Vaughn manipulates and lies to his son, but to blame Linden’s faults on someone else is bullshit.  Human beings are responsible for how they treat other humans.  And Linden never once acts like he considers his wives as fully human–he treats them more like pets or objects that he wants to take care of.  He’s gentle, he’s superficially worried about their well-being and respectful of their preferences, but he is  never genuinely concerned about who they are or what they want.  I don’t think he sees their perspectives as equal to his.  I don’t think he perceives them as fully human.  I mean, he’s confused as to why Rhine doesn’t want to sleep with him and tells her “I want to have a baby with you” on the same day that his son with Cecily is born.

The worst part about Linden is I think he could have been a redeemable character.  If Rhine and Jenna had been honest with him about their forced captivities, if they had enlightened him to the way they were actually prisoners, if they had confided their suspicions about his father’s manipulative secrecy, I think Linden would have become their ally, not to mention a better, more thoughtful person.  (It’s possible that DeStefano plans to mature Linden in some of these ways in the sequels, but I’ll probably never read them to find out.)  But Linden as he is portrayed in Wither is despicable.

The domestics.  If they are going to die in a few short years as well, why would “the domestics” or any of the servants in the mansion be so eager to spend their brief lives slaving away for their masters?  Why and how would they be so skilled?  The explanation given is that they are trained at orphanages, and sold off to the highest bidder.  I suppose that if servant-life at the mansion is substantially better than orphanage-life, it might be motivation to want to do a good job as a servant.  But Dierdre, Rhine’s personal “domestic,” is supposedly an amazing seamstress, and a talented beautician, (which seems so cliché , like why do the heronies always have to look stunning in the hands of their beauty team?  I want to read a book where the make-up artist is only so-so, and the narrator feels self-conscious about her sub-par hairdo.)  Dierdre is portrayed as someone who’s biggest thrill and life’s reward is seeing her charge primped and pressed and dressed in her best.  It’s patronizing and insulting and I didn’t like it.

Lack of voice.  For that matter, I didn’t really care for the narrator herself.   She almost felt more like a plot device than a person.  I never got the sense that I knew who she was or could understand her or her motivations.  She kept telling me statements about herself or her goals, but I never felt like the story really showed me her personality.

World:

Too much homogeneity.  If the technology to create super-babies immune to disease were possible, not everyone would take advantage of it.  Partly because it would undoubtedly be expensive, and many people would be unable to afford it, and also because I guarantee there would be some who were ideologically opposed to tampering with human life and “playing God” in that way.  Here is the explanation, in chapter 2, for the origin of the “first generation” (emphasis added):

Seventy years ago science perfected the art of children.  There were complete cures for an epidemic known as cancer, a disease that could affect any part of the body and that used to claim millions of lives.  Immune system boosts given to the new-generation children eradicated allergies and seasonal ailments, and even protected against sexually contracted viruses.  Flawed natural children ceased to be conceived in favor of this new technology.  A generation of perfectly engineered embryos assured a healthy, successful population.  Most of that generation is still alive, approaching old age gracefully.  They are the fearless first generation, practically immortal.

There is just no way it could become that widespread, that there would be no more “flawed natural children.”   (I mean, hasn’t DeStefano seen Gattaca?!)  In real life there are class differences and there are philosophical, religious, and ideological distinctions between different groups of people.  In this book, the two ideological camps mentioned are reactionary to the virus, and there is no mention or allusion to society being made up of multiple viewpoints before the scientific breakthrough.  It’s absurd.

The extreme homogeneity of the world of Wither is exacerbated by the fact that not a single non-white character populates the narrative.  Even if North America was the only continent in existence, (see below), it is not a land mass populated solely by Caucasians!  But the most “diversity” to be found here is that Linden’s wives include a blonde, brunette, and redhead.  Of course.

North America is the sole remaining continent. This one is a real head-shaker.  The explanation given is preposterous, and the implications downright offensive.  I think I gasped out loud in anger when I read this, (emphasis added):

…a third world war demolished all but North America, the continent with the most advanced technology. The damage was so catastrophic that all that remains of the rest of the world is ocean and uninhabitable islands so tiny that they can’t even be seen from space.

First of all, you know it would be the countries with “advanced technology” that got taken out first in what sounds like the nuclear war being described here, right?  If such a “catastrophic” war really took place and countries were destroyed or obliterated, it would be the less-developed countries that survived, the rural areas that were never a strategic target, the frozen mountains with impassable trails, the thick forests and jungles and swamps.  (This already sounds like a more interesting story to me.)

What kind of weapon is even capable of reducing an entire continent to tiny islands?  Assuming such destruction is possible, it would most definitely mean that sea levels would rise, which would affect the supposedly sole-remaining continent’s coastline.  Guess what two specific locations are mentioned as settings in this story?  Manhattan, New York…and Florida.  Two places that would almost certainly not exist under the circumstances described.  It’s so dumb.  And it’s not even really necessary!  There is enough catastrophe with this inescapable early death, you don’t need to add a world war and global destruction too, especially if it’s not going to make any sense.  Just say that the characters don’t know anything the rest of the world because they don’t live long enough to travel and see it, or don’t mention it at all.  Definitely don’t mention the global community by saying, as Rhine does in chapter 6 (emphasis added):

I have always been fascinated by the ocean, to dip a limb beneath its surface and know that I’m touching eternity, that it goes on forever until it begins here again.  Somewhere beneath it lies the ruins of colorful Japan, and Rose’s favorite, India, the countries that could not survive.

I actually like imagery in the first sentence, but it’s marred by this offensive, repeated assumption that Westerners are somehow superior to the rest of the world.  If only everybody else was white, and had the advanced technology that North America enjoys, (because there are no impoverished areas on this whole continent, you know,) they might have been able to survive.  What’s that you say?  Other countries do have advanced technologies?  The best innovations don’t always originate in English-speaking parts of the world?  I know.  That’s why this made me so angry; it just showed a complete lack of international awareness or sensitivity.  Like, “sorry, rest-of-world, you don’t matter.”

Nonsensical elements.  Really, why would the kidnappers shoot the rest of the girls in the van they rounded up, that weren’t chosen as wives by Linden?  If working female wombs are so valuable, couldn’t they have found someone else to sell the remaining girls to?  Or just abandoned them?  Why is it necessary to shoot them?  Is it just so Jenna knows without a doubt what happened to her sisters?  It just doesn’t make any sense, in a world that’s supposedly so preoccupied with preventing the extinction of mankind, to arbitrarily kill people like that.

How are Rhine and her brother able to find “work” so easily?  I mean why do factory production and shipping and things like that still exist?  Who is running these complicated infrastructures?  It seems like there would be a lot more crumbling of the social infrastructure than there is.  At one point Rhine and Jenna watch a soap opera together, and “the actors are all teenagers made up to look much older,” (chapter 17).  When reminiscing about her limited schooling, Rhine says that the children present all have first-generation parents who think education is important, or they are orphans who want to learn how to read scripts so they can become actors.  Who is producing these shows?  Is the writing, directing, and producing all done by first-generations?  If this culture is so obsessed with the glorious old days when people lived longer, why don’t they just air re-runs??!

When Rhine goes on her first public outing with Linden as his ‘first wife,’ she meets a man wearing a suit that she describes as “more expensive than a month of electricity in the mansion.”  But how would she know?  How does she know how much electricity costs in general, how does she know how much it costs for a building she’s only seen a few floors of, and how does she know that the suit in question is expensive?  Is she an expert in fashion or wearable materials?  (Hint: she isn’t.)

Why does this future have such advanced holographic technology, yet still use an old-fashioned card catalog in the library?!  This makes absolutely no sense.

Confusing and contradictory references.  The text mentions a celebration of the winter solstice, which nobody has called “Christmas” since before the first generation was born.  But then at one point Rhine describes colorful frosting as “like Dorthy’s Oz;” please explain to me how a pop culture reference like The Wizard of Oz survives if all references to and understandings of Christmas die out?

Also, Housemaster Vaughn has to explain to Rhine what the idiom “apple of one’s eye” means, (chapter 11), and he says it’s “an expression we old people have.”  But why wouldn’t she know this phrase?  Her parents were also first-generation, and supposedly told her so much about the world and things they remembered that didn’t exist anymore (kites don’t exist anymore, but kite string does, which is another ridiculous detail because you can make a kite out of newspaper and sticks, so, I’m not sure why they are ‘extinct’).  In any case, if two of the major sources for Rhine’s linguistic input as a child were from the same generation as Housemaster Vaughn, why wouldn’t they incorporate the same phrases and slang into their daily discourse?  I’m not sure what language change in a population such as the one described in Wither would look like, but it seems like the language might actually become less fluid overall since the most consistent speakers would be the persisting first generation, and any youth trends that arose would literally die out every decade.  And I assume the orphanages are all being run by first-generations, (who else would be capable?  Orphans caring for orphans?  Maybe the fact that orphanages would even exist is unlikely,) so it seems the majority of the population would in fact have opportunity to be linguistically influenced by the “old people.”

Conclusion:

I would not recommend this book.  I don’t know that I even care to read the sequels.  I just don’t care enough about these characters to worry what will happen.  The flaws in the world-building are too obvious and distracting to ignore, and the story itself is largely disappointing.

Consistency and logic are key to good world-building!  It doesn’t have to be absolutely factual, it just has to make sense.

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Why John Carter Is Probably Still Stuck on Earth

Ok, so I am still struggling through trying to figure out most of the Barsoomian in the movie John Carter.  And I will be the first to admit that phonetics is not my strong suit.  But I’m absolutely confident about the pronunciation of the teleportation phrase that triggers the Thern device.  It’s repeated several times, and it’s spoken slowly and distinctly both by the dying Thern in the Arizonan cave and by Dejah Thoris teaching John Carter to repeat it phonetically.   John Carter also pronounces the phrase slowly and deliberately when he finds himself back in the cave on earth, desperate to return to Mars, as well as at the very end when he lays his body to rest in his tomb with his newly acquired device.  We’re meant to believe that he is waking up on Mars while we watch the credits roll, but I’m telling you, that poor dude is still in his tomb, probably crying.  Because his pronunciation was wrong.

I mean, we’re not told exactly how  the devices work.  Judging by the way he gets to Mars, when the injured Thern weazes out the phrase, and Carter picks up the device and only repeats the last word, a person has to be holding the device for it to work, but they don’t have to say the entire phrase as long as someone in the vicinity of the device says it.  (So then, I’m not entirely certain why it doesn’t work when Dejah is teaching the phrase to Carter, unless the person holding it has to say the final destination word in order for it to work, and she hands it to him before she says Jasoom?)  It doesn’t seem to care about inflection, since Carter’s “Barsoom?” at the beginning deviates from the morm, and Matai Shang rushes the first two segments together when he spits out the phrase very quickly to send poor Carter back to Jasoom towards the end.  So, whatever, it’s entirely possible the device doesn’t care about vowel distinctions either.

But that’s stupid.  Isn’t this phrase supposed to be a soundwave command?  Why would it not be sensitive to distinct sound deviations?  Plus, the likely explanation for Carter’s distinctive (wrong) pronunciation is lazy and/or inattentive film-making.  Which is so annoying!  You ask me to suspend my disbelief, but then force me to think about the fact that Taylor Kitsch is reading a script.  As I’ve said before, I know it’s not real, but it should still make sense!

So the Thern that Carter shoots very clearly wheezes:

(Here’s a pronunciation guide for unfamiliar or ambiguous symbols, in case you’re not familiar with IPA):

Dejah Thoris pronounces the phrase in exactly the same way as the Thern, except that she substitutes Jasoom for Barsoom as the destination:

Carter mimicks Dejah properly in the scene where she is teaching him what to say.  But when he finds himself suddenly back in the cave on Earth, the first thing he does is try to return to Mars/Barsoom by repeating the phrase even though he doesn’t have a device, and he says:

He totally changes the first vowel from a low back unrounded “ah” to a mid back rounded “oh”.  And he says it that way again at the end!  Very deliberately!  But the problem is that we’ve already herd a Thern and Dejah pronounce the first vowel as “ah,” equally deliberately, and I’m inclined to think they know what they’re talking about over Carter.

Maybe that first word is spelled ok or och or something.  And that could be confusing, because the letter “o” in standard orthography can sometimes stand for an “oh” sound, (like in open, no, and rope), but it can also represent an “ah” sound, (like in octopus, ox, odd, and dog).

I have no idea how the phrase is spelled in this script, (it doesn’t appear in the book,) but John Carter shouldn’t know how it’s spelled either!  He learned this phrase phonetically from the princess.  He can’t read the writing she deciphered.  Every single time he heard the phrase pronounced by others, it was with an “ah” for the first syllable.  There is no reasonable explanation for why he should have changed it to an “oh” unless it is that the actor Taylor Kitsch read the lines that were perhaps spelled with an o in the script, and perhaps did not go to Thark camp like everybody else, and perhaps filmed those scenes before he filmed the ones with the princess where she explicitly taught him to repeat it as “ah,” or else filmed them so far apart that he forgot, and nobody on set corrected him, and nobody in the editing and screening processes noticed or decided it was worth it to do a simple voice-over rerecording to fix it?

I seriously don’t understand how that happens.  And I will maintain that either Carter is stuck on Jasoom at the conclusion of the movie, or else the phrase is basically meaningless gibberish and the device just feeds off the will of your heart or something.  I mean it can’t just be a magical phrase, right?  Because Harry Potter taught us that pronunciation does matter: (“It’s leviOsa, not levioSA!”)  Cater’s butchering of the teleportation phrase is not the worst line of dialogue, (not by a long shot), but when a film sets up an element as being important and then can’t even stay consistent with said element, it’s very disappointing for viewers like me.  What about you?

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What Was the Point of Phaedra’s Vision(s)? (**SPOILERS**)

In the film Immortals, there is a character named Phaedra who is known as The Virgin Oracle, (played by Freida Pinto).  We’re told through dialogue, “The Virgin Oracle is blessed with visions of the future.  If she were to be violated?  Her vision of the future would be corrupted.”  The mortal hero Theseus scoffs, “How can it be considered a gift?  When you can see the future but you don’t have the power to change it?”, and Phaedra herself downplays her powers, telling Theseus, “What I see is only a glimmer of what may come to pass.  Your actions and decisions shape the future.”

I have some problems with this.  First of all, I get that Theseus is supposed to be the hero, the fate of the world rests on his shoulders, blah blah blah.  But is it really necessary to be so pessimistic about Phaedra’s potential to enact change?  Doesn’t she very actively participate in shaping the future by telling certain people about what she sees, and not others, and by leading Theseus through several of his actions?  She isn’t just the passive vessel that she is described as being.

Secondly, I’m not convinced that her visions were actually all that helpful, (other than to advance the storyline, of course.)  Consider–the first vision of hers we see is actually the opening sequence of the movie, with Hyperion wielding the Epirus bow and unleashing the Titans.  That actually ends up happening, in pretty much the same way that she envisioned.  The only benefit to her seeing it is that a few characters realize the cosmic shift that victory for Hyperion would bring.

But the main vision that guides Phaedra throughout the film is what she sees when her foot touches the outstretched leg of a passed-out Theseus, who is mid-way through a forced journey to work in the salt mines.  Phaedra sees Theseus holding the long-lost Epirus bow, with one arm around Hyperion.  Hyperion is returning the embrace, and they seem to be standing on a boat or something, with a dead body wrapped in linen at their feet.  That’s pretty much it.  That’s the big reveal that the divine powers grant to the Oracle.

Because of the vision, Phaedra is convinced that “this man is favored by the gods,” so she hatches a plan with her sister oracles (that are really like her bodyguards/handmaidens) to help him escape.  She doesn’t have a plan other then get the perceived-as-blessed man (and herself) away from the bad guys, and maybe somehow this will stop the other vision of the Titans being unleashed from happening.  Not sure how she gets all that from this vague image of Theseus with Hyperion and a dead body, but, okay, so far I’m with her.

If Theseus yells loud enough, will it overshadow the weakness of the plot?

Theseus wants to head for the fight, but the little band of escapees runs into trouble at the sea’s edge.  Poseidon decides to interfere by creating a giant-ass tidal wave that sweeps all the bad guys away, (and after all “the sea has forever been an unpredictable domain,” smirks a hairless Kellen Lutz as the trident-wielding god), but Phaedra’s foresight ‘saves’ the group again when she repeats a line she had stated earlier, which was “when cloudless skies thunder, stand fast.”  Poseidon’s dive-bomb does create a kind of a boom, and it’s cloudless, so I can see how this sort of fits, but really how much of an advantage is it to know “okay, when that happens, stand fast.”  What if “stand fast” meant not backing down to the bad guys on that boat?  How were they supposed to know it meant waiting until the last minute, when you see this giant wave, and then jump to the cliff and hold on to the ropes that are conveniently anchored there for you?  Not sure they needed the prophecy to figure that one out, or that having the direction makes it any more plausible than the usual heroes-narrowly-escape-death-but-bad-guys-fall-easy-prey-to-mishaps movie-universe logic.

Anyway, after the giant wave, Phaedra learns that Theseus’ mother was killed, and that her body wasn’t buried.  Somehow Phaedra just knows that the body of Theseus’ mother must have been the one in her vision, and so she convinces the hero “you must return to your village” to give her a proper burial.  It is when Theseus is placing his mother’s body in the tomb that he discovers the Epirus bow, and hence Phaedra tells him “your mother’s death was not in vain.”

So, it seems like maybe the visions are helpful, although vague, but almost immediately after Theseus finds the bow it is stolen by a warg-like creature that delivers it to Hyperion.  What was the point of Phaedra leading Theseus to find the bow, and telling him “In your hands it will bring the Hellenics victory,” if it was soon to be out of his hands and into the hands of the very man they were trying to keep it from?  Wouldn’t it have been better for the bow to remain hidden?

And why was Phaedra so willing to give up her visions?  I thought they were fairly useless myself, but many characters in this story placed a lot of stock in them, including her sister oracles and the monk who sacrificed themselves and various body parts to protect her and keep her ability intact, only to have her throw it away to sleep with Theseus.  At that point he has the Epirus bow, so she believes that he will be able to defeat Hyperion, but that’s clearly not a guarantee yet.  They haven’t joined up with anybody else, Theseus is wounded, and she more than anyone should know that the future, though it may look bright right now, can quickly change.  So it’s really stupid, not to mention selfish and disrespectful of the sacrifices of her followers, for her to disrobe and say, “You were right, Theseus, my visions are a curse.  I want to see the world with my own eyes, feel with my own heart, touch with my own flesh.”  (And shame on you, Theseus, for not offering a peep of an argument against this faulty logic, for not even saying “um, are you sure you want to do this and lose your sacred visions of the future?”  She offers her justification unprompted, but shouldn’t he have said, “wait, hold up girl, you sure you wanna do this?  Let’s think about the ramifications for our current quest as well as your entire future.”  It makes me hate both of them.)

Phaedra discards her visions with her robe in a heap on the floor. Hey, thanks for dying so I could have sex, sister oracles!

Later, when they have joined the Hellenic army and Hyperion requests an audience with Theseus, Phaedra begs her lover not to meet with the enemy, because in her vision she saw him “embracing” Hyperion.  “Phaedra, have you never been wrong?” asks an exasperated Theseus before storming off to meet with Hyperion anyway.  (And how does she know that the future she saw hasn’t changed now, since she threw her visions away?  Maybe shouldn’t have done that so quickly, HMMMM?)  In fact, Theseus declines Hyperion’s offer to join him.  But later, after the Titans have been unleashed, (oops, I thought that’s what all these visions and blessings of mortals was trying to avoid?!), Theseus and Hyperion are locked in an one-on-one battle that ends with Theseus pinning Hyperion, holding a knife to his throat and snarling “this is the last embrace” before delivering the kill blow.

The Titans unleashed. Oops.

So in that sense, Phaedra’s vision did come true.  Theseus at one point possessed the Epirus bow, which he found because of his mom’s dead body, and he did embrace Hyperion, kind of, to kill him.  But did the vision itself really foretell that eventual outcome?  Couldn’t it have been interpreted many different ways, if Theseus had joined Hyperion, for example?  Anybody could be the dead body.  And again, why did the vision lead Theseus to the Epirus bow if he was just going to lose it to Hyperion the very next morning?  And in the end the bow is lost again, trapped in Tartarus, so what was the point of anyone having it, ever?  Besides the fact that it was used to unleash the Titans, which was the exact thing that everybody was trying to avoid, including Zeus, who spent years in disguise as a mortal just to mentor Theseus just so that he could one day lead the Hellenics in a fight against Hyperion to prevent him from unleashing the Titans.

What. Was. The. Point?

 

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Things That Annoyed Me About Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Movie

*SPOILERS BELOW*

  • the opening sequence.  so weird and unrelated (except in tone) to the rest of the story.
  • dissonance between written and spoken language.  because it’s an English adaptation but it’s set in Sweden, so, like, they pretend they’re speaking Swedish and it’s coming out English, I guess?  But the signs and cat food containers are still in Swedish?
  • why is Daniel Craig doing a British accent?  I guess he might as well, in light of the above complaint.
  • ((do they have Marlboros in Sweden??  This causes me to doubt everything I learned from Die Hard, in which John McClaine can tell that the terrorists are “mostly European, judging by their clothing and…cigarettes.”))
  • wth, Blomkvist, that’s very ineffective highlighting!!  you don’t highlight every single word but one or two on a page, that negates the purpose of highlighting which is to mark key words or important bits out of the whole thing that your eye will jump to next time.  Now your eye is going to jump to the whole damn page, in other words, no particular part, in other words, why the hell are you even bothering to highlight?!
  • why are Blomkvist’s glasses perpetually dangling off his face under his chin?!  Gross.  Put them on top of your head when they’re not on your eyes like a normal person.
  • how does Blomkvist immediately recognize that super-grainy black-and-white photograph as being Anita?! to speed up the story i suppose, (fine by me, this movie is too long as it is), but then the picture isn’t really that important later so who cares?
  • seriously! the language thing is so jarring! they’re spelling out a bumper sticker from an old photo in an effort to track down a lead, “K-something, R-I-F, oh, it’s carpentry!”  They are spelling in Swedish and speaking in English.  RIDICULOUS!
  • is it even possible to stitch a wound using dental floss?!  that doesn’t seem like a good idea.  why not just use super-glue?
  • why do people in movies do stupid things like break into the houses of people they suspect to be serial rapist murderers, without waiting for backup or telling anyone where they are going, especially when said house is full of glass windows through which you are easily visible as you snoop through their house?!

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Things That Annoyed or Delighted Me About MI4: Ghost Protocol

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Annoyed:

  • Too much verbal rehashing of the same situations, by robotic “your mission” voices and the team. Pick one or the other.
  • Agent Hunt is right next to the building as it explodes and only gets a “minor concussion”?
  • Hunt thrice demands “Pen.  Pen!  Pen!” from Agent Brandt but draws on his palm rather than think to ask even once “does anybody also have a piece of paper?”
  • Hunt and Brandt should have at least attempted Russian accents when they met with Moreau, right?
  • Bad guy reveals his face to Hunt complete with “dun dun dun dun DUN” music.
  • Agent Carter codenamed Venus and given seduction role.  Of course.
  • Hunt’s arm doesn’t break when he falls violently onto the car elevator?  Yeah right.
  • Hunt’s “intentional 100 meter drop” in a car straight down doesn’t leave him incapacitated?  Yeah right.

Delighted:

  • Subtitled translation of Russian cursing written as “M@%#*$!!”
  • Simon Pegg! (Agent Dunn)
  • This line: “Gameface. Gameface. Kremlin gameface.” (-Agent Dunn)
  • Subtitled Russian in Russian when knocked-out Agent Dunn wakes up, only switching to English subtitles as his head clears enough to make sense of what he is hearing.
  • Brandt: “Your line’s not long enough!” Hunt (dangling from Burj Khalifa): “No shit!”
  • Cultural detail of call to prayer in background of Dubai scene
  • Russian bad guy has Russian keyboard
  • Agent Carter allowed to change back into pants.

Questionable:

  • Do flares really light underwater?
  • Wouldn’t people in the other rooms of the Burj Khalifa see this guy climbing up their window?
  • Don’t some countries have missile detection technology and a response plan to fire back if fired upon?  I’m pretty sure if a nuke actually launches the mission to stop world destruction has failed.

Noticed:

  • Agent Carter must have gone to the bathroom and re-did her ponytail first thing on the jet, because before boarding her ponytail has a part and while talking to Hunt on the plane it doesn’t.

Conclusion:

I guess my annoyance and delight were pretty even.  I enjoyed watching, it was definitely entertaining, and also dumb.  What do you think?

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