‘Prometheus’ Review: Lost in Space

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus has an early shot which undeniably quotes 2001: A Space Odyssey, a beautiful image of a planet ringed with light. There’s some more striking imagery, of an unidentified landscape. A humanoid being removes his cloak and ingests some form of liquid which quickly begins killing him. He sacrificially gives himself to the river, where he falls apart piece by piece, his body possibly giving birth to life as we know it. That’s a provocative beginning for a big-budget science fiction film, one that clearly announces its intentions to be a thoughtful exploration of the creation and destruction of life. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

After the cryptic prologue, things get off to a very good start. The crew of the good ship Prometheus–which looks like a jumbo Serenity, but maybe that’s just me–is awakened from cryogenic sleep after two years by the android David (Michael Fassbender). Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered cave paintings from around the world, all of which depict images of a figure gesturing toward the same star pattern. They’ve followed that pattern all the way out to the middle of space, hoping to find the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. There are some big ideas at play here, and in the early going, there are conversations about whether the existence of supposed humanity-creating beings (Engineers, they’re called) negates or supports the existence of God. Holloway posits that because they now know the Engineers exist, the cross Shaw wears around her neck is meaningless. Shaw, with a wink in her eye, then asks where the Engineers came from.

Continue reading

Joss Whedon’s Yardstick: Feminism, Humanism, and Xander

I originally posted this on my personal Tumblr, almost word-for-word, last night. Paul was aghast (rightfully so?) that I didn’t use it for the blog. So here we are.

During the Joss Whedon Reddit Q&A yesterday afternoon, one user asked, among other things,

I would love to know anything about your personal motivations for being such a strong feminist, as well as your other positions on atheism, etc. Has being vocal about these positions ever been professionally difficult for you or caused you to lose work?

Joss answered (emphasis mine),

As for my political bent, it comes from how I was raised — and my own very strong sense of being helpless and tiny and terrified (that goes away, right?). The only trouble it’s ever caused me is that once you take a stance as a person, people are always using that as a yardstick in your work, which can be kind of limiting.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about this lately, especially in terms of Joss’ work, because who am I kidding, that’s all I ever think about. Joss is a known feminist, and since I started watching his shows at the tender young age of 11, his work opened my eyes to a lot of things. After you see the blonde cheerleader walk down the alley and fight back, it’s a lot harder to accept the weak-willed sex objects and victims that populate not just horror, not just genre fiction, but every type of fiction (not to mention advertising). Sexism became a lot easier to recognize, and much more difficult to tolerate, after I started watching Buffy.

As Joss alludes to, though, he is so well-known for his feminism that there are those who measure everything he does by it. I remember one essay in the great collection Finding Serenity which chided Joss for the supposed anti-feminist message of Firefly; I also remember being overjoyed when another essay rebuked it in the following collection, Serenity FoundFirefly was a profoundly humanistic show, one of its best qualities being that it found the strengths and weaknesses in every character, male or female.

Continue reading

Listen to Episode 83, “Mawwiage”

Gobbledygeek episode 83, “Mawwiage,” is available for listening or download right here.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so grab your best guy/gal and settle down for the latest episode of Gobbledygeek, in which the boys discuss how marriage is presented in pop culture. It’s really hard to find a pop marriage that isn’t fundamentally fucked-up in one way or another, but Paul and AJ do their best. On one hand, you’ve got everyone from Firefly‘s Wash and Zoe to The Honeymooners‘ Ralph and Alice, and on the other, you’ve got Breaking Bad‘s Walt and Skyler and The Godfather‘s Michael and Kay. Plus…Paul and AJ get engaged????

Next: the boys tackle Neeson v. Wolves, aka The Grey.

(Show notes for “Mawwiage.”)

Four-Color Flashback: Chris Claremont & John Byrne’s ‘Uncanny X-Men’ #115-121

As last week’s introductory column wound to a close, I pondered two thoughts: Could John Byrne’s art be any more fantastic? Would Chris Claremont be able to refine his writing as time went on? Though we’re still fairly early on in their run, I’ve now been presented with two satisfactory answers, one of which was surprising, the other not so much.

I’ll start with the surprising one, the first thing that leapt out at me as I plowed through these issues: yes, John Byrne’s art is capable of being even more incredible than it already was! Seriously, he was doing a bang-up job on the seven issues we talked about last week, especially as he started discovering the physical and emotional cores of each character during the Magneto storyline. Even by those high standards, his work over these issues is nothing short of phenomenal. There’s the spread of Wolverine lashing out at Sauron as the rest of the team looks on in shock; the full page of Xavier’s memories taking place within his head; the group tackling Canadian superteam Alpha Flight; the list goes on. Just classic stuff on almost every page.

As for Claremont, his progression is what I had been hoping for and expecting, but it’s still good to see that his writing is getting better. Not that it was bad before, but there’s only so much corny dialogue and regional dialectics one can stomach. There’s still plenty of corny dialogue, but for the most part, it’s the good corny, the kind of corny one expects when one picks up a superhero comic from the late 70′s. Thankfully, Claremont has also dialed back the characters’ dialects. Nightcrawler stills busts out German phrases and Banshee’s dialogue is still littered with “ye”s and “aye”s, but more sparingly and at more appropriate times. There are instances when Sean’s actually able to say something that would sound intelligible coming from another character’s mouth!

Continue reading

On DVD & Blu-Ray, 6/28/11: ‘Sucker Punch,’ ‘Barney’s Version,’ More

SUCKER PUNCH: Extended Cut (DVD/Blu-ray/Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Combo)

Yep, here it is. This is the film that either destroyed any remnants of geek cred I may ever have had, or proved what a brilliant film viewer I really am. Why, you ask? Because, damn it, I liked this Zack Snyder joint. Ostensibly the story of Baby Doll (Emily Browning), an abused young woman put into an institution by her father and scheduled for a lobotomy, who travels to deeper and deeper levels of consciousness on an anime/video game/comic book-inspired quest to free herself and her fellow inmates. Pretty young things in barely-there clothing battling giant robot samurai, fire-breathing dragons, and steam-powered zombie Nazis. Given only that premise, and taking into account Snyder’s penchant for phantasmagoric, speed-ramped action sequences, this could have been a beautiful but vapid piece of hormone and adrenaline-fueled cinematic trash. But, as I infamously explained here, I believe there is much more to it than that. The Extended Cut features an additional 18 minutes of footage, a picture-in-picture commentary with director Snyder, and has been rated R, up from the theatrical PG-13. Paul Smith

(Originally reviewed by Paul, and much less favorably by myself, in “Ladylike.”)

Continue reading

Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture: #10-1

Last night, Paul and I reached the conclusion of our countdown of the Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture. Here are choice excerpts from our top 10′s, but be sure to listen to the whole show to hear everything we said:

#10

PAUL: Calvin & Hobbes (Calvin & Hobbes)

The series was not only the funniest comic strip of all time (and on this point I will brook no dispute), but it was almost the most philosophical, satirical, and thought-provoking.

AJ: Death (The Sandman)

With the usual concepts and presentations of Death’s visage from Western culture so ingrained in my mind, just the idea that Death didn’t have to be gloomy or terrifying, and instead could be a radiant beacon of hope, felt stunningly fresh and bold to me.

Continue reading

Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture: #20-11

Last night, Paul and I continued our countdown of the Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture with our penultimate installment, detailing our picks for #20-11. Be sure to listen to the show to hear everything we said, but here are some choice excerpts:

#20

PAUL: Westley/The Man in Black (The Princess Bride)

He bested the greatest swordsman, overpowered a giant, and outwitted a brilliant strategist. And then he got to be the one true love, thought lost at sea, now returned to his princess.

AJ: SS Colonel Hans Landa (Inglourious Basterds)

What makes Landa so terrifying is that he seems entirely bereft of a sense of morality; he manipulates himself into a position of power with whatever group seems to be on the winning side, caring little for past alliances or relationships.

Continue reading