I am the Law

The Red Curtain 2

Spiderman’s reboot’s been getting a lot of airtime in my Twitter feed this week, people stating it is by far the best version of the character as yet committed to celluloid. Except, amongst the platitudes have come some sniffs of unexpected dissent. I’m not talking about the apparent disparity in the Marvel timeline (the nerds can argue that one) but the assertion that perhaps the film could have been… well, a bit darker and dangerous. Everything is, like it or not, the path of least resistance: there is no risk taking. Now, as I’ve not yet seen this movie I cannot and won’t comment on these claims. However, I can use some evidence that does suggest that maybe, possibly, Marvel was never here to be edgy and controversial to begin with. They’re just here to make money.

I watched Dr Strange on its TV ‘rental’ release and was, I have to say, disappointed for the first time I’ve experienced a Marvel Universe title. The conceit is well executed, Mr Cumberbatch exactly the right fit for his character, and the journey that takes us from selfish to selfless well written and presented. However, without doubt, there is something missing. Maybe it is because I’d argue the origins of Strange are a little too close to those of Tony Stark to allow a measure of sympathy, but that isn’t the only discomfort. I’m also not about to get into Tilda Swinton’s casting, which creates more problems than it solves for the purists but finally establishes that, in the male-centric Marvel Universe, women took a while to graduate past supporting roles. One wonders what might have been different here if Black Widow had got a solo movie before this one was made, but that’s a different conversation for another blog.

The problem with the franchise, as it stands, is adequately demonstrated in this video which dissects the musical cues presented in Marvel Universe titles thus far. The key when you look at the bigger picture of the arc, is not to create a series of peaks and troughs in terms of cinematic presentation. All these movies are being produced with a very specific tone in mind, obviously consistent bar in terms of visual and audio cues. It is, like it or not, like reading a comic. Depth is not provided by the film but you: ambiguity kept to a minimum. You’ll rarely see blood either, to ensure the finished product reaches the widest possible audience.

In fact if depth is what is required one needs to go to the small screen: the various Marvel TV shows have been open to a range of criticism and perhaps even higher praise than their film ‘parents’ because it is abundantly obvious a different set of production and narrative values are at play. Ironically here’s where true diversity exists and has been allowed to shine: Agent Peggy Carter, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage presenting a far more realistic view of the superhero landscape as it should exist. The fact it has taken this long for Black Panther to make it to the big screen is, on reflection, not really a surprise. If the trailer is any indicator, Natasha Romanoff’s awful treatment plus the recent arrival of Diana Prince in the ‘other’ Universe is going to significantly redefine our ‘comic’ going forward.

I kop a lot of flack for my love of the DC Universe, almost on a daily basis, because of all manner of reasons, but mostly because nobody likes Zack Snyder. I still maintain that Watchmen is as good an adaptation as was possible at the time, have a soft spot for Sucker Punch (despite the fact it is quite easy to label it soft porn in certain lights) and am one of the nine people who think Man of Steel is a Superman worth rooting for. Here’s a Universe that is refreshing and obviously missing both thematic and narrative  consistency: one only needs to look at Suicide Squad to grasp the hit and miss nature of that particular approach. However, this is the same place in which Wonder Woman now looks set to outpace and conquer pretty much everybody else’s origin story, regardless of their affiliation. The unexpected irony of the man who wrote The Avengers now working on Justice League is not lost on me. Movie making is quite a small universe in itself at the top end.

Marvel’s approach to the business of movie making has always been ‘better safe than sorry’ which might make for a lot of fanboy love, but in this case the fangirl in me is being increasingly left wanting. Listening to nerds getting upset over Aquaman’s trident (which isn’t) has been typical of the toothless criticism I’ve seen levelled at DC. Sometimes, looks aren’t as important as actual depth. I suspect the true sweet spot for Superhero movies lies somewhere in between both camps, and maybe Whedon’s influence might have some sway in producing a continuation of the franchise that makes more people happy.

I for one love arguing that both group of Superheroes have equal merit.


The Red Curtain 2

There is a scene, in the new Wonder Woman movie, where Gal Gadot’s character walks into a room of politicians arguing over the merits of war and peace, and the whole place goes quiet when it not only becomes apparent she’s there, but that this is unacceptable. Setting this movie within the War to End all Wars is not only apposite as we remember these events a hundred years on. It highlights the truth that it has not been very long at all since women were considered as second class citizens, and that to fight was a man’s preserve. Into this comes an innocent, Diana’s character not simply a fish out of water but with no real conception of this ‘World of Men.’ That’s exactly what it is: women are bit parts, secretaries and set dressing, yet every woman’s part in this cinematic version of early 20th Century Earth has both substance and significance. It is especially encouraging to see a villain in female form, but I’m not spoiling plot here. That’s crucial to your enjoyment of this movie: go see it cold. Don’t binge on spoilers beforehand because they will lessen your enjoyment so very much.

This movie has so much to lend to it in positives, not simply a pretty damn faithful reproduction of Wonder Woman’s ‘origin’ story. Chris Pine is as great a Steve Trevor as you could possibly have hoped: inspired by Diana’s heroism, yet still unable to believe her true motivation until the truth literally explodes in front of his eyes. The plot isn’t flimsy, but solidly robust, and even when it drifts into cliche or skips credibility for simple exposition you allow this to slide, because you buy into what you’re being told. There are some beautifully placed nods to other DC heroes, to the genre generally but where this entire endeavour so brilliantly succeeds is where Diana is a warrior. The sequence where she liberates a Belgian village is so incredibly uplifting you’re willing to forgive the casualties, that the Germans might not just be the bad guys. This Amazon owns everything she sets out to do, encouraging those around her to be better than they are without her by their side.

However, there are criticisms. The way this story is both presented and told initially assumes a great deal of an audience, and my 12 year old with no backstory and understanding of the genre was confused and unhappy at certain parts of the narrative. If you’ve already bought into the DC Universe it makes a lot more sense, yet there are a number of quite serious questions that are left unanswered in WW’s narrative. The biggest single issue I still have after several days however is the convenience with which events play out in the first 45 minutes: with the running time of this movie at 2 hours 21 it is fair to say that had there been any more scene setting, your average audience would have struggled. So, you let the issues slide, because there’s moments where you forget everything and simply allow the movie to swallow you whole, and it does. The last 40 minutes is breakneck, and even though it ends with a denouement that could have been ripped from another Marvel movie if you’re looking to compare and contrast, it doesn’t matter at all.


There’s not a dud performance amongst any of the supporting cast: particular love goes to Lucy Davis (above) as Etta Candy (who should have had more to do, frankly, but this is 1918) with Robin Wright and Elena Anaya doing a really great job in their respective tasks. When there’s intimacy (and this serves an important function in the plot so it wasn’t just written in as an afterthought) it is so brilliantly acted by both leads as to be both acceptable and encouraged. In fact, that strength is one of the cornerstones of the entire movie: that love is what matters above destruction and hate, that caring and not killing is what should always be the default, in the end. However, the fact that people have to die is a point that echoes throughout the entire fabric of the film, from first frame until the last, and using mortality as the lynchpin to so much of this action gives a resonance that remains with the audience long after they have left the theatre.

Frankly, I’d argue you’ll not likely to see a better ‘comic book’ movie this year: I’m not sure Justice League is going to give Gadot the space she needs, or that her supporting cast are the right characters to pick, but we will see in November. In terms of my personal scale, this ranks on a par with Batman Begins, and I think probably sits with the original Iron Man movie as an origin story that isn’t just totally believable, but you’d have wanted to be real. There’s more than enough to keep the casual fan happy, and if you’re a hardcore fangirl nitpicker, it leaves you with more positives than negatives. In fact, I’ll repeat what I said as the credits rolled: I’ve waited 50 years to see a movie with a heroine so beautifully and compellingly formed like this.

I hope I don’t need to wait the same time for another.

Eat to the Beat


Today, someone took the time to explain to me how one properly flosses teeth. I realise that this has never been pointed out before, and understanding WHY something happens is probably more important than the fact it is done. Sometimes, that extra step is hard when everything else matters. I’d never visited a hygienist until today either, so please feel free to chuck a disapproving look this way. However, I made sure to tell her how gentle she was, how nobody else had ever taken that care before with my teeth, and that being willing to learn brings great reward.

Remember to tell someone today how important they are, and how much they matter.

Last night, I rented a movie as I was alone in the house: Dr Strange now explains a lot of the motivation in the Marvel universe, the location of one of the outstanding Infinity Stones, and that however much I love Benedict Cumberbatch he’s fucking wasted as badly constructed combination of Tony Stark and Star Lord. The cut of the film feels horribly off in places too, and the effects sequences… it was like watching a migraine. However, I may yet give it a second viewing to see if stuff improves. This does mean however that two of the best British male character actors of a generation now hold significant store in a Comic book Universe. There’s always a bright side.

Last night was also my first lesson in what my body enjoys digesting post operation and what is unacceptable, and an important correlation was made. I understand why a certain Chinese dish makes me unhappy: it’s not the fish, but the batter they’re coated in. Sadly that means last night’s chicken also makes it onto the ‘avoid like the plague’ list, which is sad as it was lovely at the tastebuds stage. There was a warning I might also need to lay off trigger foods that were an issue pre-Operation, but as yet I think I might yet get away with going back largely to normal.

Today is the last day of playing with back end stuff for the other sites. Starting tomorrow, it’s T Minus 15 days to full-on Patreon awesomeness. I’d better get on with my to do list :D

For Your Eyes Only

It doesn’t seem like a year since Spectre was released: to be honest, it’s more like several years. 2016, as many people will attest, has not been kind. Losing Bowie at the start for me was only the start of a series of body blows, which culminated in the fucking travesty of Brexit in June. However, four months on, the shift of my country and the US towards a worrying variety of ‘conservatism’ could already be having some interesting ramifications, most notably in reference to Mr Craig’s (potential) ex-employment. [*] When I suggested writing this blog post a while ago it generated a fair bit of interest, and the more I consider the possibilities the stronger becomes the belief I could actually end up thanking THAT potential US presidential candidate for what he’s done to the World in the last ten months.

Could Donald Trump be responsible for redefining the Bond franchise?


When Eon rebooted Bond in 2006 with Casino Royale a new narrative was born: fresh from gaining his License to Kill, 007 falls in love and watches first as that woman is revealed as a double agent before she dies, in a situation where Bond is unable to save her. This defines all his actions in Quantum of Solace and, to a lesser extent Skyfall. Only when he gets to fall in love again and disappear off into the sunset in SPECTRE is some completion bought to the story, but there’s still a cost. It’s not really Craig’s fault that he inherited shoes that had been discarded under so many beds, that Bond’s misogynistic and arrogant past was based in a decade where men could get away with being like this because that’s the way it had always been. Except that ‘attitude’ is still making news, as was demonstrated when the Washington Post got hold of a tape of Mr Trump treating woman as objects. I’ll admit that when I first saw the footage, realised that this behaviour’s really no different to early iterations of Bond doing what was needed to get the job done.

He gets away with it however for several reasons: mostly because fiction gets a far better deal than reality, but probably because an English accent and being fantastic in bed still allows you to get away with murder, plus believing in truth really helps. ‘How can I compare Trump to Bond,’ I hear you ask, ‘it’s like apples and oranges’: however, both come from trees, and require seeds to grow. Bond’s enduring appeal for a certain generation is that you get what you want as a secret agent, and in that regard as Trump seeing himself as a celebrity, the same remains true. Except once the misogyny is obvious it becomes both all-consuming and inescapable in a world where your main competitor for President is a woman. Once I’d considered the similarity I was forced to go back to SPECTRE in a new light, to see if I could redeem ‘new’ Bond in light of the revelation. This 007 is different to his predecessors, has undoubtedly ‘evolved,’ but the way the franchise is left knowing his history gives Eon a real problem moving forward.


Bond’s relationship with Moneypenny becomes a metaphor of sorts in his redemptive process: she almost kills him, yet she remains his best friend, but that doesn’t stop him looking down her top in Skyfall or showing concern she has a boyfriend in SPECTRE. He’ll still try his arm, and hope she’ll be there for him, but when the first decent female fit in terms of compatability comes along with Madeline Swann he drops everything, steals his company car and buggers off, presumably to spend the next year furiously fucking and not answering his mobile when the office calls. If you ascribe the theory that Bond has changed, he’ll already have handed in his notice and never comes back. They can’t kill Swann again in the narrative as motivation because then it’s just Vesper Lynd all over again. Time might be a flat circle for some franchises, but with what Trump has now done to the popular consciousness in terms of highlighting casual sexism and control? It will be pretty hard to make this Bond’s modus operandi stand up as acceptable. Ironically, if the next 007 movie has to include Craig’s version of the agent, I’d suggest he marries Swann and they team them up in a Mr and Mrs Smith stylee, but already long term fans will cry fowl, because Bond works alone.

Except that doesn’t work in the modern world either. Only in the movies.


Here’s the bigger issue: Bond’s ‘ethos’ only works if you don’t scratch the surface too hard. Craig made a big deal in interviews for SPECTRE that he’s aware of the limitations at play, that there’s only so much to be done if your central protagonist thinks as part of his job it’s acceptable just to sleep with someone to get what you want. Ironially when Mata Hari did that no-one considered it a sutable job for a woman, and yet female spies really are the better choice in so many situations when most of the people in power are men. However, this franchise; watch, car, suits are all selling to a group of people who really don’t need to be told this is the right way to live your life. ‘Men want to be Bond, woman want to sleep with him’ might be true for my generation (except for me, I’d be him and bed him) but the belief that you teach people this is acceptable human behaviour… it won’t work any more. The outcry in the press worldwide should be ample demonstration of the realisation that this is not the same World we live in. Times are changing. This is not just about a hetrosexual bloke with a gun, and that is the bigger significance. The white man’s importance matters only in relation to bigger societal shifts: claiming nothing can be changed, because canon says is no longer acceptable behaviour.

Like it or not, Trump’s actions may have finally forced time to be called on Bond’s progress.


Women can be secret agents, and better than their male counterparts. It is no longer about pandering to a certain generation’s desire to live out fantasies that simply do not mesh in the modern world. I’m still of the opinion that the best way the franchise has to survive is to go back to Dr No and start again, refilming the stories with ‘modern’ sensibilities. Killing off Judi Dench at the end of Skyfall really was the beginning of the end, as was putting Moneypenny back behind a desk because we’re back to the 1960’s and it is as if the last fifty years never happened.

It’s no wonder we won’t get an announcement on Bond 25 until next year. In the current climate, I’m not sure there’s a future for him at all.

[*] He might still take it, but part of me really hopes he walks away and never looks back.

Blue Hour

Today was tough, but I got there. It’s not as much as I’d normally do in a day, but sometimes it’s not about breaking records, just putting in the miles. Mostly, I like the routine that exercise gives me, because there are days like to day where I lose cohesiveness and need something to tether me to a long-term goal. I’ll spend some time next year talking about how my mental issues have affected my life, especially when it’s come to self esteem and confidence. For now, the need for a routine and progress is important.

It’s all about finding a balance, and there’s not a Lightsaber in sight.

I want to write a review of THAT Star Wars movie at some point, mostly because I’m finally comfortable in my mind of what I want to say. The thing is, I didn’t come out of the cinema raving, far from it, and I’d like to be able to settle my qualms with the narrative I was presented with.

Oh, and at some point we have to talk about SPECTRE.