May 13 2010

The Mandarin: Or, Why Favreau Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Magic in the Marvel Universe

Posted by FlashCap in Comics, Entertainment, FlashCap, Movies, Opinion

John Favreau, the accomplished director of the two Iron Man films (among others), recently gave an interview with MTV in which he commented on the next Iron Man movie and its possible villain, The Mandarin.

Iron Man 3's Villain?

Iron Man 3's Villain?

“You have to do The Mandarin,” he said. “The problem with The Mandarin is, the way it’s depicted in the comic books, you don’t want to see that. He also has 10 magical rings, and it just doesn’t feel right for our thing, so it’s either tech-based or the rings are not really rings.”

“But maybe with ‘Thor’ and all those others you’ll introduce magic to that world and it won’t seem so out of place,” he said.

Okay, I LOVE what Favreau has done with the Iron Man films – he’s made ol’ Shell Head into one of the most successful comic-book movie franchises (behind Batman and a certain web-slinger which is now being rebooted), despite using a hero many non-comic book readers would consider a B-list hero – but let’s examine that last line a bit more closely: “introduce magic to that world and it won’t seem so out of place.”

Excuse me?

This is a world in which a man can create a body suit of armor in a few weeks using spare parts from stolen weapons.  This is a world in which the same man can create armor that flies at supersonic speeds and fires rockets and repulsor beams, all powered by a power cell that apparently has no ill-effects whatsoever, environmentally or physically. This is a world in which a man exposed to gamma radiation turns into a raging green behemoth when angry.  This is the same world in which a high school kid can get bitten by a radioactive spider and develop the proportional strength and reflexes (and webs!) of the arachnid.  And this is the same world in which people are born with latent fantastical powers (concussive eye-blasts, sheathed claws, the ability to control the weather, etc.) that manifest themselves at the onset of puberty.

And Favreau thinks magic would be “out of place”?

Sure, I agree that historically the character of the Mandarin has been a bit insensitive, a bit politically incorrect.  But Favreau’s not bound by that history (and the villain’s undergone a makeover recently in his comic book, anyway); look how he changed the character of Whiplash for the new film:

The comic book Whiplash

The comic book Whiplash

Iron Man 2's Whiplash

Iron Man 2's Whiplash

(By the way, anybody else notice the times Rourke wore his hair pulled up in a topknot, and how the hair had green highlights?  Well, I thought it was a clever nod.)

I’m worried, though, that Favreau thinks we movie-goers want the “real world” in our comic book movies.  Yeah, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are praised for their realistic look at the Caped Crusader, but…come on.  It’s a guy in a bat costume whose extreme wealth allows him to buy any damn thing he needs.  And the arguments for the movies’ realism also ignore the incredible coincidences (and the impossible physics) that allow Batman to win the day.  Any discussion of “realism” and comic book movies completely misses the point of superheroes: it’s their extraordinary nature that leads us, the audience, to wonder, to be inspired, to dream.

I guess what I’m arguing is that magic in the Marvel Universe is just another power.  In a world where men and women fly or can lift buildings or turn invisible, what’s the difference if someone chants a few words and something fantastic happens?  And here’s a chance for Favreau to move beyond the technology themes he’s developed in the films so far, and address what can be considered technology’s opposite: mysticism. Favreau’s now made two movies that match Iron Man up against another technological terror; the Mandarin, though, comes from a very different tradition than Stark, and the east vs. west conflict represented by Stark and the Mandarin is and will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future.

Movie-goers buying a ticket to an Iron Man movie aren’t going into it expecting realism – we want escapism.  We want to see what we’ve never seen before; we want to marvel at the feats of our heroes, we want to be entertained.    The magic of the Mandarin shouldn’t be a stumbling block for Favreau, it should be an opportunity for him to make some more of his own.

Mar 08 2010

BRP Watches Firefly

Posted by BigRedPoet in BigRedPoet, television


Ever since I joined up with the Procrastinators who run this blog, they’ve been pressuring me to watch a TV series called Firefly. Apparently, I’m the only geek in the universe who hasn’t seen (and loved) it already. For months, I hemmed and hawed, found excuses not to watch it, and generally just kind of avoided it, although FlashCap had already loaned me the DVDs. Generally, procrastinators, I’m just not a science fiction kind of guy. Eventually, though, peer pressure got the best of me, and I started watching the series a few days ago.
The following are my live notes, made while watching the first episode.

Serenity…is the the first episode? I have no idea. The on-screen menus don’t indicate whether this is the first disc or not. Nor does it indicate in which order the episodes are to be viewed. I’ll just start with this episode and hope for the best.

The combat zone, which I’m assuming is mostly computer generated, looks great.

Oh, no. He just said “goddamn,” except he didn’t say “goddamn.” He said something that I couldn’t really understand that kinda SOUNDED like “goddamn.” This is a bad sign. One of the biggest reasons I couldn’t watch Battlestar Galactica was “frak.” If you’re going to use a curseword, use it. If you’re not, just write your way around it. Fake cursewords are silly, and I can’t take anything else seriously after hearing them.

The scene when air support pulls out, as the main character stands and watches them fly away, is great. It’s almost unimportant that the other guy gets shot down while standing and watching because the main character’s facial expression totally dominates the shot. The music is great, too.

Six years later…Ah, I guess this is the first episode. The whole “distant past as context for the rest of the series” device. At least I started in the right place.

“Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” I LOLed.

“We’re humped”? Really?

From what I can see in her first little scene, the one in which she’s shutting down the ship’s system in order to avoid detection, Kaylie is hot.

Further research confirms my suspicions.

Further research confirms my suspicions.

The bad guy uniforms look just like the Empire uniforms from Star Wars. Come to think of it, the big gun the main character used to shoot down the enemy aircraft borrowed pretty heavily from Star Wars, too.

Crybaby was a good idea. Heh.

The style of the credits and the music reminds me of Deadwood.

In her second scene, Kaylie comes off as more “annoying” than “hot.”
(EDIT: This attitude only persisted for a moment.)
Aha! He has a name! “Mal”

Episode 1 sex scene…that’s bold. And THAT woman is hot. There are implications that she’s not human, in some way or another. Bummer.

Hey, look! It’s Mos Eisley!

The “Good Dogs” sign over the grill. Heh.

Badger: Is that Jude Law? Dave Matthews? Michael Stipe? Who the hell IS that guy?

There it is again: “gorram,” or something like that. Yeesh. Two seconds later, somebody said “piss” on screen. What’s the big difference?

Aha! A whole name: Malcolm Reynolds

The recurring “I never married” joke is pretty funny. Also, the conversation between Kaylie and gramps is well-written.

Nothin’ into nothin’ is nothin’…carry the nothin’….etc…heh.

“It’s been a long time since [she] shot me…I carry no grudge.”

Is this “telling the story from New Hope from the point of view of Han Solo” thing deliberate?

While the whole group, crew and passengers, stands in the dining room and discusses the ship’s protocols, Kaylie is dressed in a new outfit and her hair is down. She looks great. Clearly, I’m going to have an interesting relationship with her as a viewer.

So the woman from the sex scene is an “ambassador,” which makes her a “companion,” which makes her a whore. I think the line about “becoming a companion” earlier was what made me think she was something besides human. Looks like it’s a title, not a type of being.

Holy shit. I just watched Kaylie eat that strawberry about seven times in a row. God bless the rewind function.

“That’s what governments are for, to get in a man’s way.” Nice.

The well-dressed passenger, the trauma surgeon, makes me uneasy, but I suspect that’s the idea.

Is that guy’s name Jane? “Public relations”? Heh.

…and the whore takes a spongebath…
No wonder you guys like this show.

“He’s not wildly interested in ingratiating himself with anyone.” That just about sums it up.

What language are they occasionally slipping into?

A mole on board? That can’t be good.

“This is not my best day ever.”

Son of a bitch. He shot Kaylie. I like her! (I think…)

Well, isn’t that doctor a prick? Just patch up her gut wound, ya jerk.

It’s odd, although theoretically accurate, that the ship doesn’t make any sound when it changes direction and accelerates in space.

The guns fire actual bullets and not some kind of laser beams. I wouldn’t have expected that, what with the potential to poke holes in the walls of spaceships and such.

Wow. That guy’s carry-on luggage is his girlfriend. Whoa! She’s awake! …and she looks familiar…familiar and STRANGE…

Not girlfriend, but sister. Huh. Her name is River (?), and she’s some sort of uber-genius.

A government center accepts the 14-year-old supergenius and she disappears from her family. Ender’s Game, anyone?

It looks like Kaylie is going to survive. This is good news.

The whore’s wardrobe is fantastic…oooh, and she’s trying to pull a power play on Mal.

“You only gotta scare him.”
“Pain is scary.”

Jane (still can’t believe that’s his name) is highly amusing.

I don’t know what Reavers are, but they don’t sound good at all. Not at all.

“They’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skin into their clothing, and if we’re very very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.” Wow. And now various people on board Firefly are preparing to kill themselves. The show does a damn good job of making the Reavers REALLY scary before they ever make an appearance on-screen. (a la Jaws)

Kaylie, looking at River: “She’s a real beauty, isn’t she?”
I tend to think this line should be reversed. River is so goofy-lookin.

Jesus. How long are these episodes?

Wow. He told her that Kaylie died. That’s messed up.
Both the doctor and I freaked out for a moment.

“Certain words were exchanged, also certain…bullets.”

“Here’s a little concept I been workin’ on: why don’t we shoot her first?”
“It IS her turn.”
Even when things are tense, there’s humor. I like the balance.

Horses? Didn’t see that coming.

“Ride east half a mile, you’ll see where it’s been dug.”
“Reckon I will.”
“Well then.”
Well written!

…and the lawman gets free and abducts River…That goofy broad is going to be nothing but trouble…

Oh no! The gorram Reavers are coming back! *eyeroll*

Nice shot, Mal!
Then they just chuck his ass out the back of the ship. Love it.

They just pulled the evasive maneuver from Top Gun!

Hmm. We’re going to address themes of faith, too. And the shot where the Shepherd is bowed down before the whore and she lays a hand on his head as if in blessing is most interesting indeed…

River is so ooky. I just don’t LIKE her.

So, if he knows damn well that Jane will turn on him one day when the money is good enough, why does Mal keep him onboard?

“If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.”

All in all, it was good.
I’ll watch the next episode when the combination of time and inclination aligns.

Stay tuned for my notes…

Jan 22 2010

Honey Badgers – Sweet as Honey or Scary as Hell?

Posted by Teresa in Nature

A few days ago, if you had said “badgers” to me, this would come to mind.

My read of that video is that badgers are afraid of snakes (and maybe mushrooms). I am intensely afraid of snakes. If I see a picture of a snake, chances are I will have a snake nightmare that night. So, the other day when I was reading the internet and read that in a video I could watch a honey badger have a (successful) tussle with a puff adder, I was confused and anxious.

Why would a badger fight a snake?

And how could the badger… win?

So, I investigated the honey badger. I began where I always begin research: Google Images and Wikipedia. (That is also usually where I end research, unless Internet Movie Database gets in the mix somehow.) The images revealed a decidedly squat, somewhat flat-headed animal. I could see why such an animal would have a bad attitude: while its name is cute, it is not. Some of the pictures made the animal look a little freaky (like the one where it was eating a snake), but generally, it looked kind of like if a skunk and a dog had a baby. Plus maybe a little bit of hedgehog. And/or seal. But whoa, Wikipedia. First off, honey badgers live in Africa, Iraq, and Pakistan. If that won’t make you tough, I don’t know what will. Next, they are described as “fierce carnivores.” However, they do love to eat honey. And beehives. While the bees are stinging them.  And occasionally die that way. Despite this, they are smart enough to use tools. And thanks to the “favorable claw to body ratio” they are considered the world’s “most fearsome land animal.” Their ferocity plus their “thick, loose skin” means that even lions leave them be since a lion can’t grip a honey badger tightly enough to dispatch it.

What Teresa Saw.

What Teresa Saw.

At this point, I felt like I had to see this animal in action. So I watched the youtube video. You watch it too, now. Start around 2:30 to see honey badger vs. puff adder. Start around 2:30 to be completely befuddled and have your perceptions of what is a scary beast rearranged.

See? See?

So I can’t decide whether I am a fan or afraid of honey badgers. They kill and eat snakes, which certainly gets them a plus in my book. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? But… they kill and eat snakes, even after being bitten and paralyzed by said snakes, which means… maybe they are worse than snakes. But then if you watch the video more, a baby honey badger tries to take a nap while his mom digs a hole and throws the dirt on him. That’s cute.

So what better to do than to adopt the term honey badger in a cute/freaky way. From now on I shall refer to girls who are cute but completely weird/psycho as “honey badgers.” So something along these lines:

CONSTANCE: So, have you met Herbert’s new girlfriend?

JEANETTE: Yes. She is pretty cute.

CONSTANCE: True, but I think she might be a bit of a honey badger. She wouldn’t let Herbert eat any red meat when they went on a date last week, and thinks he’s going to sell his action figure collection to buy her an engagement ring.

JEANETTE: That’s a shame.

Jan 21 2010

Dear John, Part 2

Posted by TallGirl in Opinion, Tallgirl

Dear John Edwards,

It’s me again. Remember me? I kind of ripped you a new one back in September. Well, today the New York Times reports that you’ve admitted that little Frances Quinn Hunter is yours.

From the Times report: “To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry,” Edwards said in his statement on Thursday.

You’re right, John. It won’t ever be enough. Because even if you’re there for her for the next 40 years of her life, it won’t ever make up for the fact that trying to salvage your political career was more important to you than your own child. But I suppose that on the bright side, you’ve got plenty of time to spend with all of your kids now that you don’t have a political future.

Oh, and as for the reports that you and Elizabeth have split? Good for her. It’s just a pity that she didn’t take a cue from the Elin Woods playbook as she sent you packing.

Jan 12 2010

Spider-Man is being rebooted…

Posted by FlashCap in Comics, Entertainment, FlashCap, Movies, Opinion

A new Spider-Man is coming at you in 2012

According to this article, Sony has decided to reboot the Spider-Man franchise now that director Sam Raimi has told the powers that be that he cannot meet the desired deadline for the 4th film (matters of artistic integrity, it seems).  I’m not entirely sad about this news, as Raimi’s penchant for ridiculous humor really irritated me at times, but he did give us the second Spider-Man movie, probably the third best superhero movie out there (after Iron Man and Dark Knight).   It also means that I won’t have to suffer through Tobey Maguire as  Peter Parker anymore – has there been a more uninteresting one-note actor? – nor will I any longer have to accept Kirsten Dunst as supermodel Mary Jane Watson.

There are, however, a couple things that really irritate me about this move by Sony.  One, I’m going to have to suffer through another origin movie when the next Spider-Man movie comes out.  I’d love to know how many audience members at a Spider-Man film are truly ignorant of how milquetoast Parker got his spider-powers. Two, I have no trust whatsoever that Sony and its hand-picked director will bother staying  true to the source material; Spider-Man 3 was clearly movie-by-committee, trying to incorporate too many plot points and too many villains (I dislike Venom, anyway), and I think Raimi’s hands were tied to a degree by corporate decree.  But then there’s the news of which direction the 4th movie would have gone: John Malkovich as  The Vulture and an actress to be names later as the Vulturess.  The Vulture – another flying villain and an octogenarian at that?  What about the Lizard, whose alter-ego, Dr. Curt Connors, has been seen in both the second and third films? And for the non-Spider-Man readers out there: there’s no such villainess as the Vulturess – never has been.  And the name’s stupid, too.

A much better choice of villain for Spider-Man

I suspect the powers-that-be at Sony want a younger cast with a more open direction, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – it worked wonders for Batman – but I also worry that they will sacrifice character in favor of marketing numbers.  Spider-Man is the biggest name in the Marvel pantheon, and Sony’s only real motivation will be money, as they know that fans of the character will continue to pay to see the films.

What I really wish is that Marvel Studios could buy back the rights to the character – a definite possibility since Disney has purchased the House of Ideas.  As seen with Iron Man and the latest Hulk film, when Marvel has final say-so over the script and production values, they turn out some truly incredible films.  Let’s hope that, no matter who ends up producing the new Spider-Man films, quality story-telling will win out.

Though I fear history suggests otherwise.

Dec 25 2009

Merry Christmas All

Posted by Juggernaut in Uncategorized

Yeah, none of us have posted anything in a couple of months.  So sue us.  We’ve been living up to our theme.

Regardless, Merry Christmas to any of you who happen across this blog.  I’m hoping to step up my entries this year, but you all know how resolutions are.  Hopefully the “real” writers will do the same (I’m looking at you, FC, Tallgirl, and BRP).

Hope you all got what you wanted this year, or at least the necessary gift cards to do so.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Oct 30 2009

Mötley Crüe News

Posted by Juggernaut in Juggernaut, Music

Important News! Mötley Crüe is releasing their Greatest Hits album on November 17, 2009.    Greatness!

Well, at least if you don’t already have:



Decade of Decadence,



Greatest Hits,


Supersonic & Demonic Relics,


The Millennium Collection,

Five, Six

Red, White & Crüe (2-disc set),

Six, Seven

Seven, Eight

Music to Crash Your Car To (Volumes 1 and 2), or


Nine, Ten, and Eleven

Loud as F@*k (3-disc set).

Jesus.  Did Gene Simmons die and take over the body of Nikki Sixx or something?

Oct 22 2009

Beast or Bust?: Week 7

Posted by BigRedPoet in BigRedPoet, Football, Opinion, Sports

Welcome back to “Beast or Bust?”, the weekly column in which I, BigRedPoet, offer my predictions for the following week’s NFL games in the hope that you can use this information to improve your fantasy football team.

For the purposes of this feature, I will make reference to Yahoo’s projected statistics. Luckily, I don’t expect statistics to vary much between fantasy football sites, so non-Yahoo users aren’t left out in the cold. Your “Beast” will be a player who I expect to exceed his projections by at least 5 points, and your “Bust” will be a player who I predict will come up at least 5 points short of what’s expected. I’ll also toss in an “OMG” pick each week; this will be a player who’s projected to score less than 5 points, and who will rise from relative obscurity to deliver an unexpected and outstanding performance. If the NFL slate for the week is particularly juicy, I might predict multiple players in any or all of those categories.

As it turns out, I’m finding that 5 points is a REALLY big margin of difference between the projections and these guys’ actual performances. This is difficult! My win/loss ratio is starting to look laughable. Think you can do better? I challenge you to post comments with your own beast, bust, and OMG.

Week 7 Beast: 49ers WR Michael Crabtree

CrabtreeWell, look who decided to accept the paltry sum of 17 million dollars (at the very least, and 40 million at best) to finally come play some football. Even though I think his holdout was one of the premiere bonehead moves of the decade, I can’t deny that Michael Crabtree is a beast. According to official reports, Crabtree is going to be on the field often during the 49ers’ week 7 game, and there’s a “strong possibility” that he will start. I wouldn’t be surprised, considering that the other WR options in San Francisco are Isaac “Grandpa” Bruce and Josh “Who?” Morgan. Projected for just 6.25 points, equal to 62 total yards, Crabtree possesses the talents to eclipse those numbers by a mile, particularly against Houston’s fairly user-friendly defense. This will be Crabtree’s first NFL game, and trusting a total greenhorn is always a risk, but I see enough upside here to start him at WR3 in just about any league.

My Prediction: 80 yards, 1 touchdown

Week 7 Bust: Panthers WR Steve Smith

SmithThat’s right. I’m calling out former monster Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, even though he’s only projected for 7.6 points, to fall short of his projections by five. I don’t think he’s gonna do jack in week 7. Take a look at the situation: 1) Jake Delhomme is terrible. He’s a turnover machine. To quote Brad Evans, I’ve turned “Delhommophobic.” 2) Carolina faces Buffalo in week 7, a team that surrenders a league-worst 181.2 yards per game rushing. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are going to carry the ball constantly, particularly since Dehomme sucks. 3) The entire defensive backfield will be focused on shutting Smith down. Carolina’s only other WR is Muhsin Muhammad, who I trust about as far as Delhomme can throw. 4) Smith is at odds with his team, sayin after last week’s game that he “no longer feels like an asset” to the Panthers. That can’t be good. Smith’s week is doomed, procrastinators.

My Prediction: 2 catches, 20 yards, no touchdowns

Week 7 OMG: Vikings WR Sidney RiceRice

We all know that the Vikings are still Adrian Peterson’s team, but the addition of Favre has breathed considerable life back into the Minnesota passing game. Rice is an emerging young talent who’s posted a couple of outstanding stat lines this season, particularly last week, as he caught 6 passes for 176 yards. I don’t think he’s likely to repeat that monster performance this week, but he’s in a position to score pretty well. The Vikings are likely to go to the air often against the Steelers, who are awfully stout against the run. Projected for just 5.04, equal to 50 total yards, Rice will prove useful to fantasy owners with the guts to start him.

My prediction: 70 yards, 1 touchdown

I’m all about accountability. Each week, after I offer my predictions, I’ll take credit for the previous week’s success and/or eat crow over last week’s dismal failure.

Week 6 Picks

  • Beast: Nate Burleson
  • Projected Score: 9.79
  • Actual Score: 4.0

Allow me to quote Seattle had a dreadful game offensively, and Burleson had a season-low five targets. It’s all the more disappointing considering the Seahawks were facing the league’s worst pass defense. The conditions were right. The Seahawks blew it. I lose.

  • Bust: Clinton Portis
  • Projected Score: 14.27
  • Actual Score: 10.4

At this point, I’m a victim to my own rules. Portis did underperform, but not as miserably as I needed him to in order to fulfill my “five points under” requirement. I REALLY want partial credit, here. I didn’t make provisions for that, though. I lose. Crap.

  • OMG: Kellen Winslow
  • Projected Score: 4.95
  • Actual Score: 2.9

Huh. I guess catching everything in his general vicinity and scoring two touchdowns in week 5 isn’t enough to make the Bucs trust Winslow with a few targets in week 6. I’m baffled. I lose.

BRP’s win/loss ratio: 4/14

Oct 20 2009

Movie Review: ZOMBIELAND

Posted by FlashCap in Entertainment, FlashCap, Movies, Reviews
Rule #34: See this film immediately

Rule #34: See this film immediately

Zombieland, and I mean this in the most admiring way, is a fast-food movie. Just as Super-Sonic Cheeseburgers aren’t wolfed down for their nutritional value, Zombieland is mindless fun: it’s hilarious, winks at the audience continually, and takes well-deserved shots at the now-established traditions of zombie flicks.

No where are these shots more obvious than in Columbus’ (Jesse Eisenburg) rules for survival (“Rule #1: Cardio” – as scenes of fat guys being chased down by zombies are played). Throughout the film, Eisenberg’s rules are displayed on screen as those who fail to follow the rules end up as human tartare for the zombies. The gore of these kills, though, is more cartoonish than frightening, and only serves to elevate the humor of the film. Dispatched zombies (of which there are plenty), are always accompanied by satisfyingly large splatterings of blood and bile as it’s vital not to forget Rule #2: the Double Tap.

Batter up!

Batter up!

The plot (okay, the term is used a bit loosely here) of the movie centers around Eisenberg’s milquetoast, who is attempting to make his way back to his hometown (Columbus) to see if his parents are still alive. This journey is interrupted by Tallahassee (a screamingly funny Woody Harrelson), a man with two drives in life: revenge against zombies and a quest to find Twinkies. These two later take up with two other survivors, Wichita (Emma Stone) and her 12 year old sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The city names are references to their hometowns, as Tallahassee wishes to avoid any emotional attachment (which, in the movie’s only truly sentimental moment, is revealed why later). The four end up traveling together to California to search for zombie-free areas.

The cast of Zombieland

The cast of Zombieland

So much of the fun of the movie is seeing the relationship develop between Tallahassee and Columbus, as their back and forth bantering and antagonization of each other reveals real comic timing. But, of course, the true hilarity of the film comes with the creative zombie deaths – look for the “Zombie Kill of the Week” performed by a nun with a piano. And a certain movie star’s cameo is inspired (don’t look at imdb’s credits if you want to be surprised).

At a running time of just about an hour and a half, Zombieland never has a chance to go stale, and remains pitch perfect in its blend of humor and horror. But don’t be fooled: this movie is first and foremost a comedy, and the frights only serve to set up the reactions from the film’s players. If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic film with a message, wait for Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. If you want some fries with your zombies, though, Zombieland‘s being served at a theater near you.

Oct 19 2009

Movie Review: Where The Wild Things Are

Posted by BigRedPoet in BigRedPoet, Movies, Reviews

Months ago, when I saw the first film trailer for the movie Where The Wild Things Are, I freaked out with anticipation. Images of Maurice Sendak’s big furry beasts galumphing through the wilderness in a wild rumpus immediately flooded my mind. I had flashbacks to lying in my bed as a kid and trying to figure out how that one monster could possibly have lizard legs, buffalo horns, tiger stripes, and bear paws and yet still intend no harm to little Max.

Since I was a kid, this has always been my favorite image from Wild Things.

Since I was a kid, this has always been my favorite image from Wild Things.

I had high hopes that the movie would echo the idea, so prevalent in the book, that not everything (or everyone, more to the point) that looks scary is actually a threat. My hopes were sorely denied.

Apparently, Spike Jonze (who is now on my List Of People To Punch In The Nose On Sight not only for his mistreatment of Wild Things, but also for his ridiculous deliberate misspelling of his assumed last name) didn’t think that the original text of the book was important to the making of the film. Instead of being the benevolent beasts of the book, the Wild Things in the movie are a bunch of whiny, self-obsessed, violent conflict-mongers.

When Max arrives on the island, his first encounter with the Wild Things involves watching the monster pictured above (named Carroll in an apparent homage to the creator of the Jabberwock) as he destroys the homes of his fellow Things for no apparent reason. We soon learn that he’s pissed because one of his fellow Things, K.W., has run off. No explanation for K.W.’s behavior is ever offered, though, and the plot of the film never regains any sense of purpose. This first encounter does, however, set up the complicated relationship that Max and Carroll will share throughout the rest of the film.

In one of the film's best moments, Carroll gives Max a lift.

In one of the film's best moments, Carroll gives Max a lift.

To complicate matters further, Jonze (and collaborator Sendak, the book’s original creator) decide to make the Wild Things clearly male and female, and two different pairs of them are couples. The Things Judith and Ira, a bumbling oaf of a guy and a narcissistic bitch of a woman, plague the film with their relationship. Likewise, Carroll’s anger over K.W.’s departure seems to be based on a relationship that the two may or may not share. It’s never really clear.

When K.W. brings back some new friends to the Things’ fort, the rest of the gang, especially Carroll, refuses to accept them as part of the group. Carroll turns to Max to solve the situation, since he’s serving as their erstwhile king, but he doesn’t have any answers. It seems that Jonze is trying to make a political statement about how we and our leaders treat those unlike ourselves, but the issue is left unresolved and only serves to complicate an already unnecessarily complicated film.

Although the plot of the movie is disastrous, Where Wild Things Are is interesting to look at. The costumes of the Things are fantastic, accurately duplicating the images from the original art. The film offers many close-ups of the Things as they speak, and their big furry faces clearly register a variety of emotions that must have required untold hours of either mechanical animatronics or computer animation. The Things’ eyes, in particular, are beautiful. As the adage suggests, they give us a view of each Thing’s soul.

As the Things rumble around the island, they often jump to great heights, and the animation of their jumps is wildly amusing. They seem to rise into the air as if by levitation, springing toward the treetops despite their stumpy legs and thickly built bodies. In fact, they jump exactly the way the monsters in a little boy’s imagination might jump, which I find perfect, as all the events on the island happen in Max’s imagination.

Q: What have learned so far? A: While the plot is bad, the visual effects are good. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. The plot isn’t a complete loss, though. I need to mention a couple moments that stand out as high points. As I mentioned above, the scene in which Carroll lets Max ride on his back is sweet. Also, there’s a scene in which all of the Things sleep in a giant pile, calling good nights to one another as they collectively drift off into huge, furry slumber.

Finally, the scene in which Max leaves the island (don’t groan about spoilers; you knew it was going to end this way) is simultaneously beautiful and infuriating. All the Things gather at the beach to watch Max as he sails back to his home, and their howling as he sails into the surf is heart-wrenching. Visually, it’s a beautiful scene, and the music, camera work, and sound effects are perfect. I wish I could stop writing about the scene now, but I can’t. Although Max’s farewell is a fantastic moment, it’s also ridiculous because there’s never any explanation of why Max chooses to leave the island. It’s as if he just randomly decides to split in the middle of the conflict on Thing Island. The implied theme: When you mess things up really badly, run away; that will make things better.

It makes me want to scream like a Wild Thing.

Occasionally, Jonze's adaptation is beautiful.

Occasionally, Jonze's adaptation is beautiful.

I wish I could tell you to go watch Where The Wild Things Are. I wish I could celebrate the successful translation of a classic children’s book to the big screen. I wish I could tell you to take your children to the movies. I can’t do any of those things, though. (I especially can’t recommend the film for kids. This is NOT a children’s move. They’ll be alternately terrified and bored. I promise.) Frankly, I’m saddened that future generations of kids will say things like, “Where The Wild Things Are is a book, too? I didn’t know that!”

Do yourself a favor: preserve your love of Where The Wild Things Are by avoiding this film. Let your imagination give life to the Things. If not for yourself, avoid the film for your kids’ sake. They deserve to see the Wild Things like this: