Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Yondu vs. Obi-Wan (Major Spoilers)

So, saw Guardians 2 last night, and I gotta say. As a franchise, people who like pulp SF should maybe start looking to Guardians of the Galaxy instead of Star Wars. Star Wars has averaged out to be trash, coasting more on the theoretical potential of the property as it has been explored by other creative types rather than the films themselves. But more importantly, Guardians of the Galaxy has a much stronger moral core than Star Wars.

Let’s take a look at Obi Wan vs Yondu for a second. Yondu is superior by far as the older father figure mentor character.

This isn’t something I’m going to put a lot of energy into explaining or even defending, but I just want to toss it out there. Let’s even completely forget my theory that Obi-Wan is the main villain of Star Wars for a sec.

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan has been secretly watching out for Luke, and eventually he takes him under his wing. He tries to explain the situation in a way that will not hurt the young Skywalker, because while he believes in him, he does not believe in him enough to trust him with the truth. And ultimately, that’s his bad. Only when it comes down to it, he doesn’t really accept responsibility for what he has done and tries to justify rather than coming fully clean and apologizing, even when it wouldn’t have cost him anything to do so. And when knowledge that Leia is Luke’s sister would jeopardize the fate of the Rebel strike on Endor, Obi-Wan’s ghost rather casually confirms it.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Yondu pretty much raises Star Lord after his mom dies. He’s a tough father figure, and does a lot wrong by the kid growing up, but he genuinely does care about him. Yondu is also protecting Star Lord from his father with a lie, but when the chips are down, Yondu comes clean and is honest about his reasons “I knew your daddy was bad and killed those kids, and I couldn’t stand to see that happen to you.” After all is laid bare, Yondu makes the ultimate sacrifice so that his “son” will live.

Both franchise are owned by Disney, and both are cogs in multi-billion-dollar merchandising apparatuses, so I’m not going to factor that in when comparing the two. Even with all of its flaws and cringe-points, I’m gonna have to give this one to Guardians.

Best Long Form Dramatic Performance: Some (almost) Final Thoughts on the Hugos

All the True FansTM have been called to put their foot down and stop the Puppies. Sigh…

This is probably the last time I’m going to be writing about the Hugos until after they’re announced. Honestly, the best way to have stopped the Puppies was to let the works stand on their own merit or lack thereof and quietly vote against them, even if it meant No Awarding everything. Instead, the crazed hyperbolic name calling led to thousands who had no dog in the fight (wakka wakka) getting involved, getting loud, and getting belligerent to match belligerence. I know, because I was one. You didn’t want me involved? You shouldn’t have called people racist homophobic neo-nazis who wanted to kick all the women and colored folk out of Sci-fi when that was clearly not the case. You didn’t want the Puppies getting any awards? Discuss the merits, not the slate, and when stuff sucks and No Award wins the day, THEN go back and say “Well, things weren’t so hot that year, and here’s why.”

I’ve done a lousy job as a New Hugo Voter. I only made it completely through one prose category, short fiction, and for the most part was fairly unimpressed. I didn’t get through Novelettes, because one was awful and another I just couldn’t get into; I won’t vote in that category because even though I’d hope that the awful story didn’t get an award, I’m not going to nuke a category where I haven’t read everything. Between all of the blog posts about how bad The Goblin Emperor was and the three pages of Ancillary whatever I read before I said “Nope”, I gave up on the Novel category in favor of reading old sci-fi books at my leisure. Most of the art was meh, Rat Queens ought to have been more of a controversy than the Puppies, and I’m tempted to give the zombie comics guy a Hugo for being the most nonchalant dude to ever have the privilege of being blase about such a prestigious award. Black Gate deserves the fan-zine award so I voted for them even though they don’t want me to. I’m not going to put this on the slates, because the worst things I read were not on the slates, but I was unimpressed enough by what I read overall to say “Guys, I’m unimpressed.” And if folks hadn’t called these people every name in the book, I would have still been unimpressed, but I would not think that the detractors are a bunch of shitheads. There may have been some bad stories, but there were a lot of bad people.*

So why am I actually writing this post? Because I finished another Hugo Category over the weekend so finally have something else I can vote on in good conscience. Movies.

This year’s movie category is nothing short of amazing, and I’ll admit, I am having a hard time ranking these films. With the exception of Captain America 2: Electric Boogaloo, I loved all of these films. I would love nothing more than for every year for 15 or so movies as good as those nominated (even CapAmerica) to come out so I could wallow in sci-fi goodness. As such, it’s hard to decide which movie to award, because, in my mind, that would be to reward a certain type and approach to science fiction, when really I just want to shout “give me more of all of these things!”

Until this weekend, I’d say things were pretty neck & neck between Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy; though Guardians of the Galaxy is the sort of thing I’d probably want to watch over and over, it lost a bit of points for being a branded bit of franchise entertainment as opposed to Interstellar’s unique and independent vision. If Guardians of the Galaxy had not been a building block in a multi-billion dollar media and merchandising web based on a comic book, it would be a clear 1st place winner, because I love crazy wacky pulp sci-fi and planet romance. But Interstellar was just so goddamn thought-provoking and beautiful, like a 2001 or, hell, a Forbidden Planet, but without being a preachy and taxing slog like a Neill Blomkamp flick. I’d like to see more films like it, and while I’m afraid I’d get more of the latter than the former if directors try to emulate Nolan’s piece, I’m still wanting to go with Interstellar.

But then I saw Edge of Tomorrow; it’s based on a book, which has a comic based on it as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that there’s an anime out or in the works based on All You Need is Kill, but I’d still say that this sort of film represents a much bigger gamble than a piece of the Disney-Marvel cash-cow, and it’s the sort of gamble I’d like to see studios take. This movie was just so damn good, and so much fun to watch. I mean, sure, it can be boiled down to “Groundhog Day with aliens, power armor, guns and explosions”, but really isn’t that enough? Tom Cruise is back with a vengeance and Emily Blunt is a badass who I’d look out for if all the rest of her films didn’t appear to be the complete opposite movie-going experience as this. Though I’m sure if she showed up in it with a 4-foot sword wearing powered battle armor, The Jane Austen Book Club could potentially be my new favorite movie of all time.

I enjoyed the Lego movie a lot, but even moreso than Guardians of the Galaxy, I feel hesitant to reward something that so obviously exists largely to cash in on valuable media properties, such as Warner Bros. stock of DC characters. It could’ve easily been terrible, and walked a razor’s edge a lot of the time; as good as it was, it’s not the sort of thing I’d like to see more of, particularly because it could easily descend into the sort of shameless cashing in that we tend to expect from this kind of picture.

As it stands, I may end up flipping a coin to see which movie I put at #1 in Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation, because I really can’t make up my mind between Interstellar and Edge of Tomorrow.
Coming soon, I talk Vance, nail down exactly what it is that sets Morrowind apart, why I keep coming back to it, and criticize its failings in light of an adventure paradigm that Dither has been working on. After that, Part 2 of Doing it Wrong, in which I talk some about Magic, Spells, Scrolls and Spellbooks in B/X and try to decide whether we’re all doing it wrong or if B/X was doing it wrong. Then, Civil War: Can Albert Sidney Johnston crush Grant in the forests of Tennessee before the Army of the Cumberland sails up the Mississippi to take Vicksburg? What is General Hardee doing in Harrisburg and what is McDowell going to do about it that won’t leave the road to Washington and Baltimore open? Why can’t Lee get the hell out of the Carolina swamps and go someplace useful? These questions and more will be answered!  Where am I going to find the time to talk about Andrew J. Offutt!?  Probably not this week!

*At least Thomas Heuvelt didn’t tell me I was gonna have to answer to Jesus for my lies.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Not Exactly a Review, But…

While I may have been content to wait for Hobbit 3: The Manhattan Project to come out on DVD so I can watch characters with the same names as those from a book I read once spend 3 hours flailing about trying to kill a dragon, my Dad, bless his heart, wanted to see it in theatres, and who am I to turn down a christmas gift movie, especially one that my girlfriend is excited to see (she loves the Jackson LotRs movies even more than I love the source material)? Well, we show up to find that it has been sold out.* Our fallback plan was to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, which my dad had on bluray from Netflix.

I’ll start this off by pointing out that I’m more of a DC person, and beyond a few fairly run of the mill Marvel series and events, I don’t know jack about the Marvel Universe. But never again will I say “DC is better than Marvel at Cosmic Crisis stories”, because Guardians of the Galaxy did a fine job of it, even if it was in a very ‘by the book’ sort of way. Alien bounty hunters & pirate lord? Check. Escape from a maximum security space prison? Check. Strange Kowloon-walled-city-esque outlaw collective in space? Check. Guardians of the Galaxy was probably one of the most troperiffic movies I’ve seen in awhile, but it was still good fun. Miles above the bloated and writhing pomp and self importance of Man of Steel (again, if Chris Nolan can’t make a good Superman movie, no one can).

My girlfriend pointed out that if it weren’t for the somewhat excessive swearing, it easily could’ve made for a great family movie. Then again, these days, swearing may not be a thing? Just the other day, I saw a lady say motherfucker in front of her kid 4 times, and only one of those times was in context of “I’m gonna slap you in your motherfucking mouth if you don’t be quiet.” I know that you want people to take your movie with a pissed off raccoon man and his tree friend (time to start a tally of how many ultramax space prisons Vin Diesel breaks out of) seriously, so sure, keep them swears a comin’ I guess.

Again, it’s a part of the Marvel-verse I’m only cursorily familiar with. The nerd in me lit up like a pin-ball machine when they mentioned the infinity stone thingies. “Orite! Thanos is always looking for the Infinity Stones to destroy the universe or something! I remember now!” Indeed, my only real exposure was that a friend of mine lent me the Infinity Gauntlet back in highschool. Thanos may be a poor man’s Darkseid (blue lady and green lady even kind of strike me being knockoffs of Darkseid’s furies), but he at least got to be in a decent live action movie before Jack Kirby’s ultimate dark god villain.

On something of a tangent, I remember once that someone checking me out at walmart asked if I thought that Dark Knight Rises or the Avengers was the better movie. It was a difficult question to be asked in a checkout line, because the real answer may have been too complex and nuanced for appropriate store-checkout-line small talk. Ultimately, I said “They’re both good, but they’re very different movies.” All of the Marvel-movie-verse movies are super-hero movies, through and through. Big action, larger than life heroes, all in the name of fun and entertainment. There’s some thought-provoking to be done on the side, but for the most part, they don’t attempt to directly address some serious fundamental societal issues in ways that make people uncomfortable. The Batman movies that Nolan made were very much cerebral crime thrillers (particularly the second two) which happened to feature a costumed crime fighter. They did not feel like superhero movies, however. Maybe it’s that lack of truly triumphant moment in which the day is saved (for the day is never truly saved in Gotham, just as the day is never truly saved in real life; for every criminal, terrorist, corrupt politician, corrupt judiciary, corrupt law enforcer or man-caused disaster dealt with, there will always be more to come). They made you think, though, even if they didn’t necessarily make you smile. Batman is probably one of the only top tier superheroes that such an experience could be truly rewarding for fans.** Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I hated Man of Steel? A Superman movie NEEDS to be a Superhero movie, full of tropes that make us laugh and cheer for the heroes who will save the world.

I really wish that Superman Vs. Batman wasn’t the next major DC movie on the slate, because DC REALLY needs a movie that is as FUN as Guardians of the Galaxy, and I’m pretty certain that Supes Vs. Bats is gonna be all “Crime-fighting & responsible use of force is serious business, guys.”

*: No idea at this point just when I’ll get around to seeing it.

**: It’s worth noting that in many ways, the live action Tim Burton Batman movies felt far more cartoony than the cartoon series and features that followed in their wake. A lot of the 1st season villain debuts in TAS were DaF. I think this is why it so greatly benefited the Arkham Asylum games to have a good portion of the voice cast from the Animated Series. I very belatedly had the opportunity to crack open Arkham City, so I’ll probably have some thoughts on that before too long. Yeah, yeah, I’m WAY behind the times…