Wednesday, May 15, 2024

'Tolerance Is Extinction - Part 3' Is The Finale X-Men '97 Deserved

X-Men '97 stuck the landing and then some, and that feels like an understatement. "Tolerance is Extinction Part 3" was unbelievably good. What a way to wrap up a season, and what a way to revive a show! Every character got their moment to shine, every detail and plot point served a purpose. The show managed to bring back a cartoon from 30 years ago, update it, modernise it, make it relevant to younger audiences and current social issues, while also maintaining its heart intact in a way that immediately feels familiar to everyone who's grown up with it.

In a way, it feels that the show has grown and matured along with its original audience. Now tackling more serious issues, not holding back on the commentary, exploring trauma, grief, the anger caused by injustice, and remaining true to the X-Men's history as an allegory for the prejudice experienced by marginalised groups, while also understanding how crucial the 'found family' theme that defines the bond that holds those characters together is.

Every nod and Easter egg comes from a place of loving and respecting those stories and the artists and creators who over the years shaped those characters. All episodes were filled with references that comic book fans would recognise, but not once did it feel gimmicky or cheap. The season finale perfectly wrapped the main storyline, but also opened the way for what comes next, and season 2 cannot possibly arrive fast enough.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Doctor Who’s 'The Devil’s Chord' features an intriguing new villain, a little taste of The Beatles, and imperfectly delivers a key message on the significance of music

(spoilers ahead)

'The Devil’s Chord' is an interesting episode. It’s very clear from the start that Doctor Who is once again embracing its fun and campy roots. Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor is excited to go on an adventure, meet new people, discover new things, and there’s great chemistry between him and Millie Gibson’s Ruby Sunday that further amplifies this energy of a new beginning. Jinkx Monsoon is a force of nature as the newly-introduced villain, and delivers a truly creepy and memorable performance as the Maestro. It’s also refreshing to see the show’s commitment to representation, from the diverse casting choices to the way gender and sexuality are casually brought up in the dialogue.

What 'The Devil’s Chord' isn’t, is a Beatles episode. Even if it was marketed as such. It is an episode that features the Beatles, honours the Beatles, visits Abbey Road Studios back in 1963 (when it was still called EMI studios, as it was renamed later, reportedly around 1976), mentions their significance, but it is not entirely focused on the band. The main focus of the episode, in fact, seems to be music itself, and the impact it has on the world. Which is not a bad thing, on the contrary, it is a genuinely interesting area to explore.
The way the show does it is by showing how the world changes when the main villain strips it of all music, which eventually leads to a dystopian future. It’s a shame that this wasn’t explored in more detail, beyond showing that when you remove music from the world, the world becomes a worse place. Because the core message holds some big truths. It only takes a brief study of historical events to realise how much music and the arts have contributed to social and political movements. Influencing, inspiring, allowing people to express their frustration, hope and anger, to protest and to show others that they are not alone. It is no exaggeration to suggest that by taking that factor away a lot of key moments in history could have turned out quite differently.

Nevertheless, the episode is not without its flaws. Nitpicking a bit, it’s not hard to find a few inconsistencies and questions remaining unanswered. Why is John Lennon wearing the round glasses in 1963? And if a sinister cosmic entity stripped the world from all kinds of music and rhythm and dance, then why are people forming bands, why are there pianos and orchestras around, and why are people even recording music with the same enthusiasm of someone having to go through obligatory jury duty, even though they are not forced to do it? Why did the world go on for decades only slightly changed since the incident in the 20s, but all that’s left of it in 2024 is an apocalyptic scenery. Then again, one could argue that suspension of disbelief and ignoring certain contradictions is more or less part of the show, and of pretty much every story involving time travel in general.

A more plot-specific question a younger person could very well ask is “why are the Beatles considered geniuses?”, and for better or worse this is a question the episode never tries to answer. It assumes from the start that the viewer is fully on board with the idea, and familiar with the band’s musical achievements. A shortcoming that could have been remedied if licensing issues didn’t prevent the show from actually including some of the Beatles’ music. Which is understandably very hard to do, and given the budget restrictions it’s not surprising that it didn’t happen, but it led to another way for the episode to unintentionally prove the point it was trying to make: an episode with the Beatles without the Beatles’ music is missing something special that would have made it better if it was there.

The way the Maestro is defeated is also clever, but the execution again heavily relies on the idea of ‘genius’. Which is not inherently bad, it makes sense that John Lennon and Paul McCartney figure the last note out instead of the Doctor, still it feels like the resolution lacked more nuance. There is absolutely no denying that there was something very special about the Beatles and the mark that they left in musical history, but what makes an artist unique doesn’t come from the singular place of being gifted, or a genius, or special. It’s the sum of who they are as a person, their skill, their effort, their life experiences, their heartbreaks, their low moments, their ability to transform emotion into art and communicate things through it.
On a more philosophical level, one could even wonder if a John Lennon who grew up in an alternative world that had been left without musical influence for decades, who hadn’t experienced the same things, hadn’t discovered the musicians that came before him and shaped his view on music, would have turned out the same. It would have been interesting to see these things explored on a deeper level, the way the Vincent Van Gogh episode did, making it one of the most emotionally impactful episodes in the show’s history. Perhaps in a way that would satisfy the nostalgia of old fans but that would also intrigue a new generation to discover the Beatles through their music.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Fallout Show is Apocalyptically Good

Even after the huge success of The Last of Us TV show, it was still hard to have very high expectations when it comes to a live-action production based on a beloved video game series, given how many such attempts missed the mark completely. In that regard, Fallout on Prime was a feat and such a pleasant surprise, managing to be both a worthy adaptation of the world of the games, and remain a solid post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi show that can completely stand on its own.

One of the most impressive things about the show is that it can be watched by both people who love the games and are familiar with the backstory and some of the things that are not initially revealed to the audience, and by people who are totally new to this world, with the latter group not feeling like they are missing on anything. The way the story builds up keeps you hooked from the first episode, and certain crucial plot points are revealed quite cleverly, showing important details in a way that is both interesting to someone unfamiliar with the games and at the same time doesn't become boring to those who already have an idea of what is actually going on.

It's clear that the show is made by people who genuinely love the source material. There are countless references and nods to the games, locations, plot points, items, even parts of the gameplay scattered throughout every episode, done in a way that feels totally sincere and not gimmicky or cheap. It's also commendable how they managed to maintain such a perfect balance between the themes of a nuclear bombing that had a severe impact on humanity and the trademark dark humour of the Fallout series. Plus the way music is utilised as part of storytelling throughout the show, especially in the opening scene, is nothing short of brilliant.

A big reason for the show's success is the story and the characters, who were practically created from scratch as a standalone part of the Fallout universe. The main cast does a great job in bringing their characters to life. Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, Walton Goggins, and Kyle MacLachlan all deliver fantastic performances. Lucy is a likeable protagonist, and her naivete comes off as believable, given her circumstances, but always makes her look like someone whose heart is in the right place, rather than making her the butt of the joke. Even when she steps outside the safety of her vault and she slowly starts getting disillusioned as she sees a side of the world she didn't know existed, her core characteristics as a character remain unchanged. Which is quite refreshing.

In general, the show succeeds in avoiding to cross the line separating dire circumstances from full nihilism, allowing its characters to maintain their depth and heart and not appear totally one-sided. In the Ghoul's case in particular, the combination of good writing and Walton Goggins' emotional performance, despite him wearing a ton of prosthetics, allows the character to appear as multifaceted, even sympathetic, beyond his questionable actions and motives. Similarly, Maximus' journey, growth, and change of perspective feel both engaging and realistic. And the way the first season ends allows for a ton of
possibilities as to where the story can go. Really looking forward to the now confirmed Season 2.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

X-Men '97 Keeps on Giving

Halfway through Season 1 of "X-Men '97", some scattered thoughts:

1) Props to everyone and anyone involved in this for pulling it off. In an ocean of nostalgia-bait cash grabs they brought back and updated the original cartoon with nothing but love and respect for the source material. The storylines, the social and political commentary, and the dozens of character cameos and little nods to the history of the X-Men prove as much, and are hands down impressive.

2) Gambit and Rogue remain absolute favourites.

3) The weekly drop for the episodes really works in favour of the story.

4) It's such a shame there hasn't been a solid X-Men video game in ages.

5) 'Remember It' was the best, most intense, gut-wrenching and emotionally impactful episode of the season so far. This is the most 'X-Men' anything X-Men related has felt in a long while, and holy shit I can't believe that I have to wait an entire week now (yes, I know this totally contradicts point 3, but let me have it).

6) Nightcrawler!

Originally posted on Mastodon

Monday, March 25, 2024

'My Adventures with Superman', a newly discovered comfort watch

Started casually watching 'My Adventures with Superman' as a palate cleanser and ended up bingeing the rest of the show because it is such a comfort watch. It's so sincere, funny, optimistic, and full of heart, and just peak Superman. With some more serious turns in the story as well, keeping things interesting.

One of the deviations from the classic comics that more modern stories have taken is having Lois actually be attracted to the kind, dorky, and awkward Clark right away when she first meets him, instead of her fascination being primarily focused on Superman. That's something I'm a big fan of and it's really well executed here. Their romance is really sweet and believable, and the whole dynamic and humour between Clark, Lois, and Jimmy as friends and young interns on the Daily Planet works excellently too.


Originally posted on Mastodon

Thursday, March 21, 2024

X-Men '97 more than stuck the landing

Enjoyed the hell out of the first 2 episodes of X-Men '97. Both a love letter and a proper continuation of the 90s show, made by people who obviously love the original cartoon, but also the X-Men characters and storylines. The intro theme is back, the characters are back, most of the original cast is back, the campy dialogue and storytelling format are back too. At the same time both the animation and the way themes of prejudice are presented have been updated in a way that feels more relatable to modern audiences.

It's clear that a lot of effort and heart were put into this, and despite hitting some heavily nostalgic notes, it definitely doesn't piggyback on nostalgia alone. Bringing back old, beloved shows and franchises is always risky, and it's not going to meet everyone's expectations, but if it has to happen then the best way to go about it is with care for the original material and understanding of what made it special to those who love it.

Originally posted on Mastodon

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Nine years without Sir Terry Pratchett

I've shared this image from the canceled 'Mort' Disney film by artist Tealin before, and it kinda feels right sharing it again today. The tenderness of this scene just captures the essence of the character of Death in the Discworld novels so perfectly. More on the project here.

Death is definitely one my favourite characters from the books, certainly the most fascinating and complex one. There's a lot to be said about the ingenuity and talent it takes to make the literal embodiment of the Grim Reaper feel so multifaceted, with actual humanity and empathy. A character with a lingering sense of loneliness, because he is not like everyone else, and he doesn't belong with other people but he still cares about them regardless. Who forms a special bond with cats because he longs for companionship, and who grabs the chance to bend the rules when he gets it and gives the little match girl a second chance instead of letting her die alone in the cold on the night of Hogswatch.


Originally posted on Mastodon

Nine years without Sir Terry Pratchett

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Rest in peace, Ramona Fradon

Rest in peace, Ramona Fradon. One of the all-time greatest comic book artists, a trailblazer for women in the industry, and an overall legend with a significant impact in the history of comics. There is a certain clarity, joy, and sincerity in her work that's so characteristic of her art style. She's had a 70+ year career and had only retired just a month ago at the age of 97. 
Originally posted on Mastodon
Rest in peace, Ramona Fradon

Monday, January 08, 2024

The Little Things That Kill: A Teen Friendship Afterlife Apology Tour (Book Review)

Definitely a unique paranormal story that stands out in its genre. The book draws you into the mystery of what happened to Nicole from the very first pages, as both the reader and the protagonist are trying to figure out how she found herself in that position. The story is told from both the perspectives of Nicole and her friends, providing different angles to the plot. The way Nicole's life and relationships are explored is interesting, and the book's version of the afterlife is certainly compelling. The ending isn't predictable, as it builds up gradually as the story unravels and the main character starts piecing together the puzzle, which is always a plus.

The novel touches upon themes of grief, suicide, and death, so a content warning is warranted going in. Beyond that, though, it's always quite refreshing to see genuine and real female friendships explored. Friendships that, even though they are complex, they don't fall into the usual, tired tropes of competitiveness and petty rivalry, but have sisterhood and caring for one another at their core.


Originally posted on Goodreads

The Little Things That Kill: A Teen Friendship Afterlife Apology Tour (Book Review)

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Bernard Cribbins' Return to Doctor Who Broke My Heart, in the Best Way

As brief as Bernard Cribbins' cameo was, and as sad as it is that he wasn't able to film more of what they had planned for his character before he passed away, it was exceptionally touching to see Wilf reuniting with the Doctor, providing a very heartfelt, optimistic, and tender closure to a 15 year old story that felt quite fitting to the show's defiantly hopeful core. Because sure, good things and happy reunions don't always happen, but it's nice to once in a while have a reminder that, sometimes, they actually do.


Bernard Cribbins' Return to Doctor Who Broke My Heart, in the Best Way
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