We need more rain on Friday

Reading: I am reading Monsterhearts and loving it. Also, I’m reading The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp, which reads very much like a Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by a writer who knows the gaming influences are at hand. Dungeon crawling, treasure hauling, witty banter, obscure deities and desperate sorcerers. I’m hooked.

Planning: Going to see family this weekend.

Writing: As usual lately, it is all cover letters and milestones for Marvel Heroic.

And you?

Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, a trilogy review

Yes, spoilers.

Seriously.

I watched the trilogy, all in one sitting and watched this third installment right at midnight.

For comic book geeks, it was a hectic mix of Knightfall, No Man’s Land with pinches of Dark Knight Returns here and there (specifically the one scene with the older cop and the younger cop, “You’ve never seen Batman? Slow down, kid, yer in for a show.”).

Watching the trilogy left me wondering a few things:

Gotham City

Gotham is a character in any Batman fiction and in the first of the trilogy we see the rail system, built by the Waynes and the Narrows, a rough part of town where Arkham Asylum is located. The rails are never seen again in the trilogy and the Narrows are never mentioned again. I would have liked a throwaway line about the rails having to be scrapped after the League of Shadows shenanigans of the first movie if the city suddenly does not have trains.

In Rises Catwoman could have been from the Narrows…something, some kind of a sense of continuity of Gotham as a consistent character, the city worth saving no matter what league of ninja, clown-faced psychopath or masked terrorist might attack it.

NOTE: A G+ buddy said that he could see the 3-tiered rail system in Rises, particularly in the IMAX version of the film. Nice!

Batman

Bruce Wayne/Batman does not have an original thought in his head. Almost all of his lines are quotes from other people, taken out of context and run through his cowled head so that it has to do with his quest for justice. Watch them again, when he does something inspired by someone else, he almost always quotes that person verbatim so the audience will remember where he got his idea.

Themes

All in all, where the first movie was saying, “Gotham is worth fighting for,” and the second movie said, “People will still do good even in the worst of situations,” the third seemed to say, “Poor people will rise up, bath in rich people’s blood and steal their shit if there are no police there to stop their psychopathic tendencies.”

Maybe it was just that Rises didn’t have a Ledger-caliber performance to off-set its philosophy 101 questions.

The WTF’s

Why do they bother with a fake Asian Ra’s al Ghul? Why does Dark Knight stop in its tracks so that Batman can grab a money launderer in China? Rises has too many WTF’s to narrow down to just one sentence.

Fighting

The only fights I really liked in the whole trilogy was when Liam Neeson’s character picked young Wayne’s fighting style apart and the Joker went bat-shit crazy on Batman at the end of Dark Knight. The rest of the fights felt unnecessarily frenetic. There was good stuff going on but I was missing it in the shaky-cam.

I wanted to see an older, wiser Batman pick Bane apart as Bats did the Mutant leader in Dark Knight Returns but I didn’t get a sense of why Batman won the fight at the end of Rises. He was hitting Bane’s mask but he was hauling off on Bane’s mask in the first fight too. I want fight scenes that are cool and say something about the characters fighting. And when Bane laid hands on a mofo, I wanted to feel it the way I did when Joker did the pencil trick. It wasn’t Hardy’s fault, I thought his physical presence was solid. It was the way Bane’s violence was shot.

The Ladies

Man, I don’t like the Rachel Dawes character. The ladies who played her were fine and I respect her decision to love Dent over Wayne but when she told Bruce that she liked Batman but didn’t like Bruce…man, that felt just mean. I’m glad that Selina Kyle could come along and let Bruce know that his brand of crazy was okay (even if it really isn’t).

What is good in Rises?

Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt do great work as the Catwoman and a young Gotham cop.

Does it Rise?

No, sometimes, Bruce, when we fall down, it is because we made poor creative choices and did not have the editing skills to get back up again.

I thought all of the Nolan’s Batman movies were a big, glorious mess and didn’t expect anything different from this one. This one felt like a bigger mess than usual and that could’ve been okay but it didn’t quite hold together.

I liked this take on Bane and liked his link to the al Ghul family. I saw it coming but I enjoyed it all the same. This Bane had an intimidating physical presence and was a good choice after Ledger’s amazing Joker.

All in all, we’re left with what all three of these Batman movies leave us with, some fun action scenes and some half-assed thought on heroism. The action scenes were alright and the thoughts on heroism were just plain repugnant.

The Trilogy

We have a huge, sprawling mess that folks are going to insist is going to be impossible to top. The origin movie was a fun primer. The second film was a great Harvey Dent/Joker film and a mediocre at best Batman film. I’m a sucker for the first ten minutes that felt like something inspired by Heat.

And Rises takes the mess of the first two films and makes an even bigger mess.

It is not going to be long before someone launches another Batman franchise. Nolan did a better job than Burton and Schumaker but I think a better Batman series of movies can be made.

P.S. I’ll post re-boot thoughts in a future blog post but I think it would be cool to base the first movie on the first Detective Comics with Batman, even set it during the 40’s and tell the origin during the opening credits.

Superman: The Movie, review

Re-watched the 1978 Superman film for the first time in years. A few things occurred to me.

The first ten minutes on Krypton are even better than I remembered. Brando earned his truckload of cash, really setting up the whole film. The music is as good as I remember too.

Superman Returns (a whole other can of worms) was a sequel to Superman I and II way more than I realized. After seeing super-capable Lex Luthor on the Justice League cartoons it was jarring to watch Kevin Spacey’s Luthor use Krypton technology for a real estate scheme but Gene Hackman’s goofy Luthor set that all up with his speech about real estate and his nuclear missile/San Andreas Fault real estate scheme in in this first movie.

Christopher Reeve is supernaturally good looking and he’s the only real looker in the movie. It really makes it seem like Superman is from another planet because he’s just so handsome.

The big conflict of the movie is the only thing Jor El tells his son not to do. “Do not meddle in human history.” Naturally, Lois Lane dies and Superman freaks out and disobeys his father but there aren’t really any consequences. I would have wanted General Zod and his posse to get free of the Phantom Zone directly because of Superman disobeying his father but that wasn’t how it shook out.

His father told him not to do one thing, Superman broke his father’s only rule and nothing at all happened. Other than Lex Luthor’s kryptonite necklace, the movie is without any real threat and his father’s warning turned out to be meaningless.

The score and the first ten minutes are solid super heroic movie-making and the rest was weak.

A Quiet Friday

Reading: Poking at The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfield, hoping that I get hip deep into it before a fun fantasy novel arrives on my desk.

Planning: Getting prepped for something important and getting my disaster-area room into some kind of order this weekend.

Writing: Same as it ever was, cover letters and Marvel Heroic Milestones. I’m tinkering with a review of Dark Knight Rises and a post about how to do a post-Nolan trilogy re-boot but after the tragedy, it just feels wrong and disrespectful to geek out right at this moment. So, for now, I’m exchanging geeky e-mails with Witt and furrowing my brow.

And you?

Tired and Sore (but Good) Friday

Reading: I’m on the last pages of The Risen Empire and have The Killing of Worlds, the second half of the book, ready to roll. I’m enjoying it, a fun space opera.

Planning: This weekend will have ice, stretching and mobility work. I am sore. The cover letter and resume work continues.

Writing: Banged on a cover letter all week and it is getting there, should go out in the next day or two. The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm got an update, should be a tense couple of moments, looking forward to seeing how Hal works out in Westgate.

NOTE: I forgot that I am playing writing back-and-forth ping-pong with Drew on Google Docs. Federal Book Enforcers started out as a joke but it is becoming a really interesting science fiction story with a whole lot of what we both think about librarians spilling onto the page in sci-fi-noir spurts and starts. We each write a few hundred words at a time and then send it back and it is more fun than a joke on G+ has any right to be.

And you?

Thinking about Pete and Aaron playing Legend of the Five Rings

My buddies Pete and Aaron both moved north to the Syracuse area. According to my southron myths only dragons, wildlings and giants are to be found beyond these lands my friends now call home.

Talking to each of them about playing L5R got me thinking about how I would set up a one-on-one game of Legend of the Five Rings and as I am not gaming at the moment, I thought I’d brainstorm here. Each player would make up a character from a different clan, with no relationship what-so-ever. After that, we’d figure out what political situation occurred that caused our characters to switch places, each visiting the other’s home province. My favorite combo is between Crab and Crane but I think any clan will do.

One would GM the other player, playing that character as a fish out of water in the other character’s home, meeting their family, friends, lovers, etc. By playing each game, we’d learn about the absent character, fleshing them out, learning about them through play. GMing could switch off each session or go from scene to scene as rhythm dictated.

What happens when the characters meet?

I have no idea! But it would be fun to play to that point and find out or maybe they never meet, maybe that is the point. Maybe these great samurai who change the face of Rokugan only communicate through letters and poetry.

Pete e-mailed me asking if I still had my L5R books and I did not, but I sent him the link for Brennan Taylor’s The Seven Thunders, an AW hack.

Monsterhearts Classroom Questions & Watching Teen Wolf/Vampire Diaries

With my roommate, Sarah, and I watching Teen Wolf and Vampire Diaries for our trashy TV evening decompression, the urge to play Monsterhearts grows. They are fun shows, the kind of shows that have us talking to the television, “Oh no, she didn’t!” “Holy shit, what did he just do?!” “Wow, this episode is actually pretty damned good.” “You  missed that episode where he dated a total skanksaurus rex.” “There should be a drinking game where you drink every time he apologizes.”

There is a thread on SG brainstorming questions to ask players, here are mine (so far):

  • Why did you get expelled from your last school?
  • Why does the police chief know your name?
  • You saw something on TV and read something for school that combined to make for really fucked up dreams. What did you see and read?
  • When you were in nursery school, you and ____________ survived something crazy together and haven’t spoken since. What did you go through?
  • During the last track/wrestling/whatever meet, you saw a student athlete pushed to the limits of their body and will. What did they do and what is it you know about their personal life that makes this even more remarkable?
  • During the last Mischief Night you did something terrible to the student sitting next to you’s house. What did you do?
  • What book is the kid-who-sits-in-front-of-you-who-is-always-reading reading today?