download (3)

Rise of the Guardians has an absolutely brilliant high concept at its heart. Basically, it’s The Avengers but with fables and legendary characters. So we get a super hero team composed of Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman and their newest member, Jack Frost.

I am an enormous fan of postmodernism and the growing trend in pop-culture for remixing and re-imagining classical fictional concepts. Rise of the Guardians fits into a tradition that includes works like The Sandman (the comics by Neil Gaiman and various artists), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (again the excellent comics by Kevin O’Neil and Alan Moore and not the terrible movie), Sluggy Freelance’s Holiday Wars story arc or even lots of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld work and especially Hogfather.  There’s something I just find incredibly satisfying about taking existing characters and re-imagining them to work in a new context.

Rise of The Guardians Santa swords

Having decided the context is basically a super-hero team the reinventions on display here are really clever. Santa becomes North (Alec Baldwin), a Cossack wielding dual cavalry sabers and leading an army of Yeti’s with his naughty list magically tattooed on one arm and his nice list on the other. The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) becomes a man sized rabbit armed with boomerangs and a network of magic tunnels that lets him travel anywhere on Earth in a near instant. The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) is the leader of a race of hummingbird like creatures that safeguard teeth because teeth contain childhood memories. The Sandman is literally made of sand, as are dreams and he shapes his body and his sand to make dreams, or modes of transport, or weapons. Finally we have Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a trickster spirit in a hoodie who can glide on winds and freeze things with his magic staff.

images (6)

These five join forces to fight Pitch Black (Jude Law), the literal boogeyman, who is aiming to corrupt the dream’s of children so that they no longer believe in the guardians and he can rule a world of fear.

The ideas and concepts being played with in Rise of the Guardians are really intelligent and brilliantly thought out. For example, as Pitch’s plans expand and belief in The Guardians fail North, Easter Bunny and Tooth lose their powers but Jack Frost doesn’t, making him their most powerful tool against Pitch. Initially you question why this would be the case since it seems like a plot device but when you think about it it’s perfectly logical.  This is because Christmas, Easter and Tooth Fairies are entirely human constructs, without Human’s to do it their would be no Christmas. However frost still exists even if nobody believes in Jack Frost so of course Jack Frost still has his power’s even without belief, belief just makes him stronger.

images (3)

The film is full of cool ideas like this that it doesn’t feel the need to explain, trusting the audience to “get” the reasons why these characters have been changed and how the fantasy world presented works. Considering this is a kid’s film the lack of obvious exposition is really refreshing and it enhances the pleasure of the re-imagining. If the film makers felt the need to explain every change it takes away the fun of figuring it out for yourself, which really is Rise of the Guardian’s biggest appeal.

images (4)

Outside of how well it deals with its high concept though how does it work as a film? Sadly it is only okay on the narrative level.

Rise of the Guardians starts with Jack Frost being born on a frozen lake. He is a complete Tabula Rasa, not knowing who he is, where he came from or what his purpose in life is but apparently knowing his name and quickly learning he has the powers to glide on winds and create ice.

Unfortunately he’s also invisible and intangible to everyone in the world leaving him entirely alone.

The film then flashes forwards 300 years to modern day where Jack spends his days playing with kids without their knowledge, starting snowball fights, guiding sleds, causing snow days and generally having fun from the sidelines.

download (4)

That carefree life gets interrupted though when Jack gets kidnapped by some Yeti’s and taken to the North Pole. It turns out North has had an encounter with pitch Black, a villain they thought defeated long ago and he has gathered the guardians to take him down. What’s more the Man in the Moon has signaled to North that Jack is to join the Guardians.

Jack wants nothing to do with them, he’s used to being alone and doing his own thing rather than co-operating or following rules but North is adamant that he was chosen for a reason and what’s more his reason for existing must be something to do with helping children or the Man in the Moon wouldn’t have created him in the first place. Jack decides to tag long with the team’s first mission, to save the Tooth Fairy’s castle from Pitch, more to ride North’s sleigh than anything else but when he gets there Tooth informs him that he used to be a person before becoming Jack Frost and that his baby teeth will restore his memories of his human life if they can get them back from Pitch.

Wanting to find out about his past Jack joins in the next mission which turns out to be a trap as Pitch turns the Sandman himself into black nightmare sand Pitch can control. There will only be nightmares in the world now until Pitch is defeated. In the process though they learn that Jack’s power is particularly effective against Pitch and if he helps them they might be able to bring him down and rescue The Sandman.

images (5)

The remaining Guardians hatch a plan to safeguard Easter using Jack’s frost powers to defeat pitch if he attacks but Pitch leads Jack away with the promise of giving him his teeth. Jack accepts and gets his memories back but in the time he is gone Pitch attacks the others and this year there will be no more Easter.

Broken and defeated can The Guardians bring Pitch down once and for all or will children all over the world no longer believe in anything but fear and the darkness?

It’s a kids movie, what do you think?

I really can’t criticise the story at all. It’s a perfectly serviceable 3 act structure, the main character has an arc and grows and changes, the side characters also have arcs that relate to the main character and finally the villain’s plan makes perfect sense and his motivations are logical and compelling. You can probably guess how the story will go after watching it for 15 minutes but its a kids film and that won’t be a problem for them.

But I think the story lacks something to elevate it above simply fine. It isn’t particularly visually impressive for example. The animation is fine and I love the way different characters move** but there isn’t anything to gawp at like you’d get in a Ghibli or a Disney film. It’s not that funny. It’s not unfunny but it’s not trying for belly laughs and the joke rate is low, about 1 chuckle every 5 or 10 minutes. It isn’t particularly scary, Pitch is an effective villain but it doesn’t have the nightmare fuel of something like Toy Story or Coraline. It’s characters are well drawn but it doesn’t have the heartfelt emotions of something like How to Train your Dragon. It’s action sequences are okay but they’re short and not terribly inventive. It just feels like a film that is okay at everything but not particularly great at any one thing.***

As kids films go you could do a lot worse. This is a perfectly okay film in every respect with the added fun of some really creative and clever reinventions. If the concept of Fairytale Avengers sounds like it would appeal to you you’ll probably enjoy Rise of the Guardians but I don’t think anybody could love it.

download (2)

*I think it’s a sort of microcosm of how genre works. Genre works by combining familiar elements in new and novel ways. Audiences want their expectations to be met when they seek out fiction but they don’t want something entirely familiar. Genre helps with this contradiction because you know when you watch, say, a sci-fi film, that you’ll get futuristic technology, aliens, lasers, monsters, etc but you don’t know how the story will end, what the villain is or their motivations, etc.

Reinventing a character works in a similar way. We take all the familiar elements but recombine them in a manner that is pleasingly novel.

**so that Jack is always light on his feet and moving like a dancer but Bunny moves like a Bunny and Pitch seems to slide and glide everywhere.

*** I do want to praise the voice acting actually. Jude Law is not an actor I have much time for but his Pitch is great. He resists the urge to full on camp like most actors would do when playing the literal embodiment of fear and instead is really restrained. He’s effectively creepy but when he offers Jack Frost the opportunity to team up you actually believe that he could consider Jack a friend. Law has created a  rare villain here who seems equal parts terrifying and utterly human. Chris Pine puts in an unexpectedly good performance as Jack too. He’s not a voice actor but he delivers a performance that easily matches an experienced one here providing a voice that is not at all like his own. Alex Baldwin as Russian Santa so deeply disappears into his character that you’d have no idea it was Alex Baldwin at all. In fact almost all the voice acting is good with the exception of some of the kids.

Hear the Voice of Mummyboon

I’m on a podcast!

It’s not my Podcast, it belongs to a friend of a friend named Boz and is called Little Pod of Horrors. As you might have guessed it’s a horror themed podcast that reviews and discusses horror in any medium including films, books, podcasts and video games. It’s got the feel of just two mates hanging out and is pretty fun.

Boz was also an attendee at Night of the Dead and he recorded some interviews with me and my friends. I’m the one making all the same jokes that eventually made it into my reviews, so yes people of the internet I am just that spontaneously witty.

Night of the Dead is an institution in Leeds. Part of the Leeds International Film Festival it’s a horror movie marathon that runs from 10 o’clock in the evening until 10 o’clock in the morning the next day. Well, sometimes 10, sometimes 11 or 12 or the next day or weeks later. They overrun a lot is what I’m hinting at.

As well as showing a whole bunch of horror films it also features tons of funny or twisted horror shorts, competitions, games and sometimes interviews with directors.*

The shorts are routinely amazing, showcasing some of the sharpest, funniest writing I’ve ever seen in the horror genre and some real originality and inventiveness. To that effect I’ve put as many of the shorts from this year’s festival as I can find on Youtube at the end of this post. Warning, most of them feature gruesome, violent and explicit content. NSFW.

And it’s a good thing the shorts are good because the films they show are usually awful. The hit to miss ratio of this event is just appalling. I’ve been going for three years now and have seen 14 films at Night of the Dead and I can honestly say 3 of them were good. A further 2 were so bad they’re good and 1 (Little Deaths) may be the most upsetting thing I have ever seen. Mostly though the films they show are distinctly average horror efforts showcasing maybe one or two flashes of invention against a backdrop of bland, predictable mediocrity.

But it’s a fun time so I thought I’d review this year’s crop of films for you.

* This is always a mistake because the crowd at Night of the Dead get fairly rowdy. As an example after I watched Little Deaths the 3 directors came up to talk to the audience and the first question asked of them was “why is yer film so shit?”

100 Bloody Acres (2012)

100-Bloody-Acres-watermarked

100 Bloody Acres tells the story of two brothers, Reg and Lindsay Morgan, fertiliser manufacturers in rural Australia who produce a speciality organic fertiliser that’s proving quite popular and effective with local farmers. What’s their secret? Why ground up human remains of course! Oh but don’t worry, they’re not murderers. For now they’re restricting themselves to stealing bodies from traffic accidents, as Reg does at the start of the film. But that means a spotty supply at best and the Morgan’s need to get enough bodies in to fulfill a big order they have coming up. They might have to resort to murder if their luck doesn’t change.

Unfortunately fate intervenes in the form of three young adults trying to get to a local music festival who hitch a lift with Reg. He isn’t intending to kill them but when they discover the dead body he has in the back of his van, well, he can’t very well let them go after that can he?

Horror Comedy might actually be my favourite genre of film. Good examples of the genre represent some of my all time favourite films; Evil Dead 2, Gremlins 2 and Shaun of the Dead for example. I’m not sure why I like it so much but I think it has something to do with the nature of both individual genres.

Horror and comedy are the only two genres that work to evoke a direct physical response in the viewer, laughter in the case of a comedy and fear (so screams, elevated heart rate, etc) in the case of horror. Oh and porn too of course. You don’t need to analyse the characters, the story structure or the mis-en-scene to determine if a comedy is effective. If it made you laugh it’s a good comedy and that’s all there is to it.

But I find myself struggling with both horror and comedies these days. I very rarely watch a modern comedy I like, or a modern horror film that scares me. Partly it’s an age thing. Both genres rely on novelty to some extent and once you get the beats and rhythms of a joke or a scare down it can be very hard for a film to have novelty for you.

And a horror comedy is even harder. Not only does it have to scare me and make me laugh but those are two very different things with very opposing tones. Making something funny can completely undercut any sense of menace it held and make the scares impossible.

So yeah, horror comedy is very hard to do but if you pull it off you’ve made something really special.

100 Bloody Acres does not pull it off, but it very nearly does.

100-bloody-acres-image-01

The failings are all on the horror side. This film never scared me, once. Worse I never really felt a sense of dread or tension, even slightly. It just isn’t a horror film.

What it is, really, is a farce with potentially horrific consequences. All farces are predicated on the protagonist trying to avoid something bad happening but usually that bad thing is embarrassment, or losing their job, or losing money. In 100 Bloody Acres the bad thing is being turned into ground fertiliser but other than that and some gore that’s played for laughs there isn’t much horror in this supposed horror comedy.

As a farce though it is great! A good farce is a hard thing to construct anyway but gut wrenchingly funny if you can manage it and 100 Bloody Acres does. The film is hysterical from start to end full of colourful funny characters and some great gags. I particularly enjoyed the only example in cinema I can remember of chekov’s cum rag and the line “he wants my potassium”.

It also avoids many of the sins of bad farces. None of the characters are idiots. Some characters are stupid but their actions make sense for what they know and what they want at the time, nobody does something for the sake of a cheap gag it all emerges naturally from the situation. Also all of the characters are likeable and well drawn with nobody coming across as a lazy comic stereotype.

Basically if you like a good farce and don’t mind gore then you will enjoy 100 Bloody Acres. It’s no classic but it’s a funny, smartly put together comedy.

Unfortunately it was all downhill from that point on.

Savaged (2013)

Savaged-teaser poster-thumb-300xauto-30444

I’m a big fan of bad films. I’m rarely happier than sitting around with a bunch of mates, drinking good beer and ruthlessly mocking something terrible. Troll 2, The Room, Birdemic, etc. I would much rather watch these again than masterpieces like Citizen Kane or The Godfather.

Films can be bad for lots of reasons. Some have bad ideas that no level of competency can save (Baby Geniuses comes to mind), others have grand visions whose reach exceeds the filmmakers grasp (like the low budget video cheese form the 80’s that produced any number of Blade Runner, Star Wars and Terminator rip offs), some more are just the product of lazy apathetic film makers who weren’t trying very hard and so produce a lackluster result (Catwoman) and best of all are the films where the ideas and execution all combine to forma perfect storm of “what were they thinking” (Manos, Troll 2, etc).

Savaged is a rare species of bad film indeed, the kind of film where almost everything clicks. Almost everything. The story has a good idea, the production values, editing, direction, cinematography special effects, they all work but one, thing is off and it overshadows and pulls down everything else in the film. It’s like painting the Mona Lisa but inexplicably giving her a clown wig. Sure the rest of the painting is a masterpiece of composition and technique but all you can see is the clown wig and it is hilarious.

Savaged tells the story of a deaf mute girl (Amanda Adrienne) who decides to travel across the southwest of America to move in with her boyfriend in California. Along the way she is captured by a gang of rednecks, raped, stabbed and left for dead in a shallow grave.* A Native American Shaman** attempts to bring her back to life but instead merely infests her with the angry ghost of an Apache warrior. Fueled by supernatural powers she sets about getting revenge on the people who killed her.

That’s kind of an awesome story idea right? I mean, dodgy sexual politics aside supernatural rape revenge thriller is pretty original and it’s a solid narrative concept. Native American imagery is kind of under-utilised in horror too so this has real potential.

And in many ways it fulfills that potential. The story hits all the obvious beats at the obvious times, it provides the gore and action you’d expect and you get to see horrible bastards meet their comeuppance.

Savaged-2013-Movie-Image

It’s directed by Michael S. Ojeda who has not directed a full length film before but has extensive experience on T.V. and has worked as a cinematographer and a second unit guy before. Based on the strength of this he’s got a bright future ahead of him as the film is shot and edited brilliantly. It avoids the usual issues with shaky cam and instead puts together coherent and exciting action sequences.

He does have one slightly dodgy directorial decision in that he at some point decided to shoot the entire film through an Instagram filter but overall he’s a fine director.***

However Michael S. Ojeda also wrote this film and that’s where the clown wig starts to come in. The script for Savaged is irredeemably atrocious, just jaw droppingly terrible. This is a film in which the following lines of dialogue are spoken by actual human beings who were (presumably) paid money to say them.

“When I kill something it stays dead!”

“Something dead’s been living here.”

And my personal favourite, said with utter sincerity.

“Will we be together forever?”

“Yes, forever and ever and ever.”

Everyone in this film talks like idiots. They sound like aliens that are trying out this strange human concept you call language. It’s just hilariously, appallingly wrong.

And whilst those examples are the highlights, trust me every line spoken is at best clunky and at worst hysterically bad.

Some of the actors gamely struggle with it. Tom Ardavany who plays West seems to know that his character is supposed to be a real badass but whilst he’s trying really, really hard to sound tough his lines are so poorly written it gives the impression of someone just trying to bullshit his friends that he’s all hardcore.

Other actors…do not fare as well. Brionne Davis, who plays our heroine’s boyfriend, singularly fails to give a believable read once. Every word that comes out of his mouth sounds like he’s some kind of robot speaking words as somebody else types them. There’s one scene where he’s supposed to be ominously threatening our villains about all the horrible things his girlfriend is going to do to them  which is intercut with scenes of her reaping carnage and destruction. It’s obviously supposed to be a “cool” moment but it’s just so annoying. When he’s finally silenced by a blow to the head from a fire extinguisher the audience I was with cheered and I must confess, I yelled “thank you!” out loud at that point.

And he’s not even the worst offender, that honour goes to the Apache Shaman. There’s a scene at the end of the film with him and the boyfriend that is so difficult to watch that it threatens to circle round from bad to Dadaist genius.

The effect is to undercut any attempt at mood the film tries, but of course it keeps trying. It’s trying to show you The Exorcist, or Alien, or The Shining but all you can see is that every character is wearing a clown wig and it never stops being funny!

Savaged is far from the worst film I’ve ever seen but it’s a are and special kind of bad that has its own charms and if you’re an aficionado of bad films I strongly urge you to watch it.

*The film was advertised as being like I Spit on your Grave so I knew there was going to be a rape. I did not expect the girl who was going to be raped to be a deaf/mute and I could feel the audience bristle with discomfort when this was revealed. It’s as if we all thought “I’m fairly sure this is offensive” all at the same time.

**He shows up and my friend Dave said “Oh dear I think something racist is going to happen.” Dave was right.

***Oh and one scene where our heroine is gifted with magical Apache weapons which has to be seen to be believed.

On Air (2012)

on-air-poster

How’s this for a Twilight Zone pitch.

Late Night Pirate Radio D.J. Doc Rock (Marcus Knufken) takes a call one evening from a mysterious killer called The Night Slasher who has been murdering women in the unnamed German city they both live in.

The Killer’s ultimatum; he has a woman at his mercy and he will kill her in one hour unless Doc Rock convinces him not to.

That is a simple and brilliant premise for a high concept Thriller in the style of Phone Booth or Buried. It’s full of potential for suspense and I was really looking forward to On Air at this year’s Night of the Dead.

Suffice it to say I was disappointed.

0f708bda87

On Air singularly fails to build up tension because the story is told incredibly ineptly. To put it bluntly I didn’t understand what was happening most of the time and if you don’t understand what’s happening there can be no tension. Tension is all about expectation. You know something bad is going to happen and you wait, breathlessly, hesitatingly with mounting horror for the bad thing to happen or be averted and the tension to be released. However if you don’t understand what is going on there can be no anticipation of what will happen next and thus no tension.

I’d be tempted to right this off as me being an idiot but after the film ended my friends and I argued for a good 10 – 15 minutes about what had actually happened and only then we did reach a  tentative agreement. Clearly we can’t all be idiots. I mean this is a German film so there may be some translation issues but the problems with comprehensibility run much deeper than that.

The main issue is that this is one of those thrillers that wants to provide you with a twist every 10 minutes to make you rethink your assumptions. That would be fine except some of those assumptions are baffling or contrary to what the twist implies. For example; one of the twists later in the film is the revelation that The Night Slasher has captured the police detective’s daughter. This is presented as a shocking twist but for whatever reason I was under the assumption that this was the case already. So rather than me going, gasp, how shocking, i’m instead thinking “wait, wait I thought he knew it was his daughter that had been captured, why is he shocked now?” Some parts of the set-up seem to be assumed and just aren’t explained. For example I didn’t realise that the film is set in the D.J.’s house until the last 15 minutes because I quite sensibly assumed that people don’t tend to have full radio studios in their basements so this was something of a shock to me but is presented NOT as a twist.

I spent most of the film being confused and then just growing increasingly irritated by the fact that I was confused and was struggling to follow what was happening.

Trying to figure out what’s going on in a film can be exciting and interesting. Something like 13 Monkeys, for example, requires you to pay close attention to follow the narrative and decode what is happening. But in 13 Monkeys I got the sense that Terry Gilliam knows what he is doing, whereas in On Air I just grew increasingly annoyed at what I decided was incompetent film making.

Annoying to watch, not scary, not particularly inventive and wasting a potentially clever premise. It’s not even so bad it’s good it’s just devoid of any cinematic pleasure whatsoever.

They Will Outlive Us All (2013)

theywilloutliveusall

I am going to horribly spoil the plot of this film. I am going to horribly spoil it because the only thing really worth talking about in this film involves a spoiler.

Ready.

The setting is 2016 New York in a future that has been wracked with hurricanes due to climate change. Life carries on mostly as normal but the repeated hammering by storms that New York receives has messed up the infrastructure massively. The emergency services are taxed to breaking point and basically won’t attend most problems. There is a curfew in effect, blackouts are common and water supplies are spotty. Supposedly you can drink the tapwater again but to roommates Margot (Jessi Gotta) and Daniel (Nat Cassidy) it smells kind of funny so they stick to bottled water.

And it’s a good thing they do because something in the water is causing the following things to happen 1. people who drink it get sick 2. after they get sick they appear to turn into slow moving, not particularly aggressive zombies 3. after a bit of wandering around as a zombie a giant cockroach crawls out of their mouth and they drop down dead.

Margot and Daniel discover points 1, 2 and 3 in very short order and then spend the rest of their day barricaded in their shit hole apartment fighting a pair of giant cockroaches. They kill one and trap the other one in their toilet.

From a mixture of celebration at having dispatched the monsters and wanting to forget this ever happened the two room mates start drinking heavily and pass out on their couch. Margot sleepily gets up in the middle of the night and goes to the toilet where she falls asleep on it.

Wherein a cockroach crawls up her ass and into her stomach and she then vomits it out of her mouth.

I’ll let that sink for a moment.

twoua2

This is a film in which a women quite graphically, and at length, vomits an enormous cockroach. One that had previously entered her from (one presumes) her anus.

I was all ready to go on a “horror films are misogynistic” rant but the actress that played the scene, the writer that wrote that scene and the director and cinematographer that shot it are all women. In fact they’re the same woman, Jessi Gotta. So I guess I just have to wonder what the hell is wrong with Ms Gotta and leave it at that.

Anyway after that…memorable, scene the two room mates kill the remaining cockroach and after getting washed up a bit the two friends head out into a New York overrun with zombies.

The End.

You may have noticed not a lot happens in that plot summary and that’s because there isn’t much plot to summarise in this film. There are maybe 4 or 5 scenes that actually contribute to the plot and they could comfortably be told in a half hour.

And yet this is a 73 minute film? What the hell takes up all the running time?

The answer is not a lot. Mostly it’s just the two main characters sitting on a couch and talking.

But those scenes of the two characters talking are the best parts of the film.

The closest comparison to They Will Outlive Us All that you’re likely to have seen is Kevin Smith’s Clerks but even that isn’t a perfect comparison. Like Clerks TWOUA is exceedingly low budget with a very small cast and only a few locations. Both aren’t hugely concerned with plot or narrative although both make token gestures towards it (TWOUA significantly moreso). Both use a very limited set of camera angles and focus on naturalism and naturalistic dialogue. The main difference is that where Clerks had jokes TWOUA has gross out horror moments but the main bulk of both films is just the feeling of hanging out with the main characters. Most of TWOUA is dialogue but it isn’t particularly witty or insightful it’s just kind of normal.

What keeps the film going is the chemistry between the two leads. These two seem like genuine friends and their dialogue sounds like the kind of pointless conversations friends have with each other when just hanging out. After a few minutes of this the two leads become really likeable and it becomes quite fun to just spend time in their company.

Even at 73 minutes it’s far too long though and as much as it’s nice to just spend time with the two leads they can’t sustain your interest for as long as they’re asked to.

So They Will outlive Us All. If you’d like to hang out with two fairly pleasant people for over an hour and then see one of them vomit up a cockroach this is the film for you.

Antisocial (2013)

antisocial-poster

There’s a reason lots of low budget film makers make zombie movies. Zombie movies are easy! They require a small speaking cast of usually no more than 5 or 6 characters, they’re set on at most 1 or 2 main locations and those locations can be as prosaic as somebody’s house and they have a really simple easy to copy story structure. A bunch of people hole up in a single location, argue, fight zombies and die off one by one until either all are dead or some survive.

The only real cost is cameras and make-up and even then you can cheat the make-up if you’re really poor. Honestly it’s so simple you and some mates could make a full length zombie film in your backyard in an afternoon without too much hassle.

That doesn’t mean it would be any good though.

Zombie movies are easy but good zombie movies, significantly harder. Good zombie movies require things like scripts, actors and directors that can create tension and those are all hard.

So maybe you cheat and you make a zombie movie, but with a twist! And again there are plenty of zombie movies that take that approach. Zombie Movies are basically a microcosm of genre as a whole. Genre is all about taking familiar elements and recombining them in novel ways, zombie movies are usually about taking the same stock elements but applying one novelty to them. For example it might be a traditional zombie film but take place in a different location like space (Dead Space), or a school (High School of the Dead); or maybe it’s a traditional zombie movie but it’s happening to a specific group of people like forensic pathologists (13 Eerie) or Yakuza (Versus) ; maybe you mash it up with another genre like romantic comedy (Shaun of the Dead) or a crime film.

This opens up the genre massively allowing for new ideas but also the potential for some biting* satire as in Romero’s “of the Dead” series and as such Zombie films have actually attracted some of the smartest horror film makers over the years who want to use the simple story structure to make a point.

Antisocial’s innovation is to change the way the zombies work so that rather than the plague being spread by biting or airborne virus it is instead spread by (spoilers) facebook.

Okay not facebook “The Social Red Room” because they don’t want to get sued but yeah, facebook.

Hey, what a neat satirical idea! The concept that our dependency upon things like smartphones and social networking has turned us all into zombies. It’s like updating Romero’s consumerist satire from Dawn of the Dead to the Millenial age. Okay movie you have my attention, what are you going to do with this idea?

…..

(crickets)

….

Oh, nothing, You’re going to do nothing with it. I see.

EYES_01

Antisocial has a very clever premise that is rife with potential for social commentary, satire or even paranoid horror but the filmmakers have wasted it entirely because having thought up this premise they clearly thought that that was enough and the film would just kind of happen around it. No effort whatsoever has been expended upon developing the script in any way shape or form to capitalise on this premise.

Instead the film is filled with endless tedious scenes of chaarcters having some variation of the followign argument.

“I’m not infected.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You went on facebook and we have already established at this point that everyone who has been on facebook will turn into a zombie.”

“Yes but I won’t.”

“But you will.”

….turns into zombie and attacks everyone

That’s it, that’s the whole film over and over again for you. Tension? Comedy? Satire? Forget it.

Dear makers of Antisocial, it is not enough to have just one good idea. You also need a decent script, actors and director. Go get those and then try and make this film again.

* pun intended

So that was this year’s Night of the Dead. Two absolute wastes of time  and worse, wastes of good premises(Antiscoial and On Air), one good film (100 Bloody Acres) one film so bad it’s good (Savaged) and one film that is alternately boring, pleasant and disgusting (They Will Outlive us All).

That’s better results than most years.

We also had a host of shorts which I’ve included at the end here for everyone to watch. I couldn’t find every short that was shown on Youtube but suffice it to say this gives a representative flavour.

Fist of Jesus is simply amazing. Gory, ridiculous fun. I’m not going to spoil any of it for you, just watch it now and thank me later.

Alastor is okay. It has a nice premise and some decent moody camera work but is a touch dull and long for the story it has.

Both Box films are more a showcase for some clever animation but they’re fun bits of fluff.

Cargo is so creative, and inventive and amazing it borders on genius. One of the smartest and most moving takes on the zombie genre I’ve ever seen

download

The first Thor film was my second favourite of the Marvel Phase One films (my favourite obviously being Avengers). It was a really solid character based story with almost Shakespearean themes of jealousy, flawed heroes, redemption and falls from grace. It had a superb cast with not one dud performer in the entire ensemble and it was beautifully directed by Kenneth Branagh.

But mostly it was funny. Hysterically, pants-wettingly, quote it to your friends for weeks afterwards funny. “This drink is delicious,” *smash* “ANOTHER!” will be in my personal lexicon of jokes forever.

It wasn’t without flaws though. For a comic book movie it was severely deficient in action. Our hero is without his powers for most of the film and when he finally gets them the climax is perfunctory and disappointing. It also introduced a ton of awesome and interesting characters, Sif, The Warriors Three, Heimdall (The most awesome thing Idris Elba has ever done) but due to time constraints didn’t really do a lot with them.

Why am I talking so much about the first Thor in a review of the sequel? Well because I am pleased to report that this new film fixes those two problems from the first one. There are a lot more action scenes and they’re much better done. The climactic battle which takes place in multiple universes all at once is particularly inventive.

Also we get more Warriors Three this time and a LOT more Heimdall.

It’s just a shame that they forgot to include all the stuff that made the first film great.

Brilliant humour? Eh, there are a few gags I liked but they’re less frequent than the first film and less hilarious this time around.

images (2)

Superb cast? Well everyone returns but, Stellan Skarsgard is reduced to doing some frankly embarrassing physical comedy and Anthony Hopkins clearly showed up on set for like half a day blitzed off his face. He could not care less about this and you can almost smell the apathy coming off him. I’ve never heard a worse reading of the word “hah” before in all my life.

images (1)

And poor Christopher Eccleston has nothing to do as evil villain Malekith. Nothing. At all. His motivation is, he existed in a time before there was stuff and now he is mad that stuff exists. That’s kind of neat in a broad cosmic sense but it makes for a really dull villain. I am mad at everything is not psychologically compelling and even a thesp of Eccleston’s character struggles to do anything interesting with this character. It doesn’t help that he has maybe 4 scenes in the entire film as well.

download (1)

But the biggest thing missing is the Shakespearean character drama. Thor had a great arc for the lead character. He’s an arrogant jock who learns humility and is redeemed. Toss in the conflict with his brother and you have some really meaty character stuff to hang the punching and hammer throwing on.

This time around though, they just forgot to give Thor an arc. He starts the film as a pretty decent guy, a hero in Asgard and the other nine realms and he ends the film as a pretty decent guy and a hero in all nine realms. He doesn’t have a dip, he doesn’t look like he’s lost and has to return from disaster he just travels the story in a straight line. There are some gestures at a love triangle with Thor, Sif and Jane but they amount to nothing. And there’s a speech between Thor and Odin at the end where it’s implied that Thor has learned a lesson about being the king and recants his responsibility preferring to be a hero. But we never see anything prior to this scene related to those themes at all. It’s as if the film is full of shadows from an earlier draft that got edited out so we could get more Loki.

Which brings me to Loki.

images

Who is delightful.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is the absolute highlight of this film. Every second he’s on screen just elevates it utterly. He’s like the jam in some otherwise bland rice pudding. He’s funny, charming, complicated and unlike Thor he actually has a character arc and changes and grows over the film.

Unfortunately he’s only on screen for maybe thirty or forty minutes and he isn’t the main villain this time. Which is fine, he just doesn’t have a natural role in the story and whilst he’s the best thing in it it isn’t his story. But you can tell that the feedback at every stage of production was “needs more Loki” and they’ve forced so much of him in here that it’s been detrimental to the arcs for other main characters like Thor and Malekith.

Whilst this has been a pretty negative review I don’t want you to think that I hated Thor. I didn’t, it was fine. I was perfectly happy whilst watching it, the action was good, it had decent jokes, Loki was excellent, it wasn’t terrible. But it just felt a little thin, like a stew that’s too watery and needs more meat and vegetables.

Which is two culinary metaphors in one review. I must be hungry.

Hey Guys,

Just a heads up and an apology but we’re going into low content mode for a while on Mummyboon.

I recently landed a new job that is great for me and allows me to exercise a lot more creativity and scratch my writing itch.

It has two drawbacks though.

Firstly it takes up a lot of the time I would otherwise have spent writing and working on this blog.

Secondly after spending a day of writing I don’t necessarily want to come home and write some more.

In addition to that November is National Novel Writing Month and I’m going to try and finish my novel in it so any free time I do have to dedicate to writing needs to be directed towards that.

All of which has combined to make it basically impossible to update my blog right now.

I’m not abandoning Mummyboon forever though, far from it. I still need to finish my look back at X-Force, I still need to finish Teenage Mutant Ninja Origins and there is a whole new pokemon game out that I need to review the designs for. I am constantly thinking up content that I can add to this blog.

However don’t expect anything until December and even then service is likely to be spotty until next February.

Once again I apologise to any followers I do have. Stick with me guys, I’ll be back.

-Adam

 

Issue 123 “Tick Tock”

x-force-123

Okay this one requires some back story.

In 2002 Bill Jemas, Marvel’s Publisher at the time, launched an initiative called ‘Nuff Said, a common phrase from Stan Lee’s old soapbox column. The idea was this; Jemas had been having an argument with a television producer about the power of comic book storytelling and specifically how comics can tell a story without using any words since the reader can pace the action at their own desire.

To prove this, and also to test the Marvel creators mettle, he came up with Nuff’ Said, an entire month of comics featuring no words at all, only pictures. The challenge was simple, you’re the best creators in comics, prove it by telling a story using only comic images, no words.

It was a dismal failure.

Most writers just submitted the same script they would have anyway and reading it without words left the entire thing a jumbled mess. Without exposition you can tell what a character is doing  and sometimes how but not why. Uncanny X-Men for example, started a storyline where long time X-Men member Banshee became a pseudo-villain but whilst we could tell he was doing villainous things it was incredibly frustrating to realise we didn’t know why. And many pages featured scenes of conversations between character we were not privy to, so you’re just looking at two guys looking at each other and trying to guess what on earth they’re doing.

Chris Claremont in X-Treme X-Men introduced an entirely new character which is a horrible idea because when you introduce a new character you need to know their name, powers, motivation, personality etc and you can’t do that without any words.

The only person who tried to tell a normal story and succeed was J. Michael Stracszynski who basically did a day in the life of Spider-Man. So it was boring but it was comprehensible.

Many writers instead avoiding trying to tell any real narrative and just did a series of surreal imagery intended to work as a character piece. Exiles, for example, did an issue of the character’s dreaming that worked to symbolically tell us about each character’s desire and dreams. N=W X-M=N did a psychedelic, psychic rescue mission into Professor Xavier’s head which was basically a showcase for Frank Quietly to show off with some trippy imagery.

Basically the event proved the exact opposite of what it was supposed to. It showed how necessary dialogue is to comics because without it you limit the stories you can tell to things that can be inferred symbolically and nothing else.

Milligan decided to go the symbolic dream sequence route and offers us a story where the plot is this.

Doop has a pimple, he pops it, and this causes the members of X-Force to be sucked into the hole in his head. Doop climbs in afterword and rescues them from a series of symbolic nightmares. When they escape nobody remembers a thing except Doop.

X-Force 123 Doop Inside Out

So it’s crap fluff but hey it can do two things at least. Firstly it lets us see Mike Allred draw some really inventive and strange things and secondly we might get a little bit of character insight.

We don’t get all that much though.

X-Force 123 U-Go Girl

Edie, Guy and Tike don’t really get much character work done here.  Edie gets her tongue ripped out which tells us that, Edie likes to talk? That she fears losing her voice? That her tongue is her identity? I think we all know that Edie puts on a sarcastic front so this doesn’t really reveal much about her.

X-Force 123 The Orphan

Guy is a head….I do not know why.

X-Force 123 The Anarchist

Tike is in a dessert and sweats a lot and then his acid sweat becomes the sea because…Tike is scared of sweating? Honestly I got nothing.

The Spike probably get the worst treatment since he doesn’t really appear, he’s not even on the cover. Instead there’s a magazine of him wearing women’s clothes. I don’t know if this is because Spike secretly wants to be a woman, or to wear womens’ clothes, or fears it. Spike doesn’t really have a personality anyway, he’s a plot device to discuss Tike’s character and they accomplished that in the previous issue.

X-Force 123 Phat

Vivisector and Phat get the best sequences. Phat is in a ghetto, being chased by thugs and Doop has to save him. I think we all know by now that Phat isn’t really a gangsta and it’s all an act but it’s nice to see how scared Phat is of the ghetto really. As much as he plays this role he doesn’t want to be a wigga and is genuinely scared of being found out.

X-Force 123 Vivisector

Vivisector is the only character we learn something new about. He has a sequence where he is chased by a spectre of his father as a giant covered in incomprehensible writing. The animosity between Miles and his father has been hinted at before but we didn’t realise he feared him, and even more he appears to consider himself intellectually inferior to him since he can’t read the books in his monster father’s library or understand the writing on him.

We also get a lot of Doop stuff including the first suggestion at just how weird Doop is. Doop can climb inside his own head, change size, suck up people, swim through acid, etc. He has pimples that cause dimensional portals and can travel in time. The Doop is incredibly powerful and secretly really weird joke is one Milligan will constantly return to (even bringing it into X-Men at one point) but this is the first time it appears and it’s kind of shocking and strange.

So X-Force 123. It’s crap but it’s the best they could do under the limitations placed upon them.

X-Force Issues 121 – 122 “Lacuna”

X-Force_Vol_1_121

Our main story starts with Tike, Guy and Edie watching recruitment videos to replace Saint Anna and Bloke. The first one they watch is a black mutant named The Spike with the power to grow, control and fire spikes from his body. Guy and Edie are impressed but Tike thinks he’s “nothin’ but a glorified spear chucker” which technically with his powers he kind of is but is obviously supposed to be Tike playing some kind of race game.

The three agree not to pick The Spike and at a press conference announce that they have yet to pick replacement members. The conference gets interrupted by The Spike though and his “national association for keeping it real” who declare Tike Alicar a “Captain Coconut” because he’s black on the outside and white on the inside.

X-Force 121 Captain Coconut

The Spike and Tike get into an argument about whether he’s a black man whose a mutant or a mutant who happens to be black and what exactly that means. It looks like the argument is going to escalate into a full on brawl but Alicar walks away before it devolves into fighting. Well Alicar doesn’t fight anyway but there’s nothing stopping Vivisector and Phat from throwing down with The Spike in front of the cameras.

Edie tracks Tike back to his home to find out that The Anarchist actually has obsessive compulsive disorder and likes to constantly wash his hands. She quizzes him about The Spike and he gets so annoyed he accidentally vaporises the building they’re in.

This issue also establishes many sub-plots. Phat and Vivisector meet up with Spike Freeman, the groups financial backer who is still trying to start an X-Force civil war to boost ratings. He convinces the pair that everyone sees the team as the Tike, Edie and Guy show and that if they want more media attention Phat and Vivisector need to do some outrageous and attention gabbing things like fight other members of X-Force.

Guy and Edie edge around a romance, Guy is clearly interested as is Edie but he’s unsure about doing anything since he has a responsibility as team leader. Edie though is clearly conscious of how fragile their lives are and wants to grab any opportunity while she can. For example she’s trying to get her own talk show which will involve her narrating old X-Force battles; something Guy finds to be incredibly trashy.

X-Force 121 Pure Yankee Doodle

Lastly there is the mystery of just who or what is Lacuna. A mysterious piece of graffiti that signals something going wrong for X-Force like Edie’s hat changing or some fish being dropped in their swimming pool.

I turns out Lacuna is a new character, a teenaged mutant girl with the power to move between moments in time. Lacuna wants to do good in the world and sees X-Force as the means to do this as she thinks their media perception is a front for people who genuinely want to be heroes. She’s being playing these pranks to show how useful she can be but that’s not how you join X-Force, you need an agent for starters. Lacuna is undeterred though and threatens to kill herself by jumping into a pool full of acid if the team say no to her request.

So Edie of course smirks to camera and says “No!”

Issue 122

X-Force_Vol_1_122

This issue starts with a flashback to Tike’s youth, growing up in the far North of America in a very white part of town, with adopted white parents and playing in the white snow. Two kids tease him that his colour is coming off in the snow and the idea so intrigues the young boy’s mind that he starts washing his hands in an attempt to scrub his colour away.

Our cliffhanger gets resolved boringly as Lacuna was just making an idle threat. A conversation ensues though, do we want her to join. Guy and Edie stick to the party line but Tike likes her and suggests her instead of The Spike.

Speaking of The Spike, Edie’s going to be standing for Larry King on his talk show whilst he has the flu and The Spike is her first guest. What’s more she’d like Tike and Guy to come along too to try and stir up some controversy.

X-Force 122 I'll Be Killed Off1

As Edie, Guy and Tike prepare for the show conversation turns back to The Spike. Guy and Edie still want him and still don’t understand why Tike is so adamant he shouldn’t join. Eventually Tike fesses up, it’s because he’s black. Tike sees himself as the token black guy on the team and worries that if a younger black man joins he’ll be kicked from the team, literally killed off.

All the various sub-plots and angst comes to a head on the tonight show. Spike and Tike argue on the same theme of what being black means and as they do so Phat and Vivisector (who are high as kites) bust in, smashing up the roof and causing it to fall on the audience. Spike, Tike and Guy move to save the audience but Lacuna shows up, saving the day and at the same time stripping the team down to their underwear.

X-Force 122 Give Us Back Our Clothes

In the aftermath of that chaos Tike agrees to let Spike join if Lacuna joins, but now Edie is adamant Lacuna can’t join. At an intimate dinner with Guy (wherein they discuss how a guy that sensitive can have sex, apparently he has a special ointment) they discuss the various recent events and are once again interrupted by Lacuna. Edie is furious and Guy teases her that it might be because she’s jealous of a younger woman who also appears capable of teleporting. Apparently what was supposed to be an idle joke strikes a nerve as Edie actually is jealous of Lacuna.

Poor Guy, he’s going to have to have nobody to rub his ointment in.

There’s a twist though, Lacuna isn’t going to join X-Force after all. Instead she’s been offered the TV show that would have gone to Edie, identifying that her ability to get up close and intimate with celebrities makes her the ultimate TV gossip host. And Lacuna’s happy because she realises she didn’t really want to be a do-gooder, she just wanted to disappoint her parents.

Our comic ends with The Spike making a threat to Tike not to start any long novels, he knows as well as Tike does that super-hero teams usually only have room for one black guy.

X-Force 122 Don't Start Any Long Novels

Tike Alicar, The Anarchist, was up until this point the least developed of the main characters in this book. He was loud, rude and resistant to authority but we hadn’t gotten to see any layers to him like we’d seen with Edie and Guy. These two issues though delve deep into his character in a big way and reveal a whole mess of neuroses in there.

The biggest reveal is that Tike has undiagnosed OCD. This throws his every action as The Anarchist into question. An anarchist is one who believes that there should not be any external forms of control or limits placed upon human freedom. In a more general sense it means a lack of order and everything we’ve seen Tike do so far, destroying hotel suites, filling swimming pools with acid, killing people and even threatening to kill his own team mates fits that image of an uncontrollable and wild person, of anarchy personified.

But OCD is all about systems of control and liking everything to be ordered and static. It’s a reaction to the chaos and randomness of real life by trying to control it and make it safe and ordered. Because Tike has OCD and keeps it hidden and secret from others we can assume that his OCD is his reality, his true personality and The Anarchist is a mask, a role he’s playing to disguise his true desire for order and control. He recognises he can’t have it so he plays pretend that he doesn’t want it in the role of The Anarchist.

X-Force 122 I'll Be Killed Off

His OCD is also tied up with his race and this two parter is about racial politics more than anything else. Tike Alicar is a black* man; this is an indisputable fact but he doesn’t feel like he is. He grew up in a very white part of the country with white parents. He grew up believing that if he could just scrub hard enough the black would wash and there’d be a white person underneath, he thinks that he is a white person underneath. And in a sense he is. Being black is just a skin colour ultimately but it’s a skin colour that works as a signifier for many common cultural biases and experiences. Many black people in America have known poverty either in their direct experience or from a recent family member. The Spike has, Tike hasn’t. Nearly every black person in America can trace their ancestry back to a slave and that has to have a psychological effect on how you view the world. And whilst Tike can probably trace his genetic ancestry in that way his actual family were white people and so he didn’t grow up in a household with that cultural bias. The Spike presumably did. Being black doesn’t make you anything other black ultimately but being black means you probably had a, b and c influences on you growing up that will affect your personality and outlook on life and so means that for most black people being black is about more than the skin colour in some sense.

The Anarchist isn’t just Tike playing a role it’s specifically Tike playing the role of what he thinks a black person should act like, angry with the system, resistant to forms of authority (as a reaction to slavery, etc) but utterly confident in who he is and unafraid to change it for everyone. Although he is small b black he is pretending to be large B Black.

All the criticisms that The Spike makes of him, that he’s white on the inside, that he pretends to be black are absolutely true.

But.

Spike

They speak more negatively about The Spike than they do about Tike Alicar.

Because when The Spike is saying that black people have to act a certain way and that Tike Alicar is just pretending to act that way he is correct but Alicar is doing it to game the system for fame and fortune, whereas The Spike seems to sincerely believe it. And that, is racist. Expecting a group to all act a certain way and all hold similar beliefs because of something arbitrary like the colour of their skin is the very definition of prejudice, you are pre-judging what that person will be like even though the one quality that is true, being black, is not necessarily a signifier of any other feature, like liking fried chicken and watermelon for example.

And then you bring in the mutant metaphor and it gets even more complicated and clever.

Look at this exchange.

X-Force 121 You're White

I’ve actually heard variations on this exact statement from many people, including some quite clever critics and artists that belong to multiple what we might call non-privileged groups. Somebody who is black and a woman or gay and jewish, etc, etc. This person obviously belongs in the venn diagram for black as well as the venn diagram for gay but might find that there is no group that accepts both aspects of their personality. If they’re involved in racial equality activism and politics they can find that many of the black men that work so hard to fight for equality based on the colour of a persons skin are raging homophobes.  The problem with playing racial or minority politics is that it can work to separate people into discrete categories, gay, straight, black, white, men, women when it should be striving to break down the barriers between these groups. If your goal is to get equality for black people you naturally pull together a lot of like minded black people to help you, but that can have the unintended consequence of dividing the world into a duality of black/white and ignoring those other dualities that make it so much more complicated and messy to be a human being in a multi-cultural world.

Tike is both black and a mutant, The Spike’s statement is a nonsense, he is both. But what Spike means is which of these two groups does Tike define himself as? And he can only be one even though he is both. And although  The Anarchist is a role Tike created Tike has been playing it so long that his response is basically fuck you I’m Tike Alicar I’m neither mutant nor black but me. Being black means you have to come from poverty and the ghetto? No, fuck you I’m rich and I come from a nice middle class home with good parents that loved me. Being a mutant means you’re hated and feared? No, fuck you I’m a celebrity loved by millions.

I also love when he calls Edie white; because she isn’t, she’s blue. Bright blue! She is as “coloured” as he is and emphatically not white. But we kind of understand what The Spike means. Edie has parents who are white and she was born blue not because she belongs to a culture of blue people  but because of her mutation. His statement “you’re white” kind of makes sense but on the surface is completely wrong, she’s blue. It just goes to show that people like The Spike deal in dualities his world is divided into white/black and has no space for blue people.

Mutancy is often used a stand in for race in the Marvel universe. Being a mutant works as a kind of metaphor for being a different race or sexual orientation or basically any divergence from the norm. But in using mutancy in tandem with race Milligan points out people differ from “the norm” in so many different ways that constantly defining yourself against it is ludicrous.

Especially because identity is fluid and a creation. Tike can’t help but have black skin but it doesn’t inform his identity unless he chooses to let it any more than Edie’s blue skin informs hers.

I think that’s another reason why I love Edie so much. She’s the most fame obsessed member of the team, as shown in this arc and her desire to get her own TV show, but at no point does anybody ever point out that she’s blue, like this would be any kind of problem to being a TV star.

X-Force 121 Mindless Violence

Milligan has a lot of fun with sending up super-hero concepts again in this arc. Tike admitting that he’s scared of The Spike because he thinks he’ll be killed off is probably the best example of this. It’s a nod towards the conventions of genre fiction that often use token black and Asian characters and don’t feel like they need to double up on them but it’s also a nod to horror movie conventions about how the black guy always dies first. And it’s a stab at broader pop-culture where sit-coms, films, etc also come from a white dominated default and only feel the need to have one token black character. You might imagine Milligan and Allred themselves sitting down and going, well we have a black guy and we need this new character why not make him Hispanic or Asian instead? That would come from a well meaning place but it reduces Alicar to, black guy on team, when he is a character so much more well rounded and fleshed out than that.

My favourite meta gag this time is the announcer at the press conference. “Once again, dramatic events interrupt an X-Force Press conference… of course they will avoid dealing with the real issues of race, gender and capital in this country.” X comics of course use the mutant concept as a metaphor but always end their plots with a brutal super-hero slugfest because of course what better way to avoid answering the questions your concept raises than mindless violence!!

Phat and Vivisector finally get a plotline that is both broadly satirical of reality TV (with its need to invent conflict where there is none to keep audience attention) but also satirical of super-heroes in specific. They get told to fight the other team members, to do something controversial in order to steal the spotlight. This functions both as a dig at stars who exist solely to fill gossip pages such as Lindsey Lohan whose fame and earnings are contingent upon her being high as a kite at public events and on the structure of super-hero comics where face time goes to those character with dramatic story conflicts such as internal angst or arguing with other characters. It’s as if Spike Freeman is Allred, gliding in and going, I’ll draw you more if you start doing interesting things guys but at the moment you’re boring.

X-Force is remembered as that comic that satirised pop culture but really in re-reading it I’ve felt it functions more as a satire of super-hero conventions than a straight pop-culture satire. It’s also kept the stories very dramatic and serious even if there are jokes and absurd moments.

Then there’s Lacuna.

Lacuna_001

Hoh boy Lacuna.

Lacuna is a joke character, plain and simple. She does ridiculous slap stick things like strip the team naked and drop fish in their pool.

In terms of personality and motivation she’s a character created for a joke too. See her parents are hippies and anti-establishment. Lacuna is in the stage of her life where she wants to rebel against authority, broadly in the sense of the world and specifically her parents. She also wants to do good in the world. So she tries to do things like, give her food to the homeless or join a super-hero team, things she think will annoy her parents and make the world a better place.

X-Force 121 Give My Food to the Homeless

But since her parents are more rebellious than her they fully support her whatever she wishes to do and she can’t annoy them, no matter what she tries she can’t rebel against rebels.

Until she instead decides to rebel by becoming a part of the media machine and making the world an actively worse place by becoming a gossip show presenter.

It’s a joke. It’s not a bad joke and some of the slapstick (especially the naked sequence) is beautifully drawn by Allred and very funny. But it’s a joke and at this stage X-Force isn’t a full on humour comic and the tone feels misjudged. Lacuna may be the name of this arc but she’s the worst thing about it whereas everything involving The Anarchist and The Spike is a very well observed and intelligent satire on race in the media and in comics.

*Just as an aside I’ll be using black rather than terms like African American. I know it’s a weighted term because of our associations in western culture of white with good and purity and black with evil and filthiness but a) it’s the term the comic uses b) I’m British and that’s the most widely used term over here and c) African American has massive issues and loaded biases too. Just know that I’m not intending to offend anyone when I say black I’m just using a simple term to denote dark brown skin tone

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 34 other followers