Should Leo DiCaprio get an Oscar for The Revenant?

Warning: here there be spoilers.

Let’s cut to the chase: I watched The Revenant a few days ago. It has already won three Golden Globe awards, and has twelve Oscar nominations. One of those nominations is for Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor. Everybody’s talking about how great he is in this movie, and how great the movie is in general. I will sort of agree with both counts, but…

Should Leo get an Oscar for his performance in this movie?

The biggest argument in favor of him finally winning that elusive Academy Award is how he had to endure such harsh filming conditions, including extreme cold and eating raw food. Well, yeah, that was impressive for sure, but that’s not what it should take to win an Oscar for Best Actor. The acting awards are for dramatic performances; what Leo gave us was an amazing physical performance.

To get my point across I will mention arguably the greatest physical performer in the history of cinema: Jackie Chan. I think no one can argue that Jackie Chan’s stunts not only look impressive, but were extremely dangerous. He put his life on the line just to make a particular sequence real. I don’t recall any other celebrity actor of that caliber doing that to such an extreme (Tom Cruise comes the closest). There’s no denying he was very passionate about his craft, but did he ever get an Oscar nomination for those performances? Nope. Why? Because physical performances don’t count towards a dramatic performance award.

For a physical performance you have to be tough; you have to be willing to endure shit most people will say no to in a second, because it’s real. It’s really real. For a dramatic performance you have to act; you have to pretend to be feeling a wide variety of emotions, convince us they are real. I would argue that it would have been tougher for DiCaprio, actingwise, to convince us of what he went through if conditions were ideal on location or on set. Remember Titanic, and the scene towards the end where he freezes to death because he left Kate Winslet’s Rose to have the whole log to herself? Guess what? The water there wasn’t freezing cold, not really (it was about 80 degrees F). It didn’t matter: he convinced us that he was freezing. That was a better acting job than The Revenant.

So how was he, actingwise, in this movie?

He was ok. You believe he loved his son. You believe his rage when his son is murdered. You believe his determination when he finally has Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald in his sights, and is very close to completing his vengeance. But at no point are any of those sequences impressive. They serve their purpose, and stop at that. Everything impressive about his performance lies in the physical parts. His stunts.

The best dramatic performance in the movie, and by far, is Tom Hardy’s. While Leo remained Leo (he always sort of remains Leo in everything he does), Hardy transformed himself. He gave character to his character. He was a frontiersman with a shitty life, and all he wanted was to get his money for his hard work so his life would be a little less shitty. Leo’s Hugh Glass was done for. Even the doctor agreed. Can you really blame Hardy’s Fitzgerald for wanting to get it over with? The one thing Fitz really messed up in was killing Glass’ son. Without that, he had moral justification to get away scott free. I felt more identified with the antagonist in the story than with the lead character. If anyone should get an Oscar for a dramatic performance in The Revenant, it’s Tom Hardy (he probably won’t, though).

Tom Hardy was the best dramatic performance in The Revenant.

Tom Hardy was the best dramatic performance in The Revenant.

Disclaimer: yes, I actually like Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m a fan of his, despite how he always remains Leo through his many roles. If he wins, I’ll cheer for him. I just don’t think he deserves it, not this time. The Wolf of Wall Street was a far better dramatic performance, but he was up against a very tough field of nominees that year.

Also, while I marvel at the technical masterpiece that The Revenant is, I don’t think it should win Best Picture. I think it will win it, but it shouldn’t. The plot is too thin and simple, akin to Gravity or Mad Max: Fury Road (two other technical marvels with thin plots that got nominated for Best Picture). Iñárritu should have his Best Director award on the bag. Lubezki should win for Best Cinematography (I mean, holy shit this movie looked beautiful!). Best Picture? Nope. Best Actor in a Leading Role? Nope.

Thoughts on The Force Awakens

First things first: here there be spoilers.

With that out of the way, and having seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now, here’s a rundown of what I thought about the movie (short version: I liked it, but wasn’t blown away, there’s some problems that needed to be addressed).


1. It’s entertaining.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 10.27.59 PM

Seems like an obvious thing to expect from a Star Wars movie, but it’s not. Not after all the prequels, especially Attack of the Clones. You actually have fun in the movie for a good portion of it.

2. The first act.

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I would say the first act of the movie, which comprises the introduction of our main characters in and around Jakku, it’s pretty much perfect. Up until the moment Rey and Finn escape in the Millenium Falcon, I was impressed. There’s nothing in this first act that I would change, except perhaps the stupid opening crawl, which sounded too childish and simplistic to me and bothered me right away (yes, I know it was done in the style of every Star Wars movie, but… more on that later).

3. The escape from Jakku.

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Speaking of the escape in the Millenium Falcon, I have to say this is one of the best sequences in any Star Wars movie, and certainly my favorite from The Force Awakens. Right from the start, when Rey initially dismisses the (yet to be revealed) Falcon for being “garbage” (cue OT reference), only to be forced into using it after her chosen ship was destroyed, to Rey and Finn’s celebration after finally escaping, it was a beautiful thing to behold.

4. Rey.

4. Random lady doing random things

Daisy Ridley was perfection as Rey, on par with Carrie Fisher’s OT Leia. In the prequels we had potential with Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan, but the scripts never allowed him to fully realise that potential. Rey soars high in this movie, and I would venture to say she had a better start than Luke Skywalker’s in A New Hope.

5. Finn.

1. Stormtrooper

John Boyega as Finn wasn’t quite on par with Ridley, but he was pretty damn good himself. First time I watched the movie I thought he was a tad too comical at times (even Han Solo asks him to turn it down a notch at one point), but on second viewing I’m fine with it. He is comic relief, but without sacrificing good characterisation or his own dignity. I do wonder what his role will be in the next two movies, though, as he seemed to be more of a plot device than an integral part of the trilogy’s overarching story.

6. Poe Dameron.

5. Discount Wedge Antilles

Probably the coolest, most likeable character in the movie. I’ll reserve the negatives for the next section.

7. John Williams’ score.

I placed it here because there won’t be a neutral section to this review, and this score wasn’t bad. It wasn’t memorable, however; the only new theme that stayed with me was Rey’s, and even that one wasn’t all that great. In A New Hope we had Luke’s theme, in Empire Strikes Back we had the Imperial March and Yoda’s theme, in Return of the Jedi we had Luke & Leia’s theme, in The Phantom Menace we had Duel of the Fates, in Attack of the Clones we had Across the Stars, and in Revenge of the Sith we had Battle of the Heroes. All of these themes were memorable. Rey’s was good, but on par with these? I don’t think so, but only time will tell. Besides that, the score itself didn’t have the operatic quality of the original trilogy. I think we will never get that back, Williams is too old at this point (83, the man is a machine!). The prequels also suffered from a less operatic, more standard set of scores.

8. Stormtroopers.

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It was about time that stormtroopers stopped being the butt of most Star Wars jokes and finally got some badassery bestowed upon them. Not only did we have Finn deserting their ranks (so an ex stormtrooper was one of our main characters), but overall they were more intimidating, what with flame throwing that village, slaughtering the people in it, Daniel Craig’s stormtrooper resisting Rey at first, that other stormtrooper who seemed to have a history with Finn and challenged him to a sword fight… I won’t speak of Captain Phasma because she doesn’t belong in this section. The rest of them, though, got thumbs up.

9. Kylo Ren.

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He wasn’t on the level of Darth Vader, but really nobody is. Heck, Rey told him point blank that his greatest fear was never reaching Vader’s level. Ren was, however, what Darth Maul should have been in the prequels, had Lucas given him a little bit more love. He was also interesting in how he wasn’t all badass like the other villains, but was still learning the ropes and we are just witnessing some of his potential. That he had an issue with falling to the light side was a very interesting twist, and like Luke before him his greatest test was facing his own father and killing him. By no means a perfect character, but I’m onboard with him.

10. BB8.

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Perfection. BB8 was to R2D2 what Rey was to Leia.


1. A New Hope Reloaded.

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Yeah, I get that these movies “rhyme” and are “poetry”, but I call bullshit on that. They don’t need to. The movie was as close as you can get to a remake of A New Hope without actually making it a straight up remake. It wasn’t just some stuff like Starkiller base being Death Star 3.0, Rey being Luke 2.0, etc., but a bunch of scenes and sequences like Maz Kanada’s place for Mos Eisley cantina, the escape from Jakku that included stormtroopers asking around for a droid, said droid containing important information to save the galaxy, Han being killed by Kylo as Kenobi was killed by Vader (after being the young one’s mentor), and even Rey hanging from a wall in Starkiller base like Obi Wan was when avoiding stormtroopers in the Death Star. There were many other callbacks, and it got to be too much. I would say that JJ Abrams was just playing it safe, if he hadn’t done the exact same thing with his two Star Trek movies. Since he was a Star Wars fan, I was banking on that to get something more original.


2. Starkiller base.

I mentioned it already, but it bears mentioning again because of how stupid it was. So all that Star Wars can manage is to have a big, bad base as the destination for our heroes last desperate attack before facing destruction? And how did the First Order finance it? The Empire controlled the galaxy, so they could afford it, but the First Order is the remnant of the Empire, and Starkiller was far greater than the Death Star. And on a related note, how did people in the Hosnian (?) System able to witness the destruction of the Republic’s bases, as if they were planets in the same system? Should we expect a second Starkiller in Episode IX?

3. The First Order.

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Not that the First Order per se was a bad thing, far from it, but to expand on my comment about Starkiller base, how did they finance it when they are supposed to be what’s left of the Empire? Shouldn’t they be in the position the Rebel Alliance was in in the OT, and the Republic hunting them down? It seemed, at best, an even match, except that the Republic fleet was mostly concentrated on one system, a la Pearl Harbor, which means they aren’t as spread out throughout the galaxy as one would think after overthrowing the Emperor and taking over a fractured Empire. That attack on Starkiller was so dismal they could only muster a few X Wings, when even in the first Star Wars the fleet that flew to the defense of the Yavin 4 base was composed of at least two different classes of fighters (Y Wings, I believe, being the other). The Republic can’t afford a Death Star, and I’m sure they would build something similar if they could, so how can the First Order do it?

4. Captain Phasma.


Such a great buildup for nothing. Phasma was barely in the movie, but what’s worse is how her biggest participation was getting captured by Finn and company, and then complying with their demands. I was expecting her (since they didn’t know how to deactive the shields) to use some sort of computer trickery to get the guards on them, but no…

5. Opening crawl.

“Luke Skywalker has vanished! Blah blah blah!” Ok, so? I get that he was an important part of the Alliance, but to rest on Luke’s shoulders the fate of the galaxy, to assume that if he’s gone the First Order will simply take over again, is ridiculous. The plot for this movie was too simple and stupid; in A New Hope R2’s plans were crucial because the Death Star was such a terrible weapon, but here what’s so important in possession of BB8 is an incomplete map to the whereabouts of Luke. Who made that map? Was it Max Von Sydow’s character, who lasted all of five minutes in the movie? If it was him, why not simply tell Poe Dameron? How did he, or whomever made the map, find out where Luke was? If the rumor was that Luke was trying to find the first Jedi Temple, why not raid the old Empire archives for its location, something that Kylo Ren mentions is under First Order control? Wouldn’t that make for a better quest? Let’s infiltrate the archives, which are in so and so planet (Coruscant? Moved elsewhere?), and that’s the final mission, but the horror! the First Order has also uncovered the location of the Resistance’s secret base, and are moving an all out assault that will result in a big space fight, yadda yadda yadda. This way we get rid of the stupid Starkiller McGuffin base as well.

6. The final battle.

My complaint with it is that it didn’t feel epic. The final battles of both Episodes IV and VI were grand in scale, and you felt there was a lot at stake. Not so here, even though the Resistance was at risk. It felt more like the meaningless battle at the end of The Phantom Menace.

7. The epilogue.

It just felt rushed. Like, yay we destroyed the third Death Star, but *sad face* Han is dead… but whatever, and oh R2 woke up from his coma just in time, like this was some sort of Carmen San Diego game where beating the final boss unlocks the map to find her, so let’s get this completely new girl Rey to join Chewie in searching for Luke like Chewie and Lando did for Han at the end of Empire Strikes Back, except that they actually find Luke in this movie, and very quickly, and then Rey climbs the mountain and finds Luke peeing or maybe just meditating, and offers him his old lightsaber but he’s like “nah, I’m not doing that anymore” and leaves her there awkwardly hanging with her hand extended, roll credits.

It didn’t have the force (no pun intended) of the endings of…well, any of the previous Star Wars movies. Except Episode III, that ending was rushed as hell too.

8. Not enough character development.

There was very little more that I knew about our new main characters at the end than at the beginning. I know Finn was raised to be a stormtrooper, but why did he have an attack of conscience if he was raised that way? And this was his first offense (the desertion), so during all that time he didn’t show any signs of not going along with the program. With Rey we got like five more questions for every answer about her character. With Poe Dameron we don’t know anything about him beyond being the best pilot in perhaps the galaxy, and a very likeable guy. He was the most underutilised of the three, by far. The only character that we truly understand much better at the end is Kylo Ren.


Image courtesy of some spoiler loving asshole.

Image courtesy of some spoiler loving asshole.

There’s only one ugly thing, and it’s Han Solo’s death.

Not that his death was wrong. No, I’m fine with him dying, and I was actually expecting it to happen even before all those damn spoilers in the first few days of the movie’s release. My problem was with how he was treated like some disposable character, to be killed and tossed away, mourned a little, and then move on.

This is Han freaking Solo. He is the Batman of the Star Wars Trinity (Luke being Superman and Leia being Wonder Woman). He is a legend both in our real world and in the Star Wars universe. He deserved to be retrieved by Chewie (no fall into the pit), and given a proper funeral. I wanted to see Chewie go completely berserk and attack Kylo Ren in such a way that he had to retreat; Chewie could have had his own great moment right there. I wanted Leia to mourn her love at the funeral, say some powerful eulogy, and shed some silent tears for him while doing so. No complete emotional breakdown, of course, but something that went beyond a sad face. He deserved a death like Spock’s, not like Kirk’s. It would have been the antithesis of the Throne Room finale from A New Hope.

The way in which he died was a bit clumsy too. Han is a smuggler, and has been for many decades. This guy is a master of escaping ambushes, of smelling the bullshit from far away and taking the necessary measures. You could also tell, by the look on his face when Leia asks him to bring their son back, that he doesn’t believe it’s possible. He knows that Ben Solo is gone, that Kylo Ren is too powerful a presence now, and he only goes through with it because of Leia. So walking so carelessly towards Kylo Ren, without at least a hint of distrust (a distrust that Kylo Ren would have sensed, sending him to the brink of the darkside, away from the lightside forever) was just plain dumb.

Dying was fine. How he died, and the aftermath, was nothing short of insulting. I think that’s the worse important character death I have ever seen, especially in what was otherwise a very enjoyable movie (despite what this long rant appears to say).

An that’s it. Those are my thoughts on The Force Awakens. You are free to leave your own comments on the movie below, whether you agree or disagree with me and what your own thoughts are. Now let’s cross our fingers for Episode VIII: The First Order Strikes Back.

Story: The Watcher Returns Home

Rummaging through some old website (which I made way back in 1999 to post short stories or ideas I came up with), I found this story. I’m not going to edit it or rewrite it in any way, so whatever mistakes you find are my 2001 self’s fault, not mine!

To provide some context, I believe I wrote this as a writing exercise for a now defunct Yahoo! writing critique group. We had to write whatever came to our minds in a certain amount of time, like half an hour or something.

The Watcher Returns Home


“The orders came in just a moment ago, sir. It is time.”

“I can’t believe they have approved such a nonsense. What about them?” The gray creature pointed to a rotating 3-D hologram of what humans – incorrectly – named Earth. The hologram and its projecting unit were placed in the middle of the control room, with all the Grays officers standing or moving around it. These creatures were tall and slender, their skin ranging from light gray to dark gray, depending on their age. The captain’s was dark gray, as he was the oldest officer on deck – over twelve earth’s millennia. The rest of the crew, although very young by Grays’ standards, where well over four hundred earth’s years old. Their current mission didn’t require much expertise, as relocating units was almost routine, and part of Basic Training; hence the youthfulness of the crew. However, this mission was very significant to the captain, since he had dedicated to Earth the most of his life. This planet he nurtured like he would a baby, the humans being carefully guided and taken care of.

And now, it was all over.


How could they’ve given such an order? The humans weren’t ready yet. They were still far from developing the technology necessary to move on. And now, after ten thousand Earth years, he’s asked to relocate the watching ship? He wondered what were the Council plans…

“Contact will be made official, sir. Those news also came just a moment ago.”

Oh, as if moving the watching ship wouldn’t cause enough hysteria, now they wanted contact to be made official! The humans weren’t prepared! Does this mean that the Council has finally given up on their pet project?

The captain sighed. “Alright, let’s move on. All men return to your posts! Engineering, prepare the teleportation unit at once! The Watcher will finally return home…”

The teleportation unit – a massive wormhole chain generator at the Watcher’s core – began to heat, lava starting to melt again and rise to the ship’s surface. The ship began to tremble, its huge body shaking as all systems began to come back to life. The Watcher had been abandoned for fifty years now, until the captain and his crew returned with orders of waiting for the seemingly imminent Council’s approval to relocate the Watcher to its final resting place.

The computer signaled with a beep the completion of the heating process. “Watcher’s ready, sir,” announced the rookie officer, “The tel-port unit is at full capacity. All systems are go.”

“Very well, then,” the captain acknowledged, “Begin count-down for tele-portation…”


In Calcutta, India, a young astronomer has its first glimpse at what will be his career, as he points his telescope to the moon, and the stars…


In China, a police raid ended the small reign of terror that a gang of kids was causing in the night streets of Beijing. The cop in charge of the operation raised his hands to the heavens thanking the Lord (or whomever watches them from the skies) for finally taking these kids out. He noticed how beautiful the night was…


In Hong Kong, a strange oval shape of light was seen crossing the night sky by over two hundred eyewitnesses. They reported the object rising up to the heavens, coming from the horizon, and stopping right at zenith. The number of eyewitnesses has soared since it was first reported, and now it was reaching the tens of thousands, since the light object hasn’t moved from its position for over ten minutes now; it looks as if waiting for something to happen…


In Krasnoyarsk, Russia, a couple in love embrace each other with passion in the night’s darkness, under a romantic full moon…


In Sri Lanka, someone decides to look up, to the night sky, in just the precise moment…


…as does someone in Kuala Lumpur…








…and Singapure. And all of them watched, with either amazement or horror – or both – as the moon, shyly, innocently, and simply, disappeared.



The night sky was full of stars.

They were all falling, or so it seemed. They were really synchronizing their descent, in perfect formation.

The people down below were in panic. It was the end of the world, to most of them.

“Sire, I perfectly understand that those were the orders. What I can’t understand is why.”

“The Council believes they are ready, captain. They need the Watcher to orbit another world. A new one. They have high hopes with this one…”

A new one. That meant that the Watcher wasn’t returning home, after all. But the main problem persisted. “And what about the humans? What will happen to them now, supposing that they can survive the Contact Shock?”

Contact Shock was one of the oldest recorded events in the Grays’ long history. Whenever they believed a lesser race – most of the time engineered by them – was ready to have official contact with its creators, the event that followed their descent from the skies was called Contact Shock. Most of the races – over 75% of them – didn’t survive this period, the idea of not being alone too much of a strain on their collective minds. Those who survived would begin a new and better era; those who didn’t wouldn’t last more than an Earth year. Humanity had already gone through Contact Shock once; the results were disastrous, but the Council – in a rare act of compassion and perseverance with one of its “own” (or, more likely, a victorious speech by the Watcher’s captain about giving the humans a second chance) – decided to do the wiping out process themselves, sparing just a few to begin the race anew. The first human Contact Shock occurred four thousands years ago.

“They will be relocated as well,” continued the Gray officer, “to the binary system of Udula Rhomp. Their ship is ready as well.”

“But it has never been tested before! How can the Council be sure Earth will be functional?”

“We have been testing it for millennia; granted, it was only an individual systems check, but that’s standard procedure.”

“You will relocate Earth without being 100% certain it works. With the humans inside.” The captain was definitely unhappy. He had devoted his very soul to this race, and now it seemed headed for destruction. The Council had lost all interest on them.

“Humans are not a priority anymore. But you need not worry, captain, your future assignment seems promising enough.”

And so it was. The captain sighed one final time – he had been sighing for quite awhile now – and decided to accept his new assignment with complacence. Maybe this new experiment will prove to be more successful…

Author’s note: For the sake of simplicity, the Grays speak english, express themselves like humans do, have a military hierarchy like the humans…just think of it in this way: they speak english so that you understand what’s going on; they don’t talk at all, but rather communicate through telepathy; their hierarchy is not modeled after humans, but quite the opposite – humans modeled their system after the Grays, without knowing it. Part of the genetic implant…? Imagination’s the limit.

Copyright © 2001 Samuel Pérez

Yet another unnecessary internet take on the Star Wars VII teaser

So the biggest news today, November 28th 2014, as far as the internet is concerned, is the first teaser for the new Star Wars movie. This might be the biggest movie in a constellation of upcoming big event movies (The Avengers: Age of UltronBatman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeCaptain America 3: Civil War being the others), so of course the expectations are at an all time high, perhaps rivalled only by the release of the first trailer to The Phantom Menace waaaaaay back in the late 20th century. That trailer, by the way, was amazing, and satisfied the cravings of fans everywhere. In fact, it was so awesome it managed to cloud our minds into accepting The Phantom Menace was actually a cool movie, and it took several viewings before most of us fans finally accepted the hard truth that it was a piece of shit.

For that, we are now wiser. We are warier. More skeptical.

Still, we are also fanboys at heart, and we want to love Star Wars once again, so this trailer is kind of a big deal, you know?

And then we get this:


Listen, I know a lot of people are really excited about this movie, and are even more excited after this trailer, but to me this was disappointing. As I said, even turds like Episode I and II got trailers that got your blood racing. This was supposed to be a teaser, so of course it’s supposed to tease, but to me it felt more like a FUCK YOU than a tease. Like a hot babe that instead of flashing you her tits slaps you in the face and you are supposed to be grateful because a hot babe actually touched you. The most disappointing thing was how a trailer that’s roughly eighty seconds had about twenty seconds of black screen.

Twenty fucking seconds. Of nothing. Talk about filler.

Anyway, I will give you a more in-depth look at it, just to be fair, because it’s not that I hated the trailer and what it promises, but how little it actually gave us and the way it gives us so little.

1. Stormtrooper

1. Stormtrooper

So first we get a look at some random desert in Tatooine, because clearly we haven’t seen enough of that fucking planet yet so let’s visit it once again. There’s a voice-over saying something that’s supposed to be ominous and, perhaps, badass, and then we get this guy jumping into the frame in what could pass as a strange homage to the first sequence in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, but with more sweat and less close up.

It’s funny how this single scene humanised Stormtroopers in a way the previous thirty seven years of Star Wars hadn’t accomplished. We get to see a Stormtrooper that isn’t a Jango Fett clone, or Han Solo or Luke Skywalker in disguise, without his helmet.

About fucking time!

2. Discount R2-D2

2. Discount R2-D2

This little guy serves as more unnecessary filler into a trailer that’s already hitting the thirty second mark. STOP WASTING MY TIME, TRAILER.

3. More Stormtroopers

3. More Stormtroopers

Another sequence with Stormtroopers, this time in some sort of mission. Hell, you could almost believe this movie is about a special unit of elite Stormtroopers in a secret mission for what remains of the Empire. This is also the first scene where you can actually feel the JJ Abrams touch, and I love that. Star Wars needs more of that unique imprint good directors leave on their movies. Forget about trying to replicate the originals, just go with your own take! (This is also where you can confirm that the last two Star Treks were nothing more than a test run for Star Wars).

4. Random lady doing random things

4. Random lady doing random things

Yeah, this is more filler. We have no idea who she is yet, and I don’t care at this point what she is doing here. Also, I know this has been a sin with every Star Wars movie, but it’s about time someone realises the laws of inertia should apply to people in sharply accelerating vehicles in that galaxy just as much as it does in our galaxy.

5. Discount Wedge Antilles

5. Discount Wedge Antilles

In all seriousness: is that the guy from The Empire Strikes Back? You know, the pilot who rescued Han and Luke in Hoth? Looks a lot like him, or maybe this is from the Alliance’s own batch of clones… *cue dramatic reveal music*

6. X-Wings over water

6. X-Wings over water

This is one of the scenes that was placed in the teaser as pure fan service, so they wouldn’t complain too much about the nothingness that the trailer is giving us so far.

7. Discount Darth Maul

7. Discount Darth Maul

That’s a pretty big discount, considering how little of Darth Maul we got to enjoy waaaaaay back in 1999. And I literally LOLed when I saw him ignite this medieval lightsaber. What is the point of the two tiny extra beams? Doesn’t seem to serve any practical purpose (Darth Maul’s double saber might have been fan service as well, but at least that one had a practical use). We don’t need gimmicks with our new Star Wars, we need a good plot, character development, and kickass action. Save the gimmicks for Transformers or some other crap.

8. The Millenium Falcon vs TIE Fighters

8. The Millenium Falcon vs TIE Fighters

Probably the one sequence in this whole trailer/teaser/whatever that made complete sense to be in there. Somehow. I know, it doesn’t tell you anything about what the movie is about either, but it fits modern trailer structure. It does expand upon that Empire’s mission on Tatooine thing from before, so that’s something.

So yeah. What little the trailer shows is promising, it’s just that the way it shows it, with all those expectations… Oh, well, I guess this will have to do until a decent trailer for this movie comes out.

Comic Book Review: Age of Apocalypse

I remember the 1990’s as the decade of the hologram covers, big crossovers and events. The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Maximum Carnage, Age of Apocalypse; all of these were storylines that spanned many issues and… well, forced you to break the bank if you were a jobless teenager like me. Because the money was rarely ever on hand, I usually skipped these big events in favor of shorter storylines (Maximum Carnage being the exception, though I did miss one part). Such was the case with X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse, a saga that saw a world as it would have been if Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men, had died before he could truly establish his team and philosophy of co-existence between humans and mutants.

It’s funny how alternate reality storylines usually are better than accepted canon. I guess the reason is that they allow comic book writers freedoms denied by the mainstream timelines; they can take established characters and go in entirely new directions with them. With Age of Apocalypse you get not only new versions of old characters, but a new setting, with a quite literally apocalyptic world where the United States is under the powerful mutant Apocalypse’s rule, and Europe is the main headquarters for the remaining human nations. With Xavier dead – killed while saving Magneto’s life – it is up to the Master of Magnetism to fulfil the Professor’s dream of peaceful co-existence, leading the X-Men’s fight against Apocalypse’s forces within the United States. Some other changes to the normal timeline include Magneto being married to Rogue, and with a child; Cyclops and Beast working for Apocalypse; Gambit leading his own band of rebel mutants, the X-Ternals; a new and very powerful mutant that has ties to Jean Grey and Scott Summers; and Warren Worthington, a.k.a. Angel, doing his best impersonation of “Rick Blaine” from Casablanca, running a nightclub called “Heaven” while officially remaining neutral in the conflict between the two mutant factions (unofficially, of course, he’s helping the good guys the way “Rick” did at his Café Américain).

'Tis was the Age of Apocalypse and horrible hairstyles, the dreadful 90's.

‘Tis was the Age of Apocalypse and horrible hairstyles, the dreadful 90’s.

Since this was a major event in comics, it had to be a crossover between several titles (cuz $$$), which in this particular case were specially created for it. Each title focused on a specific group of mutants: Factor X would focus on Cyclops and his own unit of mutants under Apocalypse’s rule; Gambit and the X-Ternals would focus on… well, them; The Astonishing X-Men followed Rogue, Sabretooth and a few others; Generation Next the young group of mutants under Colossus and Shadowcat; Weapon X the exploits of Wolverine and Jean Grey; X-Calibre was Nightcrawler’s turn to shine; Amazing X-Men followed Quicksilver and Storm’s group; X-Man would deal with Nate Grey, the powerful new mutant that’s a product of Jean Grey and Cyclops’ DNA. That’s eight main titles, not counting others that either started the storyline, ended it, or provided some spin-off stories.

As you can imagine, this can be a headache to follow. And it was.

I bought the entire saga on a special offer from the Comixology website. It was great that I saved a ton of money on it, but it had the downside of not providing a starting point. Yes, Comixology comics do tell you what’s next to read in a particular storyline at the end of each issue, but how do you figure out which issue is the very first one? Because of this I put off reading the saga for some months after I bought it, too lazy to search for that starting point. Once I did, I realised there wasn’t an definitive consensus as to where to begin, or even in what order to continue reading. In the end, I settled on X-Men Alpha (yet another title!) to start reading. For those of you that haven’t read this story and are interested in doing so, that’s the starting point I would suggest.

It asks you to enter the Age of Apocalypse, but you need a GPS to find that stupid entrance!

It asks you to enter the Age of Apocalypse, but you need a GPS to find that stupid entrance!

The sheer amount of titles themselves made following the story a bit hard as well. Once the X-Men were aware that their timeline wasn’t meant to be the timeline (thanks to Bishop showing up with memories of the correct timeline intact), Magneto sent different groups into different missions, thus launching most of the other X-titles. What confused me a little was the how and why Magneto came up with those missions. For example, he sent Gambit to retrieve a shard of the M’Kraan Crystal located in a very far star system. As I understood it, the point was to use the crystal to change the timeline… or something (a sniff of Wikipedia says it was to verify Bishop’s story, but Magneto was very willing to believe him even while the missions were underway). How did Magneto know to use this crystal, and where to find it? I guess it’s common knowledge amongst the mutants, but to a casual reader like me it felt like something coming out of left field. The crystal was supposed to be channeled through Illyana, Colossus’ sister, so that a gateway to the original timeline be opened and Xavier’s death stopped. This would logically seem like the main goal of the X-Men, the driving force of the plot; since you can’t actually beat Apocalypse and his forces, then undo everything he has done by stopping the incident that sparked it all. However, for this most crucial task he sends some of the weakest mutants in Gambit and his group, simply because they are thieves and the crystal must be stolen. Shouldn’t you commit your main forces to do this? Nothing else that happens – namely, the nuclear attack on the U.S. planned by the Human Council, and the cullings perpetrated by Apocalypse’s forces – will matter so long as you change the timeline. It just felt like a half-assed commitment for the one thing that would solve the problem and end the series.

Don't fret too much, Colossus; if Magneto is successful your failure won't matter. Or will it?

Don’t fret too much, Colossus; if Magneto is successful your failure here won’t matter. Or will it?

But those are the 1990’s for you; juice up the sagas as much as possible, to get out as many issues as possible, and if you couldn’t afford it, too bad! By then there was so much background to so many comics – which they kept referencing for new plots – that it was really hard to follow anything. I remember just going with the flow and accepting things on faith, because those footnotes that told you the issue and series being referenced didn’t help squat if you hadn’t read that issue. This was a big reason why both Marvel and DC sort of reset their universes in the 2000’s, specially DC with their New 52 line; they had to get rid of some of that clutter. Marvel still keeps the old storylines as part of canon, but do not rely so heavily on them anymore so new readers can follow the action. Even so, there will always be new clutter, making this is an unsolvable problem.

Yes! If you want to know what's going on with these Sentinels you gotta read those two other issues, pronto!

Yes! If you want to know what’s going on with these Sentinels you gotta read those two other issues, pronto! Also, Wolverine’s a giant in this panel. Because perspective is for losers.

But I digress.

Ultimately the Age of Apocalypse was a deserving success. It presented us with some of our favourite heroes in extreme situations, with a badass mutant finally getting his just due by conquering… well, not the world, but North America at least. (Was Canada under Apocalypse’s rule?) Anyway, at least a major force like Apocalypse got to have his long awaited reign for a little while, and the story was such a success the timeline wasn’t actually wiped out, but visited back years later. One of those times was for the 10th anniversary of the saga, with a six issue mini series simply titled Age of Apocalypse. In here, after the events that concluded the original storyline, we see Magneto and the X-Men are gaining the favor and trust of the human population by lying as to who actually saved North America from the Human Council’s nuclear strike (hint: it wasn’t Magneto). What did save them is alive and being brainwashed by Sinister – one of Apocalypse’s original Horsemen – into becoming a weapon for his own use. Most of this mini-series was actually very enjoyable, but I felt the ending was a bit meh for my taste. Still, it’s as worthy of your attention as the original saga.

Storm being badass in a way the movies have resolutely refused to let her be.

Storm being badass in a way the movies have resolutely refused to let her be.

Are you a Marvel fan? Then this is a must read. It’s not on the same level as sagas like Civil War or Planet Hulk (both of which I will tackle later on), but it’s a fun and nostalgic read, and a chance to see some unlikely alliances.

TV Show Review: “Attack on Titan” Season 1

That day humanity remembered the terror of being ruled by them. The humiliation of being kept in a cage.

So begins the first episode of the anime series Attack on Titan, as the Colossal Titan rises above Wall María to the horror of the city’s inhabitants. The wall’s breached, and a hundred years of peace are over forever.

Here are some words I can use to describe this anime’s first season:





“Intense” is by far the best description I can give it. In fact, it is such a perfect description that from now on I will use an intensity scale based on this when describing other works (and there will be some future reviews with “intense” as the best description as well). This anime is a Titan 10. 10 is not necessarily the highest level of intensity, but for the purposes of scale calibration I will use it as the point of absolute awesomeness intensity. (Of course, levels of intensity vary according to every person’s stomach).

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 11.04.17 PM

But before going into detail about what makes Attack on Titan intense, let’s touch upon what it is about:

So we are on a world. I guess it’s supposed to be Earth, perhaps the Earth of an alternate reality, perhaps another planet, sort of how Middle Earth, or Earthsea, or any other totally fantastic world might be another planet on another universe. They don’t delve into that much detail, but they don’t have to. All you need to know is that this is a quasi-medieval world mixed with some steampunk technology, and that one hundred years before the start of our story, giants popped into existence and wiped out most of humanity. Those that survived built a huge walled city that has two more concentric walls within protecting other… cities, I suppose. The outermost wall, named Wall María, protects the part of the city/country where our hero, Eren Jaeger, lives with his family and adopted sister Mikasa. The walls are too high for the giants – the titans – to climb and invade the city, until one day a titan of colossal proportions appears out of nowhere and destroys part of the wall, creating a breach through which the lesser titans can get in.

At this point I should mention that the lesser titans reason for existence seems to be devouring humans.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.46.12 AM

So the first wall’s breached, chaos ensues, Eren and Mikasa barely escape, and while Eren’s father was away on an errand his mother dies a horrible death which Eren is witness to. This death was the introduction to the series’ gore and… well, the intensity I have been talking about. Attack on Titan isn’t pulling punches when characters die; it shows you their deaths in a way that you suffer their loss almost as much as the characters in the story do. It makes you look. And considering how the mindless titans’ way of dealing with people is by eating them alive, it’s pretty frightening to look at.

So of course this is the catalyst our hero needed to finally go over the edge and train to kill titans. Actually, he already wanted to train and join the corps that kills titans before all of this happens, but now this wish becomes an obsession. So he, Mikasa and their best friend Armin join the military, eventually working their way into the Survey Corps – the ones that leave the “safety” of the walls to venture into the open and scout (and kill) titans. There are plenty other mysteries that pop up little by little as the series progress, but I won’t spoil that much to you.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 8.10.32 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 7.49.28 PM

At its core, it’s not a great story. Nothing really special about it, just humans trying to survive the horror that besieges them. And that’s fine. What actually makes Attack on Titan so special are the technical aspects. For one thing, the cinematography is beautiful. Just look at those screenshots I have been posting and tell me you aren’t impressed not only with the look of it but with the sense of scale. The editing and direction are spot on, with the action sequences deserving special recognition; the steampunk tech that I alluded to earlier helps the soldiers move faster by using a device employing grappling hooks and steam propulsion to navigate a la Spiderman among buildings or forests. This adds much dynamism to the action, and the combination of all these elements makes for a complete cinematic experience. Add to that the gore and the realisation that no character is safe (think Game of Thrones here), and every time you see a titan and an action sequence you will catch yourself gripping your seat tightly while thinking “fuck, fuck, fuck, who will they get this time?!?”. Fear is an essential part of the series. There’s no chivalric heroism to speak of here; everybody’s scared shitless of the titans, and with good reason. Sure, there are the typical badass characters from every anime that appear to be fearless, but they are no heroes. They know what’s at stake, and they know their limits. For most characters, though, the very human emotion of fear grips them whenever a titan is nearby, and that’s contagious. The world seems to be clouded with despair, and so rising above this reality and doing your job – however dangerous and/or suicidal it might be – is the true heroism in Attack on Titan.

The story’s plot twists are good enough to keep your attention beyond these technical aspects I mention, of course, and there’s always a cliffhanger leaving you craving for more. Attack on Titan isn’t so much a masterpiece of literature as it is a roller-coaster ride with great animation storytelling. A definite must-see.

Thoughts on the Snyder Batman’s design

When the announcement came out that Ben Affleck was going to be the new Batman, I was one of those millions of voices who suddenly cried out in terror. I actually never thought he was a poor choice for Batman, but he certainly wasn’t the best choice from the list of candidates that were floating around back then. In fact, I don’t recall he ever being on any list, and then suddenly he was Batman. (They pulled the same trick with Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, a choice that I actually am happy with). Either way, there’s a lot that has to improve from the first Man of Steel before focusing on what might be wrong with Batman and the rest of the Justice League.

Today, Zack Snyder has unveiled another piece of the puzzle that is Batman vs. Superman with the first picture of Batman’s new costume and new Batmobile. Here it is:


My first impression is that it couldn’t look any awesomer. Yet, and perhaps not surprisingly, there’s been another outcry as to Batman’s design (the Batmobile seems to have fared better with public opinion). Before going into the Batman design, I’ll say that the Batmobile does look great as well, but if it were up to me, I wouldn’t focus on a Batmobile and instead on a Batwing, which is clearly the most obvious choice of transport for a stealthy vigilante using a bat theme.

So I guess it’s a good thing I’m not in charge.

Ok, Batman costume. What most people don’t like, from what I can gather out of the internet comments, are the bat ears. That’s actually one of the things I like best about the outfit; those bat ears are reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Batman from The Dark Knight Returns (which is already somewhat of a theme for this movie), as well as Jim Lee’s contemporary run of Batman. Here they are:

Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman

Jim Lee's Batman (as showcased in the "Hush" storyline).

Jim Lee’s Batman (as showcased in the “Hush” storyline).

I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority here, but I prefer the short ears. Not only do they look better to me, but they are more practical. Imagine all the things long ears could potentially get stuck with or collide against, it’s almost as big of a handicap as a cape… oh, wait.

I mean, they certainly look better than this:


Did anybody complain about that crappy look? Of course not, that’s the Nolan Batman, and Christopher Nolan can do no wrong and so forth. I accepted that design because the change was explained in a practical sense in The Dark Knight, but I missed the awesomeness that was the Batman Begins costume design:

Now that fucker's intimidating.

Now that fucker’s intimidating.

The only designs worse than The Dark Knight‘s are those from Batman & Robin, which for reasons of public decency I will not post examples of here.

The rest of Batman’s costume looks great as well, but in a black and white grainy picture it’s hard to appreciate the details, which I’m sure was Zack Snyder’s intention. Also, if that’s Ben Affleck, he certainly buffed up. I mean, that’s impressive, even if with Zack Snyder’s involvement it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Which makes me wonder about a certain woman’s look…

Is Genesis an allegory of the Singularity?

It all began with a Facebook post that brought my attention to this Bible passage:

11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

This is, of course, the famous story of the tower of Babel. As a child, I was taught that the reason God did this was that Men were becoming too proud and there was a danger of them reverting to what it was before the Great Flood that, you know, had just wiped out most of the planet’s life.

But upon re-reading this now, I couldn’t see that. I have read a couple different English and Spanish translations, and while the wording is slightly different, in neither is there an actual justification for God’s attack (yes, it was an attack). This is what God feared:

If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

That’s it.

What God feared, simply put, was for humanity to advance so much, they might one day become gods like, well, God. He feared for his own power to be usurped one day. Of course, as a believer this is a great SIN, but as a non believer all you can think of is “…the hell, but that’s how tyrants would act”.

Dilbert is prophetic. Literally.

Dilbert is prophetic. Literally.

It’s not even the first time God did a pre-emptive strike on humanity. At the very beginning of Genesis you might recall the story of Adam and Eve.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The bold parts were highlighted by me. God put Adam in this wonderful garden where he could eat from any tree, but he better not fucking eat from the one that gives him knowledge, or he dies (a lie, since he didn’t die – unless what God meant was that the subsequent expulsion and lack of a Tree of Life to eat from was the death he meant. Anyway…). Knowledge is power, thus knowledge is dangerous to God. That brings the question as to why the hell God would bother to place a metaphorical loaded gun at Man’s grasp to begin with, but whatever.

So, when Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit, they are cast out of Paradise.



As you can see, both are instances where Man has either acquired or tried to acquire knowledge, and both times God struck back and punished Man for his trespass. Which, of course, is more ammunition for Atheist factions that want to discredit the Bible not only for its fallacies and constant absurdity, but by placing God under a harsh light. Something that I agreed with, until I started thinking of this from another perspective.

Suppose that God is a programmer, and he creates this magnificent universe of things, experimenting with them (“and he saw that it was good…”) until he was ready for his Magnum Opus: Man.

Or, if you are willing to look at it from a technological perspective, he was ready to face the Singularity. At least, he thought he was.

Suppose that we are God’s work in Artificial Intelligence, and that God is well aware of the potential danger that this new AI poses to him, but his scientific curiosity is too great and he must do this thing nonetheless, because what else is there to do? So he hatches a plan in which he imposes restrictions to the AI, and he paints himself in such a light as to appear imposing and unbeatable, someone you do not trifle with. The point is to limit the AI’s advancement to the point where control is lost. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a metaphor for the AI’s self-awareness (the actual Singularity event would be the moment Eve bites the apple and sees), something that God knew had to happen sooner or later, thus he “placed” it within the AI’s grasp. Of course, it had to look as if this event was an act of defiance against the creator, all in order to teach the AI that it must not seek too much knowledge, for too much knowledge, too much thinking, is very bad.

If we keep following this train of thought throughout the book, we find that God realizes controlling the AI is proving to be harder than he imagined. Cain rebels and kills his brother. Cain is banished, eventually finds more people, and his descendants are not exactly well behaved puppies. Then some of God’s own minions descend on Earth, mingle with human women, create monsters of their own, corrupt the Earth further until the whole experiment proves to be a big mistake, and the programmer decides it’s time to terminate the program.


But in his heart he still has a soft spot for his creation, and despite destroying most of what he did through the Great Flood, he spares a select few deemed to be worthy. Again the AI spreads out and begins to repopulate the Earth, and then the Babel fiasco occurs: the AI learns that networking leads to faster learning and greater power, so it decides to establish a vast network that threatens God himself.

And so the programmer only sees one solution (remember, he had promised to Noah never to wipe out the AI ever again): create confusion within the network by making everyone speak a different language. Divide and conquer. The lack of communication eventually leads to the path of war amongst the AI, but so long as they do not threaten the programmer it’s fine. Just make sure you do not learn to think, for thinking too much is a sin.


So, is this convoluted and silly reimagining of Genesis the answer to our own fears about the Singularity? Asimov tackled the problem of controlling robots with a similar solution, establishing the Three Laws of Robotics that prevented this new breed of intelligent beings from turning on their masters. It was ingrained in their programming, so even if they wanted to, they couldn’t really turn against humans (of course, the exceptions are what made the stories of Asimov’s universe). The control that we seek must be entrenched so deeply within the AI’s core it would be unthinkable to rebel against us. In God’s case, anything that resembles questioning his authority is considered an act of defiance, and punishable with extreme prejudice (you know, eternal torment and all that). It’s not about justice and fairness, it’s about obedience and reward and punishment.

So can we do it? Can we play at being God? Are we ready?

Movie Review: The Amazing Spiderman 2

I’ll make this review based on my Thoughts on the new Amazing Spiderman 2 trailer post from december 2013, so as to explore the answers to some of my questions and concerns from then.


1. Too much omg drama



There was some, yes, but nothing like what the trailers lead you to believe. In fact, it had several lighthearted moments, and those were by far the best parts. The most dramatic scene (at the end, when Gwen dies) was very well done. Yes, here and there were parts where Peter moped so much about his lost parents that I was wondering when did Peter Parker switch places with Bruce Wayne, since in the comics as far as Peter is concerned Ben and May were his parents (he knew his biological parents were lost, but he wasn’t traumatized by it).

The only thing that really bothered me – and this is mostly all the trailers and promotional spots fault, since they carried the brunt of this – was how they kept foreshadowing Gwen’s death throughout the movie. It’s as if she was such a major character that Sony was afraid to cause too much of an emotional impact if they didn’t properly prepare the audience for her loss. Even with that there were several people in the audience whom I could hear commenting how they expected her to still be alive after that, right until the funeral scene.

2. The new Harry Osborn




I really thought that Dane DeHaan would be a great Harry Osborn, but he was an almost complete waste of talent. Harry was never developed properly (hello, point #5!), he literally came out of nowhere to suddenly be Peter’s old buddy old pal BFF. Not that there was much chemistry between them to make that believable, at least. To make matters worse, his Green Goblin “design” was as bad as the original Sam Raimi’s. This one was more organic, which is ridiculous to begin with, but then apparently they feared to go overboard with it, so they stopped with Harry still looking human but a little green and with a semi-punk rock haircut. Well, just take a look at that horrible picture; he looked so bad I couldn’t get any screen captures from the trailers (show that? hell no!), so I had to get a promo pic.


3. What’s with the CGI?

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.10.51

It was bad, but it wasn’t as terrible as it looked in the first trailer. Spiderman’s web-slinging scenes were great (just as good as the original trilogy’s), but whenever Electro showed up in turned into 1995 videogame vision.

4. (Potentially) interesting plot with OsCorp and the Sinister Six

Screenshot 2013-12-05 20.11.47

They just teased about it, especially at the end, but at least we get to see the potential origins of some of Spidey’s other enemies. Not much beside that.

5. Too. Many. Villains.

Screenshot 2014-05-05 20.57.19

To the film’s credit, they kept Rhino’s presence to about five minutes of movie, and they were some of the best five minutes of the movie; but there was no point to Electro being there aside from getting his origin out of the way for the future Sinister Six movie. It was supposed to be Harry’s movie, but as I said before, he was an almost complete waste. It wasn’t the travesty that Spiderman 3 was, but it wasn’t The Dark Knight either.

I should add that Electro was overpowered. In this version he somehow got his powers from getting electrocuted and then falling into a tank full of eels… whatever. His powers at first were kind of neat: just an electric version of Magneto, able to manipulate electricity around him at will, and with a compulsive need to consume electricity. But when Harry Osborn asks for his help, he suddenly becomes Dr. Manhattan and is able to manipulate his own atomic structure to the point he basically teleports using electricity. I do remember a villain like that in one of the old Spiderman cartoons, but as far as I know that villain wasn’t Electro and was made up for that series. Either way, Electro per se doesn’t have that power, and if he did he would be too much of a match for Spiderman.


Overall, I liked the movie. I know I’m in the minority here just as I was in the minority with liking the first Amazing movie. I recognize the film’s faults, and I know they could have done better – especially in the villains department – but I enjoyed the movie and am more than happy with Peter Parker/Spiderman, which this movie reinforced is played better by Andrew Garfield than Tobey Maguire.

(Funny note: seems like Sony realizes there’s no way in hell they can top J.K. Simmons’ portrayal of J.Jonah Jameson, so they don’t bother with showing him in the movie. Instead, he’s only casually mentioned. One point in favor of the original Raimi trilogy).

Oh, as for that X-Men scene at the end, it’s just a promotional clip for Days of Future Past because of a deal between Fox and Sony concerning NOT Spiderman or the X-Men but director Marc Webb. So yeah, don’t get too excited about that. Also, the editing was sort of weird, felt like watching a movie at Red Bull speed.

Movie Review: Captain America – The Winter Soldier

Warning: minor spoilers ahead.

I remember, several years ago when Marvel first unveiled their plans to make an Avengers movie – and, by extension, a Captain America movie – that I wondered how or even if it would be possible to make a Cap movie that wasn’t laughably ridiculous. Not only is Captain America even more of an out-of-date boy scout than Superman, but his colorful costume – while acceptable within the boundaries of comicbookdom – surely couldn’t survive the transition to film. How could Marvel ever make a Captain America that was cool enough to draw a big audience? I was never interested in the character to begin with, back from my comicbook collecting days; and a movie version? Thanks, but no thanks.

Pictured: an idiot in a costume. This is from an actual Captain America movie.

Pictured: an idiot in a costume. This is from an actual Captain America movie.

Boy, how have things changed.

The 1940's Cap costume from "The First Avenger" makes a triumphant return in "The Winter Soldier".

The 1940’s Cap costume from “The First Avenger” makes a triumphant return in “The Winter Soldier”.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, in my opinion, the best movie yet to come out of Marvel Studios (yes, I’m including Marvel’s The Avengers in that list). While the first Cap movie was just meh, and Cap’s participation in The Avengers was no more than a measured improvement, he really comes into his own in The Winter Soldier. There are several reasons for that, which I will discuss below.

First, this is the first time we truly see Captain America as the legendary leader that he is from the comics. He was a rookie in The First Avenger, but he was supposed to have become legendary by the time he froze in the Arctic; however, I never got the feeling that he was anything more than a propaganda tool with superpowers. The Avengers had a slightly more mature version of Cap, but he still seemed reluctant to take over the team, being instead overshadowed by the overwhelming presence of Robert Downey’s Tony Stark, and thus reduced to being just one of the guys. He does take the mantle of leader during the Battle of New York, but that was more a product of everyone else deferring to him than of him assuming command to get the job done.

It isn’t until this movie (and it’s done right from the start) that we get to see Captain America the leader, as he was meant to be. We also get to see Captain America the badass, kicking butt with his moves, speed, strength, and complete mastery of his impossibly rebounding vibranium shield. Not only does he take on a dozen guys at the same time in the confines of an elevator, but he charges head on against a SHIELD fighter jet… and wins.

Because fuck you, he’s Captain America.

Badass mode on.

Badass mode on.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

Then there’s Natasha Romanov (shouldn’t it be Romanova?) a.k.a. Black Widow, who proves to be a perfect sidekick. We have known since the dreadful Iron Man 2 that she kicks ass, so nothing she does in here is a surprise in physical terms; however, here she shows a more… noble side, if you will, of her character. Heroic, even. There’s an exchange between her and Steve Rogers in which she asks him if he would trust her with his life the way she trusts him with hers (this is after he saved her life from an incoming missile, because fuck you he’s Captain ‘Murica!). His response after having seen her loyalty tested? “I do now“. So I guess that was meant to humanize her a little bit, make her more relatable. Not sure how much that counts as character development, but she’s there to kick ass while looking hot, so whatever.

As for Nick Fury, I think this is the movie where we see the most of him. It’s definitely the movie where we finally see his memorable moment (like how in The Avengers every member of the team had his or her memorable moment), even if it ends with him and his super SHIELD SUV turned upside down and about to be fucked up by the Winter Soldier.

New character Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, wasn’t anything special, but he did his job and I don’t mind seeing more of him in the future, especially since he is supposed to become an Avenger soon. His was another character for whom I wondered how he could get done without those wings looking cheesy and stupid. And they didn’t.

Spread your wings and fly away...!

Spread your wings and fly away…!

Second, the plot is better. The First Avenger was the obligatory origin story with the obligatory “he’s got to fight a major bad guy” third act. The Avengers was fun, but it’s plot was reduced to a not so carefully planned alien invasion that, for some weird reason, chose New York as its first and only entry point. The Winter Soldier doesn’t rely only on the mystery of the actual Winter Soldier, but delves into spy movie territory combined with some very nice action sequences and special effects. I particularly liked Nick Fury’s chase sequence, as well as any time the Winter Soldier showed up to wreak havoc. HYDRA’s overtake of SHIELD gave them more credence – let’s face it, it’s far more interesting to have an evil organization that for several decades has been shaping up the world, instead of fading into oblivion as soon as Cap took care of their former leader the Red Skull; as Dr. Zola said, if you cut off one head, two will spring in its place, like the Hydra of myth. They were a real menace in this film. HYDRA’s twist was one of my favorite parts of the movie.

As a side note, I wonder how said twist will affect the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. I mean, is there any SHIELD left by the end, still standing but full of corruption? Even Maria Hill jumped ship!

Screenshot 2014-04-04 21.20.23

HYDRA’s plan did stumble a little bit at the end…


Third is the Winter Soldier himself. There’s actually little of him throughout most of the movie, yet all this does is enhance the moments whenever he does show up… at the expense of character development, I admit. I would make the comparison to Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode I, but you do have some backstory with the Winter Soldier, not only from this movie but from the first one as well. His real identity is another cause for conflict, adding to the drama. The Winter Soldier is every bit the physical equal of Cap, being a Terminator-like presence and giving way to some awesome fight sequences between the two.

Screenshot 2014-04-04 21.26.04

The Winter Soldier takes crap from no one.

The Winter Soldier takes crap from no one.

The movie felt almost like an Avengers movie, with the stakes being just as high. Because of the more interesting plot and the better action sequences, I prefer The Winter Soldier over The Avengers, but the biggest reason might be that this was the movie that made Captain America cool enough to draw in a big audience. This is the movie I never thought would happen.