Sunday, June 16, 2019

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is the best Dragon Ball film ever made. To most of you, that's probably not a very high bar. Nobody watches The Return of Cooler and thinks, "That should've won an Oscar." Of course, things have been a bit different since Dragon Ball was revived with Battle of the Gods, what with canon movies being released that have a bit more impact than the usual Who Cares Movie Villain stories. Not to say some of those haven't been enjoyable in their own right.

See, there's something DB movies do better than the serialized show most of the time, and that's pacing. With the show, you have a situation like Planet Namek due to explode in five minutes, but in-show it ends up taking around an hour. And that's in the compressed version! Things tend to be stretched out to build tension or explain what's going on, leading to fatigue if you're not a twelve year old boy and completely into it. The films, on the other hand, compress themselves a bit more, so Goku meets a villain, they fight, Goku seems like he might lose but at the last minute overcomes his limitations and kills the villain. It's simple, it's like a mainline dose of Dragon Ball whereas the show tends to be more like an I.V. drip.

This pattern of the movies, though enjoyable next to the longer-form Dragon Ball stuff, does tend to get a bit old-hat as time goes on. And to their credit, each of the movies that eventually turned into Dragon Ball Super put a little twist on this. In Battle of the Gods, the film works more like one of the show's training sequences, where Goku comes out the other side with a new ability that would help him fight tougher foes later, like learning Kaioken on King Kai's planet. Sure, Beerus is mildly established as a villainous force, but nobody thought he was actually going to destroy Earth. In Resurrection F, we get the return of Freiza, and it's almost a complete anti-climax. Goku and Vegeta just have new forms which easily mop the floor with Freiza. The only source of tension was when Freiza blew up the Earth before they could murder him. And they just time-traveled to fix that.

Broly, however, is an outlier in a few different ways. For one, as I mentioned in my trailer discussion, this is the first time a non-canon character was brought into the main continuity. Not only do they go that far, this one actually has flashbacks (and technically retcons) to Planet Vegeta before it was destroyed, giving us our first animated glimpse of Gine, Goku's mother. But the most important part, I think, is that it takes your expectations of a Dragon Ball movie, based on that pattern I mentioned earlier, and flips them turn-ways.

To wit: Nobody thinks Turles will live past the end of The Tree of Might. Even though the spectacle is enjoyable, we all know it'll settle back into the status quo when all is said and done. Even Freiza was killed again by the end of Resurrection F. Suffice it to say, it was unlikely that Broly would survive the film, especially considering how he fared in his DBZ movies. It was so deep an expectation in one's mind that one barely noticed it before the film. That's just the way things go. So right out of the gate, Dragon Ball Super: Broly throws a curveball.

You like Broly.

I don't mean that in the same way you like your usual Saturday Morning Cartoon villain. It's not as if he had a lot of charisma or stage presence, he wasn't sadistic and diabolical like the previous version of Broly. He was... innocent. Early on in the film, after establishing where Broly's been for the last 20-or-so years, he tells his new friends about the green fur he wears around his waist. It came from a monster who lived on the planetoid, Vampa, where Broly grew up. Broly would "train" by dodging the monster's attacks, but after a while a sort of understanding grew between the two. Broly named it "Ba" after the noise it would make. It was Broly's first and only friend for his entire childhood. Then Broly's father, Paragus, shot it with a gun. This severed the creature's ear and made it hostle to Broly and his father from then on. Broly wears the ear itself like a sash to remember his one and only friend.

This little flashback is startlingly reminiscent of Goku from the early days of Dragon Ball. Both were incredibly strong kids, but they were happy enough to just have fun on their own and take care of themselves. With Goku, it ended with him making all kinds of friends and being a force for good, but Broly had a different outcome. Despite being exiled from Planet Vegeta, the presence of Paragus ensured Broly had a Saiyan upbringing. It was harsh, focused only on strength despite what Broly might've wanted. The parallels shared between Goku's and Broly's childhoods give you a sense of empathy towards Broly his first movie was sorely lacking. (But not for a lack of trying.)

Broly defends Cheelai, one of the people who rescued him from Vampa, from a drunk on Freiza's ship who was harrassing her. And you see that Paragus' method for controlling Broly is a bit more barbaric this time around. Instead of a vague control headband, it's a jury-rigged electrical collar that does little more than shock the hell out of Broly the second he steps out of line. It's no wonder Broly had trouble keeping control when under duress, he was handled no better than a wild dog.

The point of all this is: Broly, of course, fights Goku and Vegeta. And for most of the fight, he holds his own. As our main characters slowly step up their power, Broly matches them beat for beat. And in the back of your mind, as you're watching the best fight scene ever animated, something nags at you. It's blatant how this usually goes down. Goku and Vegeta will pull out all the stops at the end and destroy Broly with a big ol' ki blast to the face. But at this point, you don't want that. Broly never asked for any of this, he's not fighting because he wants to rule a planet or because he loves violence. He's a mentally damaged pure soul who was railroaded by his father into becoming a killing machine. There's no question about whether Goku or Vegeta will survive, we all know they will. But to win, they would have to kill Broly. Eventually that fact becomes increasingly apparent, and by the time you realize it yourself, Cheelai's put it together and takes steps to save Broly.

I hesitate to call it a twist; the film isn't intentionally misleading you. It's more apt to say the film subverted your expectations, but that's become such a loaded phrase I'm going to feel bad about even writing it. The kicker to all of this is that Broly does, in fact, survive. All the non-canon transformations of Broly people have been creating in their heads in the time since his first film could actually happen! There's the potential (but not guarantee) that he will be just as important as other secondary characters in the Dragon Ball universe from now on.

All of that is without even mentioning the stand-out animation on display here, some of the best from any Dragon Ball property I've ever seen. The movement, the flowing natural way they fight is what I imagined was going on in Z when all we saw were lights blipping about on screen. And they actually made the different levels of Super Saiyan distinct! I could write an entire other article just about how unique and important Super Saiyan God was in this movie, and in this movie alone.

The score is a bit more controversial, it seems. It's a bit esoteric at times, with a voice track that just says the names of the characters fighting. Okay, it's downright goofy, but it takes itself seriously, and as you know with music that is just about all I ask for. I mean, hell, most of the film is a fight scene, I don't want the tracks playing to be subdued or boring. I want the weird shit where it seems like the film itself is cheering on Gogeta!

This film is just the perfect piece of Dragon Ball media. It took what I wanted (a fight scene) did it far better than my limited expectations could encompass, all while revamping a character I already liked, giving him so much more depth than his previous incarnation. It's a masterclass in Dragon Ball. I've already watched it five times already, and I'm likely to watch it more. From what I hear, the director of this movie will be working on future episodes of DBS, which is real good news to me! Obviously they'll be dealing with a smaller budget, but if we get the same amount of style, I am in. This film is must-see for anyone who likes Dragon Ball. If you're not, I have no idea. I dunno, give it shot, if you're at least a fan of animation there's plenty for you here. Since this doesn't seem like the end of Dragon Ball, I can only hope it keeps this level of mastery from here on out.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser Trailer

Aah... With Spider-Verse out and winning awards, everything's looking up for your favorite Spider-Man fan! Nothing going south here, it's all sunshine and daisies, right?



Now I'm not trying to be a Negative Nancy over here, but I'm just saying that from this trailer and what Spider-Verse did to my expectations it looks like this movie is going to be a giant steaming pile of shit.

Okay, so I'm a Negative Nancy.

Just, try to see it my way. The very first thing in the teaser is yet another "Aunt May is Hot" joke. I bet you thought they milked that dry in Homecoming, didn't you? WELL YOU'RE STUPID OF COURSE THEY DIDN'T. Oh there's no Iron Man, so he won't spend the whole movie just following orders then? No! Nick Fury is here now to tell Spider-Man what to do! Great! I love it when the character about responsibility is just a lackey to a more well-established leader! Wait no I hate that.




Oh and I guess Mysterio is there, probably going to be a fake hero for half the movie then a STUNNING TWIST where he turns out to be evil. Good. Also it's looking like this move's Slotting it up with a new suit for Spider-Man, undoubtedly produced by Nick Fury so he can put it on and follow orders.

You know, this trailer does remind me of something that bothered me during Spider-Man: Homecoming. What is the deal with Flash Thompson in that film? In most adaptations, Flash is a stereotypical jock-bully. He preys on Peter because Peter's a nerd, it's nothing against Parker specifically. But in Homecoming, he's just another mathlete like the rest of Peter's friends, but Flash just hates him for no reason. And everyone's okay with that! It's not even like they're both smart but run in different social circles, they have the same group of friends. Does everyone hate Peter? Why? Flash gets called out more in media where he's a jock than in Homecoming. Hell, in Amazing Spider-Man, he has more character despite much less screentime!

Of course now they're doing the Flash as Spider-Man Fan angle, which makes no sense when you consider that Spider-Man stole and totaled his car in Homecoming. It just feels like a checklist, where they change up characters so it seems fresh, but they gotta hit the same bullet-points despite how it contradicts how the revamped characters are set up.

Honestly I'm not even that mad. Now that Spider-Verse exists and has won awards, it's fine that Marvel's productions don't suit me. It's more like comics, where there's more than one line running for a character, so you can just read the one you like. That's what made the Slott years so unbearable, there was just no alternative. As long as Spider-Verse gets a sequel of comparable quality, Marvel can make as much shit as they want. I do like to bitch about Spider-Man though, so I'll see it eventually.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It's like it was made just for me. I'm finding it difficult to name something I didn't completely enjoy from this film. I'm serious, it blows every other Spider-Man film out of the water.

The film stars Miles Morales, pretty much as you know him, who gets bitten by a radioactive spider (or at least, it might be radioactive) and stumbles onto a multiverse portal project created by the Kingpin. What he also sees is Spider-Man get killed while trying to shut it down. Out of nowhere he meets what seems to be Spider-Man back from the dead, but is in fact a Peter Parker from one of these parallel universes, who just so happens to have a much worse time of it than the Spider-Man Miles is familiar with. From there we meet Spider-Woman (Spider-Gwen), Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, and Peni Parker with her robot SP//dr. They go out to shut down Kingpin's experiment while Miles learns how to be the Spider-Man he has to be.

Visually, it's a feast for the eyes. It borrows comic book aesthetics and certain tropes, like narration boxes for internal monologues and onomatopoeia hanging in midair. It's one of the most inventive and interesting looking animated films I've seen in the last decade. It doesn't just try to copy panel structures without bothering to figure out what makes them work, (like some other directors coughSnydercough) it takes just enough to feel like reading your favorite comic but transforms it into something entirely new. The various Spider-People all look unique and fit their respective universes without being out of place with their fellows. Spider-Ham is Warner Bros. cartoony, Noir is eternally in black and white, but when they stand together it just works. The finale is an amazing spectacle, as they tend to do in these superhero films, but not once did I have trouble distinguishing the action or get bored from just too much stuff.

The writing is phenomenal. None of the Spider-Men is a one-for-one recreation of a Spider-Man you may know and love (save for maybe Spider-Gwen) but it doesn't matter. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller just get it. Sometimes it seemed like other filmmakers didn't get Spider-Man the same way I do, but these guys? They do. I can't stress this enough, when they look at Spider-Man they understand everything I think of and what makes the character so important to me. The main Peter Parker of the film, played by Jake Johnson, is washed up, depressed, divorced, fat, not financially solvent, and yet he's still a perfect Spider-Man. All the retcons in the world can't net you the true feeling of an authentic human Spider-Man. It's the polar opposite of Dan Slott's CEO Spider-Man, and gets right everything that portrayal got wrong. He doesn't have to be a super-smart successful owner of a Fortune 500 company, he just needs one trait. When Spider-Man is knocked down, he always gets back up.

Our main character, however, is Miles Morales, and I am so glad they went with him. For one, it's his first appearance in a film, so we don't have to see yet another Peter Parker origin story. He's a perfect newcomer, a breath of fresh air, so when other Peter Parkers show up, it's someone who knows about Spider-Man the same way the audience does. Finally we get an origin movie that is more than just an origin story. They don't just set Miles up so he can possibly do more interesting things later, this story is interesting and thrilling and new and also just so happens to contain an origin story as well. It doesn't contain some nobody uninteresting villain just because you have to have one of those in a superhero movie. It's everything I found wanting in every Marvel movie made so far. I can't believe the same company that made the goddamn Emoji Movie made this.

The film is peppered with little easter eggs and references to Spider-Man lore, so much that I'd have to watch the movie a few more times to get even half of them. (Don't worry, I absolutely will.) And what's so refreshing is that you don't need to know all of these trivial facts to enjoy the film, and they aren't the sole reason it was made. (Solo anyone?) It's genuine care and, dare I say it, love for the character, for his legacy and for all the cool ideas associated with him.

I was afraid, going in, that this would copy Dan Slott's Spider-Verse series in the comics, with some weird group of Spider-Man eating vampires and then they all just kinda show up to fight them and it doesn't make a lot of sense. Thankfully, they just took the base idea and the title. It's more akin to the finale of the Spider-Man Animated Series from the 90's where he meets a bunch of alternate selves. Just without Madame Web, THANK GOD. Comic-wise, it's a lot like Bendis' Spider-Men series, where Miles meets a more experienced adult Spider-Man and you get some real growth between the two. Truth be told it doesn't directly adapt any comic, which I'm thankful for, since a lot of times all you can do it draw comparisons between the two, which waters down the adapted work.

If I had to nitpick SOMETHING (and let's face it, I do.) it's really just one thing. Spider-Man Noir and Peni Parker don't get a lot of development in the movie, with Noir there mostly for jokes about Film Noir and whatnot. I get why they did that, giving each of these characters a full arc would've ruined the pacing, especially since we get so much character from our other Spider-People. In a way, it's actually a positive. It left me wanting more, I would love to see the Spider-Crew travel to the Noir of SP//dr Universes in a sequel.

Obviously I'm incredibly biased, seeing as half the point of this website is to talk about Spider-Man even when (ESPECIALLY when) nobody is even reading, but this movie is a 10/10. 100%. A slam dunk. Criterion collection. A masterpiece. I wish I could marry this movie. If I only had one piece of media to watch for the rest of my life, it would be this film. If you like Spider-Man AT ALL, I highly suggest you watch this movie. Even if you don't like Spider-Man. If life is a hopeless barren waste where all you can see is disappointment and regret, I recommend this film. And I hope to god they make a sequel, and put Lord and Miller in charge again. I would follow those men to the ends of the Earth.

Wait it didn't have the Spider-Signal in it, certified rotten, F grade, it's trash.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Spider-Man Redemption Parts 3 and 4

Oh hey, did somebody want more irrelevant Spider-Man comics from the 90's nobody cares about?

No? Oh.

Well. Here it is anyway.

Comic Review: Spider-Man: Redemption Parts 3 & 4

As we ended last issue, Ben Reilly's girlfriend Janine was being carted away by the police for the murder of her father, whom she killed in self defense. Maybe by now things have gotten better?

Looks like somebody's got a case of the mondays! Janine is being held in jail, awaiting trial. As she's being transported in a prison van, a mysterious man breaks into the van and frees her, under pretense of taking vigilante justice.

YES! There's the window breakage I need! Doors are for losers!

Anyway turns out it was Ben Reilly in disguise, come to bust her out of the joint so they can go on the run together. Kaine watches from afar, until he falls off a roof.

He's still mad that Ben could ever be happy while Kaine is still a mutated garbage pile of a man. I can relate. His needlessly convoluted plan, however, remains in motion.

We meet back with Ben and Janine, planning for their flight from justice. But Ben won't go on until Janine explains why she left all those years ago. Turns out, it was under threat from Kaine, who, as he does, broke into their house at night and kidnapped Janine. Then he takes her on top of the Golden Gate Bridge, because I guess they were in San Francisco. Oh hey, maybe they'll see Venom! So tell me, why did Kaine take her on this particular field trip?

C'mon Kaine! You don't gotta take nobody on top of a bridge for that! Just quietly resent and wish misfortune upon them until you collapse into a pile of your own spite and cynicism. Like the rest of us!

...But I'll keep the bridge in mind...

So yeah, Kaine makes Janine write a fake suicide note and somehow whips up a fake body for the authorities to fish out. Ben's understanding enough now that they've been reunited, but it doesn't last long!

Doors, Kaine! They're on every building! You just turn a knob! At least with a window you can see where you're going! No wonder you're not accepted by society. Well that and the fact that you put a bomb in the diner.

Wait, come again?

The last issue opens with Kaine saving the other patrons of the diner. See? He's not all bad, though I guess this is the part where he lets Ben and/or Janine perish in the flames. That's what this was all leading up to? He really could've killed either of them at any other point. Blowing up a diner doesn't really connect with the rest of what he's done thusfar, but whatever, at least it led up to something.


So it looks like Kaine's thrown his whole giant, three issues worth of plan out the window. Man, that must be quite a disappointment. How's he taking it?

These millennials and their suicide jokes, right?

Ben refuses, of course, and urges Kaine to turn himself into the authorities. Instead, they fall back on old habits and start beating the crap out of each other. The police arrive, I'm assuming called because of the diner explosion, and try to break them up. Kaine grabs an officer and flees to a billboard, where cops are ready to shoot to kill. At the last minute Ben shoves Kaine out of the line of fire. Well, now that they both have a chance to calm down, I'm sure Kaine will see where he went wrong.

We've all been there, buddy.

But it turns out Ben's words have had an effect, as Kaine surrenders to the police. Unfortunately for Ben, Janine's come to the same decision, wanting to finally put her past behind her. You know, that's a nice little bow on top of this and all, but really we could've gotten here much earlier if Ben hadn't broken her free. As long as he's not planning anything this time.