Why are we still watching Transformers? (Not a review)

Transformers

I’m afraid that I don’t have anything profound to discuss concerning the Transformers series. I don’t have any psychological reasoning or a hidden message that the Transformers movies tries to teach us to explain why these movies are still making money. This can’t be nostalgia, can it? I wouldn’t know because I was right after the Transformers as a kid. I didn’t grow up with the cartoon or the toys.

All that I know is that after 10 years, Hollywood is still making these movies despite poor reviews and generally a “meh” audience response. It isn’t like anyone I’ve talked to actually likes these movies. The first one was dumb but at least a little fun. The second one was so bad that I swore off the series completely. The only Transformers apologist I talked to tried to talk me into watching the third movie only because “it was better than the second one.” Unfortunately the second one was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Heck, Dragonball: Evolution was better than Revenge of the Fallen (oh yes, I just went there). At least I could follow what was going on in Dragonball.

The fourth movie was trying to go into a different direction at least, by that I mean statutory rape jokes. Every time one of these movies comes out, I just keep hearing about how terrible they are. I go to Rotten Tomatoes this morning and saw that The Last Knight got a 16% score. Keep in mind that is lower than even Revenge of the Fallen (19%). Granted it could change as there was a review embargo and critics may need to wait until today to see it. Even then, a review embargo usually means that the movie is crap and they don’t want bad review scores affecting opening weekend revenue. Fortunately for us, the internet has sped up the word-of-mouth process to where a review embargo makes little difference.

The thing that irks me is that despite every sequel being a let down, the movies are still making money. A lot of that can be due to international box office revenue. However, the blame is on all of you who go see it. I would include myself to be fair but I haven’t seen a Transformers movie since Revenge of the Fallen. I’m doing my part but not giving them any of my money. In short, stop watching these movies. Let it crash and burn and die already. Hollywood will stop making these movies when we stop going to them, it’s that simple. In a capitalist society like ours, our money is our vote to what we want the industry to provide.

Stop pretending that this one might be the one that is good, we have 4 movies as proof that the series isn’t going to improve. Sorry I don’t have anything substantial or meaningful to this rant, but there is nothing substantial or meaningful in these movies either. If you want to watch a fun action movie that is good, go re-watch Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman

To put it mildly the DC Cinematic Universe has had a rough start. With the mixed bag of Man of Steel to the outright disappointment in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. There’s a lot riding on the new addition to the DCU, the first live action film of Wonder Woman. Does this movie give the most popular female superhero justice, could it save the DCU?

Likes:

Luke

  1. One of the biggest complaints of the DCU is that the films doesn’t depict the characters truthfully, which I agree in the case of Superman (a future article may come about this). One of the advantages of being the first movie for a character is that this movie isn’t going to be compared to other films. So the movie wasn’t compelled to reinvent the character, but rather was able to depict Wonder Woman in the same way as the current comics and animations do. So to answer the question earlier, yes, this movie does the character justice. This isn’t a super broody or edgy version from the 90’s comics, but rather the beginning of a naive but never-the-less heroic character learning about the world of man. It is refreshing to see a superhero movie look back to what made superheroes powerful story devices in the first place. In short, they got the archetypes right.
  2. One of the concerns I had with this movie was that it was going to be full of post-modern feminist crap. I don’t mean the egalitarian feminists but the misandry-fueled feminism. I was fully expecting very male character to be depicted as idiotic, cowardly, hate-filled brutes. However, they depicted the men in the film in a very human way, where indeed there was corruption but also valor. They also made Wonder Woman heroic by doing heroic things and not just by the virtue of being a woman. This is a clear example of how to do female superheroes, which is to treat them as heroes going through the heroes journey and getting the archetypes right.
  3. The actions scenes were incredible. There was something really refreshing about it and had an energy that isn’t seen much in modern action movies. I think there are two reasons for this, firstly is the context of the action. The best action movies are always character-driven. You actually care about the action because we care about the characters, which is why the action scenes in the original star wars trilogy were more memorable than the prequels. Secondly is that they actually took the time to properly choreograph and block the action scenes to make the action scenes easy to understand, get the action grounded and not rely on shaky-cam or overloading the shot with too many moving parts.
  4. The color grading was good, I was a bit worried since the war scenes looked nearly black and white, but there is color where it makes sense. The beginning on Paradise is very vivid but becomes muted when they get to the war. It made sense why they did it and I thought it looked great.

Adam

  1. One of the problems that I have had with the DCU is that it is just to serious and dark. The lack of humor (Batman vs Superman) is exhausting. Wonder Woman has remedied this. There was a fair bit of humor and it is all played out very well. Humor isn’t there for the sake of humor but is is all there for a reason. There is a lot of laughs that accompany Diana learn about the world of men. She never looked dumb or inferior, but it showed her innocents and naivety.
  2. Diana’s growth was very interesting to watch. You learn that she is very smart, and has a lot of knowledge that many others don’t. But as she starts to interact with Chris Pine’s character and ends up in the world of men you see how they she didn’t have a lot of our problems to deal with. As the movie goes on you see how she starts to adapt and learn how to survive, blend in and live in our world.
  3. The action scenes where amazingly done. I don’t think that I have seen this type of style before, it was very clean and easy to follow. However it kept me on the edge of my seat and looked amazing.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1.  I can’t think of anything that I really disliked about this movie. Maybe the London scenes might be a bit dull but I think it played an important part in teaching Diane about the world of man, her relation to it and what she needs to do to fit into that world. So nothing major here.

Adam

  1. The only things I had a little problem with was exactly what Luke said. The contrast from Paradise to London was so extreme that it was jarring. It was for a purpose however so it was forgivable.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 3/5

Luke:

There is a lot of attractive woman in tunics during the beginning. But nothing that’s intentionally provocative. In fact, there is a scene where there is more nudity of Chris Pine than the ladies (which is zoomed out and covered). There is talk about sex in one scene but nothing too graphic. The violence actually has weight to it but it isn’t bloody or excessive. The language is minor.

Overall:

Luke:

Just when I thought I was getting superhero fatigue after watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it was actually the DCU movie that pulled me out of it. And the reason it did was that it went back to basics. The director Patty Jenkins said that she wanted to go back to character over spectacle with this movie and it clearly shows.

As far as origins stories go, I hold this as high as the first Iron Man movie. Maybe not as high as Batman Begins, which I do have a soft spot for as it’s one of my favorites, but it is easily the best DCU movie to come out so far. Patty Jenkins needs to direct more big Hollywood movies, not because she’s a female filmmaker but she’s a good filmmaker that happens to be female. I now have hopes that the DCU can be saved, at least there is now one solid movie from it.

Adam:

I was hoping that Wonder Woman was going to break DC’s current streak and it did. The tone of this one was so much better and more natural. There is always humor in life even if it is in the little things. This film was still more serious than many of the Marvel movies. It still had it’s light hearted parts and laughs naturally placed through out. The journey and self discovery that Diana goes through was enjoyable and very well executed. This is by far the best DCU film thus far. If DC continues down this path then we have a lot of good films to look forward to.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Unlike the title of the fifth pirates movie, seemingly dead franchises still have tales to tell. It’s been 6 years since the last pirates movie and 10 years since the ending of the Will Turner trilogy. Dead Men Tell No Tales takes place 19-20 years after At World’s End. So was the brief hiatus what the series needed to turn out a sequel that wasn’t lackluster? Does it stack up with the first pirates movie (the only good one)? Let’s find out, eh shavvy?

Likes:

Luke

  1. The story is not a standalone Jack Sparrow adventure like the previous movie, but actually continues off the original trilogy where Will Turner is the captain of the flying dutchman, still cursed to ferry the dead at sea (an ending that I absolutely hated). The story continues with his son, Henry Turner, seeking the Trident of Poseidon, that has the power to break his father’s curse.  I love that the film is basically seeking to fix the ending that I hated so much.
  2. The new villain played by the brilliant Javier Bardem, is truly a foe worthy of his infamy among pirates. The problem that many of the previous pirate movies had (except the first one) was the insistent of adding antagonists to the point where it’s hard to keep track of everyone’s motivations. This movie starts off as having a secondary antagonist but half way through the movie is taken out of the picture. I was relieved to say at least the plot wasn’t a muddy mess that the previous movies were. By the end of the movie, it was very clear who the protagonists and the antagonists were.
  3. The action scenes were dynamic and unique. Some were really outlandish but I had to remind myself that this was a movie about ghost pirates seeking a mythical trident. If you loved the silly action set pieces from the previous movies, then you’ll be right at home with this one.

Adam

  1. Captain Hector Barbossa was magnificently played by Geoffrey Rush. The amount of acting that he could do with just his facial expressions and how much he could convey was simply amazing. He went through the whole range of emotions and I love the arc that he has made through the series. Any time that he is on screen is great.
  2. The effects for this movie were top notch. The way Captain Salazar and his crew looked and what they were able to do was just amazing. The overall look of the movie was beautiful.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. While the new characters aren’t as boring as the previous movie, the next generation probably won’t have the lasting effect as the original characters. Carina, the new female lead was pretty good as the scientist astronomer which is different for the series. Henry Turner was just a less interesting Will Turner though. Jack Sparrow is beginning to lack his charm. They set up Jack to be a washed up has-been who is a dying breed of pirate which would have been interesting had they not promptly dropped it once the adventure started and he went about doing his usual thing. They really need to find a new angle for him, or maybe give him an arc for once, like the first movie.
  2. I don’t like the implications that the post credits scene made. The ending of this movie was quite satisfying and they’re trying to muddy it up with sequel bait.

Adam

  1. I was very disappointed with Jack in this film. In all of the other films he is almost always in control of the situation and if something doesn’t quite go his way he has back up plans. In this film he very rarely seemed to have a plan and when the plans he did have went wrong he didn’t have backup plans. I agree with Luke, he lost some of his charm and also some of his wit.
  2. The post credit scene was completely sequel bait and, I feel, didn’t make any sense based on how the movie ended. They are making and exception to the films resolution just for the sake of a sequel.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 2/5

Luke:

There is some suggestive humor in it that will likely go over the kid’s heads. Pirates drinking rum is a mainstay of the series. Some parts might be too scary for the little ones. It’s your typical PG-13 movie.

Overall:

Luke: 

It’s safe to say that this movie is the second best pirates movie to date. Not hard to do as the last three were pretty lackluster. There are a lot of things this movie does right that the previous movies failed to do but it still doesn’t live up to the charm of the original pirates movie. If you were disappointed in the ending of At World’s End, you will want to see this movie as it delivers a much more satisfying conclusion for all your favorite characters from the first pirate films. So while this movie wasn’t great like the first movie, it was at the very least good.

Adam:

Dead Men Tell No Tales was a good attempt to return to what the was so good about the first film. It didn’t quite make it there but there was still a lot of good in it. There was several touching moments that were lacking from many of the other films and several character arc were excellent. The ending of the movie was extremely satisfying and clean. If you are a fan of Curse of the Black Pearl then go see this one in theaters.

What does Luke’s statement in the The Last Jedi Teaser mean?

Personally I find it rather futile to guess and speculate the meaning behind a 1 minute teaser designed to market a movie. Ironically I find people who really hate spoilers are also ones trying to piece together a story out of the limited footage revealed in a trailer. I say, just wait for the movie to come out and you’ll find out. However, as the hypocrite that I am, I’m going to speculate on the new teaser for The Last Jedi with this article including a click-baity title. Why? Because this website needs more views and I’m going to indulge your need to speculate to get views. Firstly, if you haven’t seen the trailer already go watch it here:

I don’t know why these Star Wars teasers require a jump-scare at the very beginning. Anyways, the big thing that people are going on about is the statement Luke makes at the end of the teaser.

I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.

People have been freaking out over the meaning of this statement. Did Luke turn to the dark side?! Has he become so defeated from the betrayal of Ben Solo that he’s giving everything up?! Is he Rey’s father?!

Well, lets take a step back and look at the Star Wars series as a whole. Some facts to be aware of before I give my educated guess as to the meaning of Luke’s statement. George Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell when creating the Star Wars universe. Joseph Campbell is an anthropologist who studied mythology from all around the world. His studies were not to discover the differences between them but rather the values, meanings and purpose behind these myths that is shared by the whole world. He wrote several books but the one most important to this discussion is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In this book, Campbell discovered a structure that is shared by mythology all over the world. This is known by many as The Hero’s Journey or The Monomyth. This structure has been influential to storytellers all over the world and is used heavily by films, books, television and video games. A textbook example of the Hero’s Journey is actually the first Star Wars film. George Lucas was in fact one of Campbell’s students in school and was very familiar with the themes, meanings and structure found in mythology as outlined in Campbell’s book. Here’s s basic outline of the Hero’s Journey:

http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Workshop-stuff/Joseph-Campbell-Hero-Journey.htm

Several lectures can go into each step so I won’t attempt to go through the whole thing in detail. For the purposes of our discussion though, I wish to focus attention on Apotheosis (it’s misspelled on the diagram). Apotheosis is the process of a man (meaning the overall broad sense of humanity) becoming a God. In the context of the screen-writing, it’s a transformation that is made that allows him/her to reach beyond a stage of ignorance into a stage of knowledge, giving them power to achieve a goal that the hero has set out to do in the story.

So how does this have anything to do with the The Last Jedi teaser? Reading deeper into Campbell’s work helps you to understand the mythic context behind Apotheosis. A large portion of the text talks about the concept of the unity of opposites which can be summarized in the concept of the Yin Yang. If you don’t know, Yin Yang is a symbol of a eastern philosophy that two seemingly contradictory elements are actually two sides of one great whole. According to Campbell, apotheosis is a stage where both opposites come together to form a God using the example of the Male-Female Gods of mythology. God in many religions represent many contradictory sides, a God of creation and destruction, of time and eternity, light and darkness, justice and mercy and so forth.

So let’s bring it back to Star Wars, where the central conflict with the series has always been the light side versus the dark side of the force. In the prequel trilogy, the Jedi council speak about a chosen one destined to bring about the “balance of the force.” Because the prequel trilogy was poorly written, they do not explain what that actually means. Many in the series interpret that to mean the destruction of the dark side. But how does that bring balance?

Let’s go back earlier in the teaser when Rey talks about seeing the light and dark, the balance. Luke tells her that there’s more to it than that. Here’s where I start speculating on how Luke has changed over the years in exile. I believe he discovered that which one who was raised by the Jedi could not understand. That the force is not divided into light and darkness but is both all in one. Where Anakin failed to bring balance to the force, the reincarnation of the chosen one seen in Rey (they both are expert mechanics, pilots and force users) may in fact bring balance to the force. But in order to do that, the Jedi, who represents the light side of the force, can no longer exist. It doesn’t mean that Good needs to give into Evil, but rather the Jedi need to transcend the exclusive use and study of the light side and become one with the force as a whole, both light and dark. This would also mean the end of the Sith has to happen. Perhaps Anakin did fulfill his role as chosen one by ending the Sith by killing his master and himself. Leaving the end of the Jedi to his son and his reincarnation, Rey.

So worry not Skywalker fans, I do not believe that he has turned to the dark side. Rather I think he discovered a secret to the force that the Jedi and Sith have ignored for centuries. In fact, according to non-canon Star Wars history, both groups came from one group of force users who practiced in both light and dark sides of the force and sought true balance with the force named the Je’daii. So perhaps Rey will do what Anakin could not, which is to fully bring balance to the force and end the conflict between the light and dark sides for good.

Again, this is all speculation. But there is strong evidence that this is the direction they will be going. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until December to find out for sure.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

It seems that everyone has been playing this game or at least have been bombarded by memes, secrets videos and the like. So I don’t know how much more I could add to the conversation. But I have had people tell me this is what they wanted so I will go ahead and give my two cents.

Some disclosure, I played the Wii U version as I didn’t want to bother waiting until now when the Switch starts to be more available and I really needed to justify my Wii U purchase as I bought it solely for two games, Smash Brothers and Zelda. So I will not be reviewing the Switch as many other reviewers have done. So lets dive into this!

Likes:

  1. The real star of this game is the world of Hyrule. No game has fully realized a place since Skyrim. The map is not only massive but it is diverse. Each area is distinct and different from the rest of the map. A lot of open world games tend to take a copy paste approach to the world design to save time. Nintendo really used the game delays to their advantage and made a spectacular world. It is a place you want to spend time exploring and discovering little secrets hidden across the kingdom of Hyrule. There is no doubt that this game will become the definitive representation of Hyrule. Every part of the world is beautiful in its own unique way and there will be moments where you finish climbing to a hill or tower, see the area and have your breath taken away by the beauty of it all.
  2. Most Zelda games have been built around some sort of gameplay gimmick (such as time-traveling, sailing, dimension hopping, or motion controls) this was really a return to the very roots of the Zelda franchise: exploration. The gimmick in Breath of the Wild is exploration and open ended gameplay. This game accomplishes that spectacularly. You start in one area that is closed off and acts as the tutorial for the rest of the game. Once you leave this area, you are free to do whatever you want. There is only one real goal in the game and that is to destroy Ganon.  Everything else is optional. Granted this things are highly encouraged to do since the side quests and shrines are designed to help you get stronger and ready to fight Ganon. But many speedrunners have gone to fight Ganon with nothing more than 4 hearts and a stick. You could even ignore the main quest and spend hours looking for ingredients and recipes to become a master chef. The game rarely forces you to go into a linear path and no one person will approach this game the same.
  3. As big as the world is and the freedom the game gives you, it is a major shock how stable this game is. Even great open-world games still have many bugs and glitches as QAing games like this is really difficult. But Nintendo did a great job in making this the most stable open-world game I’ve ever played. There were only a few times where I had major frame-rate drops but otherwise they were only brief and not game crashing. You don’t see NPC walking into walls or fall through the floor. While that means there may not be as many funny glitches that many Bethesda games are known for, there are plenty of other funny moments in the game that makes up for it.
  4. With a game this open-ended, you’d think that the story is nothing more than an afterthought. But the story is one of the best in the series. One of my favorite quests was looking for areas on the map that will help Link recover lost memories. Doing this will unlock cutscenes that give backstory to Link, Zelda and many other major characters in the game. The Zelda in this game is one of the best portrayed in all the games, even Skyward Sword. But aside from the memories, the world itself tells many stories as to what happened to Hyrule 100 years ago. For example, there were times where I’d stumble upon several decayed guardians (the spider robots seen the marketing material) with rusted swords in the ground, a display of a battle long ago. It’s an additional testament to the world design and how well thought out it was.
  5. You will get your money’s worth with this game. I played over 105 hours to beat the game and there is still plenty of things I can do. There are 4 main dungeons, 120 mini-dungeons (shrines), 900 korok seeds, several armor sets and upgrades for them and plenty of side quests. By far the biggest Zelda game yet.

Dislikes:

  1. There are a handful of gyroscopic puzzles that use the control’s gyroscope to solve. These are frustrating above all other puzzles in the game. The controls felt off and I hate it when Nintendo tries to force motion controls into my zelda games (it was tolerable in Twilight Princess but frustrating in Skyward Sword). Again, there are few of these and they are completely optional.
  2.  The rain. The fact that it rains in the game is totally fine, but there are drawbacks when it rains. One, climbing cliffs is practically impossible when it gets wet from the rain. Ok, so lets make a campfire and wait it out, oh wait, the wood gets wet and you can’t make a fire. So you’re stuck on a cliff edge and have to wait 5 real life minutes before the rain stops (if it does at all). I might be able to forgive this if it only happens a few times in the game, no, it happens all the time. So much so that it almost feels like the weather programmers deliberately coded the rain to come when you’re climbing something. I wouldn’t care if the game allowed you to wait it out like Skyrim does. But you have to build a campfire to do that and it’s impossible to do during the rain. It sucks you out of the game when you have to sit there and wait for the rain to end before you continue your adventure.
  3. Speaking of weather, lightning can be annoying as well. Because not only is mother nature precision aiming death bolts at you, it’s also raining. The solution is to equip non-metal gear but the problem is that most of the best weapons in the game are steel. So there were times when I was caught in a storm without any wooden weapons which makes it hard when you get ambushed. However, there is a set of armor that makes you immune to electricity that changed everything. Then I would run into a group of enemies just more lightning struck and laugh as my enemies are destroyed around me. But unless you know where said armor pieces are and have the materials to upgrade them, you won’t being having fun in the lightning storms until late in the game.
  4. It took me a while to get used to the controls, as a Zelda veteran, the control scheme for most of the games have been fairly consistent since Ocarina of Time. The controls are very different in this game and it was quite a learning curve for me. But after several hours and accidentally whistling while sneaking I managed to get the hang of it. The interface on the menus weren’t the best either has you had to sort through a bunch of crap to find the items you wanted to cook.
  5. I don’t know why Zelda insists on doing stealth segments. Half the reason why I swore off stealth games for so long was because of crappy stealth from Zelda games. Hyrule Castle in OoT, Gerudo Fortress in MM, Forsaken Fortress in WW, the list goes on. While the stealth in this game is improved from the last games, it’s still frustrating when your forced to do it during certain moments in the game.

Both Liked and Disliked:

  1. The gear durability system is mostly hated by fans. While I do like how the game forces me to try out different weapons, I think it could have been improved. I would have liked to have seen a durability bar on the gear so I know how much use it has left, being able to repair weapons, or doing a quest-line allowing you to make unbreakable weapons (The Master Sword while technically unbreakable, loses its charge after prolonged use, which is the exact same problem). For a game that encourages agency in it’s gameplay and exploration, I think it should allow you to use the weapons you like. At the very least, they should have increased the durability of all gear as they always seems to break quickly and at the worst possible moment. I also found myself not using my good weapons out of fear of them breaking. Again, this is not as bad later in the game when you expand your inventory and good weapon drops become more regular.
  2. These is easily the hardest Zelda game in recent memory. The game is especially brutal at the beginning of the game where there are several enemies that can one shot you. It can be really frustrating for new players. However, much like Dark Souls, the game rewards you for overcoming the odds. You really get a sense of accomplishment when you go back to an area that gave you trouble and totally wipe the floor of those pesky blue monsters. Near the end of the game I finally got courageous enough to take on Lynels (which are the hardest enemies in the game) and felt awesome dodging their attacks, shooting them in the face and stabbing its back while its trying to buck you off. So if your struggling with the game, keep it up and you’ll git gud.

Overall:

If you love open world games, you cannot do better than this game. The world and player choice are the best anyone can offer. This is definitely a worthy title for the Zelda franchise. Is it my favorite Zelda game? I don’t know if I can really say that as it’s very different from the other Zelda titles. Majora’s Mask still holds a piece of my heart (pun intended) since it was the game that got me into the series. But this is definitely the best 3D Zelda title since then. Unless you already have a Wii U, I would just play the Switch version. The differences aren’t big enough to say one is better, but the Wii U is dead at this point and there’s no point in buying one for Zelda alone.

Racial Identity in Ghost In The Shell (2017) **Contains Spoilers**

44% on Rotten Tomatoes and $18.6 Million on the opening weekend. With these numbers it is safe to say that the adaptation of Ghost In The Shell is an utter failure, both financially and critically. So why did I love this movie so much? Am I stupid for loving this racially-insensitive Hollywood cash-in or am I seeing something that everyone has missed or ignored? As amusing as it would be to make an article of me facing my own cognitive dissonance to realign my thinking to popular views, I think I’m going to do the dangerous thing: Have my own unpopular opinion and defend it. So here’s why Ghost In The Shell (2017) was great and why everyone missed the point of the movie.

Let’s start with the problem that many people have with these movie: the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi, a Japanese cyborg counter-terrorist. Hollywood has had a lot of issues of racially insensitive casting for movies throughout its whole history. Blackface, yellowface, and redface were all common place for decades where white actors were put under make-up to play roles that are for other races. This allowed for the spreading of negative racial stereotypes that still continue to this day. While many improvements have been made in our current media, there are still examples of Hollywood whitewashing traditionally ethnic characters like in the live action The Last Airbender and The Lone Ranger. This article is not to defend such practices by any means. Minorities are extremely under-represented in popular culture, even today. However, in the context of the themes, story and world of Ghost In The Shell the casting of Scarlett Johansson was not only justified, it allowed the movie to take a self aware look into how capitalist-driven corporations seek to change our identity for profit.

So in the movie, the plot is primarily driven by Major’s desire to find out who she is. The dilemma of that is faced with being a human-like cyborg but not completely human. In the world of Ghost in the Shell, many people have cybernetic implants. Some like the Major, have a completely synthetic body. So the way that many people retain their humanity is by having a “ghost.” A ghost is the mind, so the identity of a person is linked to the mind or their “ghost.” Both the new and the original movies show the problem with this as memories are hacked and altered by both cyber-terrorists like the Puppet Master or mega corporations like Hanka Robotics. In both films, Major struggles with their own identity as she’s unsure if her memories are her own or is artificial like her body is. The animated film doesn’t seek to answer questions as to the truth of Major’s identity, rather it ends with her finding her humanity by ironically evolving into a higher and completely technological being by merging with The Puppet Master. This is where the live action version differs.

In the live-action version, the central focus is on finding out Major’s identity. In the film, she is introduced as a (presumably American) refugee that survived a terrorist attack, thus giving her the motivation to hunt down terrorists in the anti-terrorism unit Section 9. However, after meeting with hacker Kuze, her identity is put into question and she seeks answers. She finds out that not only is the terrorist attack that killed her parents a fake memory implanted by Hanka, but her real identity (or ghost) is a Japanese runaway named Motoko Kusanagi (surprise!). So yes, The Major in the live-action movie is in fact Japanese, or specifically she is a Japanese Ghost in the American Shell.

So does this justify white-washing Major’s character in the first place? Or, as some of the critics claim, a sloppy means for the filmmakers the hop around a sensitive issue? First of all, the story antagonizes the corporation that kidnaps children, brain washes them with a new identity and then gives them a new body as a means to get profit. I don’t think the film is trying to say that changing a person’s race and identity for your own gain is okay. I’m happy that the filmmakers were ballsy enough to even attempt to be a mirror at Hollywood’s own race problem. Do you know how many actors and actresses needed to change their name to make them sound less ethnic? Charlie Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Estevez, his father’s name is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, you know him as Martin Sheen. That is an example of only one actor out of many that had to change their name. The closure for The Major in the live action movie comes from discovering her real name: Motoko Kusanagi. Only then is she able to connect to the world around her, using not her American shell but through her Japanese ghost.

By the way, I asked two friends of mine, both of whom are Asian American, how they felt about the movie. Both of them enjoyed the movie and weren’t bothered by the casting. One of them even said that Scarlett Johansson did the character justice. The anime doesn’t even address her ethnicity so her race doesn’t effect her characterization at all. Ironically the one time it does is the American adaptation because it’s part of her character arc. The big irony in all this though is how everyone is upset that Hollywood changed the identity of the protagonist, and the movie agrees with you wholeheartedly.

If the plot itself isn’t enough to convince you, then I will start talking about the themes of the original animated classic and the cyberpunk genre as a whole. The opening text in the Ghost in the Shell (1995) says that “The advancement of computerization, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.” The keyword in that statement is ‘yet’. The implications are important to understanding the multicultural themes in both cyberpunk and Ghost in the Shell. The original movie, Major does in fact transcend race and nation by merging with The Puppet Master and evolving into a computerized ghost without age, gender or ethnicity. The world of cyberpunk is filled with multiculturalism. Blade Runner is a world full of different ethnicities (primarily Chinese) even though it takes places in a future Los Angles. Ghost in the Shell is a Japan full of multiculturalism as well. Here’s an excellent video essay by The Nerdwriter about how Ghost in the Shell does this.

One of the themes in Ghost in the Shell is developing a world that is truly uni-cultural by the use of technology. When all differences are removed by uniting the world on a global network and controlling our appearance via synthetic bodies. However this may present a problematic dilemma in the current discussion on race. Does this uni-culturalism mean that we should be color blind? What I mean by that is, does the mixture and evolution of multiple cultures mean we must lose our past in order to make a future where no race exists? I think the movie makes that clear when The Puppet Master says this:

“All things change in a dynamic environment. Your efforts to remain what you are is what limits you.”

The difference between the original animated film is that the live action film is about embracing your cultural identity. The ending is Major accepting her past and reuniting with her mother. This is ultimately what I loved about the live-action version is that is it not the same as the original. It is not a remake but an adaptation, which I think it did well for the current discussions on race which promotes the acceptance of one’s heritage, promote diversity and the tolerance toward other’s ethnicity.

So it would make sense for the cast of the new Ghost in the Shell to be multicultural. Many of it’s supporting characters are Chinese, Japanese, Black, and White. It reflects the multiculturalism found in America and (increasingly) in other countries around the world. It may not focus attention on the ethnic characters as much as I’d like but none of them I would say are stereotypical. I mentioned in my review that “Chief” Aramaki, a Japanese character played by a Japanese actor (the great Beat Takeshi Kitano) that speaks Japanese throughout the whole movie, is one of my favorites (pictured below). I think the movie did try to show a world of people of different colors to work together in a much more optimistic way than your typical cyberpunk movie.

The new Ghost in the Shell is not here to mimic what made the original anime great. Instead it took the source material and adapted to a more international and contemporary audience. It’s okay with me if the new Ghost in the Shell didn’t work for you. But I feel like I have to explain myself why I seem to be a minority in how I feel about this movie. I just feel that people are watching the film without reading what it’s trying to say, or worse, not watching it and judging it based off the opinion of others. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it at least got me to not only think about the depiction of race in pop culture but also be a fun and visually stunning movie to watch. I have to give credit to a movie that does that for me.

Ghost In The Shell (2017) Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell

Here’s some context for Ghost in the Shell. It’s based off the classic anime film in 1995 with the same name. It’s a landmark anime classic that became cyberpunk stable. The deep philosophical themes elevated it past a cartoon and into one of the most beloved sci-fi animated films ever made. I recently watched it for the first time several weeks ago to prepare for this movie. I can say that I became a fan and watched the second movie and a few episodes of Stand Alone Complex, the TV anime series. So how does Hollywood’s adaptation compare to one of the most important anime ever made?

Likes:

  1. Let’s first address the elephant in the room concerning this movie. It’s been given a lot of backlash from fans of the anime for its controversial casting of Scarlet Johansson as The Major, a Japanese character being played by a white actor. I can understand why many people are upset by this. It follows a trend in Hollywood movies that white actors are needed to promote a film and casting minorities into major roles is financial suicide. Even though there are several examples where this isn’t the case, it has been an issue in American films since forever. If you are a fan planning on boycotting this movie because of the casting, I will ask you to reconsider. Without getting into spoilers, this is actually addressed in the film and I personally think they handled it brilliantly. I really want to watch this movie again with some Asian friends of mine and have a discussion about how this film dealt with the white-washing and get their opinions on it. I plan on writing about this further in detail with spoilers included next week when I get to have this discussion. I don’t wish to have this get political but our mission here at GMF is to promote inclusiveness across the spectrum of Geek culture. I think racial inclusivity is very much a part of that. I think this discussion will be both interesting and important. So yes I recommend seeing this movie so you can prepare for that discussion as well.
  2. That said, I think Scarlett Johansson’s performance of the Major was very well done. She had the confidence in her abilities and intellect that made her a badass. At the same time she showed the lack of confidence in her humanity that drove her to get answers about her identity and purpose in life. Both features that are shown in the anime.
  3. The main reason why I went to see this movie is because of the production design and it does not disappoint. This is the anime in live action, the sets are both beautiful and disturbing as any good cyberpunk should be where ads are littered everywhere but sitting behind the flashy holograms is a society that is dirty.
  4. The supporting cast I believe were all true to the characters in the original anime as well espeically Batou and Aramaki (The Chief). Aramaki by the way is played by Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano, speaks japanese throughout the whole movie and like the anime, is a badass that doesn’t take crap from anyone. I loved that character and how he was played in this.
  5. The pacing on this movie was good, I was engaged throughout the whole movie.

Dislikes:

  1. This movie had a few things that didn’t make sense like why they designed an interrogation collar that made it possible to bring one’s own neck. Then there was a character action or something that didn’t make sense that I can’t remember. But overall its pretty nit-picky things.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 3/5

While the nudity was turned down considerably from the original to get the PG-13 rating, there are still plenty of spots where there is synthetic skin showing. Granted having an android body doesn’t include nipples, so it didn’t really count I guess? The cloaking suit The Major wears is skin tight but is covered. Overall it is actually tastefully done though. The violence is a bit harder than your typical PG-13 superhero movie but the blood which was in the trailer was cut out of the film. I would be interested to see if they release an R or Unrated Version down the line.

Overall:

The worst thing this movie could have been is boring, predictable and untrue to the source material. Fortunately none of these things are the case. As you can tell I actually loved this movie. I can’t say that it’s better than the original but it succeeded as an adaptation. I think a lot of critics are seeing this movie as a remake which is unfortunate. The philosophical themes of this movie on identity are different and unique to this version (which I will write about next week). So it doesn’t seek to imitate or replace the original but be its own unique version of the setting and characters of the beloved anime with an international lens. If you go into this movie with that mind set you will probably enjoy it. Again, if you are a fan that is boycotting for the whitewashing, do reconsider and check it out. You may be surprised with how smart this Hollywood blockbuster actually is.

Power Rangers Movie Review

Power Rangers

Better late than never? It’s been a busy weekend for all of us and we were finally able to get around to seeing Power Rangers. As a disclaimer, everyone here at Geek Mind Fusion were at the right age for the power rangers craze during the 90’s. So we naturally loved the show as kids, but how does the movie hold up? It is good, bad or are we blinded by nostalgia?

Likes:

Luke

  1. The bulk of the movie is about the kids becoming the power rangers. Normally I would rail on it by being filled with tropes and recycled story elements from movies like The Avengers and even The Breakfast Club. But for some reason it worked for me. Others I talked to about the movie felt that the first two acts were superior to the final act. Which you wouldn’t think is the case as the final act has all the action in it. But when your mom is able to remember the character’s names after the movie, you know you did the characterization right in this movie. Not at all what I was expecting from this movie.
  2. This isn’t saying much but this is definitely the best power rangers movie made yet.
  3. Suplexes and slapping.

Adam

  1. I liked how character development was the main focus of most of the movie. I had recently gone back and watched the first episode of the 1993 tv series and the story elements, and characters, were highly laking. I liked how we met these characters and got to the point where we were invested in them.
  2. The production value was pretty good especially when compared to the 1993 series and even the newer 2016 version. The suits and zords looked far more realistic than the toys they used for the tv series. The fighting at the end was so much better choreographed and there was more tension and peril.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. While I was oddly engaged with the character development during the first and second act, the third act was fun but I think only for nostalgia. The tonal shift between the ending and the rest of the movie can be jarring. It’s like watching The Breakfast Club then having it turn into a Transformers movie during the last 30 minutes. While the ending is campy and true to the original show, the action is kinda boring except for the two moves listed in my number three likes. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, but I can’t stop and think of other movies that did the same thing better. The ending was just stopping the bad guy from getting the McGuffin at the product placement by using the power of teamwork and friendship. The Avengers did this better, and Pacific Rim had far-superior giant robot fights.
  2. (Spoilers) Krispy Kreme is the center of all life on Earth (this is figuratively true in this movie).

Adam

  1. Rita. Her premise at the beginning of the movie was ok  but she, overall was off. She was too much of a wild beast in the beginning and was fairly unpalatable.
  2. The bully who picked on Billy. I have had my share of bullies in the past but this guy was way to over the edge. I did enjoy what happened to him in the process of picking on Billy though.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 2/5

Luke:

Most of the movie is your standard-fare superhero movie stuff, with bloodless action and peril. However there are a few off-hand jokes involving masturbation and jerking off a bull. It’ll probably go over the kids’ heads, but for those of us who get it, it’ll come off as juvenile.

Adam:

I agree

Overall:

Luke

I went in expecting this movie to be terrible, with them trying to force in a serious and grounded origin to the campy power rangers. But that ended up being the best part of the movie. The action itself is boring and cliche. I can’t say that I loved or hated this movie, there were both good and bad found in this movie. I guess if you grew up on Power Rangers I would recommend it. I just found it strange that I came to watch the power rangers but I ended up staying for Jason, Billy, Zach, Kim and Trini.

Adam

I went to this movie after just watching the first episode of the 1993 tv series, which increased my appreciation of the movie. I did, however, destroy my nostalgia. I liked the movie overall, enjoyed the characters and their arcs. The production value was pretty good and had it’s funny moments. It doesn’t warrant a second theater viewing but was worth going to see at least once.

Kong: Skull Island Review *Updated*

March is a heavy month for movies, so expect reviews weekly. It’ll die down in April as there isn’t much in the way of movies. So while we tend to focus on geeky movies on this site, it is very appropriate to have King Kong here. The original King Kong was a hallmark film that inspired countless filmmakers including Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. You have Kong to thank for the movies such as Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park. So how does this film hold up?

Likes:

Luke

  1. If you want a movie to turn the brain off to and let it entertain you, this movie will fit the bill. It’s a popcorn movie that will keep you entertained and excited for 2 hours. The action is exciting and at times, gloriously over-the-top. I was laughing during many off the action scenes just because of the utter shock of what I was watching. If you don’t take the movie seriously you’ll find yourself having fun.
  2. Samuel L. Jackson ironically was one of the most nuanced and deep characters in the movie (not hard in this movie but we’ll get to that in a moment). Playing a war hero from Vietnam who’s so devoted to military life works well for him. There were some interesting pieces of dialogue that were kinda easy to miss but where his motivation was revealed. I understood why he was doing what he was doing.
  3. The CG was good in this film, where if you like to see spectacle you will get it. I don’t think the art direction was on par with Jackson’s King Kong, but it was still very gorgeous to watch on IMAX 3D.
  4. Movie is at a comfortable 2 hour length, not 3 hours like the Jackson version.
  5. Japanese Katana because why not?

Adam

  1. I agree with Luke in that it is a great popcorn movie to just relax and enjoy. It can make you feel compassion for several of the characters but it doesn’t send you into a rage or sob fest.
  2. I like the way they conveyed that Kong wasn’t  just a wild mindless beast but had intelligence and feelings. He wasn’t as flushed out Peter Jackson’s King Kong but they did at least begin to show that he was a bit of a character instead of an unfeeling force of nature.
  3. Tom Hiddleston was fun to watch. This role is a bit different than his role as Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it was enjoyable to see some of his diversity. His character was not as flushed out as I would have like but overall was good in this movie.
  4. Again going to have to agree with Luke. Japanese Katana. It had some amazing scenes.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. As it is with all popcorn movies, this movie excels at what it’s made to do but leaves some shortcomings in some story elements. The biggest one being the characters. All but two don’t feel like characters but rather stereotypes made to serve as plot elements. No one is really the driving force for the plot, but rather vice versa, where the plot is dictating what the characters do. There’s only really two characters that I liked, first was Samuel L Jackson who I mentioned in my likes and John Reilly’s character. Who I’ll talk about in detail later.
  2. There was a lot of exposition made in the movie that was clearly made for a future movie in mind. Because few of it really paid off in the movie we were actually seeing. I try to keep this reviews spoiler-free so I won’t mention any specific things.
  3. Kong didn’t feel like a character as much as Jackson portrays in his film. Granted this movie is considerably shorter, there aren’t many scenes that Kong can come off as more than a force of nature. There were scenes where they tried but still feels a bit flat.
  4. This one might need explaining. So the current climate of film economics has moved to an international market. By this I mean China is now one of the biggest consumers of films in the world. Hollywood being a business, wants in on the Chinese market. China has strict guidelines and limitations toward its imports including movies. To get around this, Hollywood co-produces with Chinese Film Production companies. On top of this, they add Chinese characters (who are big Chinese stars) to appeal to the Chinese market. This isn’t a big deal but it isn’t handled well in this film. The obligated Chinese character in this film does nothing. It doesn’t make sense for her to be in this movie other than to be one of the scientists (which you could easily combine two of them and nothing would change). If you have to put her in, at least make her do something! I’d be interested to know if she plays a much bigger role in an edited version of the film played in China.

Adam

  1. There were a few character arcs that were not my favorite. Like Luke mentioned, Samuel L. Jackson’s acting was great and he was one of the best developed characters, however I didn’t care for where he ended up at the end of the movie. John Goodman’s character was another one of those arcs that easily could have been so much better.
  2. I like to take my kids to as my movies with me as I can but from a father’s perspective this movie is not one I would take my kids to. There are a lot of jump scare and enough frightening images that I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing my kids who are both under 8 to this movie.

Like and Dislike:

Luke

  1. John Reilly is really the only one that shows much emotion or has a sympathetic reasoning behind his actions. I like this character but he is absent for nearly a third of the movie. Telling his story about living on the island for over 20 years would have made a more interesting movie than the one we saw.

Adam

  1. I second that.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 1/5

Luke:

Near the beginning there’s a short scene inside a brothel/bar but nothing is explicatively shown. The rest is harmless enough, it’s your typical action violence from a PG-13 rating. Oh and there’s one F-Bomb, and it’s oddly not from Samuel L. Jackson.

Adam: 

On top of what Luke mentioned I’d say the violence is a little more than say your average Marvel movie. The violence is mainly creature violence and because of that there was more blood and some visible lose of limb and one impaling.

Overall:

Luke:

It’s no surprise that this is a typical action blockbuster. No one is going into this movie to watch a character-driven drama (go watch Logan if you want that). So if you want a popcorn movie, then that is what you will get, it is an entertaining 2 hour adventure. Granted there have been blockbusters that are not only fun but have good characters too. So it is a bit disappointing for Hollywood to easily abandon character and plot for action and spectacle when you can have both. One such movie was actually Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Which by the way is superior in every way, except for the length. It isn’t a bad-bad movie though, but I guess a good-bad movie, where if you don’t take it seriously, you will have fun.

Adam:

Like we have mentioned above it is a great popcorn movie and is a lot of fun to watch. The plot isn’t complex and the characters aren’t super deep but it is still an enjoyable watch and a great escape from everyday life. There is an extra little scene after the credits that goes into something not too well developed in the movie so it worth staying for.

Movie Review – Logan (2017) *Spoiler Free*

Welcome to the GMF movie reviews! Here we’ll go and do some reviews for the geeky movies to come out during the year. Since we’re not registered film critics, we won’t be able to go to pre-screenings and get these reviews out the day it’s released. So you may have a wait a few days or so since we’re watching the movies the same time you are. So we’re going to try and do reviews a bit differently than others may do it. It’ll be in a list form for the likes and dislikes, sometimes it’ll be me solo and sometimes the others will chime in. Lastly I would like to make a meter for “awkward walk-ins moments.” What I mean by that is the moments when your S.O., parent, kids, grandma, etc walks into a movie at the most awkward time. Not only for inappropriate content but also for just other bizarre stuff you may find in a movie. I think some people might find that useful when planning to see a movie. So let’s get into the review of Logan!

Logan

Likes:

  1. A very emotionally charged movie. It’s rare for a movie like this to be as engaging on an emotional level like this. It’s a similar feeling after watching a deep character-driven drama (makes sense after figuring out that the director also made the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line). While this isn’t what you want for all movies, this was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre. The Dark Knight was one of the only superhero movies that had a ending that was both inspirational and a bit depressing like Logan did. Coming to watch a typical X-men movie? This is not what you’re looking for.
  2. The acting was fantastic. Hugh Jackman truly nails the character of Wolverine in this movie. The creative freedom they had in this movie allowed Jackman to go to places emotionally that he wasn’t able to before. Patrick Stewart also does a great performance as Professor Xavier, which was very different from his other performances with the same character, but for the context of the story it made sense. You see them both given it their all for this movie.
  3. I could feel that the filmmakers and actors actually cared about making the best movie they could. I already mentioned the acting but even the director James Mangold had some energy put into the movie that was absent in The Wolverine. This maybe because Mangold had a lot more creative freedom than in The Wolverine which was an ok movie at best.
  4. While both previous Wolverine films had some major pacing issues, the pacing in this movie is spot on. It’ll give you breathing room when you need it. Then will crack up afterwards and keep your attention throughout the whole movie.
  5. Grounded superhero movie done right. Other X-men films struggled tonally cutting from flashbacks of Auschwitz to melodramatic comic book slock. This is not the case for this movie. It knows it’s a serious film, and it stays serious throughout.

Dislikes (or rather what others might dislike):

  1. There isn’t much exposition to explain why the world is the way that it is. Some of it is explained but it isn’t spelled out for you. So some of the backstory might be hard to follow. Also it does rely a bit on you understanding the X-men world. So if you’re brand new to X-men you may want to watch the original X-men movie first.
  2. The violence is up to 11 on this movie. THIS MOVIE IS RATED R FOR A REASON. The claws are used and depicted realistically in this film. Don’t pull a Deadpool and take your kids to this. This movie is not for them. There are plenty of ‘F’ bombs and ‘S’ bombs here too.
  3. My friends that came with me were emotionally overwhelmed after seeing this movie. It isn’t a fun movie to watch. This didn’t bother me as I was happy to actually feel something after a movie for a change. However it’s not really a positive emotion. If you go in expecting an emotional and darker movie, that is what you will get.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 4/5

While the movie lacks sexual content and suggestive costumes like the other X-Men movies, this movie is full of profanity, bloody gore and action. This is a hard R and is not for kids.

Overall:

Logan is a rare film, it’s a film where the studio took a chance and let the filmmakers make the movie they wanted to make. It’s hard to tell if it’ll pay off like Deadpool did but it did expand what can be done in the superhero genre. There have been dark superhero movies before but not to the level of being considered a heavy drama like Logan was. If you grew up with the X-men movies like I did, I think you can go in and appreciate the arc that was made for Wolverine. His solo movies have been duds up until now. Not only is this by far the best Wolverine movie, but it might be one of the best X-men movies yet.