Monthly Archives: August 2009

I want to believe.

I held off on watching the new X-Files movie, I Want to Believe, as long as I possibly could.  Well, not “possibly.”  I could have scratched it altogether.  But the X-Files are the only bit of pop culture I’ve ever been enthralled enough with – as a fictional world – to call a “fandom,” so I figured I should finally give it a shot.

Besides, it was free.

In short:  I should have let it go.  It wasn’t a wretched movie, but it was a movie that coasted on the series’ long-dwindled relevance and brought nothing new to the table.  Spoilers ahead, of course.

I was never a Mulder/David Duchonvy fan.  The character actually irritated me in a deep and abiding way, the same way I’m usually irritated at overconfident men who assume they’re always right and that their worldview is the perfectly correct one.  I watched the show for Skinner, and the Lone Gunmen, and the cool monster-of-the-week plots.

And, of course, Scully.  Scully is, to my way of thinking, one of the most complex characters in sci-fi television:  a medical doctor who heals, an agent who kills.  A woman committed to being the rational foil to her whackadoodle partner, despite being whacked upside the head most episodes with a whole lotta supernatural stuff.  A committed Catholic who survives a terminal disease.  A woman who fell in love with the most inappropriate partner ever – someone who will never stop tilting at windmills – and knows it.

Annnnd, unfortunately, I Want to Believe reduces her to a shrill (and I use that word deliberately) character whose entire job is to drag Mulder down, man.  She’s the Bert, he’s the Ernie, and while he says over and over that he can’t do the job without her (and she and Skinner do save his life in the end), Mulder never even considers a speck of compromise.  Yes, they end up in a tropical idyll once the credits have rolled – but do you think he’d keep hanging out in a cabana with her if someone told him there was a sea monster off shore?  Nooo.

I am not going to get into fangirl details.  I am not going to whine about how, um, when the show left off, Doggett had the X-Files.  Didn’t he deserve a mention, a cameo?  And how Skinner was woefully underutilized, and the FBI agents who looked up Mulder in the first place (played by Amanda Peet and Xzibit) didn’t seem hooked up to the greater FBI as a whole at all.  Waah, waah, fanbulance.

But what I will say is that the movie took an interesting plot – a psychic who is also a horrifically damaged human being, a villian who is trying to keep his lover alive at grotesque and murderous cost – and drowned it in tension between two characters who, seriously, know each other better than this by now.  Scully’s sub-plot to save her young patient seemed very much like Carter et. al. were trying to give her her own windmill to tilt at, and that could have been interesting – after all, Scully is no stranger to dogged pursuit herself.  But it felt disconnected, and made the church she’s always found such refuge in an enemy, without really exploring that at all.

Sloppy writing, boring pacing.  A missed opportunity.

District 9

This is going to be a short review, and only somewhat spoilery, considering that I walked out 45 minutes before District 9 ended.  It was obviously technically brilliant; I’ve never seen effects like that, and I was shocked at their effectiveness.  The constant shots of the mothership looming over Johannesburg were just breathtaking.

And, I thought it was an emotionally absorbing film – too absorbing, for me.  That’s why I bailed; I couldn’t stop crying after one pivotal scene for the alien the humans called Christopher.  There was something so heartbreaking about the moment, and so disgusting about the humans who’d gotten him into this predicament, and it hit about fifteen repulsion buttons of mine, so I fled not long after.  I know how the film ended; I know that most reviews say the part I missed was the weakest part of the movie.

The whole thing made me extraordinarily thoughtful.  I’m still parsing through lots of blog entries regarding racism in the movie, and I’m certainly not at a point that I could speak intelligently about it.  I do know that the first thing I think of when someone mentions South Africa is apartheid, and given my age, I doubt that will ever change.  I know that the juxtaposition of the white talking head authorities (both in the company in the film and as commentators in the documentary framework) and the Nigerian gangsters made me hugely uncomfortable.

Mostly, I just empathized so quickly, so immediately with the aliens that I could not, in any way, sympathize with the main human character (though his physical predicament, and his treatment by his fellow humans, left me shaking and horrified).  I could not empathize with his dilemma in the least, which is odd for me.  I can usually find something to (ha) humanize, in almost every character of stage, screen, or page.  But the main human character was so relentlessly horrid – though now I am remembering his devotion to his wife – and caused so much hurt and pain.  It gets me going emotionally again, just to think about it.

Don’t go if you hate shakycam – one of our party had to leave early because of that, and we both sat in the lobby of the theater fiddling with our iphones until our other friends emerged.  Don’t go if you (like me) have major squick buttons about people transforming into not-people.

It’s a brutal, effective, scary, technically well done film, but I had nightmares for two days afterward, and I sort of wish I hadn’t seen it.

In the grim fantasy MMO…

I admit it; I’m a serial MMOnogamist.  And that’s the last pun I’ll ever attempt in this blog.

I played Ultima Online and World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online at length.  I helped beta test Lineage II, I momentarily tried Everquest II and Age of Conan.  I likes me some high fantasy MMO, is what I’m saying.  And I have to say, I’m enjoying the hell out of Warhammer Online.

I did not think I would.  I’m not sure why; I like my fantasy dark and gritty, and WHO certainly fits the bill.  The capital city of Altdorf is ginormous and messed up:  decaying slums with corpses lying about, docks swarming with foreign merchants and ogre bodyguards, a nobles’ quarter where everything goes on as usual, la la la.  It’s very grim and detailed and Everything Is About The War, and I like it very much.

PvP is, of course, the raison d’etre.  And here are things I like:  you go into a realm-vs-realm (RvR) zone, and you’re flagged.  Everything you touch, you get some sort of credit for, whether you’re in a party, warband, or just running around solo.  Your pvp score (renown) is useful even at  extremely low ranks (levels).  There are lots and lots of objectives to take, things move quickly, yada yada. And, oh happy day, you level during RvR; it isn’t just a big time-out from leveling.  You get xp from killing other players.

I don’t know squat all about the classes or roles or careers yet.  I’m currently playing a human Witch Hunter and having a ball – I wear Solomon Kane type clothes, I have a pistol and a rapier, and I go around proclaiming things – very sexy (and I’m not being ironic; those who know me will get this).

It isn’t as seamless as WoW.  It isn’t the gorgeous Tolkien lore of LOTRO.  But as a time sink while I wait to hear whether or not my house has sold, it’s a blast.  Oh, and Mythic has a beta open right now for those of you who use Macs.  Recommended for at least the 10-day free trial.

Mad, mad, mad, mad men.

Howdy, Season 3!  A few thoughts on your first episode, “Out of Town”:

Joan, while obviously not featured in this episode, is still as smooth and steely as can be.  Her bits with Mr. “This place is a gynocracy” Hooker just filled me with glee.  She epitomizes, more than any other literary/TV/movie character I can think of, the idea of completely screwing someone over by giving them exactly what they asked for.  Exactly.

Don Draper is in great peril of turning into Roger Sterling, angsty early life or not.  The scene with the stewardess in the Baltimore hotel:  bored, boring.  Don looked distinctly uninterested, using the stewardess’ slow striptease as an easy exercise in disdain.  Contrast that with Sal’s shockingly abrupt (and interrupted, as was Don’s) encounter with the bellman, and, well.  Don finds both marriage and philandering dull these days; what will pique his interest again?

I feel genuinely bad for the character of little Sally Draper.  Just saying.

Was there ever a time when flight personnel were that interested in tossing themselves at randomly handsome men in suits?  I admit, I’ve always felt the allure of travel – the romance, the possibility, the ability to call yourself Bill and Sam instead of Don and Sal.  One of the first vaguely dirty things I snuck from my parents’ book collection Way Back When was a novel called “Coffee, Tea, or Me,” all about sexual hijinks in the sky (mostly between pilots and stewardesses, IIRC), and I think that warped my brain early.  Still:  to come onto the boys that hard, that quickly?  Flying has certainly changed.

And, finally, I’m reaaaally looking forward to seeing, in upcoming episodes, just how Pete & Peggy are getting along.  His “Olson?  She’s all over the place.” does not bode well.