Angels in Spiffy Tuxedos: A Movie Review

I’d like to submit another entry for “angels portrayed in media.” It’s a movie from several years ago called The Adjustment Bureau. These guys don’t call themselves angels and they don’t specifically say that they work for God, but we’re meant to assume that religions and mythologies throughout history have been referring to these guys in nice suits and spiffy hats, including Anthony “Falcon” Mackie and Terrence Stamp.
This movie is a mashup of Men in Black and that Sliding Doors movie. The tuxedo guys can predict the future with uncanny accuracy and Make Things Happen from small things that could be mistaken for chance to bigger things like changing how people reason or erasing their personality – anything that helps them keep humanity on track according to the Chairman’s Master Plan.
The Plan involves Matt Damon winning a bunch of elections. It doesn’t involve him falling in love with Emily Blunt. But Damon is very good at one thing: changing his mind at the last second and doing something stupid. This makes him the Adjustment Bureau’s greatest enemy.
But to be clear, Matt Damon is portrayed as the hero, trying to fight so-called destiny and be with his dream girl. Terrence Stamp and his spiffy hat-wearing friends are the bad guys. Meaning, by extension, the Chairman (God) and his Master Plan must be bad. It’s Supernatural all over again.
But the Adjustment Bureau is a good movie, in general. It’s about chance encounters and genuine human interactions. It’s well-acted and it flows nicely.

*Spoilers Ahead.* If I’ve piqued your interest, go watch the movie, then come back. If you don’t mind, just keep reading. Ready? Here we go.

From a nerd perspective, the third act is the movie’s downfall. Mackie shows Damon behind the Men in Gray’s curtain. The explanation of how things work seemed needlessly confusing and I found it boring. The movie might have been better if they kept the truth shrouded in mystery.
But then the very end of the movie makes it a bit better from a Christian perspective. It turns out Damon is so good at going outside the Master Plan that the Chairman is willing to change destiny-as-written for him and his dream girl. The “Chairman” changed his mind a few times in the Bible, too. So maybe this movie isn’t so blasphemous after all.
Final Verdict: 7.5/10; well-acted, good concepts, shaky ending

The Dark Tower…but looking at the book.

When I was younger, my family had a rule. “Read the book first, then watch the movie.” As I’ve gotten older, the rule has mostly faded, but otherwise remained in place. I re-read The Hobbit before the movies came out. I flipped through the Hunger Games trilogy before watching the series. Full disclosure: I use this rule as an excuse not to watch Game of Thrones—I haven’t read the books. (Nor do I plan to.)

The Dark Tower
Not the edition I read, btw. The one I piked up was more recent.

I bring this up because The Dark Tower comes out in a week, and it looked interesting. However, much like Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, and countless other fandoms, it is based on a book. In this case, a series of five books written by Stephen King.

In preparation for the release, I picked up a copy of the first book in the series, The Gunslinger, from my local public library.

I only made it through the first section, before 1) the due date came up, and 2) I quit reading it.

The first part of the book is very much a western; I will give it that. But it is so in the sense of the wandering cowboy-gunslinger archetype stopping in at a town and trying to fix its problems, while also going on his usual revenge quest.

I won’t get into the exact details for fear of having to throw up a disclaimer. I will say that I hope this movie is a terrible adaptation of the source material. Because, if it was a good adaptation, it’s going to be uncomfortable to watch.

As in, “Rated R” uncomfortable to watch.

I shouldn’t have much to worry about. The movie’s supposed to be PG-13, so it either skips the first few chapters of the book or tells it differently. Or it’s an adaptation of the entire series in one film.

Nevertheless, I probably won’t go see the movie opening night. Or the first few months it’s out. If ever. And I’m not sure if I’ll finish the books either, so I have a valid excuse for skipping the movie.

But if I watch the movie, it’ll be because it stars Idris Elba.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to crack open a copy of Ready Player One. The trailer dropped last week, and it looks interesting.

 

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog

This Week in Geek-dom: The 13th Doctor Is…

I know I just finished talking about Doctor Who Season 10 a couple weeks ago, but this week the Internet exploded with the news of who’s playing the next Doctor. There was then a second explosion: the debate over whether the Doctor should be played by a woman.

When Tilda Swinton played the Ancient One in Dr. Strange, the main problem was with her skin tone, not her gender. But it matters to people that the Doctor is supposed to be a dude. What’s the difference here?
As far as I can tell, it was okay for the Ancient One to be a girl because even when he was a guy he didn’t have a romance with anyone. The Doctor has only had romance in recent years; he behaved as aromantic and asexual for at least 33 years. Based on the majority of the evidence, then, the Doctor’s gender shouldn’t enter into the equation.

In-universe, the show has been building up to this for a while. The Master turned female. The Time Lord General on Gallifrey went “back to normal” by turning female. The Doctor even mentioned once or twice that turning female wouldn’t be so bad.
But here’s the big one. People think the show is making the Doctor female just to pander to the “feminists” and anyone who writes fanfiction about a female Doctor. I honestly can’t disagree with this point. Whether the writers will admit it or not, being “inclusive” for the sake of being inclusive is a driving force behind almost every piece of modern media that’s not headed by a staunch Christian.

On the other hand… one second (quick IMDB search).
Chris Chibnall will be the show’s head honcho after Moffat is gone. Chibnall also wrote “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three.” Those episodes introduced us to Queen Nefertiti and UNIT Director Kate Stewart. They’re not terrible female characters, compared to the women that Moffat’s been writing about (River Flipping Song, for example). It makes me think this female Doctor will be a good character, is what I’m saying.
I’ve seen Jodie Whitaker (that’s the actress, spoilers) in one other thing that I can think of, and I can’t complain about her acting. So even if it’s pandering, it will be quality pandering, I guess.
In summary: cautiously optimistic, but haters gonna hate.

The Church of Castlevania

Disclaimer: Mild spoilers for Castlevania, Season 1. Also, discussion of gore and ancient church politics.

Castlevania
Shown: the Castle of Dracula. Not shown: all the blood the series shed. (photo courtesy of Netflix.)

[Sigh.] I’ve been dodging this review for a while now.

So, a couple weekends back, I sat down to watch Netflix’s Castlevania series, an adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. (Could’ve fooled me; I haven’t played any of the games.)

It’s not that long, for starters. Only four episodes, each under a half an hour long. Watching the entire series takes less time than watching a movie.

As far as content goes, it’s probably the most graphic (read: gory and bloody) media I’ve watched. To give perspective, the “tamest” of the gory actions is the sky literally raining blood.

Beyond that, it’s well written. The characters, for what little screentime they get, are fairly well developed, with clear goals and motivations.

But that isn’t why I’ve been dodging it. I’ve been dodging it because the show paints the church as the bad guys.

I don’t like giving in-depth plot synopses, but here’s the set-up (to skip it, jump to the TL;DR): it’s the mid-late 1400’s, and a wandering human woman comes upon Dracula’s castle. Dracula—being an immortal vampire—is thousands of years ahead of the rest of the world, with his castle decked out with electric lights. Dracula takes the woman in to teach her his science, and then he later marries her.

Of course, after time, the woman goes back out into the world to share her science and help humanity. But the church steps in and burns her at the stake for witchcraft. This, of course, turns Dracula against humanity, and he gives the church a year to leave.

A year passes, and the church is still there, having mistaken Dracula for Satan, and believing that they are protected by God. Of course, to their surprise, Dracula calls forth an army of demons that starts terrorizing the entire countryside.

And the church in Castlevania still doesn’t get it, blaming the gypsy-like “Speakers” for the demon attacks because some of them use magic. (In actuality, only a few do.) They even blame the family of the main character—the Belmonts—for the attacks and excommunicate them from the church, even when they’re the most qualified for stopping Dracula.

TL;DR, the church is shown as moronic, arrogant, and cruel, blaming everyone else rather than themselves.

It probably bugs me more than it should. The series is set in the 1400’s, when the global church was at its least Biblical and most corrupt. When they would have burned someone at the stake for witchcraft.

Still, I can’t help but think that the writers’ choice of direction in storytelling shows how they think the church could turn out. So judgmental that it becomes self-destructive.

I won’t try to argue that this is a Christian show. If anything, it’s pretty anti-Christian—at least, anti-ancient-Christian. But I will say that we can all learn the same lesson: don’t be like the church in Castlevania. That church carries knives and beats up people in the streets.

In closing, I can’t decide if I like this show or not. I keep hopping between liking the show and hating it, with no in-between. On the one hand, I don’t like how they portray the church, but the last episode changed that dynamic slightly. And I didn’t like how graphic it was, but again, the last episode dialed it back a bit. I have a feeling they won’t change the portrayal of the church or the gore in future episodes, but it would be nice if they did.

Accordingly, I present the most self-contradictory rank that I’ve given a series:

4/10 ~ I can’t wait for Season 2.

 

And that concludes my review. I’m off to watch something that won’t potentially make me hate the church. Until then, stay safe, eat well, and don’t. Play. With. Whips. This show taught me that they are not safe. [Shudders.]

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog

Last Week in Geek-dom: Spiderman 6 – Return of the Reboot

Spiderman: Homecoming was awesome. I loved it.

The movie was two hours long, but every scene was fun and engaging. A big part of this was not including an origin story. No living spiders, only mechanical; no mention of Uncle Ben, only young, pretty, and cool Aunt May; no pearl necklace clattering to the ground – sorry, wrong franchise. And no “with great power comes great responsibility.” Marvel expects the viewers to know Spiderman’s origin by now, so they jump us right into the action.
Rather than an origin, this is a coming-of-age story. It’s less than a year after Peter Parker started his vigilante career and a couple months after Tony Stark gave him a cool suit. Peter is still very much a kid. This is illustrated by a) the genuinely portrayed high school setting, b) the excellent performances of Tom Holland, Zendaya, and everyone else, and c) the fact that Peter is still really bad at being a superhero.
This isn’t just Iron Man crashing into a parked car after his First Flight or Thor getting backhanded by a fire-breathing metal giant. Spiderman spends most of the movie screwing up and causing collateral damage, from drainpipes to smacking the wrong guy in the forehead to…well, if you’ve seen the trailers you have some idea.
Any superhero antics are going to involve collateral damage, but in this movie it’s framed as Spiderman’s fault in particular. This emphasizes Tony Stark’s point that Spidey should stick to his friendly neighborhood.
Okay, let’s talk about Tony Stark. If you’re going to include Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, doing it by way of Tony Stark is…well, true to comic book canon. But for the first half of the movie, Tony makes it clear that he considers Spiderman an asset and an ally. Then, seemingly out of the blue, he starts acting like he considers himself Peter’s surrogate dad, or at least his mentor. Unlike GotG Vol. 2 (see Isaac’s post), this time it doesn’t work. It should have worked; it would have been a nice touch. But I don’t think it did.
On the other hand… I say Spiderman is bad at being a superhero, but there are some parts he’s good at. He has the classic Spiderman wit (“Yoink!”) and the stubborn determination, for worse or better. And like OG Spiderman, he’s wonderfully relatable.
10/10, would recommend, will watch again.

Little Witch Academia: a Review

Well, I was actually planning on writing a review of the new Netflix Castlevania series. However, 1) it’s technically not an anime, and I said I would review an anime, and 2) I’m not really in a good place to talk about the show right now. Emotionally, that is.

Instead, I’m going to review something a bit lighter.

Little Witch Academia is a series produced by Studio Trigger and released in the US on Netflix. This probably says more bad than good, since Studio Trigger gave us Kill La Kill, and Netflix has had a spotty track record for their exclusive releases, in my opinion.

But, to give some perspective, I was familiar with Little Witch Academia a few years ago. You see, before the anime was produced in 2017, Trigger released a half-hour anime movie in 2013. I watched that last year, and, honestly, it made it into my Top 5 anime. And it held that place after watching other anime, including some others that also made the Top 5.

So, I have a soft spot for this series. Sue me.

In my defense, Little Witch Academia is probably the cleanest anime I have come across in my four-plus years in the genre. Even compared to “kid-friendly anime” like Pokémon, it’s still pretty clean.

 

9/10 ~ Pretty good anime, in my opinion. I would actually recommend this one for kids, but also for people who enjoyed Harry Potter. My only problem with showing it to kids would be the witchcraft aspect, but I’d like to unpack that subject at a later date.

 

Let’s Connect:

@Isaac_Trenti

@CorrelationBlog

The Tricky Thing about Polytheism

Last time I mentioned Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I said that it contained wise insights about faith and metaphysics if they’re kept in context. That was weeks ago, before I had seen the episode about Jesus. I think the topic bears revisiting.
In the Gaiman-verse, there’s more than one Jesus. There’s only one Son of God, but he has at least a dozen individual bodies. Each manifestation is a different ethnicity. Mr. Wednesday’s explanation is, “There’s a lot of need for Jesus, so there’s a lot of Jesus.”

See, most of the others gods on the show manifest as a nationality that matches the majority of their followers. Jesus came to save all of humanity, so the show suggests that he looks like all of humanity simultaneously. That’s theologically incorrect, but I still like what the show does with the Jesi.
Traditional-looking Jesus talks to Shadow, the protagonist, and in that conversation he is portrayed differently than any other god. He’s not lording over the mere mortals, but he doesn’t act like a weird foreigner either. He casually sits on the surface of a swimming pool, and he calmly and sagely helps Shadow through a personal struggle. I enjoyed that scene.
At one point, Mr. Wednesday points out that Jesus replaced the pagan gods that used to dominate Saturnalia and the Spring Equinox Festival (which actually exist in this universe), and Jesus acts like he didn’t realize that. And he acts guilty about it. And he doesn’t seem to recognize what guilt is, as if he’d never felt that feeling before.

Ummmm…

An incarnation of Jesus would be capable of guilt, like any human. And if it ever happened, it would be a new experience for him. And in a universe where there are multiple gods that spend most of their time competing with each other for dominance, that’s what the Jesus situation would look like. So it makes sense in the fictional context.

The same episode also features this conversation: “So he messed with me just to mess with me?”
“What do you think gods do?”
That’s the other thing about a world like the Gaiman-verse. Making multiple quasi-deities means omnipotence must be divided among them, and that means some of them are going to do questionable things just because they have the power. I appreciate how this show pointed that out.

Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud
@CorrelationBlog