Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Hits All The Marks

So this is a bit overdue, but my initial kneejerk reaction to the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer was wrong. Dead wrong. So wrong I am embarrassed by what I said. But I'll own up to it.

Guardians was absolutely flipping awesome. A rip-roaring action adventure that at no point took itself too seriously.

It was fun without ever getting campy. It had a kind of real world sense of humor about it without ever getting silly or riding on gags. It was epic and fantastic, yet felt completely grounded where it needed to be.

It captured the magic of the space opera genre like very few have managed to do. Most of all, this flick had swagger.

Everything James Gunn and company did flew in the face of Conventional Hollywood Wisdom. You know, the thinking that repeatedly condemns big budget science fiction with too many aliens that doesn't have the words "Star Wars" stamped on it as a disaster waiting to happen, but ignore the simple fact that the movie they were bemoaning was humorless trash.

Firefly fans keep comparing it to that. Maybe. What I saw were shades of Star Wars original trilogy with healthy doses of Farscape.
From Left to Right: Aeryn, Rygel, Zhaan, John, Dargo. ;)

Very healthy doses of Farscape. The most frequently recurring jokes involve misunderstood idioms and pop culture references. It's about a guy from Earth who gets caught up with a crew full of criminals and saves the galaxy from a militant maniac chasing after a cosmically powerful weapon.

I mean... come on.

Don't get me wrong. I am the last person to dismiss this brilliant movie as a ripoff. But great minds clearly think alike. I've said it before, I wear my inspiration on my sleeve, too.

Every character was memorable, from the feature cast to the more prominent supporting characters to the villains. Though I do wish the standouts like Nebula and The Collector had a little bit more screen time, looking at it from a plot and pacing perspective, they were in it exactly the right amount of time.

But damn Karen Gillan was great. Maybe Dr. Who fans were not surprised, but the rest of us were all like, whoa who's this chick? I am declaring this her breakout role. Just watch.

So many scenes were solid gold. Rocket had the biggest laugh lines, naturally, but it didn't ride on the jokes alone. It was chock full of emotional moments amid a ton of fast paced action, set to the backdrop of classic pop music that you cannot help but groove to.

I sincerely can't think of a turkey moment I'd want to forget or need to ignore to get into the story. For example, I love Yondu as depicted in the comics. So on paper, you'd think I would hate the redneck pirate with the crazy arrow played by Michael Rooker. I didn't. He was such a great character I found myself not caring about the change.

Ironically, this one was one of the biggest departures from the comics by Marvel Studios to date overall. So given my tradition of preaching adherence to source material as the golden ticket to success, you'd think I'd have problems. But I don't. I'd even go so far as to say that these characters in this movie were all more interesting than they are in the comics. Especially Drax.

Like the X-Men franchise, this movie proved that so long as you adhere to the spirit of the original, you can change details up to your heart's content. Keep what works. Stay true to the core of what fans relate to. Change what doesn't fit in a real world live action setting, and the themes of your story.

Yondu the stoic warrior would not have worked in this film at all. But having a guy who looked like him with a similar weapon gimmick was a great homage IMO.

Now I've got to update my ranking for best superhero movies of all time. (Even though it was a space opera, it had more than enough superhero elements to qualify, beyond simply being a Marvel movie).

Gotta think about that one.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing Kick-Ass Female Characters

I hesitate to say "strong female characters" because I hear that term is becoming taboo. I guess the new sin is that women in action adventure stories are depicted ONLY as "strong", which is in itself a sexist caricature. So the phrase has become a cliche among feminists.

Sigh. We can't win.

Thankfully, this doesn't stop me from writing them. Though it does make the task more interesting. Because up to a point, the criticism is valid. There are examples of two-dimensional female characters out there who either appear to be the SFC, but turn out to be wimpy, neurotic damsels in waiting.

Then there's the other kind. The ones who are Strong... and... And Strong... and stuff.

Not mine.

Don't believe me? Go check out my new Pro Se Press Single Shot, Codename Orchid for your Kindle (also available from from Smashwords). Costs just a buck, and you can read it in about the time it'd take you to watch a movie, which fits the cinematic experience I go for.

What's it about, you ask? First we meet Orchid, a rogue spy without a country, breaking into an enemy camp in Afghanistan. Through flashbacks we meet Regina Cross. She isn't quite living the American dream yet, but she's getting there. Her life was finally starting to look normal. Until she's attacked by a Russian assassin, rescued by a man she's never met, and learns that she's a deprogrammed sleeper agent.

It's received two 5-star reviews so far, both of which made references to the JJ Abrams show Alias. Because, well yeah. I wear my inspirations on my sleeve.

If you've visited this blog before, you know that I have always been a fan of the SFC archetype. And I love that there are so many of them making it into mainstream entertainment lately.

I list among my top favorite characters in books and comics names like April Rose (Mack Bolan novels), Catti-Brie, Mara Jade, Natasha Romanoff, Barbara Gordon, Helena Bertinelli, Karrin Murphy, Rachel Morgan, Mercy Thompson...

And Wonder Woman. On that note, allow me a quick tangent.

WTF is wrong with you Zack Snyder?

I will admit that on one level, I love this costume design. It's as good of  a modern interpretation of Amazon armor as I think you can get. The depiction of Diana as a "warrior princess" dates back to the 80's at least, (yes, before Xena and before Kingdom Come) so it fits. And Gal Gadot looks awesome in it.

But why are you so afraid of color? Why is everything you create so joyless? It's bad enough that you willfully ignored the entire point of what Superman is supposed to be. Now you are hellbent on destroying the most iconic female character in comics.

What is wrong with THIS??

Dear readers, and hopefully future fans, if you need to know one thing about my stories is that they are fun. Even my eventually-to-be-published violent crime drama/revenge story/crime thriller has healthy doses of real-world humor thrown in.

I simply do not see the world in such dark hues of black and gray and brown as those who have infested the creative mindset of DCE. The last thing we need in this dreary world is even more doom and gloom in what is meant to be escapist entertainment.

I mean, I'm one of the few crazy people who actually liked Sucker Punch, but come ON. I thought that your much improved ending to Watchman was a sign that your creative vision wasn't as bleak and cynical as the Nolans and Goyers of the world. I'm sorry I was wrong. Lighten the fuck up, Snyder. Please.


I have more adventures planned for Orchid, but they won't happen without your support. If you like to read more legitimately strong female characters with depth and humanity, if you enjoy fast paced action adventure of the spy genre, then this could be the start of your new favorite series.

Buy it for a dollar at Amazon and Smashwords.