Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

I missed this film at the cinema but as it was now available for rent I decided it was time to catch up with it.

And…I didn’t think it was that great. It was undoubtedly better than any of the other DC shared universe films so far. Also, Gal Gadot played the role convincingly but…it was overlong for the story it had to tell. In addition, the bad guys had no personalities and the action sequences became repetitive. The ultimate motivation of the big-bad made him seem incompetent (World War 1 was horrific but didn’t limit human population growth much) but at that point, I’m being nit-picky.

Like other recent DC films there were many good set-pieces – the battle on the beach of Themiscryra, in particular, was very well done. It also managed more humour and I thought the section set in London was the most successful part of the film. Likewise, by having a stronger focus on personal relationships than the other DC films (except, arguably Suicide Squad) the film felt less cold and war scenes carried more risk – not much risk for Wonder Woman obviously but there were characters who you didn’t want to die.

Consider that the film is twenty minutes longer than Captain America: The First Avenger the other superhero film it most closely resembles and yet manages to do less in that time in establishing characters. The problem seems to be what it has in common with the other DC films: too long, a focus on set pieces rather than the whole film, and a lack of humour and warmth. To be fair Wonder Woman had more of the latter but I felt frustrated that what we got showed the potential for a much better movie.

Gal Gadot though completely owns Wonder Woman as a character. I think this already clear in Batman v Superman but in her own movie, it is indisputable. The flaws the film has are not in its central performance which Gadot manages with aplomb. She is convincing in all aspects of the character in a way that redefines it.

Overall good, but not great. Hopefully Patty Jenkins will be given more freedom to take the sequel beyond the limits of the current house style for DC films.

Ex-PM Tony Abbott Headbutted

So former Australian Prime Minister was headbutted yesterday by in Tasmanian by an anarchist DJ.

The DJ Astro Labe said:

“was just a lifelong ambition to headbutt a fascist because I’m a skinhead that likes ska music and hates fascism. He’s an evil c—, I’m an anarchist and I believe in human rights.”

Now I must say that I disagree strongly with his actions. Do not headbutt Tony Abbott. It is wrong and lowers the discourse and although he is loathsome he isn’t a fascist.

However, the right keeps telling me that I’m not respecting DIVERSITY OF THOUGHT and that the test of freedom of speech is not how we tolerate ideas we approve of but how we tolerate ideas we find obnoxious or reprehensible. I’m also told that we need to respect “both sides” of a debate even when one of those sides if offering violence, advocating genocide or treating the humanity of others as some kind of special favour.

So here’s an idea. Why not put the issue of whether headbutting Tony Abbott is OK to the Australian people? Naturally, I’d vote no – we shouldn’t headbutt Tony Abbott. The government could spend several millions of dollars on a shonky survey and put the question of whether Tony Abbott should get the same basic rights as everybody to a vote – because apparently, that’s how rights work in Australia.

McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is


McEdifice Returns by Timothy the Talking Cat and Straw Puppy. For all rights reserved under both Common Law and Admiralty Law for ever. For the corporate shells known as TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT and STRAW PUPPY.

Oh we should start this chapter with an excerpt from a future encyclopedia so we can do a subtle info-dump for background!

Planet Campus – the Boot Camp and Corporate Office Planet of Tau Bootes X. Straddled by a single ring-shaped continent that alternates in bands between lonely countryside fall of barracks and obstacle courses and dull looking office buildings full of out-dated office equipment.

The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things. The desert planet of Sandy for example also became the unfeasibly large worm planet whereas the lumpy planet of Lumpus tried to skirt the law by declaring itself also the Planet of Very Tiny Valleys planet.

Planet Campus of Tau Bootes X had already staked out a very stable niche as the planet of early 21st Century offices. In an attempt to preserve cultures of historical note and ways of life that might become extinct due to social and technological change, Planet Campus had been populated with low-rise office buildings and locked into 21st-century technology. Dealing with paperwork, and project management methodologies the planet had descended into urban warfare due to a quasi-religious conflict between traditionalist adherents to the church of Prince2 and ninja-heretics committed to Agile Methodology.  

Only after the civil war had consumed much of the planet was it revealed that the conflict had been orchestrated by histriosocioempiricists committed to Seldonism, who wished to see if 21st-century social media was the root cause of the factionalism witnessed on Earth at the equivalent time. After careful consideration of the evidence, they had absolved social-media as a root cause and had concluded in a lengthy report that the primary cause was that “people are just dicks.”

The Space Galactical Space Army landed in force as peace-keepers to end the conflict and to ensure that Planet Campus could return to its vital economic work of moving gradually towards the paperless-office by printing huge reports on the topic. After thirty years of a second civil war between the Space Galactical Space Army and the insurgents, a peace of sorts was brokered. The planet was divided into alternate bands – business zone/boot camp/business zone/boot camp etc. Thus successfully separating warring project management ideologies with military zones mainly filled with new recruits. The success of a planet with two signature things would be an inspiration for planets everywhere. – Extract from “What’s the Thing about Planet Campus of Tau Bootes X” Omnipancyclopedia Cosmosicos 3576

McEdifice stepped out of the post-orbital drop craft and looked around him. In the hazy distance he could just make out what looked like the central business district of a small town but surrounding him was green countryside, obstacle courses, barracks and a habit designed for cruel, demanding, sadistic and shouty drill-sergeants.

“Welcome to Bootcamp 17 of Planet Campus the Bootcamp Planet of Tau Bootes X.” said a particularly loud drill sergeant.

“Nooooooo!!!!!” cried McEdifice.

Tune in next time for another thrilling chapter!

I Don’t Know How to Write About BoJack Horseman

Regular readers will know that I have some fondness for dysfunctional talking animals and I like cartoons and I like binge-watching Netflix. So yes, I’ve watched all four seasons of BoJack Horseman. You’ll note that while I’ve made passing comments about it that I haven’t reviewed even a single episode.

Mainly this is because I don’t know where to start or what the point of the review would be. So I thought I’d write two different pieces. This first one avoids big spoilers, talks more in generalities and focuses on what the show is like. If you haven’t seen the show, this review might give a sense of the show.

The second review will have more spoilers – if I write it. Part of writing about the stuff you consume is to debrief yourself and help articulate what you experienced. Season 4 of the show, in particular, has a lot to process.

Let’s begin. BoJack Horseman is an animated comedy aimed at adults about a washed up former sitcom star and his dysfunctional life. Simple. He is also a horse. The world he lives in is our world but also some people are animals. Some people are fish, some people are insects. BoJack’s agent/ex-girlfriend is a cat. Some people are humans. People still eat chicken but chickens are people and essentially chickens are people enslaved and kept docile to be eaten by people in what is a deeply disturbing nightmare scenario that isn’t a metaphor it is just how the world is.

The show is also very funny .

I love shows that have an inbuilt capacity to essentially do anything and BoJack Horseman is one of those shows. The core of the storyline is the life of a genuinely unlikable person. BoJack is conceited and cynical, he uses people and manipulates people. Not only is he unhappy but he takes active steps to sabotage the happiness of others. Narcissistic-yet-self-loathing and at best amoral, he operates in part as the antagonist of the show. When other characters make the move to get BoJack out of their lives, you cheer them on – it is always a smart move. When those same characters find themselves embroiled in his unpleasantness you feel sad for them.

Except…BoJack is also a sympathetic character. Which is hard and it is worth stating up front that having an emotionally abusive character at the centre of a show and also making him sympathetic is a problematic concept. Yet it works – it works because the surrounding characters are also sympathetically drawn even when some of them start just as one-note jokes. Also by making the audience feel sympathetic towards BoJack the cycle of emotional damage becomes intelligible. The ups and downs of his career, his occasional personal insights, the apparent missed opportunities for a better happier life put the viewer in the same position as those self-same characters that we think should just get FAR AWAY from the piece of shit that is BoJack. Except of course we also like those characters and want them to stay in the show and hence want them to stay involved in BoJack’s life and rationalise that maybe they are good for him… and once again the viewer ends up in the mindset of the person trying to be friends with a shitty person.

I’m not really selling this as a funny show.

It is a funny show. Talking animals is a basically funny concept. Taking that concept and then extrapolating it further makes it even funnier. Taking that concept and then occasionally delving into the implications of a world in which some people are literally animals and working out the mechanics of it, is both absurd and funny and pushes the show well into speculative fiction. If animals are people then what about sea creatures? Well, they are also people and live in giant sea cities and have a whole somewhat alien culture.

Showbiz, politics, sitcom cliches all get satirised both crudely and subtly. Sight gags and puns and wordplay keep the episodes sparkling with humour while absurd events send characters off on increasingly irrational sequences of events (e.g. the Governor of California having a hand transplant and getting lobster claws – also the Governor of California is a woodchuck called Woodchuck Couldchuck Berkowitz).

The humour is inappropriate and the events that happen to the characters are cruel but in general, what it avoids doing is making the humour pointlessly cruel. There are times when wordplay is both stupid-funny AND devastating to the character but it isn’t Seth Macfarlane or South Park nasty. There is a consistent current of humanity and sympathy throughout.

In part that is due to some amazing writing but also due to the cast. Will Arnett as BoJack is truly impressive but also in Season 4 Amy Sedaris as BoJack’s agent Princess Carolyn does some incredible and heart-wrenching acting. Alison Brie as writer/journalist/blogger Diane Nguyen is consistently good. Aaron Paul pulls off a different but similar trick that he did with Breaking Bad – taking an apparently shallow and uncomplex secondary character and turning them into the heart of the show. Paul F Tompkins as BoJack’s frenemy, the irrepressibly jolly Labrador Mr Peanutbutter also shifts a character who starts as a one-note joke (he’s a person who has the personality of a labrador) into a complex character.

I’m still processing Season 4 and that’s what I’d like to write about next because it was extraordinary and at times very upsetting. I don’t think there is a way to discuss it without spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show but intend to, don’t read that post.

Currently Playing: Metroid – Samus Returns 3DS

Many modern women currently employed as alien bounty hunters were inspired in their youth by the example of Samus Aran who has been busy shooting insectoid aliens in weird caves for several decades. Now, once again, I can challenge my poor hand-eye coordination and weak reaction times in a very nice looking re-make of Metroid II for the 3DS.

Damn, I’m dead again and my thumb hurts.