Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nerd Rage #1: Cassandra Cain as Batgirl

Good for frightening crooks
Bad for Children's Parties

This past Saturday I had a somewhat intense conversation with DJ Muppet about the comic book character Cassandra Cain and her mistreatment at DC Comics (For the record we were talking in agreement, not arguing. We’re on the same page on this one). If you don’t know who that is I can’t really blame you for it, but you certainly know her superhero alter ego Batgirl. “Batgirl?” you ask with a questioning glare. “Isn’t Batgirl Commissioner Gordon’s daughter? I saw the 60’s Batman TV Show/Batman: The Animated Series/Whatever and she was totally that redheaded chick.” Yes, congratulations; you have mastered being a casual comic book fan. Please except the prize of a normal social life and lack of mocking by your peers for liking childish things.
It is true the classic Batgirl was indeed Barbara Gordon who is either the Commissioner’s daughter or niece depending on the writer. However in 1988, in the pages of the Alan Moore written graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, Barbara was shot (Among other things) by the Joker in a sadistic effort to drive Commissioner Gordon insane and ultimately lost the use of her legs. She gave up being Batgirl and instead became Oracle, using her high intelligence and computer expertise to act as an information broker and communication network for the superhero community and later becoming the leader of the all-female mostly female team the Birds of Prey. So while she is thought of as being Batgirl in pop culture in the comic books she hasn’t held that title in over 20 years. By the way, Mr. Casual Fan, what’s it like to be able to hold a conversation about sports rather than useless info about fictional characters that no one cares about? FOOTBALL!
Cassandra Cain is likely more of a mystery to you than Barbara so I’ll enlighten you. After Miss Gordon was forced to give up the role the identity of Batgirl went unused for eleven years. In 1999 a mysterious new Batgirl debuted during the No Man’s Land storyline (Short Version: An Earthquake basically destroys Gotham City and the US government says “Screw ‘em, that place sucks anyway”). It turns out that the woman behind the mask was none other than the Huntress aka Helena Bertinelli who, long story short, has something of a chip on her shoulder. Since Batman freaking hates the Huntress he immediately strips her of the mantle (Apparently he can do that). Introduced in the same story was Cassandra, a young Asian-American martial arts prodigy who works for Oracle, and Batman gives her the costume he stole claimed, presumably to metaphorically flip Helena off.
Seconds before Batman tosses her off a building
So there you have it. Cassandra became the Batgirl for the 21st Century. She was very capable, not at all the damsel in distress archetype that Barbara occasionally fulfilled during the Silver Age of Comics. Hell, she was a better fighter than Batman and could defeat him so long as it was a fair fight (It’s never a fair fight with Batman however, so he still wins). She’s a minority, adding a badly needed Asian superhero to the DC Universe. And it didn’t feel all that forced, like it often does when such a change takes place. She also was one of the more compelling characters than the average person introduced in comics around that point. Cassandra is the daughter of David Cain, a master assassin, and Lady Shiva, one of the world’s top three martial artists and all around murderer. She was born with a natural talent for martial arts as well as an innate ability to read people’s body language and predict movement. In order to perfect this skill she wasn’t taught how to read, she wasn’t taught how to write, she wasn’t taught how to talk. Her only form of communication: violence. This horrifying display of child abuse was done in order to create the perfect bodyguard and assassin for semi-immortal super villain Ra’s al Ghul, Batman’s other archenemy. At some point, I think she was supposed to be eight years old, Cain forced the now extremely deadly little girl to kill a business man. So of course she reads his body language and can tell what he’s feeling as he dies. I’d like to think that this was an obvious possibility and Ghul's League of Assassins should have taken this into consideration. Well I guess if super villains were smart then they wouldn’t keep losing to guys in tights. Anyway SHOCKINGLY the very young girl was traumatized by the event and subsequently ran away. She swore she’d never take a life again.
Pictured: Badass
So years later she resurfaces in Gotham City and, partly because he was impressed with her skills and story and partly because he thinks the Huntress can suck-it, Batman allows Cassandra to become the new Batgirl and takes her under his wing (In as much as Batman does with someone who isn’t named “Robin”…and isn't a boy). As Batgirl she was unique. She was mute due to her upbringing which brought a certain mystique to the character. She was, more so than any other member of the Batman Family, a woman in desperate need of redemption. Other people decided that she was going to be a sword that the League of Assassins would use to kill, but she strove to become a shield used for protecting the innocent. At the same time during her solo series she tried to connect to people in spite of her limitations, ultimately growing as a person (She eventually learns how to talk).
So here, my friends, we have a strong female hero who doesn’t play second fiddle to the boys. She was armed with an interesting background and huge potential for character growth which she would achieve. So what’s the problem? She sounds like the perfect character as far as my usual critiques go. Well unfortunately DC doesn’t seem to share my appreciation of the character. Specifically a weird series of events happened to poor Cassandra in the pages of the comics. DJ Muppet and I were questioning whether the company was sexist and/or possibly racist. I’ll tell you what we talked about:
In 2005 DC ran a large scale crossover called Infinite Crisis which was supposed to shake up the status quo. This storyline was followed up with One Year Later. Exactly what it sounded like; the continuity of all of DC’s books was pushed forward one year, regardless of whether it fit in with the current storyline of any title. So most characters wound up in vastly altered situations than where they were merely thirty days (Real Time) earlier. When last we saw Cassandra she had defeated her mother Lady Shiva in a life or death battle where she may or may not have killed and resurrected her (It’s a long story) and apparently retired as Batgirl. Her comic was certainly canceled. So during One Year Later, in the pages of the Robin comic, she resurfaced…as the leader of the League of Assassins.
"Because not murdering people was boring"
Take a few seconds to let that soak in. Cassandra Cain, a girl so disturbed by killing that she dedicated her life to being a peacekeeper, is now leader of the foremost organization for murdering folk for money (Which sometimes dabbles in attempted genocide). Not only that but she framed Robin for a murder she committed. She framed Robin for a murder she committed! she framed robin for a murder she committed!!! She even gave Tim a goddamn “Join Me and We Shall Rule the World” speech like a flipping dime store Darth Vader (Very articulately, I might add. Pretty good for a girl who only learned how to talk kind of recently). Somehow, within the year that passed in the “Comic Book World”, Cassandra had done a complete 180 personality change and gone back on everything she believed in. Again this was just about a month (Or three) for us so it was very jarring for fans of the character. She was a super villain, having taken Ra’s al Ghul’s place. This made so little sense that I can’t…unbad…type.
So for the next few months Cassandra would appear in a few books as a villainous version of Batgirl, which went over extremely poorly with fans. They were, understandably, enraged by DC’s decision in regards to this change and it was pretty universally considered character derailment for her. At some point Dan DiDio, head honcho of DC, made remarks along the lines of “It’s great to see people care so deeply about a character and be so invested with what we’re doing” when asked by fans why Cassandra had suddenly become evil. That response was clearly political tip-toeing though and it told us nothing. Eventually it was revealed that Batgirl had been brainwashed with drugs by Deathstroke the Terminator, archenemy of the Teen Titans, into doing all these things but when you stop and think about it that doesn’t make sense at all. I don’t understand his motivation at all to do this nor do I understand what real benefit it gave him (Plus it forced Cassandra to be submissive to a man. That’s not suspicious at all!). As soon as Deathstroke was revealed as the mastermind Robin was able to free her of his control and suddenly all was forgiven and Cassandra was back on the side of angels where she belonged.
Staff Writer: Crap! Fans don't like the new Evil Batgirl!
Dan DiDio: Quick! Make up something up!
Dude, that sounds like someone covering their ass. While DC might say that they were always planning on the story going in this direction the way it went down screams backpedaling to me. I suspect that DC thought it might be interesting to recast Cassandra in a villainous role, maybe to replace Lady Shiva who was kind of an anti-hero at the time, but severely underestimated how beloved the character was. So when fans revolted they quickly changed their minds. This alone is not enough to make me furious. Sure I was bothered when this happened, but it was nothing compared to the One More Day debacle with Spider-Man how Spider-Man is clearly a single ladies’ man who plays the field all the time.
So Batgirl is a hero again and all is right in the world. She gets a miniseries, joins the Outsiders, and now has a bit more things to seek redemption for during. Not ideal but not too bad. Batman even adopts her, bringing her more into the fold in his war on crime. However things went south really quickly. Batman was killed in the crossover Final Crisis (He didn’t actually die. In reality he was nvihuvbialbvilqbfvilibiablcSO confusing!!!!) and then, because she is apparently extremely weak willed and completely uninterested in honoring her mentor and adoptive father, she quits being Batgirl for a second time this time with literally no fanfare. In the pages of the new Batgirl comic in one panel she’s fighting some thugs with The Spoiler (Stephanie Brown, who has her own history with DC screwing female characters over) and by the last panel of the same page she nonchalantly tosses away her costume and then disappears! Like walks off into the night never to be seen again. Instead the Spoiler takes the reins of being Batgirl in the new ongoing series.
Think about this with me for a second: A capable, powerful, intriguing, complex and Asian character suddenly out of nowhere gets a character alteration that everyone hates so DC quickly changes it. Then, after a criminally short time with her being back in action, they replace her with a considerably less interesting PRETTY BLONDE WHITE GIRL!
Phew! I feel safer now that she's white
Nothing against Stephanie Brown. I love Stephanie Brown and I’m glad DC undid her horribly unnecessary death from a few years back. I liked her as the Spoiler and I liked her when she was briefly Robin (Though Batman didn’t) but I don’t understand what benefit there was to having her suddenly replacing Cassandra. She is nowhere near as deep nor is she as thought provoking as the former assassin. It’s made worse that I read the first few issues and they were awful. It almost seemed as if DC just wants Cassandra out of the way and their first attempt went wrong so this time they just switched her with an equally misused character and hoped no one complained. This all happened a little while ago, I should say, but this is not the only instance of minority superhero who lost their slot to a white person. Ray Palmer, The Atom, who returned to Earth after abandoning it years ago steps back into the limelight while his Asian replacement, Ryan Choi, was recently killed. Ronnie Raymond, who was dead, replaced Jason Rusch as the primary component in the Firestorm Matrix (It’s a little complex, but what’s simple is that Firestorm was black, now he’s white).
It’s a weird trend, but I don’t want to throw out words like “racist” because you can’t ever be certain where storylines are going. Perhaps, with Batman returning from the dead soon, Cassandra may come back with a good explanation for her departure. The other stories involving those other characters are ongoing as well, I’m fairly sure. However I can’t help but relate what some of my friends (Who were white) said: that this is a whitewash. Whether that’s true or not we certainly lost one of the best characters DC had to offer and we are all worse off for it.
To be clear: I really like Stephanie Brown
But that's a rant for another day

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

I admit this with some embarrassment but when it came out in theaters in 2008 I was really interested in seeing Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I’m not sure why I did. Maybe I’m just a sucker for trailers about young love, what with me being such a hopeless romantic and all. But I can tell you why I didn’t see it until today: First and foremost this is a Teenager Movie, and I have long since stopped being a teenager. It’s a bit weird to go into a movie theater, alone, to watch a romantic movie about kids with that hanging over your head. However every time I tried to watch it on Home Video one thing or another other caused me to have to stop within the fist ten minutes. Well I finally was able to sit down and watch this flick all the way through. To the surprise of absolutely no one it wasn’t even close to being worth the wait.

Nick (Michael Cera) has recently been dumped by his “supposedly” super hot girlfriend Tris and in his depression he’s been making Mix-CDs for her for the last few weeks, because he’s a creepy loser. Norah (Kat Dennings) is a friend frenemy of Tris who’ s been stealing the Mix-CDs she discards in the trash (Because Norah’s also kind of a creepy loser) and has developed a crush on the lad, whom she’s never met, due to their similar taste in music. On a night where the band Where’s Fluffy? happens to be a putting on a secret show Nick’s band The Jerk-Offs are playing a gig that Norah and her friend per chance to check out, not realizing who Nick is. Because of stupid teenage mental baggage that I don’t fully understand Norah tries to counter Tris’ catty comments by getting the first guy she sees to pretend to be her boyfriend: Nick. In the aftermath of the awkward moment Nick and Norah end up going off to find the Where’s Fluffy? show. Adventures ensue.

He's a bass player who nails Kat Dennings

I'm a bass player who has an internet blog

Undeniably there’s a cool atmosphere in the film. The late night adventures these young folk experience is pretty darn cool to see. Various clubs and bars and restaurants clearly open 24 Hours and a constantly bustling city despite it being the middle of the night makes up the backdrop of the film. This takes place in New York City, so perhaps I’m just not used to such things and those fat cat bastards in NYC get to live it up over there. I live in boring Kalamazoo, MI and if this movie took place here Nick and Norah would have spent most of the night in an IHOP since very little is open here after 2AM.

Nick & Norah's Unlimited Pancakes

Of course this begs a very annoying question: why the hell are these teenagers running around New York City literally ALL NIGHT LONG? What High School kid is allowed to get away with this? When I was in High School if I wasn’t home by 9PM I was grounded. If I didn’t get home until 7am the next morning I would have been beaten to an inch of my life; deservedly so. But these characters are literally driving around everywhere in the ungodly hours, underage drinking and clubbing and making no attempt to show that they had any trouble with bars carding them or suspicious police. At one point one of the characters’ cell phone rang and I thought “Ah, that must be their parents wondering WHY THE HELL THEY WERE STILL OUT SO LATE!” Nope! Just another friend calling to further the plot. Why are there no parents in this movie? Do they have parents? Norah for sure has a dad; it’s a major plot point. So where in the blue hell is he and why does he seem so unconcerned about his daughter’s whereabouts? (Fun Fact: She’s out drinking and whoring. Great goddamn parenting, asshole!)

Parental Supervision is for Pussies

Perhaps I’m being nitpicky, but from the moment the plot shifts into Drive this is an obvious distraction for me (The movie almost immediately begins with teenagers getting drunk in a bar, no questions asked). I was so put off by this that I was unable to really get into anything else that happened here. This was based on a book; I wonder if this was a similar issue there as well. Let’s just move on before my head explodes.

The cast if this film is the definition of average here. Not to say that the actors are average, but I never felt terribly attached to any of them during the viewing probably because they gave me no real reason to. Is it just me or has Michael Cera been making his living by playing the same character he played in Arrested Development over and over again. You know: the awkwardly shy lovable loser with a big heart. I have seen most of the movies Cera has starred in and I can tell you right here the difference between Nick in this flick and the hunter/gatherer gatherer Oh in Year One is negligible despite Nick living over 2000 years in the damn future. I have to assume that’s the extent of Cera’s range, but I suppose the true test will come with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World later this year. Kat Dennings is a bit more compelling, I suppose. She does seem to have more of a defined and well rounded (If frustrating) personality than most of the rest of the cast. Hell, she even almost has a back-story. But the two of them don’t really have much chemistry on-screen. Well, maybe they do and I’m just a poor judge, but it didn’t seem anything special to me at all.

I should also add that the major plot point of this flick is the fact that broken hearted Nick trying to get over his ex while Norah practically throws herself at him. Dude. Do you really expect me to buy that any warm blooded straight man on Earth would remember his ex-girlfriend’s name if Kat “Holy Mother of God, What a Babe” Dennings showed the slightest bit of interests in him? The movie has the nerve to insist that Norah isn’t as physically attractive as Tris. This is a filthy, filthy lie.

Pictured: Proof that Jews are the chosen people

Just so you understand my point Kat Dennings is really really attractive. She, as of today, now ranks #2 on my Hottest Women in Hollywood list. And just so you know the score:

#3) Amy Acker

#2) Kat Dennings

#1) Michelle Tractenberg

The rest of the cast was fine, I guess, though no one really did anything for me. It somewhat amuses me to see Jay Baruchel (Who plays Tal, Norah’s douchbag indie rock boyfriend or something) not playing some big nerdy character like he usually does, but I also don’t care too much about him so it’s not that a big deal. However the character Tris stands out to me more than the rest of the players, not because her actor Alexis Dziena was particularly compelling at all (No one in this flick was) but because Tris is so cartoonishly evil. She’s downright sadistic in her dealings with the other characters, even the ones who are supposed to be her friends. She’s as sinister as an antagonist of a Tyler Perry movie/play (i.e. really freaking evil). Did she really need to be that bad? She has not a single redeeming aspect about her and I’m fairly certain any one that much of a bitch in the real life should at least have mastered pretending to have emotions in order to not be the subject of justifiable homicide. I mean, why was Nick with her in the first place? Why wasn’t he celebrating their break-up like she had green skin and he was in the damn Lollipop Guild? Why the hell didn’t Norah ever punch her out for all her vicious bitch talk? I saw them standing together; Norah could rip her in half like a phone book if she wanted to!

Pictured: Tris, the film's antagonist

I didn’t like the music either. I assume we’re to take the soundtrack as at least an approximate of the type of Music CDs Nick makes, but it was mostly boring indie garbage. If I can’t rock out to it there’s a 75% chance that I’ll dislike it. The plot was fine, aside from the missing parents and an unreasonably evil antagonist, though I have to wonder how important to the plot it was for Norah to have a boyfriend, especially considering she seems to dislike him. Well now that I think about it I suppose it does convey her own self hatred and strong desire to be loved, but even so all the scenes with Tal felt pretty forced, kind of like extra padding.

I know I’ve given you pretty much nothing but negativity in this review and it might seem like I hated this movie, but honestly I thought it was reasonably alright. It wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t a waste of time either. It’s slightly more cerebral the average teen flick and benefits greatly from Kat Dennings being there (Did I mention I thinks she’s very pretty?). But then again I would say she’s the only reason to go out of the way to watch this movie. That said if you like watching teenagers running around doing stuff at night with limited parental supervision then you’ll like this film. If you like to watch fictional teenagers having more fun in one night than you ever will you’ll like his film. If you would sell several of your organs for a chance to date Miss Dennings then you already have this movie in your DVD collection. It’s a decent enough movie to watch but you’re not missing that much by skipping it. It’s better than Charlie Bartlett but not as good as Superbad.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist ends up being an average movie and therefore I give it 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas. Kat Dennings gets 5 out of 5 for having pouty lips and a great smile.


-Kat Dennings is likely hotter than your girlfriend

-If that’s what New York City is really like sign me up


-Unrealistically out of control teenagers made my head hurt

-Michael Cera needs a new gimmick

-Characters weren’t all that interesting

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Whedon’s Work Part Two:The Wrath of Beta

So finally here we are with Part Three of my Joss Whedon Rant, which is Part Two of the segment where I talk about his past projects. If you have not read the previous two Whedon entries I strongly suggest you do before reading this one. I’ll wait.

You good? Let's continue.

Firefly (2002)

You can't take the sky from me

Although you can cancel my show

Firefly needs little introduction. It’s the science fiction television show Joss Whedon created that was the best thing there ever was in the history of humanity bar none, shut up, there’s no argument. Ahem. Anyway...

Hitting the airwaves in 2002 the story took place in a future where mankind has long since emigrated to another, much larger solar system. At some point a Civil War broke out between the North and the South The Alliance and The Independents which left the latter side of the conflict badly beaten. Malcolm Reynolds is a former soldier from that side who, as captain of the firefly class ship Serenity, now takes any job (Legal or no) he can to make ends meet along with his crew of highly talented misfits. One day a stranger books passage on their ship, but it soon becomes apparent that he is not who he says he is and his cargo is far more dangerous than he led on (HINT: It involves nudity).

As far as Space Operas go I can’t think of any other series to win me over so fast. I missed the initial broadcast ( A lot of us did) but once I finally got to see it I fell in love with t. It’s also one of the least subtle Space Westerns ever made, which at times was extremely annoying. Cattle on a space ship? Really? The show is well known for its infamous run of Fox that involved pilots being re-shot, episodes aired in the wrong order, some episodes not aired at all, etc. Low ratings led to the show's cancellation after only eleven episodes and the entire world is a worse place as a result. However Joss was able to finagle a sequel squeakquel movie (Serenity) to sort of wrap things up/maybe restart the series as a film franchise. Unfortunately the only people who went to see it were Firefly fans and we already knew there weren’t enough of those guys to save the show from cancellation in the first place so the end result was predictable.

Pictured: The Least Subtle Space Western Ever Made

Good as the show's first (And only) season was it’s hard to say whether future seasons would have kept up that pace. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was NOT “Seven Seasons of Brilliance” and even die-hard Buffy fans will agree to that, so there’s no reason for us to assume that Firefly would have been either. Maybe it would have been wonderful, but maybe it would have been terrible. Heroes had a pretty good first season too and look what happened there: literally years of donkey poop disguised as a TV show. Perhaps it’s best to just enjoy what we got rather than thinking about what might have been.

Astonishing X-Men #1-24 (2004)

Um, this is a superhero book, right?

On top of film and television Whedon also dabbles in comic book writing. I bring up this particular run of X-Men because it is my favorite period of the long time series as well as my favorite of the superhero genre. Honestly up until this point I couldn’t care less about the guy, but after reading the trades I realized that Joss was a gift from a higher power created for the sole purpose of entertaining me and possibly me alone.

Before this comic began, and sadly continuing after it ended, the X-Men books had become a little darker than usual (Though that’s debatable). Grant Morrison, who was penning the flagship title New X-Men at the time, was writing the book as if the team was more along the lines of corporation, the costumes wore black and yellow leather uniforms to better match the 2000 movie, and the plots were wordy and confusing (i.e. pretentious. That’s right I said it). After years of controversial storylines certifiable celebrity Joss Whedon came onboard to write a new book called Astonishing X-Men. The book was fraught with delays, taking twice as long as it should have taken to make two years worth of comics, but in the end it was some of the best, certainly some of the most fun, the X-Men stories ever been written in my opinion.

Before Joss Whedon

After the betrayal (And death) of Magneto Xorn , the death of Jean Grey, and Professor X leaving the school Cyclops and new-lover Emma Frost (It’s a long damn story) re-open Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, and therefore the X-Men, as co-headmasters. In addition Cyclops declared that the team had been isolated from the rest of the world for too long and that they have forgotten they were supposed to be superheroes. He recruits The Beast, Frost, Wolverine (The most super heroic X-Man ever) and the returning Kitty Pryde to form a team to “astonish the world” and remind the people that they are protectors of humanity just as much as the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.

It was basically a big “F-U” to the darker era that dominated their books the first half of the decade.

After Joss Whedon

Strong characters and great arcs helped get make this book a memorable one. Joss obviously had a lot of love for the characters, but Cyclops and Kitty Pryde by far got the best treatment. Cyclops was portrayed as a resourceful badass who was fearless and brilliant while Kitty was a quick witted and incredibly heroic POV character. On a completely unrelated note Whedon has been quoted as saying that Kitty was the biggest influence on his creation of Buffy Summers who also happens to share a name with Scott “Cyclops” Summers. Obviously a coincidence.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

This is probably Joss’ most quirky work to date. Basically Joss wanted to experiment with new media (Which you are currently enjoying) and created this web series out of pocket. It’s the story of Dr. Horrible, a lovable super criminal who desperately wants to join the League of Evil (Led by the sinister Bad Horse who is exactly what he sounds like), defeat his arch nemesis Captain Hammer, and win the heart of the girl of his dreams. We know all this personal information because Dr. Horrible has a vlog where he shares it with us, the internet viewer. Also it’s a musical.

Partly because of its surreal premise, partly because of its catchy musical numbers, and partly because it features nerd icons NPH (That’s Neil Patrick Harris for the uninformed) and Nathan Fillion (The star of Firefly) the three-part series became a big hit winning awards and lots of critical acclaim. What’s weird bout this Whedon project that everyone seem so like it, even if they despise everything else he’s done. There’s talk about a sequel but who knows when/if it’ll happen.

Yeah. Yeah I would. Both of 'em

Dollhouse (2009)

A picture graph of Dushku's acting range

Oh boy, where do I begin? This as Joss Whedon’s most recent television creation and, having learned nothing from Firefly, pitched it to Fox. This was a science fiction story that focused on a place called the “Dollhouse” which used mind bogglingly advanced forms of mind control (Which was more like Mind Swapping than anything else) to make agents who not only filled a specific role but literally became that role. These agents, known as Ultra Hookers Actives, would be hired out by wealthy perverts clients and used in whatever capacity they wanted. You need a hostage negotiator? Boom! You got one! You need a back-up singer for your tour? Boom! No problem! You need a girl you can bang in an elaborate fantasy where she is completely in love/falling in love with you? Yeah, guess which one of these was the most popular request. Our story focuses on Echo, who is the most popular Ultra Hooker Active. But she seems to be somewhat buggy as she displays an odd tendency to kind of remember all her previous lives including her original one. This show makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Don't worry. There were boy hookers too

Compared to Fox’s handling of Firefly Dollhouse was practically cuddled (But still kind of screwed), but it failed to gain the ratings Fox deemed necessary (Though Fox uncharacteristically gave them an extra season anyway to sort of “wait and see”) and just had its series finale not too long ago. I saw the first season and the first few episodes of season 2 and I wasn’t impressed. Let’s ignore that the idea of removing people’s personality and adding a tailored made one for the sole purpose of being 100% compatible with a horny John; the concept of the show is extremely interesting. The ultimate spy, soldier, baker, whatever you need to get the job done; that’s just plain cool. The problem lies in two areas. #1) Every week Echo and a good portion of the main cast play a different character when they’re on a mission, rarely repeating ones. Since in their blank states, the only weekly version of them we ever see, they are basically dumb (If polite) children who the viewers can’t relate to it’s hard for us to build a report with the cast of the show. Sure there are plenty of other characters in supporting roles, but almost universally there are portrayed as, at best , anti-heroes who do terrible things to achieve dubious "noble" goals (Amy Acker as Dr. Saunders being the sole character that I liked though admittedly it may be due to her Texan accent).

#2) Eliza Dushku was a dreadful choice to play the lead. This is a clearly difficult role that requires a talented actor to pull off the different characters every week while also providing the perhaps futile attempt to make us care about what is ultimately a Blank Slate. Dushku is not that talented. Don’t get me wrong; she’s fine when she’s playing the “tough, bad girl” role (See: Faith from BtVS, Sissy from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and when Echo happens to become a person that fits that bill it works very well. But she fails at anything at all that calls for a greater range than “I’m a bad ass chick and I don’t take shit from the boys”! Amy Acker, a much better actress, could have done this role with more success. Dichen Lachman, an Australian actress who plays fellow Ultra Hooker Active Sierra, demonstrates repeatedly that she is better at doing Dushku’s job by playing an extremely similar multi-character role. Yet instead we got the undoubtedly attractive, but sadly limited, chick from Bring it On. Now I heard somewhere that Dushku was the one who convinced Whedon to do this project and if true I guess that would explain it. Damn you, friendship!

Amy Acker: Gorgeous & Talented


Also there was the fact that the first six episodes or so of the show were dull as dirt and things didn’t pick up until after that, which was admittedly much better television but it was too little too late. Now I gave up on the show about two episodes into Season Two but I understand that, with cancelation looming, Joss went balls to the walls with the remaining episodes with all sorts of exciting turns and plot twists. I may one day check it out fully to see for myself once it hits DVD.

So what have we learned? Well not much. Joss Whedon is very good at making shows I like to watch that other people may think are dumb, is really talented at having his shows get canceled (As is his buddy and Firefly co-conspirator Tim Minear; See the criminally short lived show Drive), is capable of creating things I can’t stand and probably has NPH and Michelle Trachtenberg on speed dial. Lucky! He does have a better track record for entertaining me than most (Looking at you J.J. Abrams) so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for an Avengers film. Assuming he makes it that far, of course.

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