About devinasalmania

Avid fangirl in one too many fandoms. Sucker for all sorts of music, films, TV series, comics, and books. Amateur writer and singer. Occasional gamer and coffee drinker. || E-mail: devinasalmania@gmail.com / Twitter: @devinasalmania

Freudian Delight — The Depiction of Narcissism in Netflix’s Altered Carbon

Sigmund Freud (if you don’t already know who he is, Google is more than capable of telling you all about the Austrian pioneer of psychoanalysis) divides the basic drives of human beings into two things: Sex and aggression. In the show Altered Carbon, the same two things occur in both a crazy amount and a crazy level. One of the things I like about Altered Carbon (though this could easily be a turn-off for some people) was that it isn’t shy about showing the many sexual intercourses and nude scenes along with the various-levels of-fucked-up violent scenes throughout the course of its 10-episode season. There were many times when I was thinking to myself, “Oh, no, they wouldn’t go there,” and they went there.

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Nudity and violence are the norm.

It all ties back to one of the main existential questions that ties the show together: What would mankind be if they are stripped from their mortality?

To go back to Freud’s theory of basic human drives, the drive for sex, or for life (also called Eros after the Greek god of sexual attraction), could be divided into four basic shapes. The most basic drive, the one everyone has and starts during infancy, is narcissism. Freud defines narcissism as the “libidinal complement to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation”. In simpler terms, narcissism is the drive for sex, love, and passion directed exclusively towards oneself.

Freud argues that a level of self-love in adulthood is healthy—which he further elaborates in his concept of secondary narcissism—but what happens if the narcissism within us grow along the possession of the status of near-immortality? Would immortality not simply magnify what we already have and twist it into something that could possibly go beyond human?

In Altered Carbon, the most glaring example of this is the character of Laurens Bancroft (played by James Purefoy), who is an all-powerful, ultra-rich man at the top of the food chain in the Altered Carbon universe. Bancroft calls on Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) to investigate his own murder. With 48 hours missing from his memory per being killed before his data backup was completed, Bancroft believes that, although all the evidence seems to point there, he could not have possibly killed himself. “There are lines I am very careful not to cross,” he says to Kovacs. “And even if I did kill myself, I’d not have bungled it in such a fashion.”

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James Purefoy portrays Laurens Bancroft, the main subject of this article’s analysis.

Spoiler alert, he really did kill himself.

The character’s narcissism is emphasized by his conviction of his own personal code of conduct, believing that no matter what happens, he would never cross them. As revealed in the final episodes of Altered Carbon’s first season, Bancroft was encouraged by drugs and circumstances to make him go over the edge and break his own codes, RD’ing (that’s real death for you, as in destroying people’s stacks and thus rendering them impossible to be brought back) a prostitute and driving another one to suicide.

Whether or not the man’s actions, as they were, were validly identified as being his decision is debatable, but one thing is for certain. It hurt his narcissism so much that he botched his DHF’s backup sequence to make himself forget that, despite how much he holds himself in high regard, he eventually cracked. In this sense, Bancroft is reminded that he is human—not the demi-deity he thinks himself being. His suicide was, ultimately, an act of self-preservation, because he could not live with the knowledge of his own actions.

Bancroft’s trait of apparent narcissism is further portrayed by how he treats his children. The man is over 360 years old—over the years, he’s sired 21 children with his wife, Miriam, who’s quite protective of their children. Bancroft, though himself unopposed to indulgence of the weirdest kinds that only the richest could afford, choose to control his children by linking their inheritance with his own status. If he dies, his children get nothing of his unthinkable amount of wealth. In addition to that, he keeps his children in young sleeves to keep them from having the visual authority that an older sleeve would inevitably hold over others. It was almost as if he was saying that he’s the best—nobody, including his children, could or should topple him off his throne and replace him.

It seems like Bancroft is incapable of projecting the sex drive outwards—a state of maturity that’s Freud’s assigned meaning of love. Even though, at one point, he does say that loving his wife for 100 years is experienced as “something close to veneration”. This veneration, ultimately, doesn’t extend to regular schedule of sexual intercourse; Bancroft instead chooses to go to brothels to satisfy his sex drive by fucking and choking prostitutes to sleeve death. Here, Bancroft shows both expression of Eros and Thanatos in the sex drive manifestation of sadism—concepts that often overlap each other in Freudian psychology. More on Thanatos later.

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One of the high-end recreational sites that Laurens Bancroft frequents.

When confronted by Kovacs, “So you’re saying you love her too much to fuck her?”, Bancroft responds by saying, “I love her too much to let you fuck her.” Ultimately, perhaps the reason why he “loves” Miriam is because having her provides him with the pride and self-satisfaction he craves—which traces back to his narcissistic tendencies.

Furthermore, his reluctance to have sexual intercourse with his wife might speak more about his narcissism. The reason why he wouldn’t have sex with Miriam might well be because, unconsciously, he thinks himself unworthy of her, and thus wishes to commit acts of (sexual) violence on her. (“Veneration”, anyone?) One of Freud’s ego defense mechanisms, displacement, might be at play here. Displacement is an expression of a repressed thought or behavior, done when an individual carries out an unacceptable act onto someone or something that is not the real subject of that act. Instead of committing violent sex on Miriam, Bancroft unleashes that side of him onto prostitutes—who, conveniently, share similar physical attributes as his wife.

Bancroft’s narcissism is not, by all means, possessed only by the character. The Meths (short for Methuselah, the name for the crème de la crème of the Altered Carbon rich society) seem to display the same affinity for the trait, even building their homes high above earth “to avoid looking on the ground”, to quote Detective Ortega. The symbolism of the Meths’ dwelling is glaring; they hold themselves in such high regard that living on earth, breathing the same air with the less wealthy population is simply not an option. They are, quite literally, on top of the world.

There are other manifestations of the Freudian sex drive, as well as another drive called aggression. In the next posts of the series, I will be examining those aspects closer from various fictional universes.

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Holy Sh*t, I Just Met Boba Fett — Highlights from Daniel Logan: Spotlight Panel on Indonesia Comic Con 2017

Disclaimer: This article is written based on memory and no recorded material, hence all the verbatim you read is a result of paraphrasing. Daniel, if you’re reading this, feel free to contact us and have us change it if you so wish.

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Boba Fett came to Indonesia Comic Con this year. Yes, Daniel Logan, who portrayed Fett’s younger incarnation in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, is one of the guests invited to the convention this year after being called from his shoot in the Philippines (on a movie with Jason David Frank, no less). Earlier today, Daniel Logan shared his stories about his life during and after Star Wars in his panel.

Auditioning for the role of Boba Fett at the age of thirteen—Fett, in the story, is eight—Daniel had to lie in the audition process. “I was with my mother and grandmother,” he said, “but they were like, ‘You can’t come in.’ So I went into the lobby and the audition alone.

“They didn’t have a script for us back then. I had no lines to say, so I pretty much had to sell myself to them.”

They asked him, Daniel said, if he had any special talents. “There was this spear-like thing in New Zealand called a taiaha, used in—this.” He proceeded to demonstrate his version of a New Zealandish haka, drawing laughter from the audience as he added, “Yeah, that’s us New Zealanders. We’re crazy.”

He told the story of how he proceeded to pretend like he knew what it was all about after asking (and knowing, gleefully) that he wouldn’t get “a stick or a broom” in exchange for the taiaha. “It was a fancy hotel. They don’t just hand you those when you ask.”

That was the first lie. Then, they asked him what he would do with a lightsaber. Daniel, who had never seen any Star Wars film when he’d auditioned, did what he’d done before—pretend and imagine and act, like the excited boy he was.

Listening to Daniel tell all these stories (driving a golf cart with Ewan McGregor in full Jedi robes at five in the morning? Why not), it wasn’t hard to imagine how he was as a young boy on the set on Star Wars. He still had a lot of that boyish energy, walking and galloping all over the stage during the course of the panel, which he closed by sitting at the edge of the stage as he answered the question of a young boy.

Witty, lighthearted stories aside, Daniel Logan certainly had a lot of passion in him. He talked about how he’d dropped out of school at the age of 17, as he got busier and busier doing his jobs, but encouraged other children not to do the same. He emphasized the importance of education and doing the things that you love.

“When you get to that age, you know, twenties, thirties, forties… I think working hard from a young age is the best thing to do. If you don’t get to learning and doing what you love from now, it only gets harder.”

Daniel also dished on what it felt like to get directions from George Lucas himself (pretty much the god of Star Wars) and having his green card approved in less than a day after he wrote to Lucas and Ewan McGregor. “You know, it’s crazy. It usually takes six months for it to be approved, and to have it done like that—it was a record. Nobody had ever had that before.”

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It’s clear, from the panel, that Daniel Logan is still as passionate about Star Wars and Boba Fett as he was years ago. If anything, the passion had only grown; when asked if he would return in a rumored Boba Fett film, he said, “I haven’t heard anything about it. But if they call me to do it, I’ll do it in a heartbeat. I’ll do it for free.”

Amen to that, Daniel. Here’s to hoping to see you soon on the big screens as Boba Fett, continuing your legacy.

You can find Daniel Logan on Twitter, @Daniel_Logan, and on Instagram, @instadaniellogan. He posts a lot of Boba-related stuff and much more interesting things in his life, so you wouldn’t wanna miss out. You know, in case that Boba movie is gonna be done for real.

The Heart of a Nation — An Anthropoid Review

In 1942, a group of Czechoslovak soldiers carried out Operation Anthropoid, an attempt to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, upon the orders of the Czechoslovak government in exile. Heydrich, being one of the most powerful men within the Nazi ranks, was also known as the Butcher of Prague—a moniker earned for his merciless reign of discipline in the city of the occupied country. The operation succeeded, after Heydrich was wounded and died in the hospital a few days afterwards. The retaliation from the German forces were severe; entire villages and groups of people massacred for the life of the man behind the Final Solution.

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Anthropoid tells the story of the assassination through the eyes of the two key figures behind the operation, Jozef Gabčík (played by Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (played by Jamie Dornan). Sean Ellis (Metro Manila) wrote and directed, having been wrestling with the subject for twelve years before he’d finally finished the script. The film remained, however, a means for art and entertainment, not intended to portray the events in utmost accuracy. Though the general plot leading up to the assassination prevailed, certain characters and events have been modified to better fit the medium.

Anthropoid is certainly an emotional work. From ts very first scenethat of Jozef and Jan parachuting in the middle of the night amidst a snowy forest outside of Prague—to the very last, the film is unmistakably pregnant with emotion.

I’ll be honest here. As a big history buff myself, I suppose I expected some sort of “accurate” timeline, a real formulated events surrounding the operation. Sean Ellis defied my expectations. He did what many other historical films aimed for but often missed: He focused on the characters’ emotional journey—how they deal with the immense pressure of the order and how they somehow had to find a way to succeed in this near-impossible mission—and he did it in such a way that it didn’t feel overly romanticized.

The conflicts felt all too real; Jozef and Jan facing doubts and divisions in the Czechoslovak resistance movements, maneuvering in a city jammed to the teeth with Nazi officers, and their own personal struggle of having such a weight on their shoulders. All this is wrapped in sepia tones—all browns and faded greys—that push you deeper into the headspace of 1940’s Prague. I can’t tell you enough how accomplished Sean Ellis is in replicating the Prague of old. Ellis, already writing and directing the project, is also his own director of photography; during the twelve years of his process, he’d assembled many pictures of Prague at the time and gave it to his CG team to recreate.

 

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Sean Ellis recreated 1940’s Prague through extensive research and CG help.

The results? A beautiful, almost picturesque reincarnation of the city under occupation. Consistent to its initial vision, Anthropoid’s visual spectacle is that of simplicity and grounded landscapes. It was the story of the people setting the events in motion, closer to the ground as they were and not the grander sort of scheme often depicted in various historical adaptations. It was the story of the people indeed, and the cinematography certainly is an important element of the storytelling.

With an angle like that, the cast could make or break the project. Luckily, they found an enormous talent and leader in Cillian Murphy, whose acting chops needn’t be questioned anymore. He’s certainly the star of the show for me. Murphy, whose Jozef juxtaposes quiet determination and pain and conflict throughout the film, hits home every point that his character is meant to portray in the bigger scale of the story—and more.

Jamie Dornan starred alongside as Jan, the other side of the coin. More optimistic and uncertain, more idealistic and desperate than Jozef, Dornan delivered an exceptional performance and drove my sympathy level right up for both his character and Murphy’s.

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Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan star as Josef and Jan, the Czechoslovak soldiers tasked with Operation Anthropoid.

The relationship between these two men, these two soldiers tasked with what may well be a suicide mission, really is the center of the piece. I found myself being drifted away from my initial thoughts of historical trivia (What year was this mission conceived in? Who gave the order? What’s the impact to the immediate developments of the European theatre?) and into the vast emotional landscape painted beautifully by the actors. Anthropoid is certainly a bleak film, yes, but it wasn’t without its depths and diversity. The humor and levity provided by Dornan’s character and his love interest, Marie (played by Charlotte Le Bon), when contrasted by the more hopeless romance of Murphy’s Jan and Lenka (played by Czech native Anna Geislerová) and the professional burdens of their mission, proved a powerful combination to bring out the full gravity of the events.

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Josef (Murphy) and Lenka (Geislerová) on the streets of Prague.

Regarding the music, Guy Farley and Robin Foster’s collaborative feat is relatively unobtrusive. The melodies, quiet and unassuming more often than not, sweep the moments up in the right places without being too distracting from the center of the picture—that is, the actors’ performance. There is probably one particular moment in the film, overshadowed by an earlier one also close to the end, that captured me emotionally and musically poignant. A simple, ethereal, melancholy piano theme that begins in a very simplistic manner and gently gives way to an orchestra of strings accompanied the emotional peak of the whole movie. Now, to give it away here would be a massive spoiler if and when you decide to give the film a watch, but if you want to hear it, a quick search on YouTube with the keywords “The Crypt – Robin Foster” would suffice. Watch the movie before or after listening; the effect of the music and the scene it’s used in made me a sobbing mess until even the credits started rolling.

All in all, Anthropoid is a simplistic yet emotional take on one of the pivotal moments in the history of the Second World War. I recommend you, history buff or not, to find it and watch it at home, preferably at night and during cold weather, buried under blankets with tissues at the ready, and prepare for the emotional deluge you’re about to find yourself immersed in.

A Sense of Awe — A Musing of Wonder Woman

 

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Let me just say this and say this once:

DC FINALLY DROPS A HELLA GOOD MOVIE, Y’ALL.

Alright, the sentence above is completely subject to argument, as many would passionately argue that DC has done plenty of good movies before. But when we’re talking about the DC Extended Universe, let’s face it, the results have been less than satisfactory. While I personally harbor a strong yet apprehensive affection for the three previous movies, namely Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, I’ve got to admit that I still wanted something more from DC, something bigger and better in every way. (Preferably nothing too grim dark, thank you.)

Wonder Woman answered the call for longing, surpassing each and every expectation I’ve had for this movie in the first place—which, I have to say, was already pretty damn high.

Wonder Woman is a milestone in so many ways. When so many of the superhero adaptations we’re getting nowadays are grim, dark, and bleak in attempt to make them realistic, Wonder Woman chooses to show its realism by veering into the other side of it all: hope and light and goodness. These three things are not immediately visible within the first scenes of the movie, however; after all, the secret to a good storyline is good conflict.

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Diana, accompanied by allies, going to the battlefront.

Taking place during the first World War, the human world is bleak as it can be when Diana (Gal Gadot) first step foot outside of Themyscira after Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a war pilot/spy crash landed off the coast of the island. Having lived in Paradise Island all her life, she has no concept of war and the brutality mankind is capable of save by the stories her mother, Queen Hippolyta, told her. At the beginning of the movie, Diana is very much an idealist who believes, without a shred of doubt, in the general goodness of mankind and of the universe. Diana’s naivety, however, soon is put to a test when she is thrown into a battle even she couldn’t conceive.

Wonder Woman is very much a coming-of-age story, chronicling how Diana of Themyscira from the year 1917 became the Diana Prince, the Wonder Woman we’ve seen in 2015’s Batman v. Superman. The somewhat juvenile character of Diana in the beginning of the movie goes through the first of the many trials she was to face through the years, from a girl who grew up in the company of warrior women in the most serene place imaginable to a woman of her own woes and wiles while still maintaining a sense of positivity about the world around her, even after seeing what she’d seen in battle.

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Diana and Steve in London.

While the movies we’ve seen so far pretty much remained grimdark all the way to the end with scarce chances of light, the way the various conflicts and events in Wonder Woman are handled and executed is a topic of its own wonder (no pun intended). Again, being set at the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history gives Wonder Woman every chance to go grimdark like all the others—but the film perseveres in its delivery of constant light and good-heartedness found even amid the most desolate of conflicts.

The highest kudos must be given to the director of this movie. Having watched a lot of her interviews, I’ve inferred that Patty Jenkins, aside from caring so much about the character and what she represents, knows what she’s doing, and what she’s doing, she does with an amount of passion that translates into her words and onto the screen. It was clear that Wonder Woman was handled with an amount of care only generable by someone who cares not only about representation in media, but also what makes Wonder Woman a truly unique and timeless character, one that a lot of people could look up to and find optimism in their own often dark world.

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A warrior must also be kind at heart.

Generations of comic book writers have written Diana in a lot of ways, but what makes her distinguishable from every other character is what she represents. If Clark Kent represents hope and Bruce Wayne represents justice, then Diana represents truth. Diana is a character who, we can pretty much say, has seen it all: Born and blessed with longevity, Diana (at least the DCEU incarnation) has lived for a hundred years among mankind, and eons before in the company of the Amazons. Despite that, Diana remains true to herself and what she believes in, willing to fight that others couldn’t fight for themselves.

The one thing I have to point out is how much I love the dynamics between Steve Trevor and Diana. And Hippolyta and Diana. And Antiope with Diana. And Etta Candy with Diana and Steve. And Trevor’s crew with…well, everyone, really. Wonder Woman gives us a healthy dose of everything—from the romance between Steve and Diana that’s so subtle and so tear-jerking that you’ll never see it coming once you’ve started shipping them, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful mother-daughter relationship between Hippolyta and Diana, the harsh-yet-sincere mentor-student dynamics with Antiope, and the sustained camaraderie with Etta and Steve’s band of seasoned war veterans, who were so much more than eye candies and provide the story with more depth than it already possesses. The writing of each character is so good and so humane, in a way that’s easily relatable with the human connections we have and encounter every day.

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Diana’s first meeting with Etta Candy.

The use of disposable villain(s) is one of the main problems found in recent superhero movies, but Wonder Woman is not one of them. Despite having multiple villains, Wonder Woman manages to use all of them effectively. Each of them contributes something to the storyline—none of them is there only to look evil and menacing and does absolutely nothing to drive the story forward (I’m not gonna name names, but, go figure).

Regardless of the differing tone and generally everything, Wonder Woman still feels very much like a DC movie. It somehow manages to find itself in the established universe with subtle characteristics DCEU fans would notice, for instance, over-the-top action sequences. These sequences, however, don’t come off as bad extra (as in Qui-Gon-Jinn-cutting-through-a-blast-door-with-a-lightsaber extra), but good extra. Patty Jenkins explains in an interview with AOL Build Series that the slow-motion effect used in many of the scenes is meant to emphasize Diana’s point of view, as she is experiencing the situations of a real battle for the first time. Extra-ness aside, those scenes did look cool—without being too tacky.

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Extra, but good extra.

A review by me is not complete if I don’t go over the music. And let me just tell ya—Rupert Gregson-Williams is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Having been exposed to his work in The Crown and Hacksaw Ridge, Gregson-Williams’ music is one I like to think I was getting familiar with. Listening to his score in Wonder Woman, I could place his style immediately—the melodies and the dynamics, for example—and boy did he outdo himself in this film. Gregson-Williams’ music in Wonder Woman offers dimensions and depths like I haven’t encountered in both titles mentioned above with new themes illustrating Diana’s world and experience in Themyscira and the outside world. What gives me more delight is that Gregson-Williams uses the track introduced in Batman v. Superman that has now become iconic, Is She With You? in the battle sequences, which further provides the movie with many a “HOLY SHIT” moment.

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To be released on June 2, can’t freaking wait.

The one downside of this movie—if there is any—is the lack of nods to the comic book runs. While Wonder Woman manages to incorporate elements of Diana’s origin from both the original and New 52 (nicely and with respect to both, might I add), I couldn’t help but felt like there could have been more of the Amazons and the vast lore of Themyscira to be shown in the movie. The two Amazons featured in the movie, namely Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright), are badass enough as they are, but as a fan of the comic book mythos, of course I wanted to see more of the Amazons.

Small disappointment aside, Wonder Woman is without a single doubt the best DCEU film I have seen so far, as I’m sure many people would agree once they’ve seen it. It is a movie done with complete earnestness and faith and generosity to the original source material without being stiff, providing the audience with twists and turns for it to remain entertaining. It is the first female-led superhero movie in recent memory, and one to feature a truly strong representation of how a woman could be in a world we live in now. It is a movie that makes me cry and laugh and swoon within the span of two hours. It is a movie that gives you everything and, though feeling more than satisfied with what you’ve just been given, it leaves you wanting more.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry for the length of this post, guys. I’ve been a patient DC fan for years and finally those years of patience have been paid. Wonder Woman is really, honestly, whole-heartedly, that good. Don’t believe me? Go see the movie and decide for yourself.

I Had Bad Dreams Over This — A Look Into Clean Room

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As a reader, I like to be kept in the not-know when I jump into a new title. The sense of discovery as every panel progresses along every issue is one of the things I look forward to, as well as all the good ol’ things that makes a comic a good one: among them plot, visual, and characters. And these are all what Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt’s Clean Room provided.

I like to say that I’m not new to the horror comic book scene, having read Hellblazer years prior and the Scott Snyder-Jock project Wytches on the same day I started reading Clean Room. I’d say my basics of horror lore are none too shabby. And so, with a certain degree of expectations, I jumped in.

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The first three panels of Clean Room.

When I started on the first issue, I knew nothing about the title aside from its title, publisher, and the fact that Gail Simone is writing the book—all of which are enough reasons for me to start reading it. It being a Vertigo title, I knew from the start that some grisly contents were in store. What I didn’t take into account, however, was how brilliantly delivered those contents are. While the two titles mentioned above deliver horror in a traditional (yet still unconventional and genius in their own ways) sense, Clean Room is something else. It’s a detective story, science fiction, and horror tale thrown together in the blender that is Gail Simone’s mind, birthing something that doesn’t quite sit in any genre.

It’s grotesque, it’s smart, it’s emotionally moving, and most importantly, it’s deliciously unsettling—in a sense that it gave me my first real case of bad dreams for the first time in weeks. Yep, reading Clean Room before I went to sleep definitely wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. I woke up delighted, however, because that’s how I knew that this title is special.

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Demons behind the corporation–so to speak.

So what’s it about, you may ask? The first issue centers on Chloe Pierce who, after trying to kill herself in the wake of her fiancé’s suicide a few months prior, goes out to seek the truth behind her previously-happy lover’s untimely demise. Her quest brings her to Astrid Mueller, horror writer turned self-help guru, and the shady lot of activities she and her followers have apparently been doing behind the façade of motivational corporation. Those activities concern demon-like creatures that drive people crazy (or “hyper-emotive”, as preferred in the characters’ narrative) and can apparently only be seen by certain people. Astrid Mueller’s corporation is seemingly involved in a war against a greater force, but as bodies start dropping and questions start to be asked, Chloe Pierce vows to get to the bottom of whatever it is Astrid Mueller is doing.

It’s all going to feel pretty meta, especially in the first few issues, but as the story progresses, the pieces dropped here and there from the beginning will start to make sense—as much as they do, anyway. One of my favorite things about this title is how huge the mysteries in the lore are, leaving still enough holes in the fabric of issue-by-issue understanding that even when things are beginning to be revealed, I’m still left baffled and curious as to how the pieces of information will fit in the big picture.

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Bet this guy’s baffled, too.

The story is conveyed through the pencils of Jon Davis-Hunt with colors by Quinton Winter, and as opposed to the dark-and-twisted edge associated with conventional horror art, the panels in Clean Room are colorful in their realism. Davis-Hunt provides exceptionally detailed, tidy interiors, made even more eye-popping with Winter’s color palette. Make no mistake, however—the atrocity displayed in Clean Room is as graphic and delightfully detailed as in any other Vertigo title.

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Don’t say we didn’t warn ya.

Clean Room is cerebral and provoking and deeply psychological as well as being rooted in reality—a twisted one at that, but a reality nonetheless. It’s the type of story whose spirit you can feel crawling over your skin as you read on—and, let’s be real, a horror story that gives you goosebumps and bad dreams while still being visually realistic must be a hell of a good one.

It’s Clobberin’ Time — A Case for Suicide Squad

Okay, let’s start with a list of questions. Why are you reading this article? Those other reviews online don’t satisfy you? Looking for an honest point of view from the eyes of a DC fan? Or are you still weighing whether or not that $4 ticket is going to be worth your time this weekend?

Fret not. It is.

The worldwide premiere of Suicide Squad on August 2, 2016 was met with overwhelming enthusiasm from fans—at least, from where I’m standing. My Twitter feed was overflowing with tweets from the premiere event, and everyone seemed pretty happy about it. Until the critics’ reviews started hitting the Net—then it turned kind of ugly. I personally didn’t want to read any of those, but I couldn’t help but to feel indignant about how a lot of those articles compare Suicide Squad with films that belong with Marvel. Let me say this once and only once: DC is not Marvel. And vice versa. If you’re going to have fun with either without ruining your time with pointless bickering, that’s important to note.

With that aside, if you want to—or even did—pop over to one of those review sites and see the critical reviews, they’re not mistaken. Suicide Squad suffers from “the lack of sufficient plot”, “too many characters all at once”, “talented cast wasted for a hot mess of a story”, and all that. But it’s all from a critic’s point of view.

I can’t stress enough about how these movies weren’t made to please critics. If I’m being completely honest with you all, movie critiquing system these days aren’t totally reliable anyway. I’m not pointing fingers, but I’ve seen a couple titles I personally don’t like—along with many other fans—receive high praises from critics, even though some, if not most, of their problems are along the critical side. I mean, come on, guys. Time to grow the hell up and be your own judge for the things you like.

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#SKWAD

If you’ve stopped reading this article and bought a ticket to see Suicide Squad already, good. If you’re still reading this, let me tell you why this movie is such a triumph even for a critical, opinionated, hard-to-please DC fan like me.

First off, the visuals. Movies are a visual media and to me, if the visual elements punch you in the face with its eye-catchiness, it’s worth something. And boy oh boy; how many movies can you name that shamelessly employ comical visual effects with glowing, neon information text mid-scene? (Y’all nerds can probably name five in ten seconds, so don’t answer that.)

It doesn’t stop right there. Compared to the grimdark, almost slate-grayscale palette of Batman v. Superman, the color palette in Suicide Squad is iridescent and daring in contrast. The colors pop beautifully and are a delight to see, especially since I walked out thinking, “Holy shit, that looks right out of a comic book.” Honestly, go pick up an issue of the recent Suicide Squad comics run; you’ll get a sense of what you’re about to see in the movie.

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Drain the colooorsss.

The main appeal of a team-up movie is, of course, the characters—their dynamics and how they would interact during such a sticky situation. I mean, who wouldn’t love to see Harley Quinn gracing the screen with her craziness, or Deadshot taking on a horde of creatures with only a couple guns while the rest of ‘em watch? All that is good in itself, but the Suicide Squad doesn’t just consist of bad guys—someone’s gotta be there to control the loose cannons. Colonel Rick Flag is there as Amanda Waller’s reluctant right hand man.

I’m sure it’s been going ‘round the Internet, but Harley Quinn really did steal the show. And it ain’t just because she’s the unofficial poster girl of Suicide Squad—Margot Robbie delivers a stellar performance as the Cupid of Crime and Dr. Harleen Quinzel in the flashbacks. If you have the guts to say that no comic book film can deliver actors with great, if not phenomenal, acting skills—throw them out the window. Viola Davis, Will Smith and Jared Leto gave their absolute all as Amanda Waller, Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot, and the Joker, respectively.

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You mean we get to have all these talented people in one movie? Seriously?!

Individual performances aside, the chemistry the cast have as a team really does show on screen. All that crazy regime David Ayer put them through was not in vain.

Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price helms the original score, and though I could tell you that he did a good job on it, the true star of the music department is the soundtrack. As in, the songs you can sing along because they’re such iconic, well-known tunes. I held back my squeals multiple times when the songs start playing because if there’s a definition to a fun soundtrack, this is definitely one of them. Director David Ayer talked about how the soundtrack plays a crucial role to setting the mood of the movie, and he is not mistaken—the music is as fun as the movie itself.

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Getcha jammin’ to it.

As all movies, Suicide Squad isn’t without its flaws. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I’m a sucker for great plot and I can’t lie—there’s a part of me that longs for a better plotting of the story. Cheeky jokes aside, the glaring thing that makes the movie good is Harley Quinn and Deadshot, and for me, a little more spotlight on the other characters couldn’t hurt. While Diablo and Flag each got a nice emotional segway into their characters, I found myself wanting more. Am I selfish? Yes. Am I just thirsty for more of these characters? Probably.

There is also something that doesn’t quite get me all fired up—maybe it’s the execution, the editing, I don’t know. It’s missing a spark that turns me into a complete rabid fangirl, a 120 in the scale of 100. Right now it’s on 110, but I love it when a movie skyrockets my capability to hype up.

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Get crazy hyped. Geddit?

But you know what? At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The point of Suicide Squad, from the music to the effects to the promos to the cast’s camaraderie, is to have fun. And fun is what you’re gonna get from watching this movie. Close your ears from all the reviews you’ve read or heard—and yes, including this one—and go buy a ticket. See it for yourself with an open mind. You are your own judge, and if you end up loving it, then you can bet all your expensive Hot Topic merchandises that you are far from being the only one.

AKA Really Frickin’ Awesome — A Perspective on Marvel’s Jessica Jones

November 20, 2015 marked the day yet another Marvel TV series to invade Netflix. Released at precisely 12:01 AM PST, several countries in the world sprinted into a binge-watch session. The few trailers released prior by Marvel wasn’t enough to satisfy the fans’ need for another darker twist of a Marvel Cinematic Universe piece—and this time, it’s headlined by Jessica Jones.

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Who is Jessica Jones?

It’s not a question you have to be able to answer before you sit down and watch Jessica Jones. The tagline of the series, It’s time the world knew her name, pretty much says it all. Picking up on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ classic MAX title, Alias, as the basis for its story, Jessica Jones does not tell an origin story as Daredevil previously does in its show. Instead, Jessica Jones begins at a point in the timeline where the titular character, Jessica Jones, has given up on superheroing and decides to start a new business as a private investigator after a recent incident—but soon, a figure from her dark past catches up with her turns the gears of the season-long plot.

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“Jessica…”

I wouldn’t go too much into spoilers here, so I’m going to stop right there.

Jessica Jones may very well be the answer every Marvel fan has been dying to have for those who say that Marvel shows are for children. While you could still watch Daredevil with an eleven-year old kid and supervision by an adult—trust me, I know; I’ve tried and it worked—Jessica Jones’ age restriction regulations are none that easy-breezy to work around. It deals with a lot of very mature themes, including but not limited to rape, suicide, PTSD, torture, and a load of sex scenes. You’ve been warned—don’t watch this with a kid anywhere near you.

I personally don’t mind the mature themes. I think it adds to the juxtaposition of the series, tackling matters no Marvel big screen adaptations could have done otherwise. While we had glimpses of very dark themes most prominently in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in Jessica Jones, everything is a lot more vivid and graphically depicted. One of the most central things about the Marvel shows on Netflix is that they want to get as low and grounded as possible, bringing out the most humane of problems into the screen. With Jessica Jones, it’s no holds barred—it’s a full package of comedy relief, humane drama, complexity of characters, the occasional superstrength spices here and there, and dope action scenes.

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Occasional superstrength…and so much more.

One thing about Jessica Jones I can’t forget to mention is the opening credits. Worked on by David Mack (check out our previous interview with him here) with a noir, jazzy tune of an opening title track by the show’s composer, Sean Callery, it really sets up the mood before you step into the world of Jessica Jones. Throughout the thirteen episodes, not once did I skip the opening titles to get to the real episode, just to get that mood going.

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My personal favorite part from the opening credits, art by David Mack.

Going into episode 1, I really felt that humane quality oozing out of every scene. I immediately knew that Jessica Jones isn’t just another superhero show—in fact, it rarely deals with the superhero/superstrength aspect of the character but as an identity trait. You could talk about Jessica’s superstrength as you would about her hair color. It’s something the character has, but it doesn’t define her as a character. There are a lot of layers of the character and the world surrounding her that the show really delivered to explore.

Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23) headlines the show as Jessica Jones, and I must say, after bingeing all thirteen episodes in under 24 hours, her performance really caught my eye. Dare I say she is the perfect actress for the role (much like I would say Charlie Cox is for the role of Matt Murdock), and I really can’t see anyone else portraying Jessica Jones as well as she does. Jessica Jones has a lot of layers to portray, which means a lot of highs and lows that comes with the role, and Ritter really shines in each of the episodes.

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Krysten Ritter portrays the titular character.

Another highlight of the already magnificent array of actors is, of course, David Tennant. I know him well from his tenure as the Doctor in Doctor Who (2005-2009) and as DI Alec Brady in Broadchurch (2013-present) and I have grown into quite a big fan of his works. And Tennant doesn’t disappoint. In Jessica Jones, he portrays the character of Kilgrave, the main villain of the show this season. In the comics, Zebediah Killgrave is a purple-skinned, mind-controlling man, appropriately called Purple Man, but as many of the other characters featured in the show, the character has been reinvented to better fit the show’s more contemporary adaptation—one of the most obvious things being he doesn’t have purple skin as he does in the comics. His portrayal of the superficially psychotic, often a slight bit sympathetic, more often creepy Kilgrave hit a really high note as one of the best performances in the show, which is a lot to say given how talented the actors in the whole of the cast are.

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David Tennant portrays Kilgrave, the main villain of the season.

The rest of the niches are filled with names like Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix) as Jeri Hogarth, Rachael Taylor (Transformers, Charlie’s Angels) as Patricia “Trish” Walker a.k.a. Hellcat from the comics, Erin Moriarty as Hope Shlottman, Wil Traval as Will Simpson, Eka Darville as Malcolm Ducasse, and Mike Colter (The Good Wife, Halo) as Luke Cage, whose own Netflix show is already deep underway.

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Mike Colter as Luke Cage.

All-in-all, Jessica Jones is a thoroughly juicy experience to enjoy. I would have gone straight through the season in one night if I could, as many others did right after its release. And they have good reasons to do that. The plotlines weaved in every single Jessica Jones episode are immensely tight and dynamic—they really keep you on your toes throughout the episodes, but especially at each ending. Don’t be surprised if you go, “Oh, I’ll just watch one more episode,” and end up watching a whole batch of them instead.

A show’s plots have great connections to its characters, and Jessica Jones is no exception to that. The intrigue entwined in the tapestry belongs not only to the main character, but the whole of the supporting cast. Characters like Hope Shlottman, Jeri Hogarth, and Malcolm Ducasse have some very piquant storylines going on that just adds to the sheer goodness of the show.

There are so many good things you could find in Jessica Jones, and this article will end up being a whole 10,000-word essay before I get to the end of them all. But let me tell you this: If you enjoy a more adult take on comic book characters, Jessica Jones will take you through one hell of a ride. Even if you’re just a casual fan or even if you know nothing of Jessica Jones prior to watching the show, it will still blow your mind away along each episode you go through. So get the episodes piled up, sit down when you have the time, and binge-watch the whole thing from start to finish and I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed.

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See you on the other side.