Masamba!

You may already know this about me: I am a Zoo Person. If you put me in a new city on limited time and ask me what I want to do while I’m there, chances are I’m going to pick the zoo, if they have one, over any other available activities– and I am a big fan of Potawatomi Zoo, which is our local zoo and is genuinely one of the highlights of the area.

We have a white rhino. His name is Masamba. And I got to pet him today. This was my birthday present from my wife– they only let six people do this a week, and it’s scheduled in advance– and we got to spend about half an hour up close with him. I was expecting to have to provide some sort of food or something to get him to come over to us, but apparently he really likes interacting with people, and despite being way in the back of his enclosure when we came down he came lolloping over right away as soon as his keeper called out to him. Behaviorally, he may as well be a giant puppy; eventually he actually laid down against the fence and just hung out with us.

I was joking about bringing a saddle to ride him all week long, and my wife made it very clear that were I to engage in any shenanigans with the zookeepers or were I to ask any Dad Questions of them, divorce would swiftly follow– but y’all, this big boi would totally have let me ride him. Next time we go to the zoo, I’m coming prepared.

#REVIEW: Black Widow

I think the best thing I can say about Black Widow is that I don’t have anything bad to say about it.

I’m pretty sure I’m about to be unfair to this movie. I’ve been burning out on the MCU lately, and Loki really didn’t help with that, and the notion that Black Widow was going to have to be … well, not a prequel, really, but set in the past at least, because Black Widow herself was killed in Endgame has always rubbed me all kinds of wrong. And I wasn’t in a hugely receptive mood for it when I sat down to watch. This usually isn’t a good sign for a movie! And yet. I mean, I have some gripes, but they’re just that– gripes; the movie itself is fine.

Good stuff:

  • The cast they’ve built around Natasha is great. David Harbour’s Russian accent is godawful and inconsistent but he is very clearly having an enormous amount of fun playing the character, and y’all probably know by now how far that can get you with me.
  • The story is pleasingly self-contained. You’ll kinda have a hard time if the phrase “Sokovia Accords” doesn’t ring any bells, but just knowing that she’s on the run from somebody because of something is probably good enough to get you through the movie. You don’t really need the details and the movie doesn’t get into the weeds with them either.
  • The main villain might be the biggest bastard we’ve seen in the MCU so far. Seriously: he’s Killgrave from Jessica Jones level, if that’s even still canon.
  • The good guys’ Big Plan at the end is also pretty good, especially since it seems to have been thrown together in something around three minutes of in-movie time.
  • The action sequences are solid, but see the next section.

Like, okay, that doesn’t sound like much? But to a certain degree it’s all you really need, right? Good actors in roles they’re well-suited for in a well-written action film that looks good and shows you some shit you’ve not seen before. That’s already a B or B+ movie, and remember I was in a bad mood watching it.

Less good:

  • I’m not sure how I feel about how the movie treated Natasha? She spends the entire film getting her ass beat and you’d think that since it’s her movie they’d give her an action sequence at least as badass as either her first appearance in Iron Man 2 or her introduction in Avengers. Sadly, that’s not the case. Again, the action sequences are pretty cool– the whole final falling-through-the-sky bit and the rescue at the prison are standouts– but she doesn’t get a moment anywhere that lets you know what a badass the character is.(*)
  • There’s a lot of unnecessary ass shots. I mean, I enjoy Scarlett Johansson’s ass as much as any other straight guy, but it was actually distracting. And the movie was directed by a woman!
  • I want more Taskmaster. I wanted more Taskmaster in this movie, and I want to see the character again. Not as much of a gripe as it could be, though.
  • There were some points where I was wondering about where she gets her money from. Like, she’s got a Guy, and this Guy seems to be able to produce whatever she wants on short notice in any country on Earth, and I feel like maybe we should have learned a little more about that guy.
  • The stinger at the end suggests that Yelena’s career went in a different direction after the events of the film than her character development during the film would imply. I’m being deliberately opaque to avoid spoilers, of course, but, c’mon, you ended the movie as this, and a few years later you’re doing that? Really?

So, yeah: I went in with a bad attitude and kinda down on the entire MCU thing and came out of it having watched a solid action movie. Call it a B, or a B+ if you are as entertained by David Harbour as I am. And the movie adds some texture to Infinity War and Endgame that wasn’t there before, which is cool. I don’t know for sure that you need to drop $30 for this on Disney+ right away, but you probably already have if you were going to, and I’m glad I didn’t go to a theater to see it, but it’s an enjoyable, competent piece of filmmaking and I enjoyed it.

(*) There’s a moment late in the film where Natasha does … uh, something to herself … that shows how impossibly tough she is, and she keeps getting up after each of the fights. She’s absolutely not portrayed as weak. But showing her toughness and a standout badass moment are not quite the same thing.

Yeah, no

I’m taking the night off tonight. Gonna watch Black Widow, which at least ought to guarantee a post tomorrow. Have a good Friday.

#REVIEW: Loki, Season One

The tl;dr version: I hate time travel stories, and I am so, so tired.

I keep threatening to actually review Avengers: Endgame, which I never actually did. I was hip-deep in family crisis at the time I saw the film, and the reason I’ve not written it since then is primarily because the post is going to end up being 12,000 words long, and it’s not going to be fun to write. The short version: I think that Endgame, for all of its fan service and plethora of holy shit moments, in the long run is easily the worst Marvel movie, and in a lot of ways ruined the MCU. Endgame chose the worst imaginable way to solve the story problems that Infinity War set up, and because of the choices made in that film every MCU product since that film has had to be about Endgame.

And now, every single post-Loki MCU product has to be about Loki, too. And this is not an improvement.

(I’m going to assume you’ve watched the show, but sort of talk around the details a bit? So spoiler warning, I guess.)

I’m still going to resist the urge to make this post ridiculously long. I’m supposed to be back in my training in fourteen minutes, and honestly I’m hoping to get the entire post finished before then. Let me get the positives out of the way first: the actual show itself, in a vacuum, is pretty good. Tom Hiddleston is, of course, an amazingly talented and charismatic actor, and they’ve surrounded him with a cast that doesn’t really have any weak spots. I thought the pacing for the program was great; I didn’t think there were any filler episodes (you wouldn’t think this would be possible in a six-episode season, but it is) and while it ends in a very cliffhanger fashion it definitely tells a coherent story, or at least it does once you accept that you have to have watched, like, 25 movies and two days of TV that came beforehand. Nothing in the MCU is really internally coherent any longer; you either accept that or you don’t as part of the product.

The problem that I have is that one of two things have to be true about this show, and neither are good: either I, someone who has been reading Marvel comic books for nearly four decades and is well-versed in the minutia of things like alternate timelines and multiverses, completely misunderstood what the deal was with Loki’s Time Variance Authority, or the entire concept of the Goddamn show doesn’t make a single damn drop of sense from start to finish.

It will not surprise you to learn that I am not blaming myself for this one. It’s possible that I Just Don’t Get It, but I really don’t think that’s the case. I think I understand It, to the degree that It can be understood, because the fundamental problem is that It doesn’t make any sense.

I can accept, begrudgingly, the concept that the Avengers were “supposed” to go back in time in Endgame and steal an Infinity Stone from themselves, but that Loki picking up that same Infinity Stone from where it was dropped and poofing away was not “supposed” to happen.

I cannot accept that a timeline where Loki is a fucking alligator is due to a single “variance” in a timeline, or that a variance that leads to Loki being a woman (strangely, called Sylvie; why does she have a different name from the other Lokis? No idea.) would lead to that variant Loki being culled at, like, eight. That problem definitely happened earlier than that.

This is already multiverse shit before the show creates the multiverse. A world where Loki is a Goddamned alligator is going to be different from our world in a whole lot of ways other than this one dude being an alligator. You can’t just prune the alligator and everything else is fine. And since this show happens before Infinity War or Endgame, and ends with the multiverse being created and Loki getting dumped into some other universe than the one he started in … is the MCU prime universe still the same? Did the multiverse get created before Infinity War or Endgame, or is that just another mess?

We already have Is This Person a Skrull or Not floating around as a universe-wide problem. I really don’t need Is This The Real Universe or Not dumped on top of it, especially when it’s done this sloppily.

I gotta get back to my meeting, but I think you get the idea. I’ll see Black Widow this weekend; we’ll see if that sets me off too.

On social interaction

Like many people, I just went over a year without any real social engagement with anyone outside of my family. In the last week and a half, one of my best friends has come into town for a weekend, my son’s best friend came up from Indianapolis and spent the night, we went to the county fair, and then we just got back from spending a weekend with my aunt, one of my cousins and his family, and my brother and sister-in-law. I had Monday to recover and then I’ve spent the last two days in professional development from work where there are minimal expectations for me to be properly socialized, but minimal expectations still include “please do not be a snarling rage-beast around outsiders.” There is one more day of this, then three days where I won’t be expected to socialize with anyone, and then a day where the only living thing I’ll have to interact with will be a rhinoceros.

I am exhausted, and I have been for three days. Like, post-convention level exhausted. Like, brain-fogged, not-in-the-mood-for-anything exhausted. I was ready for bed at eight last night and if I could get the sun to turn off I wouldn’t object to going to bed right now.

I promise, I’ll be human again eventually, but damn am I running on empty right now.