Orphan Black: Goodbye to Five Seasons of Beautiful Sci-Fi

Orphan Black is ending today, and I’m torn between sadness that it’s going to end when I need a story about female empowerment more than ever and happiness that it happened at all, and that they knew not to try and push it past the time it should end. A lot of great shows overstay their welcome and drag out longer than they should, past the point of being good and into the land of being made for the sake of being made. It makes me really happy that Orphan Black isn’t doing that. They’re wrapping up the story, and while I’ll inevitably be sad it’s over, I’ll be happy that it was amazing while it lasted.

Orphan Black, my little Canadian sci-fi drama that could have been terrible, but was amazing instead. It was so nice to see a show filmed in Toronto that admitted that it was set in Canada – I practically cheered when Felix said it outright. It was obvious to anyone from Ontario that it was Canadian. Everything from Alison’s home in Scarborough to the money to the trillium driver’s licenses were easily identifiable. With how many shows are filmed in Toronto but that pretend to be some American city or the other, it was nice to finally have something that was Canadian.

It’s not hugely popular. It’s no The Walking Dead, or anything like that. It’s got a hugely devoted fanbase, but not a broad one. But it’s a story about women’s right to bodily autonomy. It’s about deeply flawed people that make choices both good and bad, that are far from perfect, but still sympathetic and fundamentally decent. It’s about nature vs nurture and found families. It’s about earning your happy ending and refusing to give up no matter what. It’s about how broken, traumatized, depressed people are still worthy of love and happiness. It’s a celebration of what it means to be human – one of the key questions of science fiction – and for that, it means so much to me and always will.

There are issues that I have with Orphan Black, same as with everything, and I’m vocal about those issues, but there’s so much heart in everything to do with the show, that it’s easy to still enjoy it despite those issues. Like the characters it depicts, the show is flawed, but it’s trying to be better. It’s so strange to think that tonight will be the last episode before it’s over. Five seasons. So many characters and arcs.

The characters have always been my favourite part of the show – they’re all so different and multifaceted. They all have very interesting and unique dynamics with each other. That’s even more impressive when half the characters are played by one woman, and those characters interact with each other without ever sounding the same. This is done well enough that I often forget that they’re all one person. Making that seem real requires very skilled visual effects people and a spectacular lead actress. It was a technical masterpiece as well as beautifully written and wonderfully acted. I’m going to miss this so much.

It’s time to say goodbye to these characters that have spent years being unashamedly themselves – real, flawed, not always likeable, but oh so human. It’s great to know that I’ll be able to look back not with disappointment because it’s a show that had more seasons than it should have and declined in quality, or because it got cancelled before it could wrap up the story that it meant to tell, but a little wistful happiness because I’ll miss it, but it ran just as long as it should have. Thank you, Orphan Black. It’s been amazing.

5 X-Men Characters That Deserved Better

From the beginning, the X-Men movies have shunted aside most of their characters in order to keep the focus on just a select few of them. In the original trilogy, it was Wolverine. In the alternate timeline, it was Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. That’s not to say it’s always bad – despite all my frustrations with the X-Men films, I’ve genuinely enjoyed most of them. I’ve had my complaints, but if I don’t think about it, they’re always good for at least one watch. However, there were a lot of characters that got cast aside that deserved to be a more prominent part of the films.

1. Jean

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Jean Grey deserved so much better than what she got in the original trilogy. She was a person. She was a fully grown woman with a life, a job, a family by the time of X-Men (2000). She was going before Congress and testifying on behalf of mutants. She was working at the school. She and Scott were engaged. She moonlighted as one of the X-Men. But somehow, she got reduced to Logan’s lust object that we were somehow supposed to believe he was in love with. In the comics, during the Dark Phoenix arc, Jean chose to kill herself over risking the lives of the people she loved. The Last Stand took away her agency, and made that Logan’s choice, not hers, and her death ended up being about him, not her – how much he supposedly loved her, how much guilt he had over killing her.

The fact that Logan didn’t know the first thing about Jean was made incredibly blatant in The Wolverine. His hallucination of her wasn’t her or anything like her, it was just his perception of her. Logan considered himself more important to Jean than he really was. Sure, she liked him, and thought he’d be a good ally in a time when the X-Men needed all the help they could get and as such, wasn’t going to do anything to alienate him, but she didn’t know him, either. Her telepathy might have meant she knew him better than he knew her, but they still only interacted for a week. They were barely even friends. She certainly didn’t love him. Yet so often, she was reduced to the hot chick that he liked. He’d decided he knew her when they’d first met, and the narrative decided to go with that, despite it making no sense.

In X2, Jean got to do things and be a real person. She interacted with Scott and Ororo. Her full potential was unlocked and in the end, she saved everyone else. She made her choice to sacrifice herself because she was the only one that could. She deserved to be that much of a fully realized character in all the movies – to be the woman that loves her students, her friends, and her fiancé, that is an enormously powerful mutant that’s fiercely dedicated to the cause of advancing mutant rights, that’s willing to give up her life to do what she thinks is right. That’s Jean. That’s a great character that I want more of. As Scott put it during the Dark Phoenix arc, she is love.

2. Scott

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Scott is the X-Men. I’ve talked about how much I love him before, and I’ll inevitably do it again. Similar to Jean being more than that woman Logan thinks is hot, Scott is more than just Jean’s boyfriend. I’m not sure exactly what it was that made the directors, producers, studio, whoever decide to shove him aside to centre the movies around Logan instead. Maybe it was that the work on these movies began at the height of the ‘90s Anti-Hero in comics, when everything was getting darker and edgier and Scott didn’t seem like he belonged in that. Whatever it was, Scott was barely an afterthought. Every single movie involving him also involved a string of bad decisions in regards to his character.

To be clear, I think a lot of Scott’s attitude towards Logan in the first movie was justifiable and in character – he was initially polite and friendly, only to get increasingly irritated by 1) Logan manhandling and patronizing him, 2) Logan harassing Jean, who wasn’t about to alienate a potential ally, and most importantly, 3) Logan stabbing Rogue, who by this point was a student under Scott’s care, through the chest. His behaviour in The Last Stand was also reasonable – as much as I disagree with that interpretation of Scott after losing Jean, his response to Logan condescendingly telling him to move on was completely fair. However, the lack of follow through in all the movies made him come across to a lot of people as a jealous boyfriend, not a man with very understandable reservations who’s something of a control freak that is uncomfortable with this stranger with anger issues and impulse control in his house and on his team.

In The Last Stand, rather than trying to help Scott with his grief at all – grief that everyone could see very clearly – everyone just went on with life without him. Logan talked to him, but Storm didn’t. Xavier not only didn’t talk to him, he essentially asked Storm to replace him because losing Jean had changed him – obviously he was a changed man, he was grieving. I can imagine that from comics Xavier, who was always a deeply manipulative person that used the people around him and spent years treating Scott poorly, but movie Xavier is a much nicer person. And yet he didn’t spend any time mourning his surrogate son after his death or caring about him at all besides in regards to his usefulness.

Arguably the worst offender, in terms of how Scott was handled, was Apocalypse. They took Scott Summers – straight-laced, law abiding, responsible, awkward, dorky, ultimate good guy Scott Summers – and on top of cutting out his entire comics backstory, they portrayed him as…not that. It seemed almost like they wanted to give themselves a shortcut for potentially a movie about him as the leader of mutantkind that he is in the comics without doing the real work to make it Scott. He may have gotten more screentime than the Scott in the original trilogy, but that Scott was at least recognizable as Scott.

In the comics, Scott becomes the leader of not only the X-Men, but of all mutants – he becomes their protector and general. He doesn’t do that because he’s a natural rebel that’s instincts are to fight and use force to achieve his goals. He does it because nothing else works, because he wants to protect his species. I’m willing to give Apocalypse Scott a chance to become that man, but I’m going to need him to become a genuinely responsible, good adult before he can push the boundaries to challenge the government and Xavier.

3. Storm

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Storm was always there in the original trilogy, but it mostly seemed like she was there because the creators thought it would be weird to exclude her. She had some good moments, but it seemed pretty clear that Bryan Singer didn’t know what to do with her at all. He didn’t have a clear vision for what he wanted out of Storm, whether that clear vision was her role as a minor character or a major one. Halle Berry made a weak attempt at an accent for part of one movie, then dropped it the rest of the time. She barely had any lines. In X-Men, it seemed as if she was there mainly to help fill out the roster so it felt more like a team movie than a solo plus allies one. In The Last Stand, while she got a bigger role, it was also because with Jean and Scott gone, someone had to take up the extra space.

X2 was my favourite of the original trilogy by far. Part of the reason for that was that it had a better balance of characters than the others, even if it was still heavily tilted in favour of Wolverine. The characters got to interact with each other – Storm and Jean went on a mission together. They had a few great moments together and with Kurt. The scene where Storm and Kurt were talking about humans and the persecutions mutants face was excellent. Berry’s delivery of the, “I gave up on pity a long time ago” line really showed off what she could have done with the role if she’d gotten more out of the directors or the script. Quite a few of her scenes in the first two movies were about her fear of humans – with Kurt in X2, with Senator Kelly in X-Men. That would have been a fascinating direction to take her character – this is a woman who in the comics, was revered as a goddess. She’s one of the X-Men, and she fights to protect people that hate and fear her – people that she fears, despite her powers. But it was never really expanded upon.

I don’t know much about comics Storm. I find a lot of her behaviour frustrating, mainly because of how in a lot of comics, she’s used as more an author mouthpiece to complain about Scott than anything else. She’s more than that, though, and even if she wasn’t, she’d still have the potential to be. The movies didn’t care to go into all the things she could be at all. I guess when it comes down to it, you know she deserved better because the entire time Halle Berry was in the role, the name Ororo was only mentioned once.

4. Rogue

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Rogue got completely cut out of Days of Future Past. In the rest of the movies she was in, she alternated between being an afterthought and being a pretty major character. Her treatment really bothered me in The Last Stand.

X-Men: The Animated Series also featured the mutant cure and Rogue’s temptation to take it, and in some ways, I think they handled it better. Both her taking the cure and not taking it would have been valid choices. But they should have been made for her. Logan said that she should make sure it was what she wanted and not something she was doing for some boy, but through some combination of the script and directorial choices, it came across to me as something she was doing because of Bobby. Because she was jealous of him spending time with Kitty and that Kitty could touch him.

Rogue’s issues with her powers aren’t just about some boy. They’re about fear. They’re about a girl that wants to live an ordinary life and wants to be able to get close to people. Rogue gets the same fear and ostracization that all mutants do, but unlike many of them, she doesn’t even get a cool power that she wants to use with it. She can take anyone’s power she likes, but she doesn’t want that, because she doesn’t want to hurt people. She’s isolated. That’s certainly tied to her inability to touch people, but it’s not just about that – it’s that she’s constantly alert and afraid and having to be careful to not accidentally come in contact with someone’s skin. That would have been a cool way to justify her wanting to get rid of her powers – she wants to be able to relax, to not be afraid, to not be hated or to hate herself. It’s tied into wanting to touch people, but it’s not just for the sake of touching them.

In X2, we got a glimpse of Rogue starting to be able to control her powers – she kissed Bobby and got some of his powers without hurting him. She grabbed John to control the fires he’d set, and there seemed to be no negative side effects. Had they continued to pursue that, we could have seen her struggling to control her powers but refusing to get rid of them because they’re a part of who she is now.

5. Kitty

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Kitty is an odd case, because in the comics, she’s somewhat of a creator’s pet. Her presence in the comics increased ridiculously because of how writers that grew up on comics loved her. That’s totally fine – it’s always good to see a wider range of characters – but it would have been nice for that to translate to the movies as well.

Three different actresses played her. Ellen Page eventually stuck around to be more than a cameo, but the repeated recasting suggests that they didn’t care about her being there and just wanted some recognizable students to fill out the school. Kitty was certainly that.

As much as I love Days of Future Past, I had a major issue with how it handled Kitty. I didn’t mind that DoFP revolved around Xavier. I thought it was extremely well done, and that McAvoy pulled off a fantastic performance. But Logan’s role? As the heart, as the one motivating Xavier to be better? That should have been Kitty.

They simplified the story a great deal from what it was in the comics, but doing that resulted in it not exactly making sense. Kitty, the girl who walks through walls, got some completely different power out of nowhere that had nothing to do with her actual power set so that Rachel Summers could be cut out of the story. I get that Rachel’s backstory needed to be cut, because Jean and Scott both died in The Last Stand and seeing as they didn’t have kids, it would have taken more time than they had to explain who she was, but the obvious solution would be to either use a new character with similar powers or to just not go into her backstory at all. Giving that part in the story to Kitty didn’t make any sense, especially when her role in the comics version was what they gave Logan.

Was it really necessary for Logan to be the hero again? I think DoFP would have been much more interesting with Kitty in her comics role. She’s a genius and can phase through solid objects – she’d probably be more useful than Logan, and she cares about Xavier, the school, and mutantkind just as much as he does. The ending, at the school, where Logan sees Scott and Jean back from the dead was a great ending. I loved it. But it’s one that I’d have found that much more emotional from the eyes of one of their students.


There are certainly other characters that got shafted – Warren and Jubilee come to mind, as does Piotr – I can’t even remember if Piotr got a line at all. Really, most characters that weren’t Logan, Raven, Charles, and Erik got kind of sidelined. That’s not necessarily bad – several of the movies were excellent anyway. But I think developing the other characters would have made the stories much richer. They had so much potential and were played by great actors, but instead, got used as props rather than driving the story themselves.

Young Jean Grey Rumoured Casting

While it hasn’t been confirmed officially, rumour has it Summer Fontana will be playing a younger version of Jean in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. This could have a variety of implications, for both the movie and the future of the X-Men film franchise.

We saw a young Jean in The Last Stand, during the first attempt at adapting the Dark Phoenix saga. It seems strange to have that approach again – Sophie Turner herself plays a young Jean Grey. She’s 21, and her version of Jean can’t be older than 18. Famke Janssen, the first actress in the role, was 41 when The Last Stand was released, and while she may have also been playing a character younger than herself – Jean and Scott were implied to be the same age, or at least close to it, and James Marsden is nine years younger than her – she was still significantly older than Turner is. Turner still looks like a child, not an adult, especially when compared to Janssen’s take on the character as I discussed here. Having an even younger version of her seems somewhat redundant.

Having a younger version of Jean in The Last Stand served a clear purpose in that it showed a contrast between Jean as a child, without a lot of power that she didn’t know how to control, and her as an adult, after Xavier had blocked off her access to some of that power and she’d learned to control the rest of it. In the new timeline, Jean’s still an underage student, not a teacher. She’s still learning, and wasn’t portrayed as having full control in Apocalypse. There isn’t any contrast necessary, and trying to provide some would just add bulk to what already seems like something of a bloated movie, risking a repeat of The Last Stand in terms of audience opinion.

It’s also possible that young Jean’s role could be highly plot relevant. In the comics, Jean’s backstory involved the shock of her best friend being hit by a car when they were children unlocking her mutant powers and drawing the Phoenix Force to Earth. It’s possible that casting Fontana is a way to depict this, rather than being something more similar to what was done in The Last Stand. This would be much more accurate to the comics than that, and would probably be met with a much more positive reaction by comics fans. However, I find this to be quite unlikely. While Jessica Chastain has confirmed she has a role in Dark Phoenix on Instagram, and that role is rumoured to be Lilandra, queen of the Shi’ar, which would make it very likely that the Phoenix Force will be depicted as a cosmic entity in its own right, rather than a part of Jean, it would be a stark and very abrupt departure from all other movies in the franchise.

The X-Men have a very long history in comics. There are a lot of characters with convoluted backstories, family trees, and relationships. The movies have made it a point to simplify all of these things – no aliens, no surprise relatives, no crazy history before to the school unless you’re Wolverine. This has been most notable with Scott, whose family tree is so complicated that the Tangled Family Tree trope was originally called the Summers Family Tree. His backstory has been simplified to the point where he didn’t even grow up thinking everyone in his family was dead – until his powers manifested, he lived a perfectly ordinary life in the suburbs. This was demonstrated in Apocalypse, the most recent X-Men ensemble movie, making it all the stranger to think that the introduction to the stranger elements of the comics would come all at once like this. The Shi’Ar and the Phoenix Force, I can believe, but adding Jean’s childhood backstory as well seems odd.

If Fontana has been cast as a young Jean, it could be as an attempt to flesh out the character, an introduction to different aspects of the comic stories, or something else entirely. We’ll just have to wait and see.

A Manipulative Waste: Why Logan Disappointed Me

I don’t like calling things overrated. I’m not going to write think pieces on why that thing that people love is actually terrible. I’m never going to call someone stupid for liking something. Doing any of that would be mean-spirited beyond belief and I’ve experienced enough of that as a fan of the DC Extended Universe. I don’t ever want to be like the countless bloggers that spent a a solid year making fun of me and people like me that watched Batman v Superman and saw something beautiful. So, even though I didn’t really love Logan, I’m not going to say it was a terrible movie that was bad for comics fans. My experience isn’t universal, and even if it was, there were things I enjoyed about it, but more importantly, I think it’s great that other people liked it.  That being said, now that the movie has been out for five months and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it – I didn’t enjoy Logan, and I think it was a disappointing finish to a franchise that’s had both extreme highs and lows.

Reliance On Existing Goodwill

Most of the reasons I didn’t really enjoy it stem from it being part of a series, not it as a standalone movie. The movie looked beautiful. Everyone in it put in a great performance — Dafne Keen had one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from a child actor. But I think a lot of what the movie had going for it was the nostalgia factor. This was the end of an era. This was Hugh Jackman’s swan song. The X-Men movie franchise has been going on since 2000, and it’s still going on. A lot of people have grown up with this, with Jackman’s Wolverine, and seeing him for the last time, watching the character die, was an emotional experience. It was for me, too, but for me, the film relied on that, on the years of affection for the character and goodwill from the rest of the franchise, rather than creating an emotional reaction of its own. It felt manipulative, rather than something earned. I don’t like feeling used like that.

If the movie had been closer in tone to the trailer, the gorgeous one set to Johnny Cash’s rendition of Hurt, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s hard to overstate how excited I was about that trailer. That would have been the story of a Logan that has given up. That has lost everyone that matters to him. It would have been him finding hope again because of the new generation of mutants and deciding Laura is worth fighting for. It would have been a quieter, thoughtful, introspective movie. It would have been a kind of trippy story about self discovery and family. I saw that a lot of people did see that in the movie, but I didn’t. I saw an attempt, and I saw something sort of different from what had been done before, but hardly anything groundbreakingly unique.

As part of a series, it didn’t work for me. There was no real grieving for the X-Men. They were unceremoniously killed off again, and this time, none of them even got to have a part in saving their species, because their deaths were completely off screen. It made Days of Future Past redundant – what was the point of changing the timeline and bringing the original cast back to cameo if they’re all going to die within a few years anyway? And what’s the point of any future X-Men movie if we all know that it’s going to end like this no matter what they do? It would have been a good plot for a standalone, but not as part of a series.

The movie felt selfish to me. Logan seemed as if he was looking after Xavier out of obligation for giving him a place. Part of the reason he eventually had a change of heart about Laura was that they shared DNA and Xavier had wanted her kept safe. To me, it never seemed like he missed the X-Men – he was old, tired, cynical, but that stemmed from being sick and in pain and having to care for Xavier, not from having lost a family. The scene with Laura and the comic book was close, but it still came across as more bitter than anything else. I remember being surprised when I saw that in the movie, because of how different in tone it was from the way it had been presented in the trailer – Logan was clearly bitter, there, too, but he also seemed a little amused, and almost nostalgic. I liked that a lot better than him being an angry, bitter old man that made himself feel better by screaming at a child and didn’t give a damn about what the X-Men represented.

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Jean and Scott’s cameo in ‘Days of Future Past’. [Credit: Fox]

I didn’t find the plot all that emotional. I know a lot of other people did, and I’m glad. But for me, this was just rehashing what we’d already been through in Days of Future Past, except not as well. I loved Days of Future Past – I was irritated that somehow, Logan got the story that by all rights, belonged to Kitty and that Kitty got a new power out of nowhere because they gave her role to Logan and cut out Rachel, but I liked the movie. There were beautifully nuanced performances. It was a story of tired, broken, bitter people finding their way back to the best versions of themselves, a story of people making their last stand fighting for a better world. It was about mutants getting a second chance, about earning a happy ending. It handled the concepts of grief and mourning brilliantly. DoFP achieved with a scalpel what Logan did with a sledgehammer. Not a good adaptation, but a very good movie, and despite the mutants being killed by Sentinels and not corn syrup, still more subtle than Logan.

Goodbye To Original Cast

Even if this is just a movie that doesn’t tie into the continuity in any way, it still leaves a kind of bitter taste in my mouth, because it’s still our goodbye to the original cast. It’s not the ending that they deserved. They haven’t all been on screen together in eleven years. After DoFP reset the timeline so that The Last Stand could be removed from the continuity and Jean and Scott could come back to life, we didn’t get another story with them, just a weak cameo.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart were far from the only members of the original cast that deserved a good ending. Famke Janssen put in a spectacular performance, even with the terrible script she was handed. There’s only so much an actor can do when they don’t have support from the script. James Marsden, as well – somehow, he’s been left out of the movies where the mutants are on the brink of extinction twice, despite the fact those stories should definitely be about Scott. He’s an excellent actor that was criminally underused. Apocalypse even teased Mr. Sinister, and nothing gets the message that the makers of these movies don’t care about Scott across better than that – not one instalment in this franchise has mentioned Scott’s comic background, and in the case of the new timeline, he doesn’t have that at all. What’s even the point in bringing in Sinister if it’s going to be this much of a watered down version?

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Briefcase labelled ‘Essex Corp’ from ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. [Credit: Fox]

This wasn’t just closing the door on Logan and the Stewart version of Xavier. If they’re not coming back, it’s almost certainly a goodbye to everyone else in the original cast as well, aside from maybe – maybe – a cameo from time to time. We got a flash of hope that we’d be getting them back in DoFP, then had that ripped away again, and it’s not even the loss of this version of the characters that bothers me so much as the loss of potential.

There was a cast of excellent actors. I mentioned Janssen and Marsden, but we certainly shouldn’t forget Ian McKellan, arguably the best actor in the entire franchise. Halle Berry, too – she’s a good actress, even if I didn’t like the little material she got and her characterization. Aside from very few of them – Stewart, McKellan, Jackman – the original cast didn’t get a chance to do their characters justice. How could they, when the movies weren’t X-Men movies as much as they were Wolverine and Friends, and most of them were just there to support Logan as the hero without storylines of their own? That cast could have made amazing movies, ones with fully realized characters that were as good adaptations as they were stories of their own. What did we get instead? Some disconnected great scenes, lines, and performances in a sea of mediocrity.

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Original cast. [Credit: Fox]

Janssen said very recently that she’d return as Jean Grey if she was asked – she’s been saying that for years. And I’d love her back. I prefer her Jean to Sophie Turner’s, perhaps just because she’s a more experienced actress that was a better fit for the character. But I very much doubt we’ll ever see her Jean again, and that’s a shame. It doesn’t feel like it’s been long enough to replace the entire cast. Ten years should be enough time, but in those ten years, some of them were around for longer, while the others made their last appearance just a few years ago. What’s more, they’re being replaced within the same series. It’s not a reboot, or a different universe.

I get that Logan was a loose adaptation of Old Man Logan. I do. I understand that. And I understand that this universe has been built around him, and that the people involved wanted the send off of the character to be just for him, and not an ensemble movie. But as a fan of the X-Men, it just felt like another slap in the face after seventeen years of slaps in the face.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Wolverine as a character. He has his moments, and I do think he’s a better person/more engaging character in the film verse than in the comics, but he’s never been particularly interesting to me. And the seventeen years of movies have made me incredibly bitter towards him, something which finally reached a boiling point with Logan. A not insignificant part of why I didn’t love the movie was that I was so incredibly tired of the character. The X-Men are supposed to be ensemble stories. They work as a team. But the X-Men movies cast that aside for the same old Wolverine is the awesome hero, who cares about everyone else.

Viewer Fatigue

When I first saw Logan, I really enjoyed it. That’s the same experience I’ve had with most of the X-Men movies – I walk out of the theatre still excited, but when I take some time to process what I saw, to maybe see it again, I start to find more things that bother me. Logan left me cold. For me, the franchise has started to drag. I didn’t really notice it until Logan, but now they’re just making movies for the sake of it, because we’ll go to see them regardless of how little care is put into them and they’ll make a lot of money. Logan was the third Wolverine solo, when no other character even got one and he was the main character of the original trilogy as well. It rehashed the general plot of Days of Future Past without that level of beautiful focus on building a better world.

I don’t like the trend of bashing movies and claiming they’re awful solely because they weren’t to your tastes, or of saying they should be catered to you instead of to whoever they’re directed at. Not everything can be for everyone. I’m a big believer in letting people enjoy things, rather than being constantly negative and pointing out why what they love is terrible. And we shouldn’t judge movies based on whether or not they were what we wanted or expected to see, but rather on the story they tell. At the same time, I believe polite, respectful criticism is fair, so long as it’s criticism for what it is and not what you want it to be. Criticism only means something if it’s thoughtful and meant to spur conversation, not insult for the sake of it, but if it is, then it’s worth hearing.

Logan wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I know other people loved it. I may not understand why, but I’m happy for them. But I personally liked the idea of Logan more than I liked the actual movie. To me, it felt like it should have been a story about grief and loss, just as I felt TLS should have been, just like DoFP was. Instead, also like TLS, it didn’t really seem to me like a story about much of anything. Batman v Superman gets constantly berated for being “grimdark”, but if any recent comic book movie falls into that category, it’s this one. It was emotionally draining and relentlessly, pointlessly dark. It wasn’t a more mature story in any way than the previous instalments in the franchise, it just had more visceral violence and cursing.

It may not technically be the last movie in the franchise, but it might as well be, now that all the ties to the original trilogy are gone – different timeline, different cast, different characterizations. Fox is going to continue to make X-Men movies. Logan will eventually be recast, just like the other X-Men. Even so, Logan represented the end of an era, the last movie with any ties to the trilogy that arguably revived comic book movies, and to me, it wasn’t a satisfying finish.

Sky High: A Cinematic Masterpiece

Okay, so that title is a bit of a stretch. Or, you know, a lot. But in all seriousness, I unironically love this movie (I think the trend of people claiming to like something ironically is stupid and aggravating, but that’s besides the point). So without further ado, a list of the top four reasons why Sky High is awesome.

1. Punny Names

Two members of the family have super strength? Armstrong it is. His mom’s a superhero, and his dad’s a supervillain. So naturally, they have to name him Warren Peace. She’s the principal of a school that trains kids with superpowers. Duh, what else would she be called but Principal Powers?

2. Affectionate Parody

The cafeteria staff asks that sidekicks stop ordering hero sandwiches

I’m a sucker for superhero stories. Who isn’t? I’ve said before that I like it when they take themselves seriously, and I do, but this was light while still being an homage to the superhero genre, and having all the heart and feel good moments that you expect from a Disney children’s movie.

3. Lynda Goddamn Carter

This movie had the original TV Wonder Woman as the principal of a high school for people with superpowers. And it gave her a line about not being Wonder Woman. It was beautiful.

4. Almost Entirely Useless Powers

Alongside characters with standard, conventional, useful powers – super strength, flight, controlling plants, pyrokinetics, and so on – were characters that did things like shapeshift into a guinea pig, glow, and melt. Useless in ninety percent of situations? Sure. Hilarious and awesome to see applied? Absolutely.

Call Out Culture, Social Justice, and Missing the Point

I will never argue against the need to be critical of people and media that advance racist, sexist, or homophobic ideas. Tackling ignorance is important, and these ideas are legitimately harmful. But there comes a time where it’s just disingenuous, and people are calling others out not from desire to eliminate those ideas, but to demonstrate their own intelligence and purity.

A week or two ago, an old quote allegedly from Ben Affleck resurfaced where he made what was probably a joke about kissing another man being the most difficult challenge an actor can face. If Affleck said that at all – which, how would we know, this is a secondhand quote – it was twenty years ago. He was a clueless early twenty something in the nineties. Lots of people say or do dumb things. If he ever believed that, he pretty clearly doesn’t now.

I’m not defending the quote. It was a dumb thing to say, and it was in poor taste. But it’s been twenty years since then. It would be one thing to bring it up if we were talking about someone that has never given any indication of growing as a person. But Affleck? We’re talking about a man that defends Muslims against bigots; that makes intelligent, well reasoned arguments about social and political issues without having to just resort to buzzwords and personal attacks; a man that just the day before people decided to Tweet about his twenty year old quote had won a humanitarian award for his work in supporting local charities in Congo. You know what should get more attention than that quote? The East Congo Initiative! His work on that is much more recent, and much more impactful.

I don’t believe in celebrity idolization. Saying something good doesn’t make a person amazing, and nor does a stupid comment mean someone is human garbage. All people are flawed and have said or done stupid things. There are levels to stupid, too. Affleck is one of the people that has given me genuine reason to be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s backed up words with action, and he stands by people that aren’t like him. I have genuine respect for someone that’s studied the topics he’s discussing and travelled to the regions in question, while never trying to become a white saviour – he recognizes that the best thing he can do, the best role he can fill, is providing support to the local charities that know what they’re doing and what they need better than he ever will.

White liberals have loved Bill Maher for a long time, despite people of colour pointing out his racism. They flat out denied his racism and claimed he’s critical of everyone, some of them even after the news broke of him using racial slurs. Affleck? He went on Maher’s show years ago and called him out for being a bigot. He used his platform to give a voice to the people that are ignored.

People bring up things like this old quote not because they legitimately care about people growing and improving but because they want points or credit for pointing out another person’s mistakes, or recognition for being a better whatever – activist, ally, feminist – than someone else. If a lot of these people really cared about making the world a better place, they’d also be doing something constructive, like also bringing more attention to good causes like the ECI. Some do.

I’m not a straight white dude trying to brush something bad under the rug because it was a straight white dude that said it. I’m saying that people are more than a stupid comment. If we judged everyone by a stupid thing they said or did when they were young and pretended that that’s all they are, we’d have to accept that there are no good people. Evan Rachel Wood Tweeted that Affleck should grow up, and many people celebrated that. But I think we should remember that he very clearly has. It’s been twenty years since then, and he’s done some very good and important humanitarian work in those twenty years.

This is about so much more than one event. This is a manifestation of a huge problem that people pretend isn’t an issue.

I cannot stand this disgusting idea that all people from a minority or a marginalized group must have the same opinion about everything as if we’re a monolith, and that if we don’t, we’re self hating or somehow don’t care about social justice. My opinion, so long as it isn’t harmful to someone else, is just as valid as someone else’s. So forgive me if I don’t feel the urge to grab a pitchfork and bring up every stupid comment a person’s ever made.

My best friend is a good person. She’s smart, she’s decent, she’s open-minded. And in the time since we’ve met, she’s grown a lot as a person. She’s a white girl that went to Catholic school. When we met? She believed abortion was murder and pretty much thought a strong female character was one that hits things. Now? She has a much better, more nuanced understanding of feminism. Part of the reason for that is that people helped her learn. If someone were to say, your best friend is problematic, she hates women, I’d yell at them, because it’s not true. She had some views years ago that she no longer has. She’s grown up. People do that – they grow, change, and learn. We should judge them on who they are now and how they’ve changed, not who they once were.

The Internet and social media is a net positive. Of course it is. It gives us instantaneous access to information, it lets us communicate with each other easily. But among the negatives is that it allows for every mistake to be seen by everyone. It makes people feel entitled to every aspect of a person’s identity, otherwise their perspective will be dismissed and they’ll be assumed white and straight if they disagree with what either the majority or the vocal minority of PoC or LGBTQ people say. I don’t owe it to anyone to share my gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, nationality, socioeconomic status, or any such identifier. I can do it if I want to, if I feel I have to, if my background is a vital part of why I feel the way I do about a topic, but I’m a person. My opinion isn’t automatically valid or invalid based on what categories I fit into. It’s valid or invalid based on the arguments I make, and personal experiences may or may not play a role in shaping those.

I don’t think being a good feminist involves this level of hypocritical – and hypercritical – fixations on pretty minor errors. That’s not a constructive way of creating a world where all people are equal and don’t face violence and discrimination, it’s lazy, and it misses the point of what social justice is supposed to stand for. People do that because it’s easy. It’s easier than confronting legal discrimination against women and members of the LGBTQ community around the world, easier than finding a solution to targeted violence and police brutality, easier than electing more diverse candidates and finding ways to give more people a platform to speak their mind.

These things aren’t equivalent and we should never pretend they are. It’s why I hate the world problematic so much – someone that makes a bad joke is put on the same level as a person that commits a violent hate crime. We can do both. Of course we can. And it’s important to both tackle the big issues and educate about the smaller scale, individual level micro-aggressions. But we can do the latter while still giving people the benefit of the doubt, because most people, lacking the necessary background, aren’t aware that they’re saying something rude or offensive. I’ve seen a lot of people say that it’s not “their job” to educate a person, and that may be true, but when it comes to smaller things – not the sweeping, big issues, but little comments or jokes – it’s easy to do and has a much more positive impact than yelling at whoever said it for being a bad person.

Some people do need to be called out for ignorance and harmful statements, for a pattern of discriminatory behaviour, for harassment and abuse. I completely support that. But I draw the line at going back years to fixate on a single comment from someone with no recent record of saying anything of the sort.

I Got To Drive A Mustang Down A Test Track: Being An Intern Is Cool Sometimes

I intern at an automotive parts supplier, and so I got a chance to drive a few cars down a test track a few days ago.

It felt strange to be driving a pickup truck – I’ve never done that before, and I wasn’t used to being that high off the ground, but it wasn’t hard to control. It didn’t feel oversized, though somehow, driving it with the validation engineer in the passenger’s seat made me feel like I was taking my test again. I’d never buy a truck – I probably won’t ever have to haul a lot of stuff around, they’re heavy, they’re fuel inefficient, they take up a lot of space, and so on – but it was nice to drive one around and see what it’s like.

The Mustang wasn’t exactly what I’d call comfortable. Maybe I’m just too used to driving a Lacrosse, but something about the seat and climbing into the car just felt awkward. It’s not that I’m too tall – I was wearing heels, but even so, I probably topped out at less than 5’6″. I didn’t love how it handled. The steering felt a bit stiffer than I liked. The car had electric power steering, but even so, at low speeds, when a motor should be applying assistive torque, it felt like the wheel had too much resistance.

It was kind of fun to go from 0 to 70, then right back down to 0. I was gentler than most other people – I have too much respect for a car’s tires and brake linings to abuse them, even if it’s a) not my car, and b) a test vehicle – but it was still a much faster acceleration than in an every day situation.

I’ve talked before about how much I loved my Grand Prix, and this reminded me that that’s still my favourite of all the cars I’ve ever driven. It’s a very well rounded vehicle – not the best in any aspect, but very good in every one.

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Last week, I was really craving some cake. I don’t believe in occasions for eating cake, but I’ve been trying to eat healthier, so I jumped on the idea of celebrating the Justice League trailer and making dessert because my parents were having people over. I have no idea why, but I wanted something lemony, and I had a very specific idea in my head of the look and taste of what I wanted. It would be a light, fluffy layered cake with a lemon curd filling and an icing glaze. That’s…not what I made.

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Cake batter

I mixed up my cake batter. Pretty standard stuff, but I added a bit of lemon zest and lemon juice to it. I don’t exactly know why – not enough baking powder? Old baking powder? – but when I baked it, it came out much denser than I was anticipating.

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Cake after baking.

The cakes came out of the pans cleanly, and they held up very well, even after being cut, but consistency-wise, I was imagining something much lighter. It didn’t taste bad, but I’d have preferred something else. Next time I try it, I’ll add more baking powder.

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Making the lemon curd.

Lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks, butter, sugar, and a little bit of cream – this curd was delicious. Without it, the cake would have been completely unmemorable, but it was incredibly tasty – both sweet and tart, rich without being heavy. I didn’t quite let it cool long enough before using it, so it didn’t quite thicken, but I stuck it in the fridge afterwards, and it was fine.

I made too much of the curd, so instead of just using it as a filling between the layers, I covered the entire cake in it and skipped the glaze. It wasn’t what I intended to make, but I can’t complain about the results – using the lemon curd made something ridiculously indulgent and, if I do say so myself, fantastic.

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DC, SDCC, and Awesome Trailers

DC puts out an amazing show for Comic Con every year. Last year, they managed to put together the special footage for Justice League, a movie that was a year and a half away at the time, while they were in the middle of filming. I had expected a few stills, or maybe a snippet of a scene. Nope! They put together an incredible first look.

Now, we’re only a few months away from the movie, and the trailer was confirmed before SDCC. I was so excited for this trailer, and it didn’t disappoint at all. It’s not that we needed to see it at all – the material we got before this did its job and hyped us up and left us wanting more – but we did want it, and I’m certainly not going to complain about DC giving me exactly what I wanted.

I have a soft spot for last year’s Comic Con footage, because that was the first look we got at the movie, and it looked great, and it started to hit me that this movie is actually happening, but everything we’ve gotten has been amazing. This trailer was no exception.

Going into this, knowing that we’d already gotten a mostly lighthearted official trailer and Comic Con footage that was essentially a trailer, I was hoping for something a little more serious, a little more thoughtful and introspective, like that gorgeous Man of Steel trailer with Jonathan Kent’s voice over, because as great as Snyder’s bombastic action sequences are, he’s at his best with the slow, quiet, beautiful scenes. I’d wanted more Cyborg, because it seemed like we’d gotten less of him than we had anyone else, and perhaps just a hint of Superman – a flash of his cape, a shot of the S, a mention of his name.

What we got was more serious than the others, and it was great. It wasn’t the MoS level, but it was heartfelt and wonderful. There were still a few jokes, and it wasn’t BvS level heavy, but we got references to Clark and how he’s a beacon of hope, Alfred talking to someone that probably was him – there was a flash of red at the bottom that could have been his cape, more Victor, references to the Green Lantern Corps. It was stunning, and I adored it.

Alfred Justice League SDCC trailer

Credit: Warner Bros.

I hate the word fun to describe movies, especially because of how it’s been used as a criticism of Batman v Superman being a serious movie. But I kind of have to use it with this anyway. This movie is going to be fun and entertaining and enjoyable. It’s still going to be a DCEU movie, a Zack Snyder movie – thoughtful, emotional, meticulously made – but it’s going to be lighter and gentler than Batman v Superman. We’ve seen that in the trailers. And that’s great. The varying tones and amount of emotional weight in the DCEU movies mean that I’m always going to have one of them I can watch, no matter my mood.

Justice League is obviously the conclusion to a story arc. It’s the lightness that comes after everyone has hit their lowest, darkest point and worked through it. And to me, that makes it a very satisfying, cathartic concept and a much richer story than had we just gotten this movie without Man of Steel and Batman v Superman preceding it. However, it’s undeniable that this movie is going to be much more in line with what critics and the general audience wants – lighter, more jokes.

I loved Man of Steel and Batman v Superman because every time I rewatch them, I catch something that I missed before. Because they’re layered and gorgeous and wonderful. They’re clever and detailed without ever being pretentious. These are movies that were clearly made by a director that loves movies, loves superheroes, loves stories. Zack Snyder doesn’t take our intelligence for granted at all. In Man of Steel, he gently guided us in the direction he wanted to go. After people apparently thought that was too subtle, he made aspects of BvS very pointed and direct, while never sacrificing the artistry or being overly in your face, and even then, he’s probably giving most viewers too much credit. Like other people have said – it’s probably the world’s most expensive indie movie. How people think his movies are just dumb action flicks where things blow up is beyond me.

I know I’m going to love Justice League. It’s going to have all the heart, emotion, beautifully written characters, and incredibly shot action sequences that the previous DCEU movies had, while never feeling like the same old thing rehashed again. The people involved with making it – Snyder, Terrio, the producers, even DC and WB – are clearly willing to take risks. They make movies that are anything but generic. Even the trailers show that off. When Justice League is great, it’s not going to be because Snyder capitulated to what critics wanted. It’ll be because he stayed true to his vision and carefully guided it through a story arc to create a smooth, elegantly developed, well paced trilogy. He earned his lightness because he went to a dark place with BvS.

 

You know the “reaction videos” that are always on Youtube? The ones where people watch trailers and sometimes talk about them? I know they’re kind of stupid, and it’s not like most of the people reacting are saying anything interesting or unique, and their reactions are almost always over the top and unnatural, but I find myself watching them anyway, just because I love the sense of companionship stemming from watching a trailer while someone else does and getting excited about it together. It’s such a cozy feeling. I’ve finally found a few people that can talk about how they’re excited for a different DC movie without complaining about Batman v Superman, and it’s amazing. I can’t wait for more of those videos uploaded, I need to watch like ten.

What did you guys think? Let me know!

Young Justice Updates From SDCC

Today was the Young Justice panel at SDCC, and we got lots of interesting information. I’m still kind of in awe that we’re getting a season three, and even though it’s not on Cartoon Network anymore, I’m still not going to stop holding my breath until we get through the season without a hiatus.young justice season 3 characters.jpg

1. The Outsiders

The season is going to be called Outsiders. Out of these characters, I think only Arsenal has ever been on any incarnation of the comics Outsiders team. This isn’t unexpected for this show, considering that the season one cast was far from the traditional members of Young Justice.

2. Stephanie Brown

Stephanie was one of the characters fans were clamouring to see when the first two seasons were airing, and she did make a brief appearance in season two. From her presence in this picture, dressed in her Spoiler costume, it appears the Young Justice Batfamily will be expanding beyond just Bruce, Dick, Tim, and Barbara.

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3. Original Members

The picture of the original team is missing Wally, who sacrificed himself at the end of season two, and surprisingly, M’gann. This doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t be in the season, but if she is, it begs the question, why leave her out? Perhaps she’ll be undercover and her suit would be a spoiler? Notably, neither Artemis nor Dick, the only characters of the four included that usually wear masks/cowls to hide their identity are wearing their usual disguise, while they’re both wearing something on their lower faces, while Kaldur and Conner aren’t. A gas mask, possibly?