lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-05-06 09:45 pm
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Captain America: Civil War

Summary: The three main threads in this movie, what I liked, what I didn't like, every thought I have about it, overall judgment. Lots and lots of spoilers.

Did I say spoilers? Why yes I did. )

And considering that I have written and written and still not got through most of my thoughts on this movie...clearly I have way too many thoughts on this movie. Perhaps I will be back with them tomorrow.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2016-03-14 02:13 pm
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I was reading some reactions to the recent trailer for Captain America: Civil War, and I realized that my brain has, in the time since Age of Ultron, smoothed out quite a few of the parts that make the least sense (to me). I mean, it's not that I've completely forgotten Johannesburg, for example, it's just that I've just classified it under "fanservice" because in my mind, it's there because apparently Iron Man vs. Hulk is cool, instead of under serious plot that I have to grapple with.

And I've sort of reconciled with the fact that there is going to be a Civil War movie, which used to terrify me. I guess I've jettisoned all the stuff that Civil War was terrifying about. Like caring too much about Tony Stark, or actually Steve Rogers.

Which is in one sense good, in as much as having a fandom is good (I don't do much fandom stuff, but I do roleplay MCU characters). I'm still waiting for a new fandom to replace MCU, so it's nice that the old fandom has morphed (in my own mind, at least) into something that I'm generally okay with from some perspectives.

But on the other hand, it means that when talking with people, there can be some huge bumps when my assumptions and smoothing process hit hard against their assumptions. I don't think this is necessarily even a comics/movies disconnect any more, though that used to be my go to explanation. The movies have enough discrepancies now, enough fuel for varied assumptions, that it's become a field of potholes. Everyone hits a different one, and lives in a different MCU world.

I am so ready for a new fandom, this one is just too hard to connect with other people over.

Was I saying this a year ago?
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2015-06-12 05:51 pm
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Why I'm not looking forward to Captain America: Civil War

The movie "Captain America: Civil War" is 1) supposed to be about registration of super-human individuals, or something like that, and 2) is supposed to be about a conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. That's basically what I've heard.

Three things that make me suspect that I will dislike "Civil War", no matter how objectively good or bad it is, just because of what it means for the MCU:

1) Genre

The difference between fantasy and science fiction has been discussed many places, and there are many edge cases and works that are hard to classify, but one of my favorite ways of doing the classifications is this:

--> Science fiction is about the kind of stuff that everyone can do. Sufficiently advanced technology might be indistinguishable from magic, but if everyone has equal ability (not necessarily equal access) to do this "magic", then it's science fiction.

--> Fantasy is about the kind of talents that are inborn. If you're born special, then you can do magic, if you're not born special, then you will never be able to do magic.

(Sadly, I can't remember where this comes from or I would link / give credit. It's something I read on the internet, I'm pretty sure, but not recently...and yeah, that narrows it down, doesn't it?)

Before the MCU, super-heroes were mostly fantasy, by this definition, and I didn't pay a lot of attention to them. Watched the occasional movie, felt sort of whatever about the whole concept. (Loved The Incredibles, though, probably because it was at least a second generation story, reflecting on the premise and the way it was usually developed instead of just accepting it, and taking it in a different direction?)

But mostly, pre-MCU, super-heroes were not a winning concept with me. Then the MCU came along, and the intertwined movie idea was interesting narratively, and...well, I read the Responsible Science series, which is amazing, and I got drawn into reading more MCU stuff...but I think one thing that drew me to it was that it wasn't about people with mysterious abilities and what they chose to do with them, it was (mostly) about people who chose in various ways to develop powerful technologies, or who were acted upon by other people who were making choices... It all fit together as a result of human choices. (Or alien choices, in the case of Asgardians, etc.)

And basically, it was also about ordinary people, pretty much. (Except Thor, who isn't my favorite, and even his story is about becoming ordinary, not about becoming king but about becoming worthy by connecting with the ordinary person that's inside of him, learning to care.) Tony Stark is ordinary by virtue of his many flaws, Bruce Banner is struggling against a very ordinary emotion -- anger -- and it's forcing him to learn humility after his arrogance ruined his life, Steve Rogers is just a kid from Brooklyn, and Natasha and Clint are not super-powered, they're just awesome.

But "registration" -- I don't know how they're going to get there, something to do with Agents of SHIELD? And some group called the Inhumans? But I've seen this "registration" story before in other super-hero franchises, and when that's where it's going, then suddenly it's not about technologies and people affected by technologies, it's not about human choices but rather about mysterious special individuals (who are being persecuted because of the fear of the masses) -- it's fantasy.

I love fantasy as a genre, but I do have very specific things that I want out of my fantasy magic. Either it needs to be numinous -- which superhero stuff most definitely is not -- or there needs to be a magic system that's well defined. I mean, I loved Naomi Novik's recent book Uprooted, and a big part of what I loved was that the magic was interestingly defined and the way it was set up caused very interesting things to happen with the two main characters' relationship (it's also a good story overall).

It's whatever we say it is as a magic system, on the other hand, tends to drive me nuts.

The MCU seems to be determined to drive me nuts. They promised me science, maybe not real science, but at least sorta maybe science fiction science, and now they want to give me my very least favorite kind of magic, but what I want is still science.

2) Cherry-picking the Consequences

On the other hand, I do want to see the world advance in response to all this technology that our world doesn't have. Plus, I've heard that Civil War is supposed to be about super-hero accountability, which sounds like something that would be interesting to explore (if it doesn't end up breaking the whole idea of super-heroes).

So yeah, maybe it's time to see some of this technology have an effect on the world at large, instead of being held close...

Like...Extremis becomes available in hospitals. The world becomes unrecognizable. People live forever. Woooo, real science fiction happens!

Probably not happening in the MCU, right?

The future is here, it's just not well distributed yet -- that's not how the MCU works, is it? Steve Rogers can remain the only successful super-soldier ever, indefinitely. Tony Stark can invent a new element (or whatever, Iron Man 2 makes no sense) and we can count ourselves lucky that we see it leading to a new form of green energy, but it doesn't totally revolutionize science and enable a space elevator or something.

So those consequences, pretty sure we're not getting them. But the other kind of consequences, the kind where suddenly "normal" people are afraid of super-heroes and something must be done -- we're going to get that?

Basically, it really does come down to all the implications of the word "registration", especially when it's registration of individual people.

What if we called it licensing? You need a license in order to fly an Iron Man suit. Would that be even vaguely controversial? Could they have so much as a fist-fight over that issue? I don't think so.

"Registration" seems to be about identifying some people as "other" based on some characteristic, with the threat of persecuting them because of this hanging over them, and okay, it's true that we've been seeing our heroes defy the government, fairly frequently (starting with Tony Stark and then Natasha Romanoff in Cap2 -- I thought the second was ridiculous and out of character but maybe it was setting up something?) -- but nothing in the worldbuilding of the movies supports the idea of a super-hero class. And it doesn't make any sense to have registration if you don't have lots of people to be registered...

And sure, fear of super-powers makes sense -- if super-powered people are coming out of nowhere, and you know that you are always going to be "normal". But if, for example, you thought that you could have access to Extremis if you were in a terrible car accident or something, would you be all about persecuting people who were "superhuman"? If it wasn't special, if it was the future...

I mean, sure, there's still going to be fear, but...

One of my least favorite bits in Iron Man 3 is the part where Killian comes to Pepper with technology that can regenerate limbs, and Pepper's like, oh, no, we can't invest in that, it has military applications. And every time I just stare at her in total disbelief because he's talking about regenerating limbs. How is that not a good thing? The most amazing medical technology ever... Seriously, how is that not a good thing?

If you start picking and choosing what things mean, or which actions have consequences and which don't, and only take the parts that escalate the story toward some predetermined point of maximum polarization, then you don't have a world, you have a narrative convenience. (Admittedly, I think there's a possibility that "world == narrative convenience" is where the "connected movies" idea has to go, because if you need a different challenge for every movie, and every challenge has to be movie sized, i.e. totally world-shaking...)

I see this an another genre thing. Superheroes angsting about powers -- totally within the super-hero genre. Super-heroes actually changing the world...

Not so much, I guess.

So yeah, actions have consequences is nice, but if only some actions have consequences, leading to only the stories that fit within the super-hero genre, then ...

Well, fair enough, they're doing super-heroes, but every movie tears the world apart a little more... And somehow, to me, cherry-picking which actions have consequences and ignoring the rest isn't ever going to get to true accountability, it's just unfair storytelling.

3) They fight each other

Okay, I admit it, all of this is actually not terrible if the villains are clearly villains, I can probably forgive the movie for not making sense, becoming a pure fantasy, ignoring continuity, etc., but Civil War is supposed to be about all the MCU characters fighting each other. And super-hero movies are all about actual fights, it's not like they're going to have anything but a physical bash at each other...over politics.

I really don't want to see all my favorite characters fighting because of some totally random "registration" issue that seems to belong to a totally different universe than the one I've been watching. Actually, I don't want my favorite characters actually coming to blows over politics at all. The villains are supposed to bring the violence, and the world is supposed to be civilized enough to settle political differences through political means. I'll even go for arresting the evil Vice President, but not for fighting in the streets. I do not like political issues being settled by violence, which is what "Civil War" seems to be promising me...

So yeah. Maybe it'll be better than this, maybe I'd be better off if I'd never heard anything about the movie and just went to watch it next year and found out what it was about that way, but this is why I'm not looking forward to it.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2015-05-03 06:26 pm
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More on Ultron

I've been scouring the internet for reactions (it's fun to see what other people think), and have a few more things to say myself, reactions to reactions I suppose...

Minor spoilers? Or maybe not spoilers at all, but cut just in case... )
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2015-05-01 09:54 pm
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Age of Ultron

I ... am not sure if I liked this movie. But I didn't dislike it! I found it interesting, surprising at times, and ... not the story I wanted, but maybe a story that will be good for the fandom? I'm looking forward to the fanfic and the discussion in a lot of ways.

Driving back from the theatre, which is not a short drive, I tried to remember what the main plot points of this movie were. It took a good portion of the drive. Basically, this movie's plot is connected by a series of wild guesses that turn out to be right.

But it does have fights, quips, exposition, and characterization, concurrent and consecutive. And it does have a plot, and it's a plot that I think could make sense, though I do feel like plot (along with exposition, actually) got a bit short shrifted to make room for fights, quips, and characterization.

Recap with commentary, then more commentary... SPOILERS )
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2014-04-11 04:42 pm

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I actually went to see a movie in the movie theatre. I must be a fan.

Spoilers )
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2014-01-09 05:31 pm
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Iron Man 3 the second time through

This is a good movie in a lot of directions. There's so much here. I especially love the whole pervasive theme of identity vs. tool, and how many different aspects of the movie it touches. Tony, obviously, as Iron Man and as the mechanic, two subtly different identities. And whether Iron Man and the suits are tools -- and what kind of tools. His suits as extensions of himeslf. His suits as tools of distraction, what he does instead of dealing. And the suits being used in so many different ways, by so many different people (to save, to imprison, used in partial configurations as armor or weapons or to be two places at once, suits that become an army...) And then of course the whole Manadarin thing is about identity being used as a tool. War Machine vs. Iron Patriot: identity. Even that little kid and his "I'm cold" manipulation is about identity. Tony's biggest fan, the guy with the tattoo: identity. Maya wondering how she got where she is: identity corrupted in service of a tool. Maya is such a wasted character. She's so interesting, I want to see more.

But I absolutely hate Aldrich Killian, even more this time. I hate him for being boring and stupid. It's worse when you already know the twists, because then you don't even have that to surprise you, and you're left with Killian the generic villain. He's the kind of guy who shoots someone he's been working with for over ten years because she's annoying him at that moment, and then makes a stupid quip about it. He's the kind of guy who wants to have power and will do anything to get it, but doesn't seem to have anything he wants to do with that power. The only character parts he has are done much better in The Incredibles.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2013-09-28 03:16 am
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Iron Man 3 and Me

#1 I liked it, generally.

#2 I'm not sure the plot makes sense in the middle. I'm not sure that's supposed to matter, so long as it moves along quickly.

#3 Extremis fits into my Avengers science model almost perfectly. How did that happen? That never occurred to me as a possibility. (Yes, I am a pessimist.) But it's so perfect that I'm tempted to use it as a plot point in my story (sometime in the far future), since I need something like that to catalyze all kinds of other stuff that needs to happen.

And if canon gives you a gift, it's ungrateful not to use it.

(On the other hand, writing canon explicitly into a fic is tricky, I've only rarely seen it done well, and assuming everyone knows what happens in canon and therefore leaving out important plot points because they're well known is not aesthetically pleasing in a long fic (IMO). So that will definitely be a challenge. And I'd have to do some work on reducing the implications of Extremis if at that point I don't want to change the world quite that much...but since that's probably toward the end of the first main story arc, it might be okay.)

#4 It occurs to me that if you eliminate Aldrich Killian from the main character roster as completely unnecessary, and stick Maya Hansen in all the places he is, it would tighten up the plot. Never have two characters where one character will do, it generally gives that one character more depth and interest? And really the whole thing with Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen is sort of a muddle, the only point I can see to having two of them is possible parallelism in a bunch of different directions (Aldrich vs. Maya as teased and titillated by Tony and then abandoned, Aldrich + Pepper vs. Maya + Tony...) but it never quite gels as an interesting commentary on anything that I can see.

I also like the scene in the revised Maya-only version where Maya and Pepper talk about leadership and leadership styles...and there's a lot of potential to the scene where Maya shows up unexpectedly and pretends to be (mostly) innocent while gathering intelligence and spreading disinformation, before getting angry about being called a botanist and...

#5 It's too bad this heartwarming Christmas story was released in May (and I didn't see it until September). There's something about Christmas that seems odd at other times of the year.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2013-09-25 02:58 am

Shapes of Stories, how that affects worldbuilding, Agents of SHIELD

I'm mostly thinking about large scale stories here. Universes with stories in them. At least movie length, novel length, but also story series of every kind. There are at least five option for how it is done:

1. Stand alone stories. Everything important to the story happens in one chunk. There can be subplots, but basically the characters and the world have one big problem and once it is done, the story is over, and while you could write smaller/different stories in that world or with those characters, you couldn't write a sequel that's remotely similar without diminishing the importance of original story. Lord of the Rings, for example. Also most romances.

2. Big events series. There are a lot of episodes that are of roughly equal importance. Turning points in a life, for example. I would say that the movie portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is of this type. Also the Vorkosigan series (which is why the last few Miles books are sort of unsatisfying to me, because they're not of equal importance to Miles as the stuff that happened in earlier books).

3. Episodic series about outsiders coming into what are basically stand-alone stories. Most long detective series are of this type, with the detective(s) as outsider(s). Any tv shows with plot of the week are like this. The pure form of this is rather old-fashioned (i.e. the kind of show/series where the characters didn't change), because it's more common now to have--

4. Like #3, but with character growth / ongoing story arcs in addition to the plot of the week. Buffy season arcs, for example.

5. Reacting to the world stories. Ongoing stories. What I would call a serial. Unlike #3, things don't stay the same, the world keeps turning and the characters keep doing things and changing and moving along with their life. Gilmore Girls. The Master and Commander book series. Once Upon a Time. (I was reluctant to put it here initially because there are episodes that are strongly episodic, but every episode has repercussions and everyone has to keep dealing with whatever happens, on and on, so yes, it goes here.)

The thing is, if you're writing a #3 (episodic) type series (or something on the continuum from #3 to #4 - episodic with story arc), you have to have a premise that fits the episodic mold. Your characters on a starship visiting different places each episode (Star Trek). Your characters are detectives solving a different murder each episode. And in order to do that, your premise has to center on something that is common in the world. There are lots of different places in the Star Trek universe, and lots of people get murdered.

Based on the first episode, Agents of SHIELD seems to have episodic elements, and the thing that repeats and is therefore a very common thing in the world seems to be set up to be "weird shit". Superheroes, weird tech, strange formulas, unearthly secrets.

Which is a gigantic departure from the worldbuilding that was needed for the movie portion of the universe. The big event model of the MCU movies needs personal challenges, and therefore tends to tie everything together far more strongly. The villains had personal ties with the heroes. And there was a very limited amount of "weird shit", really, taken on a global scale. You didn't get the impression that weird shit was hiding everywhere, but rather that it was fairly unusual.

At least, that's the impression that I got. The world was the world, with maybe some cooler tech like better touch-based computer displays, but in general, pretty much the same. Plus some very specific weird shit.

And my concept of the Avengers and what makes them interesting is that they're somewhat unique. The best (or the worst in some ways). The most unusual. Their world is not filled with weird shit to the extent that an "unregistered gifted" is a common concept.

And that's what I want to write about. I want to explore the weird shit that we already have in more depth, explore the implications of the things that have happened, and then take those implications and explore the implications of the implications...

I'm pretty sure that to some extent, that's what Agents of SHIELD is going to do. They've already used Chitauri tech as a minor plot point, but I bet it doesn't stop there. I liked that the superhero guy was connected in a distant way to some of the other superheroes and the explanations of why they're unusual...I liked that it wasn't just weirdness out of nowhere.

But they're also going to dilute the special, and quite frankly I've seen that world. I'm not even that into superheroes, but that world is all over the place, isn't it? I mean, X-Men, and The Incredibles, there's a webcomic like that, or maybe a few dozen, and so on...and every time I see that world, it seems to be acknowledged that it's a take on a common concept...

You've got lone wolf superheroes too...

But the team of unique people who are the only such team in the world...that's not so common, and that's what I'm interested in.

Just because of what it is, Agents of SHIELD changes the MCU world in a lot of ways. And because of what I want to write (an Avengers-based serial), I don't need that kind of world, and it gets in the way of the concept that I'm really interested in. So that's why I'm probably not going to be using Agents of SHIELD canon in my MCU-verse story.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
2013-09-14 11:00 pm
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An open canon

About a month and a half ago, I read an amazing fanfic series in the Avengers fandom, and it was so inspiring that I started writing an Avengers story. A big Avengers story, taking on a lot of the implications of what happened in the movie, which I figured the MCU canon would probably never do, movies being shaped the way that they are. At the time, I was completely failing at my (misguided) attempt at making a fake deadline for another story I was writing (that never works, deadlines have to be real to work as motivation), and I'd been wanting to write something serial and open-ended and large for a long time, and it seemed like a good time.

So now I'm 20,000 words into the first part of this serial (I thought I was writing a chapter, but it's getting way too long for that label), and I'm scared to watch Iron Man 3 when it comes out on DVD.

In a way, I think MCU is a great place for writing fanfic because it's made up out of movies, and a series of superhero movies, just by their nature, have a lot of gaps in what they present. It's all exciting and action-packed and not so much with the follow-through or the deep characterization. So there's lots of room for filling that in.

But on the other hand, each individual movie is going to be a really significant event, which means that each movie is going to change the nature of the world, and quite possibly change the nature of the characters involved. A lot.

I mean, can you imagine having something in progress when Iron Man 2 came out? Where in Iron Man you had a guy with an iron suit of armor, but just a guy facing personal issues like being personally kidnapped and personally betrayed, suddenly you had a guy who lived in a world where said suit was THE weapon, and other people were trying to imitate it. A guy who had a place on the national or international stage because of the weapon he'd created.

This is not a reasonable extrapolation from Iron Man. I mean really. The Iron Man suit, while cool, is not THE anything. THE weapon? In a world that has thermonuclear bombs? What does the Iron Man suit actually defeat, besides unarmored people and other Iron Man suits/drones? And there's only one of them...or two once Rhodey gets his. I will grant you that there is a niche for such suits, situations requiring precision, maneuverability, and on the spot judgment (the Avengers movie basically claims that fitting into this particular sort of niche is especially useful for fighting aliens in urban environments), but overall...simply not the scariest weapon ever. Useful, but not game-changing.

So the world suddenly makes a lot less sense. (And I'm not even going to get into the whole "new element" thing...no, I'm not.)

But I suppose if you don't like it, you can always ignore that part, especially if you have something already in progress that would be broken by a world that looks like the Iron Man 2 world. Say you're now working in an AU and move on. It would be fine. Or at least mostly fine, though it would probably consume brain cycles trying to make it all work together somehow because saying you're going to ignore something and actually doing it are not the same thing.

But the bigger problem is that Tony Stark seems to be a different person, to some degree. He's faced with a problem, and he doesn't rise to the occasion, he does exactly the opposite and it's extremely cringe-worthy. I suppose if you're far enough into you WIP, you can probably weather that, keep with your original vision if the new characterization gives you problems, but...I feel like new characterization is hard to ignore. Far harder to ignore than new worldbuilding. There are all kinds of subtle ways that new characterization will work its way into the thing you're writing...

And I suppose maybe that's not entirely a disadvantage? Perhaps that's even what fanfiction is about, in a way...changing and responding as the canon changes? Because if you wanted to write entirely your own thing, you'd be writing original fiction. And yet...


(I also wonder to what degree this analysis would be different if I'd used the Captain America movie, which I generally liked, instead of Iron Man 2, which I generally disliked, as the example. Hmm.)