Here We Go!
“So much has happened since I last saw you! I lost my hammer, like yesterday, so that’s still fresh. Then I went on a journey of self-discovery. Then I met you” – Thor.
“Mmm mmm mmm, he’s wonderful. It is a he…?” – The Grandmaster.
Imagine my nightmare. If you can…
Stuck in a packed cinema, trying to keep awake during the latest MCU instalment. Amidst a rather bland action scene – in space – one of the most annoying pop songs in living memory – by that eternally-detestable combo: No Doubt, no less! – starts to play.
Yes, it did make my one good eye roll.
No, it did NOT put a smile on my face…
You know, Bradman is NOT one to skedaddle from a battle, but in this case, the urge to split almost consumed me.
Moreover, to compound the no-good-niggles tormenting my throbbing bonce, the voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi throttled my mind:
“I’m getting too old for this sort of shit…”
‘0 _ 0’
After the jaw-dropping brilliance that was Avengers: Infinity War it seemed pointless going into Captain Marvel with any expectations. Nevertheless, confidence that we would get another top quality comicbook movie package remained fairly high.
The plot is your basic “origins” tale: Nick “Two-Eyes” Fury teams up with The Cat From Outer Space and they set out on a quest to find the memory of The Woman Who Fell To Earth, with the Jude Law and the Kree Order in hot pursuit.
Okey-dokey, methinks, so far, so groovy.
Before you can say: “Higher, further, faster, baby!” it descends into a dismal display of bland performances, incoherent narrative and some of the most lame and lacklustre lines heard in a long while…
And don’t get me started about the Skrulls: those nefarious shapeshifting aliens who look here like Trekkie cosplayers.
Quite naff Trekkie cosplayers…
Rather than the despicable race as depicted in the comics, the BIG twist here is that they are the repressed refugees of the galaxy. And we’re supposed to empathise with them? Don’t you know what they say? “Keep your friends close, your Skrulls closer.” DON’T listen to them, Carol – IT’S A TRAP…
And just why on C-53 is Ben Mendelsohn trying to do an Andy Serkis impersonation…?!
It comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that Roy Thomas – legendary Marvel writer who co-created Carol Danvers in 1968 – felt less than impressed with this movie.
“Actually, the one thing I really hated in the film was turning the Skrulls into a peace-loving race, with the Kree as the heavies.” he said in a recent interview. “As far as I am concerned, as the principal conceptualizer of the Kree/Skrull War, (and I suspect Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would agree with me) the Skrulls and the Kree are each as bad as each other, as they say. Having the Skrulls all mushy and family-friendly at the end left a bad taste in my mouth…”
The only aspect to please him was thus: “Still, Yon-Rogg turned out to be appropriately vile, and that’s all well and good.”
What about those 12-year old girls this film so desperately tried to impress and inspire? Incidentally, the number of that demographic in the audience at my screening could be counted on the “fingers” of MY gauntlet. And they looked bored to tears…
Wire sued Elastica for stealing their riff from Three Girl Rhumba. Nirvana lifted the bass-line from Killing Joke’s Eightites, which in turn “borrowed” from The Damned’s Life Goes On, and – hey! – here’s me slouching (nay, yawning!) in the middle of the latest MCU movie with my concentration drifting into such mundane musical matters, particularly wondering which alternative Kurt Cobain song would have sufficed instead, if at all…!
Is it any wonder that the only scene to actually move me happened to be the heartfelt tribute to Stan Lee over the Marvel logo? And the only cool scene was, of course, his cameo. He’s reading the script to Mallrats (also released in 1995), in which you can find the most extensive cameo of his illustrious acting career.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have never made a comicbook movie before and, quite clearly, it shows. The montage of flashbacks from Carol’s early life are so fragmentary and ever-so-minimally informative (not helped by Skrull scientists jabbering over each clip!) that they look confusing, almost to the point of annoyance.
Imagine what a dramatic improvement we would have if allowed to see that key moment in the comics in which teenage Carol rebels against her overbearing Dad and walks out.
There should be a terrific performance by Lashana Lynch, as Carol’s best pal: Maria Rambeau, but, there again, the shoddy script deprives Maria’s role the chance to really shine. Moreover, the 1st Act needed a bonding moment between them – it would have instilled the emotional resonance this movie so sorely lacked.
The fact that three writers were involved proves yet again how:
The more names involved in concocting a major studio movie script = the more incoherent that script becomes.
Again, is this really the MCU we are dealing with here…?!
“Packed with action! Humour! And visual thrills!! With an origin story that makes effective use of the franchise’s signature formula!”
Uff, well, that’s a loada’ cobblers…
Allow me to suggest (mercifully briefly!) why this movie is regarded as “good, but not great.”
Apart from the obvious observation that Larson lacks charisma, consider how Captain Marvel is supposed to be an origins story. Despite countless versions of this theme – some produced, remarkably well, within the MCU itself over this past decade! – the only spectacular revelation to be had here is the way it fails in this regard.
Bafflingly, the core of this movie is mysteriously bereft of a hero(ine)’s journey, so no revelation, atonement, redemption, or moral/ethical self-discovery.
Wow, she had no misdeeds and failings to rectify; no life-changing lessons to learn; no knowledge to attain; no challenges to overcome; therefore, we feel no curiosity or compulsion to follow what happens to her. Subjected to the full blast of the Kree core engine does not count as a “personal transformation.”
Ultimately, this is all a meaningless spectacle.
Always appreciated the origins story of Marvel’s other Cap: the classic, compelling Captain America: First Avenger. Where was the stirring equivalent “world doesn’t need a perfect soldier, but a good man,” speech amidst this mess? We waited and waited again for something other than a perfect Power Lady (so she doesn’t need to learn great responsibility either, yay!) but the real good – i.e. relatable, compassionate, etc. – Carol Danvers failed to show up…
Yeah, but wasn’t Goose purrrfect?!
When the “cat” freaks out, tentacles an’ all, it suddenly felt like a Men In Black movie – truly, one of the most abhorrent experiences anybody could suffer in a cinema…
Can’t get over the fact that the script is unbelievably inept. The dialogue is so clunky – Captain Clunky!
Despite having the “Supreme intelligence” onboard, there are too many dumb moments; considering all that flying: in jets, spaceships or just as herself, her “character” never gets off the ground…
This blog has been honed to practice (and hopefully perfect) my story-telling skills, for when my movie/TV breakthrough eventually comes my humble way. And yet this esteemed gig goes to…
this gaggle of amateurs…?!
Behold: the Plight of the Livid Brad?
Not at all.
Yours truly is too tired to generate any antipathy towards anyone or anything these days. So to read about these ignorant trolls wasting their energies – and our time – spewing their, quite frankly, pathetic Caps-Lock-laden rants at something they haven’t even bothered to watch(!) makes for the most bewildering behaviour.
Have reached that stage in my life whereby the race, sex – or even sexual orientation – of a character has become irrelevant, how that character is developed (or not!) however, means everything to me.
Having watched her in a couple of TV promotional interviews, Brie Larson comes across as witty and charming, so it’s a shame that “Vers”/Carol is denied the chance to bring these qualities to this muddled mix.
Out of 21 movies, this is the first with a female lead…
…and yet, instead, we’re all raving about how cool and funny Samuel L. Jackson as a remarkably-undistracting-de-aged Nick Fury turned out to be…
Fortunately, this interplay between Brie and Sam is fun and entertaining to watch – they obviously got along fine and dandy whilst working on Kong: Skull Island (gee, remember that?!)
Considering how Brie has signed a SEVEN-movie contract with Marvel, ensuring this Cap’s prominent role in the MCU’s Next Phase, this movie should have delivered a more substantial, more distinctive, and, if you will, more thought-provoking introduction to supposedly the most powerful hero in the MCU. Up until now, this franchise looked, and felt, meticulously planned, years in advance – from its expansive plot-unfolding to those subtle Easter Eggs – and yet this movie feels too muddled, as if hastily thrown together at-the-last-minute just to appease the crowd who have been crying out forever for a female-led Marvel superhero movie. Thus, it does not present a suitable prelude to Avengers: Endgame, in which the hotly-anticipated rematch against Thanos may likely culminate in GOOSE GOING FOR THE HEAD.
Whatever’s in store, in the ever-reliable hands of the Russo brothers, Avengers: Endgame ought to be a more epic and engaging eyeful than what we got here…
Yep, Captain Marvel is now the most powerful hero in the MCU.
Can’t dispute that.
She single-handedly drained my will to write for at least ten days after my trip to the cinema. And almost depleted my enthusiasm for the upcoming Endgame (!)
One fan Comment summed it up perfectly: “If Captain Marvel has to fight Thanos, I’ll be rooting for Thanos…”
Sure, the Captain Marvel movie may help pass the time, but it’s not worth dropping into a Blockbuster™ for…
Many many moons ago, at school, there was one quick, and somewhat sad, way to tell the difference between boys and girls:
boys read science fiction – girls did not.
Traditionally, my fav genre had been restricted to being a “Boy’s Own” pursuit long before my arrival on this Pale Blue Dot. My constant comic-reading consisted of Starhawk, Strontium Dog and Rogue Trooper – all male characters, of course! – used to irk some of the girls in my class no end. Despite trying to hide my mags, or chuck them over the playground wall, they never directly expressed any curiosity, or interest, in this reading-material. Shame, ‘cos such interaction might have extricated me from my insufferable shell a lot sooner…
Science fiction has always exuded a voracious appetite for change. And to reflect those gradual, now quickening, changes in society, most notably in attitudes towards, and rights affecting, women, the genre has dramatically achieved so much to this end and, promisingly, continues to do so.
To accompany this analysis, there will be a selection from the feminine side of Brad’s jukebox:
At its best, science fiction makes us THINK.
And there was one particularly awesome comicbook cover that single-handedly altered my mindset in regards to women in SF.
In one of my most beloved books from the Library @ Brad Manor, a compendium: Alien Creatures, by Richard Siegel and J-C Suares (1978) – “Dedicated to those who haven’t landed yet” 😉 – on page 40 to be exact (that fact is proudly printed indelibly in my memory), this exquisite classic vintage cover (by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, above) of Weird Fantasy #21 made me realise the potential of incorporating strong, distinctive female characters in my own fiction.
Note how the traditional gender roles haye been reversed: this woman – armed and sensibly-dressed (obligatory goldfish-bowl permitting) – assumes an assured, active and commanding position in the foreground while the male is reduced to just scantily-clad manflesh. Bold, and very progressive, especially when you consider this artwork was originally published – slapbang in that “Boy’s Own” era – in 1953!
2000AD – still “the longst-running comic in the galaxy” – has always been considered to be an highly-esteemed tag to have on any comic writer’s/artist’s resume, and yet it’s most notable alumni began their respective careers… working on girls’ comics!
Lately, my scope of classic comics has veered towards British publications of the ’70s. Whilst searching for the “lost Starhawk stories,” in The Crunch, imagine my astonishment, but sheer delight, upon discovering “Ebony”: a black, female MI5 agent; for 1977, this looked like an extremely impressive and empowering premise – the spitting image of Nina Simone, she’s every bit as tough and classy as Pam Grier! And way too cool to be this obscure. (Not surprisingly, there are no clear images of her online).
While stories for boys centred on action, comics for girls concentrated on romance.
Interestingly enough, there was indeed only one (albeit short-lived) British SF/fantasy comic for girls from that time: Spellbound. Heard a lot of encouraging items about one of its contents – that quartet of enhanced femme fatales: the Super-Cats, so will endeavour to check out this “Fabulous Four.”
Back then, one would have been branded a “sissy” if seen with a girls’ comic, but now, who cares…?
How apt: playing this on the Eighth Day of this month 😉
No NO, Lady Go-Go!
Let Hazel show you what a bona fide unorthodox-but-awesome songstress really looks and sounds like!:
“The horrible immorality” argued Anatole France, ominously, as early as 1905, “…is to be the morality of the future.”
Whereas bygone authors of general fiction felt restricted from writing about the realities of human relationships, science fiction auteurs went ahead anyway and experimented with gender as well as genetics, and sex and sexuality in addition to science and scientific plots.
The main credit for breaking through the barriers of taboo is usually given to Philip Jose Farmer, whose The Lovers (1952) dealt with the unfortunate consequences of a love-affair between a man and an alien, although some would argue that Nice Girl With Five Husbands (1951) by Fritz Leiber, at last deserves critical reappraisal.
The 1960s proved permissive enough to see an influx of more gender-based stories; Harlan Ellison’s anthology: Dangerous Visions (1967) confirmed that any speculative fiction concerning sexual matters could thenceforth be published, while the ground-breaking Left Hand Of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin offered a more sensitive approach to sexual roles and mores. The 1970s witnessed an increase in feminity – and feminism – through science fiction with the most prominent examples being: When It Changed (1972) by Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy’s Woman On The Edge Of Time (1976).
More varied roles for female characters appeared on a relatively healthy basis up to the end of the 20th century, and beyond, culminating in the current blossoming subgenre of YA fiction.
Arguably, the strongest, most positive female role in science fiction has to be Ellen Ripley, superbly played by the incomparable Sigourney Weaver.
The character had originally been written as male, but Sigourney impressed the director: Ridley Scott to such an extent that he not only changed the course of movie history, but furthered the opportunities for women’s roles in science fiction. Crucially, when she returned in the equally-impressive sequel: Aliens (1986), the addition of terrorised infant, Newt, allowed Ripley’s character to be enhanced by expressing long-suppressed calm and compassionate maternal instincts.
We inevitably turn our attention to the woman’s role that defined its time: Princess Leia, immortalised by the late great Carrie Fisher.
Some would argue that she was upstaged by that young farm boy; he was the one who destroyed the Death Star and received the glory, cake and medal, but the cultural – and psychological – impact that Leia had on each generation over the last forty years makes said space station look like a ping pong ball…
“Well somebody has to save our skins…”
But that was before the dark times.
In this modern Star Wars era, there is, alas, not much to get excited about.
The lone redeeming item is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It offers a striking lead performance by Felicity Jones – an ingenious case of casting as Jyn Erso; her soft and slight build belies the fact that she has had to become tough, confident and resourceful – she was more of a “rebel” in every sense of the term than any other member of that Rebel Alliance.
One of the multiple problems that beset Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the baffling observation that although the cast featured a commendable and considerable number of female figures in its cast, due to poor writing, strong, discernible characters did not manage to flourish.
Naturally – ‘cos you know it’s Brad – we come to the MCU, the franchise that just keeps on giving. There are various instances of strong and commanding superheroines therein, to name but a few:
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the only reason to watch Iron Man 2 (which should have been the Black Widow we all deserve!) and she further excels in the Avengers movies AND Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Hayley Atwell is exceptional as Agent Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger; whilst my personal fav (see below!): she’s not a queen, or a monster, she’s Hela, the Goddess of Death.
And we come to the latest – and possibly most game-changing – instalment: Captain Marvel.
Where there’s good, there’s bad – cue the rise of that “horrible immorality” in the repugnant form of sexist trolls who have crawled out of the depths of their own ignorance, this time, to belittle Brie Larson: the first female lead in a Marvel movie. Rather than shut down her TwitFace™ account (or whatever you blessed younglings call the bally thing) she’s done what any honourable superhero would do: STRIKE BACK.
“Up an’ at ’em, lady!”
And so, considering how – over thirty decades ago – such a prospect would have seemed unthinkable (certainly in my school yard), SF enjoys a poignant and promising age in which more girls and young women than ever before actively watch science fiction movies at the cinema, read SF novels – AND comics!! – participate in, and cosplay, at comic conventions in record numbers. More crucially, some have been inspired to create their own far-reaching fiction!
Let me say how, for me, this is a genuinely thrilling and reassuring situation to behold. Long may it continue!
Let me finish by saying just this:
Those girls who, back in the day, nabbed my comics, now, most likely, have daughters who wholeheartedly embrace science fiction!
And, what’s more, if they can craft an intergalactic saga better than anything this humble ol’ nerfherder could muster, then that would be really groovy.
“Go get ’em, girls!”
“Air Force?! Well, why the heck not?” the young teen Carol Danvers wonders, having stormed out of the family home after yet another rowdy bust-up with her Pa.
A poster outside the local USAF Recruitment Office satisfies her longing for adventure, so the day after her 18th birthday: “without a word to her parents or a backward glance… she enlisted.”
The rest is…
A history – one of the most complex, convoluted, and controversial, of any comic book character.
Th original superhero to go by the epithet: “Captain Marvel” was Mar-Vell, created by Stan “The Man” Lee and “Genial” Gene Colan in 1968; he was introduced as a guardian of the Kree, protector of the planet Hala against the dreaded Skrulls. (More about them later).
The character of Carol Danvers appears to have been created – as that most lame women’s “role”: Captain Marvel’s love “interest” – by “Rascally” Roy Thomas and “Genial” Gene Colan. She first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968) as a non-superpowered USAF officer.
This is the very first scene to feature “Miss Danvers”:
Carol Danvers made her solo debut with Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) written by Chris (X-Men) Claremont.
Mar-Vell still retained the title of Captain Marvel, so to differentiate from him, Carol assumed the title of “Ms. Marvel” Apart from bare legs and midriff, she wore a very similar red and blue costume. At that time, the use of “Ms.” reflected bold feminist connotations – having left NASA to become Editor of the Daily Bugle’s Woman Magazine, Carol regularly “fought” Battle Of The Sexes duels with J. Jonah Jameson.
And won. Every time.
Despite this, it must be said that Marvel Comics originally had a rather half-hearted approach to female characters, with She-Hulk and Spiderwoman serving as just female variants if their more iconic male counterparts. Thus, regrettably, it seemed as though Ms. Marvel could do nothing but continue this trend.
The 1st ish of Ms. Marvel is impossible to find – and, thus, ridiculously expensive.
#5 (May 1977) – one of the better ishs, featuring a supercool guest star appearance by The Vision – includes some invaluable backstory.
During an intense duel between Captain Marvel and Colonel Yon Rogg – Carol had her notorious accident with a device known as the psyche-magnetron. Essentially, it spliced Mar-Vell’s DNA with hers: “she had the strength of ten men, the knwoledge and instincts of a Kree warrior, and thanks to a sophisticated electronic webbing built into her costume… she could fly.” Most crucially, she was possessed with that uniquely Kree power: a Seventh Sense in which she could anticipate danger before it occurred.
From ish #20, (October 1978) the “All-New” Ms. Marvel – the notorious black halter-neck leotard and longer boots (and, curiously-much-longer hair) – took over. It is in this garb that she first joined The Avengers. Unfortunately, the next stage of Carol’s “life” is the most controversial (and will only be mentioned briefly here).
In her essay: “The Rape Of Ms. Marvel,” comicbook historian Carol A Strickland criticized one Avengers storyline that concentrated on the “abduction and impregnation” of the Fighting Fury by Marcus (alleged son of Immortus). Why oh why did such an inappropriate and obscene plot have to sully none other than The Avengers #200?! As an Avengers fan for most of my life, it is outrageous – almost criminal! – that what should have been an epic landmark ish can never join my collection…
Moreover, where were the Comics Code Authority? How could they have “Approved” THIS?!
Even Claremont spoke out against it, and proceeded to “undo” this inappropriate storyline when he produced Avengers Annual #10 (1981). He further redeveloped Carol’s character whilst working on The Uncanny X-Men. During one cosmic adventure: #164 (December 1982), an alien race known as The Brood imbue her with energy manipulation and absorption powers and thenceforth, she becomes known as “Binary.” Essentially she could generate the power of a star.
When she soon reverts to her Ms. Marvel persona, Carol retains these powers.
The very first grapic novel in comics history happened to be Death Of Captain Marvel, featuring the demise of Mar-Vell (in 1982) but Carol did not assume the Captaincy right away. No, the first female hero to use this title was an African-American: Monica Rambeau (seen in her white and black garb on the cover above).
Incidentally, in the upcoming movie, Carol’s best friend is fellow pilot Maria Rambeau, Monica’s mum – an interesting twist to the origins story.
Considering the Kree-Skrull War’s overwhelming importance in the comics – in fact, “The Kree-Skrull War” happened to be Marvel Comics’ first major cosmic story-arc, featured in The Avengers in 1971, written by Roy Thomas, with art provided by Neal Adams and both Buscemas (John and Sal).
With such multiple plot-threads, it is difficult to determihe which aspects, if any, will make it into this movie. It is surprising how no mention of that major, seemingly-eternal conflict has not featured in the MCU.
Strangely enough, although Ms. Marvel spent the first few ishs of her solo ’70s series trying to come to terms with her Kree powers, there was never any mention of the Skrulls: sinister alien shapeshifters.
However, in Marvel Team-Up # 62 she joins Spidey to fight the Super-Skrull: a Skrull antagonist possessing the powers of the Fantastic Four (see below):
July 2012 marked the moment when Carol Danvers officially assumed the title of Captain Marvel.
In a dramatic reintroduction of the character, its writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, had offered an irresistible pitch: it could “pretty much be summed up with ‘Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.'”
Carol rejoined The Avengers the following year, starring in the Captain Marvel / Avengers Assemble crossover storyline: “The Enemy Within”. She and her Avenger teammates must do battle with Yon-Rogg, the Kree officer responsible for the explosion that caused her to receive her powers, and in defeating the Kree, Danvers loses her memories...
And in May 2014, Carol Danvers joined the Guardians Of The Galaxy.
When asked, during one interview, that all-important-question:
“Who is the most powerful being in the Marvel Universe?”
the late, great Stan Lee immediately replied:
“Galactus. Without a doubt.”
Continuing the MCU’s unabashed trend of distorting the original comicbook plotlines, Kevin Feige – Marvel Studios’ Head Honcho – has stipulated that Captain Marvel IS the most powerful being in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, it is intriguing to discover that the Captain Marvel movie will be set in the ’90s – most tantalisingly, over twenty years before Tony Stark became Iron Man…
It will certainly be interesting to see a de-aged and patchless Nick Fury and such familiar faces as Korath and Ronan again.
Unlike Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War – both devoured (with glee) on their respective days of release – this blogger won’t be watching the 21st instalment of the MCU until next week.
Why?! you cry.
Saving it for a (hopefully special) birthday treat 🙂
Captain Marvel: Die Hard With Avengers 😉
Captain Marvel is released this Friday: March 8 2019 – International Women’s Day(!)
To fellow survivors of THE SNAP,
How ya doin’?
Excited for Captain Marvel? This Friday?
Now we know that the 21st instalment of the MCU will be set in 1995, and the inclusion of music from that year appearing on the Soundtrack has been confirmed, yours truly immediately set about investigating which tracks had been chosen, so this groovy MARVEL Music Monday post could be put together.
The OST will not be released until this Friday, and there is absolutely NO advance tidbits released to dashing members of the press like myself. Shame: ended up devising my own 90s Playlist whilst compiling my History of Carol Danvers – that Post should be up well before this Friday! 😉 Found one song featured on a Cap Marvel TV Spot, but alas, that platter just happens to be one of the most annoying released during that year! (Hope the final track selection is cool, but already have my doubts…)
Sheesh, what is Brad ta do?! It’s almost Tuesday, fer cake’s sake!
One of the many many reasons why last year’s Avengers: Infinity War turned out to be such a MASTERPIECE was the oh-so-appropriate soul classic played to herald the entrance of the Guardians of the Galaxy – a welcome groovy interlude amidst those otherwise grim and gloomy proceedings, and, on its own, better than the whole disappointing Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 2.
Let’s be honest: if the late, great Stan Lee created a superhero named Rubberband Man, he would have been just as dynamic and iconic as all his other legendary characters! 😉
Sing it, Drax!
I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice. Shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night…
Heck, this man only happens to be Nicolas frickin’ Cage! Here he’s Red Miller, a lumberjack, but – hoo boy! – he’s NOT okay. “Crying?” Ha! That’s putting it mildly. Brooding in his bathroom, Cage is growling with grief and hollerin’ with hate in his own legendary, inimitable way, splashing vodka down his throat and over his wounds, ‘cos a wacko redneck hippy cult known as Children Of The New Dawn infiltrated the blissful, pine-scented haven in the Pacific Northwest which he had shared with his girlfriend, Mandy. Until they killed and cremated her...
From Panos (Beyond The Black Rainbow) Cosmatos, prepare for a blood-red phantasmagoria of ethereal imagery and INSANE violence.
Just one long horrific gonzo bloodfest, this most certainly is not.
No, in one of its most striking scenes, in order “to get the girl,” Brother Swan drives deep into the woods and blows the Horn of Abraxas, thus summoning a biker gang known as the Black Skulls – NOT your ordinary bunch of drug-addled Peter Fondas. This movie rams all logic and reality into the furnace, revelling instead as an almost-delirious, acid-drenched dark fantasy. Therefore these queasy riders just happen to be monstrous psychos in spiked leather gear – as if they chugged in from Mordor via the Mad Max wasteland – “speaking” with suitably deep and demonic drawls. Mercifully, we never get a proper butcher’s at their ugly mugs – perhaps it’s just as well! Once, apparently, they were normal men, but The Chemist cooked up “a special batch” of psychedelicacies, transforming them into the freakiest bunch of devilish antagonists since Hellraiser’s cenobites. They’re mostly depicted as menacing figures, eerily silhouetted against the thick, crimson smog…
As you just heard, the intense images herein are ably and effectively complemented by Johann (Arrival) Johannsson’s in turns blistering and breathtaking soundtrack. Sadly, Johann passed away shortly before the film’s release last October, so there is a message: “Dedicated to our friend Johann Johannsson” during the end credits – the only time this whole production presents something sane and respectful.
Arguably the outstanding track is the Love Theme; wonderfully evocative of Vini Reilly AND Robert Fripp at their sublime best- it’s uncanny. Even reminded me of Popol Vuh’s mesmerising score for Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (1974), itself a dizzying descent (down the Amazon river) into an ever-swirling madness.
If you go down in the woods tonight – hey! – you’re sure of Nicolas Cage being your BIG surprise! Having already played the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance – (twice!) Nasty Nic knows plenty about exacting big paybacks.
Here – by Jove! – he’s as cross as two sticks. And crazy?! Oh yes. Ol’ Rage Cage is – as we say in Blighty – a few Hobnobs™ short of a full packet…
Speaking of hobnobs, the leader of the New Dawn cult is Jeremiah Sand, a Manson-like, failed musician nutjob played by Linus Roache. Personally, it wasn’t his performance that unsettled me, but his uncanny resemblance to a disgraced ’70s UK children’s TV presenter…
Thou shalt not mess with an unbalanced woodsman who makes his living using a chainsaw. Well, really: you’d think those dozy Dawn dipwits would know that!
Straight after his beloved has been killed, Red staggers indoors; the Children forgot to switch the TV off: cue the movie’s most surreal moment: a bizarre (and thankfully FAKE) commercial for Cheddar Goblin, a horrendous puppet barfing cheezy chunks over a couple of giggling children sitting at their breakfast table!
In order to wreak his lunatic revenge spree against Sant, his New Dawners AND the Black Skulls, Red pays a visit to an old chum: Caruthers (played by Bill “Predator” Duke) a taciturn recluse who lives in a dilapidated trailer elsewhere in the forest. He’s been looking after “The Reaper”: Red’s CROSSBOW.
And that’s not all! Whoa, no!
Red even goes to the trouble of forging The Beast: his very own badass hippy-hackin’ AXE. Ah, those Dwarf-lords in their mountain halls would have been proud…
It’s very convenient that Red has someone like Caruthers with which to discuss his revenge-spree. At one point, Caruthers remarks: “These arrows cut through the bone like a fat kid eats cake.”
HELLO? DID ANYBODY SAY CAKE?! 😉
Mandy herself – played here by Andrea Riseborough – exudes a fragile and doe-eyed beauty, and uet there’s something creepy anout her otherwise innocent look. It’s like watching Shelley Duvall in The Shining all over again…
Although its never mentioned, Mandy seems to have suffered a shocking experience at some point in her past, for she has totally withdrawn from civilization, to nestle in the healing tranquility of nature, and while away her days producing comic book art. And reading dark fantasy novels. It would have been nice to see more of Andrea (Birdman) Riseborough and Nicolas (Birdy) Cage together, but let’s face it: this “visionary director” seemed far too eager to bring on this
If teenage Brad had gawped at this, he would certainly have squealed with delight at the numerous sequences of blood-spewing on display here. But these days…
Perhaps it’s a tad too excessive (for me).
Perhaps one has reached that stage in life where the flow of excellently-crafted words pouring forth is infinitely more preferable…
There’s no point in developing these one-dimensional cult members – everybody knows that gruesome ends await each one of them anyway! As to be expected, Red is haunted by disturbing dreams, but here, all those brief sequences are… animated.
And – oh yes – there’s a tiger. A live – not animated, LIVE – tiger. What’s it doing there…? Heck, not even yer ol’ buddy Brad can explain that one…
Apart from a President Reagan speech on the car radio, and a couple of retro football shirts, there is little indication to suggest that this “supremely unnerving horror dimension” is actually set in 1983. Retrobrad had half-expected an ’80s soundtrack(!), but: soz, folks, there’s no Cyndi Lauper or Kajagoogoo to bop along to here…
However, there is an intriguing assortment of retro-references. The chainsaw duel is reminiscent of the duel featured in The Texas Chinsaw Massacre 2 (1986). And these proceedings commence with the classic Universal Pictures logo from the 70s (a personal fav!)
At one point, Red mutters something about: the psychotic drowns where the mystic swims, alluding to the quote by mythologist Joseph Campbell (see above!)
Incidentally, the epilogue – considering the cram-packed cavalcade of chaos and carnage that preceded it – is a surprisingly pleasant, almost-incongruous, but very much appreciated, totally non-trippy bittersweet sequence. Having shattered our senses and churned our stomachs, Cosmatos sees fit to round it all off by well and truly rending our hearts. (If you can call it that, the post-post-credits scene is just a still image – a montage of Mandy‘s artwork).
Would Brad recommend this gvindhouse show?
Aww gee, that’s a toughie.
There are some unusual and truly astonishing visual flourishes here, but, as forewarned, you will have to endure truly disturbing images lurking within. If and when you decide to watch, make sure that Auntie Mary has left the room…
Stuff the sequels. Raze the remakes.
We need MORE unique works like this, but: less gore, next time… please?
And oh no, Brad will definitely NOT be sending Mandy away!
“Well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking
And I need you today, oh Mandy…”
Honestly, how can a “movie” as DEMENTED as this, offer such a hauntingly BEAUTIFUL Love Theme as this…?
Hard to believe that my father – former globe-trotting RAF sergeant and Jedi Knight – passed away on this day 10 years ago.
Considering how difficult it has been trying to concentrate on writing anything else this week, this Post seemed like an ideal celebration to compile.
Having had absolutely no paternal guidance himself, he sometimes found it difficult to be Dad – “I’m just making it up as I go along, man” 🙂 Whatever problems or disagreements we had, it would only take one of us to suggest: “Let’s watch a movie” and everything would revert to being as right as rain again.
He really digged a smart script – he constantly criticised my short stories, complaining about the drab dialogue, constantly advising me to listen –always listen – to the way people talked. Thus, he picked up some iconic one-liners along the way, many of which are included here.
He appreciated some really fine performances, most notably: Eli Wallach (as Tuco) in The Good, The Bad And the Ugly (1967); Robert Lacey (as Toht) in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981); and Robert De Niro in practically everything he did! But mainly the Godfather Part II (1974), Midnight Run (1988) and Heat (1995).
Possibly the most impressive performance he ever watched came from Anthony Quinn as Arabian tribal chief: Auda abu Tayi in Lawrence Of Arabia (1962). To us, that will stand forever as the Greatest Movie Ever Made – Quinn alone could easily have filled this Top 10 list (but of those few good clips, none of them stay online for long)
Today, you could have been treated to: the Top 10 Planes That Dad Loved To Fly. However, guessing that you probably wouldn’t recognise most of them anyway (for those of you taking notes, No.1 happened to be the de Havilland DH 98 Mosquito 😉 ) instead, this list will just have to suffice.
Paris Texas (1984) was one of those great Americana movies we enjoyed together, mainly because of that haunting soundtrack by Ry Cooder.
My father had been THAT CLOSE to getting a job Stateside, but after that fell through, he “disappeared,” trying to travel as much overland as possible. So when we found Ry Cooder attached to the soundtrack of this thriller set in the Louisana bayou, we thot we’d give it a go.
Mostly, a mean, moody and magnificent work, but the last ten minutes was a revelation. For the next few months, my quest for Cajun LPs stretched far and wide…
An anti-war war movie set during the Boer War (1899-1902) based on a true story.
Dad stayed up well after his bedtime, completely absorbed in this courtroom drama (and he detested courtroom dramas!) that featured one of the most notorious cases of military injustice.
And at breakfast the next morning, he couldn’t help but go on and on about it. Would have bunked off school that morning, just to listen to his enthusiasm all the way until lunchtime, if Mum hadn’t told me to skedaddle.
We regarded this as the greatest Australian movie ever made. Yes, that’s right, we thought it’s even better than Mad Max!
A cool, entertaining and highly recommended buddy comedy – how many times did this grace our VCR?! It got to the stage where we could hurl whole sections of dialogue at each other, and still never get tired of watching the actual movie.
The amazing – yet under-rated – Charles Grodin only had to walk through the door into this scene and Dad was already in stitches.
1:24 always cracked him up even more:
My father loved to read Philip K Dick’s novels, so couldn’t wait to watch the TV premiere of Blade Runner.
So much has been written about its influential visual futurism, but it was one of the replicants: not the obvious choice: Roy Batty, but Leon, played by the crazy-eyed Brion James who Dad paid particular attention to. His role as the one-armed Cajun trapper in Southern Comfort was the other reason why we watched that movie!
Always dig that mo @ 0:35 – when Dekard draws his gun and Leon immediately bats it away.
As Dad so eloquently put it: “Way too cool, man!”
Yeah, this is the typical “Dad Movie” alright.
Expect nothing less than one long gore-fest cram-packed with incredibly stylised bloody action sequences in Sam Peckinpah’s infamous masterpiece: The Wild Bunch.
And yet its most peaceful moment, when the bunch are riding off to certain death, that really struck a chord with Dad. He instantly fell in love with La Golondrina (The Swallow); it’s a Mexican tune written in the 19th century.
Had to take note of its time on our tape whenever he often requested just “THAT MOMENT from The Wild Bunch.”
“Very smart. That’s very smart for you damn gringos…”
You may already know how this blogger was blessed to have gawped at the original Star Wars trilogy in the cinemas on their respective original releases.
Even more exuberant to have a father who – for the next three decades – never failed to admit how glad he was to have taken me (and several excitable chums from school on numerous occasions!) and share the joy to be had from that galaxy far far away.
(For the record, his fav “character” – you’d never guess! – turned out to be Salacious B. Crumb – HA!)
So many thrilling individual moments to choose from…
He loved that now-legendary shot of Luke gazing into the twin suns and EVERY SINGLE TIME it came on, he’d whistle along to the Tatooine Theme, but the Imperial March provoked a more striking action: EVERY SINGLE TIME we reached 1:27, Dad would start slamming his heel into the floor in time to the Imperial beat. Hannibal (our tabby cat) could sense that particular disturbance in the Force comin’ – honestly, he never fled THAT FAST in sheer terror from any other movie…
“You found something?” 😉
Arguably, the coolest western ever made.
Dad taped this for me during my last year at junior school; he’d enjoyed watching this in an open-air screening in Yemen back in ’68. Gian Maria Volonte as El Indio, was one of Dad’s fav villains. Which of his scenes to select?
But then memories of how Dad laughed every time Klaus Kinski appeared, especially here @ 0:10.
This scene is probably the most TENSE confrontation in movie history.
Saw a lot of my father in Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee van Cleef): true gentleman; expert marksman; absolute BADASS!
Not only were we entranced by this stupendous and spellbinding retelling of the legend of King Arthur, but we were gobsmacked by the music of Richard Wagner. Siegfied’s Funeral March, especially, had quite an inspirational and spiritual hold over both of us.
With its almost ethereal imagery, and powerful performances, this was John Boorman’s masterpiece.
Studying ancient British history – and the legends/mythology stemming from these isles – became our joint mission; and Excalibur brought the two of us even closer together.
Now you know why this movie is played in Brad Manor every year on the fifth night of the second month…
Aow, it really is getting more emotional now…
My father’s final trip to the cinema came in January 1991. Dances With Wolves satisfied his fascination for American Civil War history, and marked the directorial debut of Kevin Costner, whose The Untouchables (1987) we had enjoyed immensely.
Dad always remarked out loud at the superb training of Two Socks. Except for our last viewing together @ Christmas 2008 – it would mark the final viewing session we shared together, but by that time, he was too weak to keep awake through most of it…
Oh, THAT music:
His favourite movie star.
His favorite rock song.
So when these two most formidable entities in the universe collided in our living room back in ’91, it became one of those life-affirming moments. Heck, with Arnie’s shot-gun twirl, the big rig carnage on the LA freeway and many more energetic sequences, will never forget how Dad kept jumping out of his armchair.
The Original Brad To The Bone 🙂
As that other “great old man” once said: “he was the best pilot in the galaxy and a good friend.”
He always told me: NEVER GIVE UP, and yet he gave up a career in the RAF to become a full-time Dad.
In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.