Movie: Maleficent

"Maleficent"

From Disney comes Maleficent-the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal-an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom-and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.” (c) Disney

Nearly a decade ago, there was a little story called Wicked. A retelling of the classic tale of the Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of the villainous Wicked Witch. The book was a political thriller filled with conspiracies and revolutions and a love that will never be. When it went to Broadway, it received a Disney makeover complete with a happily-ever-after for the misunderstood witch.

Misunderstood. That’s was probably what Disney was aiming for when they decided to make a Maleficent film. Because in the middle part, where we see Maleficent from the time she casts the curse to the time Aurora falls prey to said curse, is spectacular.

The christening scene alone was worth the ticket price. It was that marvelous.

If only the film had been consistent with the marvel from the beginning to end, there wouldn’t be need for justification and qualifiers. The film would’ve just been good. Fascinating. Amazing.

But the origin story Disney gave Maleficent was half-assed at best, with scenes being stitched together by a narrator who seems to be just grasping at straws.

I was ready to give up on the film when we finally get to the part where Maleficent casts the curse. And the film had me hooked again. The unexpected comedy that came afterwards was also a pleasant surprise.

It was the story after the curse has been fulfilled that I really had a problem with though. Origin stories can fall flat and you wouldn’t care as much because it’s something new. You don’t like it? No harm done. But when they touch upon something that you’ve already grown to love, or grown nostalgic of? That’s when the gloves come off.

And I really thought Disney was going to stick with the story they already told in Sleeping Beauty…just told from a different perspective. Because that’s what the narrator promised. That they are telling the same story from a different point of view.

I wanted Maleficent to turn into the dragon we see in the animated film. I wanted to see Maleficent die. Not because I have any morbid fantasies, but because that’s how it happens. And you know they could’ve stuck with that ending? By having Maleficent keep with her character development–and by testing the prince she deems maybe worthy of Aurora’s heart. By sacrificing herself, so that the girl she deems her successor can live.

It’s been said that Maleficent went the Frozen route with true love not having to come from romantic love, and I would have been fine with that if they hadn’t changed the whole ending.

I mean… Really? This is how you pay your respects to a classic? By saying its ending wasn’t good enough?

Maleficent is worth the ticket price, yes. But it’s not worth a second look.

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Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #17

"Superior Spider-Man 017"

I want to start by saying this: I have no clue who Spider-Man 2099 is. I must say though that this Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of Tomorrow, looks oddly a lot like Peter Parker. Although, from what I understand, he’s supposed to be Hispanic. But let’s not open that can of worms.

Now, let’s begin.

What I liked about the issue is the fact that we’re seeing the Green Goblin stewing and planning. It gives the series a sense of foreboding, of a promise that things are once again heating up. I also liked that we saw a bit of the life becoming a little more normal for Doc Ock as Peter Parker. Sort of. And I actually kind of like the idea that someone from the future comes to the past.

What I didn’t like was the fact that the threads opened up in the last issue, the ones connected to Carlie Cooper’s investigation, is once again dropped. And I really don’t give a flying shock (to borrow the expression of Spider-Man 2099) to the clash between the Spider-Man of now and the one of tomorrow. It’s a new plot horned into an existing plot that’s just about to take off. If that doesn’t scream “filler,” I don’t know what does.

The issues have a lot more happening, I’ve noticed. I just hope the team doesn’t forget what makes the Superior Spider-Man different from other Spider-Man titles. The fact that our hero is actually a villain trying to reform.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #16

"Superior Spider-Man 016"

No synopsis this time around. Spoiler-y, I guess.

The one important thing I have to say about this issue, is this: it doesn’t disappoint. Thank goodness.

Last time, Spider-Man upped his game by revealing who the Hobgoblin was. I don’t know what the directive is for Dan Slott, writer of the Superior Spider-Man, but he definitely doesn’t shy away from really changing the game. Which is good, because that’s what we signed up for when Otto Octavius became the Superior Spider-Man.

And it took a lot of issues before we finally got the ball rolling. And roll it does.

The best part about this issue? The ticking bomb. We have two characters who finally figure out that the Spider-Man we have now is not the Spider-Man we knew. Now, it’s all a matter of confirmation.

Sure, it’s a little infuriating that two non superheroes are the ones figuring out Otto’s little secret, especially considering the fact that the Avengers have some of the smartest characters this side of the comics industry. And yet none of them have tuned in to the fact that Peter Parker had a sudden personality transplant. Otto isn’t even trying to pretend to be Peter, come on.

But I’m putting that behind me now. Especially since the storyline is very strong right now. Even though we’re still obviously setting things up. Until when, I don’t know. But there’s nothing to complain about right now. So we’ll stick with the good.

The reveal of the Hobgobin, and how they dealt with the aftermath was really brave. The reactions were a little hyper-realistic, but that’s understandable. The part that makes it interesting? How Otto is twisting the image of the friendly neighborhood superhero. He’s no longer the bumbling accidental hero who almost everyone adores. He’s competent now, with self-confidence, and a focus that’s never been seen before. He’s no longer just Spider-Man, he’s the superior version. And he doesn’t care that people are starting to fear him. Otto might actually be relishing this.

And it’s so in character that I find it particularly delicious.

Otto is such an amoral character, and he’s completely destroying Peter Parker’s decision. And this is making me root for Peter’s return. However impossible. And the writer, I think, is doing his job well. Because we’re no longer rooting for the villainous Spidey. We’re rooting for our hero. We want our Peter to come back. And, ultimately, I think that’s the main goal of this team. For us to want what existed before. But he (and they) have ruined the world enough that we’d want our Spidey to clean it up. And that would make for very interesting drama.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s just tune in, a couple of weeks from now, what Dan Slott and the Marvel team have in plan for the Spider-Man franchise.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #15

"Superior Spider-Man 015"

Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin,has agreed to lease the mantle to Phil Urich, the current Hobgoblin and right-hand man to Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime.

The Kingpin had set his operation up in Shadowland, a giant fortress in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. Shadowland was thought tobe impenetrable. However…

Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man decided it was time to finish Shadowland off once and for all. He laid siege to it and destroyed it, while both Fisk and Urich were still inside.

Now Shadowland is no more and the Kingpin is apparently dead. But a new power is rising in the city… And it’s led by none other than the Green Goblin!

Now this is how you spin a tale. It’s just frustrating how it had to take how many issues for us to see actual plot movement.

Carlie Cooper is back on the case; both Mary Jane Watson and Aunt May have become suspicious of our erstwhile Peter Parker. The only character I don’t really care for is the new love interest, but I get how she is important. Heck, if I were the writer, I know how I would use her to further spin the web of lies Otto Octavius is spinning, or how to wreck it.

But what I really love about this issue is how we Spider-Man’s tale is told while our main character focus turned to the Hobgoblin. Heck, we can even say that he’s the protagonist if our story. The Anti-Hero, if you will.

In this issue of The Superior Spider-Man, we see movement that we haven’t seen since… Heck, since the mind war fought between Peter Parker and Otto Octavius! It’s been that long!

I’m really tired of how Otto Octavius is ruining the image of Spider-Man. I’m very much ready to see Otto develop into a more rounded character, or have Peter come back already.

Seriously.

The tables have turned for the Hobgoblin and the Superior Spider-Man. I’m actually rooting for the Hobgoblin, from the little we’ve seen of his life in the panels of Issue #15. That’s how badly Spidey needs redemption. And he’s not even doing any villainy! So next issue–

Next issue will be a game-changer for me. If we’re going back to status quo, for plot advancement to happen three issues later again, I’m dropping the title. But if we keep with this issue’s pace, then I guess I’ll sign up for another issue.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #13

"Superior Spider-Man 013"

Otto Octavius is a man who cheated death, but at a price. When he exchanged bodies with Peter Parker, he gained the amazing skills of Spider-Man–and all of Peter’s memories. Otto finally understands Peter’s mission of great responsibility.

Mayor J. Jonah Jameson had asked the Superior Spider-Man to supervise the execution of Alistair Smythe – The Spider-Slayer who killed Jameson’s wife.

Moments before his execution, Smythe used his slayer-bots to free himself while healing and upgrading Superior Spider-Man’s deadliest foes: Vulture, Scorpion, and Boomerang!

With Scorpion hunting down Jameson and Vulture making way for the innocent civilians, Spider-Man has made it his sole mission to slay the Spider-Slayer…

Outside of the synopsis, there is no longer any trace of Peter Parker in the Superior Spider-Man title. On the one hand, it’s gotten better. Story-wise, you really see the odds stack up against this new Spider-Man, and how not having a conscience is making Spider-Man more efficient. But the title seems to have lost its humanity.

I’m a fan of Spider-Man more because of Peter Parker than because of the superhero persona. I look up to Spider-Man because I related to Peter Parker. And now that he’s really, truly gone, my view on the Superior Spider-Man is bordering on clinical now. I see the parts I liked, the parts that can be developed further, and the parts that the title really could do without.

And that’s all the title is to me now. A routine.

Something I can live without.

The problem is, I do believe that there is a story to be told still. One that can be engaging. If the team behind Superior Spider-Man steers Otto back to where something would be at stake for him, and for the readers. Because when you’re protagonist is too smart, too powerful–why else would we root for him? What’s the payoff when you know he’s going to win anyway in the end?

Looking back on the issues I liked, it’s the ones where they humanized Otto. The parts where you see Peter breaking through to him, seeing the boy before he was broken. And if we’re sticking with Otto for the rest of the title, then we better go back to the part where he wants to be a hero.

Because, right now, Spider-Man is not acting like a superhero. He’s acting like a super villain. And it frustrates me to no end that no one who actually knows Peter Parker (and Spider-Man) is calling him out on it!

Otto is not beyond redemption. But the team behind this title will soon be if they don’t plot out the next few issues better.

Book: Goldfinger

"Goldfinger"

Auric Goldfinger: cruel, clever, frustratingly careful. A cheat at canasta and a crook on a massive scale. The sort of man James Bond hates. So it’s fortunate that Bond is the man charged by both the Bank of England and MI5 to discover what this, the richest man in the country, intends to do with his ill-gotten gains–and what his connection is with SMERSH, the feared Soviet spy-killing corps. But once inside this deadly criminal’s organization, 007 finds that Goldfinger’s schemes are more grandiose–and lethal–than anyone could have imagined. Not only is robbing Fort Knox his agenda, but mass murder as well…

Goldfinger was a fun read, even if it’s not as action-packed as today’s action thriller novels. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, except for the fact that many of the tight corners our hero finds his self in, sorts themselves out without much sweat from our hero. Well, a lot of sweat, not so much effort.

In fact, I see Goldfinger as the more developed character in this book. As the one who actually does things. James Bond kind of just skates through it all, doesn’t he?

Granted, my only exposure to James Bond comes from the Daniel Craig movies. I’ve seen parts of the Pierce Brosnan movies, but they never really intrigued me enough that I would actively seek out a title. Too much high-tech gadgets, not so much characterization. The Daniel Craig era puts more focus on us getting to know James Bond. And, coming off from reading this book, I’m appreciating the Daniel Craig movies more. It has a more realistic approach to the whole spy business, for one thing.

And that’s my main concern with Goldfinger. Lack of believability. Our villain Goldfinger sets himself up to be a very suspicious man, on the account that he is a very rich man. And while I could suspend my disbelief that he didn’t do a background check on Bond in their first two entanglements, I refuse to believe that he doesn’t think about asking his SMERSH contacts about him after the third incident. Especially since, in the last part of the book, he eventually does approach SMERSH about Bond.

The delay wasn’t so much because Goldfinger was highly independent from his SMERSH contacts, or because he was embarrassed about being beaten at his own game. It really was just because the author didn’t want Goldfinger to know about Bond before he could get around to the big evil plan: robbing Fort Knox.

Another thing I could wrap my head around was how Goldfinger thought he could use Bond to his own gain. Why would you trust someone who tried to kill you, but wouldn’t tell you why? Seriously?

I’m going to cut myself off there. Let’s just say that Goldfinger is a fun read–so long as you don’t give much thought to it afterwards. Enjoy it for the light read that it is, but don’t think too much about the intricacies of the plots, and the deception, etcetera. It really doesn’t hold up, especially if you’re into action thrillers.

It is true that authors now are more aware of smart readers. I don’t think Goldfinger would exist in this form had it been pitched with today’s market of readers in mind. I mean, sure, the plot is still interesting, and it will still hold up against today’s more technologically-advanced criminal plots. But Bond’s part in the novel would have to be rewritten. He’d have to be smarter and more resourceful than he was in this novel. He’d have to rely less on his luck and gadgets. And it would be a different book.

All that said, I really did enjoy the book for what it was. It’s just that–the book really doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. I must say though, I am now looking for a copy of the Goldfinger film to see how the novel holds up to its film version.

Book: The Superior Spider-Man, Issue #11

"Superior Spider-Man 011"

Otto Octavius is a man who cheated death, but at a price. When he exchanged bodies with Peter Parker, he gained the amazing skills of Spider-Man–and all of Peter’s memories. Otto finally understands Peter’s mission of great responsibility.

A tiny piece of Peter Parker remained in the Superior Spider-Man’s brain but Otto battled him within the realm of his mind and eradicated him by erasing the last of Peter’s memories.

Previously, the Spider-Slayer Alistair Smythe killed J. Jonah Jameson’s wife, Marla, who died saving Jameson’s Life.

Since then, Smythe has been imprisoned on The Raft, awaiting the day of his execution, a day Jameson has been looking forward to.

And we’re getting somewhere.

This new development in the Superior Spider-Man’s story is something that I, again, have been expecting since the title began. I say ‘again,’ because I think I’ve already mentioned it before. Maybe. I don’t have the luxury of time to check it right now.

Moving on.

In this issue of The Superior Spider-Man, we delve more into Otto pretending to be Peter–and making his former nemesis’s life his own. And, in this issue, we also dive deeper into the things that Otto himself faced–and is now looking at with a different perspective, from a different angle, in a different body.

This is the interesting part.

And what is even more intriguing is how the villains are leveling themselves up to meet this new, more ruthless, Spider-Man.

That said, I still have the same qualms about the missing progression from the other characters–which list is continuously growing.

I want to know what’s going on with Carlie Cooper, with Mary Jane Watson, and with the Green Goblin. All of whom are already suspecting something is amiss with our formerly friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Where are they?

When will we see development in their fronts?

How long can they stay on the side, without their stories coming in too little, too late?