Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Posted in Life on June 24th, 2009 by Tom

I’ve never seen a midnight premier before. I picked a GREAT one to start with.

Oh. My. God.
It was everything I could have hoped it would be. I’m not going to do a full-blown review, as a lot of people still NEED to go see it, but a few highlights were:

-Jetfire, my favorite Transformer, is in the film, and is both hilarious and awesome!
-It’s super-long (nearly three hours) and the pacing is really good. You get a breather when you need it, but it’s mostly action.
-I found it really funny. Maybe 20% of the jokes were “over the top”, but there are some really genuinely funny moments, that aren’t just cheap laughs, that more than make up for it.
-Optimus brings his A-game in some stunning battle scenes.
-The driving story element concerning The Fallen, and why so much of the film takes place in Egypt, work surprisingly well.

I don’t know, this is just my kinda movie. I should be more reserved; I think the REU people think I’m off my rocker, given my enthusiasm for the film both before and after… I’m real forgiving of movies, especially this kind: I find the jokes funny, the action terrific, and even the emotional stuff hits me dead center (and we’re tlaking about Transformers here…).

In Other News: Really excited for Harry Potter. The film coming out corresponds to my favorite book in the series, and also: Ginny Weasley. SCHWING. And Tim Burton’s new post-apocalyptic animated fantasy film looks fantastic too.

Anyways, bed now. Work in just a few hours.
Boston post is coming, I promise.

Gundam Wing: Halfway Review

Posted in Nerd on June 17th, 2009 by Tom

I can’t help it. I wanted to reserve my comments on Gundam Wing until I’d finished the series and the film, but I’m too weak; the compulsion to speak my mind on the subject became too strong.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS SHOW.
Or rather, I can’t figure out why it is so universally LOVED by the anime community. Like… it actually makes no sense. The plot, which could be believable, is completely rendered not so by the blank-faced automatons that pass for characters.

The following conversations have recently taken place between Quatre and Hereo:

Q: “Is kindness necessary in a war?”
H: “No, it isn’t. Not while you’re fighting, at least. But kindness is probably something you need the rest of the time. This isn’t the time to be fighting now.”
*Quatre begins playing with the nearby dogs, running and laughing*

Later:
Q: “Heero, where should we head to now?”
H: “There isn’t really any place that I want to go to now.”
Q: “There are lots of kind people right here on the Earth, but we’d be causing them all kinds of trouble, by doing nothing more than just meeting them. There is no place for us to go, is there?”
H: “Quatre, it’s because you’re trying to forget the battle. As long as Earth’s a warzone, I’m gonna fight. You have no choice but to fight either. That’s because we’re both Gundam pilots. The battlefield is the only place we’re allowed to live; for us I guess the meaning of life lies in surviving battles.”
*Heero walks away*

…The above is symptomatic of how INSANELY poorly written this program is. Granted, maybe I’m losing something in the dubbed version, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve been uniformly forgiving of dubs, from Shinji’s nasal whine, to Tenchi’s befuddled stupor, to… well I don’t think there’s much to complain about on the Bebop dub… anyways: I normally am not the SUBS ONLY guy. Even if it’s an issue in translation, unless Bandai/Sunrise completely rewrote the script, this show had the most terrible dialog writers I’ve ever seen in an anime.

I should be keeping a running log of all the stupid crap that gets said, and I’ll try to do so for my conclusion of the review, but that’ll just have to be shining gem (above) for now. I can understand that maybe some things are awkward. For instance, Quatre is the friendly one, and so you over-do it a little bit, and he comes off as being vaguely homosexual when I don’t believe that was the intent; I can get over that. It’s Heero in particular that I find unacceptable.

As with the above, notice the excellent bit of circuitous logic he employs:

I am going to fight as long as there is fighting.
I am a Gundam pilot.
Gundam pilots can only live by surviving battles (fighting).
Ergo, I must continue to perpetuate fighting.

HE FIGHTS BECAUSE THERE IS FIGHTING?!!?!?!?!?!?
Are you for real? I’m supposed to buy that? Quatre fights to help people, Duo seems to think it’s the right thing to do as well. Trowa and Heero, however, are beyond me. Their motivations are entirely unclear. Which leads me to the principle issue with Wing: sloppy story-telling. I can see some merit in keeping the driving forces behind a character’s actions a secret.

Pertinent example (also spoiler): Schwartz Bruder from G Gundam did what he did to protect Domon in the tournament because he was actually an android created by Domon’s mind-controlled evil brother in his own image, programmed to keep Domon safe. The android Schwartz fights to his own robotic death in order to protect his ‘brother’. And this is all only slowly revealed to us throughout G Gundam, bit by bit, until you understand it all at the end.

In Gundam Wing, however, no one has any reason to fight. All the of pilots seem to have “woken up” upon landing on earth. Little reference to their pasts is ever given; in fact they themselves seem ignorant of it. So without a reason to fight, one could simply attribute it to their duty. Except their missions never seem to have any desired outcome except disrupting OZ. I’ll even go that far with you.

But when the tables turn, and OZ is no longer their enemy, having aligned with the colonies, the pilots are understandably confused. Their actions that follow, however, are entirely without merit. They seem to just act in whatever fashion HAPPENS to land them in a gigantic mobile suit battle against a million Leos… With their reasons for fighting so unclear, it’s hard for you to root for them. You don’t even really know what they want, because as near as I can tell, the writers don’t either.

Not to mention Relena’s lightswitch transition from bratty rich kid to international peace broker… As if. Let’s take a second to talk about her brother, Zechs/Milliardo. He’s the one person who seems like a legitimately interesting character, and he just disappears for episodes on end! I don’t CARE that Quatre’s crying over his dad, or that Trowa doesn’t like the circus: give me more Zechs. I could barely contain my excitement to see him without the damn mask on, and his dual personality thing, while kindof stupid, is the exact type of stupid thing I’ll watch an anime for. The dude lost his country, created a splinter cell within the organization that took it from him, and helped stage a coup!

He also has a pretty sweet, old-and-busted mobile suit, which I greatly approve of. He has trouble flying it, and learns to overcome its weaknesses in TIME. Unlike the other guys, who somehow are totally awesome at piloting any mobile suit ever invented, and also extremely knowledgeable tacticians and ultimately the most perfect soldiers.

NOT THAT YOU’D KNOW IT, BECAUSE ALL THE DO IS SHOW UP IN THE MOBILE SUITS. No stealth missions, no interesting plans that require… I don’t know… teamwork?! It’s just, “Oh, hey. I’m here at this OZ base. I suppose I should start killing things. Hey look! Other dudes like me with Gundams are also here… ALSO TO KILL THINGS. What a coincidence.” And it’s always this awkward thing too; you’ve got to commit. Either they’re all goddamn lone wolves who don’t care, or some of them want to work as a unit. Instead, behold a typical battle/episode (the two words mean about the same thing…):

Pilot 1: I am here. I will FIGHT YOU, OZ!
Pilot 2: Hey, what are you doing here?
Pilot 1: I am here SO I CAN FIGHT OZ!
Pilot 2: I am ALSO here for the purpose of FIGHTING OZ!

Elsewhere:
OZ Commander: GUNDAMS!! Send out the crappiest mobile suits we have, in tiny packs, one at a time, so we can use our resources in the least efficient way possible! Before that, though, be sure to notify Treize, as we can not deploy mobile suits, nor use the restroom, without speaking with THE TOP RANKING OFFICER CONSTANTLY.

Meanwhile:
Pilot 1: Do not get in my way, Pilot 2. I came TO FIGHT OZ, and I will destroy you if you get in my way.
Pilot 2: I too will also do so for a similar, nondescript reason. Nevermind this talking, I will now FIGHT WITH OZ!!!
Pilot 1: I said GET OUT OF MY WAY!
[Both Gundams have remained stationary for the duration of this discourse]
Pilot 3: (Upon arrival) I MUST FIGHT OZ! IT IS MY SOUL PLEASURE IN THIS SPECTRE OF A HUMAN LIFE!

Back At the Ranch:
OZ Underling: Commander! We are out of troops, despite the Gundams’ actions consisting entirely of bickering with one another.
OZ Commander: Let’s use our final defense weapon that is guaranteed to work! That will get them.
OZ Underling: Would it not have benefited our base and soldiers to have done so from the outset?
OZ Commander: Attention, Gundams! We are going to do a thing you may find unpleasant! We are canceling your favorite TV program. WE ARE CANCELING IT RIGHT NOW!

Gundam Pilots: (In Unison) We surrender from a mutual moral conflict!
[Here, all pilots attempt to destroy their suits, fail to do so, and fall from the cockpits to the ground.]

Seriously. That is about how much goes on in a given episode. It’s not quite that same thing every time, such that I would call it formulaic, but that about sums up most everything you’d see in an episode. Now granted, the Wing line of Mobile suits is cool. Trowa infiltrating OZ is cool. The ZERO system making Quatre go crazy (forcing us to endure torturous dialog as Quatre and the writers wrestle for a reason he’s being a headcase) is cool. Treize and Zechs giving OZ the finger is cool.

The show is not without its cool parts. But the Gundams (Sandrock, Shenlong specifically) lack any real distinctive characteristics, other then they get blown up and lost a lot. All of this in the frame of a constantly changing world (I mean like, every episode there is a new group in control of the Earth, and by the next one they have factions, and by the third a new character has arrived to tell everyone how it’s going to go). The story is just a vehicle by which to deliver robot battles, and I mean that as an insult.

G Gundam is aruably the most brazen instance of such a ploy. They have a tournament every few years to decide who will rule the earth. Every country makes a stupid mobile suit based on their naiton’s stereotypes, and away we go. Yet somehow, with as terrible of a premise as that was, the writers made it work, and work WELL. Gundam Wing, on the other hand, started with a much cooler idea, and still managed to fumble the ball.

For shame. More on that later.

You Can (Not) Advance: Initial Impressions

Posted in Evangelion, Nerd on June 1st, 2009 by Tom

Another one of my long-time loves, Evangelion, is showing some signs of life these days. The new film comes out at the end of June, and in anticipation, Kaiyodo is releasing new toys! I have a weird sort of addiction to these figures, called Revoltech, but only the Eva ones, for some reason. The humanoid stuff they release is cool, but from shows I don’t care about. And the Macross stuff they put out is only in the robot mode, and that’s not really too fun to me if it doesn’t change back into a space-plane like it should.

Anyways:

Unit-01 Figure

They’re re-releasing Unit-01, AGAIN. This drives me crazy. This is nearly identical to 2007’s initial Rebuild line of toys which included Unit-01, Unit-00, and the Positron Rifle Set. So now they’re releasing yet ANOTHER iteration of this toy, with few updates, if any. The best I can tell from the photographs, the only new thing that comes with it is a second set of shoulder armor to totally replace the first (the first edition didn’t have this at all; the second only partially replaced them to expose the prog. knife.). These appear to hold a full progressive knife each, unlike the previous one, which only sported a faux knife handle. Cool, but I’m still angry that I might cave and buy Unit-01 for the third time.

OK, this is the part where I completely negate what I just said. The pictures seem to indicate that the jaw of the eva will be ARTICULATED, so it can just drop down to go all berserk. Nice. Now that might get me to purchase a third one.

Unit-02 Figure

Next up is what I was pretty excited for: Unit-02. Red’s my favorite color, and I always felt like Asuka’s eva had the best action sequences (See: 25′: Air). First impressions of ‘rebuilt’ Unit-02 come almost entirely from THE HORN. Man, check it out. It’s done the most justice by the profile pictures further down. So that’s just a near stylistic thing.

Next up, there’s a bunch of equipment that pertains to the aerial drop sequence. An entire shoulder-armor set is devoted to over-sized rocket boosters that would aid the Unit in descent. There are also another set of fore-arms that act as control surfaces, which I thought was a nice touch, and not immediately apparent.

The last part that I can’t figure out is how the progressive knife-holders factor in. Are the their own separate set of shoulder-armor, or inserts into a partially articulated that can open to accept to knives and their sheaths? Not sure on that one. Also, in terms of weapons, we have a CROSSBOW. The damn thing is nearly the length of the eva’s leg, and way longer than even the standard pallet gun (which is included, along with the axe). So I’m majorly pumped about Unit-02, and getting it for sure (as I passed on the End of Evangelion Movie Version, which was the first to feature the knife-in-the-shoulder-pylon thing that’s become a staple).

Prov. Unit-05 Figure

And this leaves us with what’s been termed ‘Provisional Unit-05’. While I’m initially nonplussed by the toy, I can’t really bring myself to be irritated with it just yet, as it is arguably the first NEW thing we’ve seen out of Rebuild. More or less until this point everything has been what we expected from the old series. Granted, it’s been sexed up a little, but mostly the same. Unit-05 was formerly one of the winged ‘Mass-Produced’ evas that served as the final instrument of SEELE. Anyways, no more!

In Rebuild, Unit-05 is this weird spider type thing with a drilling-lance apparatus on one arm, and a pincer claw for the other. What it does, I can’t tell. The arms look like something for mining, but the legs have the weird wheeled ends, which look damn near useless for moving the thing around, but I suspect that’s their function. The torso appears to be a standard eva, but that’s about the only familiar thing here. We speculate it’ll be piloted by Mari, the new girl pilot.

[The definition of “provisional” means “serving for the time being.” Maybe Unit-05 is all goofy-as-shit because it was just intended to tide NERV over until the arrival of expected Units 03/04/06. After losing both 03 and 04, maybe they just wanted to roll something out to ensure there was still a Tokyo-3 to send 06 to. Hrm.]

Misc. Musings

I’m curious about how she’ll interact with the other pilots. Introducing her this early promises for some interesting reactions to what’s to come. There’s also the question of what she’ll be like. Just from the facial expressions and the pictures, she acts and dresses like she has Asuka’s confidence with a little less of the crazy. (We can only hope…) Seriously though, is she going to have deeply-seated issues with her past and parents? It seems unlikely, at least to me. Shinji and Asuka have suffered some pretty massive trauma’s in their life, and Rei… well that’s sortof a given.

How interesting would it be for Mari to show up and just completely be at a loss for how screwed up everyone is? A voice of reason to call them back from the brink of insanity. You could even do something where she slowly progresses to the point of the other children’s neurosis. I don’t know, I guess I’m just hoping she isn’t a cookie-cutter Marduk child. It’s so impossibly difficult to relate to the other kids because they act so irrationally, and so I’m holding out hope that she’s a “normal” counterpoint to the others. Sortof like Kaworu did at the 11th hour of the original series, but this time we’d get to fully explore that dynamic, plus we can be pretty sure Mari isn’t an Angel. Or is she?!

Speaking of which, Kaworu is also expected to play a bigger role in the second film, “You Can (Not) Advance,” I’m personally suspecting under the auspices of piloting Unit-06, which has been reference as “coming down from the moon,” the location we found Kaworu and SEELE at the close of “You Are (Not) Alone.” Rounding out the roster would the tragic Unit-03, most likely piloted by Toji Suzuhara as in the original series.

Unit-03 and Unit-04 Figures?

I think Kaiyodo plans to release a Revoltech of him as well, indicated by their website but not included in the sites I found featuring the other three.

I had Google translate the page, and suddenly I’m worried. It says something about this being a special for bookstores?! Damn. As near as I can tell it’s just Unit-03, but it comes with “extension parts”, which I would take to mean the extra-long arms for when it goes berserk. It also, like Unit-01 has the articulated jaw. I really would like this guy; I’d had for it to be another MP EVA w/ Lance ordeal (there was a special edition mp eva that came with the Lance, the only revoltech figure to include it this far; I’ve failed to get it, much to my ire).

Which still begs the question: Unit-04? Probably going to blow up again in Nevada, this would seem to indicate. Pitty. I wonder if they’ll release a version of it anyways like they did last time, fans for this stuff being who they are. Hell, I’d buy it. As if you needed to be told that after reading this entry.

I’m really, really pumped for these figures to start coming in, and even more excited for the chance to start seeing actual footage of the film, which hits Japanese theaters June 27. For the love of all that is good, someone needs to leak a decent, subtitled copy within a few months. The fact that there is still no English-region distribution of 2007’s “You Are (Not) Alone” is nothing short of… well I guess just irritating.

Speaking of irritating, I read that Matt Greenfield is still running his mouth about the Live Action EVA project. I wish he’d shut up until he has a director and a studio. He just gets everyone riled up and then disappointed. Don’t even get me started on Amy Grant.

So that’s our quasi-regular eva-tastic update.

Oh! Almost forgot to post the trailer: