Op-Ed: The Indie Hypocrisy

Yup, an opinion piece. Kind of an odd one, too. But why not? After all, I finished the first draft of Jungle yesterday. I’m in a good mood. It’s been a while since the last one. And this topic has been on my mind for a good week or so; seems as good a time as any to bring it up.

Last week I had an interesting encounter. I was on a forum devoted to discussing video games (bear with me, this gets back to books fairly quickly) when something unexpected happened. In a thread discussing indie games and how great they were (games that are built and published without the oversight of a game publisher, just as indie books are written and published without the oversight of a book publisher), a group of posters started going off against indie books.

It was the usual argument. How could any book be good if it hadn’t been “approved” by some publisher. Publishers “only approved” good stories so anyone who wasn’t publishing through them was clearly not good enough to bother looking at. Publishers had all the editors, so an indie book would be rife with errors. You know, the usual junk that gets spouted off.

But what really made this whole chain jarring was the fact that this was in a thread devoted to discussing how great indie games were, games that did the exact same thing indie authors did—eschew a publisher in favor of their own efforts to bring a game to the world. So what it had boiled down to was “Indie games are great, indie books are horrible” and the same reasons for one being great were being espoused as reasons for the other being terrible.

This got me thinking about indie books and indie markets in general. It’s not hard to find someone slamming indie books on the internet. In fact, it’s just about the standard reaction. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, at least from what I’ve seen, indie books are the only place that this happens. Everywhere else, indie is embraced by the majority.

And that doesn’t add up.

Continue reading

Random Musings on Star Trek: Beyond

Nothing serious here, readers. Just some thoughts from this morning that were kicked off by an only tangentially-related internet thread.

But first, gotta pause for the advertisement. That’s how this works, right? Get it out of the way early! And that advertisement is: Don’t forget the Rolling Sale! Colony is 63% off right now, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t pick up one of the most original Sci-Fi adventures you’ve ever read! Click the banner on the right and grab a copy now!

Otherwise you’re really going to feel left out a few years down the road when everyone else is talking about what’s going on in all the sequels, and you’re just sitting there thinking “Dang it! Why didn’t I read that before it was big?”

Right, aside over, back to the musings! So, Star Trek. Specifically, Star Trek: Beyond. Yes, I’m talking about the new, rebooted Trek movies (not the upcoming show that seems to have a lot of series fans biting their nails and glancing nervously at their communicators).

Continue reading

My Thoughts on Wonder Woman

So, as usual, I’m not going to really give much away. Actually, I’ll give away as little as possible, because my recommendation with Wonder Woman is that you should definitely go see it if you’re a fan of comic-book films.

Seriously. Wonder Woman is a good DC movie. And good movie in general. Really good.

How good? This film is up to Marvel standards. That good.

Am I going to spoil it for you? No. You will see some fantastic acting by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine both. You will see some excellent scenes of camaraderie between the cast, some great scenery shots, and some awesome realism.

Yes, realism. In a comic book movie. One of the things I did enjoy about this movie was that people and clothes got torn up and dirtied up … unlike a lot of films where characters just somehow stay looking perfect through the whole thing.

The fight scenes are also quite good. They could have been better, actually, and this is one of my criticisms. One of the early trailers actually showed a single-shot fight scene that, for whatever reason, was cut into a number of cuts in the final movie, which took away from it.

But even with those minor criticisms, the movie was just great. Good characters, awesome action, nice story … Like I said, it felt like a Marvel movie.

Do yourself a favor and just go see it. It’s great.

Oh, and as a side note: If Colony ever becomes a film or a show, Anna versus anyone else would end up looking a bit like Wonder Woman versus regular folks in this film. A dangerous, very capable Amazon.

The Problems with the Arguments Against “The Great Wall”

So, you may have heard of a movie that’s trailer dropped this weekend called The Great Wall. If you haven’t, you should go give the trailer a watch. The film, as you can probably guess, is about the famous landmark of China, and asks the question “What was it built to keep out?”

It turns out, the answer is dragons. Yes, this is a fantasy flick from the director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers (movies that are a bit more known over here, so far from his home). The great wall is built to keep out dragons. I am completely sold.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so impressed. In fact, some people are angry at the film. Why?

Because one of the stars is Matt Damon. Who is, as the detractors have pointed out, white. Which in their eyes makes the film racist. No joke. You can read some of the fire about it here (and I recommend this article over the USA Daily one because this article at least did some research and points out the glaring flaws in the stance, while USA Daily, in what I feel is likely their usual sense of journalistic integrity, couldn’t be bothered to fact check anything).

Now I’m not going to get into the factual inaccuracies of the mud being slung at Hollywood for this, except to point out the obvious: This is a film made in China by film production companies based in China. Not Hollywood. They have little to do with this outside of distributing the film in the US. So the blame for them is pointless.

No, what I want to point out is the delicious hypocrisy of the backlash against this movie, which is, alongside the everyday usual racist commentary, declaring that movies should be more diverse in their casting and look outside their box.

Completely missing that this is what the film is doing.

Let’s look at this for a minute. We have a film made in China by a talented Chinese director. The movie stars a number of major film stars in China, who are all—wait for it—surprisingly (yes, that is sarcasm) Chinese. And alongside those individuals, for diversity (oh, that beloved buzzword), Zhang has also cast someone who isn’t a major Chinese actor: Matt Damon. Along with three other actors from around the world such as Pedro Pascal and Numan Acar.

So we have a movie set in China, filled with actors from China, and one “white man” (Wu’s words, not mine). Plus the three other actors from around the world. Which … oddly enough, would be diversifying the cast a little.

So, surprise surprise, the backlash against this film doesn’t pass the flip test. Yet again.

As for me? I look forward to seeing the flick. Dragons versus The Great Wall. I’m sold on the concept, and I’ve quite enjoyed some of Zhang’s other movies, so I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy this one.

Whether or not you want to see the film, just … do yourself a favor and ignore the made-up, hypocritical “controversy” that really boils down to an American Social Justice movement attempting to exert control via it’s values over a foreign film studio (Oh hey, that sounds a lot like western imperialism …). It’s hypocrisy, it’s pointless, and it’s really not worth much of our time.

Captain America: Civil War

Spoilers will be below the break. Don’t pass that point if you don’t want them.

So, I literally, just now walked in the door from my showing of Captain America: Civil War. So, as this is above the break, here’s my spoiler-free thoughts.

First, the movie was great. If you liked the last few films from Marvel, and in particular The Winter Soldier (Cap’s last solo outing), you’ll like this one too. Especially if you liked Winter Soldier. That knife’s edge it walked, of tension, humor, lightheartedness and seriousness? Civil War walks it as well. Even better, personally.

Cinematography was great, especially for the fights. Yes, there was a little shaky-cam in the opening that had me a little worried, but it turns out to be a stylistic choice only for that portion of the movie. The rest of the film is clear and concise with its camera work. The music? Also pretty good. It didn’t do a great job sticking in my head the way Winter Soldier‘s theme did, but at the same time there was nothing dead about it either. It complimented the on-screen visuals and emotions pretty well.

The film honestly does a great job with its storytelling—better, in fact, than the last Avengers film (Age of Ultron). Ultron had its moments, and it was grand, but there was a faint sense that things were moving to fast, that parts of the story were whizzing along at a pace that was just a little to much for the rest of the film. Which, to be fair, isn’t hard to understand. Ultron dealt with what, almost a dozen characters and plotlines, bringing them together into one big collision?

Well, Civil War shows that Marvel has taken lessons from what did and didn’t work with Ultron, and the results are excellent. This is actually a complicated story—moreso than the trailers would ever lead you to believe, but I never got the sense that anything was being rushed. Instead, the story flowed from point to point incredibly organically. Maybe it’s just that the movie clicked with my storytelling style, but Marvel did a great job taking a bunch of different plot threads and weaving them together tighter and tighter until you go “Aha! So that’s what’s going on!” And there were several such moments in the film, judging by the noise from the audience. Marvel’s learned from Ultron, and what it did wrong, Civil War does right

But with that … there are a few caveats. First is that for a Captain America film … it’s really Avengers 3. Some might disagree with me, but for a film that’s under the name of Cap himself … a lot of time is spent on all the other members of the team.

Is this a bad thing? Well, no, and like I said, they handle it masterfully. But by about fifteen minutes into the movie, I did find myself wondering “Is this a Captain America movie? Or an Iron Man movie? Oh wait, maybe it’s Avengers.”

You still get a lot of Cap, don’t get me wrong. And like I said, the movie isn’t bad. But don’t expect to just see Cap’s angle of this story. In fact, I’ll be curious to see what the results are when someone breaks down the screentime of each character.

And that plays into my other caveat: Marvel’s films should not be digested standalone, and Civil War is moreso that than any other film so far. Seeing Civil War without watching the rest of the Marvel film mythos at this point would be like watching Return of the Jedi first: you’d be left with a lot of character development and plot threads being tied up that you didn’t even get.

Watching Civil War at this point without having watched the prior films would be similar. You’d be out in the cold on a lot of what’s come before. Sure, you’ll enjoy the fights and the spectacle, but a lot of the interaction between characters would be empty without those prior experiences. If you’re not the type who has watched the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, either wait until Civil War is out on DVD or go catch up. Otherwise, you’re going to walk out of the movie thinking that it was all action and no real story or character. That, or be that person in the audience who asks everyone around them questions most of the audience already knows because they did see the other films.

Right, that’s my two cents. Awesome, but definitely deeply into the Marvel lore. Now, for spoilers.

Oh, one last note. Despite what the internet claims (at least as of my showing), there is an after-the-credits scene, so stay in your seat, okay? Wait until the very end.

Spoiler thoughts below the break:

Continue reading