I was recently watching Movie Bob’s review of the Doctor Strange movie, and in it, he lamented the fact that all comic book movies are action movies. Which got me thinking: do all genre fiction movies, in general, really have to be action movies? Especially when it might not entirely serve the narrative? Are we missing out on a ton of interesting movies just because writers are afraid to take science fiction and fantasy outside of the actionbox?
With this in mind, there are some recent movies whose plot and character development would definitely have benefited from not being action movies.
First, dear readers, a confession: I never read the Batgirl of Burnside comics, more out of a disinterest in Batgirl as a character and DC’s New 52 as a whole than out of any particular feeling for the aesthetic or storytelling. I bring this up because the creative team from that Batgirl comic (comprised of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr) has found a new home in Motor Crush, an indie comic with a cyberpunk feel that focuses on a motorcycle street racer with a strange problem and everything to lose. It’s my first outing with this particular trio of creators, and I’m mostly having a fun ride of it (that’s a pun, folks) so far.
When I first watched Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid, I was struck by how strongly I connected to the characters. For many of us, I think, it was one of the first shows to really inspire. Not only as a bold continuation of Roddenberry’s vision for the future, but as role models for how to live our lives. Picard, Data, Dr. Crusher, even Wesley all served as early examples of what we aspire to be and how to start living up to that aspiration. But as I grew older, I realized that one character in particular was causing me to think about gender roles and romance in ways I wouldn’t fully understand for years: Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge.
“Oh crap, Picard’s got that ‘I need you to violate the laws of physics’ look on his face again.”
In rewatching those episodes, I have come to understand the character of Geordi LaForge as, among other things, a parable about how easy it is to fall prey to toxic masculinity and how genuine confidence and respect rather than bravado and entitlement are the keys to avoiding it. This was something that takes years for many people to understand, and fortunately, we have years worth of TNG to see Geordi’s masculinity evolve as he begins to understand these things as well.
I really need to cut back on my comics. Lately I’ve been scooping up series after series that have been recommended to me by the one guy at my shop, and it’s starting to get a little out of hand. There’s so much good stuff out there, though! From the feel-good roller derby shenanigans of Slam to the artsy and weird world of The Electric Sublime, comics continue to do cool things.
This recommendation spree began with an indie series called Dept. H, which was recommended to me based on my interest in unique art styles like Christian Ward’s in ODY-C. I wasn’t actually in the market for new books at the time—comics cost money—but the premise and art style were so intriguing that I decided to give it a look anyway. And now, at the risk of making some kind of terrible ocean/fish-based pun, I’m hooked.
“So this proves that, if you whine about a plot hole enough, Lucasfilm will eventually make a movie to fill it,” my friend said to me as the Rogue One credits began to roll. She had a point; while Rogue One was an enjoyable movie, if asked what it added to the franchise, the only hard and fast answer is “an explanation as to why the Empire’s superweapon had such an easily exploitable weak spot”. Ultimately, while Rogue One was a good movie with many strong emotional beats, it never quite made it to great.
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer may not have caused as much public excitement as some of the other female-led sci-fi/dystopian YA series of the past several years, but it doesn’t mean it’s less deserving of our attention. In fact, it’s a very solid series, led by a team of awesome kickass teen heroines. The plot is engrossing and action-packed and has an intriguing twist to boot—the main four books of the series offer loose, but still recognizable, retellings of four well-known fairy tales: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.
Spoilers below for Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (the main four books of The Lunar Chronicles).
Without getting into depressing (and obvious) specifics, I’ve been thinking about fascism lately—specifically the concept of “utopian fascism”. As is often the case when grappling with such issues, I turned to science fiction for a guide. Fortunately, there is a fictional government perfectly suited to explore the question “can democracy and universal prosperity ever be successfully combined with fascism?”: Star Trek’s Federation.
The Federation’s exact political structure is sometimes difficult to pin down, but it seems to be a combination of a democratic interplanetary parliament, a massive military alliance, and a totalitarian bureaucracy.
This isn’t what it looks like.
Now don’t panic! This isn’t going to be super depressing nor is it going to be about space Nazis (unless you count the above-pictured episode TOS episode “Patterns of Force”). When I talk about fascism, I’m talking about the philosophical concept as it dates back to Rome, not the actual horrific reality of modern-day fascism. I am not about to ruin all of our moods by writing some anti-Starfleet propaganda… at least, not too much of it. What I will do is take a look at how the Federation is utopian, how it’s fascist, how (and if) the two can be combined, and what that all says about our vision of a perfect government.