Ethnic Superhero Season, or What Michelle Rodriguez Can Teach Us About Believability

Virtually any time that something happens at the intersection of Black people and comics, I get a message on Facebook. That’s because my friends love me, I’m sure, but it occasionally leads me to be inundated with eight or nine messages about the same thing. Take, for example, this video of Michelle Rodriguez, which was sent to me by about twelve people a month ago:

In the video, Michelle offers a few choice words on diversity in casting: “Stop stealing white superheroes.” It caused a bit of an uproar in some circles, and Michelle made a video clarifying her statements. But first, let’s address the premise itself. Are all of these superheroes, “originally” white, whose races are being changed, being stolen? First, a superhero is functionally a mythological entity (yes, they are—I will fight you), and cannot be stolen. They can, however, be appropriated, and this may be closer to what Rodriguez meant. My initial reaction was confusion, both personal and academic. As an individual, I was confused at why another person of color objects to the practice of diversifying white characters, especially Green Lantern who has already seen a Latino character—Kyle Rayner—in a print run.

Academically, I was confused because the notion that white characters can be “stolen” or “appropriated” when they are primarily what’s made available to young people of all races, while even our fantasies are “regulated by white believability” is troubling. Even more than that, myths are shaped, stolen, borrowed, passed around, and stripped for parts regularly. That’s their nature and cannot be separated from their purpose. It’s what they do. If you don’t believe me, on the left is a picture of Chinese Jesus.

There’s no universe in which I’m sad that Thor is a woman in the newest print run, and I don’t feel that men have lost anything; Thor was a man for all comic print runs beforehand (except for that time he was a frog). A little turnabout is fair play. Similarly, I’m not upset that Heimdall was played by Idris Elba or that Johnny Storm is being played Michael B. Jordan. I’m not even upset that Donald Glover keeps teasing us with this Spider-Man thing, or that Tyrese Gibson keeps telling us how ready he is to play Green Lantern (although I wish they’d stop teasing us, I’m getting chafed over here).

Continue reading

Resident Evil: Retribution

Before I get into this, I just want to say I love the cover poster for this movie. “Evil Goes Global.” Right. Because it wasn’t global before or anything. Oh, wait… No…

I know this review is really late, considering that the movie’s been out for a few weeks now, and this isn’t out of laziness on my part. I honestly didn’t notice when it was first released, and I daresay that I could have spent the rest of my life not knowing what happened and missed out on nothing. But this movie has managed to present me with a valuable question.

It’s no secret that the Resident Evil movies suck. I think we all know that. Even if you like them, which I do, it doesn’t make them good movies. The amount of inconsistencies and badness just keep piling and piling on top of each other, until all you’re left with is a giant, convoluted mess, the plot of which your brain can barely keep up with. It is my personal belief that Paul W. S. Anderson knows this too, but we’re already five movies into the series, and it’s kind of too late to fix stuff now. As a result, I think Anderson just decided to make the movie as over the top as possible, so that at the very least it can be enjoyable.

So here’s my question: can I hate a movie for failing so hard when it clearly isn’t even trying?

Well, okay, yes, I can. I can totally hate it for wasting valuable money to go see it. But do I hate this movie?

Well… yes.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be buying it when it comes out, though.

Continue reading

Trailer Tuesdays: Resident Evil Retribution

I never really got into the games for Resident Evil, with the exception of the forth one, which I played in Japanese, though they kept the English voice actors; however, despite my rampant not knowledge, I’m pretty sure I know a tad more about them Paul W. S. Anderson. When the first movie came out, it didn’t seem too bad, and I hadn’t yet realized that Alice wasn’t a character in the games. I actually confused her with Lisa and waited patiently for her to turn into a zombie, but that didn’t happen, because Lisa appeared for about two seconds and then died.

It was then that I realized Alice was a completely original character who had nothing to do with anything.

And while the first movie or two may have been passable, at this point in the franchise, Resident Evil is beyond redemption without a complete reboot. The movies now feel as though Anderson cannot separate Alice from his wife in his own head and just wants to make her look amazing for an hour and a half. The last movie barely had a story; it just showed off how kickass Alice was despite her not-powers, which still let her do superhuman feats. And more than half that movie felt as though it existed for the sake of 3D, and 3D doesn’t make a story. Nor does it give Alice any kind of personality that she so desperately needs.

The movies and games have nothing in common anymore, outside a few named characters, and every once in a while little tidbits from the games are thrown in, which just confuse people. Because they don’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t played the games, and people who have played them sit there thinking, “That doesn’t belong.”

So let’s talk about the trailer, which tries to trick us the exact same way the trailer for Resident Evil Extinction did, only now instead of a casino, we have some iPhone commercial telling us to imagine what life would be like without technology. That seems like the wrong thing to imagine in this situation, given that technology didn’t die with the rest of humanity in the movies. Hell, looking at the Alice clones and self-destruction of the Umbrella bases and everything else they have, I’d say technology is doing pretty good.

Here’s something that might make an emotional impact: how about imagining what life will be like when everyone you know is dead and trying to consume you for dinner. I know I personally won’t be thinking “Damn, I miss the internet” if my parents ever try eating my face off.

And this may be nitpicking, but I’m pretty sure given the time frame of the first two movies, that the iPhones it’s telling us to imagine not having wouldn’t have ever been invented. The beginning is just a waste of space, but hey, I hope someone got paid well for that product placement.

Also, I know she does this every movie, but does she absolutely have to say, “My name is Alice”? We’re five movies in; I’m sure we all know who she is by now.

And then there’s Michelle Rodriguez, who dies in every movie she’s in. And in case you’re wondering, yes, she was in the first movie, and she died there too. I guess she’s back, because why not? Continuity?

I can only hope that they wrap up the series after this one. And then maybe we’ll get a reboot that has the decency to at least make some sense.