ShushCon 2017 Post-Mortem, Part 1: Welcome to the Nightside

“A macabre and thoroughly entertaining world.” – Jim Butcher

So there’s this British guy who penned one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads. His name’s Simon R. Green. His story’s called The Nightside and it revolves around a magical private eye who wouldn’t know a clue if it bit him, a blizzard’s worth of memorably special snowflakes, and the gaudy, grand, grimy secret heart of London – a square mile of Hell that’s so much bigger than it should be.

I could write a whole series of posts on the Nightside alone.

I got into it before the Dresden Files and, honestly, I kinda miss it more than I anticipate the next Dresden book.

SAMSUNG
I’m sorry, Jim. Please don’t hate me.

It’s a devilishly clever, fast-paced series riddled with interesting characters, quintessentially British humor, and more cultural references than you can shake a stick at. I actually gave it most of its TVTropes page back in the day. Two of my all-time favorite books – Agents of Light and Darkness and Just Another Judgment Day – come from the Nightside, as do three of my favorite scenes in all of literature. The earliest of those scenes, which takes place in Agents, I read while blasting Nightwish’s End of All Hope.

It’s a series practically Taylor-made (hyuck hyuck) for the Fate roleplaying system.

I’m a pretty obsessive game master. I’ve got core books and supplements for Eclipse Phase, Nights Black Agents and Delta Green, and a bevy of .pdfs collected over the years. I’m tentatively poking Shadowrun with a stick. I don’t branch out much.

What I’m saying is I took the Nightside and crammed it into the Dresden Files RPG. It’s based on Fate. Close enough, right?

pbc
Like chocolate and peanut butter.

In the process, I mostly shucked off the actual background fluff of the system, ditched a couple mechanics, and basically just kept its stats and character sheets. Because I’m a bad person.

The end result played pretty well though. I’ll probably re-tool it for actual Fate play, give or take whatever I can scrape from the supplements (I like having more stats than standard Fate seems to allow).

I basically took Agents of Light and Darkness and broke up John Taylor and Shotgun Suzie’s roles to include Tommy Oblivion, Dead Boy, and Julien Advent; all major characters introduced later on in the series. I would’ve included Razor Eddie and Ms. Fate, but that seemed like it was a bridge too far. Eddie is a walking Plot Device and I don’t know how well Ms. Fate would’ve gone over Down South (although I’m thinking of statting her up anyway just to use her if I ever run the game elsewhere). I also thought about including Chandra Singh, the Indian paladin from Just Another Judgment Day, but I couldn’t think of a good way to include him that didn’t horn in on Julien Advent’s territory.

The translations from named characters to anonymous high concepts and aspects were pretty easy.

  • John Taylor = The Occult Detective
  • Shotgun Suzie = Shotgun-Toting Bounty Hunter (could stand to re-title this one)
  • Tommy Oblivion = The Existential Detective
  • Dead Boy = Revenant with a Really Cool Car
  • Julien Advent = Superpowered Victorian Adventurer
  • Fate = Non-Binary Superhero (that or Transgender Batman; I’m still mulling it over)

I’m curious as to how the Superhero would’ve worked, but maybe if and when I run it again I’ll have more to say there.

The Occult Detective was a social dynamo and manipulator in the test run but ended up being an intimidating Sight-wielder with a family obsession in the actual con. The Bounty Hunter helped make the test run but nobody wanted it at the con. The Existential Detective was a wild card in both sessions, the Victorian Adventurer was always the first one to stand up to the angels, and the Revenant was defined by their car. More on all that later.

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Rogue What

So the fiancée and I decided to go out and see Rogue One for our engagement anniversary. I’ll preface this whole review by saying: It had its flaws, but it was still worth the money. Go see it.

That said, I still had a pretty lukewarm reaction to it.

Probably minor spoilers ahead; I don’t think I give anything away about the plot, but consider yourself warned anyway.

I think the biggest flaw overall was the movie’s inability to commit to itself; it could’ve been either a good Star Wars movie or  good not-Star Wars movie, but it couldn’t do both. It felt like they were trying to go full grimdark, be super mature, and then chickened out halfway. It was like a dime-a-dozen dystopia. And it didn’t help that the soundtrack – while full of the classic Star Wars goodness – felt out of place with the movie itself. Another thing I noticed was the dissonance of the main character.

To be clear here, I fucking love a good female protagonist. I’ve gotten into many a long nerd fight over how awesome Rey is.

rey-lightsaber
This remains one of my happiest moments as a geek and a movie goer.

Jyn Erso ain’t Rey.

Rey got down in the dirt, was established from the beginning as a scrapper, had a steady – and good – character arc throughout The Force Awakens. She was in tune with the environment around her, getting banged up and sweaty and just plain grimy like everyone else. Jyn Erso had none of that. The movie felt like it was trying to make her into an epic-level badass but she came up short on every single front. She radiated a kind of juvenile vulnerability any time the scene called for strength – and this was the big, continuous argh I had with her. Every single scene where she’s supposed to be awesome, she just plain isn’t. Anytime I’m supposed to care about her, I don’t.

She felt like a knockoff Katniss Everdeen; the dime-a-dozen protagonist of that dime-a-dozen young adult dystopia.

She isn’t the only one I had this problem with. It was just more obvious with her because she had more screen time. Cassian Andor was similarly dissonant on just about every font. He’s introduced in the manner of a grimmer, darker Han Solo, but he never follows through on any of the expectations established in his introduction. His big moment of doubt and introspection falls flat, becoming totally inconsequential five seconds after he has it for reasons I don’t want to spoil. Everything about him feels like the dime-a-dozen protagonist’s dime-a-dozen romantic interest in that aforementioned dime-a-dozen young adult dystopia. The only thing I really liked about the guy was the fact that he spoke a different accent from the Space British.

Other than that, there were just too many little nods to continuity. One or two would’ve been great. When it gets to the point where I want to make a drinking game out of it, you need to stop and reassess which of those nods is actually worth keeping. In that respect, the movie felt kind of like a reasonably well done piece of fan fiction; it filled in the gaps on a tiny part of canon, and was pretty creative about doing so, but ultimately it doesn’t mean much and you’re just fine without ever knowing it exists.

Now, with all that griping out of the way, there were things I really, really, really freaking loved.

The big one was Donnie Yen.

This tells you everything you need to know about Donnie Yen. He’s basically the next Jet Li, except he has more crossover appeal and he goes above and beyond traditional wushu in his choreography. His fight scenes, in general, are just a joy to watch. On top of all that, he’s also a pretty decent actor even when he’s not suplexing people on naked concrete.

He and Jiang Wen freaking carry any scene they’re in – not just for action sequences, but as actual characters. You can tell that they have lives outside of Jyn Erso’s story, you can tell that they’re bona fide people. I honestly want to see the Chinese version of this film just because they’ll probably get more screen time in it, hopefully with a full-on arc of their own. If Rogue One had been about Yen and Wen’s characters, Baze and Chirrut, it would’ve been ten times better right out the gate.

I can’t help but wonder if Yen’s creative control over Chirrut is the main reason he ended up being such a good, lively character compared to the main pair. It reminds me of Harrison Ford and Han Solo, except nicer than Ford telling Lucas he can’t write his way out of a paper bag.

I also really liked K-2SO. He had the best introduction out of anyone, and provided most of the movie’s actual humor, even if some of it got a little overboard at times. I can’t really say too much else about him since his best moments are all spoilers. The only time he really fell flat was when he had positive interactions with Jyn. And to be fair to K-2SO, that happened to everyone but Chirrut.

The CGI in general was top notch, but they might want to cool it with the makeovers and the resurrected actors. Tarkin was good until I saw his face. The other character given that treatment was straight-up uncanny valley after the first couple of seconds. I get that Disney is testing this technology for the long game (thereby making it possible to give us Robert Downey Junior as perfectly middle-aged Iron Man forty years from now), but the tech isn’t quite there yet and it takes more away than it adds.

So, yes.

Go see it but don’t expect a masterpiece. If somebody held my feet to the fire, I’d give it a solid 7.5 or 8 out of 10.

The Fault in our Strats

As I mentioned on a web board I’m pretty fond of, I’m starting to think the Trump’s Ego argument is faulty, along with any strategy aimed at exploiting it.

The basic idea is that Trump is so egotistical it’ll lead to missteps and errors that a savvy enough opponent could exploit. It’s predicated on the assumption that Trump himself is completely un-self-aware; that the man is so completely lost in his own narcissism that he probably can’t find his way to the bathroom each morning. Nearly every assumption I’ve seen written based on it has fallen flat, especially those that assume he’ll come into conflict with the Republican Party.

Or, to put this another way:

Donald Trump had to agree to this.

Stop and think about that. Pro-wrestling is fake, as any three-year-old or above will tell you. The character of Stone Cold Steve Austin is built from the ground up as a raging redneck anti-authoritarian. Trump has spent his entire career, and probably most of his life in general, building himself up to be an authority figure. You can stop here and say, “But he was paid to do this!” and you’d almost certainly be right, even if Trump is pretty friendly with the McMahon family et al (he did, after all, appoint Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration – one of his few genuinely good appointments, in my opinion).

Here’s the thing though: According to Austin himself, that whole thing was not planned in advance. According to a Men’s Journal interview from earlier this year, Vince McMahon asked Trump to go through with it at the very last second. Trump went over his own advisor and said yes. In other words, he volunteered for this. He volunteered to be humiliated in front of a screaming crowd of 80,000 people that ate it up.

That is not the action of a man so egomaniacal that you can count on it for strategic purposes, as Hillary Clinton did. There’s almost certainly something wrong with him, sure; it takes a special kind of crazy to run for president, let alone to go against a field of nearly thirty other candidates between both parties, to subvert longstanding conservative movement traditions and icons, to (probably) collaborate with a rival nation, and to pander to the most unpleasant elements of his base while selling a false bill of goods to the rest. That’s frickin’ insane no matter how you slice it.

But I don’t think I buy into the idea of Trump being the narcissistic blowhard he plays on TV and social media. Whatever he really is, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s someone cynical and smart enough to employ smokescreen tactics almost 24/7 – every single offensive comment on Twitter, for instance – while everyone else is dumb enough to think they can use him for their own ends.

As I’ve written before, kayfabe is a thing and Trump’s done a bang-up job of figuring out how to use it.

Hat tip to Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite for the realization that everyone is trying to use Trump for their own ends; I can’t recommend their election takes highly enough. Added kudos to Hite for being an American conservative who opposes Trump, and to both of them for having a good podcast in general.

Things You Can Get Away With When You’re Old

Disclaimer: This isn’t actual, full-bore academic writing. Yet. This is a transitional start-to-tone-it-down, shake-the-cobwebs-off post. I still ramble a fair bit.

Picture this: A murder surreal and a work of words blurring the lines between dueling narratives. It takes about 635 words – a man sits down to read a novel and opens himself up to assassination from an unknown malefactor operating in concert with an illicit lover. You, the reader, never realize what’s actually happening until the knife is about to go in.

In a nutshell, that’s what happens in Julio Cortázar’s Continuity of the Parks. Originally published in 1967 as part of an anthology called Blow Up and Other Stories, or La Casa Tomada y Otros Cuentros for those inclined to find it in Spanish. It reads like an early example of modern-day flash fiction. I had the pleasure of going over this one for my first class as a graduate student and, for all that it’s a short, easy read, it was a doozy. Let’s get right to the point.

Fancy Dagger
This is probably my last visual pun for the semester so I’m making it count.

There were three major interpretations I noticed in today’s discussion.

  • The events happened exactly as written, all in the real world (I was a part of this particular group).
  • It was a case of freaky metatextual murder and/or…
  • It was a case of freaky metatextual suicide (which, I think, ended up being the majority by a landslide).

I read Cortázar’s story as a straightforward murder, possibly even a suicide by romantic rival, driven by the killer’s passion for the unnamed female character. In this instance, Cortázar got to use something I’ve never been able to get away with, and which I generally discourage other writers from using as a consequence: He doesn’t break the action up.

As of this writing, the .pdf file includes a single paragraph break which may or may not be present in the original print; I did a bit of searching for both the English and Spanish versions and both of them provided versions with the break. In any event, it’s basically one or two big blocks of text. The end result is a seamless narrative that offers no chance to disengage, no ability to easily stop and reorient yourself when the scenery changes. You don’t get to step out of the action and form a new thought.

In a longer novel, I don’t think this would work. Even for a conventional ~1500-3000 word short story it’d probably be very iffy at best. Cortázar’s nascent flash fiction hits a sweet spot at 635 words, and the credibility he has as a published author from what’s now a bygone era means he can basically get away with anything he wants regardless.

This may sound petty, but if I or another unpublished writer tried this today, the trick would probably go right over the head of anyone likely to read it – I’ve actually had something like this happen before where I swapped certain characters and points of view around in a novel or short story and none of my readers caught it or liked it. Another of my writer friends has a treasured short story with a twist that she can’t reveal until the end, similar in scope and execution to Cortázar here, but virtually every reader she’s had outside of a single captive audience has disliked it.

Perhaps that’s a function of the wording that Cortázar uses, much of which is poetic in translation and intensely focused on sensuality and imagery, but I honestly don’t think so. I think it’s more a function of credibility. Older artwork, including the written word, has a sort of instant credibility to it. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt even if we normally wouldn’t. Stepping outside of the literary box, this almost seems to be an inherent feature of our species – we defer to our elders on certain things, especially if it yields us any kind of advantage, real or imagined.

Sure, you might say, we go through our rebellious years. But at the end of the day we often fall back on rationales of tradition to justify everything from the quality of a work or philosophy to the continuation of a law. See Aristotle, who was flat-out wrong on so many things, yet he’s still held in astonishingly high regard as a bedrock of Western Philosophy – and rightfully so, if you’ve got any sense of history. See Adam Smith, whose Invisible Hand theory of economics gets discredited into oblivion every other generation only to sneak back in under a new name. A lot of the time, it helps that most people don’t actually read or listen to the so-called classics; they may have only a token exposure to them and generally have no opinion beyond It’s great and all but it’s really boring. This is probably not an accident. In many ways, academic veneration of old works reminds me of recent controversies involving modern-day fandoms – it’s sort of like a gatekeeping mechanism, an easy way of saying This is more cultured than That; I know more about This than You; therefore I am more cultured than You; listen to me.

Swap some words around and you’ve got Gamergate or white male nerds griping about the influx of female and minority characters in comics and games. Squint and shuffle the goal posts a bit and you’ve got the essence of many complaints about Black Lives Matter.

Miles Morales
Here’s your new Odysseus. Or Job. Pick one.

What I’m trying to say is that Cortázar, and all of the other previously published writers and musicians and artists; all the venerable creators of yesteryear are not inherently better or worse than you or I. They get away with things we can’t not because of any superlative qualities of their work, but because they did it before most of us were born. Their work endures because the manuscripts survived and they got lucky enough for someone in the right time and place to evangelize them.

Tens of millions of others didn’t get those opportunities. I’d wager that we’ve lost or overlooked unfathomable talents over the ages; men and women whose works would make Shakespeare and Beethoven, Aristotle and Smith look like a bunch of lousy amateurs. Now that we’ve arrived in an age of easy creativity, mass media, and mass consumption, I’d also wager that number’s going to skyrocket.

Hopefully at least a few of the talents who do get recognized will be able to get away with intentionally neglecting to insert a paragraph break every now and then, as Cortázar does. And when they do, hopefully they’ll be recognized for doing something clever and unconventional, as opposed to being griped at for deviating from the norm.

Incidentally

So I’m still alive.

I also quit my job of four years.

I also moved across three states.

I also got my first political thing published.

I’m also in grad school now.

I’m also querying a bucketload of agents, magazines, and even the occasional podcast or two.

I’m also trying to make sure I get at least one thing published every single month.

It’s a busy, fun, hectic, nightmarish, great, fantastic, awful, wonderful time to be alive. For all that’s going on right now, I haven’t been his productive or optimistic in years.

This blog will continue to be the dumping ground of my brain, but I’ll also be using it for School Things from time to time. The grad school-related posts will be less off-the-cuff, more formal and actually intended for intellectual discourse. They’ll even be formatted to meet academic standards. Feel free to read them even if that’s not your usual thing!

The non-grad school-related posts will remain an oddball mixture of talking shop, thinking about politics, poking at history, and rambling incoherently across a wide range of subjects. Sometimes you might even see all of these things in one post.

Like the next one.

I’ll hit the big fancy Publish button on it tomorrow.

okay
This is basically my response to everything right now.

Pondering Political Strategy

Fun fact for you: According to a study commissioned by the Palm Center back in 2014, there are (or were) somewhere around 15,000 transgendered people serving in the American military; another 134,000-ish veterans are also believed to be transgendered. According to that study, the overwhelming majority tend to be male-to-female. Even if you throw that out, it’s worth noting that at least one member of the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden is transgendered, as is one of the highest-ranking civilians dealing with energy issues for the military.

Courtesy of HB2, none of these people can use the right bathroom if they go to North Carolina.

Why Cat
This is the only picture here. Enjoy it.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I don’t really have to go into detail on all the economic and social repercussions that North Carolina is facing right now; there’s a deluge of stories covering everything from Bruce Springsteen to PayPal and more. But what I can offer you is a possible long-view on why HB2 and bills like it keep getting pushed by state legislatures.

Put bluntly: The transgender bathroom issue is a smokescreen intended to move the Overton Window so that when one part of the bill is inevitably struck down, other parts will remain unchallenged, most likely because nobody will focus on anything but the transgendered bathroom issue.

Bear in mind that HB2 does not just target transgendered people – they’re simply the most vulnerable, visible population that it affects. The bill also goes so far as to effectively negate local laws on minimum wage. It also overturns existing local laws concerning discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, or race and prevents cities from making or extending new ones. The Charlotte Observer has a nice rundown if you’re interested.

This isn’t the first time that this sort of thing has happened. It’s just that prior instances of it were mainly aimed at gun laws instead of things like minimum wage or discrimination. Something similar arguably happened with Indiana’s infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act (additional reading here)– it effectively obliterated local laws in favor of state-wide ones, setting a certain precedent that could one day trickle down elsewhere, if it hasn’t already, all while providing a neat social smokescreen in the process. Other examples of this could be seen with the Arkansas RFRA and the Mississippi RFRA.

Proposed bathroom bills in South Carolina and Tennessee are almost refreshingly narrow by comparison – they actually limit their targets to transgendered people, and don’t appear to have a ton of leeway to be used for other purposes. That’s probably one of the main reasons why both states’ governors are pushing back against them. It’s probably also why South Dakota’s governor vetoed a bathroom bill outright. There’s nothing new about being mean-spirited in politics, especially if you have an easy hot-button target that can’t fight back, but if it doesn’t serve an actual strategic point then why bother? Sure, you might shore up some support among the dwindling older segments of your base, but young conservatives are leaning more moderate, if not outright liberal on social issues. They’re already less likely to identify as Republicans than their parents, presumably out of embarrassment for things like this. Wanna make that dissociation worse with nothing to show for it?

I’m of the opinion that the Wage and Hour Act – the part of HB2 that authorizes all of this – is intended to serve as a test bed for future legislative pushes in other states. If anything, HB2 is more honest in its actual intent than the RFRAs and its equivalents in other states – it actually includes the real long-term goal right there in the bill’s text, sandwiched between assorted slabs of nonsense aimed at hurting transgendered people. It’s not that different from how certain investment firms will propose absolutely ludicrous stuff to distract from attempts at splitting a company’s land ownership from their actual business, thereby forcing them to pay rent to themselves and increasing the firm’s profits in the process.

In horribly simple, probably not very accurate story terms, it’s a form of flaw exploitation. You know your opponents will focus on this one thing. Why the hell wouldn’t you try to make use of that to do something else?

And to be fair, it is within a state’s rights as a governing entity to overturn local laws for pretty much any reason. However, it’s worth noting that while most state legislatures right now are dominated by conservatives, a fair number of cities have been getting more and more liberal lately, oftentimes leading the way on certain social issues (see the many pushes for $15-an-hour minimum wage laws, especially in places like New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC; success there pretty much guarantees a measure of success elsewhere).

Now let’s look at this and say I’m a conservative political strategist and I can’t make headway in these major cities for whatever reason. I’m in this for the long haul so my next best bet is to stymie my urban rivals via state legislatures. Since a lot of my base voters don’t actually care about, or even stand to benefit from, minimum wage increases, I’ll wrap my actual goals up in something else, like pro-gun laws or religious freedom.

Odds are pretty good I’ll chant states’ rights and yell really loud about federal encroachment while I do it.

Batman vs. Superman Review

It took me about a week but I finally got around to seeing Batman vs. Superman.

I gotta say it was alright. Perhaps even terminally Alright. I wouldn’t call it a critical meh, but it wasn’t without its flaws. To paraphrase a review I gave it on Facebook: Go see it if you’re a DC fan. If you’re more into Marvel, specifically Marvel’s cinematic universe (with or without the Sony/Fox stuff), skip it.

There’ll be some spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. I’m also a pretty gentle reviewer on comic book movies, so consider yourself warned there as well.

Spoiler
Just pausing to say this was a better Batgirl than Barbara Gordon. Fight me.

Ben Affleck was downright good as Bruce Wayne/Batman, thereby finally earning my forgiveness for the dumpster fire that was his Daredevil movie. He was actually one of the best parts of the movie and did a really good job carrying it overall, even with the bits that weren’t so good. They did something positively revolutionary this day and age by not blowing half the damn film on his freaking backstory, which allowed him to do so much more than he otherwise would have. The on-the-ground depiction of Bruce trying to keep up with Superman v. Zod from the first film was some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in a super hero flick; all that helpless anger was perfectly conveyed. The fact that he was willing to straight-up obliterate people was oddly refreshing, and drew a nice contrast to Superman’s freakout over killing Zod in the first movie.

Gal Gadot, though her screen time was sadly limited and her role was a little tacked on at times, radiated Wonder Woman when she was finally given the chance to throw down near movie’s end. She was okay before that, but when she started hacking bits off the Final Bad, getting chucked through buildings and grinning at the thrill of battle, I actually believed it. She fit. She was Diana, exiled Princess of the Amazons. I’d gladly support her starring in a Wonder Woman movie and hope she gets one.

BvS probably had one of the best Alfreds in the character’s history. He really sold the guy as Bruce Wayne’s grumpy surrogate father, up to and including the harping on Bruce’s life choices. I was pleasantly surprised by Lex Luthor – in no small part because he arguably wasn’t Lex Luthor. Alexander Luthor is a completely different character from the Lex that most people know and feel emotions about, and he really played the Magnificent Bastard aspects of his character to the hilt. Mega points for straight-up deducing Superman’s identity and hitting Clark right in the Kents. He slipped some towards the end, being reduced to a frothy, crazy, Hollywood atheist shadow of his earlier greatness, but I didn’t hold that against him. Luthor always has flimsy motivations when you peel enough layers off. It’s a core aspect of who he is.

Lois Lane was forgettable. I poke at government enough to have found her arc completely unbelievable, and not in an enthralling way. The continuity nods were nice though, and the actress tried to do her best with what she was given, but she was there to serve as an Achilles’ Heel and emotional enabler, not much else. Martha Kent getting dragged in was the real shocker, and one that I as a very jaded viewer did not see coming at all. Kudos to them for going after Superman’s mom and, at least briefly, seeming like they were going to kill her; that almost got me as much as the neckbreak from Man of Steel.

Henry Cavill, sadly, was the weakest member of the cast. He had a bad case of Hayden Christensen Syndrome: The guy is pretty much perfect for the role – he has the look, the presence, the body language, and the silent acting skills to give a stellar performance under the right circumstances – but the dialogue they gave him felt bad and Cavill himself felt like he knew it and had given up on trying to do better with it. At times, this made sense (re: Superman threatening Batman in their first meeting – of course it’d be lame, the guy’s a freaking boy scout trying to intimidate a back alley crank who burns his logo into people’s skin). Most of the time, not so much. He shined the most when he was allowed to be vulnerable, with the sole, glaring exception of when he went 1993 on Doomsday’s ass with the spear. They didn’t do a good enough job building up to that.

They didn’t do a good enough job building up to a lot of things. And I expected as much. I just didn’t expect how.

I said early on – about the same time I heard they were bringing in Luthor and Wonder Woman – that DC and Warner Brothers were trying to do too much with this film. And they were. It would have worked as either a Superman film (exploring his personality, weaknesses, failures, etc) or as a Batman film (which it mostly was; exploring an angry, desperate mortal trying to bring down a living god) or as both, but not with the add-ons. Luthor and Doomsday are headlining acts. You can’t just stick them on the sidelines until you need Clark and Bruce to be buddy-buddy. Wonder Woman felt somewhat tacked on at times, but might or might not have fit in a different movie; jury’s out on that. Trying to cram all that and then throw in build-up to the Justice League (Flash’s time travel, the meta human videos, etc) was just too much.

DC is trying to replicate Marvel’s success without putting in the footwork, and without generating movies that can absolutely stand on their own even without a huge blob of continuity behind them. That might work in the very long run – they’re doing arc-welding a helluva lot more tightly than Marvel did, for better or worse – but it’s going to make for weaker individual films that might threaten the whole project.

In a lot of ways, this almost mirrors the difference between Marvel and DC in comics. DC’s issues are often individually weaker, but if you read them all in grand arcs, they blow Marvel out the water. They’re written for the trade paperback, not the monthly. Marvel does it differently. Their individual issues are often better in one way or another, but their grand arcs have a sad habit of falling flat far more often than DC’s do. There are, of course, exceptions on both sides.

The other big flaw was that they just made up in an instant and Bruce’s after-combat guilt wasn’t really explored at all. I get why, but they didn’t really spend any time on it. It felt rushed, and not in a good oh-shit-we-all-might-die-if-we-don’t-team-up way.

Aside from that, yeah. Plot holes, real or imagined, ran a little rampant (like what the heck happened to Batman’s cyber-suit, for starters), but I’m willing to forgive them. As continuity-heavy as DC is compared to Marvel, some of them will probably come back to be explained in future movies.

And the very ending, with the coffin, was just way off, dude. If you wanna put that much effort into a downer finale, you don’t blow it in the final second of the film like that. You save it, you build up dramatic tension in a sequel, and you have Luthor play god by reviving god to kill something worse.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the next one. Hopefully they’ll do better with it, hopefully they won’t go Super Jesus again, and hopefully they’ll give Batfleck and Gadot Woman movies of their own in the meantime.