Episode 146 – Avenging Avengers of Vengeance

May 10, 2012

Click to listen to Avengers Podcast

I should have hated The Avengers. By all rights it’s a film that should have sank under its own bloated, overly ambitious weight. It should have been a complete mess.

This collection of heroes don’t even seem to belong in the same film. They each operate by their own set of superhero rules. Some are merely “costumed heroes” (Iron Man, Black Widow) and others are literally gods (Thor).

Conventional wisdom would say you can have one or the other in a film, but not both. You wouldn’t have, say, Batman or Spiderman fighting Cthulhu or Jesus for instance (but maybe that’d be awesome).

Even the two Avengers given superpowers through scientific intervention, Captain America and The Hulk, are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Assuming you can swallow the basic concept that some super rays can make a dude super strong, the way it’s done with the good Captain is at least vaguely believable. He’s still a man. An enhanced, super man, but just a man. It’s a pill, but it’s still small enough to go down without choking you (and by “you” I mean “me”).

In contrast, The Hulk is just patently absurd. And even if I can swallow this big green (why green?) pill in his own film, when he’s standing beside these other heroes he just looks silly. Though not as silly as the guy dressed up in an exotic dancer’s idea of a viking costume.

The Hulk simply raises a few questions in my mind. Why is he green? Why does anger trigger his metamorphosis? Why is he green? Why don’t the physical laws of conservation of mass apply to him and his pants? And why is he green?

All this is to say, the movie should have been too hard to swallow. But here’s the thing.

Joss Whedon is a freaking wizard.

He can take a bad idea (like giving the absolutely worst character from Buffy The Vampire Slayer his own show) and spin it into gold. With his twin superpowers of witty banter and ensemble dynamics—possibly the same superpower—it almost doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, he can suck you in and make you care about absurd characters in ridiculous situations.

His unique wizardry can make you forget:

  1. Loki is a completely lame villain with completely nonsensical goals. Why does he want to rule a planet that he seems to hold nothing but contempt for? Near as I can tell it’s because he can do a maniacal grin fairly well. When that’s your only salable skill, you might as well try to take over some planet or other.
  2. The film doesn’t really have any plot to speak of. There’s a threat. A team is assembled to neutralize the threat. They neutralize the threat in a fairly linear fashion. If there wasn’t witty banter to tie all the predictable plot points together, it would have been… well, it pretty much would have been a Michael Bay film.
  3. Samuel L. Jackson has completely forgotten how to act but has become very adept at phoning-in his performances. A skill he no doubt picked up on the set of Star Wars. Seriously. I’m convinced the L stands for Lethargic. If not downright Lazy.
Whedon’s trademark humanistic approach to the supernatural makes you forget that what you’re watching  is essentially just another cliché summer blockbuster. Because instead of superheros battling the forces of evil, you’re watching a group of people learning how to live with each other; you’re watching a series of universal human moments everyone can relate to.

Ultimately, you could excise all the action sequences from this movie and still have something worth watching.

Try doing that with Transformers.


Episode 96 – Vampire Cage Match

January 7, 2011

The whole point of this episode was to make it up to people who were upset by our treatment of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in our Buffy episode. Because, really, one of the other two is the obvious biggest hurdle. In hindsight, this is probably not going to appease the Buffsters. And Twihards (not to mention the abomination that are Twilight Moms) probably aren’t going to be happy either. There’s no recasting this time around at least.

Vampire fans might question why the Anne Rice Lestativerse isn’t on the card here. Blade and Underworld and good old Dracula as well could probably have cases made for them being bigger nerd hurdles than either Buffy or Trueblood. And people would be right to question our oversight. But let’s be honest, there’s only one franchise we were ever going to name as the biggest hurdle winner of Round 3 (not to spoiler the episode, but take a wild guess).

Throwing Blade into the mix might have monkey-wrenched the outcome we were carefully rigging. Because, goddamn, that Blade is hella nerdy. Heck, Westley Snipes is a hurdle unto himself.

Underworld though probably isn’t popular enough to be in the running for Ultimate Hurdle and Dracula is somewhat (for some uncomprehendable reason) universally loved.

We should probably have  talked more about the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat novels in the episode. Because they remain primarily a literary fandom instead of a film franchise, getting into her world is by definition a nerd hurdle. Also the popular perception her books are written only for velvet-caped goths is going to keep many people away. Truly, the Anne Rice books could have been in the running. If not for the existence of the clear winner.

There’s surprisingly few Twilight Vs. Trueblood videos out there. This one seemed pretty funny at 2am on New Years.

The song that plays during the cage match “promo” and at the end of the episode is “Yo-Yo- Daddy-O” by superPOP and can be downloaded at the Arachnidiscs Free Downloads page.


Episode 60 – Buffy

April 9, 2010

With the exception of Firelfy / Serenity, the Season 4-6 arc of Buffy The Vampire Slayer has to be Joss Whedon’s greatest achievement. Perhaps the greatest achievement of television. Ever.

Which is why people have been asking us to an episode of Buffy pretty much since we started the podcast. Clearly they wanted to hear our considered opinions, our thoughts, and our musings on Yvette’s Bridal and Dinosaur Porn. Because that’s what they’re getting. Both are more frightening than almost anything on Buffy. Except this guy.

Terrible web design, cockroach bodied demons and weird asian porn fetishes are scary enough, but to witness true horror you’re going to need to watch some Today’s Special:


Episode 40 – You Can’t Take This Guy From Me (Firefly)

November 20, 2009

Joss Whedon’s Firefly was probably the best sci-fi television show ever. To be cancelled after half a season. By Fox (those bastards). It might have proved to be the best sci-fi show ever, period, if it’d been picked up by another network but it wasn’t. All we got was 14 episodes and a movie (Serenity). Fans of the show were heartbroken.

I wasn’t one of the heartbroken. I was part of the problem. I never watched Firefly when it was on the air because it was a huge nerd hurdle for me. Not because it was sci-fi but because I had no idea it was sci-fi. I heard the words “Joss Whedon” and “Firefly” and assumed it was another Buffy spin-off like Angel, but maybe about Willow or some other wiccan lesbians. Though I loved Buffy, I didn’t care for Angel, so I never checked out Firefly. And not many other people did either.

Then, after it was cancelled, I heard it was really good. One of the best TV shows ever. My ears pricked up. Then I heard it was “space cowboys” and my ears pricked back down. Cowboys are a huge hurdle for me. I like the odd western (usually starting a young Clint Eastwood) but generally I don’t care for the genre. It’s why it took me so long to watch the excellent Deadwood. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like modern-day cowboy culture and thereby associate “westerns” with redneck douchebags. And I don’t care for the music. Such as the Firefly theme:

Then it was explained to me that the show isn’t so much about space cowboys as space outlaws and once again my ears were pricked. So a couple of years ago, several years after it was cancelled, I finally sat down to tackle Firefly.

I wasn’t disappointed. True, I wasn’t hooked from the first episode, but by the third I couldn’t stop watching if I tried. The show’s strength is that it’s blessed with probably the best ensemble cast ever assembled. Where other classic ensembles (TNG, Buffy) took a good three or four seasons to hit their stride, the cast of Firefly hit the ground running. The chemistry couldn’t have been improved in a laboratory. Check out the gag reel at the bottom of this post. It’s hard to believe these people were practically strangers.

Though there is certainly an outlaw/western feel to the show, it’s all the aspects of westerns I enjoy. They’re more dust-bowl pirates than cowboys. In a way it’s like Pirates of the Caribbean set on the Millenium Falcon instead of the Black Pearl. If it’d been sold to me that way, I’d have been watching from day one.

Instead the show was pitched as “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” Um. Okay. That’s cool and all, but it’s sounds like Waiting for Godot staged on Discovery One. This show isn’t that at all. Perhaps the exact opposite. It’s an adventure-comedy of the highest grade. And well worth the hurdle.


%d bloggers like this: