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The Power of the Dog: The Book vs The Movie

Believe it or not, it has been about six months since I last talked about the novel and Netflix Oscar Nominee The Power of the Dog. While I had a few ideas for possible posts, motivation and ideas had stagnated. However, if there was one thing I hadn’t considered doing at the time, despite having read the book not long after seeing the movie, was doing a comparison between the book and movie. Because while the movie did keep pretty close to the book, there were a few differences between the two.

Similarities

Starting off with similarities between the two, as an adaptation, the movie does hold true to elements of the book its based on. There’s the story, characters, and the relationship between said characters.

As for story, it does follow the book pretty faithfully, save for the events behind the death of Rose’s husband and Peter’s father, which I will get to momentarily. It still tells the story of two brothers who are quite different and how George ends up marrying Rose after the death of her husband. And Phil’s torment her throughout is still a prevalent factor.

There’s also how Phil treats Peter throughout the movie. Starting out with picking on/tormenting Peter to the slight shift where he decides to take Peter under his wing (which to some degree was kind of a ploy to isolate Rose). Then it gets to where Phil seems to see a lot of Bronco Henry, a man Phil looked up to and was close to, in Peter.

The characters were pretty consistent from the novel to the movie. How opposing Phil and George are is still there. As is how Rose and Peter react to them.

The focus put on the mountain range, how Phil views Bronco Henry, and the eccentricities of Peter that were pretty accurate. And while the movie has some areas where it has quiet pauses, I think that body language could be used in place of some of the introspective the book had.

Overall, The Power of the Dog as a movie was a pretty faithful adaptation. It kept the characters consistent from the book to the movie, kept the interactions and relationships intact, and it followed the story pretty faithfully minus one or two scenes. However, for how faithful it was, I do feel that it had one or two key differences between the two.

Differences

The main differences would be the details behind the death of Rose’s husband, how that might effect Peter from the viewer’s perspective, and how it uses the third person perspective the novel.

When it comes to the overarching perspective from Phil’s point of view, there are a few instances in the book where it feels like there is more of a focus from Phil’s point of view. Now, the book is written in the third person, so it can lend itself to not having to worry about focusing one character. However, there are a few instances of Third Person Limited perspective, which is where it feels like it focuses mostly on one character.

It does this in two different ways. The first few chapters, where it focuses on Rose’s family and her husband. There it sets up what readers will come to expect with Rose’s family. There’s also a period where it focuses on everybody, or who the scene may call for, like when Rose is moving in with George. Then, at some point, it does feel like this limited third perspective falls on Phil, later on in the book. An example being towards the climax when Peter and Phil are in the farm working on the rope, where it has him reflecting on the last time he was close with anyone (excluding his brother).

In the movie, viewers get a general third person perspective. Some scenes will focus on George and Phil, George and Rose, Rose and Peter, and Phil and Peter, depending on what the scene calls for. If I had to give the movie a character it might have given more of an overarching focus on, it would be Phil. Because, regardless of the fact that Phil is inherently the antagonist of the story, it seems like he is a driving force and focus of what goes on as the story progresses.

Also worth mentioning is the Native American family. If I recall correctly, it was a father and son or grandfather and grandson duo. In the movie, they do have a few scenes, the one where Rose gives them the leather, which Phil was adamant about not selling to them, being the important one. This family does have a few more scenes in the book, with this aforementioned exchange happening as well. I thought I should include that, because while this Native American family does show up, they did have a little more development in the book.

The biggest difference does come in the form of Peter’s father and how that might affect how people perceive Peter in the movie. In the movie, viewers will learn that Peter’s father took his own life. This event shown and is only mentioned in a conversation he and Phil have.

This conversation still happens in the novel. However, the novel addressed this within the first few chapters of it. It sets up who his father is and how he was a doctor and what the motive behind his death was. In the novel, we learn that he does worry about Peter, who at the time wasn’t as healthy as he could be, and was a target of Phil’s jokes. Which was something that had been prevalent in the book later on as well as in the movie when Peter and Rose are living with George.

Without spoiling too much, Peter’s father was worried about Peter, and comments about Peter being a “sissy” were something that really bothered him. And like it was referenced in the later scene in the book and movie, Peter was the one to find his body.

The reason I say that this can effect how viewers might breakdown Peter’s character. I had seen a case made that Peter might have been something of a sociopath and/or having a hand in his father’s death. In the case of him being a sociopath, I’m not entirely sure if that was the case, since I feel like what he did later on in the story could have been a form of trauma response and wanting to protect his mother, who didn’t really stand much of a chance when it came to Phil’s torment. However, that may depend on who you talk to.

As far as Peter having a hand in his father’s death, I can see how that could have been assumed or considered in the movie. Because of how his father’s death is addressed and Peter’s actions later on, along with the theory that Peter might be a sociopath, I could see why some viewers might have deduced that he could have been responsible. That’s not necessarily the fault of the movie, but because viewers never got to see what happened to his father, it could leave itself up to interpretation. Had the movie included a scene addressing his father, be it a scene at the beginning with a time jump to when the movie actually starts or a flashback, I think it might have helped explain things just a little more.

In conclusion, the major differences in the film include how the third person perspective seems to be used and the scene expanding on what happened to Peter’s father. As well as a scene or two more with the Native American family.

Conclusion

Overall, as an adaptation, I would say 2021’s The Power of the Dog Netflix adaptation was a solid and faithful adaptation. It followed a lot of the core elements of the novel it was based on. And though it might not have included some of the context behind the death of Peter’s father, I don’t think that hurt the movie. Though it could lead to some differing interpretations of Peter. All in all, though, I would say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

It’s been a while since I did a review for the Michael Bay Transformers movies (a.k.a. the Bayformers movies). I meant to continue on with it, but other topics came to me a lot quicker and I ended up getting sidetracked. But I’m back now to continue on with the reviews. And with the release of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts coming out next year, now feels like a good time to pick these reviews back up.

With this being the fourth installment in the franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction decided to try new things. New characters were introduced, both human and Cybertronian alike. the Dinobots make their debut. Human/Cybertronian conflicts are picked up and a way to introduce Galvatron was introduced.

This movie was played a lot on FX and it’s sister channels. So much so that I did get around to it thanks to FX, since Dark of the Moon was the last of these movies I watched in theaters and had no interest in doing so with the others.

The Review

I would say that this is a very middle of the road movie. There are things that I liked about it, and things that I didn’t. However, compared to say the first movie or Dark of the Moon, I wouldn’t say it was one that I really enjoyed.

Positive: The Designs

As always, the designs of the Cybertronians is something I enjoyed. Optimus and Bumblebee have stayed relatively the same. Optimus keeps his general look and color scheme with him looking more aged and/or worn at times, while Bumblebee keeps his iconic yellow with a bit more black.

I also liked some of the designs of some of the newer Cypertronians introduced. Mainly Crosshairs. Lockdown has a neat design too, as does Galvatron. Hound’s is pretty solid, and I am mixed about Drift’s. The faces may seem a bit uncanny or too humanoid, which I won’t deny. It does feel a little odd that the faces seem more human and less mechanical. That’s not to say that faces didn’t have aspects that would be considered slightly humanoid in previous movies, it’s just a lot more apparent here.

Either way, most of the designs are pretty solid. And when it comes to Crosshairs’ design, I think what I really liked about the design was how it had that trench coat look in the back. It might seem weird, but I liked how it didn’t seem as dense when he moved. It moved like it was a coat and not metal, if that makes sense. Kind of like it was like the mechanical/metallic version of a coat moving.

Negative: The Plot Feels Disjointed at Times

Is there a plot? Yes. Did each part of said plot seamlessly work into the next? No. While the overarching conflict might have been the hunt for the Autobots and using other Cybertroninas to create a market and the government being involved. That said, it feels like there are three different plot points that just don’t seem to blend into each other that well.

One is the Autobots and Cade Yeager’s group being pursued. Optimus doesn’t want to deal with the humans anymore after everything they put them through. He also wants to retaliate for what they did to Ratchet. And along the way, he find some faith in Cade and his family and wants to figure out what’s going on back on Cybertron.

The second plot point would be the Lockdown portion. Lockdown is hunting down Optimus because their creator is looking for him. This is kind of tied with the whole government perusing Optimus plot, where he’s working with Kelsey Grammer’s character, but for his own purpose. Not because he wants to help them.

Then there’s the whole Dinobot subplot. That one feels the most jarring to me. Because while the Dinobots are neat characters and seem like a cool addition, their introduction doesn’t feel at all natural. But I’ll get into that a bit more in a little.

And somewhere in there there’s Galvatron. Which is a neat addition and a neat way to bring back Megatron. Even if this is the second time he was revived (he was revived in Revenge of the Fallen, lived through Revenge of the Fallen dying in Dark of the Moon, and revived again here).

All of these plot points are fine on their own. However, to me, it doesn’t feel like they worked together as well as they could. It feels like there is a lot going on, but it might not always feel like it connects.

Positive: Introducing New Characters

Granted, some characters were better than others in this movie, but I do think that it was a good idea to start with a new batch of characters. Sam’s story was pretty much told. Though it would have been nice to know what happened to him between this movie and the last (there might be an explanation in a tie in comic or something, I just don’t recall if they addressed it in the movie).

And in terms of Cybertronians, I do think the additions for the most part are neat. Lockdown made for an interesting villain and I do feel like the Autobots introduced were neat in their own ways. Galatron felt like a cool additon and a change in how Megatron came back, which kind of lines up with how he came back as Galavtron in the cartoons and comics.

Negative: How the Dinobots Were Introduced

Now, I don’t think anyone would be opposed to the Dinobots appearing necessarily. Sure, they might be treated more like animals in the movie when compared to them being more of a different subsection of Cybertronians, however, the Dinobots are a neat addition. Especially since blend two pretty popular and iconic creatures: dinosaurs and robots.

What I think the issue is, is how they are introduced. As I mentioned previously, it does feel disjointed at times, and I think how the Dinobots were introduce is the biggest factor in that. They were alluded to at the beginning of the movie, but between that and when they were brought in, there was no mention of them.

Mixed: The Human Characters

One critique in terms of newly introduced characters would be with the human characters. They do tend to feel like the weakest link in these movies in my experience. Or at the very least that’s something people have the most criticisms with in terms of characters (not always, since Mudflap and Skids are an example of criticized Cybertronians, but it’s usually the human characters that people may draw the most criticisms from in terms of characters). Cade I feel like was a solid change in main human characters, a father and mechanic who wants to protect his family. I don’t think Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci’s characters were too bad, maybe not as well utilized, but compared to some human characters, not the absolute worst in my opinion. The worst in this movie, at least for me was Tessa and Shane. I just didn’t really care for them. They did help at various points, but they weren’t all that interesting in my opinion and I think I was just kind of tired of the budding romance that these movies had.

Positive: Frank Welker as Galvatron

This might sound like an odd positive, but it was one that I appreciated. While I certainly enjoyed Hugo Weaving’s time as Megatron, I liked how they brought back the original voice of Megatron. That being Frank Welker.

Previously, the only actor that they had brought back from the original 1984 animated series was Peter Cullen. And though Frank Welker would go on to reprise the role for a few games and the next movie, Transformers Prime was the first series that reunited these two as their staple characters four years prior. So having him reprise the role in a movie was nice.

I also think it’s a neat nod to the 1986 animated movie, where there was a voice actor change. In the movie, when Megatron became Galvatron, Leonard Nimoy took over for Frank Welker. The latter would go on to take over for the remaining two seasons of the animated series, however, there was that voice change when the character changed.

And I feel like that’s kind of what they did. Though considering Hugo Weaving was a little bit more selective with his roles around the time Age of Extinction was under way, that might not have been the initial intent. Even so, I just think a neat way to have that switch, even if it wasn’t why that change was made.

Negative: It Didn’t Feeling as Engaging and Feels Familiar

Maybe it’s because of how often FX played it, or maybe it was me just not being as invested in the movies after Dark of the Moon, but it doesn’t feel as engaging as it could have been. When this movie was released in theaters, I don’t recall being as invested in or excited about the movie. Not enough for me to want to see it in theaters anyways. And then when it had its home release, I didn’t feel compelled to but it like I had with the first three.

And when it comes to FX, it did feel like they played this one more than any other movie in this franchise. There isn’t anything wrong with re-watching a movie or a station to play the movie however many times it pleases, I just feel like they played it excessively. And that didn’t really help me feel like it was worth catching until I finally decided to sit through the whole thing.

The plot could also factor in since it doesn’t feel like it tried too many new ideas. There were some, like the dynamic with a new cast of characters and the creation of Galvatron, but other than that, I don’t feel like it took as many risks as it could have. That doesn’t mean I think the plot was all bad. I can see what it was going for. I guess it feels rather formulaic. It feels a bit similar to the previous movies (ex evading the government, a big showdown with Megatron, a battle with the other big bads like Sentinel and the Fallen, etc.).

Conclusion

I would probably give this movie a 6.5 out of 10. I feel like there were some good ideas here, like new characters, neat designs and bringing Frank Welker back. The human characters I feel are a hit or miss group in these movies, but characters like Cade, I think were alright. However, the slight disconnect at certain times, how the Dinobots were introduced, and the fact it didn’t feel as engaging or new did bring this movie down for me.

But what did you think of this movie? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

Almost There by Farrah Rochon: A Review

The thirteenth book in the Disney Twisted Tales series, Almost There asks the question: What if Tiana Made a Deal that Changed Everything? A question that this novel looks to answer.

When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was intrigued. Though 2009’s Princess and the Frog didn’t catch my interest when it was initially released, it is one that I have revisited and really enjoy. The art and music were really good and the direction it took the story was interesting. This is also the movie that introduced us to Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. All and all, I would say that The Princess and the Frog was a solid movie and deserves the appreciation and enjoyment it has received in the years since its release.

Almost There is the thirteenth book in the Twisted Tales line and was the one I had the most curiosity for after the last two books. Go the Distance was a nice one and What Once Was Mine wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I read it (loved the concept, wasn’t fond of certain decisions). And while I had an inkling for what they might have gone with in terms of twisting the story (Tiana taking the deal), how it was executed was neat.

And having just recently finished the book, I thought it was time to review it. Note: I will try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but as always, Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Synopsis

The story begins with a few scenes from Tiana’s past. A lot of it being about her father and establishing moments from the movie and built off of it. Readers then jump to the present where Tiana makes a deal with Dr. Facilier that will give her her father back in exchange for an elixir his friends from the other side want her to use.

When she agrees, with one little detail missed, she gets what she had always wanted. Her friends safety, her own restaurant and her father. However, when eerie things begin to change. And when Dr. Facilier comes back a year later to collect and follow upon that missed detail, Tiana finds herself thrown into a world of trouble, and it’s up to her, Charlotte, and Naveen to reverse what the Shadow Man created.

Positives

What I thought was really good about this book had to do with the story, some of the characters, and the setting. It was also interesting to see how it worked off of the established connection Tiana had with her father and their love for cooking. It was also really nice to see these two bonding and how it eventually dealt with Tiana’s love for her father and the grief that comes along with it.

For the story, the direction they went with made sense. I did speculate that Tiana would take the offer Dr. Facilier gave her, but where such an offer would go, I wasn’t sure. That said, it does feel like a logical direction for it to go the way it did, and I think it was executed well for the most part.

As for characters, I did enjoy how this story developed Charlotte a bit more. While Charlotte would be a sort of iconic character in the movie, she only had so many scenes. Here, readers get to see more of her and Tiana’s friendship and Charlotte having some development. Naveen also got a little development too. Like him reflecting on possibly going back to Maldonia after receiving an invitation back, and what that would mean for him. Of course, Tiana got quite a bit of development as the protagonist, which includes how she handles Facilier and the restaurant. As well as how she approaches Naveen now that everyone is back to “normal”.

The setting of the story is also pretty neat too. It still takes place in 1920’s New Orleans which is nice. And while holding onto the music, food, and character the movie had while set in this time period, it does have a moment where it seems to address (if only in an implication sense) about the climate at the time in regards to race. While the movie has that scene with Tiana and the investors at Charlotte’s party with how they present her not getting the building she had her sights set on, Almost There has a scene involving Charlotte and Tiana at a clothing store where one of the workers states Tiana isn’t allowed to shop there (Charlotte does try to defend Tiana in this situation to her best ability while Tiana doesn’t want to start a conflict because of it).

Negatives

As for negatives, while I wouldn’t want to say it feels like it is formulaic, but I suppose the ending could have been a little different. On the one hand, I did like how it was a sort of psyche out. On the other, I kind of saw something a little different (like Facilier “running out of time”). But that’s just me.

One other thing I think they could have done was more scenes with Mama Odie. They do go to see her, but I feel like there could have been more scenes with her. Especially since there was a whole scene with Charlotte being perplexed that everyone but her knew who Mama Odie was. I just felt they could have done more with it.

Conclusion

I would probably give this book a 4.25 out of 5 stars. It’s certainly one of my favorite of the Twisted Tales series and I love how it approached the story. From the characters to how it addressed the plot and setting. I only wish they had done one or two things differently.

The next book in the series is one I heard might be a possibility. That being a Pinocchio set book. The title is When You Wish Upon a Star and is written by Elizabeth Lim, who previously wrote the Mulan Twisted Tale Reflection. When You Wish Upon a Star will focus on the Blue Fairy and asks: What if the Blue Fairy wasn’t Supposed to Help Pinocchio? and is expected to be released on April 4th 2023.

Nightcrawler: Where it Started, Why I Like Him, and Comics I Own and Have Read

It might go without saying, but Nightcrawler is my favorite Marvel character.  In my experience, I will find that one character that I really get invested in and want to read up on.  When it comes to DC, that comes in the form of Tim Drake (Red Robin/Robin III), Roy Harper (Speedy/Arsenal), Joey Wilson (Jericho), and Ra’s al Ghul.  Of course, I enjoy other characters from both Marvel and DC (ex. Wolverine, Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, Red Hood (Jason Todd), and Starfire), but there will usually be one or two characters that I will always return to.

I thought I would go over where my interest for Nightcrawler began, why I like him, and X-Men comics that I own, alongside Nightcrawler centered stories.

A Little Bit of Background on My Relationship with Marvel and DC

Before I jump right in, I feel like I should preface this stating how I was mostly a DC viewer growing up.  A number of my favorite shows as a kid included Static Shock, Teen Titans, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman Beyond.  I did watch Marvel shows like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and snippets of X-Men Evolution, enjoyed the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, as well as liking the first 2000’s Fantastic Four.  I would certainly say I was more of a DC fan as a kids. 

That kind of continued when I finally got into comics during the rise of DC’s Rebirth comic line after spending years as a slightly more avid manga reader.  I started reading up on characters I liked and branched out and found new characters and series to enjoy.  Recently, I feel like I’ve hit a wall with what to read next with DC.  With Rebirth ending and not really knowing what to jump into next, I was at a bit of a stalemate.  During this time is when I got interested in checking out Marvel content.  More specifically Nightcrawler/X-Men.  I cannot pinpoint exactly when or why it started, but it was in the last few months.

Currently, I’ve read through a good chunk of the original X-Men run, read through the 2003 run of Wolverine, a few smaller X-Men runs like X-Men Gold, X-Men Red, and All New X-Men, and am planning to jump into Sandman (DC/Gaiman) and getting into the X-Men run starting with House of X.  

The Beginning: Where it Began

With that little bit of history out of the way, allow me to get into Nightcrawler.  I guess it would have started with X-Men Evolution.  I didn’t watch it much when I was younger, but when I did catch it, I found myself liking Kurt.  It probably had to do with how laid back he was and him being the more comedic of the gang (that probably contributed to why I liked TMNT 2003’s Michelangelo too).  One episode of X-Men Evolution I remember watching was Middleverse, the season one episode where Kurt accidently ends up in another dimension of sorts and meets Forge.  It wasn’t the only X-Men media I had watched over the years, as I also remember seeing Wolverine 2013, First Class, and was overall aware of the X-Men movies.  Though, I will admit that I never got around to all of it back then.  

Jump to the latter half of 2021.  I was trying to find more graphic novels to read, but I was at a bit of a stalemate.   I fell into a bit of a DC slump.  Rebirth was ending and The Joker War event, mainly what they did with the Nightwing portion, I think burnt me out a little.  Nothing seemed to be grasping my interest except for Batman Urban Legends, which is where Tim Drake came out as bisexual.  Side note: I actually purchased a hard copy of Batman Urban Legends not too long ago. 

It would be around this time that I would start getting into Nightcrawler.  And it involved a crossover in a DC community I am apart of.  It’s there that this interest in Kurt returned.  It would respawned an interest in Nightcrawler and be what lead to my getting into X-Men as a whole.

Then came the movies, which I am getting around to binging.  I think the only reason I hadn’t was because of how the timeline diverged after First Class and/or Days of Future Past, and for whatever reason that confused me at first.  That and the poor reception of The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Dark Phoenix.  In hindsight, the timeline of the movies isn’t all that complicated, and I’m still going to watch all of movies, weaker ones included.  The movies also had some stellar casting choices.  Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X, Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, and Hugh Jackman were all iconic.  A good chunk of the cast was also good.  For instance, people really seem to enjoy Evan Peters’ Peter (Pietro) Maximoff, myself included. 

And of course, there’s Kurt Wagner.  Portrayed by Alan Cummings in X2 and Kodi Smit-McPhee in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix, I would say both did well with the character.  I kind of like Kodi Smit-McPhee’s a little better, but Alan Cummings did good too.  I only wish either appearance confirmed Nightcrawler’s relation with Mystique, his mother.  Heck, they could have confirmed both of Nightcrawler’s parents in Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix since Azazel, his father, appeared in First Class (and later confirmed dead) and Mystique was present since First Class.

That’s were it all began.  An interest in Nightcrawler’s X-Men Evolution would go dormant until a crossover event reignited by interest in the character.  And his portrayals in the movies have caught my interest.  

The Character: Why I Like Him

Why do I like Nightcrawler?  There’s a lot to like about him, I think.  In terms of design, he looks pretty cool.  His abilities are neat and his weaknesses make sense.  For me, it comes down to personality, backstory, and what he represents.

In terms of personality, he’s light-hearted and optimistic.  He can display moments of anger, sorrow, and fear, but he is usually seen as pretty positive, all things considered.  And with Logan being his best friend, it’s the perfect balance to his more stern and pessimistic world view.  He’s flirty, but not in a problematic or annoying kind of way.  In some ways, he could be seen as a hopeful outlook for the future, while also not being blind to the problems in the world.  

His backstory.  There is a lot that went wrong in his life, despite what his more positive outlook might suggest.  His mother abandoned him as a baby.  The circus that he was raised in drugged and used him.  Said circus was also going to sell him to be a road side attraction if not for Margali Szardos, his adopted mother, freeing him.  And because of a promise he made, Kurt had to kill his adopted brother when he lost his mind and killed a bunch of people, not that the mob knew.

I think his past is something that helps show how despite how terrible things can be, people can still come out of it on top.  It might not be easy, but it is possible.  Life didn’t give Nightcrawler much peace prior to joining the X-Men.  Margali and her biological children certainly love him like family, but the circus they were apart of wanted to exploit him.  And the reason Charles found him being pursued was because the mob chasing him thought he killed Stefan Szardos and the missing people, when in actuality, Stefan killed the missing people and Kurt only killed Stefan out of self-defense and a promise he made to Stefan, where if Stefan went off the deep end, Kurt would stop him.  Yet, he never became cruel later in life, rather, he was a better person than those who wronged him.

I also kind of like how he got the last name Wagner.  At least originally.  I’m not sure if Marvel ever retconned the whole thing where Mystique was married to Baron Christian Wagner and had an affair with Azazel, which later lead to Kurt’s conception, and that being where Kurt got his last name despite not being the baron’s biological son.  Originally, Kurt took on the last name Wagner because of a priest to housed him after Margali released him and he was being pursued.  Father Wagner gave Kurt a place to stay, despite Kurt’s “demonic” appearance.  This is also where Kurt’s teleporting would come into effect as he would use it when Herr Getmann’s men came for him.  He did end up leaving the church, but Kurt didn’t forget the priest’s kindness, taking on the last name Wagner in his honor.  

As for what Kurt represents, I feel he fits into a few different categories.  I’ve mentioned how he represents good people rising up from bad situations, which is one thing he can represent.  Something else he represents is how people shouldn’t judge things based on how they appear.  The old Never Judge a Book by It’s Cover saying if you will.  He might look evil/demonic, but is one of the most kind hearted and saintly people out there.  That’s something that also makes his friendship with Logan great and so symbolic.  Both of them are considered monsters in some way, externally (Kurt) or internally (Logan).  Yet, both are also human.  Logan has gone onto say how Kurt is one of the most saintly guys he’s met, and Kurt, despite knowing how gruesome his job can be, sees the good in Logan and knows that he’s not an animal or evil.

One other thing I feel Kurt represents, and this could just be me, is irony.  He’s a “demon” yet he’s Catholic.  He’s morally good, while his parents would be considered morally bad (though Mystique could be morally grey given she isn’t purely evil and has helped her children).  Both of which I feel perfectly define what irony is.  

Reading Between the Lines: Comics I’ve Read and Comics I Own

I own a handful of X-Men comics.  Some solo series, some with the team.  Nightcrawler has a few solo series: Age of X-Men: The Amazing Nightcrawler, X-Men Icons: Nightcrawler, a four issue mini series, and two twelve solo series in 2003 and 2014.  Of his solo pieces, I own the 2003 and 2014.  I haven’t started them yet, but I have skimmed through both. 

As far as X-Men comics with Nightcrawler as a central character, I’ve read and own several.  Of course there is the X-Men run in the 70’s, starting with Giant Sized X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont.  That run, which does go on for several years, is recommended by quite a few people who want to start X-Men comics.  It’s a classic and a good place for a start.  I don’t own any of the Claremont run, but I do have a list of issues that I’d like to purchase one day.  A few other series I’ve read through in their entirety include X-Men Gold, Extraordinary X-Men.  I’ve read some of Wolverine’s 2003 run, some of Wolverine’s first solo, Second Coming, the story where Nightcrawler dies, and one volume of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men.  Specifically the Trial of Juggernaut volume since it had the notoriously bad story, The Draco, which I only read after I learned about Kurt’s father through the First Class movie and his appearance in Amazing X-Men volume one (the one where Nightcrawler is brought back to life).

I like Azazel, and don’t mind him as Kurt’s father.  It’s a bit of an unpopular opinion, but that’s okay.  I was going to read The Draco either way because I wanted to see how bad it was.  But since I liked Azazel in his other appearances, The Draco didn’t tarnish it much, outside of thinking that the story could have been a whole lot better.

A few other comics I own, but have yet to start, include House of M, Inferno, Giant-Sized X-Men volume #1 (2020), Way of X, X-Men (2020) volume one, Amazing X-Men volume 1 The Quest for Nightcrawler, The Hellfire Gala, Wolverine (2020) volumes 1-3, The Death of Wolverine, The Return of Wolverine, Wolverine: Weapon X the Gallery Edition, and Wolverine the Deluxe Edition.  I might be missing one or two, but those are the ones I know I own.  Nightcrawler also appears in a number of them.

I would certainly say that my collection is very Nightcrawler and Wolverine involved.  Yes, the broader X-Men comics do have the rest of the X-Men, but if there was a pattern, that would be it.  Which is by no means a problem.  Everyone reads comics a bit differently.  I will certainly read a series if it interests me, but I also like reading comics with my favorite characters.  It’s a reader by reader basis.

While I would recommend all of these, if you are looking for Nightcrawler reads, I would recommend: Claremont’s run starting with Giant-Sized X-Men #1, Nightcrawler (2003), Wolverine by Greg Rucka #6, for both a great story with Logan and Kurt and a gem of a censor passing cover, Second Coming, Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler (2014), House of M, X-Men Gold, X-Men (2020), Giant-Sized X-Men (2020), Return of Wolverine, Way of X, and Inferno.  There are more out there, I am still working my way through X-Men comics. 

And as for movies, I’d recommend X2, X-Men Apocalypse, and X-Men Dark Phoenix.  I know the last one is considered more of a miss, just like the Dark Phoenix adaptation before it (The Last Stand), but thought I would include it.

BAMF: The Conclusion

Though not X-Men’s most popular member, Nightcrawler is one that is generally liked.  For me, a combination of his personality, backstory, adaptations, and what he symbolically represents is what I enjoy.  I also really enjoy his friendship with Logan.  I hope you enjoyed this little deep dive into why I like Kurt Wagner.  

Now I leave you with the following.  What are your thoughts on Nightcrawler?  What are your favorite adaptations of Nightcrawler?  Favorite stories?  Who’s your favorite X-Men member?


Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: A Review

In honor of Kenobi’s release and May being dubbed Star Wars Month, I wanted to do a review of the movies. Starting off with the first chronologically, but fourth released, The Phantom Menace. While not the most popular of the Prequel Trilogy, heck, not even the most popular in the franchise, The Phantom Menace is one movie that can be looked back on with either fondness and/or a keen eye for constructive criticism.

Funnily enough, this is my second favorite of the Prequel Trilogy. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure these days, as I can see how it is a flawed movie, but there was enough for me to enjoy it a bit more than the next installment (more on that movie later). But considering I was only six when The Phantom Menace came out, I am a bit nostalgic for the Prequel Trilogy.

The Phantom Flaws

Starting off with the flaws feels like a perfect start. Because out of the three prequel movies, this one probably has the most. In my experience I was able to narrow it down to a few factors: the effects, some of the designs, dialogue, and the political aspects of it.

Starting off with the more visually glaring aspect, are the designs for some of the characters. Now, some viewers will mention how certain characters and races, mainly the Neimoidians, Watto, and Jar Jar and the Gungans.

Six year old me didn’t know that these characters were racial caricatures. Even less so with Watto or the Neimoidians. It wasn’t until years later, and the rise of the internet, that I found out that they were. Whether not it was intentional, I could not tell you. I’m not defending it either way, I just haven’t found anything outright confirming if Lucasfilm and George Lucas made an intentional choice with it at this time. If there was one positive to come from the backlash it’s that Watto only had a brief appearance in Attack of the Clones while the Toydarian species, the Niemoidians, and the Gungans weren’t as prevalent, save for a few episodes of The Clone Wars and having very little screen time in the following Prequel movies. Though in the case of the Gungans, Jar Jar’s lack of screen time could have also been due to him missing the mark as the comic relief in The Phantom Menace.

Politics have been a part of Star Wars in some fashion. Whether it be in the form of the Rebellion vs the Empire or the governing system of certain planets. That said, the political aspect of Star Wars, at least in the original trilogy, wasn’t a huge focal point. It existed, but the focus was more on the fight between good and evil, battles in space, and the mysticism of the Force.

One of the bigger criticisms of The Phantom Menace, and by extent the prequel trilogy, is the attentiveness to the political side. It does feel a bit boring at times admittedly. Because while the political side could help build and diversify the planets (ex. Tatooine having a more Hutt dominated practically lawless state, not Republic abiding system, Ewoks having a more tribe based system with a chief, and Lothal having an Empire supporting leaders) in theory, the execution comes off as dull and prolonged. While a story doesn’t need constant action to keep intrigue, and political aspects not being inherently bad, there is a fine line between engaging and boring. The Phantom Menace falls into the latter as a lot of the communication and debate comes off as dull. Much like the previously mentioned characters, the political aspect is a bit more sparse, allowing it to have moments where it’s important and the not as engaging side being discussed in a conversation or two.

Speaking of dialogue, it is hit or miss. I’m not blaming the actors, some of the delivery does fall flat. A few examples can include how Anakin calls Padme an angel or how he says he’s a person and his name is Anakin. I don’t mean to jab at Jake Lloyd, as he was only ten years old, but those are examples of awkward dialogue.

And it’s not just a few lines from Anakin that seem to feel awkward. Jar Jar, who was supposed to be the comic relief of the movie, doesn’t have a lot of dialogue or actions that made me laugh. Granted, he does have less humor based dialogue, but I don’t recall his humored lines sticking. Not even when I was younger. For example, the ‘yousa point well seen’ quote when Obi Wan mentions what’ll happen to them if Jar Jar doesn’t take them to the Gungan city. While it is meant to be funny, I don’t think I so much as chuckled at it.

This is probably the least bothersome flaw, mostly because of the year it was released. With CGI being in its infancy when The Phantom Menace came out, it was going to age in some way. Whether something aged good or bad depends.

In the case of The Phantom Menace, while the practical effects work really well with some of the special effects, it has shown its age. On the one hand, while the more alien characters look passible enough, considering how far CGI has come, they aren’t as refined as some (though given what some of the special editions did, quite a bit of the CGI there doesn’t blend well). Things like the Trade Federation ships might be another point of how the CGI were a bit lack luster. All in all, the CGI hasn’t aged all that well.

In conclusion, it’s easy to see why this is considered one of the worst Star Wars films. And despite it being a guilty pleasure of mine, I do see its flaws. How certain characters look is questionable to say the least and the CGI has shown its age. The politics, while having the potential to have an air of intrigue, felt prolonged and dull. And certain dialogue didn’t stick the landing. With my flaws and critiques laid out, allow me to get into what I think this movie did well.

The Positive Menace

If there are a few things I can give The Phantom Menace credit for, it’s for casting, music, Darth Maul, and action. All of these are areas that, for the most part were well done. And these are reasons I enjoy it. One a little more than the rest.

When it comes to casting, there was a lot of good choices in this movie. Liam Neeson as Qui Gon, Natalie Portman as PadmĂ©, Kiera Knightly as Padme’s decoy SabĂ©, and Samuel L Jackson, though maybe not his best, would become a staple in the series. We also have the return of Frank Oz as R2D2 and Yoda, Anthony Daniels as C3PO, and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Sidious.

And while characters like young Anakin, the Gungans, and Jar Jar may be considered weak, I can appreciate that the actors did the best they could with the dialogue they were given. Basically, separating the dialogue and writing of the weaker characters, I would say that the actors themselves were fine.

That said, Ewan McGregor was (and is) one of the best casting choices out of the returning actors. The Prequel Trilogy is as much Anakin’s story as it is Obi Wan’s, and as such, we get to see how both of these characters grow. Ewan is one of the overarching positives that the Prequel Trilogy has. SO much so that Ewan will be returning to reprise the role in the Disney+ Obi Wan Kenobi mini series.

If there is one character that The Phantom Menace is praised for, it’s Darth Maul. For an antagonist who had very few scenes and only three lines of dialogue, he became one of the prequel trilogy’s popular characters. He looked cool, sounded cool, and had a double bladed lightsaber. As well as his fight with Qui Gon and Obi Wan being one of the best scenes in the movie.

People wanted more of him, his short screen time being a possible critique. As a result, he did get several books and comics as well as being brought back from the dead in the 2008 Clone Wars animated series. And when Disney acquired Star Wars, he got a few more comics and appearances in Rebels and Solo in their canon (with the books and comics released prior to the acquisition being labeled as Legends). For a character who only had minutes of screen time, he would become one of the most refined and developed characters from the Prequel Era.

The action in the movie is one of, if not it’s best, feature. It doesn’t have a lot, but that’s okay. It didn’t feel overly congested with action.

But that’s not to say that a little more action wouldn’t have made it better. Had it toned down the political aspect and added a little more action, there could have been a bit more of a balance. What we got though, was well choreographed and paced well.

And of course where there’s Star Wars, there is John Williams. As always, his score is something wonderfully crafted.

Each setting and scene had just the right tone and it all fit into the story. Going back to the Maul fight and the climax, Duel of the Fates was this movies Imperial March. While Imperial March is the most iconic piece from Star Wars, barring maybe the title theme and Binary Sunset, Duel of the Fates is no less iconic. So much so that it makes a subtle return in one particular seen in Rebels’ season 2 finale and in some ways could be seen as Maul’s theme. Just like Imperial March is with Darth Vader.

So despite the faults of The Phantom Menace, there are some good aspects in the movie. Aspects that could have needed more time or worked out well with the spectacles provided. One other positive this movie has, that I feel I should mention, is the pod racing scene. It was a spectacle in its own right and spawned an N64 racing game.

Conclusion

I would probably give this movie a five out of ten. It may be my guilty pleasure and what created my favorite Sith (Maul), but it does have a lot of flaws thanks to age and certain decisions made. Nostalgia can only go so far after all. However, I do think it’s enjoyable in its own right. If not as a good movie, than as a guilty pleasure or an it’s so bad it’s good kind of way.

What are your thoughts on The Phantom Menace? Did you enjoy it or would you consider it a bottom tier Star Wars film? Guilty pleasure and/or meme creator, perhaps? What are things you think this movie did right? And what do you think it could have done better?