XCIV

“Sometimes we have to be willing to die in order to begin living again.”

It’s one thing for a show to be better than you remembered it being…it’s another thing entirely for it to be actually true. This episode to me was about someone facing his past in order to overcome his present, to help him cope with his future. Is a person defined by what motivates him, by what actions he takes, by what choices he makes? For the first five minutes we see Jack losing a lot of blood. This was borderline hard to watch, especially when he pulled the knife (finally) from his abdomen once he found shelter in a cave. To have a situation not only challenge you but take everything out of you…The feeling of being physically exhausted, the feeling of being mentally spent, the feeling of your spirit being drained. While most of us (hopefully) haven’t been left covered in red, I feel that all of us have experienced a moment of weakness where we simply could not recover instantaneously. For Jack, he did something he never has done before but there is so much more to it than that.

I really want to talk about Jack’s interaction with a more “twisted” version of his former self. This was a great follow-up to the exchange he had before. The last semblance of Jack was one of desperation, of fear even. This one however had a much more insidious nature to him. This was evident by his facial expressions (maniacal as they were), and even his movements. Despite being very brief, we learn that Jack has never killed a human being up till this point. Also, something that wasn’t lost on me was the fact that Jack was in a bad way obviously, but like “Ghost Jack” said, he’s survived worse. So once again this situation is happening due to the attack not on Jack’s body but his psyche. Personally, this relates to me because it’s easy to just let you body forge ahead and go. The mind is so important that conversely trying to put too much on it will have you doubting and questioning yourself. Oh, and the delight in “Ghost Jack’s” face when realizing that a being of flesh and blood fell at the hands of the Samurai. Have you ever done something that may or may not have some moral ramifications but yet took some delight in it? People in our lives talk about us, put us down, demean us, get in our way, wrong us and not once has the thought of retribution or revenge entered in our heads for some degree of satisfaction? My grandma used to tell me to be careful what roads you choose to travel down because some of them you have to stay on until the next intersection. It’s important that regardless of what decisions we make, regardless of what alignment they happen to fall under, we as people are willing to accept the results and fallout of whatever they may bring us. To bring the two hallucination moments full circle, the thought of suicide is redirected into a question of whether or not Jack can continue down this path or is he purposely trying to create his own destruction…to which Jack shutters, “No.”

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Last episode’s allegory with the wolf who was basically going through a similar conundrum with these lion-like beast as Jack was with the Seven Daughters actually had some follow up because the same wolf who too was bloody found Jack in the cave. This leads to one of the cutest and funniest moments as Jack and the Wolf basically had a “boy and his dog” moment. The wolf finding food, sharing with Jack and he in turn sharing it back. Jack stitching up his wound and the wolf cleaning the blood off himself and doing the same for Jack. Jack trying to do the same for the wolf with water and the wolf getting mad. Jack freezing watching the wolf sleep…then waking up realizing the wolf wrapped around him like a blanket keeping him warm so he could sleep. All of this made me want a dog in my life!

The more important moment was before this sequence happened, Jack has a flashback of basically witnessing his father kill, but not before giving a warning to his aggressors and resolving to his beliefs of Bushido (now the Samurai in Jack has a bit more substance). We actually see the blood stain young Jack’s face from the battle his father had to finish. His father explains to the boy that we can not hide from ourselves and that our choices and actions are reflections of who we are. I can admit that I’ve done things in my life that I’m not particularly proud of. I’ve been willing to do things that are uncharacteristic and to show sides of my personality that aren’t exactly flattering. But I own and accept everything that I do and everything I am, good and bad. To do otherwise makes us incomplete, unfinished. Once upon a time, I let my line of work completely dictate what kind of person I was, to the point that I could no longer recognize myself. To the point where I was broken and didn’t know if I’d ever be able to reassemble. Leaving everything behind was not going to provide a solution to my problem, I had to go back and rewrite how my story was going to end. I was willing to do whatever necessarily and committed myself to what it was going to take to do so regardless of what choices I had to make. Jack in his own way realized this and watching Jack go up against the remaining Daughters meant so much beyond how visually it was portrayed.

Much like his father, Jack gives a warning to the persistent six as they have been tracking him down the entire episode. I mentioned earlier about the ‘Bushido’ that Jack’s father was acting upon. A warrior archtype like the samurai needs some balance and the honor that the Bushido code provides does just that. It gives greater subtext to things that are about to take place that on their own would just paint Jack as a mindless killer. Two moves, both with the spear, takes out two of the six Daughters (and when I say take out, I mean killed). What proceeds is basically Jack systematically dismantling the Daughters of Aku in brutal fashion I might add. The last of which being truly symbolic when Jack has one of them dangling over the cliff by way of the chain that was being used to attack him. The look on Jack’s face before he simply let go of the chain as this woman was berating him and telling him he would die; we’ve all been at the place where we just look at life and shake our head, no. There are moments where nothing else matters, where you can look into the blazing fire and not only be able to walk towards it but know that you are going to come out the other side. This was Jack being Jack. He will not be afraid to take your existence in order to keep his if that is the choice that you make.

Why are you not watching this show? Whether for long-time fans, fans of visually stimulating art or thematically, Samurai Jack is hitting all the right notes. However, Jack also fell down, down down…but we’ll have to wait to find out what’s next.

#JackIsBack

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XCIII

Are you looking for a show that deals with subject matter such as psychosis, depression and suicide? Then why are you not watching Samurai Jack!

Sometimes a person can only hope that what they watch on television actually makes them think a little bit. It’s even more a rarity when a show starts to challenge you on a deeper level. In this episode we finally get to see Aku and it’s a sight to see let me tell you. Seeing the main antagonist like this was a bit jarring but it was so hilarious to watch. Aku, reduced to lying down as he explains his troubles to his “doctor”…resigning himself to the fact that the Samurai will never go away. (Oh but this is a safe place, so we don’t say his name here.) Points for Aku calling Jack’s beard “stupid” and for literally sinking into his sorrows. It’s not as if Aku had a plan. By his own admission, he figured he wait it out after destroying all of the time portals but all it did was give the Samurai inadvertent immortality (at least from aging). Don’t worry, we’ll get there…we see later that Jack is anything but.

I enjoyed seeing Jack basically being caught off guard and paying for it. It’s good to have your heroes overcome an obstacle so they come off as sympathetic and don’t look like the bad guy. After disposing of another robot, Jack is jumped by the Seven Daughters of Aku and they just go in. They attack with such force that Jack loses his protective armor, his handgun and his motorcycle…all destroyed. His sonic dagger (that he obtained from last episode) is taken from him (remember this) and when he has his “Rambo” moment with his semi-automatic, all it takes is a chain to relieve him of his weapon, and then they bash it to bits with mace-like bat. So after he uses a smokescreen by throwing a pack of grenades to give him cover, we get the (in my opinion) the best scene of the entire episode.

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Before I get into this…as far as how the rest of the episode plays out; the Seven chase Jack into this temple where they try (and I do mean try) to kill him. The use of shadows in these exchanges highlighted by the green firefly that provided the only source of flashing light at certain moments was an excellent use of visuals. Jack gets stabbed by one of the daughters but he manages to cut her throat, realizing that it was not a robot but an actual human being laid waste by his hand. He retrieves the sonic blade from earlier (and if you remember its destructive power from the first episode) uses it to bring down the entire temple as he falls into the river, blood staining its waters.

Now before all that, Jack is hiding inside this robot beetle and he is confronted with the one thing that all of us must face at some point…our mortality. I have always been a person who fought for every inch, fought for what I believe in. But I remember a point in my life where I was tired of fighting, I was just tired of everything. What was the use of going on day after day when things just seemed to never get any better? I’m sure you out there have experienced this feeling at one moment in time or another. Jack’s hallucinations from the previous episode came from people he felt he let down, his family. Now this on the other hand is the Jack of old, the Jack that all of us had followed, seemingly distraught with this life with no end in sight. It’s a difficult and maddening thing to face yourself and try to maintain your resolve when there’s a part of you that’s just done. Jack has to face his own doubts and remain steadfast in the belief that he will as he says, “find a way.” Important to note, Jack has been battling machines this whole time before we get introduced to the Seven. Also, Aku hasn’t revealed himself, (at least to Jack) in years but he doesn’t know Jack is without his sword. To the seriousness of this moment, suicide is not an easy thing to talk about, address or even deal with. Just the fact that is was only “alluded” to is kind of tough to watch. Jack’s past telling him that there is no more honor and that the only honorable thing left to do is…before our hero tells him to be quiet and the emotion, the desperation coming from Jack here is so chilling. There is clearly a part of him that does not want to be stuck in a time that he doesn’t belong to for the rest of forever. The thoughts of suicide were on full display here, trying to convince with rationality, with emotion, with the anger of not continuing with how things presently are. That’s all real. I know exactly what that feels like and the most impressive thing through all of it was Jack keeping himself together and not surrendering to his innermost madness.

Sometimes all we have left is hope and faith and that may have to be enough in order for us to get to the next day. But we will and a new day gives new opportunities to try and to go forward. Seriously, check out Samurai Jack. I think it’s better than it was before and that’s hard for a preexisting property to achieve.

#JackIsBack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Back: Wonder Woman (2009)

“You may be the queen of the Amazons, but I am the god of war.”

Within the first few minutes, this film establishes the relationship between Ares and Hippolyta through their battle and banter. For me, it symbolizes the ongoing struggle that two equally powerful but distinctively different entities can have with one another and thus transfer it down their respective lines. In life, we come across facets that can feed off of our greatest attributes and thereby turning them into a weakness. Nothing worse than to be humbled when you are a headstrong, self-reliant individual. We also see this battle’s climax use this same duality with Zeus (commanding that Ares be spared after Hippolyta just slayed Thrax; their “supposed” son) and Hera (who circumvents this by binding Ares’ power and making him a prisoner of the Amazons) I forgot to mention Persephone’s maiming due to Alexa’s lack of Amazonian instincts as it were. All of this interplay sets up the film (and the Amazon backstory I might add) very well and gives reason and motivation behind all of these different characters.

It has nothing to do with this, but I personally liked that in Justice League (the Cartoon Network animated series) it was presumed that Wonder Woman is a result of Ares and Hippolyta’s time together and while this movie goes the more traditional route with Diana’s origin; it’s nice that Thrax was used (or rather referenced) in place of this.

Something else that Hippolyta says later on in regards to the outside world struck me as interesting. She takes Diana down beneath the island to show him Ares…behind bars. She says the nature of man is what it is; wicked, disloyal and untrustworthy. To me while Ares did feed on these energies through acts of war, Ares is a god after all. Shouldn’t man not be held to the same standard as divine beings or should they be called upon to be better?

Considering all the acts of violence we got in this; Amazons being a warrior race, Ares being the personification of war itself, even the jets in the skies going at it…I find if funny a low blow from our titular hero is what gets us to next act of the story. Speaking of funny, Steve Trevor’s interaction with the Lasso of Truth makes me think of another Justice League Callback (I think I’ll refer to references with this). In the Justice League Unlimited episode: The Balance, Wonder Woman uses it’s power to force a demon to reveal the location of Felix Faust. The demon didn’t feel particularly pleasant after said experience and considering Trevor shows a similar disdain, it gives further credence to the “nature of man” that Hippolyta was talking about earlier. Trevor literally is forced to explain what “crap” means to the Amazons. I like that the need for an emissary to send him back to where he belongs serves as the narrative to bringing out “Wonder Woman” and to further the dynamic between Trevor and Diana.

I just thought about this. When Trevor crash landed, he had a clear shot of the island because someone punched the mirror. (Earlier when Hippolyta was reminiscing, she placed her hand on said mirror thus temporary revealing Themyscira from it’s mystical protection.) Never did find out who did that. Also, do you think that Ares’ plan was to have Persephone kill Diana as it was her who was supposed to be on guard duty, not Alexa? Though to be fair (and I use that term loosely), this does bookend the film’s earlier relationship between the two Amazons.

Funny and violence seem to go hand and hand with this movie. Wonder Woman, in an attempt to re-establish gender roles, teaches this little girl how to sword fight against her male counterparts. Nothing like the Princess of the Amazons telling a girl to “unleash hell” on some unsuspecting little boys. Cute.What Diana didn’t find cute was more of these gender roles appropriating themselves in the event of Etta Candy needing a man to move a table for her. While it can come across as a bit “preachy” and pushes that female empowerment that is all throughout this movie, I do appreciate Diana’s assertiveness when it comes to Steve’s tendencies to “be a man.” Also, her being able to see right through Steve’s attempt to use tequila to get her intoxicated…classic stuff. “As if you could outdrink an Amazon, you pathetic lightweight.”

Personal note. It might have been a throwaway line, but Diana mentioning the concept of hubris being important to many of the Greek tragedies is much appreciated. I am big on hubris being one of the great destroyers of people as I have had to (and still do this day) battle against my own arrogance.

This film portrays Wonder Woman as both a powerful and sympathetic character. She is so confident in situations that require her to be and yet vulnerable when the odds become greater than she anticipated; also amidst her interactions with her fellow Amazons. Now to be fair, I felt the back and forth between Steve and Diana over the two sexes and what their place should be seemed a little forced. No, all men are not misogynistic animals who only see women as a means to further their own agendas. No, all women are not damsels in distress and need to be coddled by some man. The only way the relationship between men and women will ever improve is if we keep communication lines open in hopes that we can both take steps in trying to understand the perspectives of the other.

Something else, Hades was amazing in this. Remember what Hera said at the beginning, only another god can remove Ares’ bands that bind him. So the fact that he goes to his uncle to achieve this made me think, “ok this is how we service the plot.” But Hades makes his point about how Ares acts without regard for any of his brother and sisters and that Hades himself will obey any command because he is so easily manipulated. Also, the “like a dog” line with such anger was a nice touch considering who Hades has guarding his underworld (Cerebus). I say all this because in what I thought was great storytelling, Hades is well aware that Ares’ role (being the god of war) serves as a means to an end for him (being god of the dead) and that Zeus (who let’s not forget ordered his son Ares to be spared, yet did not escape punishment) begged him not to help Ares (or so he says) because it might affect the Olympus power balance. Though in my opinion, if anything were to affect Zeus’ position, he would just get involved himself. Hades then brings out his “slave” to feed him grapes…Thrax, Ares’ son.

Lastly, Persephone’s death at the hands of Hippolyta sheds light on one more point. Does our need to fulfill a purpose replace our need to fulfill a role? For the Amazons, is the cost of being a warrior more so than to be just a woman? For Ares, is the cost of godhood worth it at the expense of servitude? God or mortal, man or woman, our humanity is the vehicle that drives the point home that a better day can never come without trying to understand what it takes to get there.

Let’s hope the live-action interpretation does justice for the Amazon, for Wonder Woman.

 

justTerry

 

 

 

Looking Back: Justice League-The New Frontier

The good news is that there will be far better movies under the “Justice League” brand. This being the first one left a little bit to be desired. I know that this serves to bridge the Golden and Silver Ages of comics but upon re-watching…I just found myself not enjoying a lot of the characters in this. It felt as if there was a need to make most of the league as unlikable as possible.

What I’d rather focus on is the importance of two elements in this adventure. The first being the importance of perception. In the world we live in now, so many people like to tout how they don’t care what people think about them. But what does that really mean? By definition, perception is a way of interpreting or understanding. Do we as a people not want to understand how the world works around us?  Then again, we may come to find out that answer may be a hard one to accept. A Korean solider had no understanding that the end of the war had come, that a cease-fire was in place. Hal Jordan did…but when he couldn’t stop his adversary with reason, he had to resort to a more permanent solution. How many of us had to step over that line and do things that we may not necessarily be proud of in order to get to the next day? The movie doesn’t do the greatest job of explaining why the public at large (and by extension the government) is not big on the super hero concept. This would have better explained Superman being at odds with both Batman and Wonder Woman. We are aware that the JSA has disbanded, one of it’s primary members Hourman is dead and Batman being labeled as a wanted vigilante. To me Superman doesn’t come across like a government patsy (like he does much later in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns) but someone who is concerned with the perception his kind (being defenders of truth and justice) through Wonder Woman and Batman specifically.

This leads me to the other element I wanted to bring up…representation. Superman has always been a character who represents the best of humanity. So he takes it personally on both ends of  the spectrum when it comes to the aforementioned Dark Knight and Amazonian Princess. Diana allowed a group of women she rescued from rebels in Indochina to exact their own brand of justice. Considering this is Women’s History Month, is Wonder Woman wrong in her principles standing up for women being treated like tools, like animals? When Batman changes his costume to not strike fear into the people he tries to protect and adopt a young sidekick, you again see Superman wanting the best of his allies to come through. To represent something that you don’t have a passion for, that you don’t believe in…the end of the movie was about everyone coming together to represent something that they all believed in, even though some of the ideologies and motivations differed. We can be so divided on things simply because we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of how aspects of the world are presented to us and not find a reason to back up a cause that can bring people together.

Although this wasn’t one of my favorite movies, I can appreciate the message it was trying to get out. Even things like the Flash seeking validation, Martian Manhunter seeking acceptance and King Faraday gaining atonement are all valuable takeaways from this second installment of DC Entertainment.

 

Up Next…Wonder Woman

justTerry

Looking Back: Superman/Doomsday

After the release of Justice League Dark…it got me thinking about the pantheon of all the other animated movies in the DC Universe. So where did it start? Well, when it comes to the “Original” line of movies, we start with Superman: Doomsday, the first time we see the Man of Steel in a PG-13 environment. I’m going to take a look back at all of the features that DC put out after 2007. Not giving a rundown but rather give some thoughts on the different elements and character motivations found in these short films. There’s a reason I own all these movies, perhaps I ask myself what is it about them that makes their existence viable.

When Lex Luthor watches his excavation team dig up the alien spacecraft miles under the Earth (where even Superman can’t detect) and he says “Whatever is inside will belong to me…lock, stock and barrel”; the fact that Doomsday is basically everything that he believes Superman ultimately is under the surface (see what I did there) is ironic.

Speaking of Superman…never did like the aged lines on him. Lois is an example of how we as people distance ourselves from some in order to attach ourselves to others. She notices how her relationship with Clark is going in the opposite direction than her six-month relationship with his cape and tights counterpart. Ignoring the fact that Lois deduces Superman’s secret identity anyway, it is fascinating to see this movie explore what a woman would experience being involved with a superhero. Granted Supes makes valid points, such as compromising Lois’ safety, giving his enemies a built-in target to go after him. But you can’t deny the real world applications that Lois brings up. People are going to make up their own conclusions anyway so why feel the need to be secretive for their sake? How can you truly commit to someone when a person is unwilling to let you trust them with their more innermost thoughts and feelings? This same dynamic existed between Batman and Wonder Woman in the Justice League series.

Side note, Lois Lane’s voice when she’s interacting with Superman really is trying to push the “strong, independent woman” archetype….almost to the point of being obnoxious at some points.

Side note two: the robot describing Doomsday’s arrival to Superman as “terrific urgency.”

Not since Darkseid have I seen a character brutalize Superman to the degree that Doomsday does here. While the blood was a nice touch…having it splatter on Lois was a bit on the tasteless side to me. The actual “Death of Superman” part was handled decently. It’s impossible to not line this up against the Justice League episode, Hereafter which also does its own variant. I did like Lois’ breakdown in front of Martha Kent. How many of us have felt that emptiness, that feeling of nobody else understanding what being loved by someone is…when they are taken away from us.

One thing I didn’t like was Lex’s cathartic attitude after he essentially made a clone of Superman as his personally plaything. To me, revenge fantasies should be beneath high profile villains like this. In a real world sense, how can a person expect to advance in life if they daydream about unrealistic possibilities befalling their detractors and adversaries. Lex shooting Mercy point-blank…that was alright. No witnesses.

Speaking of the cloned Superman and the Justice League tie-ins…the Justice Lord moment he had by dropping Toyman to his death (Toyman being the proxy in Hereafter) really speaks to how the moral fiber of the character resonates with people in any medium. Superman has always represented the best of humanity, despite being an alien. Once he disappeared and subsequently this clone resurfaced…it shows the depths that we as human beings can go. From Olsen, to Perry, to Luthor, even Lois herself.

As a movie, you can see why it was the first. Lot of pacing issues…but the final fight between the two Supermen, when our hero says to his clone “a self-righteous, misguided reflection through a cracked mirror,” one could easily allude that to be Bizarro, but to me I think of Superman vs The Elite (which I will eventually get to). We all can let our emotions blindly guide us into making reckless decisions but that’s why we have to temper ourselves and try to be an example to the world around us. That’s what Superman would do. There’s a lot to like about the character Superman, even if his universe can have moments of blandness.

Superman will return in All-Star Superman

Up Next…Justice League: The New Frontier

justTerry

 

The DCAU: Justice League Dark

Gone, gone the form of man…And rise the Demon Etrigan

The latest animated movie from our friends at DC has our favorite vigilante provide assistance to individuals who aren’t exactly known for capes and tights…mate.

For me, the standout moments of this feature was of course Matt Ryan returning as John Constantine (never should have canceled that show NBC) and all of the resentment and dislike he garnered from pretty much every character he interacted with. Also, as a memoir to us fans of the series proper, a nice remix of Constantine’s theme throughout the film. Now having Zatanna having a past with John instead of with Batman (a la Justice League Unlimited) made their relationship a little more cohesive but got a little grating on the nerves at certain points. Boston Brand (they never called him by his Deadman codename) served as this film’s comedy…enjoyed his initial reaction of “why is Batman even here?” We get Etrigan the Demon’s backstory and I love the fact that he rhymes and the film really makes him to be a powerhouse as does another character introduced…Swamp Thing. Did not know the Avatar of the Green was basically nature’s answer to Martian Manhunter.

The movie didn’t feel like a new sub-section of the Justice League taking off as it was more of Batman coming to accept more of the mystical aspects of the opposition he faces. (Even though Wonder Woman disproves this at the beginning of film and their later battle with Faust). Putting it up against the last Justice League movie (Versus Teen Titans), doesn’t stand up quite against it. Not a bad film but of the 8 Justice League animated movies…the first one (New Frontier) to me is still the weakest, but it doesn’t move up higher than that.

Monday Morning Gotham: Lines

This is more of a Monday “Night” Gotham. Reason being, went and saw WWE Royal Rumble last night in San Antonio and didn’t get back till late today. And of course, the winter finale for Gotham. What can I say that hasn’t been said already, or rather what can I feel that all of you out there already have experienced? So instead of going into the episode proper…let’s talk about one of my favorite lines (and I’m sure it’s someone else’s too).

“I will not kill.” – Bruce Wayne                                                                                                    Season 3: Episode 14: The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

Some people look at others and say ‘holier than thou’. Others look and say ‘morally corrupt’. All of us have standards and practices that we try to follow. But regardless where we fall on the morality scale, there are still some universal things that should be understood across the board. But even then, with racial lines, cultural lines and especially religious lines…what’s understood is not always what’s agreed upon. I love that Bruce established his line as he prepares to become the Dark Knight someday. Having one set up in place keeps us from going too far. When a person has no limitations place upon him, sometimes circumstances or just sheer force of will can make someone redefine what their limits are or even if they should have any at all. In my opinion that only makes you reckless. We all should strive to place limiters on our lives to keep us from just doing any and everything without considering how this affects you and the people around you.

Some things you just can’t come back from…you can’t step back over the line. So show love and appreciation for the people you see everyday.

justTerry