You Should All Go See The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Right Now

As any of you who might follow me on Twitter might know based on the three am message, I went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at midnight.  I just couldn’t wait to see it; this is one I’ve been looking forward to for so long.  And I’m going to say right now: I adored it.

Now, before I get into this, there might be some mild spoilers, but probably only if you don’t already know the story.  Just be forewarned.

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Now, I’m not exactly a purist when it comes to the adaptations of Tolkien’s works.  Of course I would love a moment by moment, absolutely everything included, nothing left out and nothing added epic, I understand why that’s not what we’re going to get.  Adjustments to the story, as long as they don’t change the story, really don’t kill me.  That includes some of the adding of small things and side stories taken from either other places or inferred from the mythology that is the world Tolkien created.  There isn’t much of it, but what there is, I can handle.  Now, to the movie itself.

The movie is, of course, gorgeous.  It is, after all, made by the same people that did the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit.  I expected to continue to adore the casting, which I did, and even loved it more.  Each dwarf shows even more personality in this one, they become more of their own characters instead of all one mass character of “the dwarves”.  Martin Freeman is, of course, fantastic as always as Bilbo.  Without any actual lines dedicated to it, you can start to see the effects of the ring on him.  It’s subtle, but definitely there.  Richard Armitage, especially, I feel shines in the role of Thorin.  He really does a fabulous job with that character that could, easily, be seen or played as one dimensional and, to be honest, boring.  He brings life and depth to the would be king (seriously, what was it with Tolkien and “would be” kings?)

Now, the movie has its scarier moments.  There are chases and fights (that, for the actor in me, were AWESOME) of course, and there are some pretty seriously scary moments along the way (especially in the woods) that might be a bit much for younger children, but the moments are done well and they work and are, actually, pretty necessary.

As anyone who knows the book is aware, a good portion of The Hobbit is dedicated to the journey itself, meaning that there are times that those of us who selfishly want to see Smaug might feel it’s taking too long to get there.  This is the selfish fangirl in me, I know.

But let me tell you, that wait?  Is totally and completely worth it.  The first full sight of Smaug, fully up and in all his glory?  Absolutely bloody gorgeous.  They did an amazingly fantastic job on Smaug and it absolutely lived up to every (extremely high) expectation I had.  I.  Loved.  Him.

There were moments I could see what are probably Benedict Cumberbatch influences on facial expression (did you know that dragons can have facial expressions?  They totally can.  It’s glorious.) and movements.  The way Smaug moves, the way he talks, I don’t think he could be better.  They got it right (though, to be honest, I expect that from Peter Jackson.  I don’t see him allowing them to destroy something). 

The story leaves off in a good place for the conclusion and I was well satisfied by what I saw.  I can’t wait til the next one.

There were a few things that bothered me and I think it all boils down to one thing, something that plagues any franchise that attempts this move:  The movie is, technically and in all reality, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings series.  I know, shocker, right?  This story came first, in the same world, with some of the same characters and, therein, lies the problem.

All franchises that attempt prequels run into this problem – where there are characters in the prequel that we know, recognize, and love from the original movies, you really lose any ability to create much suspense with those characters.  Why?  Because we know, good and well, that they get through this movie just fine, because we’ve seen them before in the other movies, much older, wiser, and living and breathing just fine.  So Gandalf?  Bilbo?  We’re never really worried about their safety, no matter what situation they’re put in, because we know good and well they can’t die. 

The movie does a good job at trying to create and maintain some suspense and sense of danger anyway but, somewhere in the back of your head, you know its false, because you know, good and well, that Bilbo will be fine.  And nothing’s going to kill Gandalf.

But it doesn’t ruin the movie.

The thing that bothered me that I didn’t like was the inclusion of Legolas.  Now, I’ve heard some people say that, while he’s never directly mentioned in the books, he could easily (and likely) have been among the guard, as his father is the King.  I get that, and don’t disagree.  I don’t dislike the placement of Legolas in the story.  I don’t dislike why or how he appears or feel that it was forced.  I even understand Peter Jackson’s reasoning for bringing Legolas back instead of bringing in a random other elf we don’t know (if nothing else to tie to the other movies and, also, to give fans, who, as a whole, mostly adored Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, a bone with the character).

I don’t, however, like what they did with him.  Beyond the problem we have with there never really being any concern about him, the character itself feels so totally and completely different and wrong, somehow.  The character feels like some other character entirely, with a completely different personality and existence, who just happened to have the name “Legolas” slapped on him.  He doesn’t act or sound like Legolas, to me, at all, except that he’s amazingly proficient with the bow.  But the entire rest of his characterization is nothing at all like the character we know and love.  I wish they would have just let the character be another elf we don’t know.  It feels more, with his character, like this movie is the sequel, taking place many years after Return of the King, with a much older and wiser Legolas.

Which brings me to my other problem, which some people might jump down my throat for (and I’m prepared for it!).  The character of Legolas did not age well.  Don’t get me wrong: Orlando Bloom has aged beautifully.  He’s still just as gorgeous as he was 15 years ago, if not more so.  But it’s been ten years since Return of the King came out, twelve since Fellowship of the Rings came out and probably like thirteen or fourteen since the filming of those movies started.  Orlando Bloom is not as young as he was.

And, somehow, it shows through the make-up and character of Legolas.  He looks older, not younger, and, to be honest, it’s a bit distracting.  The make-up for the elf apparently does not age well at all.  I’d have to watch again to see what exactly it is about it that feels so wrong, other than just “it doesn’t look right and looks too old”.

All that being said, I loved the movie.  None of the small things that bothered me took away at all from how much I enjoyed the movie.  And seeing Smaug, those amazing scenes, are more than worth any irritations from other things.

The movie is fantastic and everyone should go see it. 

Now.

Why Moffat is Amazing (or Why I Love Day of the Doctor (and yes — HERE BE SPOILERS))

Okay, I kept silent overnight, but I can’t anymore.  I have to gush.  So, seriously, if you haven’t seen Day of the Doctor yet, and you don’t want to be spoiled, I would stop reading, now, and go watch it.  Now.  I’ll wait right here.

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Pretty filler so you won’t see anything.

So, anyone still here, I assume you’ve seen the 50th anniversary special Day of the Doctor.  If you have not, and I spoil anything for you, don’t complain, because I have warned you.  Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers galore.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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Last chance.

Okay, so you’ve seen it, or don’t mind being spoiled as to what happened.  Got it.

First gut reaction: amazing.  Literally, there were so many moments I was gasping or exclaiming at the television and one moment that literally left me so speechless I was on the verge of tears it was so beautiful.

The story itself is intriguing and, yes, there’s a reason for them all to be in the same place.  Moffat has done an amazing job, again, with writing this one, with taking it from here to there to over there in ways none of us would have expected and it is a thing of absolute beauty (yes, I do hate having to admit that sometimes, why do you ask? :P).  I’m not going to do a recap, as I assume you watched it, but there are some things I want to discuss.

We got a really good look at Gallifrey at the end of the Time War.  Not only the High Counsel or Command, but the people, on the streets.  The ones that burn when the Doctor (or The Warrior, or the War Doctor) ends the war.  Children, families, people that have no part in this war other than the fact that they happen to live on the planet that is home to the Time Lords (because, as we know, not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords).  The innocent bystanders.

And the War Doctor sees them too.  And we find out that what he did was not done at command of the Counsel or anyone else.  He stole the weapon and made the choice on his own of what to do because he felt it was what had to be done.

Now, I want to go off on a tangent here and say that, as I’ve been saying from the beginning, the War Doctor, what he did during the Time War, is NOT a secret and the Doctor hasn’t actually been trying to hide from it if his actions are any evidence.  He talks about it on a regular basis, holds it over enemies heads, does nothing to try to hide this form of himself, except when he’s discussing it in The Name of the Doctor and here in Day of the Doctor.  I expected that that to really really bother me.  And, in a way, it did.

But Matt Smith and David Tennant (we’ll get there in a moment but OMG THERE WAS DAVID TENNANT AND HE WAS SO GLORIOUS AS ALWAYS) had these amazing moments around John Hurt’s War Doctor (and John Hurt was so amazing and perfect) that I could actually believe, even knowing otherwise, that Ten and Eleven are and were not proud of what they did and actually did want to forget this man.  But, as Ten says at one moment, how do you forget something like that?  So I’ll give Moffat a pass there.  Because it didn’t nag me the whole episode.

And the rest of it was so amazing, I can let it go.

We finally got to see Ten and Queen Elizabeth I, which was just a throwaway line in The End of Time and an implied interesting history in The Shakespeare Code.  It was great.  Joanna Page was fascinating in the role and Ten was such a bumbling idiot it was awesome.  Part of me thinks it might have been Moffat poking at the fan girls – it didn’t matter what Ten did, how much of the angry streak he showed, we all loved him.  Devoted to him.  So does Queen Elizabeth.  I may be reading more into that than there actually is, but either way, I thought it was hilarious.

Because we got Ten back and it was awesome!  From Ten in a fez to the comparing of sonics to the glasses moment, the shoes, the fighting, the adoration between them, Ten and Eleven together onscreen was everything all of us ever wanted.  There were too many awesome lines and moments to repeat them all, but just know – Ten and Eleven?  They are awesome together.

And Eleven admits he regrets the decision.  After four hundred years of reliving it, he regrets the decision to wipe out Gallifrey.

Ten and Eleven show up, in the War Doctor’s reality and time, just so he doesn’t have to do it alone.  Just so he doesn’t have to wipe out his people alone.

And then there was Clara.  We didn’t really get Rose / Clara moments (I’ll get to that in a minute; I have some very specific thoughts on what Moffat did with Rose (brilliant!), so I’m hitting that one last) but both (in a way) are very influential on the three Doctors’ decision to try and save Gallifrey (by time locking it) instead of actually destroying it.  Clara, as the companion always does, represents us and she’s right – she’s heard the Doctor talk about the Time War and what he did, but actually seeing it, actually knowing that he, the He we love, is going to be the one to do it…that’s hard to stomach.  Hard to take in.  And her faith in him, he unfailing belief that he (all the Hes) is a GOOD person (well, Time Lord), changes his mind.  And they decide to save it and it’s a beautiful moment with Clara and all three of them (apparently, this version of Clara is the one for both Eleven and the War Doctor).

So, I sent a total of three tweet during the entire show, during things I was totally freaking out over.  When I realized what Moffat had done with Rose (a weapon with a conscious?  So awesome), at the end with the Tom Baker moment (get to that in a moment) and then, here, when the three doctors are on their screens, talking to the High Counsel, and all of a sudden there are other voices.  And we see other blue boxes.  And then it’s there – Hartnell.  Troughton.  Pertwee.  Baker.  Davidson.  Baker.  McCoy.  McGann.  And with a “Now for my next trick…”

There was my Christopher Eccleston.  There was my Nine.

I know, I KNEW, he didn’t come back to film anything, I can place that exact moment (The Parting of Ways, when Jack and Nine are coming to rescue Rose, just before the TARDIS materializes around her on the Dalek ship), but still, my heart jumped when I saw him because I love my Nine.  I was on the verge of tears and then someone in the Gallifrey High Counsel says something about there being twelve – no thirteen – and we see eyes.  Just a pair of eyes and then a TARDIS flying in, but we know those eyes. 

Capaldi.

I lost it.

Had I been in a theater with a bunch of people (I tried – sold out in under 3 minutes because there was only one theater in the southeast US showing it and they only had one screen.  When they opened another screen, it sold out in under 10 and wasn’t announced so…yeah), I probably would have screamed.  But I wasn’t.  I was at home with a few friends.  Can’t exactly scream.

So an “Oh my God!” and crying it was.

All thirteen Doctors were technically there and on screen at once, even if most of it was just archive footage (which I get, because most of the Doctors still alive don’t look like they did when they were playing the part (including when they regenerated) so they can’t easily come back to reprise the role (Davidson in Time Crash for Children in Need is a special case, because it was for Children in Need)).  It was beautiful and amazing and would make any Whovian cry.

For that moment, if nothing else, I thank you Moffat.

But there were still great moments to come.  And Moffat explains how the Doctor could change what happened in that moment without, change the entire narrative of the series, without actually changing the series – time streams out of sync, the War Doctor and Ten won’t really remember this (at the beginning?  Before he jumps into the time warp?  Eleven says “I remember this!  Well, kind of”) and that he will believe, at least until the moment Eleven gets involved, that he made the decision to destroy Gallifrey.  And they won’t know if it works.

I buy it.  It’s not even all that timey-wimey.

(Side note here to say that some people are a bit miffed that Moffat “ignored” The End of Time.  I don’t think that’s necessarily true.  The Gallifrey in The End of Time was time locked, they brought it back, everyone assumed that the rest of it was coming.  But we don’t actually see the rest of it, so it’s possible that Rassillion didn’t actually know what was going on (he wasn’t in the Counsel room when they told the Doctor to do what he needed to in Day of the Doctor) and that the time locked Gallifrey the thirteen Doctors created is what actually appeared.  This is not something that destroys anything canon in the series.  The Doctor believed that he had destroyed his people.  The universe believed it.  Just because it might not actually be true doesn’t change any of the things we know.)

So, two more amazing things.  One: Tom Baker.  Yes, I know that it technically came out last week (I also think I know where the “Eleven is regenerating” rumor came from – someone in BBC made a comment somewhere I’m sure either to the effect that “We see Capaldi” (which most people would assume Eleven would have to regenerate for) or that there was a regeneration (there is; we see Hurt’s War Doctor start to regenerate into Eccleston’s Nine (I was SO hoping we would see that finish and that Eccleston had actually filmed even a moment, but no such luck) and people assumed it was Eleven into Twelve.  But not so much!) but no one knows who or what it would be.  Because, as I said above, Baker is, sadly, too old to really reprise Four in any actual capacity.

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I know many many people that freaked out when they saw this.  So nice to include Classic fans!

But he didn’t.  I love how it’s not said but the implication is that it’s Eleven, at some point later, “revisiting an old favorite” face.  It was a wonderful moment for us, a nod to those Classic fans who wanted something, and an indication that, as we have all guessed, Capaldi won’t be the end of it (I have theories on that, but I’m not going to get into those here).

Now, for the most amazing thing I think Moffat did with this episode.  What he did with Rose.

Now it wasn’t actually Rose and, even here, it claims that it is Rose in Bad Wolf form.  But really, it’s The Moment, a weapon that developed a conscious (such an amazing concept and so awesome.  Love that!).  As it states, it chose a form from the War Doctor’s past (or future…”I always get those confused”), so it could have chosen anyone.  Martha, Jack, Mickey, Amy, Amelia, Rory, Donna.  Any companion or friend from Classic Who.  But it chose Rose.  Why did Moffat do that?

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I don’t know if he did this on purpose, but when I realized it last night, I hope he did, because it might be the most awesome thing he’s ever done (and he’s done some awesome things, like introducing us to someone we’re going to LOVE and adore by, you know, killing her) – Moffat showed us that the War Doctor regenerates almost immediately.  We already know (well, think we know) that the first place he ends up is London, with the Nestene Consciousness.  Thinking he’s blown up his people.  And then who does he meet?  This blonde girl who he can’t seem to allow himself to let go of.

He can’t let go of her because, even if he doesn’t remember it, that girl, in one form or another, helped save him from himself (John Hurt’s War Doctor says something about loving the “Bad Wolf girl” at one moment because she showed him exactly what he needed).  And she just does it again.

Moffat just retconned why Rose is so important to the Doctor, even if he doesn’t know and can’t explain it to himself (though I think he may have realized it during the Bad Wolf moments in The Parting of Ways, even if not fully consciously).  Moffat explained the tie between Rose and the Doctor in a way no one else could. 

Moffat just explained a question Whovians have been asking, about a character he didn’t create and only wrote for once or twice, and it might be one of the most amazing retcons I’ve ever seen.  Rose and the Doctor are more intertwined than we ever imagined and I think it’s awesome.

So, yes.  I loved the episode.  Adored it.  And, yes, it gives the Doctor some kind of purpose (looks like Capaldi might be going searching for Gallifrey!  Awesome!).

But the most beautiful thing (other than all thirteen showing up around Gallifrey with archive footage?) – the final moment when Eleven steps out and they’re all there.  We’ve all seen the picture, with all the Doctor’s faces, but here, all standing together – Hartnell through Smith.  It was beautiful.  And perfect.

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(Also, can we take a moment to appreciate that, under “The Doctor” in the credits there were thirteen names?  I squealed!)

Countdown to the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor

It’s less than 48 hours (less than 36, actually) until we get The Day of the Doctor, the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special and rumors are abounding.  Speculation is crazy.

And we are all like small children on Christmas Eve!

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The cover of SFX magazine, #241.  Gorgeous!

Rumors, as they will do, have grown and grown.  Rumors about who might be involved (apparently, since Paul McGann came back to film the minisode (have you seen it?  The prequel?  If not, go watch it, right now.  I’ll wait right here because, oh yes, here be spoilers) he and Moffat lie and now all bets are off (though I don’t agree with that.  They never said he wasn’t coming back at ALL, just that he wasn’t coming back for the 50th.  And he didn’t.  The prequel is a totally different thing.  Really), rumors about what might happen, rumors rumors rumors.

And, of course, we’re all loving it.

There’s a rumor that Matt Smith will regenerate at the end of this special instead of in the Christmas special.  I’m not sure I believe that one, because we’ve seen shots from him filming the Christmas special and I’ve seen a promotional poster for it (though it’s possible that wasn’t official or it was just to throw us off).  Again, I don’t buy all the rumors, but these are what exist.

Because of McGann’s return, there are now rumors about just about every single living former Doctor and whether they will return.  The rumor that Eccleston might return popped up very quickly (though I don’t believe that one for many reasons, the least of which being the circumstances around which he left the show.  I don’t know if he would come back, even if they asked, and I’m not so sure they would ask) and the rumor from July, 2012 that Tom Baker would be returning was seemingly confirmed by The Huffington Post. (Side note: can we just take a moment here to appreciate that Baker, in that interview, basically says “I was Doctor Who before it was cool”?  It makes me laugh.  I guess the scarf should have warned us that Four was a hipster.)  There are rumors that the Rose we’re getting is a version of the Bad Wolf Rose, or even the alternate dimension (Pete’s World) Rose, though I don’t think anyone believes we’re getting David Tennant as TenToo.  From the clip released during Children in Need, it appears we’re getting Ten during his travels (Smith’s Eleven seems to remember it) and, based on the inclusion of Johanna Page as Queen Elizabeth I (which has been confirmed), I believe we’re getting Ten somewhere between Journey’s End and End of Time, when he was traveling and told Ood Sigma he married “Good Queen Bess”.

We’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out, I guess.  And personally, I can’t wait.

But right now?  I want to talk a little bit about what we know, what we found out, for sure, confirmed, in that prequel minisode.  So if you haven’t watched it yet, go do so now.  I will be spoiling the entire thing in just a moment.

Here’s a pretty picture to look at so that there isn’t risk of spoilers!!!

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So, done watching?  Last chance to save yourself!

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Yes, they did it.  Paul McGann is back as The Doctor and finally gets his regeneration.  We also have official confirmation (from the “And Introducing John Hurt as The War Doctor”) that John Hurt’s Doctor X (Eight, before regeneration, says he will be “The Warrior”) is the incarnation between McGann’s Eight and Eccleston’s Nine (all my previous discussions on John Hurt’s Doctor X are here, here, and here).  We don’t really get a look at his Doctor (though we do see where he got the sash / belt thing, and it’s awesome) but the reflected glimpse we do get doesn’t look like the Doctor X we’ve come to know over the past few months.  Meaning that it’s possible this incarnation may have stuck around for quite awhile (meaning the Time War may have been much much longer than anyone anticipated) and may have aged during his time (or that the reflection is just not that good and it does look like we’ve come to love).  But none of that really matters.  Let’s go to what we have learned from this minisode.

McGann’s Eight didn’t regenerate until well into the Time War.  When the ship is going down at the beginning, and he shows up to save Cass, she refuses to go with him because he’s a Time Lord.  She talks about the war and about how the Time Lords are trying to destroy the universe (she specifically says they aren’t done yet because “there’s still some of the universe left”).  He remarks that he’s not a Dalek and she says he’s no better and who can tell the difference anymore.

The Time War wasn’t secret – and wasn’t popular.  The Time Lords were apparently NOT considered heroes as it was happening, but part of the problem (at least wherever Cass is from).

The Doctor adamantly maintains that it’s not his war, he’s not involved, not fighting it, and not about to help the Time Lords in an way.  The Sisters of Karn claim he can stop it, he can save the universe (yeah, yeah, we know), but he doesn’t want to listen to them.  He doesn’t specifically state why, to be honest, just that it isn’t his war and he has no part in it.  He’s a “Doctor” not a “warrior”.  The leader of the Sisters tells him he considers The Doctor title to also mean “A Good Man” and that he is a good man.  They state they will help him regenerate – he was hurt too badly, but they can jump start it and let him have control over it. (Side note – is that somehow going to affect the “regeneration limit” we have all accepted over the years (which I will also have more on later)?)  He chooses “warrior”.  States they don’t need a Doctor, they need a warrior.

So, is this why Eleven states that Doctor X isn’t the Doctor?  Because his purpose for existence wasn’t to necessarily help people (even if it did save the universe) because he knew that, in helping to stop the war, he was going to have to make the conscious and willing choice to kill people / creatures?

Okay, I get it.  I understand why the Time War Doctor would be considered, by The Doctor we all know and love, to not be a version of himself, of the healer and helper he has always tried to be.  But Eleven says, specifically, that this is an incarnation he has tried to forget.  That he has tried to hide.  So, though I have stated this before, I will state it again to make sure Moffat hears me:  the Time War Doctor is NOT a secret.

(Yes, yes, I know, he won’t read it, but it will make me feel better, ‘kay?)

The Doctor has talked about the Time War.  On multiple occasions, and not just to companions.  He has held it over enemies’ heads.  So many of the enemies he’s run into have known about it anyway.  I don’t care how much you need it, if you’re trying to keep something a secret – you don’t KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT.

If the ONLY thing this Doctor did was being a warrior, fighting in and ending the war, then I’m going to be a bit upset cause, well, there’s a lot of mystery about, well, nothing.  Nothing at all.

I understand the Doctor didn’t like what he had to do.  The Doctor has never quite forgiven himself for what he did.  I get that.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a secret and, if that is the only thing, I wish Moffat would have approached it differently.

That being said, I mentioned before about Doctor X pushed “the big red button” to end the war, but of course it would be more than that because, well, wow.  But – look at this image from the trailer.  What does that look like?

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Yep.  I will literally laugh out loud if he pushes a big red button to end the war.

So here we go.  Countdown has begun.  30 hours and counting to the 50th anniversary and I couldn’t be more excited!!!

(Now I get to go get dressed and go see Catching Fire.  Excited for that one too!)

Why I love Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and think the critics should hush already

I’m going to make a confession that may shock some people in the comic / geek / fandom community, and will certainly shock television “critics”: I, part of the target demographic of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., shockingly, do not hate the show!  In fact, I quite adore it, despite all of your attempts to convince me it’s crap. (WARNING: There will be slight spoilers for tonight’s episode)

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From the first episode, I could tell I was going to like the characters.  I’ve always been an Agent Phil Coulson fan (I have a “Coulson Lives” poster that I got as soon as I could find one after Avengers Assemble).  I think Clark Gregg plays the role fantastically and I was so very very excited when I realized that they really were bringing him back.  YAY!!

But I didn’t only love Coulson.  I adore Agent Ward and not just because he’s hot (there, I said it – but I will admit he’s not my favorite of the boys on the show.  That would be Fitz).  I think Brett Dalton has a good handle on the loner fighting against being part of the team (though, by tonight’s episode, 6 episodes in, it’s obvious that he cares about the team, whether he wanted to or not) and some of the unexpected humor moments we’ve gotten out of him have been fantastic.  (“Gramsy?” will continue to make me laugh probably as many times as I see it!)  Agent May is growing on me as she starts to come out of her hermit cave (you know, where they actually make the red tape) and some of her moments tonight I adore (especially the moments about change and moving forward at the end).  Skye is fun – she is, as I said before, probably supposed to somewhat represent us, the fans, and they do a pretty good job with it.  The “mystery” surrounding her gives me some pause, but as long as they make her a character that happens to have some “we’ll figure this out” mysterious background history (instead of, you know, being a mystery and nothing else as a character) – which is what I’m seeing so far – I think it’ll go well.

This is Joss Whedon we’re talking about.  He’s better than “stock mysterious female” characterization.  Subtleties and arc building personality and character growth are kind of his thing.  Along with making the people no one else thinks about, the unthanked, the unthought about, the stars and focus of his projects.  Because that’s what this team with S.H.I.E.L.D. is.

However, none of these things are what I adore maybe the most about the show.  As shown by my live tweeting of tonight’s show, I adore Fitz-Simmons.  Both as the individual characters and as a single entity.  The back and forth, overlapping science geek outs are amazing and wonderful.  The little gadgets Fitz creates (the seven droids anyone?) are amazingly creative and I can see, if it isn’t already doable, the jumps that could be made to get there.  It’s based on things we have.  And Simmons geeking out on her med things (like the bodies in tonight’s episode)?  So adorable.

And tonight’s episode almost made the cry.  Those moments with FitzSimmons were too perfectly wonderful.  And in an amongst the heartstring pulls, there are the hilarious moments (including, which might be my favorite, the Agent Ward impressions by each of them and then the impression Agent Ward does of Simmons doing an impression of Agent Ward – so cute) that kept the show from being too killer.  The sacrifices this team is willing to make for each other…beautiful.

And, to be honest, that’s what the show is.  Yes, they’re going after alien technology and artifacts; yes, there are times that they deal with superheroes.  But that’s not what it’s about – it’s about the people that do this for a living.  The people that put their lives on the line for the Division and for each other.

And that, I think, is the complaint from so many of the “critics” trying to convince me that the show is horrible and should be cancelled.  I think there were people that, when this show was announced, expected an MCU movie every week, a different superhero every show.  And that’s not what the show is, or what the show was every meant to be.  The way I explained it to my sister is that it’s like CSI or NCIS for the division that’s purpose is to handle the “supernatural” threats and such on the world.  It’s not all superheroes.  It’s not all glamorous.  It’s the in the trenches, nitty gritty and, sometimes, that might feel somewhat “boring” to someone expecting Iron Man III every week.  This show is week to week, day to day in the life of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Thor, Iron Man, Avengers Assemble, those are all once in awhile major catastrophes that require the Division to call in the assistance of the big guns.

This show is about what’s going on when they don’t have to call in the supers.

And, personally, I love that.  And I am also the demographic they’re trying to hit.

So, in response to the critics saying the show isn’t hitting the mark or should be cancelled, hear me out:  If you aren’t a fan of this kind of show, you aren’t going to like this show.  If you expect an MCU movie every week, you’re going to be disappointed.  If you’re a sitcom person, you aren’t going to like this show.

And if you are dead set on not liking comics, you’re never even going to give this show a chance.

The show may never be #1 in the ratings, because, I’ll be honest, it’s not for everyone.  I think anyone who goes in with an open mind and gives the show a chance will like it but there are always going to be people who, well, it’s just not their thing.  It happens and means nothing about the show.

Despite the critics’ attempts to convince us that the show is horrible and should be chopped before all of the 8 episodes aired, ABC picked up the show for a full 22 episode season.  The show is 2nd on ABC’s schedule for the 18 – 49 demographic and 5th for total viewership.  Only two weekly non-scripted show (on all major networks) reached more of that coveted demographic: The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is not doing as bad as they want you to believe.  I hope it will stick around because I’m loving it.

And even if they do let it go (which I think would be idiotic, but, you know, what do I know?  I’m just your target audience) I will continue to love these characters and this show.  I am, very proudly, Team Fitz-Simmons.

And I will always be Team Coulson.  No matter what the big secret ends up being.

The horrible lesson I am (unintentionally) teaching my daughter (part of Things I Want My Daughter to Know)

Pretty.  Gorgeous.  Beautiful.  God, I hate those words.

Part of me, at least.  You know, the part of me that hears those words in relation to me.  I don’t particularly agree with the sentiment.  At all, to be exactly and painfully honest.

So, my answer, my response, my automatic, gut, comes-without-thinking reaction is to say “No, I’m not” or “You’re crazy” or something along those lines.  Anything of that sort.  Brush it off, laugh it off, cast it off, make it go away.  Really.

I know, good and well, that most of my own issues are due to my awkward phase (let’s be honest, who doesn’t have one?) and, to be honest, I never stopped seeing that version of myself.  I also know, as someone told me once, what we see in the mirror is in no way what everyone around us sees.  And while I guess I can probably accept that (it’s probably also why we all think pictures of us look so weird), somehow, emotionally, I just can’t get around it.

I don’t think I’m pretty.

However, in relation to other people, I don’t particularly have an aversion to these words.  I use them, regularly, in describing people I know.  Just not myself.

I’ve noticed the same trend in other women.

Now, I’m going to pause here to say that, as anyone who has ever spoken with me about her will tell you, I believe that my daughter (who is currently a way too smart four-and-a-half) is beautiful, way too beautiful for her own good and absolutely, above all, for my own good.  I vote for her to be locked in a closet when she turns ten.

I’m not sure she has any concept yet of “pretty”.  She hears it a lot I’m sure (from everyone), but I’m not sure she exactly or particularly realizes what the word actually means.

However, if she hears someone call me “pretty” (or anything else complimentary) and then I say “No I’m not”, she, at least right now, will come back very quickly with a “Yes you are, Mommy!”

Now, I should take a moment here to say my baby girl look like me.  Not just in a you-can-see-the-resemblance way, but in a “mini-me”, put-her-in-one-of-my-outfits-take-a-picture-and-you-can’t-tell-the-difference way.  She looks exactly like I did at her age.

And, because she lived where I grew up and has been surrounded, most of her life, by people who knew me at that age, people tell her this.  All.  The.  Time.

And I realized a couple of things very quickly recently:  If, her whole life, everyone tells my daughter she is the spitting image of her mother (me) and if every time someone compliments her mother’s (my) looks, her mother (I) rejects said compliment with a “No”, then what the hell am I teaching my absolutely beautiful daughter about her looks?

I am doing, unintentionally, to her self esteem what has been done to mine for years.  And I always said I don’t want her to end up like me.  I want better for her.

So what the hell am I doing showing this horrible lesson to my daughter before she is even in kindergarten?

And I know, from observation, I am not the only mother perpetuating this lesson.

Somehow, somewhere, some place along the line, we, as a culture and a society, have done two rather horrible things to our daughters:  Taught them that looks and beauty are somehow incredibly important to one’s success (by both making it so and by idol-worshiping those whose job it is to be extraordinarily pretty) and also taught them that to proclaim oneself beautiful, to consider yourself beautiful, or even “pretty”, is wrong and vain and not to be done or admired.

We teach our daughters, through our actions, that those who think themselves attractive (at least females) are vain and narcissistic.  We teach our little girls that thinking you are pretty is not something you admit to out loud.  You say “No I’m not”, even if you agree, because otherwise you are a self-obsessed snob.  And, moreover, we teach our daughters that if they do not match the media and publicity perpetuated unrealistic standard of “beauty” that they are not so and are not good enough.

There are all kinds of videos and photo galleries on the web showing the airbrushing that goes into those images of “standard beauty”.  Even those models don’t look like that.

We teach our daughters to be overly concerned with their looks but to only notice the flaws by being overly aware of others’ beauty and completely unaware of, or unable to admit to, our own beauty.

This needs to stop.  Today.  Not only do we need to teach our daughters that appreciating your own unique beauty is something to be admired, we need to teach them that “beauty” comes in multiple shapes, sizes, colors, packages, and varieties.

Not looking like the rail thin, top 1% in looks supermodels in the magazines and Hollywood (who also receive massive amounts of assistance from airbrushing, make-up, and cameras) does not make an individual any less beautiful in her – or his – own right.

We, as mothers (and aunts and teachers and mentors and friends) need to take this lesson to heart.

We should no longer allow our daughters to hear us disparaging ourselves.  Moreover, we should allow ourselves to be proud of our unique beauty.  We should embrace our curves, our curls (or our straight hair), our freckles, our color, our noses, our shapes, our everything, media inspired “perfect” or “ideal” be damned.

Our daughters are too beautiful and too important to allow such images to destroy them.

I’ve written about role models (here, here, here, and here) before, but, really, it’s part of it too.  Our daughters need people out there, other than just their mothers, that they can look up to.  Characters and people that are more tan walking paper dolls, that thing about more than just men, clothes, and make up.  Role models that are proud of their brains.  Proud of their looks, even though aware that it’s not all that matters.  Role models that are more than just eye candy.

It is our job as our daughters’ first and foremost role models to exhibit healthy and beneficial lessons and choices.  It is our job to recognize and accept our flaws but also to accept and embrace those good things about ourselves we might, due to our own examples of the above lessons, be more commonly keen to ignore, down play, and disregard.  It is our job to be an example and to provide other healthy and strong examples of a healthy and confident woman.

And we’re going to fall.  We’re going to make bad choices and mistakes.  But we pick up, learn, and go on – and teach our daughters to do the same with their heads held high.

…That’s a lot to put on our already overflowing plates, isn’t it?

I know this – more than anybody, I know this.  But I can’t help but think that the extra time, the extra effort, the extra something is (has to be) worth it. Because the payoff is amazingly strong and confident girls in the not so distant future.

Our daughters.  Even if we can’t convince ourselves that we are worth it, that we are worthy of confidence, in the end, this is for them.  They shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of themselves.

If nothing else in the world, they are worth it.

Review of Ender’s Game

So, Ender’s Game came out today.  This movie is one that’s been a labor of love for Card and those involved, as I actively recall at least two or three names attached and time when we thought the production was moving forward, only to be put back on the shelf.  While I was really looking forward to it (since I heard they were actually moving forward, to be honest), I had severe reservations.  This is one of those books I love and have loved since the first time I read it.  There are moments, as in all of my favorite books, I really wanted to see on screen.  I wanted to see how the translation held up.

I have to say, it’s definitely worth a watch.  (NOTE:  For any of you who have not read the book, there will be spoilers as to the plot of the movie and the book in here.)

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(Also, before I get into this, I want to mention one of the previews: a trailer for an Aaron Eckhart piece called I, Frankenstein.  I will have to look into this more, but it appears Frankenstein has been pushed into some kind of superhero role?  Intriguing…..)

There were, as is to be expected in any movie taking on something as big as that book, some changes.  There were dramatic time compression (the book takes place over about 4 or 5 years, this one seems to be about 1) and age adjustment.  There were alterations to battles, combination of battles, some combination / adjustment of characters.  This, again, is understandable.  There were a couple of changes that, while I didn’t necessarily disagree with or dislike them , and which certainly didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the movie, I also can’t say I would have necessarily done myself, had I been in charge, but those changes did not keep me from enjoying the movie.

The first such decision was the gender switch of Major Anderson.  Don’t get me wrong – Viola Davis was very good in the role and I enjoyed her characterization of the Major immensely.  The change did not cause really any distraction or harm the story in any way.  However, my issue is that, due to Major Anderson being the one in the Battle School with empathy to the recruits, the one concerned about how far they’re pushing Ender, I was a little disheartened to see that the role was changed to female.  While it doesn’t really matter all that much (in the book it’s usually just “Major Anderson” and the gender really isn’t important, although the character is referred to as “he” a time or two) I had always kind of liked the off set of concern by the Major to Colonel Graff’s insistence that they push Ender truly to, and beyond, his limits.  Part of me felt, in the actual theater, that the contrast loses a bit when the one so concerned and wanting to pull back is female to the one pushing harder’s male archetype.  It almost felt as if the only way someone would be concerned about the mental well-being of the recruits would be if they were female and therefore “motherly” and I, personally, do not feel this is the case.  It bothered me in the moment, but I can, and did, get over it.

The Battle Room scenes are fun, though anyone prone to motion sickness should be forewarned – some of the cinematography in the zero gravity situations can be a bit jarring.  I am not prone to motion sickness caused by movies and I got a bit of that “stomach drop” feeling at times.  So you might just want to prepare yourself for that.  Also, for those who love the book and hoping for a rather direct page-to-screen adaptation, not so much.  There are Battle Room scenes, but few.  There are only two full battles that we get to see and even those feel somewhat confusing and quick.  (Though, when reading the book, the battles seem long, based on Ender’s discussions after, few of them are.  I believe at one point he says a battle was over in 5 minutes, it appears most aren’t all that drawn out.)  The rules of the game in the Battle Room are changed slightly (from the book, not just when the higher ups start mucking with them) but, again, easily acceptable.

The characters are, surprisingly, well played.  This is not a Michael Bay blow-things-up-and-damn-the-acting blockbuster.  It’s an action movie, sure, but it’s got heart and they get into the characters.  Asa Butterfield is very good as Ender, trying to convey the pressure and inner conflict well without the need of much “inner monologue” voice over.  Really the only voice over we get is a couple of Ender’s emails to Valentine over time jumps (with quick through shots of training underneath).  So the inner battle he’s fighting, the tactical planning, the reasoning we get to see entirely in the book – the amazing characterization that, really, is the entire point of the novel – falls completely on the acting shoulders of, well, a kid.  And he does a remarkable job, with what he’s been given, with the portrayal and conveyance of them.  Though he is 16 now, he looks younger on screen (I believe, with the effects and post-production on this movie, filmed when he was 13 or 14).  Though I’m not sure the actual age is ever given (I might have just missed it in dialogue), they do specifically state many of the recruits are under 15.  I believe that Ender is probably supposed to be 12-ish and portrays it well.  Whatever the intended age doesn’t, really, matter, as the intent and spirit of the book is conveyed rather well through Butterfield’s Ender.  I will admit there is some loss of the pure heart of the character – the childlike acceptance of his situation (which would have been lost anyway when changing the character from 6 to pre-teen), the ability to easily see how adverse to violence the character is because we can’t “hear” the reasoning that we get in the books – Butterfield does convey an extremely empathetic Ender that doesn’t actually seem to want to hurt anyone.  (Here, one of the changes made wasn’t just made for time – Ender knows how severely hurt Bonzo is after the fight and we see, when he’s talking to Valentine, how it is affecting him.  I believe this was a wise choice on the part of the screenwriter / director, because it does help portray the Ender we know who has the ability to become the Speaker for the Dead.)

The graphics and animation of the Command School simulations are impressive.  Admittedly, the graduation simulation / final battle feels, in some ways, a bit anti-climatic and less important than it should in the scheme of things, but I also feel like, given the fact that the Formics / Buggers are on the pure defensive and that the final conclusion Ender reaches about his approach to the battle isn’t one they likely would have ever expected, this dissociative feeling is the one intended by Card in the books (the battle feels almost as detached there, though the eruption from the “audience” is much more immediate there, allowing the urgency and importance of the simulation to sink in much more quickly).

The second screenwriter / director decision that grated on me (SPOILER ALERT!!!) is part of the reason why the movie loses some of its heart.  When Ender finds the Hive Queen, there is an actual Formic / Bugger (ancient, dying) standing guard over it.  While I could understand this change, because it allows Ender to communicate with the Hive Queen Egg without having to deal with a mind connection (he talks to the physically present Formic / Bugger), they don’t explain the history of the aliens and, therefore, it is hard for those viewers who haven’t read the book – who don’t KNOW that the Buggers had realized we (humans) were a sentient race and they weren’t trying to invade again – to make the jump to the logic that makes Ender take the egg and go in search of a planet for the Formic / Buggers to live on.

Overall, the movie was done well – graphics and effects have caught up with the sci-fi technology and ideas in the book and allow for a beautiful and realistic background to the action.  The acting is really rather superb, even from the younger members of the cast.  The story itself loses some of its heart to those unfamiliar with the book, but it doesn’t lose the intent and message that has been relevant and important since the book’s publication.  The movie is a definite recommendation!

The Notice (Ficlet)

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The Notice by Geeky Mommy

Rated: G

Summary:  He’s supposed to check the lists of casualties from Canary Wharf.  Routine.  Until one name stops him short.

 

He checks the lists after Canary Wharf.  As head of the team in Cardiff, it is part of his job.  They tell him to confirm losses, check against those Torchwood had listed.  Mark sure everything at least reads as copacetic, settled.  Make sure no one disappeared or fell through the cracks.  All accounted for.

Routine, he thinks.

If he’s honest with himself, the initial check is extremely half-hearted.  He knows the familiar names to expect, knows the civilian ones will be foreign and meaningless to him.  Line by line, faceless name after faceless name.

Until one name pulls up an all too familiar face and he has to stop.  Re-read the name.  Twice.

Rose Tyler.

Spunky, blonde, beautiful, and brilliant…his Rose.

“No way,” he says, aloud, checks again, and, sure enough, there she is, listed among the dead.

He’d heard some rumblings within the Institute about Canary Wharf.  That He had shown up, TARDIS in tow, blonde companion and all.  Rose.  Someone, he couldn’t remember who, said enough to convince him Mickey was along, somewhere.  But he assumed they got out.  He assumed they all disappeared in that box, like always.  He wasn’t anywhere on the list and he couldn’t imagine the Doctor ever leaving Rose Tyler behind.  Even…

No.  Not even then.  Surly Rose was more important than he had been.

He was an anomaly.  Of that much, he was all too well aware.  Surely, had He known Jack was alive he wouldn’t have…

But no, Jack couldn’t be sure of that.  She had been his concern.  If she was in danger, He would do anything to protect her.  Even send her away.  Or leave him behind, stranded on that damned satellite.

Jack looks at the paper again – what was this, the fourth?  fifth?  time? – and the words are still there, black and white:  Rose Tyler.  And, below it (though he hadn’t noticed before): Jackie Tyler.

Rose…he rolls the name around in his head for a moment.  How many times over the years had that beautiful blonde face popped into his head, straight out of World War II or Cardiff or that damned satellite?  Rose, with her coy and teasing grin, tongue on her teeth, daring either one of them to challenge her.

Time travel does odd things to everyone who even dabbles.  Everyone Jack ever knew, pretty much, has been dead at some point in his travels.  He’s been far enough forward, and way too far back, for the death of someone to really faze him.  Even without being able to jump around, he’s outlived generations with this new innate ability to, well…not die.

But this…somehow, this is different.

Thinking it – “Rose is dead” – puts his heart in a cold grip and makes it extremely hard to breathe.  He might as well be gulping water.

“Hey, boss.”  He hears fast footsteps in the hall, sees Jones coming around the corner, tries to pull himself together.  “I was going through this weapons report and…”  Jones stops in the doorway.  “You alright?”

Jack can suddenly feel the pull of wetness on his cheek – God, when had he started crying? – and brushes at it with the back of his hand.  “Just fine, Jones.  Pages of names.  Makes you cross-eyed quickly.”  Jones nods.  “Weapons report?”

“If you wouldn’t mind reviewing it when you have a mo.  I marked my concerns.”

“Of course.”  Jones drops the report on the desk and with just a moment’s pause, leaves the room.

Jack laughs lowly for a moment.  Captain Jack Harkness.  Whoever would have thought he might be human?

Somehow, finding Him, finding the Doctor, becomes, in that moment, all the more important.  He has to know.  Has to know what happened to one of the most amazing women he ever knew.

He might not want to see him, but Jack is certain that the Doctor would not deny him the truth about Rose.

Because, one way or another, he had loved her.  They both had.

He pulls a bottle from his desk.  Now that he’s admitted that, he is determined to forget it again.