Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 51

Today's doodle is a Staurikosaurus.  (In fact, the reference photo is right there on the wikipedia page.  Didn't go too far for inspiration today...)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Green Lantern

I have yet to read any critical analysis of this film, because I wanted to post my pure, unfiltered thoughts on the film. However, I have the feeling that this film was not well received, and, considering I quite liked it, I will probably be in the minority. Therefore, I will probably end up having to defend it to people, which is kind of a bummer, because there are already so many things I have taken upon myself to defend.

Considering I have not read critical reviews of this film, there may be things that I didn't notice that will reduce the film in my eyes. So, after writing this, I will probably read what others have written and see how that affects my opinion. I think I do have a tendency to gloss over the negative parts of movies and focus only on the positives, which tends to make my movie-going experience more enjoyable while making critical analysis a bit difficult.

There is also the fact that I have read many of the books this comic was based on, particularly Geoff Johns work with Green Lantern, specifically Green Lantern: Rebirth and Green Lantern: Secret Origin, both of which I believe were influences on this film. The fact that I really enjoyed both of these stories might also be clouding my judgment, in that I may be inserting things about those comics that I liked into my view of the film story and not judging the film on it's own merits.

But enough preface. Let's get down to brass tacks. (Where does that phrase come from anyway?)

I feel that the strongest thing about Green Lantern is it's sense of theme. The theme is clear almost from the beginning and is well-explored throughout the film. The theme, of course, is about overcoming fear. As Sinestro says, fear is the enemy of willpower. Will moves towards action, while fear moves towards inaction. It is easy to pretend that you don't have fear, but that only increases its power over you. Courage is not a lack of fear, but an overcoming of fear. The mistake the other Lanterns and the Guardians make is believing they lack fear, thus completely giving into it. By accepting he is afraid, but fighting against that fear allows Hal to defeat Parallax: an obvious and clear symbol for fear. This theme is explored very well in the movie, so I will not go on further.

The film makes excellent use of parallel father figures. Hal's own biological father represents something he can't seem to ever live up to. Hal sees his father as a fearless and perfect pilot, and can only see his own fear and failings as a result. Hal gains another father figure in Abin-Sur, whom he instinctively tries to save when he finds him crashed (a very nice parallel to the death of his own father.) He is thrust into the Green Lantern corps, and once again finds himself an inadequate replacement for a great hero. However, he ultimately realizes what made both of his father figures so great was not that they didn't feel fear, but that they didn't let their fear control them. As a result, he suddenly finds himself not only living up to their example, but exceeding it.

There is one other father figure in the film. The father of Hal's foil, Hector Hammond. Hector can't seem to live up to his father's expectations, and his father is fully aware of it. Unlike Hal, though, Hector gives into his fear of inadequacy and lashes out hatefully against his father, ultimately being consumed by fear and rage.

The love story is... passable. It's not particularly riveting, but also doesn't take too much time away from the other stuff in the movie. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to make it more interesting by following the comic's example and having Hal have trouble connecting with Carol because he blames her father for his father's death. Of course, they do successfully manage to tie the love story into the overall theme of the movie by suggesting that Hal has a powerful fear of commitment which he eventually overcomes. The fact that they knew each other since they were children and had a failed relationship before the movie makes the romance not feel contrived, unlike the love story in Thor.

The trailers for this film left me a little concerned that they weren't going to make very good use of the constructs. I thought that it would mostly be shooting balls of green light for most of the movie. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case. The appeal of the Green Lantern ring is that it is limited only by the imagination of the wearer. They managed very successfully to capture that and had some very creative constructs that made the fight scenes very unique and imaginative.

The climax was... Anticlimactic isn't the right word, because it was definitely climactic in a dramatic and thematic sense. But... it was very... quick, I suppose. Yeah, that's how I would describe it. The final battle with Parallax was over surprisingly quickly. I'm not sure that this is necessarily a problem, more an interesting biproduct of modern film. We are used to these summer blockbusters having long, drawn out climaxes, so one that gets the job done quickly is jarring.

Ultimately, I can think of very little to say against the film. Perhaps some more negative things will be pointed out to me by others, but my initial thoughts: good, not exceptional. This is far from my favorite movie of the summer so far (that honor would have to go to Midnight in Paris), or even my favorite superhero flick (X-Men is the one to beat. Curious to see if Captain America will manage it.) But Green Lantern is still a fun movie that takes its central theme very seriously and manages to be fun while doing it.

  • I feel like DC really wants this film to be their Iron Man. Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. While Green Lantern was a fun showcase of a comics character that the general public are less aware of, like Iron Man, this film lacks that sense of freshness and wonder that we got to see in Iron Man.
  • It's clear that they want to make a sequel, with the Sinestro stinger at the end.  Assuming they can make a sequel, I wonder how it would go.  Is it still going to be about Hal, or would we get to meet any of the other earth lanterns from the comics.  Kyle Rainer, Guy Gardner, John Stewert?
  • I thought the CGI was very well done and very convincing.  In particular, I thought the design of Parallax was very cool and unique.
  • The Bzzd cameo was great.  I wonder if we will get to see Mogo in a future film.
  • Ryan Reynolds did alright as Hal Jordan, but I still think it's unfair that he gets to play two superheroes. (Deadpool and Green Lantern.)  I mean Chris Evans is already pushing it by playing the Human Torch AND Captain America, but at least they don't seem to planning another Fantastic Four movie.

Doodle-A-Day 47-50

Sorry I haven't doodled for a few days.  Here are four drawings to take care of that deficiency.  For some reason, I have had Harry Potter on the mind, so these are all inspired by that series.

This first one is a drawing of the Marauders.  From left to right: James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew.  The hardest part of this one was getting unique and distinct faces for each of them.  I think I only mildly succeeded.  In particular, I dislike Sirius's face.  Which is funny, because his pose is easily my favorite, with the tie on his head.  His feet are kind of weird as well.

Next up is a drawing of an older Lupin.  I tried to make him look really tired.  He looks pretty worse for wear here; it's probably the day after a full moon.  Poor guy.

This is a doodle of Dumbledore, giving his trademark knowing look.

And, finally, a sharpie drawing of Voldemort.

These were all really fun to do, but I should probably stay away from Potter for a while.  Expect something very different tomorrow.  (No idea what that will be.)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 46

I thought it would be a fun thought experiment to figure out what it would look like if elephant evolution had progressed quite a bit differently, and we had pachyderm predators roaming the African savannah.  In the end it kind of just looks like a lion got it on with an elephant.  I think maybe I should have given it less fur and made it a bit bulkier, with a more elepantine tail.  Also, it's stance would look much better if it's back hindleg was more forward.  Still though, I quite like it.

Also, I'm only like... five minutes late on this one, so I'm going to count it as being on time.  Because I can break the rules like that.

Friday, June 24, 2011

One of the Worst Things I've Ever Seen

Just a quick one because I need an outlet for my anger.

The other day I was in my family living room, on my way to the kitchen to make a sandwich or something.  The Disney Channel was on the living room TV.  I stopped and saw one of the worst things I've seen in quite some time.  No, it wasn't one of the many awful tweencoms they air on that channel.  I wish.

It was a classic Donald Duck cartoon, except it was narrated by some horribly annoying, douchey voice, making jokes about the slapstick.  Every time Donald got hurt (he was trying to back a pie, incidently), this douchey male voice would say "BLAM!"  And sometimes, it would rewind and do it again in slow motion.  All the while this douchey voice would make horrible jokes about something that was already funny.

Needless to say, I was very insulted.  I was insulted at the idea that children wouldn't understand that a classic cartoon was funny unless they were told by a hip and modern voice that it was.  This is a bastardization of classic cartoons and makes me absolutely furious.

I saw another one, this time a Goofy cartoon.  Same type deal.  Goofy was trying to lift weights and was getting hurt in a lot of very creative ways, which would have been quite hilarious if this horrible "BLAM!" guy wasn't treating us to his douchey remix of the cartoon.  (I realize I've used the word douchey several times on this post. While I tend to try and tone the language down here, this is honestly the only word I can think of to describe this guy's voice.)

What I don't understand is why Disney is so willing to bastardize their own work.  I suppose they think it's a good money-move, but I wish they just showed a bit more respect for the art.  These cartoons are great, and it's a real shame that they are treating a new generation to a mutilated version of them.

Anyway, I'll get off my soap box now.

Sidenote:  I really like that old Disney animation.  The wild elasticity of almost everything in those cartoons is great fun and lends a unique imagination to them.  It's really only something you can get when you have someone doing the drawings by hand.  I feel like that has been lost in this age of computer animation, and would really like to see classic hand drawn animation make a comeback in the west.

Sidenote to the Sidenote:  I am going to go see Cars 2 today.  All of my friends aren't especially confident in the film.  While I realize that this film is probably more financially than creatively driven, I still have never been disappointed by a PIXAR film.  While Cars was probably their weakest offering, I still enjoyed it and am optimistic about the sequel.  Besides, Toy Story 2 was better than Toy Story, and Toy Story 3 was better than Toy Story 2.  At the very least, you can guarantee some excellent and groundbreaking animation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 43-45

First off: Happy Birthday Joss Whedon!!!!

Second: I was riding my bike today and saw a really funny-looking guy driving a car.  I realize that that's totally rude, but it still inspired this drawing.  He looks like an angry tortoise with its neck outstretched.

Finally: a drawing of my favorite tree.  (Yes, I have a favorite tree.  Don't judge.)

Also, is it bad that I'm still upset that Ultimate Spider-Man died yesterday?  Sigh.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Death of Spider-Man

*Warning:  Total Spoiler Action for Ultimate Spider-Man.  Be warned.  (Although, if you haven't heard about it already, then I'm very impressed.)*

"Don't you see?  It's okay.  I did it.  I couldn't save him.  Uncle Ben.  I couldn't save him.  No matter what I did.  But I saved you.  I did it."
It's not every day you read a story where your (possibly) favorite fictional character dies.  And I know it's a comic book and that it's not even the "real" Spider-Man, only the Ultimate version of the character.  And he might even come back anyway.  But I don't care.  The final pages of Ultimate Spider-Man 160 hit me hard.  Despite the flaws in both the arc and its conception (which I will get to), I wept.  Honest to goodness tears.  It was horrible.

Why do I love Spider-Man so much?  It's an interesting question.  I've wondered this a lot, and I think I might finally have an answer.  He's me.  Or rather, he's someone I wish I was.  Not in the standard, wish-fulfillment, I-want-spider-powers way (though, there is that.)  Spider-Man -- Peter Parker -- is the kind of person I could be.  I had a hard time in high school.  I was (and am) a huge nerd.  I wasn't especially popular, had trouble talking to girls, acted like a weirdo much of the time, loved science far more than was socially acceptable, and was just generally awkward.  I like to think I've gotten a bit less awkward since then (though I don't think I will ever stop being a nerd), but the fact remains that I see myself in Peter.

Peter always had problems.  ALWAYS.  It seemed at times that the universe was personally out to get him.  But no matter what was going on in his life, he unwaveringly did the right thing.  If somebody needed his help, he was there.  In an age where any jerk with a surly disposition and a dark backstory can be called a hero, Peter Parker truly displays the qualities of selflessness, responsibility, and idealism.  I still remember this quote from way back in the third arc, when Peter is asked for an interview by a news reporter before fleeing the scene of his latest battle with Doc Ock:
"..and people like that load J. Jonah Jameson at the Bugle trying to use me to sell papers by trashing the crap out of me all the time... I -- I just don't care.  Because a guy, a whole lot smarter than any of us, once told me that with power comes a great deal of responsibility.  And that's not just for people with powers, like me.  I think it goes for everybody.  So, I'm just -- going to live my life that way and everything else is noise.  All right, listen, the cops are coming so I'm out of here.  Is everyone okay?  All right.  See ya."
This arc has been fairly well-written, with a few minor bumps along the way.  But, overall, it has been great.  The fact that Peter dies as a result of his heroism rings really true.  He dies after taking a bullet for Captain America (the Ultimate version of which is not even half the hero that Spidey is), and then protecting his loved ones from the sinister six.  He saves Mary Jane, Aunt May, and Gwen Stacy, and dies after slamming a friggin' semi into the Green Goblin's face.  Twice.  With a bullet wound and likely many more injuries.  This is the death of a hero, and exactly the way I would want him to go out.  Of course, I don't think he should have gone out at all.  At least not yet.

I'm of the opinion (and I'm not alone), that Ultimate Spider-Man is the purest, best version of the character.  616-Spidey, while just fine, has not had the consistent quality of character development in his 40+ year existence.  While I can appreciate and enjoy reading 616-Spidey, I will never really connect with him like I connected with the Ultimate version of the character.  Ultimate Spidey is like a dear friend.  Amazingly well-developed and well-written, this character deserved many more stories than he got.  I feel like it was a mistake to sacrifice one of Marvel's most well written characters for a minor sales boost.  Ultimate Spider-Man as written by Bendis could have gone on for many more years and it would have still been excellent.  I almost guarantee it.  It's a shame that we have to lose such a fine character when so many other more poorly written ones continue on.  I really wish we could have seen him grow up, go to college, etc.

I will try to continue reading whatever comes next, but unless it means the return of Peter, I doubt it will hold me.  As much as I respect Bendis as a writer, I think it would be too painful to read a story about someone else taking up the mask.  If this is the Death of Spider-Man, then let it be the End of Spider-Man, and those of us for whom the character was more than ink on a page go home and grieve properly.

I really would like to revisit this series (it is, after all, the first comic series I ever read), and I think I might do an in-depth analysis of it on this blog.  So look out for that.  Until then, I leave you with this beautiful image (drawn by Joe Quesada of all people) of my main man, reunited with his uncle, walking away for the last time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 42

Still trying to figure out how to get that leathery-foldy-skin texture.  Not a complete success.

Doodle-A-Day 41

"Roads?  Where we're going, we don't need roads."

The Delorean from Back to the Future is probably my favorite time machine ever.

I actually started this drawing well before midnight, but it took WAY longer than I'd planned.  Oh well.  I'm counting it for yesterday despite being technically late.  Why?  Because I'm tired and want to go to bed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 40

I like this one a lot.  I usually get really lost when drawing hair, so I purposefully worked very hard on getting the values in the hair just right in this one.  Pretty pleased with the results.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 35-39

Another big update.  Sorry about that, but I think some of these doodles are pretty cool, so I hope that makes up for it.

First up is a doodle of Puppet Angel from the Angel Episode Smile Time.  I really like how this one turned out.  I actually tried to draw it as quickly as I could, and I think that gives it more energy than my usual sketches.

This next doodle is drawn from a photo of some friends of mine.  The faces are kind of not great representations of them, but it is a small drawing, so I'm going to forgive myself.

I don't know who this guy is or what he is doing, but he has found a cool pose.  (Not a big fan of the face on this one, but I liked the rest of it enough to put it up here.)

This next one is a simple sketch of a baby dragon.   I really tried to capture a leatherlike, lizard-y skin, but I don't think I quite succeeded.  For some reason I've always had trouble drawing that heavy fold sort of texture.  I still like the drawing though.

Finally, a drawing of Hagrid and little Harry.  I sort of imagined this as the day Hagrid took Harry to Diagon Alley for the first time.  Hagrid is my favorite Harry Potter character, and I really tried to capture their relationship in a drawing here.  I might do another one of these two soon, maybe with a Harry that is a bit older.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 33-34

For the record, I did start on this drawing before midnight, but it took much longer than I was expecting it to.  

Also, the doodle for today, June 12th.  (Holy crap!  Can you believe we're already so far into June?  Sweet Jeebus!)  This doodle is an Ornitholestes.  I think I'm getting better at representing color using value.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

X-Men: First Class

So, I saw this movie this past Monday.  I was very impressed.  Especially considering how much I didn't care for X3 and Wolverine.

The great thing about this movie was the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr (Magneto.)  It was almost a romance (as I'm pretty sure James McAvoy said.)  The relationship was set up extremely well and I can feel the power of their friendship from the moment they meet to the moment they part ways at the finale.  The pain Charles experiences as Erik kills Shaw is more than just psychic sympathy pain.  It is the pain of watching a friend make a horrible choice and not being able to do anything about it.

The entire Magneto story is very well done.  They could have written him as a sympathetic villain, but instead they go full-on hero.  They make us root for Erik.  Right from the beginning when he is torn from his parents by the Nazis and then forced to see his mother shot before his eyes, we are on his side.  The power of that violent image, in fact, is enough for us to completely understand and sympathize with Erik at the end when he makes the choice that we know is wrong.  (The murder of Shaw and the aggression against the humans.)  Magneto has always struck me as a fascinating villain because of the nuance of his position, and I am so happy they explored that in this film.

The other mutants were interesting as well, but they hardly reached the level of character depth that Xavier and Magneto did.  (With the possible exception of Mystique and, to a lesser extent, Beast, both of whom I will address in a moment.)  That's not necessarily a bad thing; the writers knew that the heart of their story was the Professor X/Magneto relationship and were wise to not distract from that relationship too much.  Instead, the other mutants mostly act as representatives of the larger mutant population in this time of social and political upheaval.  By giving us named mutant characters to support and get behind, the film allows us to see the nuance of the mutant debate and give a larger view on prejudice and racism.

Beast and Mystique function in this role as well, but also demonstrate another facet of the mutant debate.  Both have mutations that are extremely visible, and both struggle with this fact during the film.  Their choice is a choice between accepting who they are and being shunned by society or changing themselves to fit into human society.  However, unlike the other mutants, Raven and Hank get quite a bit of interesting character development and their struggles come across as much more individual dilemmas than general issues.  As a result, the interplay between their own personal conflict and the larger human/mutant conflict really shines and is one of the strongest points of the movie.

Of course, Raven and Hank choose differently, which speaks to the ultimate difference in their characters.  Raven, ever the confident woman, eventually (and with the support of Magneto) chooses to accept her true form, at the cost of her close friendship with Charles.  (It's really unfortunate, and probably one of his biggest mistakes in the film, that it never occurred to Charles how much Raven needed him to accept her true appearance.  In a few scenes he comes off as downright mean about it.)  Hank, though, nerdy and insecure, attempts to use a serum to reverse the physical aspects of his mutation.  I don't think anyone in the theater was surprised when the serum failed to work as intended and instead had quite the opposite effect.  Nevertheless, the transformation scene managed to be both horrific and tragic.  The one who most wanted to hide became the one with the least ability to.  I really like Beast as a character in the comics, and was glad to see him get his due here.  In particular, I love the duality of the Man of Science vs. the Primal Beast.

The Hellfire Club was a natural choice for a villain, and they were very effective plotwise, what with the manipulation of the US and Russia to cause the Cuban Missile Crisis.  However, as characters, they were less  than interesting.  Kevin Bacon was fine as Sebastian Shaw, but his character lacked much of anything that interested me.  As with the minor mutant characters, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it simply shows that the filmmakers were focused on the important parts of the movie.  Shaw was really only important in that his actions shaped Magneto's character, and his philosophy of Mutant Superiority would later by adopted by Magneto against Charles' philosophy of Human/Mutant Coexistence.  (It is a devilishly awesome piece of irony that Magneto, himself a victim of the Nazis, would grow up to become not entirely un-Nazi-like himself. The fact that this comes across as completely believable and, indeed, sympathetic is a testament to the nuance of the writing and the power of the ideas involved.)

If I could have picked one character that should have been spotlighted more heavily though, it would have been Moira.  She seems mostly incidental through most of the movie, and as a result, her final scene comes across as more WTF than tragic.  Perhaps they didn't want to burden the movie with a love story between Xavier and Moira, but I feel like there was a lot of untapped potential there.  Moira was pretty much the only human in the movie that showed support for the mutants, and therefore deserved a larger role.  It would also have been nice to see how Xavier related to his fellow mutant (Erik, Raven) vs how he related to humans (Moira.), considering that his entire viewpoint is that the two species can coexist.  It would have also been fantastic to see a scene with Erik and Charles debating about Charles having a love affair with a human.  It would have also made Xavier's (deliciously morally ambiguous) decision to wipe Moira's memory much more tragic had we had some frame of reference for their relationship.

Final Thoughts

  • I love how they didn't ignore that Charles is kind of a ladies man.  Using his knowledge of genetics to pick up chicks in bars rang totally true for young Xavier, and it was absolutely hilarious.
  • Quite a few deviations from comic book history here.  Several characters are very different than their comics incarnations.  Banshee is not an Irish aristocrat in this version.  Mystique is not well over a hundred years old (though her character had precedent for deviating from the comic history in the other X-movies.)
  • I wish they had made Emma Frost just a bit less one-dimensional.  I'm not a huge fan of Emma Frost, considering she is pretty much the epitome of female exploitation in comics.  I wish they had done a bit more with her here.
  • The Wolverine cameo was absolutely hilarious.
  • I saw this movie with my (female) best friend.  I bring that up because, after the film, we discovered we had differing interpretations of the Xavier/Raven relationship.  I interpreted it as just very close friendship with Raven needing a bit more acceptance from Xavier than she ultimately got.  My friend interpreted it as Raven having romantic feelings for Charles that he was unaware of, citing her ruining his chances with the girl in the bar at the beginning, among other things, as evidence.  I can totally see her interpretation and think she might very well be right.  My question is why I didn't see it during the movie.  My friend and I briefly wondered if perhaps it was a gender difference.  I'm curious, so if you've seen the film I'd like to know how you interpreted the Charles/Raven relationship in the comments.  Did I not see the romantic aspect because I'm a guy or just because I'm oblivious? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 32

Played a little bit with the marker overlap effect.  Otherwise just a simple silhouette drawing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Doodle-A-Day 27-31

This is the longest I've gone without doodling.  Technically, I am allowed to go a full five days (that is, a make-up post with six pictures, since I'm not actually skipping the day I'm posting on.)  So here are five doodles.

This last one is an ink drawing of Professor X and Magneto.   I saw X-Men: First Class on Monday and was very impressed.  I think I will probably review the movie here soon.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011