The Spectacular Spider-Man!

I do not like spiders, but ironically, my favorite superhero was Spider-Man when I was a kid. Back when it was the only superhero comic I read. (We used to get them in the mail, cool huh? I wish that still was a thing.) And while Scott Free and Big Barda may be my new favorites, along with Wonder Woman, Spider-Man will always hold a special place in my affections.

And that’s why I have now seen the Tobey Maguire movie version of it, which was the most true to comic book version that I have seen. (I couldn’t have  been the only one disappointed by the less mature, and more goofy Spider-Man in Civil War, though even so, he was the best of it, in my opinion.)

I’ve talked about Superheroes in general a lot, but I haven’t talked about most of them specifically, let’s do that.

In my view, Spider-Man and Batman are a lot alike. (I apologize for the hyphens, but autocorrect keeps putting them in.)

I don’t mean personality wise, but let me say, I’d forgotten how sad Peter Parker’s story was. It was even worse seeing it then reading it. I guess that means the actors were convincing. The movie version is even more like Batman because Peter sees Uncle Ben after he’s shot and goes off at once to stop the killer. Only to find in an  un-Batman-like twist, that it was a guy he could have stopped.

Lesson Learned: Revenge is stupid and so is yelling at someone over nothing.

But I would not be flippant about it, Spider-Man had a legitimately crummy life, whatever version of him you know. he gets dumped constantly; his friends turn into villains; his villains turn into worse villains; his family dies. Not fun.

The amount of times Peter Parker gets really hurt, emotionally and physically, are enough to make you ache in sympathy. Why? You ask. Why do the writers keep doing this to him? (If anyone knows the answer tot hat, please comment it, seriously.)

By contrast, Batman witnesses one personal tragedy (though more later in some versions of him) and is scarred for life. Ig et that there’s a difference of age here, but still…

Really, it’s their personality. Spider-Man is a wisecracking kid trying to dot he right thing and pay the rent at the same time. Batman is a rich kid with nothing else to occupy his time except making business deals and going to events. Nott hat I fault him for that. To each his own, but perhaps Batman gets more of the luxury of wallowing in Self Pity.

After all, Peter has to support his aunt, and keep any eye on Mary Jane and his other friends. (Though they dwindle.)

Maybe it’s true that idleness is worse for your character than almost anything else. Bruce Wayne can be kind of self absorbed, though he does a lot of good. Peter doesn’t have that option. So  even though he’s younger, he’s got more heart. (Like Captain America says.)

Maybe that’s why my favorite version of Batman, and the only one I really like and respect, is the Justice League Unlimited one. AS much as I wanted someone to punch after he turn down Wonder Woman, he still is at his best when he’s with the League.

It brought him a bit out of the shell of darkness most of his movies place him in. It’s even in the background. Most of the JLU adventures take place in the daytime, whereas if you go to a Batman only film or show, most of it is at night. Interesting, right?

I could go on for a whole other post about Batman’s good moments in the League (maybe I will, who knows?) But for now I think it’s enough o say he needs friends.

Another difference between them, despite their similar origins, is that Batman usually has people around him who wish he’d let them be more of friends or family to him, but he won’t.

Where as Spider-Man will, but he gets deserted or libeled or overlooked.

I really think Peter Parker just needed to be cut some slack by his writers, but I guess that just doesn’t leave people o the edge like horrible things happening does.

I ought to have learned by now that a person like me, who likes peace, tranquility, and happy endings; is never going to be satisfied with superhero material unless I purposely stop before it gets ruined again.

It’s the never ending battle of super-heroism that is what I don’t like about the concept. And no one said it had to be that way when the genre started, it just evolved into that. And that was what kept stuff selling. Which we can only blame consumers for.

Apparently, I’m pretty much a minority in my tastes on that score.

Anyway, you might be wondering if I liked the movie. The answer is: I neither liked it nor disliked it.

The Green Goblin is without a doubt the scariest Spider-Man (or Marvel itself even) villain I’ve ever seen, though there are DC villains even worse than him. He was too real. I firmly believe what happened to him could happen in real life, and probably has.

Nonetheless, it was not exactly a tragedy because he chose it himself and kept choosing it. My sister said choice was the big theme of the movie.

I agree, and I would add so was the difference between being given power, and trying to take it.

This difference is sort of pointed out in Frozen, when people think Elsa is using sorcery, but as we know, she was born with her powers, making them a gift.

That’s actually a subject worth covering in another post, but I can’t delve into it here.

The Green Goblin, or Osborne, made all the bad things happen to himself by poor planning and experimenting with dangerous things and ultimately committing murder and hurting his son’s emotional well-being. A classic case of a villain who doesn’t know he’s a villain. Only, he does, in a way.

Peter, on the other hand, directly cause only on of the bad things that happens to him, and is sorry for it. Not blaming anyone else. But instead of letting it crush him, he does the only thing he could to honor Uncle Ben’s last bit of advice to him, he uses his powers for good instead of selfish gain.

You have to pick up the pieces after your life is shattered, or you and everyone around you will step on the broken glass.

And those are my words of wisdom for now, until next time–Natasha.

Hercules and Atlantis–part 2

Now for Atlantis:

So, meet Milo Thatch, our protagonist. Basically, he’s like Hercules only a geek and not buff.

But he’s also not awkward. Milo is just that right balance of socially out of it and decent, polite person, also pretty lonely since his Grandpa died.

Milo has spent his life trying to find out where the lost continent of Atlantis is, and has finally figured out where the Shepherd’s journal, the key to finding it is, but everyone has decided he’s a fool and won’t give him the chance.

Thankfully, the movie spend only about ten minutes on this boring and over sued plot, and we turn to the far more interesting discovery, that the journal was already found by Milo’s grandfather and that his lifelong friend Mr. Whitmore has just been waiting for the right time to send Milo off to discover Atlantis, with the same crack team that found the journal.

People have said the movie is boring, I say, what movie did you watch? Huge machines that can sink the most fortified submarine ever; a cook who things beans, bacon, whiskey, and lard are the four food groups; and a giant worm. Not to mention one of the scariest and most apathetic villains Disney features to date. (I thought he was scary.) My guess is that the main complaint would be the lack of character arcs, to which I say pfft!

Our cast of characters is memorable, cool, and hilarious. Each different and each will remind you of someone you know, probably. Milo is us, pretty much. And Then there’s Audrey, the  mechanical genius who’s also the youngest person abroad, in her teens; Sweet, the kind-hearted doctor who’s also super funny; Mole, the…mole (digger), and also the person who hates soap; Lenny, the slightly nutty explosives expert; and the old lady whose name I have never remembered but she’s classic grumpy grandma with a good heart; and of course Cookie, the cook.

The movie also features the unusual and sad character of Helga, or Lieutenant, as she’s called most of the time. Helga seems to be the typical tough girl, efficient and non-emotional, and she is– but there’s a little hint that she might have been more. After they find Atlantis (I told you, spoilers, but if you’ve seen commercials, you knew that already,) she tells Rourke aside “There were not supposed to be people down here, this changes everything.” To which Rourke replies coldly “This changes nothing.”

What everything? Well later we find out that ?Milo was the only one who did not know that the purpose of the mission was to steal the power source from the people. He originally wanted to find it, yes, but once he knew there were people there, that thought went out of his mind. He never dreamed anyone would still do that.

It seems Helga had second thoughts, very briefly, and never again does she seem to waver, perhaps she figures she doesn’t know these people and no one will ever find out they even existed. It’s still cold-hearted, but we’re left wishing she had chosen differently, and in the end, she does play an important part in saving the Princess, though it’s in revenge and she dies afterward.

But versus the heartless Rourke, she’s a more sympathetic character, and that’s, in my opinion, the brilliance of the movie. Like with Megara, all our heroes are flawed, (except Milo,) they’ve all done things that, as Lenny says “We ain’t proud of.” But wiping out an entire civilization proves to be more than they can live with, at least after Milo makes an impressive and short speech about it. I don’t think that takes away from it, we all need to be kicked in the pants every now and then before we’ll do the right thing.

We all know that they are not perhaps, role models, most of them were pretty mean to Milo at first, and they turned on him for a while; but in the end they knew he was right and risked their lives to undo the damage they had done.

They still got rich.

And you could say that was lame, but I think it’s fine. They didn’t know beforehand that that would happen, and call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think it’s lame to be rewarded for doing the right thing, it’s just not a requirement in every circumstance.

The verdict:

I find Atlantis very entertaining, and in a kid friendly way, without a lot of gore or on the line humor. Plus, though it hasn’t the deepest message, it has a good one. It’s an adventure and exploration movie, and it was wise to keep it that way and not change the tone with a lot of unnecessary drama or moral dilemma that had nothing to do with the main plot.

Hercules is the opposite in that way because the side plot turns into the main plot in an almost unforeseen way, and it is deep.

Milo does the right thing partly for Kida, his love interest, but mostly because it is the right thing, and who else is going to do it. There’s also a theme of doing the right thing even when it seems like it’s not the smart thing, and how much his grandfather influenced him. Also, don’t be a mercenary, and take that Flynn Rider, (and to an extent Kristoff, I love you guys, but really, you couldn’t help the girl just because it was the right thing–and she’s hot, of course, because they always are.)

Why hate on either of these movies? They weren’t claiming to be cinematic masterpieces. They are exactly what they seem. Atlantis is a cool and classy film with eccentric characters and mysterious forces; Hercules is  zany spin on old myths with a heartwarming message.

Both are making their point pretty darn well in my mind. That’s all for now–Natasha.

Hercules and Atlantis.

Our story begins before Hercules, many years ago…

That’s pretty much how the Disney version of Hercules starts.

Atlantis starts a little differently: Shouting, someone yells “You fool! You’ve destroyed us all!” A wierd crystal thingy pulls a woman into itself, and a whole city sinks beneath the wave. Fast forward to 1914.

Why am I tackling both movies in one review, well, they’re short. And another reason is that they both get a lot of flack in the Disney fandom, which I think is undeserved. Or maybe it’s in the anti-Disney fandom.

You all know what I think of Disney and how stupid I find most of the criticisms against it, but it’s also a little strange that I like two movies that both have very different ideas of the gods than I do. (I know folks who won’t touch movies like that, you see.)

Well, I do draw the line somewhere when it comes to magic and other religions, but not here. The reason is simple: Hercules isn’t saying Greek gods are real any more than Sleeping Beauty is saying fairy godmothers are real. It’s pretend, and it’s used to tell a story, not to tell us what to believe. Which is very different from other sources which might use the same material. (Like the Heroes of Olympus series. I’m looking at you Riordan.)

Atlantis is a little more iffy, but I go with it because I like the movie and have never had problems with the mystical side. Plus, it’s still not meant to be taken seriously.

It has been awhile since I’ve seen it though.

But essentially, what I like about these movies is the same, they use a more unconventional approach to make a profound point in a way a child can understand and an adult can mull over.

(Spoiler alert.)

Hercules is straightforward: He’s stolen from his godly parents, raised by mortals, goes off to seek his true home, becomes a big shot hero after a lot of training, and ultimately earns back his immortality.

But the person that makes the entire movie for me is Meg, his love interest. At first I never liked her, and didn’t like the movie all that much, but once I got older I started to understand the story better. Meg is working for Hades, the bad guy, and hates it and him; but has no choice because she sold her soul to him to save an ungrateful boyfriend who then left her. Meg is only eighteen so we’ll blame her age for her poor choice of men. But now, more cynical and bitter, she mistrusts Hercules up until his humility and unpretentiousness win her over.

What makes this a little different from the usual girl-learns-to-love-again plot line is that Hercules is entirely honest about being nice to Meg and she knows it. It’s actually her conscience that drives her to the conclusion that she can’t help Hades anymore, only it’s her love that gives her the courage to face him. Things go tough for Meg because though Hades can’t make her choose to obey him, he can bind her and gag her and use her as a pawn, which he does.

I almost cried along with her when Hercules finds out she was helping Hades but doesn’t know she changed her mind and tried to get out of it. In the end Meg figures she’s lost Hercules but goes and get his trainer Phil in order to save his life, and then saves it herself by throwing herself under a pillar and pushing him out of the way.

After Hercules returns the favor and saves her life, she thinks he’s going to be immortal and decides to quietly walk out of the picture, but Hercules decides to stay with her instead. everyone lives happily ever after.

Now, that is fairly predictable, but it’s still plenty of food for thought. Hercules is a bit of a Christ Character. an immortal becoming mortal and being a hero, ultimately laying down his life to save his love, and earning his immortality through that. And the message that a Hero is measured by the strength of his heart is nothing new, but that’s because it’s true.

The movie is smart to point this out, because Hercules becomes a hero to everyone and earns fame, but all he wants is to go home. He starts to get a big head for a brief time but as soon as he finds out all this is not enough, he quickly goes back to being humble and questioning is he’s really such a hero. He has no conflict about doing the right thing, his only weakness being that he’ll sacrifice the greater good to save Meg. If you could say that’s wrong.

Making Hercules humble was the only way to make him heroic, in my opinion, and the movie passes it off believably.

Also that Hercules father guides him and is the king of all the gods lends more weight to the Christ Character idea. I don’t think that was intentional or that the movie needed that, it’s just interesting.

But the way the Christ parallel is actually important is this: Meg, unlike most Disney Princesses, is not perfect or always on the right side. She makes serious mistakes, and even her self sacrifice only makes up for it, it doesn’t erase it. This is a sobering thing to have with out female lead. Meg actually needs forgiveness, she really needs it.

We all know that this would be true of any princess, but we don’t see it with anyone else up until Merida and Elsa come on the scene much later. (Well, in my opinion, Ariel too, but she’s not called on it.)

The fact that Hercules accepts this about her but chooses to believe in her best is what really makes his character.

And that’s where Meg gives us hope, if we let her, the hope that there is forgiveness for your mistakes, and you can be free from your bondage. And that there is someone who will give up everything for you and do it gladly. I hate that some people think Meg would be haunted by that later in life, why, she’s lucky. Few of us get that kind of love in an earthly life.

But Herc is really a heavenly being after all.

I’ll dive in to Atlantis (ha ha) in part two, until then–Natasha.

Hinds feet on High Places.

I like to talk about movies a lot on this blog. It’s fun, people have watched them so they know what I’m talking about, and I learn from them.

But if there’s one thing that’s been even more important to my spiritual learning process than movies, it’s books.

There was one book in particular that shaped my life in a huge way, and it’s not very well known.

That book was Hannah Hurnard’s “Hinds feet on High places.”  The title is taken from a verse in Habakkuk, “He maketh my feet like hind’s feet and setteth them upon mine high places.” That’s the whole premise of the story. The main character must travel to the High Places and develop hind’s feet.

The first thing to know about this book is that it is an allegory. The backdrop of the story is purely spiritual. Mountains; deserts; the ocean; the meadows; the valleys, every place people use when they are being metaphorical. And why not? It is an unabashed allegory.

In case you don’t know what an allegory is (and I didn’t till I read this) it’s a story about inward realities, but told like a regular fiction story. But all the places and people are symbolic. They have names like “Much Afraid” “Mrs. Valiant,” and of course “The Shepherd.” The most famous allegory is “The Pilgrims’ Progress.” I’ve never been able to get through that book all the way, even I have a limit for old English speech. But the book I’m talking about has very quaint and simple language. Easy to read and entertaining.

But the most important thing about it is that the main character, Much Afraid, was me. Literally, if I had been called by a name depicting my inward state, Much Afraid would have been the perfect fit. If you’ve read any of my posts about Frozen maybe you know this. Let’s just say Elsa would have identified with this book.

Much Afraid is one of the Fearing clan, and she has fearing in the blood, as we are told. And only the Shepherd can really help her. Much Afraid is also disfigured. She has a crooked mouth and crooked feet. She can only limp along painfully and she is ugly. But it is her fears that are her real trouble.

We are not told exactly what she fears except for pain and her relatives. Who bully her and plague her and try to kidnap her. She is weak, and they are all cowards. Much Afraid needs no object, she just fears period.

How well I know the feeling. Well, I can’t tell the whole story here, but after the Shepherd offers to take her to the High Places where she can be cleansed of her imperfections, Much afraid accepts, and even allow shim to plant the seed of Love in her heart. Though it hurts. Immediately she feels different.

When I read this the first time, I was not yet a Christian, though I believed in it. I have never not believed it was true. That was why the book made so much sense to me. Everyone in that book knows who the shepherd is. Some of them hate him, others love him. But they all believe, in that sense, that he is who he is. No one at any point denies that the Shepherd is real. Because everyone can see him.

That was how I grew up. There was no question of whether God was real, or whether Jesus was, but of where I stood with them.

That’s the only real question when it comes down to it.

Anyway, so I read the book and honestly, I did not understand it. Oh, I got the point about overcoming fear, but I had never felt real love, or been free from fear for longer than a few hours for most of my life. But Much Afraid has the same experience. She feels bold for a short time, and then she is ambushed by all her relatives and in the end faints dead away. To make a long story short, she is still able to go with the Shepherd, and she sets out, with his two helpers Sorrow and Suffering as her companions. They undergo many obstacles, dangers, and attacks from her enemies, and at the very end of their journey Much Afraid is asked to give up what she ahs staked her whole hope and life on, the promise she was given about having new feet and a new heart. And she asked to give up her human love that is in her heart like a weed, its roots going deep into her soul.

Much Afraid can hardly believe it, but in the end she does as she is told. After both these things are removed and burned on an altar, she faints and wakes up feeling different. Then she washes in a stream and discovers all her blemishes have been removed. Then the Shepherd calls her and she bounds up, with her new feet, and joins him.

More stuff happens, but I’ll stop there. When I first read this, I didn’t know you had to surrender your will to God. Maybe I had heard it, but I hadn’t made the connections. My fear was a terrible thing, but I still chose it over God so I could protect myself from having to do things I didn’t want to do. Fear was an excuse.

It was really to the point where I had no will at all except to resist God. I couldn’t resist fear. I was foolish, as everyone is with their besetting sin, but I didn’t know it. I wanted to be free but I didn’t want to pay the price.

God will set you free, but He demands that you give up your chains, and yourself. and give it all to Him. The reason people hate that idea is because they want control. Fear is a huge problem for all of us. I count myself fortunate that I at least knew it was my problem, many of us don’t.

I didn’t really become saved till I laid down my will to God. And I only knew to do that because I had read this book. To this day I still learn new things from it.

I know it wouldn’t mean as much to anyone else, but it would still mean something, so I recommend checking it out.

Until next time–Natasha.

The Croods

Okay, this movie was on the list of Movies I will never watch.

Why? Because the name says it all. Or does it?

Well, one of my siblings saw it and said it wasn’t as bad as we expected, then I saw the end of it on TV and thought “This doesn’t seem so bad.” So finally I sat through the whole thing. (At least I think it was the whole thing.)

Now, the whole premise is based off evolution, which I don’t buy in the least, so I kind of had to ignore that. I thought “It’s like any other fiction setting. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously.”

Well, I certainly hope that was the case. Let me just say I never saw so clearly why evolution is repulsive and not a really nice kind of fictional idea. You’d either have to believe it was true, or be utterly disgusted that anyone could hatch such and idea. Or lay such an idea, which came first? Laying or hatching? (Ha ha.)

There is something disturbing about watching human beings act like animals, and not as a joke, but because they are just animals, in that ideology. And once Guy, the one normal person, came on the scene, the contrast just got worse. The one thing that helped was Guy pretty much was speaking for the audience the whole time as he was freaked out by the Croods behavior. Which was sort of funny, sort of.

Guy also is initially afraid of them because they are cave men. Which is interesting. because we don’t usually think of more evolved, i. e. smarter, people being afraid of less evolved people. But brute strength is just that, brutal. And I can understand why he was freaked out. The scary thing about brutality is that you can’t reason with it.

But the Croods don’t turn out to be quite as bad as he (or we) thought. Though the way they eat is truly terrifying to watch, and honestly gave me the same sick feeling as “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” did. They are stupid, but it’s clear that the father (I forget his name) cares about his family and is unselfish about providing for them and protecting them. His wife is also a pretty nice mom character. Who sticks up for the other characters when she sees fit. Thunk and the Mother-in-law I have little to say about other than they get better at the end, but are pretty annoying and gross through the beginning and middle of the movie. The baby had one sweet moment when she said her first word, the rest of the time she acted like a dog. Literally.

The most important characters are Eeb and Guy. Eeb is kind of annoying at times, but we feel bad for her because she hates living in the dark and doing the same thing every day. Just surviving. The first real moment of connection between her and Guy is when he says, half pleadingly, “I hate the dark.” At first, Guy doesn’t particularly seem to like Eeb, but since he’s all alone in the world save for his pet lemur–monkey thing, he gives her a shell to signal him with. After all, she is human, and he wants her to live through the disaster he’s seen coming. The disaster turns out to be the Continental Drift. (Ice Age anyone?)

Eeb goes on to tell her family about Guy, which immediately makes her dad suspicious, then their cave gets destroyed and they have to run out into the more fertile and uncharted territory beyond. Of course they immediately get into trouble and Eeb signals for Guy. (And if you’re thinking the Adam and Eve thing was intentional, I totally agree.) Guy, albeit it reluctantly, saves them and gets thanked by nearly being suffocated and then imprisoned in a hollow log. however, after a while Eeb lets him get out because he’s hungry and he offers to let her help him hunt. Since she’s been grounded form tis, her favorite thing to do, she accepts readily.

But this movie never loses an opportunity to be crude, within the PG limits that is. You won’t find any sex humor or half cursing in here, that I remember, and it can be really gross, and also frustrating to watch people be idiots the whole time.

Still, there are some moments where we feel like we’re watching a real family. There’s one important scene in the second half of the movie where Guy and the Dad are both stuck in tar, and Guy finally reveals why he’s alone, this was how his family died. They were clearly more evolved, since he is, but no one knew how to get out of tar. Guy then says the last thing his dad told him was “Don’t hide, live.”

Yep. That’s the whole point of the movie.

And while I’d not say the movie makes it in any brilliant way, the setting does illustrate it fairly well. What better way to show the futility of the survival mindset than with a hypothetical cave man story? I’ll even admit that it probably breaks it down in the easiest to understand way.

The point is profound even if the characters are not particularly so. And for once, the simple, three word way of making it actually works. Especially since the way Guy says it really sells the line as important.

After this, the dad finally accepts that even though Guy is sort of a threat to his authority, he is also lonely and needs a family, even if they are a lot less smart than him. Something Guy himself has realized by this time.

Another really important moment is when Guy is the first to support the dad’s plan to save them all. It is really cool to watch the dynamic of the new guy respecting the father, in the most literal sense, as well as figuratively.

We even get a kind of Noah’s ark reference.

The movie closes with the Croods and Guy all deciding to live out in the open and follow the light. In Eeb’s words.

The verdict?

I neither recommend or discourage seeing this movie. You can get a cool message from it, but you can also be left with a lot of unpleasant images running through you mind. A lot will depend on your tolerance level. There are better movies to watch about really living, but few that will cover it in a simple enough way for kids to understand, so there is that. But I suggest parents screen it in advance.

Until next time–Natasha.

 

 

Give a little more than you take.

I haven’t yet mentioned that I read the second installment of the Mr. Miracle comic series.

I have a whole list of the problems with it, but I’ll sum it up as being far lesser than the first one.

Of course, as I do, I had some deeper thoughts about it and also about why it bothered me so much. You see, by comic book standards of the seventies, most of it was passable; it wasn’t terrible if I compared it to the Superman of the fifties and sixties. However bad it could be, Barda and Scott could never be that campy and still be the same characters. But they weren’t the same.

I know that this bothers me more than some would say it should, and some hard core fans would be even more upset than me, but for my part, here’s why I get upset when this happens, and it happens a lot.

When a creative person underperforms, it bothers me because it seems like they didn’t know what they had. Often, I think that even when I like what they’re doing. Because it seems too good to be the work of some one who was not trying to be astounding, and often the source was not.

Check out the making of Frozen, for example. It was a long process and what they were trying to do at first ended up being the opposite of what they did.

I also think of the early Ever After High series, it seems like the show was just supposed to be for kids and yet the points is made were worthy of a lot of adult consideration.

Generally something like this gets ruined because of a new writer who just wants to use the franchise to make money. But sometimes the staff remains the same, and they just seem to lose touch with what made their show or series so great.

(Forgive me, but I think this happened with the Percy Jackson series when it switched to “Heroes of Olympus.”)

The problem is, once you get a devoted fan base, you always have an audience, even if you were to do the worst thing possible some of them would defend it. And believe me, as an aspiring writer, I think about how I would handle this problem.

There will always be those who don’t like anything you do that’s new, either. When Ever After High switched over to covering the opposing point of view in their rebel-royal conflict, a lot of people weren’t happy, including me. But I had to hand it to them that a couple times it came out well and deserved some appreciation.

I don’t think a little change is bad, writers and movie makers are always expanding their vision, or so we would hope, and they fill out their stories. They have the right to do that.

so, I would not have faulted Kirby for that, and some would say that is what he was doing.

But there was a very serious problem with how he ended the story. He let evil have the last say. It was sort of like how the Empire Strikes Back ends, (always my least favorite by the way,) but even worse. Because we know it’s not over for Luke and his friends, and we have hope, but the evil figure of this comic book steals the best moment of the whole story from the best people in it. It’s just so unfair to them, and they don’t seem to realize it.

I can’t go into it fully, but that is what I had a problem with. The beauty of Kirby’s creation of Mr. Miracle was in how good triumphs over evil against all odds, and even against our human weaknesses.

Together Scott and Barda are unstoppable. But only when they are being the best they can be. I’d say that’s true in real life. I hope all of us have met at least one couple who was like that, amazing separately, but together they became an inspiration.

That’s what made the whole thing work. I liked Scott okay by himself, and I like Barda by herself, but I didn’t really get into their stories until they were together.

And it wasn’t that that changed, it was how they were together. It just wasn’t the same. But worst of all was I felt like Darkseid showing up at the end made it his victory.

In fact, I really wonder if Kirby did it on purpose. But that’s a whole other discussion.

I guess the point I want to bring out of all this is that, fan base or no, your work will not be worthy of admiration if you lose touch with what made it special. It’s important to know what truth you want to show, and to listen to what your positive feed back is telling you; what people are getting out of your work, I mean.

I’ve been surprised by what people got out of my stuff sometimes, but once I saw it that way, I thought it was even better than what I planned.

Which is not to say you can never try anything different, I try different plots and usually I like the result, and my siblings are always trying new things with their creative pursuits, but you have to have a core.

Otherwise you might start to think it’s about you, and how great you are, instead of about what you give to other people through your creativity. Or your service, if that’s how you give.

I think I’ll end with this song which is about that very thing:

“A single voice is joined by multitudes in song, with every note they’re finding harmonies that rise to carry on, richer and richer the soil in which they thrive, higher and higher a hymn of what it means to be alive.

You’ve got to give a little more than you take, you’ve got to leave a little more than was here; you may be prideful of the strides you will make, but keep one things clear. You’re just a player in a much bigger plan, and still you have to give it all that you can, the very measure of your soul is at stake, you’ve got to give a little more than you take.”

–Natasha.

Totally Scott Free.

Like I asked a moment ago, what is total freedom?

Well, it turns out it’s not just being able to choose. Scott had a choice. That didn’t give him freedom.

Of course choice is a big part of it, but as weird as this is going to sound, freedom is actually the ability to choose the right thing.

What’s the difference?

There’s a big difference.

Take the extreme example of drug addiction. Most addicts are not force-fed the substance they are addicted to, they choose to take it. They bring their hand to their mouth, or whatever form they use. They are not free. They were at one time, one time they had the choice to not try drugs, and they forfeited their freedom from drugs when they chose to try them. Now they can’t stop.

Choice is not freedom, it is the medium freedom is accessed through, if that makes sense.

Freedom is a state of being, not an ability.

Total freedom is humanly impossible without some sort of Divine intervention, and that is just the truth.

But what about all that stuff about taking freedom?

That’s all true. Freedom is a fight.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” John Philpot Curran.

It’s a fight for me.

There’s another quote about freedom being in disobedience, but as far as I can see that kind of thinking leads to disaster. Freedom is obeying the right thing. Like your conscience for example.

We do choose what we listen to, but what we listen to is what makes us free or slaves.

To go back to Scott Free, he spent years listening to Granny Goodness. (The name is a misnomer.) It wasn’t until Granny took away her voice from him (as punishment, but if you ask me, the psycho was just too arrogant to realize she was doing him a favor,) that he started listening to Metron and then Himon.

You got to be careful what you hear. I can’t tell you how many times I did not struggle with a sin, or a fear, or even a symptom of disease, until I heard about it. Knowledge is not always power, or it’s not always a good power.

One more thing about freedom: It’s a lifestyle.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”–Nelson Mandela.

We can blame other people for enslaving us, and some of us have a reason to do that, but blame will not free us.

We want to take our freedom, and then we want to pass it on.

Scott didn’t think of anyone else but himself needing to be free at first, but after Barda helped him, he realized she should be free too, and later he came to wish everyone could be, though he knew you can’t free everyone and that they really have to want it themselves.

Barda is an interesting example of someone who is uncertain about freedom at first. She wasn’t ready to leave when Scott did, but once she left, she resolved never to go back without putting up one heck of a fight. And she did.

Even though Barda never seems to want to free others, she is the one who is responsible for bringing four additional people back to earth with them. Four of her furies. Though the furies get a chance at freedom through this turn of events, none of them stay on Earth. They are too bound up to their home planet, even though it will be the death of them.

So we see that freedom is offered to all of us at one time, but few of us accept it.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

This verse is generally taken as “It’s so hard to be good, why is it so hard? Why did God make so few things okay for us to do?”

The truth is, the things that are bad to do in of themselves, those are pretty much summed up in a list of ten commandments. Dishonoring God; dishonoring parents; dishonoring what’s sacred; lying; stealing; adultery; greed and covetousness; murder; etc. You can find rules like that in many other books and creeds.

But the list of mistakes we make with even the things that are good, that list is extensive. I couldn’t name all of them if I tried. The reason the road to freedom is narrow is because the road of slavery is so broad. We enslave ourselves to nearly everything; but we free ourselves only in doing what’s good, healthy, and holy.

Scott Free is a little bit like how they portrayed Moses in “The Prince of Egypt” movie. (Thank you Dreamworks.) He can have power, wealth, respect, fame….and he can live a life built on slavery. Or he can run off and become a nameless nobody in a strange land, only to return later to secure the freedom of others.

God is the one who told Moses to go back (and that was the part of the story they changed the least,) and I don’t think anyone ever gets fired up for the freedom of others without it being a Divine thing. Because there’s a certain power in fighting for other people.

So, those are my thoughts on the story and the concept. I hope it all made sense, since I’m still figuring it out myself. I do recommend checking out the stories for yourself. (With the exception of the Barbie Fairytopia one, please do not watch that.)

Until next time–Natasha.

“Freedom to dance, freedom to sing, freedom to grow, I’m telling you Pharoah, let God’s people go!”–Jason Upton.

Getting off Scott Free.

Some of you may remember the post I did about Mr. Miracle. Well since then I have actually read the comic book of that title, and I thought I’d share my reaction.

Oh my gosh! It is freaking incredible!

Seriously, I have never been a huge comic book person, but this one blew me away.

You don’t realize the first time you read it how great it is, you only see that it’s way better than most of the other stuff in the genre, but upon rereading you notice the details that went into the character arcs and plot build up, and how, remarkably, there is no real discrepancy anywhere (I can think of one place that something didn’t entirely add up, but it was minor, and I’m not sure it was really an error, and it was just one.)

Sorry everyone, I’m still in fan girl mode. Which for me is both way more excited and way less than what you’d typically see made fun of on TV.

Aside from geeking out about it, I do have another reason to share it with you guys. I need to do some writing about liberty for a school thing, and all I can think about is this comic book as a reference. (Which is the first time in my life that has happened, I assure you.) The reason is, liberty is a huge point in the story, though it’s ironically the one I’ve thought least about, because being the person that I am, I want to talk about the love story.

But it’s time I gave the idea of freedom some consideration.

Scott Free starts off as a brainwashed prisoner of the hellish planet of Apokalips. I won’t give away all the details here, it would be far too long, but suffice to say he’s different than the other drones. In Barda’s words, they never got to him. Scott is affected by his life on this planet, but he refuses, for a reason unknown to himself even, to ben to all their rules. He in encouraged in this by Metron and Himon, two people who try to help whom they can become free minded.

Now the narrator leaves no doubt in our minds that no one on Apokalips is free minded except Himon. And he has precious few people who are even willing to try to learn his ways. But Scott becomes intrigued by him.

Long story short, with help from is unexpected ally, Big Barda, Scott flees the cursed planet and comes to Earth. We aren’t told exactly what he does at first, but he learns about the place and develops a passion for seeing justice served, but always with a degree of Mercy. he takes on the name of Mr. Miracle and tries to live a quiet life. Or quiet for him.

But Scott soon finds that you cannot just run from oppression and think that will be the end of it, after Barda joins him on Earth both of them try to keep their enemies at bay using their respective skills, but Scott quickly realizes he cannot run forever. So they return to face their past. To face themselves in a way.

I  have avoided this part of the story for one reason, I was concerned that the story was trying to tell us that finding our self is the answer. I know many people will take that from it, and take it at face-value. But how many of us really know what finding our true self even means?

Oddly enough, what came to my mind was a Barbie movie of all things, and not one of the good ones either, it was the second one of the Fairytopia trilogy. (Gag worthy, especially if you already hate Barbie, which I did for a while probably because of those movies.) But there’s one good part, Elena, the “Protagonist” is faced with the option of eating a berry that will turn her into whatever form her “True self” is. Elena was born without wings, and wanted them badly, winning them as a reward for saving the day in movie No#1. Her fear now is that her true self will not have wings.

I actually understand Elena for once. But her friends tell her “Whatever you are, you’ll be happy, because you’ll be your true self.”

Mixed up in the sappy stuff of this whole idea is actually an important truth. Our true self is not always what we want it to be, but what it is best for us to be.

This applies to Scott, as well. He wanted to be free; he wanted, in his own words “tranquility;” and he thought he could find that by running until they stopped pursuing him. Barda knew better, but she would rather chase after a delusion with Scott than be realistic by herself.

But Scott had to realize that we cannot be free by running, running is just the start, the begging of the dive into the deep end.

Freedom is not something anyone can be given, it is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.”–James Baldwin.

Barda, on the other hand, knew you have to take freedom. She lived this next quote.

Better to die fighting for freedom then to be a prisoner all the days of your life.”–Bob Marley.

Barda figured on dying in the fight to be free, but she intended to go out with a bang.

What makes this story oddly different is that their battle is a mental one. Scott literally fights it out in his mind. Barda nearly loses on that account, but Scott saves her in the nick of time.

It might be said that Scott will get out of anything, but Barda will avoid getting into it as long as she remains standing. She’d be free to start with if she could.

But the thing it, none of us are born free. We say we are, but we are all slaves to something. To sin usually, there’s always that one thing we can’t shake, sometimes its many things. Others of us get enslaved to people. Being a Christian is comparted to being a slave for God.

Only, in that last instance, it does not last. God wants free people. The reason we consider ourselves slaves fro Christ is because we don’t trust ourselves with total freedom.

What is total freedom anyway? It is not the absence of tyranny, that leads to anarchy most of the time.

I think I’ll dive into that in my next post, until then–Natasha.

Strange Magic

Since I just recently re-watched this movie, I thought it’d be a good chance to do a review on it, especially since there are only two main positions on it.

People either love this movie or hate it, very few are indifferent.

A lot of folks think this movie was George Lucas’ big joke at both our own and fairytales’ expense. The ending scene may well leave all the audience turning to their friends and asking “What the heck did I just watch?”

The movie seems so obviously bad that it’s baffling how many people left positive reviews for it on Amazon. Why?

Well, it may surprise you that after stating all that, I actually like this movie. You’ve probably never heard of it. I never had until a chance line in a review of a different movie, and the clips that started showing up on YouTube’s homepage.

I will not deny it is the weirdest movie I have ever seen all the way through. It beats out “Willy Wonka and the Cholate Factory.” It is not weird in the way that I’d say was wrong. It has no questionable scenes, no creepy stuff, no inappropriateness, beyond what will go over kids’ heads and is hardly even a thing to adults. It’s still arguable that its even inappropriate because I think circumstance counts for a lot.

So, that said, what is this movies big flaw that baffles its audience?

It’s really hard to pinpoint. The weirdest is scattered all over the place, but it mainly is in the awkwardness.

Maryanne, our main character, is socially awkward. I find it quite believable and in some ways too familiar for comfort; but that is the point. Maryanne is very human, despite being a fairy, and often doesn’t know how to handle herself unless it’s at the end of a sword. She is constantly shocking her father and sister with how rude or indifferent to people’s opinion she can be.

That said, Maryanne never does anything that can be considered truly wrong in the course of the film. she is painfully honest, fiercely loyal, and her chief flaw is being merciless to her ex, Rolland. Though he really leaves her no choice, and she never hurts him beyond what the situation calls for.

What makes up the rest of the awkwardness in this movie is the use of the love potion. It will make any two creatures fall in love with each other, though it seems only to work if they are of the opposite sex. It also only works on the one it’s dusted onto, so it can lead to one-sided, over-the-top obsession. An imp scatters the potion all over random creatures, leading to some very repulsive matches. It makes your stomach turn, and Maryanne’s as well.

But I can’t call that a flaw in the plot itself because the whole idea is supposed to be love shouldn’t be forced. We are supposed to be disgusted with how the misuse of this potion can ruin people. Maryanne’s sister spends a large portion of the movie in love with someone she’d normally be terrified of. Bog, the king of the Dark Forest, used the potion at one time, to no affect, and later realizes how wrong it was of him to do so.

Definitely the best thing this movie has going for it is Maryanne and Bog. Maryanne proves able to be very un-judgmental when she learns what Bog did in the past and why he hates love, she even sees herself in that and sympathizes. Bog also teaches her how to see the Dark Forest as a place that is more challenging than her own, and not actually evil, just different.

That is the powerful thing in the jumbled world of this movie. Because the audience perceives everything how Maryanne does, we see the forest as scary, evil, ugly, and hostile. But when she learns to see the beauty in it, we do too. Also we learn that sometimes ugly things are still amazingly complex. Like a centipede. Plus, some things will only grow in the Dark Forest, or on the line between it and the Lighter one, because some species need it cool and damp. This is stuff we have to remember as we watch, because everything in the dark forest looks the way it does because that makes it blend in with its surroundings. The creatures are ugly because they have to hide in the uglier places.

While I don’t think embracing ugliness is wise, it is wise to realize that different places look different for a reason.

There’s no racism message in this film, it’s more “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

But the best massage is that true love prevails. Maryanne goes from being a person who goes by appearances to being a person who doesn’t care about them. This has its drawbacks, as she is rude at times, and also impulsive; but it makes her a perfect match for Bog who is tired of being simpered to and having everyone afraid of him. Bog on the other hand rapidly goes from being bitter and somewhat evil to being heroic because he’s finally met someone who understands him.

The message is not that it’s okay to be evil, but that love can change you. Also, that love will accept you how you are. None of our characters are perfect. But only Rolland, the guy who thinks he is perfect, is the one who never changes. Everyone else grows and learns from their mistakes. But they also all learn that perfect or not, they can be loved. just for who they are. It’s a surprisingly sweet message in a very weird package.

So what’s the verdict?

I like this movie because only a move this weird could make you get past weirdness and love it anyway. In a sense, if you like the movie, you’ve learned what it was trying to teach you.

But…

If you can’t stand singing, especially if the songs are all unoriginal popular songs, most of them from the seventies, then this is not your movie.

All the songs fit the story, but one or two are completely unnecessary, and only one or two feel entirely natural in the movie.

And if the awkwardness of the dialogue is going to turn you off, than be warned, it is awkward most of the time.

The voice acting is sometimes surprisingly moving, but many times the characters make it weird, and to some people it will feel flat.

Also, the movie can grow on you, but it can also shrink.

Don’t watch it with anyone who hates musicals. Their scorn will  absolutely ruin it for you. Unless you are able to completely block it out.

But if you can get past all that and dig deep you’ll find that with all its flaws there’s something very charming about this film. Which seems to be the whole point. And for the rest, blame George Lucas’ weird imagination and not me. Or the movie itself.

Until next time–Natasha.

P. S. ( I hope I didn’t lose respect from anyone for liking this. You have to laugh at yourself, ladies and gentlemen.)

“I am Moana” part 2.

Okay, I’ve already outlined the story and the positive and negative elements of the film itself, now I want to get to my favorite part: The message.

It’s funny that directors often don’t know their own message very well. Everyone thinks Moana is about being true to yourself.

“You always, always say ‘be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!”–Buddy, The Incredibles.

Well, as Buddy points out, being true to yourself is not as simple as just being told to be.

And what does it really mean anyway?

I won’t argue that a large part of Moana is devoted to that message, but I don’t think we should just apply it to Moana. What about the Ocean? The Ocean wrecks Moana’s canoe, twice; almost drowns her; almost drowns her father and does drown his best friend; it also doesn’t respond to Moana’s cries for help every time she want sit to. What is the deal with the Ocean?

Moana, as we all would, gets frustrated with her new “friend.” Maybe you have a friend like that, one who acts in ways you can’t understand. I do.

But I actually love that the ocean acts this way, because the Ocean reminds me of God.

I know Christians say this about virtually every movie, but don’t roll your eyes yet, I have an unusual reason.

If you’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll recall that Aslan, the king, is not safe; but he’s good. Even in the movie they admit “He is not a tame lion.”

The wildness of Aslan frightens many people, in and out of the books, I might add. Aslan himself may not frighten those of us in the real world, but when we meet anything like him, we are frightened.

When it comes to things that aren’t alive, I’d say the Ocean takes the prize for being the most wild and unpredictable. You know why sailors are famous for cursing? You try being on a boat in the middle of rough water and see if you don’t at least think about it. I have been, it was one of the worst days of my life–and then there was the return trip.

No one can tame the Ocean. And that is something Moana needs to realize, no matter whether it chose her or not, the Ocean is still the Ocean, and it has to act according to its nature. Aslan admits to swallowing whole villages of people, to Jill, (in Book 6,) and not at all as if he is sorry or glad. He just is.

It is largely forgotten among the Church that God is like this. He is not predictable, we can not carry Him in our pocket. God Himself does destroy things, he does mete out justice, He does cause death. Many people hate Him for those reasons.

Yet God is not responsible for murder, for evil, or for every sorrow. But eh never tells us how we may know the difference between what he ahs caused and what other things have caused, He just ells us to trust Him.

This is why many people think Christians who are not fake are simply nuts. Well, maybe we are, maybe we are crazy for the sake of others, as Paul says.

But is it not somewhat crazy for Moana to set off alone, with her dumb chicken, to find Maui, who doesn’t seem the hero type even to her, and fight a lava monster single handedly after Maui abandons her like a jerk. (Really, if he’d just left it would have been one thing, but the mean things he says made me want to punch him.) Moana’s Grandma is crazy, and Moana definitely takes after her, but I loved it and I was not in the minority for once.

The Ocean teaches us a very important lesson: Good things are dangerous.

Things cannot be truly good until they are dangerous. Otherwise they are not tested. Evil things are also dangerous, but not in the same way. The difference, if we go by Jesus words, is one can destroy your body, the other can destroy body and soul, but the first is men, the second is God. Which is more good?

Of all the monsters in the realm, none of them defeats Moana or comes as close to it, as her disappointment and discouragement with the Ocean does. Good is far more dangerous than evil.

But that’s not bad. Because it’s good. That’s the paradox the movie is trying to show us. The Ocean helps Moana, just not in the way she expects, nor in the way she understands. For example, because the Ocean wrecked Moana a few times, she is not fazed when the Lava monster is making waves and nearly drowning her. She’s figured out how to swim.

And because Mona has had to do things without the Ocean’s help, she is brave enough to tell it to part when she needs Te Ka to come to her.

Because Moana has to carry so much of the weight, she is able to go on with or without Maui.

Maybe the Ocean knows what its doing.

The Ocean chose Moana for a reason, and I believe God chooses people for a reason too. But it’s not really about what’s special about us, it’s about if we will learn to trust.

That’s what’s great about Moana. It spends more time focusing on the journey than on why she was chosen, that becomes more apparent as we go.

Moana means Ocean, so the movie is really named after both of them, and Moana and the Ocean are in a sense, both the hero, neither is independent of the other.

Christians believe that God does not need people, but I personally believe that He has chosen to set this world up so that he does, in a sense. Not like we need things, it’s a different kind of need.

Moana realizes that our desires are awakened by something outside ourselves. That she longs for the Ocean because it calls her.

“And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always falling and rising. I will carry you here in my heart to remind me, that come what may, I know the way. I am Moana!”

I am the ocean. Not that I literally am it, or that I have the power of it, but that the ocean is a part of me.

As weird as that may sound, the movie completely backs me up on it. Who we are is, literally, who we are called to be. Think about that sentence.

That song is what made me like the movie, and in my opinion, it’s why everyone likes it.

Is it better than “Let it go”? Of course not; they are two different songs that describe two different feelings, which are connected but are certainly not the same.

But Moana is like Frozen continued. Not good in the same way, but still good, and that is my verdict.

Until next time–Natasha.