Wednesday June 28, 2017
Book 17: A Little Immortality — Part I
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Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight was a waste of some pretty cool robot fight choreography, and an absolute squandering of Anthony Hopkins and Isabela Moner.

This doesn’t surprise me, given the track record of this less-than-meets-the-eye cinematic franchise, but I was still disappointed.

The plot is far too convoluted for a straightforward McGuffin match-up¹. There were three times more speaking-role characters than the average audience member (myself included) is likely to have emotional space to care about. Making the film longer (2 hours 28 minutes) doesn’t solve the problem. It means we’ll all be tired, exhaustedly awaiting the end of the movie about 38 minutes before it shows up.

“Leave them wanting more” does not mean “leave them wanting more of their day back when they leave the theater.”

Fortunately, the actors all turned in solid performances, especially Isabela Moner, who was one of the very best things about the film. Sadly,  she’s completely absent for Act II, but when she does return in Act III she masterfully acts far above the hackneyed plotonium the writers deployed to work her into the climactic battle.

My biggest complaint lies with the mythos. Tying the Transformers into Arthurian legend may have seemed cool and clever at some point, but it fell completely flat for me². Stanley Tucci played Merlin quite well in the prologue, doing an outstanding job with “drunken charlatan thrust into the wrong movie” but the humor said to me “this is going to be bleak, so let’s loosen you up with some laughs. Here, have an inebriated wizard!”

I said earlier that the robot fight choreography was good. It was! Bumblebee’s entrance was pretty epic, and although I couldn’t always keep track of which Transformer was which, I was able to see what they were doing, and on several occasions they did cool things. Somebody told Michael Bay to hold the camera steady, I suppose.

Transformers: The Last Knight is the first film this year to cross my Threshold of Disappointment. I feel bad for the many people responsible for the good parts of this movie, because they deserve to have those parts show up in a less disappointing film³.


¹ “McGuffin match-up” is what I call it when the characters have to find multiple important plot-thingies (‘McGuffins’) and put them into the hands of the right people in time to save the day.  
² “Secret history” stories often fall flat for me, usually when they take great moments in human history and tell me it was actually or when they take human atrocities and tell me the terrible people were all vampires. Actual heroes and villains from history need to remain human. That’s how actual humans learn to be heroes.
³ I also feel bad for the boy who, as the crowds were exiting the theater, was telling everyone within earshot that this movie was awesome. To my long-time-parent ears his tone suggested that his opinion of the film’s awesomeness was actually kind of shaky, but he couldn’t bear the thought of not having seen a good movie. Nobody jumped in to validate him, but neither did anyone smack him down. I guess we all chose the kindness of silence, tacitly agreeing to let him find his own way through dawning disappointment.

 

The Mummy

The trailers for The Mummy suggested that it was going to be a supernatural horror film retreading ground that Universal Studios has already covered several times. There was no hint that the movie would have any joy in it. 

To my delight, there was a lot of joy¹. While not as outright campy as 1999’s The Mummy², it definitely leaned in that direction. Yes, there are jump-scares and spooky bits, but there’s also lots of witty banter, and a healthy dose of dark comedy. I had a pretty good time. My 16yo daughter really liked it too.

Fans of the 1999 film may be pleased to note that a prop from that film³ has a featured cameo in this one, suggesting that perhaps Rick, Evelyn, and Alex O’Connell share this universe with Jenny Halsey, Nick Morton, and Dr. Henry Jekyll (along with the rest of Universal’s DARK UNIVERSE stable of monsters and mortals.) It’s not explicitly declared, but there’s nothing explicitly ruling it out.

The Mummy (2017) doesn’t clear my Threshold of Awesome, but it was a lot of fun. It entered my list at #6 for the year, which is not too shabby for June.


¹Recent experiences with misleading trailers invite comparison: Suicide Squad‘s trailer promised campy fun, but the movie was bleak. The Mummy’s trailer promised horror, and the movie was horror plus dark comedy. I prefer having my expectations set low.

² I’m sitting down to watch 1999’s The Mummy right now, while I ink. It’s like an old friend. A really old friend, who tracks sand everywhere, and doesn’t like my cat.

³ If you must know, it was the big gold book with the fancy star-shaped key. You’d think I’d know the name of my friend’s favorite book, but no, I do not. 

 

Schlock Mercenary Turns Seventeen

On Monday, June 12th of the year 2000 the very first Schlock Mercenary strip appeared on the web.

Yesterday, Monday, June 12th of the year 2017 marked the seventeenth anniversary of that start date—seventeen years of uninterrupted¹ daily² updates here at schlockmercenary.com.

That I am now in my eighteenth year of doing this stands as evidence of ongoing good fortune. I’ve enjoyed seventeen full years without any sort of debilitating injury or crisis preventing me from working for more than a couple of weeks at a time. I’ve gotten sick and been injured, of course, but I keep getting better with sufficient time to spare.

At some point this streak will end. That point lies in the mists of a hopefully-distant future, and is not today.

Today I am making comics.

(Just as soon as I finish this blog post.)

If you would like to celebrate the beginning of Schlock Mercenary’s eighteenth year, you might consider sharing the strip with a friend. But whatever you do, don’t send them back to the very beginning. That would be cruel. Start here, with Book 12.  Which, by serendipitous convenience³, is the most recent of the Schlock Mercenary stories to appear in print.

How long will Schlock Mercenary continue to run? The over-arching story is in its final act, and will draw to a close soon, probably  in Book 19. But on the day following that big finish there will be another update, and another one the day after that. Those will launch a new story, featuring some characters you know, and a universe you think you know, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is a satisfactory conclusion coming up, and you can enjoy it secure in the knowledge that it won’t end the delivery of daily strips here at schlockmercenary.com.


¹ There have been service interruptions, of course. Like that time the data center’s UPS failed, and a fire destroyed part of the facility. But Schlock Mercenary has updated every day, and with a bit of back-up hosting has never been unavailable for more than a few hours at a time.

² That’s 6,210 strips. Yes, the image files are backed up in more than one place. 

³ A friend who also happens to be flush with the good fortune of a spot of discretionary income, might purchase that book as a gift. Shared links are lovely, but a thing made out of colorful paper is a thing that will be remembered.