Sunday December 21, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar

I love the penguins in the Madagascar films, but they're best taken in small doses with no character arcs. This film was fun, but it wasn't awesome. 

If you've seen the third Madagascar film, the one with the circus, the opening chase scene is over-the-top hilarious. Delightful. Penguins of Madagascar gives us a gondola chase that is similarly over-the-top, but it didn't quite clear the bar set by the Paris chase in the previous film.

Part of the problem with this film is that in all of the others the penguins are a force of nature. They are super-beings whose successes are godlike, and whose failures mean a thing simply cannot be done. In this film, however, the penguins are our protagonists, so they're not allowed to be super-beings. They come close, sure, but their failures feel contrived, and their successes can't ever be quite as awesome as they were in the previous films.

So: small doses.

I had fun, though. Penguins of Madagascar comes in at #14 for me for the year.

(cross-posted from

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings is pretty powerful, but it might rub a lot of folks the wrong way. It doesn't tell the story of Moses the way biblical literalists would have it be told. (Disclaimer: It's also not the story of Moses that I believe in, but I didn't expect it to be.)

That's okay. It's a pretty good story. And it's a story that rings true in a lot of ways, especially in the ways that the characters relate to each other. 

Was it fun? Not really -- I'm putting it at #16. But it was beautiful and powerful and I liked it. Best of all, I never once heard Batman noises come out of Christian Bale's mouth. Although Batmoses would have been a cool movie, too.

On a strictly literary level, Batman and the other comic-book superheroes are very similar to the gods and heroes of ancient myth. They're part of a modern mythic pantheon, and this is a very flattering way to justify why their origin stories and key adventures keep getting re-told (much more flattering than the "we're too scared to take chances with a new story" version). In that light, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a Moses movie just like The 13th Warrior was a Beowulf movie, and Troy was about Achilles.

Touching on the Topical

The current Schlock Mercenary storyline may appear topical with regard to current events. This is a coincidence, of course. I outlined the full story months ago, and when the news from Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York broke it was far too late for me to decide to tell a different story.

So now it is topical, regardless of my original intent. All art is consumed and given relevance by the consumer and their context. If something feels topical, relevant, or timely, then it is. There’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s possible, however, that readers may arrive at incorrect conclusions concerning my personal opinions on current events, and these events are of significant import. With that in mind, I’ve posted my musings on these matters over on my blog. In most cases I’m happy to let the comic grant a measure of ambiguity to my personal politics, but in this case I would much rather speak my mind plainly.

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