Captain’s Log: August 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

We got an eighth (and perhaps final) Harry Potter book a few weeks ago. The release of The Cursed Child script was still a momentous occasion. Critics mostly seem to like it, but fans are a little more divided. Those who dislike it seem to cite the change in tone, or an excessive use of time travel, or the play format, or potential continuity errors, or whatever. But frankly, I loved it. It was wonderful seeing these characters back in action, as well as the new characters. Around the second act, I began to admire the grouping of Albus, Scorpius, and Delphi, and how they were similar to/different from Harry/Ron/Hermione. (For those who have read the play, obviously this dynamic changes by the end.) I do think that the play format did help aid the interactions between these three.

2016 August 1

But let me hone in on some of my favorite characters; suprisingly, both the Malfoys. Draco is a more sympathetic and fleshed out character than we’ve seen him before, and Scorpius is pretty much everyone’s favorite new character. And the pairing of Scorpius and Albus is great; people believe Scorpius to be the son of Voldemort, which adds a shade of irony to his friendship with Albus. Sure, anyone with the last name Weasly doesn’t get a whole lot to do, but Ginny and Ron make for great support characters.

Rowling has commented that this will likely be her last time writing an installment focusing on Harry. Now yes, we’ll probably see other things set in the Wizarding World, such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but it seems as though we are moving on from Harry. Which I’m behind. We’ve seen this character come a long way, and in The Cursed Child, we see him in a different role, as a father.

 

The Stupidest Fucking Headline

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On Facebook one night, I look over and see that Kit Harrington, the actor who plays Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, was trending. I clicked to see what that could be about. The story read that Harrington, in anticipation of the next season’s script (which he will receive soon), has said that he expects the upcoming seasons of the show to be “bleak” before it will get any happier. (All the news websites would put the word bleak in quotations, as though they had come up with some immensely eloquent way of paraphrasing what Harrington was saying.)

Well, of course it’s going to get bleak. This is coming from a show that is lauded for the way it kills characters that we love, and which has shown various characters go through arcs of tremendous grief and trauma. The story now features a tyrannical queen on one front, and a winter-apocalypse on the other. Of fucking course it’s going to get bleak. I’m just kind of frustrated because this is clearly a non-story. Kit Harrington didn’t offer any story details, he hasn’t even read the script yet! He’s just speculating.

I suppose that the rise of the internet is to blame for things like this. Every time an actor says something or there’s a trailer released, rabid fans take to the internet to speculate. I realize that I’m often guilty of this, but part of me thinks that people should just wait until they’ve seen the thing in question.

Since I began writing this post, there has been speculation after several posts on Instagram that Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones and will play Aquaman in Justice League, will return to the show. Well, if he did, that would make for quite the surprise, wouldn’t it? I figure it would make for the kind of surprise that would be fun and amazing to watch, especially if the viewer had no outside knowledge or previous hints that it might happen.

In Theaters This Month

If you want a quick summary of this section without actually having to read it, here it is: Suicide Squad was iffy at best, and Kubo and the Two Strings was phenomenal at worst.

Let’s start with the bad. Earlier this month, I wrote about a major flaw in Suicide Squad. The post, found below, deals with a minor spoiler. If you’ve seen the film or don’t mind knowing this plot point, give that post a read.

Kicking off my Personal Favorites series, I decided to talk about what makes The Avengers such a great movie, and how it inspired a subgenre of superhero team-up movies. The Avengers played with (and influenced) this genre by having the plot centered around a central villain who was intimidating, charismatic, and just very interesting. Suicide Squad had none of this. All of the reviews I’ve encountered had nothing particularly positive to say about the Enchantress or what makes her a good villain.

Joker Origin 2

Not to mention Jared Leto’s Joker. Yes, okay, there were a lot of controversial stories that came out from the production of the movie, and Leto’s screen time was cut down significantly, so this might be more of a directorial problem than a performance one. We didn’t see a whole lot of the Joker, and that was what disappointed me the most. There were plenty of moments with the Joker which would have been more interesting if they had just been a little bit longer. For example, the scene in which he’s about to interrogate a security guard at the prison where Harley Quinn was being held, and rather than showing us the interrogation, we’re rushed to the next scene. That would have been a great moment to see the Joker in action, but instead we just skip right over it. If it were Christopher Nolan directing Heath Ledger, that scene would have made the final cut.

Another thing that irked me was the music choices. Sometimes, the songs, seemingly all of which were well known, had some significance and were actually rather well-placed. For example, playing “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones works, because it indicates that Amanda Waller’s team, and Waller herself, are morally ambiguous/bad guys. Okay, good. Then there’s “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes, because, y’know, they’re an army? Or “The House of the Rising Sun” because Belle Reve (the fictional prison where the film starts) is in Louisiana? And then the movie ends with “Bohemian Rhapsody” for no conceivably good reason. But it’s not the original Queen version, rather, a cover by Panic! At the Disco.

(In fact, Queen is my favorite band, so I need to take a moment for a tangent. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is arguably the greatest song of all time, certainly one of my favorites. No one should cover “Bohemian Rhapsody,” in the way that no one should ever remake Citizen Kane or The Godfather, there’s pretty much nothing else that can be brought to any of these works, because of how perfect these original works are. Any attempts to replicate them are going to be seen as a foolish attempt at one-up-manship, and will be greeted with a great deal of “it’s nowhere near as good as the original.”)

But then there was also the scene where Batman was supposed to give CPR to Harley Quinn and instead he just kissed her? What the hell was that all about? One valid complaint from Batman v. Superman was that their Batman strayed from the traditional morals (for example, not murdering people) that make him the heroic character we know and love, and in a lesser way I feel like having him kiss presumably-dead Harley really kind of doubles down on this idea that the DCEU Batman is a clear antihero.

To be fair to this movie, there were a few things that were enjoyable. The three main stars, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Viola Davis, all give solid performances. And there’s also Diablo, who has a clearly defined arc and whose fire-powers make for some very interesting shots.

2016 Jan 2

On the other hand, there was Kubo and the Two Strings was wonderful. It was visually outstanding, well-voiced, and had a compelling story. I genuinely feel like there are only so many things I can say about the movie without potentially spoiling something, and this is a movie where knowing less beforehand can enhance the experience. So, let me leave it at this: if you’re looking for a beautifully filmed movie with a heartfelt, original plot that is aimed at children while also managing to address mature topics, watch Kubo and the Two Strings.

Not to mention, the movie gave us this awesome cover:

New Trailers

Last month, I forgot to mention the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer that came out. It looks like fun!

The coolest thing about this trailer is that we actually finally get to see the beasts. I’m really excited for this, because it seems like there will be a big shift in tone from The Cursed Child; it looks more like it will be a fun and light-hearted adventure rather than the dark and mature subject matter of the play.

Then there was also a phenomenal trailer for Rogue One, which shows us more of the other characters.

We see a couple of things that get me really excited for, such as the Force-sensitive blind warrior played by martial arts star Donnie Yen, or the comic relief droid voiced by Alan Tudyk. I hope that these characters can make a fun and interesting rag-tag style team, because I think that has the potential to carry the movie more than anything else.

The only thing I object to about this trailer is how Darth Vader is just tacked on to the end of it. This trailer makes it seem like he’s just very shoe-horned in, rather than playing a significant part. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see, but after this trailer I don’t expect to see much Darth Vader in Rogue One.

Pop Cultural Studies now on Twitter!

So, if you read this blog via the WordPress reader, you might not have seen this, but on my website, I have now added a Twitter widget to the side of the website. If you’d like to follow Pop Cultural Studies on Twitter at @PopCulturedWP, because all the cooler names didn’t fit or were taken. Since I’m kind of new on Twitter, so as I’m still getting used to it and won’t be posting consistently for a little while, but if that interests you, go ahead and follow me! 🙂

 

  • What’d you think of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?
  • Do people speculate too much before seeing a movie, tv show, etc.? Or is speculation an important part of entertainment?
  • Did you see Kubo and the Two Strings or Suicide Squad? What’d you think?
  • What movie coming out this year are you most excited for?
  • Did you follow us on Twitter?

 

Posts for August:

Insurance Commercials and the Death of Creativity

Suicide Squad and the Art of Trivializing Death

Personal Favorites: Introduction and Honorable Mentions

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