May 2009


"The Sith do not bottle feed kittens!" - Chugworth Academy

May 2nd, 2009


Wow. That was really bad.

I just got back from watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine and I feel absolutely compelled to warn others from wasting their money on a cinematic travesty. What's particularly remarkable about this disastrous failure is that the first half of the film is actually quite good. It's not a cinematic triumph by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a solid, entertaining popcorn film.

But then, a little over halfway through the movie, a switch is flipped. Something incredibly stupid happens, and from that point forward the entire film becomes nearly unwatchable: The plot, the characters, and even the editing all become insultingly idiotic.

It's as if the two halves of the film were made by completely different creative teams.

You probably won't believe me. I'd certainly seen people giving the thumbs-down to this movie in various places around the 'net before deciding to go and see it anyway. But consider this: I actually left the theater thinking X-Men 3 wasn't a complete disaster. (It was a huge disappointment and completely wasted the opportunity created by the first two films. But it was passable.)

And I'm telling you that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is an unwatchable travesty.

From this point forward we'll have SPOILERS so that I can rant a bit.

(1) First, allow me to reiterate that I thought the first half of the film was actually quite good for a popcorn action flick. The opening sequence with the young brothers; the montage sequence over the opening credits; and Hugh Jackman's performance through the next section all made the film very entertaining.

(2) First Warning Sign: The scene where Logan is getting injected with the adamantine skeleton.

Stryker: "By the way, here are your dog-tags. Because even though you're completely naked, laying in a tub of water, and about to be injected with molten metal, I think you should be wearing these."

Logan: "I want new ones."

Stryker: "What do you want them to say?"

Logan: "Wolverine."

Stryker: "Really? Okay. Well, damn. Okay, everybody hold on. Logan, you just stay laying right there. Everybody else just hang out. I'm going to go have completely new dog-tags made."

And they do...!

(3) Second Warning Sign: Agent Zero has just been killed trying to kill Wolverine.

Nameless Dude: "Agent Zero had no chance. You would need a gun with adamantine bullets. Like this one right here. That we have had all along. And could have easily given him."

Stryker: "Wasn't Agent Zero's mutant power his ability to shoot guns really, really well?"

Nameless Dude: "Don't forget his ability to leap around like a jackrabbit."

Stryker: "Right. I see we're theming these mutant powers well. But since he could shoot really well, wouldn't it have made more sense to give him this gun?"

Nameless Dude: "... dude. You could have said something like an hour ago."

(4) The Stupid of No Return: The first time Gambit attacked Wolverine, it made perfect sense. The second time Gambit attacked Wolverine? That was stupid. Really, really, really stupid.

(For those who haven't seen the film: Gambit hates Sabretooth and wants him dead. He sees Wolverine with his blades to Sabretooth's throat and hears him say, "I'm going to kill you." So what does Gambit do? He attacks Wolverine and stops him from killing Sabretooth. Thirty seconds later after Sabretooth has escaped? Gambit is asking Wolverine to help him kill Sabretooth.)

(5) The Rest of the Stupid: I'd try to list it, but there's really no point. After the Stupid of No Return, virtually every single second of the movie is stupid. So I'll just highlight one particularly egregrious bit of stupid.

(5) Professor X is a Dick:  Remember in the first X-Men movie when Professor X knows nothing about Wolverine? Turns out, he's a dick. Not only is he telepathically monitoring the entire finale of the movie (and thus probably knows exactly who Wolverine is), but even if he somehow missed Wolverine's presence telepathically it turns out this first twenty students (including Cyclops!) were all rescued by Wolverine himself!

The fact that the Cyclops himself doesn't recognize Wolverine makes sense (because they're actually quite careful about making sure he's blind and never even hears Wolverine speak). But Professor X? He's a dick.

Unless they get Bryan Singer back, this is probably the last X-Men movie they'll be conning me into seeing for awhile.

May 5th, 2008


I came to this novel by way of Gary Gygax by way of Appendix N of the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide by way of James Maliszewski at Grognardia.

I think it's safe to say that, if not for that rather remarkable (and lengthy) chain of recommendations, I would probably have never read this slim volume -- which, as far as I know, was published in 1963 and never seen again.

Sign of the Labrys is a post-apocalyptic tale of the sort commonly found in mid-20th century science fiction. What sets it apart is that it is also, although it doesn't strictly look like it at first, science fantasy. (This becomes clear fairly quickly, but the exact reasons for its fantastical nature constitute a spoiler so drastic that I won't even hint at it here.)

The ways in which Sign of the Labrys inspired Gygax's dungeoncraft become both rapidly and intriguingly apparent: Sam Sewell, the protagonist of the tale, lives in a vast underground complex of modified caverns that was built as a refuge before the collapse of civilization. The apocalypse thinned out the population (killing nine in ten) and eradicated central authority, leaving behind vast catacombs of uninhabited space which small, spontaneous societies have repurposed in a variety of ways.

In short, Sign of the Labrys reads like a strange hybrid of Dungeons & Dragons and Metamorphosis Alpha. Here we find a clear predecessor of Castle Greyhawk: A multi-cultural, subterranean menagerie laid out in a pattern of levels and sub-levels connected by both the well-known thoroughfares and a plentitude of secret passages and hidden ladders.

This, by itself, would have made Sign of the Labrys a fascinating and worthwhile novel for a D&D afficionado like myself. But I also found the novel to be very entertaining in its own right. Addictive, in fact. It's got a page-turning, pulpy pace mixed together with some nigh-poetic language and a strange, enigmatic mystery that leaves you yearning to know the answer.

Stylistically Sign of the Labrys reminds me quite favorably of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. It possesses the strange, otherworldly, and fantastical approach to matters of science fiction which characterizes the best of their work. Particularly Moore's. Like Moore's classic Jirel of Joiry stories, Sign of the Labrys reminds me of Alice in Wonderland smashed through the broken mirror of another genre's conceits and set pieces. If I were to say that Sign of the Labrys periodically reads as if the author had taken a tab of LSD before sitting down at her typewriter it would not be wholly inaccurate. (It would, however, be rather less than charitable, as St. Clair's writing is not merely a drug-induced rambling. In fact, it works consistently towards a larger stylistic and revelatory purpose.)

In the end, I found Sign of the Labrys to be delightfully entertaining. And since, like me, you are unlikely to encounter it by chance, I shall pass on the same recommendation that was given to me: From Gygax to AD&D to Grognardia to me to the Alexandrian and thus to you...

Find a copy if you can.


MAY 2009: