There’s a beautiful irony to the new Ghostbusters. Despite all the hate, vitriol, whining, and crying from a certain sect of the internet about their childhoods being destroyed by “SJWs,” Ghostbusters isn’t nearly as explicitly feminist as anyone was probably expecting. Instead, the movie is mostly content in being an earnestly entertaining romp through an inventive sci-fi/supernatural world with four of the best comedians working today.
If you were able to watch the movie in an alternate universe where the cultural battle that has erupted around the movie never existed, what you would find is a delightful way to pass an hour-and-a-half. The four leads prove funny and engaging enough to warrant sequels, some scenes are bound to be quotable classics (“Mike Hat”), and there’s a genuinely awesome action sequence that could upstage anything in any blockbuster this year (God bless Kate McKinnon). But in this untainted alternate universe, you probably wouldn’t leave the movie and find many thinkpieces or ranting comments about what feminist statements the movie is making.
Ghostbusters isn’t trying to be a “feminist” movie; it just wants to be a good movie about a group of people proving a skeptical world wrong and becoming heroes in the process.
Meet your new Iron Man
Following the conclusion of Civil War II on September 21, Tony Stark will (due to as of yet unknown reasons) no longer be Iron Man. Either by death or retirement, the Iron Mantle will be passed to Riri Williams in October in her own series, simply titled Invincible Iron Man.
With that announcement, the final Marvel mainstay has moved on, leaving all of Marvel’s most iconic superhero identities in new hands.
Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America. Thor Odinson no longer wields the hammer Mjölnir. Bruce Banner no longer hulks out. The yellow spandex of Wolverine isn’t worn by Logan. Peter Parker still uses the name Spider-Man, but there’s another wall-crawler in New York City who’s also taken that name. And now Tony Stark is no longer Iron Man. The Avengers don’t look like they used to.
Recently I’ve taken an interest in chess. I downloaded a chess app, watched some basic YouTube tutorials on openings and checkmating, and read up on some of the greats like Bobby Fischer, Gary Kasparov, and Magnus Carlsen. When I told a friend that I had been playing chess, he said, “The game of intellectuals… Why are you playing it?”
He’s real funny.
But there is something interesting about that sentiment. Chess is seen as an intellectual pursuit. The chess world’s grandmasters are often referred to as geniuses and savants. Chess clubs are often encouraged as extracurriculars in schools because of this idea that chess will make children smarter.
Hamilton, the hip-hop musical starring the Founding Fathers and the best thing on planet Earth right now, recently found itself in a spot of controversy when some took umbrage with a casting call that said the show was “seeking non-white men and women” for its lead cast. Some made a stink about the listing, labeling it with made-up phrases like “reverse racism” and other nonsense. Though the wording of the listing was changed to state that the characters (and not the sought after actors) would be non-white, a spokesperson for the show reaffirmed the cast and crew’s philosophy of only casting people of color for its revolutionary leads.
Honestly, what I found most astonishing about the whole incident was that it was the first time I’d seen any amount of negativity surrounding the show’s racebending of the Founding Fathers. For months, Hamilton has been taking over pop culture and creating legions of nerd acolytes online having dubbed themselves #Hamiltrash, and not a single time had I seen its black, Latin@, and mixed-race cast discussed with anything less than praise. The only other response to the cast that I’d seen that wasn’t unequivocal adulation was simple astounded admiration at the cast having delivered on the show’s lofty promises.
And that really is surprising; that Hamilton has “gotten away” with racebending the most famous and hallowed white men and women in American history, at a time when race is such a contentious issue.
I think it’s fair to say that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a contentious movie. Spider-Man fans are pretty evenly divided on it, some claiming that it’s the best Spidey movie to date and some claiming pretty much the exact opposite (including high profile voices like MovieBob, Devin Faraci, and Film Crit Hulk). Its lackluster box office returns and disastrous production (you’d think Sony would learn to stop meddling with their directors) led to the Amazing series being canned and Spidey getting a new start over at Marvel Studios in their Cinematic Universe.
Pair all that with my own lukewarm reception to the first Amazing Spider-Man and I wasn’t expecting to have a good time with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But by the time Electro was blowing up Times Square and Dane DeHaan was sleazing around Oscorp I was on board with Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s not a great movie (maybe even not a good one) and unlike the Sam Raimi movies it doesn’t really have any goal or arc for Peter Parker besides “have stuff happen to him,” but, to its credit, it tries to fix what ASM1 did to Peter Parker (albeit unsuccessfully), the villains are fun to watch, and it has a couple of legitimately great action scenes to keep it afloat.
Thanks to a wonderful comment from swanpride, this piece has been revised and updated to address Peter and Gwen’s crucial talk on the bleachers.
In its desperation to distance itself from Sam Raimi’s classic trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man radically changes the order and details of Peter Parker’s origin story as much as it can. But, as a result of that restructuring, the actual lesson and message integral to Spider-Man’s origin story gets lost. Peter never learns Uncle Ben’s big lesson (though in this version it’s attributed to Peter’s missing father) and he spends the entirety of the movie without an ethos or proper motivation. Add to that some dodgy scripting and design around Peter himself and what you’re left with is a dull, serviceable film with a horribly broken and unlikable character at its center.
I remember seeing Spider-Man 3 when it first came out back in 2007. At the time I enjoyed it but I knew that it didn’t quite live up to the first two, though I couldn’t pinpoint why. In the years since then, I, of course, became familiar with all the talk, jokes, and ridicule surrounding it. Dancing, evil Peter Parker was a travesty and embarrassment to the series. They ruined Venom. Topher Grace was a terrible casting decision. It’s too long and too stuffed with too many villains and characters. So going into it now after the excellent Spider-Man 2 I was sort of expecting the worst. I’d seen critics like MovieBob and Devin Faraci defend the movie but the overwhelming negativity on the Internet was enough to make me worry.
But I’m here to report that Spider-Man 3 is not the train wreck we all remember it to be. In fact, it’s a pretty good, fun superhero flick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s almost definitely the worst of Raimi’s trilogy and some of the common Internet complaints aren’t off base, but it’s no where near being a bad film. Spider-Man 3 doesn’t deviate that far from its predecessors in terms of tone, themes, focus, or content. Like the first two films, it puts Peter through the grinder, focusing more on how being Spider-Man affects him than on Spider-Man himself. Peter and his personal relationships are more important here than the villains or the action scenes, just as it was in the first two movies, and they still remain interesting and utterly compelling to watch. Tobey Maguire is on point for every step of Peter Parker’s journey and it’s simply tons of fun to watch. Spider-Man 3‘s flaws mostly stem from the fact that it’s simply too big, not leaving enough time to properly develop and resolve arcs and storylines.
Like clockwork, every few months I go on a Spider-Man binge. This most recent bout of Spidey-mania comes courtesy of a new story arc in The Amazing Spider-Man comic, now that the bloated Spider-Verse event is now over, that will hopefully get the new series back on track. So in order to satisfy my cravings for more Spider-Man I’ve dived back into the Spider-Man movies, and since I watched the first of Sam Raimi’s trilogy fairly recently (last spring), I figured I would start with its sequel, Spider-Man 2.
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy exists in a stylistic middle ground between retro 60s and modern-day realism. Peter Parker lives in 21st-century New York City but he’s still a Silver Age nerd going to a classic 60s style school, complete with bullying football jocks. Raimi’s camera swings and zooms in ways most modern blockbusters stopped doing years ago and his edits are artificial and obvious in a fun and campy way. And while the first film in the trilogy probably leans a little too heavily into its goofy 60s style, Spider-Man 2 finds the perfect balance between the two.
It’s hard to do a year-end post like this without feeling the need to talk about the big topics of the year in some way and I certainly have many opinions about the current state of gaming that I love to spout off about (which you can see by following me on Twitter). But trying to broach just one of the many discussions to be had about games and gaming culture in 2014 in a post that’s supposed to be about the games I played feels like a good way to become sidetracked so I’m just going to put my feelings down on gaming in 2014 real quick and then move on to the fun stuff.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the games. Listed below, along with the dates that I beat them, are the games I played this year. I only listed the games that I definitively beat, though, for 2015, I’m going to start including games that I put significant amounts of time into even if I didn’t complete them.
This year, counting episodic games like The Wolf Among Us as one game, I beat 27 games, 8 of which came out in 2014 (and that’s counting The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead: Season Two as 2014 games even though they premiered in 2013). Compared to 2013, that’s 4 more games beaten overall (23 to 27) and 1 more game beaten that was released in the respective year (7 to 8).
So, without further ado, here are the games I beat in 2014: