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“Invincible” Season 1 – A Good Adaptation and Beginning to the Series

New Poster for the Show! : Invincible

“Invincible” season 1 is a really good start for a series. I think it was smart to do 8 episodes and have them be around 40 minutes as the world is fleshed out more than the first Omnibus of the comics. We get character moments that were never there and character development because of it. I’m speaking as someone who thought the comics are good and can’t wait to finish them too. I just think that Robert Kirkman improved upon his prior work and I highly recommend checking out this show as I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Robert Kirkman created the show and worked on the comics with Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley.

The story follows Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) when he develops superpowers and begins to take on the responsibility that comes with it. At the same time the Earth is put into crisis after an attack on the Guardians of the Globe.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – Robert Kirkman clearly drew a lot of inspiration from DC but he still made his own great universe. You see it in how the original Guardians of the Globe each have their DC counterpart (A speedster, an immortal woman, an immortal man, a Martian, an Atlantean, etc.) but develops it’s own feel. The Global Defense Agency is fascinating in how they’ll go to any ends to protect Earth and their leader Cecil exeplifies that and the new Guardians of the Globe have their coming together as a team moment and we get some fun enemies too from aliens to mafia bosses.

The Civilian Stories – The civilian stories were one of the stronger parts of this story. In episode 1 we meet a security guard at the White House who is traveling to Britain with his step-son and by the end his step-son sees him as a father and we learn Olga’s (The wife of Red Rush) distrust of government and a few other stories scattered through the season. They lend reality to the world and show who Mark is fighting for.

The Guardians of the Globe – The Guardians of the Globe (Versions 1 and 2) are both great. The first version we get the Justice League professionals (Martian Man, Green Ghost, War Woman, The Immortal, Red Rush, Darkwing and Aquarus) that are humanized in their relationships outside of costume and whose death is one you feel and the group of misfits of Version 2 led by Robot (Dupli-Kate, Rex Splode, Monster Girl, Shrinking Rae and Black Samson as the other members). This group has a lot of conflict among themselves but comes together over the course of the series and fins themselves worthy of the Mantel.

Cecil – Cecil is a character who is the agent that no one really trusts fully as we clearly see him using everyone around him to protect Earth. He will work with monsters to do so (a guy who is making robot zombies for one) and we see what drives that when his initial failsafes against Omni-man all fail. He’s an interesting character and I’m curious to learn more about his backstory and how he at one point became friends with Omni-Man.

Damien Darkblood – Clancy Brown is fantastic as this demon detective who discovers that Omni-Man killed the Guardians of the Globe. He is the one who leaves the clues for Debbie Grayson to follow and I hope we see him again as everything he is doing is to redeem his soul from hell. The premise of the character is so cool and I’d watch a show just about him.

The Mauler Twins – Keith Michael Richardson is once again awesome characters. This time he’s hyper-strong and hyper-intelligent beings known as the Mauler Twins. Whenever one of them dies they just clone another so there is always two of them. Their motivation seems to be respect as they kick things off attacking the White House before the Guardians of the Globe capture them. They are later freed by Robot who he wants them to make a new body for him and they are true to their world before they are captured once more at the end.

Allen the Alien – Seth Rogan plays my favorite character in this in Allen the Alien. This is a character who goes to worlds around the galaxy to test their defenders for strength. He is the one who tells Mark about the Coalition of Planets and they later become friends after Mark says he was coming to the wrong planet. He later comes to warn mark about the Viltrum on Earth (Omni-Man) but Mark updates him on events. I really liked their friendship and Allen is such an enjoyable character.

Samantha Eve Wilkins / Atom Eve – Gillian Jacobs does a fantastic job as Atom Eve and her arc involves finding an identity outside of superheroing after Rex Splode cheats on her with Dupli-Kate. This leads to her realizing how abusive her father is and leaving as we see her fixing natural disasters and droughts around the world and is finally happy. Her friendship with Mark happens during this time and she clearly has feelings for him as they met in costume first when fighting the Flaxan invasion. I can’t wait to see where her story goes as besides Mark she is the best superhero.

The Grayons – The Graysons and their relationships to one another are the strongest drama of the show. There is so much here that is explored and I’ll be exploring each member of the Grayson family.

Debbie Grayson – Sandra Oh is wonderful as Debbie Grayson and I like how important she is to the story. She is the one who we learn helped Nolan find his humanity in the first place and she is there to remind Mark of the same thing. She brings them both down to Earth and it is devastating as she discovers that Nolan murdered the Guardians of the Globe. She is a great character and I can’t wait to see where her story goes.

Nolan Grayson / Omni-Man – J.K. Simmons owns this role. In this we get a character sent to Earth to conquer it but instead fell in love and ignored what he was sent to do until his son Mark developed powers. After that we see him embrace the fascist ideology of control he grew up under and kill the original Guardians of the Globe and later tries to break Mark into a monster like he was broken. Luckily he doesn’t succeed as he remembers Mark’s childhood and we see the reality he does love his son and wife even if he denies it all for the mission which in the end he rejects when he flies from Earth crying after Mark admitted that even if the long life of a Viltrumite, he’d always have his dad.

Mark Grayson / Invincible – Steven Yeun does a great job as Mark Grayson / Invincible. This is really his arc and story as we see him get trained by his dad once he develops his powers and eventually opens up to his friends about his secret identity. This arc of truth is devastating to him as well as in the end his father almost kills him because he won’t help him and Viltrum conquer Earth. He loses most of the fights we see him in at the end of episodes but this one was the hardest and he only one by reminding his dad that even with all of this abuse and hurt he still loved him and would have him as a father. He recounts all this to Allen (the best character on the show) and I can’t wait to see where his story goes as he learns from Allen that no Viltrumite has ever abandoned their post until Nolan did. So Mark knows there is still love and good in him. He is willing to risk everything to protect even if he’ll be defeated and this is something his dad when going full Viltrum fascist, could not break.

Strength in Adaptation – In this season we saw stories I never read in the first Omnibus of Invincible. Robert Kirkman’s writing has improved as I thought that first Ominbus was good but this makes Amber an actual character and fleshes out character motivations more as as well giving us the chance to learn about the original Guardians of the Globe.

Okay:

Open Side Plots – I put these as okay as they do have potential and I’m including one of the cons in this too. We have an invasion from mars set to occur, Dr. Seismic as a golem army and Battle Beast is out and about starting more fights and Titan bringing together more enemies we’ve seen (a dragon for one thing). We will probably see how these end and I hope that they are done well. The most interesting arc is still going to be the Mark and Nolan story as we are probably going to see more of that when Nolan finally apologizes and reaches out to Mark for help before the Viltrum Empire comes to find him. The Flaxans will also be returning as Omni-Man destroying their world has not stopped their quest to conquer Earth.

The Cons:

The Titan Arc – Mahersha Ali is great as Titan his story is just wasted. In the end he teams up with Mark to overthrow the mafia boss Machine Head but after it doesn’t go anywhere. I expected to see a change in the community of where he lived or Mark to trust people less but we don’t really see that either. This arc felt as wasted as the bad romance plot. Titan is still an interesting character though so I hope we see him used well in season 2.

Mark’s Relationships / Amber and William – These relationships exist purely to react to Mark and his becoming a superhero. This is a shame as there is a lot that could be done with them especially given Amber’s activism but their romance just doesn’t work. They break-up and get back together over the course of the series. In the first volume of the Omnibus she isn’t even a character so at least she is this time around…but like the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” films she like Mary Jane and William like Harry Osborn exist only for Mark’s development and don’t really have arcs of their own.

This was a really good show and a solid beginning to the series. It adapted the comic really well and I can’t wait to see how these arcs payoff as well what things they might choose to change. If you are looking for a good show this is one I highly recommend. The core family dynamic of the Graysons is the strongest parts but the heroes and random side characters have some fascinating stories too. Not only do you have an amazing voice cast but the writer from the comics, Kirkman is the creator so is getting to tell the story he always wanted to do and as a much more older and improved writer now. I can’t wait to see where this story goes.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

Sorry to Bother You (2018): A Surreal Exploration of Race, Class and Privilege

Okja (2017): Where Miyazaki Meets Horror

¬† “Okja” is a strange and wonderful film. This is a film that starts like a Miyazaki film and ends like horror movie and inbetween tries to political satire and be an all around adventure story. Did it work? Enough to the point that I did enjoy this film and recommend it. Netflix is getting better at putting out quality original work and this is a shining example of a great film of theirs that shows the streaming platform (and often times going cheap) can work for quality original works.

The film was directed by Bong Joon-Ho who co-wrote it along with Jon Ronson.  Bong Joon-Ho also was one of the seven producers on the film. The others were Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lewis Taewan Kim, Dooho Choi, Seo Woo-Sik and Ted Sarandos.

The story involves the Mirando Corporation sending lab designed super pigs around the world to be raised by farmers in the best Pig Competition, where the winner will be crowned in 10 years. During that time Okja, one of the pigs is raised by Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) and her Grandfather (Byun Hee-Bong). When the corporation returns and takes Okja Mija goes on a journey to save her friend and fights herself being manipulated by different political factions who want to use Okja to their own ends.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Flawed Characters and Ego – Most of the minor characters in this are compelling in the ways their egos and drive them and make them flawed. There is Jay the leader of the Animal Liberation Front who believes in consent but ignores it for the overall aims in the end, there is Lucy Miranda who wants to make her company better than it is but not face the darker side of the slaughter house and there is the Grandfather who wants his granddaughter to have success but in the end misses how important Okja is to her. These characters make the narrative interesting.

Magical Realism – Giant Pigs created in a lab transported around the world for a Best Pig competition that will take place 10 years later, and one of them is raised by a little girl in the mountains…it is right out of a Miyazaki film and was part of what made this film so fun. I’ve always loved the fantasy in magical realism and this film captures that really well.

A Critique of Ideology over People – Both the ALF and Mirando Corp don’t care about people, only ideology. We see this in how Lucy’s sister turns on her, on the lying that K and Jay both do to Mija in order to serve their overall goals and in the end the hero of this film has no ideology and just wants to be with her pig Okja. This is the core theme of the piece and from that do good where you can as you are and don’t let ideology consume you.

The Cruelty of Factory Farms – The film is extremely against factory farming and you get to see all the parts of it as the Super Pigs get slaughtered and how their different parts go to the different areas of the supermarket. Mija sees this first hand at the end and it is really well done…this is when the film turns into a horror film as we see it all through Mija’s and Okja’s eyes.

The Cons: The Satire – The Corporation doesn’t feel like it is full of people and the ALF is so disconnected and all over the place that they are hard to take seriously as a force. This really brings down the satire as our villains become a bit too cartoonish, which hurts the satirical argument in play.

This is a flawed film that also manages to just be great. Certain characters feel like caricatures (the Mirando Corporate characters as a whole (except maybe Lucy) and some of the Animal Liberation Front Members) but this didn’t bring down my overall enjoyment film. This film is solidly great and now that I’ve watched this and “Snowpiercer,” I can’t wait to see what director Bong Joon-Ho does next.

Final Score: 9 / 10

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