The Full Lid 3rd August 2018

Welcome to The Full Lid! Weekly dispatches from freelancer city featuring movies, comics, games, career compass bearings and the odd video or two. I'm Alasdair, your hostus mostus, and I write pop culture analysis, RPG books, present a horror podcast and do all sort of other stuff. You'll find full details of them below.

Now, spoilers abound so forewarned, four-armed(...yeah that looks right) and forward! To The Full Lid!
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The Sofa of Intellectual Property
I Am Frequently On The Internet In These Places
Mission, Accepted
Where I Am This Week
Where My Work Is This Week
Jack Ryan Brain Update
Signing Off

The Sofa of Intellectual Property

I've been thinking a lot about mid-range science fiction recently because I've been awake and near a keyboard. By mid range I mean the sort of thing that went straight to DVD in the 1990s and which has been 2000AD's stock in trade since their title was a distant science fiction year by which we would totally have sorted the world out. Not literary, not pulp, and not approached with the stuffiness both of those often engender. Mid-budget science fiction that hits it's marks and tries something new.

2000AD has been a mainstay of UK geek culture for decades. Because everything here is a mainstay of something culture for decades. Even our TV shows have ivy growing on them that was planted by John Logi Baird in 1872. 2000AD is a brilliant idea; a serial comic anthology with recurrent characters. Judge Dredd is an angry, satirical super violent lawman of the future. Strontium Dog is an angry, superviolent bounty hunter of the future. Sam Rogue Trooper is an angry, superviolent genetically engineered Ronin of get the idea.

I'm busting on them a little bit here because they do produce really good work and some of the folks they have working for them right now now are amazing. But they're also guilty of the exact same thing every element of western geek culture is guilty of; the sofa of Intellectual Property. The old, battered, comfy sofa that was new and exciting decades ago but now has coffee stains,a  couple of variable quality movie adaptations and some really good games all over it. You really should get a new one but this...there's a bum print. It fits your bum. It's COMFY. Why would you change that? To give you an example they just released their first ever all-female creator special.

Yes, it is 2018. 

But here's the thing. sometimes you need a new sofa and, for all their faults 2000AD has never failed to be good at trying new things. Usually it's only one or two of the weekly strips but there's always something in there. And it strikes me, having watched Extinction this week, that the 2000AD model is what Netflix is trying with their genre original movies.

Extinction stars Michael Pena, Lizzy Caplan and Mike Coulter and it's not that good. It's also not the rampaging turd fest that pretty much every other critic has described it as. Pena plays Peter, an engineer plagued with nightmares of a violent attack. Caplan plays Alice, his wife, who's worried about him. That's pretty much it for their characters and the movie's biggest sin is that it wastes two pathologically great leads like this. 

But right around the time you get annoyed by that, the movie pulls it's second act reveal. Which is basically this Judo throw in cinematic form. The entire back third is a twist that is actually earned and contextualized and explains the oddly flat note to a lot of performances as well as the distinct aesthetic. To use my faovrite not-quite Mulholland Drive quote, we hear a band, yet there is no band. And the third act of this movie shows us why. 

Put it next to How It Ends, Gareth Evans' upcoming Disciple, Arq, Orbiter 9, The Cloverfield Paradox and the rest of the Netflix Original genre offerings and you've got something really fun. A series of done-in-one SF movies that do the job right and settle for competency over ambition. And most importantly, each one tries something new. And in genre, that's always to be applauded. So much so that, for me at least, its existence matters more than it not being a towering work of heartbreaking genius. That sounds a little Participation Medal-y I know but we need these movies. Think of them as new cushions for the sofa. That occasionally explode.

I Am Frequently On The Internet In These Places

Come find me on:
  • MYMBuzz for all your TV reviewing needs. As long as those needs involve Cloak & Dagger and Fear The Walking Dead.
  • Barnes & Noble for book and comic related pieces.
  • for movie, TV and ALL sorts of stuff
  • DrivethruRPG for my RPG back catalogue
  • PseudoPod for stories which, I promise you, are true.
And of course, here's my Ko-Fi.


Mission Accepted

Mission: Impossible is the weirdest mainstream movie franchise that doesn't involve a running battle between cars and a nuclear submarine. Six movies in, like The Fast and the Furious, the franchise is actually getting better and the latest episode, Fallout, plays a lot like a tie off and resolution of the series' longstanding issues. 

In the past, the series has suffered, badly, from being centered on Cruise. Brian De Palma's panicky original (In which Cruise looks SO YOUNG) is entirely about the worst night of Ethan Hunt's life while John Woo's second entry involves more hair, more slow motion and Ethan transformed from espionage point man to leather jacketed violence hero. Both have dated. Badly. Want to know how badly? Netscape is a vital part of the original. 

Since then, the series has had a bit of a sit down, and is much better for it. The recurrence of Simon Pegg as techie Beni Dunn, and the constant presence of Ving Rhames as Ethan's right-hand man Luther Stickle have given the series a form it desperately needed. Rogue Nation, the previous movie, cemented that by introducing Ilsa Faust. Played by Rebecca Ferguson, Ilsa is Ethan with better hair and Brazilian Jujitsu. Simply having a character like that in the series helps. Having that character be female, and not die, puts the last two movies head and shoulders above the ladymurderfests that preceded them.

Fallout is a massively Ethan-centric story once again but this time it feels like it's for good reasons. It resolves the ridiculous dangling plot thread of his marriage with surprising nuance and grace. He's actively, repeatedly targeted by a returning villain, he has an 'Ethan but Evil' second villain to punch and the movie even lightly flirts with the idea that someone who's done this work for this long is a walking PTSD avatar held together with KT tape and leather jackets. It also remembers the central concept of the IMF, especially as shown in the movies; these people are good enough at everything but their superpower is their ability to improvise.

That's what makes the end sequence work here.. Cruise throws himself into and around a variety of helicopters in a chase that's fun but also suffers a little from the law of diminishing returns. You can only see him throw himself off, on, into, out of and across things so many times before 'HOLY SHIT HOW IS HE NOT DEAD?' turns into 'Oh, he's not dead.'

Thankfully, that's just one component of a three location chase/fight/character beat/bomb diffusal.  Ilsa (who gets an emotional arc and WAY fewer butt shots this time) has to choose between coming in from the cold and saving Benji. Meanwhile, Julia, Ethan's wife who has moved on and is doing just fine now, is temporarily reunited with her IMF family not through Ethan but Luther. The pair of them catching up as they try and diffuse the bomb is both massively sweet and one of the oddest things the series has ever done. Especially as it's happening at the same time Benji is choking to death while Ilsa is beating the shit out of returning villain Solomon Lane with various pieces of a chair.

Or to put it another way, a group of brave, brilliant people frantically improvise to pull off a last minute save with a half dozen moving parts. And one of them is Ethan Hunt.

That's a massive switch from the movie series' early days and a total return to the central concept of the series. Saving the world really is a team sport and this team is pretty damn good at it. I still have my doubts about Cruise's viability as a long-term star (How does Ethan still have cartilage? ANYWHERE?) but you can't deny this is a ridiculously fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Mission: Impossible: Fallout is out now and is worth your time. Honestly, if you haven't, watch them all. 

Where I Am This Week

It's been a week, that's for sure and one that has successfully shown me two of the parts of my worldview I enjoy the least.

I am, by and large, amiably stoic. Most things don't damage me permanently and that, combined with my fervent belief that the last thing the world needs is another white dude blarting his opinion siren out across the geek internet, means that I tend to signal boost others instead of myself. It's helpful. I firmly believe it's necessary.

And this week has taught me it's also a way to hide my lack of self confidence from myself.

Nothing actively bad has happened. But I've had several scheduling issues come up where, for weird if understandable reasons, it seems like everyone else has got their schedule but me. It's not personal, it's not malicious but it's something which I'm conditioned to believe happens to me a lot. And whether or not it does, dealing with them, even if it's by going '...OKAY. This is fine. It isn't personal, it's just a mistake.' not only takes increasing psychological effort but also opens me up to lingering over these issues instead of getting stuff done. Because if you get hit three times it doesn't matter if it was accidental or not. You brace for the fourth time regardless.

Like I say, I'm not mad I'm just.,..tired. Because my choices are embrace the brief catharsis of anger or just keep patiently doing what I do.And this week, as the traditional August wave of ALL THE THINGS FOREVER crests larger than it has in some time, that first option has looked pretty good. It isn't and I haven't done it but I've thought about it more than I'd like. And that ties back into the lack of self confidence spiral and the Catholic guilt helterskelter that's permanently installed in my brain. I'm actually fighting the urge to apologize for this section of the newsletter. Seriously.

So yeah, rough week but here I am. 

Where My Work Is This Week

At Tripwire I'm chatting about 30 years of The Sandman. This was really fun, thanks for having me on, Joel:)

I'm also over at File 770 talking about Escape Artists and the incredible year we've had so far. Hugo! World Fantasy Award! British Fantasy Society award! BRING FORTH YOUR NOMINATIONS! ADD THEM TO THE ALTAR OF GLORY! Is not a phrase I used in the article.

Jack Ryan Brain Update

So here's what I said a few weeks ago about Mission: Impossible: Fallout

Ethan will either be injured out of the field or be promoted up to the role of Secretary. The prominent placement of Michelle Monaghan’s Julia, Ethan’s wife, suggests, strongly, that this is the last go around for the IMF’s bounciest maverick.

And the results failure! Woooo!

I'm really happy about this one though, because the way Fallout deals with Julia is much, much smarter than what I was expecting. There's this lovely moment where she and Ethan are reunitedm the music swells and...she introduces her husband. Julia hasn't been patiently waiting around to be rescued. She's gone out and had a life and while she's grateful to Ethan for that she's also definitively moved on. It's a smart, kind way to write out the least well served female character these movies have had. I dig it.

Signing Off

A hard week but I didn't have to do anything involving helicopters so hey that's a plus. Thankfully Mission: Impossible Fallout picked up the aeronautical slack, Netflix delivered the cinematic equivalent of a really good cheese sandwich and I enjoyed being completely wrong in my first Sealed Envelope. Yay!

That's a week, folks. Here is my Ko-Fi. If you liked this, please consider donating. Thank you as ever.

I'll see you next week for more things and stuff. In the meantime, have a great weekend because this?

is a Full Lid.
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Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

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