August 21st, 2014


What is it with Marvel movies and female characters?

We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy last night. My overall review is that it was fine but not great -- more on the level with the Thor movies than the Captain America ones. It's fun and more accurate to the comics than average, but there isn't much there there. It is very much an origin story, and rather self-consciously leaves both the Thanos and Spartax storylines hanging for later movies to pick up. (Mild spoilers to follow, but that's not really the point here.)

(One pure comics-geek note: points to somebody for rescuing Yondu -- one of the original Guardians from Way Back When -- from obscurity, and for recognizing just how badass he could be.)

The one thing that really annoyed me, though, was the continuing inability for the Marvel Cinematics to handle the female characters well. I mean, the GotG have five main characters. Three of them -- Quill, Rocket and Groot -- were spot-on matches to their current interpretations in the comic. Drax was way too upbeat (and verbal), but as a result was rather more interesting than the stoic wall he tends to be in the comics.

And Gamora? Gamora was nice.

Now, mind, "nice" is *not* the adjective you would apply to the character in the comics. Beautiful and sexy, sure, but this is the character whose official alias is "Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe". In a team full of heavy hitters, it's pretty well understood that Gamora is the one you don't cross.

So her portrayal in the movie kept hitting wrong notes. Having her be the voice of conscience, trying to save an innocent planet, was just misplaced -- frankly, I'd sooner expect that from Drax. She fights well, but otherwise she comes across as more petulant than anything else. And the implied budding romance between her and Quill just made my teeth hurt, it was so off-base.

And yes, I expect the movies to differ from the comics, and that usually doesn't bother me, *provided* they get the main spine of the characters right. I don't care about detailed histories (heaven knows even Marvel isn't terribly internally consistent in that regard), I just care that they seem to understand *who* these characters are. And they've been doing surprisingly well for the men -- and for the most part, surprisingly (and pretty consistently) badly for the women.

I started to notice this way back when Black Widow first showed up in Iron Man, apparently meekly following orders. Granted, she finally became decently real in Winter Soldier, but that's after being mostly window-dressing in The Avengers. They get points for trying to make Jane Foster a decently interesting character -- but lose some for largely failing to do so. In Iron Man 3, Tony has to save Pepper from getting destructive powers. (In contrast to the comics, where he wound up building her a suit of her own.) In Days of Future Past (granted, from a different company), aside from one great moment, Mystique is mostly a pawn who the men are trying to influence.

And let's get real: beyond that, there is the simple *paucity* of female characters. Kate is particularly sensitive to this, and often points it out (she often pulls out "so why couldn't this character have been female?"), but as a very longtime Avengers fan I may be even more cranky about that. The Avengers have usually included a bunch of women, and as often as not has been led by them. Wasp, Scarlet Witch, two Captain Marvels, Spider-Woman -- seriously, out of a selection that includes Carol Danvers, the only woman they choose to include is the unpowered one in the catsuit?

It's disappointing, and speaks poorly of the Hollywood influence. In the comics, increasingly over the past 30 years, the female characters have stood toe-to-toe with the male ones, and the comics have been better and more interesting for it. It's sad that they've had so much difficulty translating that to the screen...

First-person Hyperlapse Videos

h/t to the locked entry I got this very neat video from.  Summary: some folks at Microsoft Research, using a variety of techniques, have figured out how to take ordinary first-person videos (from a helmet cam or such), and produce clear, watchable sped-up time lapse videos from them.  That's a *lot* harder then it looks, as the examples given here show.

For more technical details, see this more in-depth version.