\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Madi, the Graphic Novel Conclusion to Duncan Jones’ Moon Trilogy

September 15th, 2021
,

Duncan Jones has described his 2018 film Mute as the second part in trilogy of loosely-connected sci-fi films set in the universe of his breakout 2009 film Moon.  Mr. Jones has spoken of being unsure that he’d be able to raise the funds to make his third planned film; instead, last year he and co-writer Alex de Campi launched a kickstarter to create a graphic novel of this story.  Madi: Once Upon a Time in the Future is a 260 page graphic novel published by Z2 Comics that is available here from that publisher or here from Amazon.

Madi is set in the near future; it introduces us to a young woman named Madi, a former British soldier who has had much of her body replaced with cybernetics so as to be a better soldier.  Madi is no longer in the military, but she’s still paying off the cost of those implants, and so she and several of her fellow enhanced former soldiers have become a group of mercenaries for hire.  After a job goes wrong, Madi goes off on her own and gets herself hired by the head of a corporation to steal secrets from a rival company.  Those secrets turn out to be embedded in a cybernetically-enhanced young boy named Dean.  Rather than turn him over to be taken apart, Madi and Dean and a hacker named Ted wind up on the run.

I quite enjoyed Madi!  This would make an awesome movie.  As it is, it’s an extremely enjoyable graphic novel.  (Click here for an in-depth interview with Duncan Jones & Alex de Campi in which they discuss the decision to create Madi as a graphic novel, and the process of doing so.)

I love the world-building in the book.  The story is set in a futuristic world that has lots of fun details and idiosyncrasies to be discovered.  At the same time, the tale of battling corporations who treat people as disposable feels extremely relevant.  That’s a compelling balance!  I love exploring the world of this story.  Clearly a lot of thought was put into creating and developing this near-future setting.  The world of Madi feels real and thought-out in a way that enhances the best sci-fi stories, in any media.

Madi is set in the same world as Moon and Mute, but the stories are completely stand-alone.  The connections are actually extremely tiny, little more than seeing the “fly meal” packages (fast-food delivered by drones) that we saw in Mute.  However, having seen those prior films, particularly Mute, it’s fun for me to see how, for example, what we glimpsed of a future city in Mute (in that case, Berlin) is expanded … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Mute, the Second Film in Duncan Jones’ “Moon Trilogy”

I was blown away by Moon, Duncan Jones’ 2009 directorial debut.  It’s a fantastic original sci-fi film, featuring Sam Rockwell in a terrific leading performance.  (Well, actually multiple terrific leading performances… watch the movie!)  Unfortunately, I haven’t been nearly as taken by the follow-up films directed by Mr. Jones that I have seen, such as Source Code and Warcraft.  In 2018, Mr. Jones’ film Mute was released on Netflix.  I was excited.  I’m always interested in original sci-fi premises, and the film looked like it had an incredible cast.  Even better, Mr. Jones described Mute as a “spiritual sequel” to Moon, and so of course I was eager too see what that meant.  But Mute’s reviews were atrocious, and for one reason or another I never caught up with the film until recently.

The titular mute is Leo, played by Alexander Skarsgard.  Leo was horribly mangled in a boating accident as a boy, rendering him unable to speak.  He works as a bartender in a futuristic Berlin, and is in a relationship with one of the waitresses at the bar, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh).  When Naadirah vanishes, Leo begins a relentless hunt through the scuzzy underbelly of the city in an attempt to find her.  This brings him into contact with Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd), an AWOL American G.I. working as a surgeon for a local crime-boss, as well as Bill’s scumbag friend and fellow surgeon Duck (Justin Theroux), and many other sketchy and dangerous characters.

I really wanted to like this film; I was hoping that it’s bad reputation was unearned.  It’s definitely not a catastrophe, but unfortunately in the end I felt it was a misfire.  It just didn’t work for me, though there was a lot that I enjoyed.

I loved the film’s imaginative futuristic setting: the cool, gritty, dirty, Blade Runner-esque future Berlin.  The film and all of its sets/locations were beautifully well-designed.  The world-building is top-notch.  The film is set in an unnamed near-future year, and I loved that what we saw of Berlin was futuristic but at the same time very real and grounded.  That was very cool.  This is a much larger-scale film than Moon, and it’s fun to see Mr. Jones and his team stretch their wings to bring this sci-fi setting to life.  I’m sure this film was made on a budget that’s a fraction of a big studio epic, and Mr. Jones and his team really made the most of their resources.  The film looks great.

The film’s cast is strong.  Alexander Skarsgard cuts an imposing and memorable figure as Leo.  Mr. Skarsgard’s expressive face helps us bring us inside this silent and closed-off character.  Paul Rudd … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews The Bad Batch Season One

September 7th, 2021
,

I’m a big fan of the animated Star Wars series The Clone Wars and Rebels.  There’s a lot of terrific Star Wars storytelling in those series.  It’s a huge section of the Star Wars story that remains under the radar for many Star Wars fans.  (Though that’s starting to change, with many characters and story-elements from those animated series being incorporated into the second season of The Mandalorian…)  When Dave Filoni and his team were able to return to The Clone Wars and present a proper final season of that show (which had been cancelled back in 2013 when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney) onto Disney+, the first story-line introduced the Bad Batch: a group of unusual clones whose mutations made them different than the regular Clone troopers.  (This story had been written for The Clone Wars before it was cancelled; I’d actually watched those four episodes in rough animated form back in 2015, when they found their way onto the internet.)  Now, The Bad Batch, the new animated series for Disney+, focuses on this group of Clones, and explores what happened to them in the days after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire.

I liked but didn’t love the Bad Batch characters when they were introduced on The Clone Wars.  They were fun characters, but I wasn’t exactly clamoring for them to be the center of a spin-off show.  However, I was overjoyed when The Bad Batch show was announced.  I was excited to see Dave Filoni and his team continue to tell more great Star Wars animated stories, and I think this time period is a fertile ground for stories.

I quite enjoyed the first sixteen-episode season of The Bad Batch, though it didn’t match the highs of the fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels or the brilliant final episodes of The Clone Wars.  This first season felt more like the early seasons of those shows rather than the greatness to which they both eventually reached.  On the one hand, that makes sense.  It takes time for a show to develop.  On the other hand, I must admit to being a little disappointed that The Bad Batch opted for a more episodic formula and one whose storytelling seemed aimed more towards a younger demographic.  I enjoyed watching every episode of this first season, but it didn’t reach the emotional intensity I’d been hoping for.

The animation is spectacular; easily besting any previous Star Wars animation.  The lighting, in particular, has taken a huge leap forward from the previous animated shows.  There are sequences in this series that were gorgeous and memorable in a way that had me … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Loki Season One!

Loki picks up the thread of the alternate Loki who, in Avengers: Endgame, picks up the Tesseract and escapes after our heroes bungle their “time heist.”  This “Variant” Loki quickly finds himself apprehended by the TVA — the Time Variance Authority — a bureaucracy tasked with keeping the timeline secure and correct.  TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) attempts to convince Loki to help the TVA track down a villain who is attacking their agents — who is apparently yet another Loki variant.

Marvel Studios’ third TV show for Disney+ is another winner, and at this point I have completely accepted these TV shows as essential pieces of the larger MCU.  I feel rather spoiled, actually.  Now, instead of waiting months and months between new MCU feature films, we can get new installments on a weekly basis?  I am completely in.

Loki is a delight.  I think it’s my favorite of the Marvel Disney+ series so far!  (Though I’ve really enjoyed all of them, so there’s not an easy winner.)

The show was created by Michael Waldron, who wrote several of the episodes.  (Mr. Waldron was a writer for Rick and Morty and wrote the script for the upcoming Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness film.)  All six episodes were directed by Kate Herron.  I was very impressed by the writing and direction of this series.  Everything seemed to click, even better than they did in WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  This was an impressive achievement all around.  I love that we’re getting feature-film quality product each week in Disney+!!

Tom Hiddleston was great right from minute one (the first Thor movie) as Loki, and he’s only gotten better and better — and the character richer and richer.  Because this Variant Loki begins as the villainous version of Loki from the first Avengers film, I worried that we might lose some of the wonderful development the character has gotten in subsequent films.  Thankfully, the show finds a way to quickly make this Variant Loki the most interesting version of the character we’ve seen to date.  I love the journey Loki goes on in these six episodes.  It’s fun to see him challenged and put in his place — Mr. Hiddleston is fantastic at showing Loki getting his bluster punctured — while still remaining the slightly dangerous character he’s always been.  I’m glad they didn’t file away all of his sharp edges.

Owen Wilson is a magnificent addition to the MCU as TVA agent Mobius.  He is an absolute delight pretty much every second he’s on screen.  Mr. Wilson’s comedic timing serves the series very well.  At the same time, he gives Mobius … [continued]