Day 3 (sorta): Captain America #atozblogchallenge

captain_americaAs much as I love the Avengers, I’ve never really been a Cap fan. He’s too much of a Boy Scout for me, he didn’t really have any powers, and he just had that damn shield. Throwing it never seemed that awesome to me. And he had wings on his head. Little bitty ones. It’s kinda tough to act like you’re all raw and you have little hummingbird wings on your head. I’m surprised no one ever brought it up.

Then I saw the movie. And what Captain America didn’t have in powers, Steve Rogers had in heart. He was a good guy who was willing to do what it took to make the right things happen. He lied to join the Army for the opportunity to die for his country, underwent a chemical transformation, fought the Nazis hand to hand, and got trapped in an iceberg trying to do the right thing. Problem is, he tried to do the right thing at the wrong time.

And time is, for Cap, his greatest villain.

Loki said it best when he called Captain America the “man out of time.” My man was frozen for 40 years in the comics, 70 years in the movies. He wakes up and the world he was fighting to save—and the morals he was trying to uphold—were gone. Think about this, think about those parents or grandparents who saw their entire adulthood defined by World War II and imagine if they weren’t around for what happened next. Steve Rogers, the kid from Brooklyn, gets frozen before WWII is over—he never gets to see the Nazis surrender, never sees the US drop the atomic bomb, never gets to come home to a hero’s parade. Never sees any James Bond movies so he has no idea of how awesome he could have been.

It doesn’t really matter who Captain America fights. In fact, the only villains I know that belong to him are as chronologically misplaced as he is: Baron Zemo, the Red Skull, the Winter Soldier. More often then not, Cap was fighting the very nation he swore to uphold. For a while he rejected being Captain America because he had a problem with what the United States did. Then, during Marvel’s Civil War series, he sided AGAINST the US government (and half the Avengers, including Tony Stark) in having superhumans register themselves and that stance culminated in his assassination. In the movie, he’s distrustful of SHIELD even though he’s the one meta-human that actually works for them.

Captain America is the right man in the wrong time. I don’t know what that says about him or us. Is his ignorance bliss? Is he better off for having missed what we’ve become? Did we stray too far away from what we should be? Is he the ultimate American, a physical embodiment of our nation’s values and purpose? Even with the wings? We’re having a love affair with Tony Stark right now, with his shiny new armor and witty disdain for structures and teams and monogamy. Tony Stark is us now. Steve Rogers is who we were supposed to be. And if that’s who we’re supposed to be, if he’s what it means to be an American, who’s really out of time?

OK, that’s too deep for me. We’re going to lighten it up with my favorite animated bird, Daffy Duck!

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MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE – CHERNABOG

chernabogI’m almost done with this Disney villain nonsense. Almost. For the most part, Disney villains aren’t too shabby: they kill and steal and dog the shit outta people for some of the most mundane, mindless reasons. They commit wholeheartedly to their cause even if it means poisoning a girl for being pretty or trying to kill puppies or tying rockets to talking toys. Disney villains exponentially raise the value of villains because, for all the foul stuff they do, they do it in children’s movies. They are foul for the kids.

And if Disney villains commit, I can commit to bringing them to you. Here’s how deep my commitment goes: I HATE Fantasia. Seriously. I tried to watch it like 4 times and kept quitting a few minutes in because it was lousy. But when I decided to do a run on Disney villains, I got a list from Disney enthusiasts who said I HAD to cover Chernabog and, you guessed it, his ass is in Fantasia.

So fine, I’ll watch it. In fact, I love you wicked little readers so much, I even watched Fantasia 2000. Yep with the Butterflies of Good and Evil and dancing hippos and the Spring fairy thing and Mount St. Helens erupting (which was kinda cool). I saw Mickey and the damn brooms and Donald Duck on Noah’s Ark. And I finally saw Chernabog, the devil thing at the end of Fantasia. Boooo!

And he’s supposed to be one of the top Disney villains? He has like 4 minutes of screen time! No words, he doesn’t go anywhere, he doesn’t do much! What’s the big deal? Sure, watching him burn his own people was fun and I guess in 1940 it was deep but I was raised watching Darth Vader kill his own people through the TV. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me.

With each of my posts I try to give you at least 500 words. I don’t have that many. Instead I’m going with the age-old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Here’s my official opinion of Chernabog:

Not Impressed

I was not impressed.

MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE – RANDALL BOGGS

RandallRandall Boggs is an ass. And he’s today’s Disney villain.

You know, I was gonna let you bask in the afterglow of Maleficent’s dragony evil. I was just gonna skip tonight because when I looked at my list of outstanding Disney villains, I realized that I didn’t recognize those MFs. And that means I have to watch some sorry-ass Disney movie to figure out the hell Sykes is. And I HATED The Hunchback of Notre Dame! And Pocahontas. And Fantasia. What this means is I am hedging on the last thing my kids watched and that leads me to Monsters Inc. and to Randall. The ass.

To be fair, all the monsters in Monsters Inc. are asses. You know the story (if you don’t, it sucks to be you, cuz I’m gonna ruin it): the monsters here are the monsters under your bed or in your closet and their job is scaring the cowboy shit outta your young ass because it powers their economy. While the premise is actually pretty cool, these bastards have been ruining nookie night for parents for years so they could watch some shitty ass movie on Monster HBO. I think I’m bitter. Anyway, cute lil Boo follows Sully the Monster back into the Monster’s world, hi jinx ensue, yada yada yada and they found out that the laughter a child—the sweet, innocent laughter of a little child—was ten times more powerful than their tears.

Sweet, isn’t it?

But what would this sweet little tale be without an antagonist? For Monsters Inc., we have Randall Boggs, a jackass chameleon with invisibility powers. You know, Disney villains do often commit horrible atrocities for the wildest of reasons—the Evil Queen thought Snow White was too pretty; Lady Tremaine thinks her busted ass daughters are secretly beautiful; Captain Hook likes little boys. Randall wants to be the Top Scarer at the energy company. This MF has been terrorizing a little girl for a while (per his f’d up job) and decides to kidnap her. This is already foul but Boo is like 3 years old. Kid is traumatized. The plan is to kidnap a little girl and terrify her permanently to extract her scream and power the city so he can be the Top Fucking Scarer.

Seriously.

You know, I like villains. I even like Disney movies. But these aren’t always the cool little movies with the breezy music and the family friendly themes. They’re really animated case studies in some sort of mental ailment. Randall has ambition, sure, but does anybody else take issue with a story that centers around emotionally abusing a 3-year-old? At least Scar fucked with Simba so he could be king. Randall and Mr. Waternoose—hell, everybody in the entire movie—are engaged in an enterprise that traumatizes kids just to turn on the light. It’s funny, yeah, but it’s fucked up.

Truth be told, Randall isn’t actually a bad guy. I mean he’s an ass for kidnapping a child so he could win an award (that genuinely is fucked up) but he’s just working on his career. He’s just a product of a society that’s literally built on terrifying kids. I don’t know why this one bugs me—probably because it’s that it’s packaged as this funny, kid-friendly, feel-good thing and I know that’s crap.

Anyway, that’s my word. Gimme your thoughts on this one and I’ll catch you tomorrow!

MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE MAD, MAD WEEKEND #2: YZMA #mayhemofthemouse

Your girl’s weight loss plan is a little extreme, wouldn’t you say? Yzma is the fourth and final villain in today’s lengthy episode of the Mad, Mad Weekend Part TWO (part two!) or, as it is affectionately referred to here, “Godammit, I’m so far behind!”

As Disney movies go, I kinda liked this one. It had some funny moments, David Spade was…well David Spade and Kronk (you either know him as Puddy from Seinfeld or the Tick in The Tick or Joe from Family Guy) was dumb as all hell. But this isn’t as much about the movie as it is about the villain and we are focusing on Yzma, extreme workout enthusiast and advisor to the emperor in the Emperor’s New Groove.

Yzma has a pretty basic and predictable story arc: the Emperor (Spade) is a certifiable dumbass and Yzma thinks she can do better. She sets a plan in motion that will kill the Kuzco and drop her neatly into the seat of power. There is one problem: execution.

Like far too many villains in Disney flicks, the main antagonist who believes they can rule an empire or Mount Olympus or whatever suffers from shitty-ass staffing (and yes, I know that my compound curse word is ridiculous). She chooses an absolute moron (Kronk) to handle the delicate task of killing Kuzco. How does this work out? Instead of the Emperor dropping dead from poison, Kronk dilutes the liquid and Kuzco turns into a llama. A fucking llama? Yzma is a chemist; like she has THE quintessential chemistry set (which is pretty high-tech for something from the Aztec Empire) and can’t concoct a poison strong enough to kill someone from one sip? Not only that, what potion has a side effect that turns someone into a horse-size bunny rabbit?

Well, now Kronk can’t bring himself to kill a talking llama so he saves the guy he was going to kill. So the rest of the movie is spent with Yzma and Kronk running around, trying to kill a talking llama. Now I have a couple notes. First, Yzma tried to kill Kuzco so she could run the empire, right? Who the hell is running the empire while my man is an oversized goat and they’re chasing him? Second, I’m an Obama fan but if the president were somehow turned into a talking llama, my vote’s in play. (I’m going to let you imagine an Obama-Llama debating Mitt Romney). Third, how good of an emperor was Kuzco at all? He’s lazy, doesn’t particularly care about the poorest of his folks, and we NEVER see him emperor-ing. Would he have been that much of a loss?

I get Yzma’s overall desire for power. That makes sense. I don’t understand her ineffectiveness: she can’t kill David Spade and I promise you, the number of people who can’t kill David Spade is horribly low. She’s more like a Scooby Doo villain who would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that meddling llama.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a brand new helping of villainy goodness. Catch ya later!

MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE MAD, MAD WEEKEND #2: SHERE KHAN #mayhemofthemouse

As I go through this process of enumerating awesome Disney villains, I realize how many Disney movies I either never saw or simply didn’t like. The Jungle Book falls into the latter. I ain’t like this one.

The Jungle Book is based on Rudyard Kipling’s stories and tells the story of Mowgli, an abandoned boy raised in an Indian jungle by wolves. Now, I’m not going to even focus on similarities between the Jungle Book and Tarzan; I think they’re two different ideas and two very different stories that both begin with a human baby raised in an exceptionally hostile environment by a group of animals. That’s about it.

In the Jungle Book movie, Mowgli has wolves for brothers, a bear for a friend (there are bears in the jungle? Seriously?), and a black panther as a mentor. I mean, who doesn’t? Besides, this isn’t about Mowgli; this is about the awesome villain of the story, the tiger, Shere Khan.

I automatically like anybody whose name is Khan, and Shere Khan is as sexy as Ricardo Montalban. My man is truly a force to be reckoned with: he moves around the jungle as its resident monarch, is fearless (except for a couple things, which we’ll talk about soon), and is immune to the effects of the only other predator in the movie. Shere Khan is kinda raw.

Let’s break this one down a little. Yes, the jungle is scared of Shere Khan, and they should be. Have you ever seen a tiger? I know we like to think lions are awesome and best predators but check out tigers. They hunt alone (lions don’t), they swim proficiently (lions don’t, at least not often), and have a long and storied history of eating people. Tigers are no joke. The animals in the Jungle Book are not only scared of Shere Khan because of what he is, but they’re also scared FOR Mowgli because they know he’ll be a hot pocket if Shere Khan catches him.

Shere Khan has two real and rational fears: guns and fire. The only things that will kill him. He hates Mowgli because the boy represents both things Shere Khan fears. This idea makes you look at the tiger a little differently: he has a reason for his villainy. He actually has a couple. First, the law of the jungle is a survival of the fittest. That a bunch of wolves took in a human baby and a bear and a panther protect violates that order. When Baloo tries to protect Mowgli, Shere Khan damn near kills him for it. Second, human beings are the authors of the destruction of their environments and the wholesale slaughter of tigers worldwide. Shere Khan has a reason to be mad.

Like Magneto and Hades, Shere Khan has a rationale for what he does. Mowgli, by his very nature, represents a real threat to the social and physical order of the jungle. The protagonist of the story is the real villain, no matter how Kipling or Disney spin it. Shere Khan is doing what tigers do, being what tigers are. That he tries to kill both Mowgli and the animals that protect him is not only warranted, it’s expected. It’s right.

We have one more villain to go out in Day One of the Mad, Mad Weekend: Yzma, from The Emperor’s New Groove.

MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE MAD, MAD WEEKEND #2: SYNDROME

We’ve all wanted to be superheroes. Yep, even me. I know I have this rugged exterior and a love for supervillains, but the truth is, on the inside, I wanted be able to fly, block bullets, and save the day. And have a theme song. And a costume. Yeah, an awesome costume.

That secret desire that we all share is the same desire bubbling in the soul of our next villain: Syndrome from The Incredibles.

Little Buddy Pine had a hero once. His hero was an awesome, crime-fighting bundle of muscle named Mr. Incredible. Mr. Incredible stood up for the little guy, had a cool car but he worked alone. And when Buddy realized he wasn’t endowed with the same gifts at Robert Parr (that’s Mr. Incredible’s secret identity), little Buddy Pine built his own powers: he gave himself the ability to fly just so he could hang out with his hero.

You have a tear, don’t you?

In an age where The Avengers can become the third highest grossing film ever and my kids can don Iron Man, Black Widow and Loki costumes for Halloween, little Buddy Pine’s dream isn’t too shabby. Matter of fact, Robert Downey, Jr’s fantastic return to cinematic brilliance is based on the same idea: Tony Stark didn’t have any powers, so he gave himself some. We just saw Christian Bale get his bat-ass whipped by Bane this summer—he doesn’t have powers. Buddy Pine’s just a kid with a dream—a normal dream—who gets played to the curb by his hero.

This is where things take a sinister turn. Mr. Incredible says 3 words that change everything: “I work alone.” Now, in the movie, when Incredible calls Buddy “Skippy,” I was rollin! But you can’t help but feel a little bad for Buddy. Here’s what nobody thought would happen: Buddy Pine would get smart enough to exact his own revenge.

Buddy becomes Syndrome, a supervillain. Now, on the surface, this is okay. In the world of The Incredibles, there are plenty of villains. But none of them seemed to be murderous ones. Buddy took his exclusion to the left. He dons his suit, uses the new powers he has, and starts killing superheroes.

What? And this is a kids’ movie?

Yep. Syndrome not only lures heroes to their doom, he builds on what he learns. My man uses the scientific method to systematically kill heroes and upgrade his weaponry. He makes buttloads of money in the process, buys an island, builds a secret lair. Then tracks down Supers who exist in a witness protection program. Are you tracking this? This is a kid, a twenty-something who gets played to the left by his hero and goes on a super-serial killing spree that compromises a federal witness protection program. One dude? Seriously? And then he kidnaps and tries to kill Mr. Incredible’s ENTIRE family? Even the kids? Even the baby?

I did mention this is a children’s movie, right?

I’m no fan of sidekicks and certainly not the sidekick poster boy, Robin. I actually giggled a little bit when the Joker laid into him with that crowbar. But it never dawned on me that Robin might get sick and tired of being Batman’s bitch and going on a killing spree against the entire Justice League. And be effective. Hadn’t really thought about that, had you?

This is what makes Syndrome pretty freaking awesome: until his emotions got in the way and he made it horrible personal between him and Mr. Incredible, he accomplished something awesome. Syndrome not only declared war on Supers, not only killed them in a pretty effective campaign, he evened the playing field. About his plan to sell his inventions to the world, he said, “When everyone’s Super, no one will be.” Syndrome became the Steve Jobs of supervillains.

But wait, there’s more in the Mad, Mad Weekend! Next is Shere Khan!

MAYHEM OF THE MOUSE MAD, MAD WEEKEND #2: QUEEN OF HEARTS #mayhemofthemouse

Life can take you on some interesting twists and turns if you let it—and sometimes that’s the whole point of a really good story. The problem is, on this journey, you can run into some horrible things: a Day Job, that really pretty woman who’s really a dude, or a homicidal queen with a habit of decapitating her detractors.

This is the second Mad, Mad Weekend or, as I like to call it, CATCH UP TIME! Life continues to throw us curveballs here on the ranch but we’re gonna work through it. The first malevolent miscreant is only one of the horrible things living in Wonderland: the Queen of Hearts.

In the animated film, we first meet the Queen of Hearts when Alice strolls into the garden and sees living playing cards painting white roses red because they planted the wrong colored ones. The Queen, being the level-headed monarch she is, orders their heads cut off. I get the aesthetics but even Martha Stewart is like, “Damn, that’s a little extreme.” Have you ever screwed up at work? Ever forgotten the cover sheets on your TPS reports? Ever had your boss decide the penalty should be you lose your head?

Now I’ve never necessarily been an Alice in Wonderland fan: there’s too much crazy shit going on for me. A cat that grins and disappears. A cryptic, hookah-smoking caterpillar. Un-Birthdays with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. The late ass White Rabbit. Getting bigger and smaller and potions and cakes and everything. This looks like the ramblings of an author on acid. Even with the new movie, I got the mouse that thinks it’s a warrior, a talking dog, still the fucking cat, Professor Snape as the damn caterpillar, crazy ass Johnny Depp, something called a Jabberwocky, and Helena Bonham Carter’s big ass head—which was funny though. They just don’t work for me.

But the Queen of Hearts does. Now inevitably some die-hard Disney fan or some bored librarian is going to cite me for not knowing that the cinematic renditions of the Queen of Hearts is really an amalgamation (amalgamation—take that Masters’ degree) of the Red Queen, the true Queen of Hearts and the Duchess of Something (I really forgot). But that doesn’t matter, this is about Disney villains and Disney gave us a “fat, pompous, bad tempered old tyrant” (those are Alice’s words, by the way). The Queen holds Wonderland in the palm of her hand by the icy grip of fear: everyone who crosses her—for anything—is in danger of losing their noggin. She’s not a take prisoners kind of gal. She wants what she wants when she wants it and she absolutely gets results.

Whether you appreciate her full-bodied foulness or water-headedness, the Queen of Hearts is 100% mean. She punks EVERYBODY! She has a lil ass husband hat she dogs. She decapitates anybody who looks at her sideways. She wants to kill Alice because she thinks Alice tripped her. Alice is a kid, by the way, she’s a little girl. The Queen wants to cut her head off. Look, in the end, the Queen of Hearts is the person we all secretly wish we could be: tell me you haven’t, for a split second, wishes something horrible on that jackass who cut you off or that manager who keeps calling you into dumbass meetings or DMRH. When you’re the Queen of Hearts, that MF gets cut short. The Queen of Hearts makes it happen.

And…scene! The Mad, Mad Weekend (Part II) continues with Syndrome!