The other day I stopped into my local GameStop to see if they had any of the San Diego Comic Con exclusive Funko Pop!s available. What I discovered when I walked in, however, was much more exciting. Recently, Mega Construx released a line of Pokémon-themed building block sets. Being the Pokémon fan that I am I was at first embarrassed that this line had completely flown under my radar when it was announced back in February, but at least stumbling on them the way I did was validating.
There were about twelve sets in total, roughly six larger boxed sets and six little minifigs sort of that come in a Pokéball. I bought a little Eevee Pokéball on the spot. I figured I’d get one of the small ones to dip my toe in a bit, see how I like them. When I got home, it took me about ten minutes to put together (which really only took that long because I kept dropping all the pieces.) Once the figure was complete, I was hooked. At first it looked a little janky with the thick little legs and awkward tuft of fur on its chest but eventually all that became part of its charm.
A couple of days later I went back to the store and pored over which of the larger sets to buy. What I like most about the line is there are a few different themes; besides the smaller figures, a couple of the larger Pokémon are represented, like Charizard and Gyarados. The line also includes the starter mid-evolutions, Charmeleon, Wartortle and Ivysaur as their own stand-alone sets. Each of the starters, Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur, along with Pikachu are paired off for battle scene building sets.
After much, much deliberation, I decided to go with Charizard. I also picked up Abra and Magikarp, a couple of my favorites, from the line of smaller sets so I can display next to little Eevee.
Again, the little ones were quick to assemble; total time for both of those was about fifteen minutes. Charizard, on the other hand, took roughly an hour to build. The build instructions were slightly confusing as the way they’re drawn isn’t as clear as what you’d get from a LEGO manual. I managed, though, and I’m really proud of myself.
I’m also really proud of this Charizard, which turned out to be a nice display piece. A lot of the articulation is really good, especially around the head, legs and tail. I would have liked if there was a bit more articulation, like maybe if the arms moved a little better and get some moveable fingers and jaw in there but I also realize that those features would impact the price, which may turn off a few potential fans.
As far as quality, it’s easy to tell why LEGO is the cream of the crop. That’s not to say Mega Construx are bad; in fact, they’re intricately designed and really capture the likenesses of the Pokémon they’re meant to replicate. However, the building aspect of the set was difficult at times. I found myself struggling to click blocks in place, having to rely on using my teeth to get the amount of pressure that I needed. This could have been due to some microscopic defect in the stud that made it just too big to fit. In fairness, though, it could have just been small parts and sweaty hands (it was a really hot day, you guys.)
If you do manage to get them clicked into place and realize you put the piece in the wrong spot, good luck getting it apart. Unlike LEGO, Construx don’t come with a handy separating tool so, once again, I lucked out that I had a mouthful of teeth to do the job. In fairness, though, I don’t fault Construx for this. It took LEGO years to realize a tool like this was a necessity and since they likely have a patent on it, Construx will need to design their own.
As I mentioned earlier, in addition to the larger sets, the series offers a few single figures, such as Pokémon’s mascot, Pikachu, and a few other fan favorites, like Eevee, Magikarp, and…Zubat. What I like most about these are the packaging; they all come in a plastic Pokéball that can be used as a display base once building is complete. And at around $7 each, they’re a pretty good deal. Considering LEGO minifigure blind bags can retail for right around $5 and only have about 5 pieces each and a substandard display, these Pokémon characters are basically a steal.
Even the larger sets are a good value. At this time, the biggest set was Gyarados, with a total of 352 pieces retailing for $30. Compared to some of LEGO’s franchised sets, that’s an amazing deal. The LEGO Batman Movie Riddler Riddle Racer playset has 254 pieces and is regularly priced at $35 (though was on sale for $24 at the time of this writing, for whatever that’s worth).
Then again, you get what you pay for. With LEGO being the Cadillac of building blocks, the Pokémon Mega Construx don’t size up to quite that level. Sure, the models are well done and really capture the likenesses of the Pokémon, but the builds aren’t as sophisticated as what one would expect from LEGO.
It was a great choice for Mega Construx to jump into the Pokémon arena, especially given the mainstream popularity of Pokémon GO. Building sets like these now appeal to a wider audience since they are familiar with the characters. Even though they aren’t perfect, they are fantastically modelled and offer great playability.
Bottom line: I want more. Not just “I want to buy more sets,” which is definitely true. The low price point and great showcaseability really make these sets a good value despite their shortcomings. When I say I want “more,” I mean more sets. I want this line to do well so that Mega releases additional sets, like maybe the Generation 1 legendaries, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Mewtwo. Even a tiny little Mew hovering over a Pokéball would be sweet.
Also, I want to see some from the later generations of games: Tyranitar, Hoot Hoot, Lucario. There are so many great Pokémon that would make amazing display pieces that this could go on forever…just like the games!
There’s been a lot of talk about boycotting Image Comics over the past two weeks. Those feelings are valid. I feel them too. However, I want to address why this would not work and open up the conversation to alternative courses of action. I’ll discuss what led readers to this decision, how Image makes their money, who a boycott will actually hurt, and ultimately what we can do together to help change happen.
A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATELY SHITTY EVENTS
By now, we have all seen the cover to The Divided States of Hysteria #4, the latest title by longtime comic creator, Howard Chaykin. If you haven’t, here is a link to it, but I do warn you: it’s fucked up. From the racial slur to the mutilation, there’s nothing that sits right about this cover. As Comicosity put it:
“There’s nothing thought-provoking about the lynching depicted on the cover of issue #4. Chaykin chose to put a racial slur on the dead man’s name tag. Not spray painted on the wall by him, not written on him in blood. On his name tag. Chaykin decided that the value of the life of the victim he was portraying was so little that he didn’t even deserve an actual name. Just a slur.”
(If you’re pretty up to date on the events surrounding this cover, you can skip down to subsection “THE CALL TO BOYCOTT.”)
This is the latest in a quick series of affronts to marginalized readers regarding this title.
For one thing, The Divided States of Hysteria is a story about “an America shattered by greed and racism, violence and fear, nihilism and tragedy.” While not an intrinsically terrible premise, the writing itself is problematic. Chaykin’s characters use transphobic language in the very first issue while enacting violence against a transgendered sex worker named Chrissie. Transgender individuals already face heightened chances of violence according to a recent study, so why punch down on a group that experiences this as a fact of life?
Secondly, while the title isn’t the first to use this incendiary sort of story telling, having it released during Pride month is tone-deaf at the very least. Image Comics did such a huge promotion for its Pride variants, even releasing one starring Chrissie, that this felt like a slap in the face to the LGBTQIA community. It instead renders the gesture empty, making it a venture capitalizing on struggles we face daily.
Then, when first pressed for comment, Image declined. At this, most people curled their lip and readers were vocal about using their money to support books by other publishers instead. The outrage simmered down after a few days.
Most recently, Image released solicitations, or previews for upcoming issues which feature cover art, for The Divided States of Hysteria #4, as mentioned above. In the aftermath of a slew of rightfully angered comments, tweets, and emails, Image and Chaykin finally issued a statement:
There’s several questions that still need to be answered: Can we do anything as readers? How do these comics get approved when comics are such a collaborative medium, requiring many eyes before the book reaches the shelf? How can we stop supporting a publisher who lets this thing slide?
Image Comics was originally created to represent creators who weren’t being appreciated by DC and Marvel for their work back in the early 1990s. In addition to a different business model, namely taking a fixed fee upon publication for the company’s administrative costs in exchange for the creator keeping all creative rights to their property, Image also doesn’t generally interfere creatively. Every comic published by Image lists their entire staff, right there in the masthead. There is no editorial staff, unless the creators themselves hire one, directly out-of-pocket. I spoke to a creator, who chose to remain anonymous, a little more about how this works:
“…to the best of my knowledge, no one looks at the files until the book goes into actual production. Now, this wouldn’t be true for things like covers, which are used for promo and marketing, but content wise there aren’t any checks on stuff that I’m aware.”
For a publisher that prides itself on being diverse, why isn’t more care given to the stories published? It could be because most creators behind current Image titles are predominantly cisgendered white males. It could be because publishers have consistently capitalized on minority experiences instead of celebrating them. Either way, for a supposedly “progressive” leader in independent comics, it’s a handful of specific creators that have made Image seem so forward-thinking. Image is progressive by default, when you compare them to the constant missteps by both DC and Marvel, and consider that a lot of newer readers enter the comic world through the award-winning Saga.
Overall, Image might have this reputation for being alternative and a breath of fresh air in the grand lineup of superhero books, but when you scrutinize the teams behind the books, it really isn’t. It’s hard to forget they’re a company who first and foremost want to make money. This is where readers come in.
THE CALL TO BOYCOTT
While I am certainly not going to tell anyone not to boycott, I do feel it’s my duty as a retailer to lay out why a blanket boycott will hurt brick and mortar shops without impacting the publisher itself. I stress that it’s very different to boycott a creator whose work you don’t care for versus an entire publisher.
Why does a blanket boycott hurt shops and not the publisher? A shop has to pay for comics about three months before they hit shelves. This means the publisher has already been paid, usually before reviews have come out, and before the public at large learns of the book. This is why a Previews catalogue is so important: it highlights upcoming books from all publishers, toys, shirts, merchandise, you name it. You can sign up and preorder anything in that catalogue at your local comic shop. And you should– that way shops can order the correct amounts of new product for their individual shelves.
Otherwise… shops have to take a guess. Some shops employ POS systems that track every bar code that goes out the door, and some do it all by paper and pencil, which works great for titles that have already come out and have an established fanbase. For new titles, we have to essentially wing it and put faith into it without having read it, in the hopes that it will sell. This is a much easier bet to make for bigger publishers like Marvel, DC, and Image than it is for smaller publishers.
Where a large corporation can handle a boycott by laying off people or raising the price of a product to offset the money lost, Image would have to cancel titles. It wouldn’t be titles like The Walking Dead either, it’d be the ones with smaller, dedicated fanbases that may not have high print numbers.
I asked my creator friend about this as well:
“It’s for sure going to hurt shops first and more. As you know, comic shops are buying stuff non returnably. So if, say, the entire customer base of a store decided at once to stop buying Image (or any other publisher) while the shop could adjust for future orders, they’re stuck with the stock they have. And stores, typically, have a lot less margin for that sort of thing than publisher.
In the specific case of Image, the next person up the chain, in terms of being hurt, are the creative teams. Image doesn’t profit off singles, and they only profit a little off of the rest. It’s hypothetically possible enough boycotting could reduce the number of titles they have and hurt them financially like that, or hurt trade enough, but by nature of the comics market and the Image model, you’re always going to be preferentially hurting shops and creators.
A boycott that was actually effective would hurt marginal titles most. Saga can lose 50% of it’s audience and still be profitable. The Few couldn’t.”
So, what can we do?
PATHS OF ACTION
Be vocal about why you’re not purchasing a book in as many places as you feel comfortable. Utilize hashtags, tag the publisher, tweet about what you are purchasing instead! You can launch a movement with peers and use the tools at your disposal to bring attention to the issue at hand, much like people did with Milo Whatshisface’s book under Simon & Schuster. Maybe it’ll be canceled and maybe it won’t be. There’s not a precedent for that exactly, but we can chalk that up to being disorganized about how we have been going about this. There’s also a wider range of representation happening than ever before, and until the creators ARE the people represented, there’s bound to be mistakes here and there. As long as there’s an honest conversation, progress can be made.
It shouldn’t fall on readers, both new and old, to constantly strive for change when it should come from within the industry. The same old white creators with the same old ideas should be encouraged to use their reputation and clout to fill their teams with people of color, women, queer people.
Whatever you do, DO NOT tag and/or attack the creator in your missives. Even if they’re the actual worst, they’re still people at the end of the day.
Focus on individual titles, look up your favorite creators and support their endeavors, either by buying their other work at a convention, commissioning a piece of art, signing up for their patreon, etc. Don’t be afraid to vote with your dollar.
It’s time for the comics industry to stop failing us. Us being retailers, readers, creators. Let’s stop pushing away a new, hungry readership and welcome them by listening. Hire qualified younger people who can point out things that may be easily missed. Get consultants on books if a publisher insists that same old creator writes a character with vastly different life experiences. Hell, just take a lap around a convention’s artist alley and take it in. See what people are buying and are excited about. These are new readers. These are people barely getting into books. These are seasoned fans reaching for something new. Yes, even the women ogling everything Kevin Wada has on sale. Yes, even the dudes purchasing J. Scott Campbell prints. Yes, even the queer people picking up that hard to find Pop figure. Yes, even the children standing in line to get a photo with Stan Lee.
Let’s do this together.
Well before the wide release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, early preview reviews started rolling out and proclaiming the film to be fantastic. I was a little worried that much of the hype was overblown; that the reviewers were overlooking the movie’s flaws just because they were happy to have Spider-Man as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted, I had no reason to feel this way having not seen the movie, but that’s just the anxiety in me. After seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, I realize just how silly this notion was.
For starters, Homecoming doesn’t get bogged down in an origin story. One of movie-goers’ biggest complaints is that the first film in every super hero series is an origin. Most often, it’s necessary to establish where the character comes from. Sometimes, a movie is directed well enough that the audience doesn’t realize they’re watching an origin. For Spider-Man: Homecoming, there’s a quick scene recapping Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) experiences in Berlin prior to his debut in Captain America: Civil War and how Tony Stark (do I even need to put “Robert Downey Jr.” here?) gave him his suit but that’s it. They make references to the spider that bit him but we never see it happen. Thankfully Marvel and Sony understood that audiences know how Peter became Spider-Man.
As a character, Spider-Man has always been about dichotomy, and Homecoming recognized that. Peter Parker is the timid, nerdy, powerless kid but he’s also the strong super hero who can do amazing things. In the movie, though, we see this power divide almost everywhere. Spider-Man wants t do more and help people on a grander scale but Tony Stark limits his abilities and keeps him grounded. Adrian Toomes, the villainous Vulture played by Michael Keaton, is a hard-working, blue-collar salvage worker whose life is threatened when a powerful government organization comes in and claims authority over his jobsite. We can understand his fear and need to do whatever he has to in order to provide for his family. (This was also a nice way to tie Homecoming into the MCU and the events that transpired in Avengers.)
Spider-Man: Homecoming also places a lot of focus on Spidey’s supporting characters. Peter’s best friend, Ned (played by Jacob Batalon, who looks more like Ganke than Ned Leeds but I digress), gets almost as much screen time as Peter himself. School bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) shows up often and is much more than a one-note trick than previous portrayed in the other movies. Even a character like Michelle has an abundance of screen time, but that’s to be expected when they put someone like Zendaya in that role.
All of this works to make Spider-Man: Homecoming feel like a true Spider-Man movie. Spider-Man has always been about the people around him. Seventy plus years of comics show us that Spider-Man became the hero he is because of his affection for his friends, and even his tormentors. Previous cinematic versions of Spidey never really got that ideal, or at least never expressed it as well as Homecoming did.
One of my biggest complaints about Homecoming is the way it handled Peter Parker. As the quiet, nerdy kid, Peter either gets picked on or ignored. He lives with his elderly Aunt May, who no doubt maintains her household while living on a fixed income. Peter feels that financial crisis and decides to help carry the burden. However, in Homecoming, Peter isn’t like that. Sure, he gets picked on by Flash Thompson, but overall he has a few close friendships. His peers find value in his intelligence and every time they’re disappointed by him it’s through his own actions. Even Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is younger and prettier than her other incarnations (which the movie doesn’t hesitate to joke about), which allows her to continue to provide for herself and her teenage nephew. Peter’s life in Homecoming isn’t that bad.
Being Spider-Man, however, sure as hell seems like it. Homecoming manages to show audiences just how much it sucks to be Spider-Man. He gets yelled at by the public for making mistakes. His actions cause massive damage to the neighborhood he lives in. He puts his life on the line to take down a threat when no one else will listen to him. Why?
Clearly because “with great power comes great responsibility.” The beauty of Spider-Man: Homecoming is that we have a Spider-Man who understands Uncle Ben’s powerful message without having to beat audiences over the head with the phrase. Not once are those words uttered, but we see how much Peter values them. This all goes back to the lack of an origin story. Spider-Man knows when it’s time to do the right thing; whether it’s from the life lesson he learned off-screen from his Uncle Ben or from being mentored by Iron Man himself is irrelevant. It’s a notion that’s inherent in this version of Spider-Man.
There’s lots of things to enjoy about Spider-Man: Homecoming; all of the excellent performances of the cast, most notably by Holland and Keaton, the return of Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan in a true supporting role, and all of the small throwbacks and references the filmmakers added. Overall, what I liked about Homecoming is that this is the closest a movie version of Spider-Man has ever gotten to its comic book roots. The young Peter Parker/Spider-Man has a lot to learn, not just about being a hero but about life in general. They’re not fast forwarding through his growth but allowing audiences to experience it first-hand, which is the most exciting part of the story.
Each January, I make a list of the movies that I want to see that coming year. It’s usually filled with big-budget, over-blown action flicks, because that’s what I like. This year, I had to revise my list a couple of times because I overlooked a few items that should appeal to me. One of those revisions included Baby Driver. At first glance, I wasn’t too sure about the Edgar Wright penned and directed flick but I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
Ansel Elgort is Baby, the film’s protagonist. A perfectly apropos nickname given his youthful looks, but “Baby” is all audiences know the character by throughout most of the movie. Nicknames are also a recurring trend in the movie, in which a team of thieves are gathered by the mysterious Doc (Kevin Spacey) to pull off complex heists. Think the Avengers, but they steal stuff and don’t have super powers.
The plot of the movie is thin by most standards; Baby is in for “one last job” before leaving his life of crime behind him. Naturally, the plan goes off the rails and all hell breaks loose, leaving Baby to adapt if he wants to survive and live his happily ever after.
Edgar Wright is a director who manages to put his own spin on different film genres. He breathed new life into zombie movies with Shaun of the Dead and made a legitimately fun comic book flick with Scott Pilgrim vs the World. It’s easy to expect Wright to deliver a fast-paced yet super fun heist movie, which he manages to do.
Despite the weak plot, the movie is a blast, mostly because of the characters that Wright has created. We have Baby, deep and mysterious and into a wide range of music to which he has an unnatural attachment. The audience is only allowed brief glimpses into his past, but it’s enough to puzzle together why he is the way he is. We’re also given an expository explanation as to his need for music at all times, which is delivered in a delightfully clever way by Mr. Spacey himself.
Then you have Bats, played by Jamie Foxx. “Bats” is short for “Bat-Shit,” indicating how crazy the character is. We’re given nothing about Bats’s past, yet Foxx’s portrayal of the character intimates just how deep his psychoses run. Foxx is great in this role and makes it really easy for audiences to hate him.
Then there’s John Hamm’s Buddy. An enigma for most of the film, it’s hard to gauge which way Buddy goes. He’s a bank robber, sure, but he’s also the only one who’s ever shown Baby any respect. Hamm imbues Buddy with a dead-eyed stare and cool charisma that makes him look like he was ripped right out of a Tarantino film, which makes him a perfect fit for the world of Baby Driver.
With how much we give credit to Edgar Wright for his direction and the actors for their delivery, we also need to recognize the editors, Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. I’m sure much of the film kept with Wright’s vision, but Amos and Machliss cut it so that it gels perfectly. A lot of the fun of the movie is within the action sequences, where the gunshots and sound effects sync up with the film’s soundtrack. It’s subtle at first; you almost don’t realize it’s happening but when you do, it adds depth to the scenes.
Speaking of the music, I can’t ignore the soundtrack as it’s an important element of the film. The song selections work brilliantly with the on-screen actions. Similar to the way Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 handled its own musical numbers, Baby Drivers takes innocuous song choices and pairs them with intense, frenetic action. A tire-screeching police chase set to “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion? It works. An explosive gun fight in a dirty warehouse with Button Down Brass’s “Tequila” as the back drop? Flawless. (The soundtrack also features Ducky from NCIS and I never thought I’d type that sentence but here I am.)
There’s more to Baby Driver than just cool characters and an OK plot; it’s a movie that delivers an experience. From the very start, and I mean at the start of the vanity logos, the film includes a low level hum, just like the one Baby hears from his tinnitus. It accompanies almost all of the moments that aren’t occupied by music or explosions and is persistent throughout, making the audience feel just like Baby does. Sometimes it’s noticeable, sometimes it isn’t. Either way, we get a better idea of how Baby hears his world.
Baby Driver isn’t perfect, though. Baby’s world is turned around when he meets a pretty, perky waitress named Debora (Lily James). Debora’s goal is to cut and run out of town, a goal that Baby doesn’t realize he has until he meets her. James is lovely in the role but her part just runs flat. We get some back story into her character but it’s nothing of any significance. She has a whirlwind romance with Baby but she doesn’t actually change him in any way. We’ve already seen that he has a conscience despite what he does for a living; all Debora does is make him want to run away from the life he built in Atlanta.
It’s a weird dynamic, in a way, considering the relationship Wright shows us between Baby and his foster father, Joe (CJ Jones). Joe is deaf and uses a wheelchair, casting Baby in the caregiver role. Their relationship is so natural and authentic that I would find Joe a more believable reason for Baby to escape the world that he’s entrenched in. I guess you just can’t beat a pretty girl when it comes to movie tropes.
Leaving aside the stale plotline and few shallow characters, Baby Driver is a remarkable film. It’s a fun, upbeat romp in a summer overloaded with drab, ennui-filled popcorn flicks.
When Iron Man debuted in theaters in 2008, audiences had no idea that it would completely change the landscape of film-making forever. It marked the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU became a collection of movies featuring different characters all tied together as a way to multiply audience interest and profits for otherwise uninteresting movies. While Marvel pioneered the scheme, other studios quickly jumped on board, notably Marvel’s main competitor, DC Comics. Universal Pictures recently decided to dust off their “Monsters” properties and build their own Cinematic Universe. The Mummy marks the first film in what they’ve christened “Dark Universe.” But the question remains; is The Mummy worthwhile?
From the very start, Universal wanted to make sure audiences were aware that The Mummy is part of a larger framework. With press releases and announcements of Johnny Depp playing the Invisible Man, this felt unnecessary. The studio has even inserted a logo variation that morphs the famous “Universal Pictures” vanity logo into the words “Dark Universe,” almost like a new entity that produced the movie. It’s an odd addition, one done out of hubris more than anything else, and it’s completely ridiculous. It would be as if Iron Man began with a logo touting it as “A Marvel Cinematic Film.”
The film itself opens in an equally bizarre way: on the burial of a Templar Knight in twelfth century England. It then quickly transitions to modern-day London before flashing back to Egypt and summarizing the history of Ahmanet and her quest for power, all told through a narration by Russell Crowe’s character. Why any of this was necessary I can’t say. The only thing I can think of is that the film’s writers, of which there are six, had no faith that audiences would have been able to understand the hook without having it spelled out. That theory also explains the immense amount of verbal exposition we get along the way. For a film that’s as steeped in lore as The Mummy, I would expect an excess of expository dialogue, but Universal really took advantage of my expectations.
Most of the film gets bogged down from how hard it is to like Tom Cruise’s character. Nick…Something Or Other is an Army Sergeant/thief who has his sights set on “liberating” whatever valuables he happens to find in modern-day Iraq. He makes no excuses for his deception and his main motivation throughout the film is saving himself. There’s a slight glimmer of goodness in his character, which is dashed as quickly as it appears by way of a sad attempt at levity. I doubt the writers even realized that their throw-away joke negated any positive quality in the character, because if they did, they should have worked harder to make him more likeable.
The dislike of Cruise’s character is compounded by how terribly the writers treat his female counterpart. Nick takes advantage of archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) by lying to her, sleeping with her, and stealing her map to the location of what he believe is “treasure,” but not once does he show remorse for his actions. However, when he later discovers her secret that she’s been working with a covert team of “archeologists,” she’s made to feel terrible for her actions and apologizes profusely. Even watching this through the eyes of a dude, I could see the incongruity plain as day.
As expected, the movie makes a number of humorous attempts through its big, loud action sequence but most of them are so trite and obvious that they fall flat. Not to mention that some of the biggest jokes happen at the most inopportune moment, which made it uncomfortable to even enjoy them.
The humor was another pratfall the movie continued to make. Many of the jokes happen with unfortunate timing, such as when danger was at its highest. This created a strange juxtaposition that felt awkward. Am I supposed to laugh as Tom Cruise is about to get a dagger plunged into his heart? According to the writers, yes, I am.
I can’t say that the film is entirely bad, though. It does a few things right, most notably the casting of Sofia Boutella as the titular Mummy. Boutella has an amazing onscreen presence. The way she plays Ahmanet is threatening, unrelenting, and imposing, but she also manages to ply sympathy when needed. The only downside is how much her talent is wasted on a one-note villain. Granted, Ahmanet has more depth than both Cruise’s and Wallis’s characters, but her antagonism just comes off as boring. She’s the ultimate unstoppable evil that can be easily stopped by a MacGuffin.
Then you have Russell Crowe, whose appearance in this film is solely to expand the Dark Universe. Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. Yep, that Dr. Jekyll. He was a joy to watch as he seemed to be the only person in the ensemble who bothered getting into character. While I did like the way the film introduced the Jekyll/Hyde connection, I feel like they overdid it. In a case like this, as most of Marvel’s films have shown, a little goes a long way. Universal, on the other hand, didn’t seem to trust their audience would get the allusion and needed to center an entire action scene on just how badass Mr. Hyde could be. While it was a fun scene, it slowed down the pacing of the film and took some of the spotlight away from the Mummy, who should have always been the focus of the film.
For a movie that’s meant to kickstart a cinematic universe full of classic monsters, The Mummy lacks any sort of horror or thrills. It’s overflowing with cheap jump scares and cringe inducing creepiness (like Cruise being covered in rats), and those grow old fast. It also lacks the charm that 1999’s The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser had. At this point, it must be asked: what is this Mummy flick supposed to bring to the table, besides over-the-top action pieces?
Would I say The Mummy was a good movie? Nope. I will say that as the tent pole of the “Dark Universe,” it was fun, and at the very least, it opened the doors for films featuring a more diverse cast of classic monsters. After years of countless Dracula, Frankenstein and Werewolf movies, we finally have the chance to gets movies centered on the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Invisible Man. In the hands of the right writer and director, these movies have the opportunity to be mind-blowing. While The Mummy is mediocre at best, it deserves some credit.
I’m a huge fan of junk food movie tie-in. Actually, a more accurate word to describe me would be “sucker.” Whether it’s a promo in a restaurant chain or a special edition candy bar, I just can’t get enough of them. So I’m sure you can understand my excitement for the Doritos bag that played the entire soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. There was no way I could let the opportunity to own one slip away.
Getting my hands on one of these bags was a chore in itself. Doritos was extremely forthcoming about the date they would go on sale, as well as the specific Amazon page they’d be available on. I spent all day constantly refreshing Amazon to only be let down hour after hour. Finally, at around 8 that night, the Doritos finally went live…on a completely different section of Amazon than promised, which I only knew about because of a heads up from a friend.
But I digress. And complain a little more than I should since I did eventually order one.
A couple weeks later, a box showed up and I couldn’t be more excited to tear into it. After cutting through two layers of cardboard, I was greeted by a beautifully printed vision of a familiar cassette player inlay on a faux-wood veneer.
The box is really something to admire. There’s nothing special about it in particular, other than providing a nice display for the bag of Doritos and storage for the accessories.
I carefully opened the lid to be greeted by the bag…
…only to be disappointed. I quickly noticed that half of the bag was off-printed, creating an obnoxious shadow effect on most of the words. Though this is a fairly common occurrence on most bags of chips, it was extremely disheartening to see in this instance. Given the small print run of these bags, one would think Doritos would have a little extra quality assurance to make sure everything came out perfectly. But that’s not the case.
Oh, well. That’s life, I guess. I bought it because it plays music so let’s test that out.
All of those buttons printed under the cassette tape work. Power, Play, Stop, Next, Reverse. The bag works exactly like a Walkman. It’s pretty neat, but I am slightly concerned about the flimsiness of the bag itself. So far I’ve been handling it extremely delicately as everything feels so fragile that I’m afraid I may break it. This isn’t something that would be easy to replace.
I’m not alone in my worry, here; Doritos clearly realized most people won’t consistently listen to the soundtrack through a bag of tortilla chips so they included a mini USB port on the bag, and a cable in the box. You can plug the bag into your computer and download the entire soundtrack in MP3 format and listen to it on any compatible device. The USB port will also recharge the player, in case people do consistently listen to the soundtrack through a bag of tortilla chips.
In addition to the USB cable, the bag came with a set of headphones. Not cheap ear buds like most music players would have but a pair of over-the-head, foam-covered headphones that were popular in the 80s. I plugged them in and followed the directions on the box.
As soon as I pressed the “Power” button, the bag flashed to life. Literally. There’s a light in it that glows when the power is on. Which makes sense. I mean, how else are you supposed to know that it’s on if you unplug the headphones?
The quality of the music is crystal clear. I don’t know the specs of the player itself but whatever it is, it seems to handle high quality MP3s really well. There’s even no loss in quality from the headphones. At least none that I noticed. It sounded as good as music from my iPod (though I do have a 2nd gen iPod so that may not be saying much).
At $29.99 retail, these Doritos are a bit of an investment. However, when you realize that you’re paying for the full soundtrack as well as a marketing gimmick that’s sure to spark some conversations, the cost is still kind of hard to swallow. This is clearly an item for die-hard Guardians of the Galaxy fans, a subset that probably never existed before 2014. But either way, I’m ecstatic to add it to my collection, even if I don’t have any place to display it.