Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Legend of the Three Caballeros, Episode Thirteen: "Sheldgoose Square Dance"


I am disappointed by the distinct lack of square dancing in this episode--and, in fact, I'm finding that title a bit inscrutable. What does it mean?

I suppose the problem with a climactic episode in a show like this is that it was never really building towards a climax, or if in theory it was, that was really just an excuse to have more or less unrelated adventures along the way. Thus, when you get to the end...hmm. Same reason the climactic MCU movies have generally fallen flat, I think.

Well...but actually, I'd say the problem here is that it's basically a not-that-interesting boss fight. I like how it manages to involve all the characters, but...still. It's just not that gripping, and as for the part where Sheldgoose and Xandra are doing dueling cameos from previous episodes I am, perhaps, not more excited by it than I've ever been by anything before. Also, da hell is the deal with "the wizard Blazebeak," who appears out of goddamn NOWHERE and talks about how, oh, I've been protecting you and then disappears and WHUH? I would not describe this as deft plotting.

Oh well. It was reasonably watchable, I suppose, and my overall impression of the series is positive. I'm kind of baffled that they're content to allow non-Filipinos to view it via internet leaks. Surely it'll be released more widely at some point, but the current situation kind of dulls the probable impact of that. WEIRD. Well, here's hoping for a season two.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Legend of the Three Caballeros, Episode Twelve: "Shangri-La-Di-Da


Okay, time to finish this up! In this second-last episode, Fell'n'Shell (as I've decided I'm going to call them) have the special caballero emblem things, and they're off to the secret...place beneath Sheldrake's mansion (he seems as unclear about it as I am) to do bad...stuff. It IS a little vague. The caballeros have to stop them, but it's harder because Donald and Daisy have been spirited off to Shangri-La to repair their relationship and Donald has to deal with his anger issues. But! They improvise a cool-looking cannon thing to break down the barrier (really, should you be able to DO that with just brute force) and then Donald solves his problem (FOREVER!) and he's BACK, baby! To be continued! Oh, and a mini Scrooge cameo, albeit one where he doesn't act anything like you'd expect Scrooge to.

Right. As I said the Fell'n'Shell stuff isn't that clear or that...interesting to me. The stuff with two thirds of the caballeros and the rest of the ensemble is...well, it's fine, if not mind-blowing. I like when AMJ are like "watch out for those guys! They're really tough!" and Xandra just kicks the shit out of them like it's nothing.

Still, the meat of it is the Donald and Daisy stuff. YES, there's a yeti song about Shangri-La! It's okay! But the main thing is, you can only leave when ALL your problems are solved, so Donald has to solve his anger problem. Hmmm. Now, undoubtedly, this feels a bit forced: sure, he has these issues, but I feel like they only really manifest themselves here because the show needs them to, but because they work in any natural way. His getting mad over being offered a drink seems...dubious, and EVEN though it's pretty funny (albeit predictable) for him to violently tear to pieces the pillow that represents "slightly frustrating occurrences," I did wonder.

NONETHELESS. The psychedelic sequence where he confronts his issues is pretty cool, and feels more like the original movie than anything else we've seen in this series. And goddamn, people: "Donald! W-where are you going?" "To my destiny..." (leaves, comes back and kisses her on the mouth). YES. THAT IS SO DAMN GOOD. Thank you, show, for giving him that moment. Inevitably, I have to note that the only way New Ducktales could give Donald a moment of coolness was by making him into a completely different character. THREE CABALLEROS EFF TEE DOUBLE-YOU.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Ducktales Season Wrap-Up


Favorite episode? "The Beagle Birthday Massacre." It shows Webby and Lena's relationship at its most appealing, and the extravagant variety of Beagle Boys suggests a kind of imagination that makes one hope the show will really take flight. Regardless of whether or not that ultimately happened...

Least favorite? "The Golden Lagoon of White Agony Plains." More than any other, this really showcased the writers not getting it and not giving a shit. Rage-inducing.

Best character portrayal? Well...it has to be Webby, doesn't it, just given the gulf between this and Original Ducktales--and that entirely notwithstanding the extremely bad idea of making her creepily obsessed with Scrooge.

Worst? Fuckin' Glomgold, man. I know I've done a lot of complaining about the character never being as interesting as he was in Barks, but I TAKE IT ALL BACK! I mean, not really, but I will forgive you all your sins if you'll just make him a friggin' worthy adversary for Scrooge, instead of this completely worthless, bumbling incompetent whose financial success is utterly impossible to fathom. Bah.

I mean, there are a lot of other characters who could plausibly fit in this category. However, I really do want to give a special shout-out to Donald, who is depicted basically as this entirely hapless figure of fun that everyone may "love" in some sense, but whom no one takes seriously. I feel this is a very serious misunderstanding of the character: sure, he fails a lot, but the point is, he's <i>vital,</i> and when he fails, he fails with vigor. That vital energy against all outside forces and against himself is what makes him vital (which is why later, more cynical Barks ten-pagers where this isn't the case can feel so dispiriting). And, of course, he doesn't always fail. Here, there's...really no indication of what his appeal might be. And as Lieju notes in comments to the last post, given this particular story--Della being his sister and all--he really ought to be playing a more central role. It really, really feels like the writers are just sort of guessing as to what fans of these characters want, and not having much luck.

And hey, I mean, not to say that you necessarily have to try to give the fans what they want!  If you fancy your chances, strike out with your own powerful, unique vision that will force everyone to admit--if only grudgingly, in their heart of hearts--that yeah, you knew what you were doing, you were right.  But that's not what they're doing here, is it?  It's just an ungainly mixture of fan-service and fan-pissing-off, to little clear end.

Character I wouldn't mind seeing more of: eh, Gladstone. I may not have loved his episode, but the portrayal isn't bad, and Paul F Tompkins' voice acting makes him more appealing than he might be.

Less of: okay, this doesn't answer the question per se, but seriously, man, I know the show's established the way it is, and there's only so much you could do about it, but maybe at least you could just kinda *tone down* the nephews idiosyncrasies a bit? I'd like that. I don't have much hope for Scrooge, though, who, let's face it, has been all over the place, and, I mean...part of the genius of Barks was making you root for the rich to get richer. Does anybody feel REMOTELY that way about this guy? Bah.

Anything else? Nah, I'm good.

Friday, September 7, 2018

New Ducktales, Season One, Episode Twenty-Three: "The Shadow War"


Well. I suppose, given what this show is and what it wants to do, this was probably about the best version of what it is that it could be. Whether that version of that thing was ever something I was going to appreciate...unclear.

The insightful comments on the last episode kind of clarified, for me, the issues with this show, I think: the whole thing is so concerned with playing off and modernizing classic duck characters and tropes that it's neglected the important task of creating any sort of identity for itself outside these references; any compelling reason why, as its own specific thing, it should work. The Della thing, I think, is the apex of this: wait, WHY are we supposed to care about--IT'S BEEN A HUGE MYSTERY FOR MANY YEARS YOU MUST CARE ABOUT IT. Well, but the thing is, we kinda DON'T, or at least not with the weight that you want us to, and it feels like you're sorta misunderstanding fandom if you--YOU WILL CARE. Okay, but in that case, you need to work to give us some REASON to--THIS IS A THING YOU CARE ABOUT. IT IS DECREED. "The loss of Della was the hardest thing he'd EVER faced!" Yeah? Well, maybe you should've made some effort to actually let us feel this ourselves if you were going to do it at all? Otherwise, it just doesn't work. "You can't fool me, Scroogie," Magica says. "I am the one who fools." I just think that if you would put less effort into incongruous Breaking Bad references and more into these very basic story issues, you'd be doing a lot better.

They don't even really understand the stuff they're trying to riff off, so it would be better for them to try to forge their own identity than do...what they're doing. The "Barksian modulator," that gives Donald a "normal" voice: it also, apparently gives him a new personality. Now, this might be at least sort of interesting as a commentary on the fact that comics-Donald and cartoon-Donald are really completely different people. Are they consciously going for that? Extremely difficult to say. But if so, it's rather undermined by the fact that his new personality--hyper-competent tough guy--doesn't have anything to do with Barks either. And if it DOESN'T, it just seems like equally defective storytelling in its own way.

OKAY. Unmoved as I am by this whole familial conflict, I found all the stuff with the characters dicking around on the houseboat pretty tedious. The kids hurling artifacts into the bay has no emotional weight. Not that I'm a huge fan of the Scrooge stuff either, but at least it's...something. The way Shadow-Magica "drips" out of Lena's eye sockets is genuinely creepy. Also, I do like Real-Magica's character design, even if the psychotic kill-em-all stuff (she wants to "destroy everything Scrooge has ever loved") has no resemblance to any Magica I know or--perhaps more to the point--anything notably interesting.

Wuff...what else can I say? The final showdown thing with Magica in the bin was, okay, reasonably well-done for what it was. And, dammit, I find myself still at least somewhat invested in the Lena stuff. And I do not have any pithy closing words.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

New Ducktales, Season One, Episode Twenty-Two: "The Last Crash of the Sunchaser"


Yes yes yes yes yes. I know I know I know I know I know. Etc. No, I'm not wild about this show, but I assure you, that's not the reason for my dereliction of duty here. The truth is, I recently had a bit of an unexpected medical issue. No need to worry; I'm fine. But I was pretty seriously distracted from even thinking about this stuff. But here we are. Let's do it. Etc.

Right, so everyone's all upbeat and stuff at the start, because they're going to have a fun adventure in Monacrow, and I'll admit that the nonsensical "change the name of everything so it's about birds" kinda cracked me up there. And Mrs Beakley's coming along too this time because reasons.

But then their plane gets stuck on a, like, mountain thing. How to get down? You know, I think an episode dealing with that and only that would've been okay. I do like the limited setting--everything but the very beginning and ending taking place on this cargo plane in trouble. But, of course, that's not what this is.

Beakley being upset that Scrooge is putting the kids in danger? This...seems to rely pretty heavily on her having in the past never having received any word whatsoever about they're doing as they gallivant around, which seems doubtful. I also find this extremely dubious going forward: you're calling into question the premise of the whole show, and yet it's impossible to imagine that future seasons won't proceed...more or less the same as this one. I don't really think you know what you're doing.

The less said the better about this fucking Della fan-fiction. The only thing I find vaguely interesting: is she really supposed to be a single mother? Don't get me wrong; the LAST thing I want is for the show to address this in any way, or do anything with it whatsoever. But as long as they are. Eh.

And then this hella forced "break-up" business where everyone's alienated from Scrooge? It ain't exactly Rosa-level pathos, I'll tell you that much. My interest is limited.

But hey. It's kind of amusing that the only "in-flight entertainment" is the endlessly-repeating end-credits sequence to a Darkwing Duck episode, yeah? Take what you can get. Even if there's not much of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

New Ducktales, Season One, Episode Twenty-One: "The Secret(s) of Castle McDuck"


Okay...we WILL get through this. Well, we'll get through the end of this season, at any rate. Then, we'll see. We shall see.

So. I mean, I guess in theory, there's nothing wrong per se with having Scrooge's parents be alive. People have interpreted these character in radically different ways, soooo...why not? Well, I can write that. And yet, every fiber of my being cries out THIS IS COMPLETELY WRONG WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? I'd certainly be more willing to forgive it if they did anything interesting or creative with them, but no, it's really just the most generic, hackneyed sort of daddy issues. And. Really. People. People.

THE IDEA THAT FERGUS ARRANGED FOR HIM TO EARN HIS NUMBER ONE DIME IS THE STUPIDEST FUCKING THING THIS SHOW HAS EVER DONE AND THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING.

I trust I have made myself clear.

Yes, well. And then there's the stuff with the kids. I supposed it's better than the other plot thread by default, but that's not saying much. This whole "Webby's obsessed with Scrooge" thing is dumb as hell, and the business with Dewey trying to discourage his brothers from finding shit out...I mean, it's pretty dumb anyway, but given how poorly they're all characterized, I just could not care less about any of the family drama.

Sorry for being so negative...well, no, obviously, I'm not. I'm sorry the show MAKES me so negative. I feel I've come far enough that I should see this season out, but I am just not sure it's done enough to deserve any kind of further attention from me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New Ducktales, Season One, Episode Twenty: "Sky Pirates in the Sky"


Okay okay, let's try to get back into this. This, of course, is the Tailspin Crossover one. Whoo. Now, I will say some things in its favor: I certainly can't not get into song-and-dance numbers. The ducks watching in bemusement as the pirates took their treasure was undeniably amusing. I also like that the episode was basically just a thing, without trying to unwieldily bang together extra mythology that really has no place anywhere. The fact of the Tailspin-crossoveriness was...I mean, it was fine, I guess, since it's not, as far as I can tell, pretending to be a lead-in to any sort of larger mythology. It's just there. Does it have any reason to be there? No, not really. Is it basically just gesturing emptily and going "hey, here's a thing you remember!"? Of course. But, you know, that doesn't offend me.

Still. I didn't love this episode. It's not entirely clear to me whether this is actually worse than the norm or if I've just become more sensitive to it, but the nephews and Webby babbling at each other in the beginning was kind of intolerable to me ("I am offended that you would try to taint this treasure hunt with learning," seriously, just go to hell). It just emphasizes the massive gulf between them and the real versions of their characters (okay, I suppose I'll allow that Webby can be the "real" version of Webby. You know what I mean). And then the conflict of the episode, such as it was, where no one cares even a tiny bit about Dewey so he becomes a pirate captain, as you do, was forced as anything. Care for it, I did not. WHATEVER.

Not related to this episode per se, but let's not that the original theme song went "tales of derring-do bad and good luck tales," whereas with the new one it's just "tales of daring bad and good" etc. Now, if I liked this show better, I wouldn't say (or think) anything about that, but since I don't, I'm just going to say, oh look, they dumbed it down on the basis that "derring-do" is an idiom that The Kids Today are too illiterate to know. Whoo-oo. Whoo-oo, indeed.