Pop Between Realities, Home in Time for Tea: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Lego Movie, It Follows

(84 comments)

By rights, Moffat should have left. Sure, he’d done a season less than Davies, but it was clearly time. Each of his three seasons had been a step down from the one before, with Series Seven being an openly miserable experience. The Day of the Doctor and Matt Smith’s departure provided an occasion where he could leave on a high. His style had become exceedingly recognizable and recognized, which is the phase right before utter stagnation. It was time to go, and if he didn’t he risked—indeed, given the tenacity of his critics, essentially ensured—that there would be accusations that he stayed too long. But, of course, he didn’t. He retrenched, got a new star and executive producer, and went back to try again. This is the story of how that went, and of what may be Doctor Who’s most unexpected golden age.

But to understand that unexpectedness we must first understand the landscape that Doctor Who was returning into. Because the problem wasn’t just that Moffat’s tenure looked long in the tooth on its own merits. It was that outside Doctor Who’s window, the world was catching up. In one sense this was not a surprise. Doctor Who was onto its eighth season, and while obviously it had an unusually strong precedent for long runs, the new iteration was definitely a televisual senior citizen. But it’s worth appreciating the degree to which both Doctor Who and Moffat’s defining arsenal of tricks had been absorbed into the popular culture.

The obvious place to start is with the relentless blockbuster factory that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Quietly chugging along in the background since the late Russell T Davies era, by 2014 Marvel was well into Phase Two of their cinematic expansion, going back over the franchises they’d used to build up to The Avengers to give them sequels while introducing a handful of new ones alongside them. The wisecracking sci-fi action-comedy of Guardians of the Galaxy might seem the more obvious 2014 comparison, but its primary debt is clearly to Star Wars, and anyway, it’s the whole we’re interested in more than the individual parts. Because what the MCU does on aggregate is apply a relatively consistent narrative structure to a bevy of different genres.

This isn’t done in the exact same way that Doctor Who does it, of course. Doctor Who has a narrative conceit that directly fuels its genre hopping. The Doctor can drop into any sort of story they please and muck it up. The MCU, on the other hand, accomplishes its genrefluidity by having access to any character Marvel hadn’t already sold off to Fox or Sony. And so over the course of Phase Two it moves from a technothriller to high fantasy to a political thriller to a Star Wars riff to its big crossover set piece before closing out with a heist comedy. And by Phase Three it’s cycling in even more approaches. The result moves more slowly than Doctor Who—only the political thriller and the Star Wars riff come out in 2014, for instance. But the result also achieves a global cultural hegemony that Doctor Who is flatly incapable of. And more than that, it’s a shockingly long-running hegemony. With only a handful of missteps (they don’t get a Thor movie to work until their third try) the MCU has a decade-long run of churning out hit film after hit film. The parlor game of asking when Marvel will have a major misstep has gotten dull by dint of it just never happening.

And with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the MCU acquires another trick: savvy play with its own history. To spoil an eight year old film, the eponymous faceless death-dealing assassin is, in a third act twist, revealed to be Captain America’s old World War II comrade Bucky Barnes, presumed dead in Captain America: The First Avenger but in reality preserved by Hydra and brought out of cryogenics whenever they need someone for a hardcore special ops mission. This isn’t, of course, some tremendously clever conceit dreamt up by the Marvel folks; it’s lifted from Ed Brubaker’s run on the comics, where of course playing with series mythology is so routine as to become problematic. But in terms of the MCU, it’s another arrow emphatically added to the quiver.

But what is most interesting and worth commenting on is simply that Captain America: Winter Soldier is good and confident. It’s got a swagger that speaks to the fact that Marvel had by this point figured out its formula and that it worked. And while we’re all by now used to living in the shadow of Marvel’s pop culture dominance, it’s worth stressing how weird this is. This is everything that’s not supposed to work in mass culture—genre films that rely on continuity and that cross over regularly. And it made almost $1.5 billion in 2014. Doctor Who is obviously never going to come close to competing with it on special effects or bombast any more than it did when Star Wars changed the rules for what pop culture sci-fi was. But nevertheless, this is the cultural landscape to which Doctor Who has to respond. The baseline for what sci-fi can do has shifted.

A final point of interest about Captain America: The Winter Soldier is its directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, who were upjumped sitcom directors who made their name on Community. Community will end up haunting the Capaldi era—we’ll have another near miss encounter with it in the last Pop Between Realities—but for our purposes the two things to know about it are that it’s openly influenced by Doctor Who, incorporating it via an obvious parody show-within-a-show called Inspector Spacetime, and that it’s deeply invested in metatextual engagement with genre. The latter (along with the show’s ruthlessly efficient “story circle” narrative structure) is presumably what got the Russos their Marvel gig, but more broadly it speaks to another way in which the world had caught up to Doctor Who.

Let’s turn, then, to The Lego Movie. Of the three texts we’re discussing today, it is by far the one that has aged the most roughly. Its gender politics were skewered at the time, and rightly so—there are few films that better illustrate the ugly trope of an awkward white boy who is thrust into the hero role at the expense of a vastly more capable woman. But this critique, though accurate, only scratches the surface. It’s not just that Wyldstyle is denied the opportunity to be the main character, it’s that the only other female character of note, Princess Unikitty, is mostly just a pile of mildly but perniciously sexist jokes about stuff girls like. And more to the point, it’s that the entire film ends with a gag about how the worst thing imaginable is if your sister plays with your toys. This isn’t a film that comes to its misogyny through lazily recycling tropes; it’s one that’s got a genuine commitment to misogyny in deeply troubling ways.

But being sexist bilge is just the start of its problems. The larger issue is just how utterly soulless it is. At the end of the day, this is a 100 minute ad for LEGO brand interlocking plastic bricks. It’s easy to make too much of this—what film isn’t drenched in product placement these days, after all. And yes, The Lego Movie is shockingly better than it has any right to be. It’s orders of magnitude more clever than it needs to be, and a fair number of its jokes are properly brilliant; The Lego Batman Movie is basically justified by “DARKNESS! NO PARENTS!” alone. But at the end of the day, for all its talk about the virtues of creativity and individual vision, it’s still a film in which the only acceptable avenue for expressing this creativity is via buying Legos. The central conflict of the film is between building the thing according to the instructions or making something else with the parts. But this dialectic is entirely circumscribed by the act of buying Lego kits.

More to the point, this infects everything around it. The fact that the film’s notion of creativity is so intrinsically rooted in capitalist consumption is fundamental to why its mythical hero is repeatedly defined as the most boring and vacant consumer it is possible to imagine. And for all the film plays at deconstructing the heroic approach with its “I made it all up” deflection about the underlying prophecy, it came true anyway. Emmet is The Hero, a singular role that necessarily decenters everyone else. There is no escaping the fact that this film is about creativity as defined in specific terms of white male childhood nostalgia. It’s Ready Player One as a children’s movie.

But for all that I’m inclined to spend three paragraphs slagging it, the very existence of The Lego Movie is impressive. If Captain America: The Winter Soldier demonstrates a mainstreaming of sci-fi that demanded fannish engagement, The Lego Movie demonstrates the complete domestication of postmodernist metatextuality. It’s hardly the first popular thing to utilize it, but the fact that its postmodernism is employed in pursuit of such unreconstructed consumerism confirms the fact that these approaches are by now completely drained of any inherently liberatory elements. This doesn’t mean that postmodernism is dead and suitable only for toy ads, but again, it means that merely smashing things together into a weird new shape is not enough. Mere cleverness counts for little in 2014.

There is, of course, a line of thought that would suggest that declaration implicates Moffat harder than most. And while reducing Moffat to mere cleverness is unfair, it’s self-evidently true that he trades on it routinely. The larger problem for him is simply that his specific niche of cleverness was also, in 2014, becoming mainstream. Consider the indie horror darling of the year, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. The film’s monster is a delightful conceit: a sexually transmitted monster that just follows you, at a walking pace, until it catches and kills you, at which point it goes back to killing whoever passed it on to you. It’s such a Moffat concept that he basically used it in Heaven Sent, albeit without the sex aspects. (Which are mostly just not something that would fit into Doctor Who as opposed to something he wouldn’t do.)

It Follows, of course, has next to none of the exuberant metatextuality or postmodernism of the other films. It’s a straight and well-crafted horror film. Its set pieces are well-crafted and dread-laden chase sequences, and its sense of flourish based on long 360 degree tracking shots to give a sense of broad paranoia. It’s not playing with genre—it just straightforwardly is drama, in a way that highlights how, for all that fans make a fuss over how good Moffat is at doing scary, he’s never done anything that’s remotely like a straight horror story. (And this isn’t a massive surprise; for all that he’s good at his particular style of monster, there’s very little in his work that suggests horror as a major influence. He likes gothic novels and scary Doctor Who, not horror films.)

Indeed, if you’re going to accuse Moffat of skating by on cleverness, his attempts at scariness are where to look. They’re often little more than a neat idea competently directed, as the slightly diminishing returns of the Weeping Angels demonstrate. And one of the things It Follows demonstrates is what actually substantive horror looks like. Without ever coming to anything so didactic as a point, It Follows is a chilling brew of teenage sexual anxiety and savvy visual use of urban blight. This doesn’t fit together into a straightforward “interpretation.” Instead, it works the way I defended Ghost Light as working—all its parts feel like they go together, and so you don’t actually have to explain how they do. It’s not that this is better than Moffat, or even than Doctor Who in general. But it’s at once something that’s very clearly in Moffat’s style and capable of things that are simply outside the domain of what Moffat and Doctor Who can do.

None of this is proof of Moffat’s obsolescence. As I said, for all that the deck was stacked against him, he triumphed. But that triumph is defined in part by its long odds. At the start of 2014, Moffat was hemmed in, his old tricks slowly losing their juice. And while he has the formal discipline to evolve his style, Moffat is not some Bowie-esque figure capable of complete reinvention. He was going to have to achieve it through other means. And his first decision in that regard was in casting Peter Capaldi, at once a distinguished and serious actor a cut above what you’d usually expect to play the part and a fellow middle-aged Scottish Doctor Who fan. As a statement of intent, it was at once compelling and puzzling. But my god would it turn out to work.

Comments

Simon Simmons 2 months ago

I’m pleased that this seems to be avoiding the current narrative - that Capaldi was let down by the production team in the same way that Colin Baker was. I’ve enjoyed the Capaldi stories so much I’ve decided against a rewatch. I’ll store this era up until I’m in need of it again.

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ScarvesandCelery 2 months ago

In fairness, El has been very pro Capaldi era ever since it was broadcast - she was hardly likely to go with that narrative.

It's been strange, the way the critique of the Capaldi era - each of his seasons have had a fair section of fandom/ critics calling it "the best season in years" before, usually by the next season, a "Capaldi's been let down by the writing so far, I'm glad the writing's better this year" narrative has emerged (although I find it hard to tell whether this is the dominant narrative in fandom, especially as there's always a section of fandom that claim Doctor Who "isn't as good as it used to be"). You could put this down to critical reappraisal, but I don't think it is that - it feels like sections of fandom simply have goldfish memories and have decided that "everyone hates the Capaldi era" (which, while of course there are legitimate reasons to dislike the era, clearly isn't the case).

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mx_mond 2 months ago

One interesting aspect of that was that the people who called series 10 the best series in years were those who otherwise really disliked the Capaldi era and sometimes just a huge chunk of the Moffat years in general. Although it might also have been just one of the peculiarities of the Polish Doctor Who fandom (as it has its share of those).

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ScarvesandCelery 2 months ago

Oh yeah, that's definitely true. I saw a lot more love for series 8 and 9 amongst Moffat's fans than series 10, which got more of a "Yeah, it was a good season" reaction amongst that part of the fandom. But as a result, it was probably the least divisive of Capaldi's seasons.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 2 months ago

Interestingly, I've recently noticed a subdivision of people who were big fans up until the point either the Ponds or Matt leave. But it appears to be Clara that they don't get along with, because they too seem to think of Series 10 of being that.

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The Oncoming Hurricane 2 months ago

*as being that, even

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Matthew Marcus 2 months ago

Mm, I don't like the Moffat era much overall but Clara is far the biggest thing I don't like about it, it must be said.

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Przemek 2 months ago

Yeah, Clara was a sort of a dealbreaker for many people - if you don't like her then it's hard to enjoy the way in which Series 7-9 keep putting her more and more in the center of the narrative.

And Series 10 felt... tired. If not for Bill I would've felt let down. She elevated it to "good, occassionally brilliant" status for me.

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Aylwin 2 months ago

There seemed to be a lot of that in Britain as well (at least in a comparatively-general-audience context - frankly, apart from this site, I don't really frequent fan locales as such, so don't have much of a handle on the mood of fandom). I think quite a bit of it was widespread Clara-hate, which overlapped a lot with Moffat-hate, or at least Moffat-disillusionment. The combination of her being gone with Bill being pretty universally popular put those people in a favourable mood towards the series.

Plus I think in those less-engaged circles there were some who had got the wrong end of the stick from the showrunner succession announcement and thought Moffat had already left, and that it was therefore all right for them to like it now.

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CJM123 2 months ago

However, Season 10 had the lowest audience numbers of any Doctor Who since Survival.

Bill was popular, but the show wasn't. But fandom is weird. Acts like things fell apart after Hinchcliffe leaves, when CITY OF DEATH was still to come. It often ignores actual data when it makes claims like "Doctor Who is more/less popular/respected now by the mainstream than ever before."

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mx_mond 2 months ago

Yeah, it’s important to remember than fandom does not equal the whole of the audience. And that fandom sometimes remembers things differently to how they actually were.

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Przemek 2 months ago

That could very well be one of this blog's mottos!

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Aylwin 2 months ago

True, though ratings tell you more about what has gone before than what is happening right now, and I think to some extent that applies between seasons as well as between episodes. Season 10 saw a slight rise in average AI over season 9, though if you want to get really nerdy the specifics of that can be argued either way depending on which bits of which season you look at - the kind of commentary I'm thinking of was mostly a feature of the first few episodes, and the AIs for those were up year-on-year, but down on the latter part of season 9.

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Aylwin 2 months ago

Besides which, I have just ended up semi-defending a position on the relative popularity of season 10 which I had never actually espoused - my original point was agreeing and expanding on the correspondence of pro-season 10 sentiment with anti-Moffat sentiment. Which has to say something unflattering about my instinctive reaction to apparent contradiction.

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Lambda 2 months ago

It's not inconsistent to simultaneously think the Capaldi era was good, but that Capaldi was let down by the production team. I don't know how popular this opinion is, but I certainly find the Capaldi era to be well above average, but the Capaldi Doctor to be largely unsuccessfully characterised, however well acted he is. Fortunately, many of the stories manage to work very well despite their Doctor not working terribly well.

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Nindokag 2 months ago

> "the current narrative - that Capaldi was let down by the production team in the same way that Colin Baker was"

Is that the fandom party line? People think the Capaldi era needs excuses made or blame assigned? I had no idea, and it's kind of baffling to me. It's got hits and misses but overall I loved it. Capaldi himself is hilarious and brings a really nuanced, multi-layered performance. He surprised me by earning a very high spot in my already-crowded list of favorite doctors.

But what's (supposedly) wrong with the rest of the production?

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ScarvesandCelery 2 months ago

Agreed entirely with this, I love Capaldi's era, and don't think that statement requires the slightest bit of apologising for (Notably, El doesn't apologise for calling this era a golden era of Doctor Who).

Probably the most common line amongst critics of the Capaldi era of Doctor Who (and every era of Doctor Who has its critics) is that "he was a good Doctor with bad stories" (not a statement I agree with slightly).

I'm generally of the opinion that the current/ most recent era of Doctor Who always receives a vocal backlash that usually fades with time, and that people who get defensive about actually liking said era have simply made the (understandable) mistake of assuming that the critics make up the majority of fandom - an assumption that probably comes mostly from the circles they move in.

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mx_mond 2 months ago

This is a very interesting framing and I look forward to an analysis of how exactly Moffat managed to reinvent himself. After all, it’s not like his tricks just went away. And yet the Capaldi era does feel very different to Smith’s.

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David Anderson 2 months ago

I can't agree that any film built around Hemsworth and Hiddleston playing off each other straightforwardly doesn't work; even when its most notable feature is criminally underusing Eccleston.

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JFrancis 2 months ago

I suppose as a Lego builder myself I should be offering some kind of defence of the Lego Movie but . . . yeah, no.

I think there's a lot to be said for Lego as a medium, particularly for those of us who can't swing a paint or sculpt to save their lives, but the heavy weighting towards the usual pop-culture line-up in the building community tells its own story. And I say that while being perfectly happy to go in that direction when the mood takes me. I like the lightweight engineering challenge of building an actual transforming Optimus Prime or trying to replicate a TARDIS console room with some degree of accuracy. That, of course, is largely about feeling clever or at least rapidly getting a certain shape from your head into physical reality.

There are builders who manage to transcend the soullessness. They are not, however, usually the people who build as the Lego Company prescribes.

It's perhaps worth noting that the substantive intersection of Doctor Who and Lego (which would have been a year off at this point) came about as part of a project to cynically farm ideas from the building community and sell them for profit (the company's, not the individual builders, obviously). All very well and good for those of us who wanted a small plastic Peter Capaldi to populate our models but also a neat encapsulation of just where Lego's priorities lie vis its endorsement of creativity.

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Aylwin 2 months ago

I haven't seen the film(s), nor have I had any more engagement with Lego for many years past than buying the occasional small kit for the occasional small family member, so what do I think I'm doing opening my mouth ... but making a big noise about the virtues of creativity as against following set instructions does sound rather dissonant coming from a company that has moved so steadily over the decades towards themed product lines and kits using smaller numbers of more inflexibly specialised pieces.

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JFrancis 2 months ago

Oh heck, yes. Specialised pieces aren't necessarily restrictive because (with a few exceptions) they can usually be made to work and work well in one's own creations, but it's inarguable that Lego has swerved very heavily into riding the coat-tails of other franchises.

And I think a friend of mine summed the ethos of the Lego Movie up perfectly with his disgust at them releasing the wild-random-strange rebuild models from the movie . . . complete with instructions.

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Jarl 2 months ago

It's slightly redeemed, I believe, by making the instructions just for the wild and crazy builds and leaving it up to the builder to decide how to best make it back into whatever it's ostensibly made from.

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James 2 months ago

As a parent with a Lego mad son, I usually take mild umbrage with the whole "All the pieces are specialized these days, so it's hard to make anything different" line of thinking. Mostly because it's not true. Yes, there are a number of pieces that only work for a small number of purposes, but they're usually related directly to Minifigs (which are very specialized, but mostly by dint of their custom paint jobs). The majority of pieces in a given kit are almost guaranteed to appear in several other kits, and those spread across several ranges, but in different colors. The single most custom piece we own is the cockpit piece for the Millennium Falcon, and that's a piece we have a few times over, but in clear plastic with a decal.

Son doesn't generally build to the instructions either. Well, he does, when he first gets a kit, but they rarely stay in one piece for long, and pretty quickly get mined for parts for other things he's into building this week, often pop culture related, to be fair - this week it's Jaegers, because Pacific Rim 2 is out on Friday, and Legend of Zelda dioramas - but not always. His last kit was his first Tecnic one, and 15 minutes after finishing it he says "I wonder how hard it is to change this so it'll seat a minifig (about half an hour, it turned out).

Lego's as diverse as you want it to be - personally I just make the occasional collectors kit, just as laid out in the instructions, though that's more to do with the amount of time I want to spend on the things, over no desire to make things my own (also, if I dismantle them the parts get mixed in with Son's, and I'd never get them back...)

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Scurra 2 months ago

Yeah, I guess this is a fair enough point - the Ideas line is a horrible intersection of corporate monolith and creative individuality, but on the other hand there's no way that e.g. the Women of NASA set would ever have come out in any other form.

In passing, I think El may have read the ending of the Lego movie differently to me; I didn't think it was suggesting that the worst thing imaginable is if your sister plays with your toys; if anything I thought it was saying the opposite - that accepting that others will play with their toys differently (regardless of gender roles) is kind of the point, and the failure was clearly with the adult. But it's not really a big deal - I'm not convinced that an observation about how children play with toys is necessarily misogynistic compared to the whole Wyldstyle business. Having said that, she's still clearly the only competent character in the entire film...

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Nindokag 2 months ago

Yeah, Wyldsytyle gets treated so badly. Ugh. The worst/most disappointing thing about the Lego Movie is how it pretends that it's going to deconstruct the trope of "vastly more competent and interesting female character exists only to support bland male character's journey" -- but in the end it plays that trope completely straight.

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JFrancis 2 months ago

>> Yeah, I guess this is a fair enough point - the Ideas line is a horrible intersection of corporate monolith and creative individuality, but on the other hand there's no way that e.g. the Women of NASA set would ever have come out in any other form.

Oh, absolutely. Which is as damning of the corporate monolith as it is a happy outcome.

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Kyle Edwards 2 months ago

Well, after that, all I can say is thank Heavens we're getting the full Eruditorum! It certainly feels like quite a few posts are going to be referring back to all the ideas expounded upon here.

Also, in general, OMFG NEW ERUDITORUM! I found this site ~2015, and I am *hyped* to get to experience Eruditorum as an unfolding phenomenon as well as it as a (n albeit massive) archive!

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Przemek 2 months ago

Same here! This is a completely new experience for me, and a very exciting one.

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Theonlyspiral 2 months ago

You killed the Lego movie for me. I'm not upset I just wanted you to know. Also I think the first Thor is underappreciated, but Ragnarok is an unabashed classic.

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BenJ 2 months ago

At the end of the day, this is a 100 minute ad for LEGO brand interlocking plastic bricks.
You'd think at some point the filmmakers might be expected to put their money where their mouth is and actually do a stop-motion animation with these bricks, but no.

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darkspine10 2 months ago

I think most of the minifig animation in The Lego Movie was actually stop-motion, though obviously heavily layered with CG.

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Kit 2 months ago

They should also have been forced to make their earlier animated film in stop-motion out of massive, oversized foods. And their immediately previous film with undercover policemen in a real high school.

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Nindokag 2 months ago

My wife, who introduced me to Doctor Who (with David Tennant) is also a huge MCU fan. The MCU movies don't do anything for me, but I accompany her to the ones she wants to see. The Winter Soldier started her on a deep-dive into the online Marvel fandom (Steve/Bucky forever) which paralleled my own deep-dive into Doctor Who.

For me, Winter Soldier was probably the closest any Marvel movie came to feeling like it had a point (beyond action, one-liners, and setting up the next movie). The first half of Winter Soldier, when it looked like it was going to seriously engage with the surveillance state, I liked a lot; but since Marvel corporate policy apparently dictates all conflicts be resolved by two guys punching each other, the second half of the movie is the same-old same-old.

(Hmmm, rather like my least-favorite Moffat episodes: they start out being about something interesting, then the second half drops that storyline on the floor and resolves everything with self-referential time-travel hand-waving... )

Having Hydra infiltrators be behind everything was such a boring cop-out, because it lets the rest of the US government off the hook. I want to see a story about how otherwise well-meaning people were convinced, by fearmongering and xenophobia and ideology, to build giant flying surveillance/extrajudicial-assassination machines. About the conflict over the meaning of Captain-America-the-symbol in such a political environment. Instead it's just "Nazis did it, go punch them."

But then, I also wished Black Panther would have ended with a Wakandan foreign-policy debate instead of a panther fight. If Marvel made the movies I wanna see, they wouldn't be very popular.

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Prole Hole 2 months ago

The ending is easily the weakest thing about Black Panther. Any Marvel movie that ends with two guys slugging it out always represents a fundamental failure of imagination to me, and it's frustrating because the MCU movies have proved time and again they don't need to end that way. The first Avengers film ends with Stark essentially self-sacrificing and overcoming his own ego to do it (fine, he survives, we know that, but in the moment the character doesn't know or believe he's going to). Doctor Strange ends with the bad guy basically defeated by existentialism. Even the first GotG ends with four disparate individuals coming together and overcoming their own fear in order to defeat the threat. After proving how well they can end films, two dudes punching each other just isn't good enough.

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Przemek 2 months ago

Yeah, I have long given up on expecting any true critique of anything from popular movies. It's not their job, it's not why they were created in the first place. Mainstream will never criticize itself. It can't.

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Alex 2 months ago

Long time reader, first time commenter here. Just wanted to say that after devouring the entirety of the blog a few years ago, it's so exciting to finally get to read new Eruditorum as it comes out.

Love your work!

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Mark Pompeo 2 months ago

I too am following in real-time for the first time after binge reading a couple years ago. It feels strange lol.

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Tom Marshall 2 months ago

"for all that fans make a fuss over how good Moffat is at doing scary, he’s never done anything that’s remotely like a straight horror story. (And this isn’t a massive surprise; for all that he’s good at his particular style of monster, there’s very little in his work that suggests horror as a major influence. He likes gothic novels and scary Doctor Who, not horror films)"

This bit is spot on (and one reason why I like the guy's writing. "Straight" horror stories are, eh, they're OK, but don't do much for me).

More importantly though, welcome back, Eruditorum (and Elizabeth)! Long may it continue!

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BeatnikLady 2 months ago

It's interesting to look at the films. I have to say I don't really get the appeal of Captain America (being a Brit perhaps means there are cultural stumbling blocks.) I do very much get Lego - my favourite childhood toy, but the film didn't get me excited. Maybe it was the feel of the whole thing being like an advert. Or maybe even as an adult I'd rather build the stuff than look at animated versions of it...
As far as Doctor Who goes, I am one of these people who enjoys series ten more than the previous two. It felt to me by then that Capaldi had matured into a version of the character that worked. Sad this, because before it even started to air he announced he was leaving. I know there is some conventional wisdom floating around saying 'Doctors get three years', but firstly this is just plain wrong and secondly, Capaldi could easily have sustained another year. He is definitely good enough - he just took time (in my opinion) to settle.
Having said all this, a re-watch of series eight is in progress. I'll be interested to see how it strikes me this time around.

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Przemek 2 months ago

This is an interesting point of view for me because I've never felt that Capaldi's Doctor "doesn't work". I hated the Series 8 version of the Twelfth Doctor but it was definitely a carefully planned and realized character. And many people enjoyed him so obviously he worked for someone. I feel like Capaldi "settled" into the role very quickly and worked well with the material he was given. It's just the material required him to be unlikable and/or lost for the longest time.

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Mark Pompeo 2 months ago

As someone who only discovered TARDIS Eruditorum like 2 years ago, it feels really weird now following in real-time with one entry per week.

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Przemek 2 months ago

By his own account, even Moffat felt that he should've left after the 2013 Christmas special. In an interview given on The Fan Show (it's short but definitely worth watching) he said he'd always assumed he would leave with Matt Smith. So why didn't he? Because 2013 was so hectic for him - with Series 7 and Sherlock and the 50th and Matt's regeneration story - that he didn't really have time to consider his options before the BBC started asking him to cast the new Doctor. The way he tells it, he barely even noticed when he was halfway through the process of planning the next series. I think it's an interesting perspective on the gap between Series 7 and 8.

Great entry, Elisabeth, full of new energy and new insights. I can't wait to read more about the Capaldi era. Thank you.

Oh, and I just might start using "genrefluid" in conversations, so thanks for that as well.

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Evan 2 months ago

Agreed with all criticisms re: Lego Movie, but I think Disney deserves a fair bit of shellacking for their soulless assembly line superhero serial as well...

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Przemek 1 month, 4 weeks ago

It just occured to me that the slow monster from "Heaven Sent" was not the only monster in Capaldi's era that can remind one of "It Follows". The titular mummy from "The Mummy on the Orient Express" also shares one of its traits - namely, being invisible to anyone except the victim.

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Jesse 1 month, 3 weeks ago

But at the end of the day, for all its talk about the virtues of creativity and individual vision, it’s still a film in which the only acceptable avenue for expressing this creativity is via buying Legos.

This sounds a bit like those old pre-Textual Poachers attacks on fan culture, doesn't it? Indeed, one obvious way to read The LEGO Movie is as a Textual Poachers-style defense of seizing, refashioning, and not simply passively accepting the products of corporate pop culture (represented in the film by a guy whose very name was Business). If that's in tension with the film's role as a toy advertisement, well, that very tension is itself appropriate for the topic—and it's not immediately obvious to me just who is coopting whom.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 1 month, 3 weeks ago

While I have tremendous regard for Textual Poachers and Henry Jenkins, I think "who's coopting who" can fairly decisively be answered by looking at who made the money.

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Jim 1 month, 3 weeks ago

You lost me when you praised Winter Soldier, a clunky, hamhanded, and monotonous movie in which a nazi scientist explains that the primary motives of nazi Germany had nothing to do with racism or imperialism.

It’s Glenn Beck’s favorite movie for a reason

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Daru 1 month, 1 week ago

So wonderful to have the Eruditorum back! And excitement beyond belief to also have the concurrent events of both the Doctor and our Dr El regenerating wonderfully into women.

Late to the party as been overworked in the snowy outdoors the last few weeks in Southern Scotland, but an interesting trio to start off with. I admit I enjoyed Winter Soldier, though I hadn't revered it as a deep political thriller that some had, I found it to be a bold and fun exploration within that genre. I am a big fan of the Russo's from their time on Community and I look forward to the possibility of Inspector Spacetime being discussed here.

The Lego Movie I find less fun now and haven't wanted much to revisit it since I didn't watch it in the cinema. I have even since the trailer found the treatment of Wyldstyle to be awful and cringeworthy. it would have been such a breath of fresh air to have the competent woman at the front of the story. I admit at the time I got taken in by the glamour of the fun images and just the pace of it carried me along - though I am not really a fan of Lego, especially the idea of a movie that is entirely product placement pretending not be whilst it knows it is.

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