AEL: The Dark Knight Returns, Alice’s Adventures, It Follows, Children of the Storm, Kokoro

Aight, here’s the second instance of doing this on a schedule. I feel it working already!!! I’m not anywhere close to caught up yet, and again I have a bunch of items from before with no notes that I just have to remember my experience with, but I still think I may be getting back on track.

The Dark Knight Returns parts 1 and 2 — Brother and I watched the first part of this on the plane to Disneyland, if that tells you how far behind I am here, and the second part when we got home from Disneyland because our return flight made such ridiculously good time.

So let’s start here: I did enjoy this. Truly. Just… OK, let’s see. I thought it was a great AU idea — really lots of fun — and I loved Carrie and her story and the fact that she just decided to become Robin and jump into Batman’s life and career. Totally badass. But that doesn’t change the fact that the second half of the story (in this case the second movie) was… weird… and maybe not as well constructed as it could have been.

So we’ve got a picture here of a miserable, lonely, solitary Batman that’s far too believable. Back when he lost his parents he withdrew into a cave under his house and stopped being quite normal; now when he’s lost Jason, he’s withdrawn into himself and just stopped being a person at all. He’s not married, though it’s clear he still loves Selena; evidently Dick never calls; a literally ancient Alfred is still on his case about not doing things right; and apparently his only friend is a Gordon whom he meets for miserable drinks and lamentation about the state of Gotham. I feel dreadfully sorry for him, and I think Carrie is exactly the companion he needs in this frame of mind: someone running from parents that have withdrawn into a drugged-up world, someone voluntarily throwing herself into the active pursuit of righteousness — not to mention a daughter surrogate in the absence of the other children he’s lost in different ways.

I appreciated the way the story treated both Carrie in her endeavor to become Robin and assist Batman and Commissioner Yindel in her new position and anti-vigilante stance. These characters could easily have been dismissed and belittled by the narrative, but I felt like the writer specifically avoided that by demonstrating the effectiveness of each and allowing Yindel’s point of view about Batman to stand as a valid one in the ongoing debate.

But, OK, the setting and aesthetic. I enjoyed the visual style and the ginormous, granite-chinned Batman, and the really gritty feel in general. But… the comic miniseries was written in the mid-80’s and the movie adaptations were released in the early 2010’s, so the 90’s was entirely skipped over in the creation of this work… yet I have never in my life encountered something with such an overwhelming early-90’s feel to it. The dialect invented for the Mutants was particularly steeped in that, and honestly some of it was pretty cringey. I never need to be reminded that strongly of my adolescence XD

So the second half of the story. We’ve had this awesome setup: Batman came out of retirement, faced his first big enemy in a pathetically but deliciously fucked-up Harvey Dent, recruited a new Robin through no efforts of his own, defeated the Mutants and reclaimed Gotham, and then the Joker showed signs of returning for the next installment because the Joker is always soOoOo responsive to Batman. Great! I was excited to see where the story would go from there! But then Superman appear, and Ronald Reagan, and island nations under contest, and where the story went was… weird. I have so many questions.

First of all, why did Superman remain nameless? What point was trying to be made by that? A symbolic implication that he’s become a faceless slave of the government? I liked the juxtaposition between his devotion to the government and Batman’s insistence on answering only to himself and his own sense of righteousness (have I mentioned how much I love characters that answer only to their own sense of righteousness?), but Superman’s involvement here felt like it came out of left field and belonged entirely in some different story. The whole deal with Corto Maltese was exactly the same — interesting, but wildly out of place as the follow-up to the previous events.

And the Joker? His entire storyline turned out to contribute nothing to the overall story, and his death — which should have been a hugely momentous event with enormous repercussions — was a complete waste. And Green Arrow’s random cameo? What was that? It was pretty cool how Batman outsmarted Superman in the end and took charge of the Sons of Batman to start a new team of vigilantes in defiance of the government’s shutdown of superhero/vigilante teams earlier in this AU’s history, but the entire second half of this story was just a huge mess.

Also, the animated version didn’t make it clear how Batman faked his death. It wasn’t even entirely clear, at the funeral, that what Clark was hearing was, in fact, Batman’s heart. I didn’t appreciate that. Still, as I mentioned, I enjoyed the whole thing pretty well — just thought part 2 could have gone a different direction and made for a significantly better story.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll — The last time I read these two books, short as they are, they were almost more than I could handle: one nonsensical occurrence after another and another and another punctuated by not-very-interesting poetry has never been a style of writing to draw me in. However, now that I listen to audiobooks at almost double speed, these were just brief enough that I got through them without much trouble.

And I don’t have a lot to say about them, nor probably would I even had I taken notes. They’re kinda boring and have no value as the type of stories I enjoy. The one point I will make is this: throughout my life I have encountered multiple adaptations of these works that affect a horrific tone, and that’s all very well and good. Horrific adaptations are fun, and people should do thems. However, I’ve also seen people making reference to the underlying horror of the original work that suits it particularly well to such adaptation, and… I have to strongly disagree with this attitude. I’ll admit there is a certain unsettling feeling to the overwhelming (and deliberate!) dreamlike quality of these stories, but that’s because the surrealism and illogic of dreams often unsettles me. There is nothing inherently grim or horrific about these two books. Nothing. Stop pretending to see horror where there is none.

It Follows — I enjoyed this movie pretty well. I liked that the characters remained friends, mostly, and there wasn’t a lot of in-fighting, and that they were fairly rational about the presence of a supernatural being and threat among them. As usual, the monster suffered from a pretty usual lack of internal consistency, but did have some really great scenes, visually, of “it following” that I thoroughly enjoyed being creeped out by.

I can’t find a non-distressing symbolic interpretation of the premise, though. It seems a sad commentary on human sexual behavior to suggest that paranoia and an endless chase are the inevitable result of becoming sexually active, and that sex with anyone new is only passing along the misery and fear of that condition. Some degree of uncertainty, yes, but to represent that as horrifying death is going a bit overboard. It was an interesting setup, but ultimately depressing.

Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters — It’s sad that I have no notes on this book from while I was actually reading it, because it’s one of my favorite installments in the series. Justin is such a wonderfully creepy villain. Whispering awful stuff to the kids through their window at night just to add irrelevant flavor to her harassment of the Emerson family? Yikes!!

If Peters had lived to write more insertions, I would have liked another book in the gap between the previous and this. There are a few years in there that could have done with some excavations and murders and excavations to interest me. But it probably wouldn’t have been a good insertion anyway (*cough*ARiverInTheSky*cough*), so we’re probably better off without.

Nefret is a badass.

Kokoro by Natsume Souseki — I wish more than I ever that I had taken notes while reading, because this was a very interesting book and I’m sure I had a lot of specific thoughts I’d like to relate here. As it is, I find I only have two things to say. The first is that the way women are talked about in this book, while not surprising, is highly annoying.

The second is that this author absorbed one of the aspects of western novels of the time that I hate most: the elaborate framework story that then gets completely abandoned when the true, interior purpose of the book is fulfilled. In this case you could say there’s a symbolic reason for it, since the narrating character also has abandoned his own story (his own family) in favor of Sensei’s story and Sensei as father figure… but in a literary sense — the sense of having a beginning, middle, and end to a story, even if that end is only implied — this is extremely frustrating and disappointing. How does the narrating character progress in his emotional development and his relationship with his family? I GUESS WE’ll NEVER KNOW.

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