Worthy of Being Passed Around

View story at Medium.com

Read this today and feel that the more who read it, the better. It is a very well written piece, by a man, about rape culture and why it is a problem for all men. Have to admit, I am one of those men who thinks it is a bit over the top to brand men in general in such a bad way, yet his explanation is very rational and reasonable. I find myself strongly agreeing.

I will add that I understand the fear of being out and about a bit myself. I was attacked as a kid by an older kid – no idea who or why – and it rattled me badly. Didn’t want to go out for a long time. I was never an outgoing child but I do think that has had a lasting effect on me. I do feel highly aware of being out among people, even now.

At the same time, I’m a grown man who lumbers down the street in big boots and I know more than a few women have seen me coming and given me a wary look. I don’t blame them. At all. I enjoy being out in the dark too. I do avoid people, especially groups of people, if I can and have had a number of moments where I grow tense as I pass someone, but again, this won’t be at the same level of women. It gives me an insight but does not put me on an equal level.

So please read this post and see what you think. Personally, I found it enlightening.

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Burt in Tremors and Why I Really Like Him

First of all, I love Tremors. For me, it is a perfect movie. For what it is. Want to watch a movie about giant worms that kill people which is fun but scary sometimes? This is it. For the type of movie it is, I can’t find fault. It doesn’t take too long. It has some great effects. A simple but believable plot. Really engaging characters.

Which brings me to Burt Gummer.

Burt is one of my favourite characters in the universe of film. Yes, he got to be in the other Tremors movies so was developed more, but I loved him in the first movie alone. He is up there with Childs, Napoleon Wilson, Kikuchuyo, Ash, etc. In a way, it is more what he represents that makes him so great to me, and for one of my favourite moments while watching movies.

So Burt and his wife are isolationists; armed to the teeth, no doubt suspecting the government of everything bad act in the last 50 years, seemingly preparing for the end of civilised society. They are all about independent living and, well, guns.

Burt isn’t liked by the other characters either, especially our heroes. He is uptight, bossy and despises everyone else for not being prepared. Essentially, you know he is being set up to be knocked down. He is that character in those kinds of movies who has a strong standpoint on life which he uses to lecture others, often from the right side of society. Old guy who tells the youth they don’t deserve to be alive. The authoritarian figure who demands respect but gives none in return. The braggart you know will run at the first sign of trouble.

So Burt isn’t liked and is a gun nut. Also, his entire ethos of being prepared and equipped is reduced to nothing because…. giant worms!

What happens? He and his wife come home and go into their basement, littered with guns. They have been scouting around but found nothing and so are none the wiser about how things are progressing. The rest of the community are up on their rooftops and manage to call Burt to warn him. He sits there, not quite catching what they are saying, not really listening to be honest. A worm is coming for them. Even when he understands what they are trying to get across, he and his wife are looking out the windows, guns ready, seeing nothing. They have no clue. They are done for.

The worm bursts through the wall.

Cut to the others hearing screams over the radio that are ended abruptly.

So there you have it. That guy who isn’t likeable who has lots of guns and goes on about being prepared gets attacked in a way he could never have seen coming. Ha ha. Sucks to be you, Burt.

Gunshots.

This is the movie moment I adore.

Gunshots are being heard across the valley. The film cuts back to inside the house as Burt and his wife unleash everything they have into the worm. Okay, so for some reason the worm doesn’t just spurt forward and get them, but who cares? It is being shot, maybe that’s enough to make it hold back but not leave.

So we watch as they unload into the worm. Finally, Burt gets his elephant gun out and blasts the thing. He and his wife hug. He is panting but grinning manically. He declares:

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec-room, didn’t you, you bastard?!”

I love that line. It’s something about the exultation of Burt coupled with the simple taunting of a dead giant worm. It is a war cry of survival with Burt overcoming a threat, just as he always planned. So maybe this wasn’t something he was ready for, but he – and his wife – showed nature who was boss. Burt. And his wife. No idea of her name. (Just looked it up. It’s Heather)

Burt should have been killed off. I’m not even talking within that world, but within the movie. He was the character that gets killed off. He was the character you are led along to dislike and laugh at as he gets his comeuppance. But he won. It is almost as if the character defied the film itself and survived.

That’s not the case, though. It was part of the plot, of course. Burt and his wife rescue the others and his bombs help save the day, if it is Kevin Bacon who gets to be the hero. Fair enough, he is pretty good in this film. But Burt goes from isolationist to champion of the group. His little moment of offering the annoying kid a gun to get him moving, only for it to be revealed that it was unloaded, is both amusing and an enjoyable character moment. He didn’t have to reach out to the kid, even if it was a trick. He wanted to get him moving.

Burt goes from 2D character set up for failure to an unlikely heroic type, becoming part of the community when they need him. He is also amusing, whether laughing at him and with him. Also, if truth be told, if you were thrown into that movie and had to pick a character, you would be wise to be Burt. He is prepared. He is ready to survive. He has his shit together and has an elephant gun. Both are pluses when dealing with giant worms.

I love Childs in the Thing for much the same reason. Okay, I love Keith David anyway, but Childs is a great character not least because he gets shit done. What’s that, you think MacReady is the Thing? Leave him out in the cold then. But what if we’re wrong? Then we’re wrong (David growl). You deal with it, you accept it, but we’re not taking the chance. Too many movies of that ilk – inferior ones, let’s be honest – have characters wasting time worrying about what to do/not to do, bickering and discussing the hours away. Childs gets shit done. He is belligerent. Really belligerent. But he isn’t a bad man, nor is he a coward. In this situation, he is great to have around. Not perfect. A hothead, indeed. MacReady, another favourite of mine, is a loner who becomes the leader and rightly so. Childs is his rival there but follows when proven wrong. Could have been fun to see a version where Childs takes charge, but the point is both men are unlikely heroes who rise to the occasion. Such are often the best heroes.

Burt is like this. Yes, he is more comical, yet he butts heads with the heroes, isn’t polite about it either, and he gets the first kill. Real kill, not done by accident. In later movies he becomes the hero and he fits the role so well.

Michael Gross is great playing him too.

So that’s Burt and that’s why I like him so much. That moment when Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and co hang their heads, thinking the gun-toting couple are dead, and then the shots ring out – I love it every time. I really do. That moment when you realise this movie is a simple, fun horror, and yet it is a cut above that. It is a movie I have watched countless times and will again. Easy to get into, quick to enjoy, simple to follow. I really like that they never explain the grabboids. Much like in the Thing, where MacReady is being asked about the alien and his curt (get it?) response is to snap back: “why are you asking me?” A very similar exchange happens. Sometimes people in these movies shouldn’t know what the hell is going on. They are believable in their limitations.

Burt is who he is. He doesn’t become super smart or courageous or charming. He remains who he is. Yet he does help others, reaches out to them, still gets into arguments but doesn’t let anyone down. He is a character you would want about you in a bad time, just not the rest of your life.

I just really like Burt!

Exile From Eden

The Revered Doctor Abbas ascended the stairs to his laboratory, the sounds of alarm not a concern to him, nor to most others. He reached the door and entered his code before going in. He eased himself into the chair at his desk and activated several monitors, typing with his aged hands. He brought up the plans that he was working on, yet three of the screens showed outside – the mutants were trying another attack. While they were his enemy, Abbas felt sorry for them; it was pointless, they would all die. They would not live to see their children play, as he once had, or grow grey in their beards, or achieve anything of note. Eden was impregnable. Covered by a force field, surrounded by a ring of steel fortifications and trenches, the last refuge of humanity offered only death to its attackers. He wondered, briefly, if they found comfort in prayer as he did, then he set to work.

Abbas looked up at the screens as bursts of plasma rose from the ground. The flame-fountains were the outermost defences and by them alone the assault was decimated; hundreds of mutants were showered and then consumed. Those that survived came into range of the troops in the trenches, as well as the cannons and rocket launchers of the fortifications, and the slaughter increased. Some mutants returned fire, yet their technology was far inferior. The defence of Eden was solid once again, but Abbas had never doubted.

Eden had always been secure; that was how the human race had survived here while the world had been devastated and overrun by evil. It had existed, almost since the beginning of the troubles, in another form. But it had always been a stronghold, a refuge for humans, a place of preservation.

When monsters had appeared and begun their terror, many people had believed it was the Apocalypse. Hell had been unleashed, so the Middle East, the Holy Land, had been an attraction to millions as they sought salvation. Yet monsters came too, either to lay waste out of spite or seek the power so many believed to be there. Whatever the reason, the presence of numerous fiends, including very powerful ones, had led to the old enemies of the Jews and the Arabs uniting in defence of their revered cities.

The situation worsened as mutants came from the north, driven away by the humans who had created them, and around the world the products of science, mutants and machines led to its destruction. When Jerusalem, the last and most revered of the cities by the Jews, Arabs and gathered Christians, was obliterated by a powerful monster, they decided to abandon their reckless brethren and establish an impregnable fortress to save themselves and ensure the enemy could never rule the Holy Land.

By pooling resources, they began building the Tower of Babel; once an act of human arrogance, this time of humility and hope. At first it was only the Jews and Arabs, but then the Christians were accepted, not many by then, although all had suffered great losses. It was through their contact with the west that businessmen learned of this one sanctuary in the entire world and sought to be a part of it, offering everything they had. They had been accepted too. Babel was swiftly finished, better than intended, and with these industrialists came more resources as well as the best of the staff from their companies.

The Tower of Babel had stood for decades and over time a theological state had been forged, the corporate atheists too small a minority to resist. Science became loathed for its degrading effect on humanity, if only for a while. Then an argument arose that they needed it, that it was not science but man’s arrogance; as usual, that was the problem. In the end, science had been embraced again, on the condition that those who wielded it first learned that God ruled all things. Such had Abbas, first a priest, now a scientist as well.

Abbas liked to think it was this unity of religion and science that had done so well for his people, that the humility which came with worship prevented them from overreaching themselves. It had also been due to the technology brought by the rich, of course, but it had been applied correctly; the greatest invention being the force field that had arced out from Babel to close off a large section of surrounding land.

Under this dome the humans had set out, well armed and in atmosphere-suits; a century in the fortress as the world changed had left them vulnerable to it. They had constructed and revitalised, building a glass dome beneath the field and filling the space within with splendid structures and luscious plant life. Eden was born, around Babel, and now the humans lived out under the darkened sky, the land more dangerous than ever as foes were drawn to this paragon of humanity. But within they were safe.

The doors to his laboratory opened and Abbas looked around, not surprised to see Grace enter; as leader of Eden, she could go anywhere. Like him, the woman was Arabic and old. She had been a respected figure among the Elect since her youth and was esteemed as the best Governor in God’s Name. She had ruled Eden wisely for four decades now, continuously re-elected. She was politically smart, religiously devoted and equally committed to her people. Grace was from a noble family yet had had none of her own, putting her duty first. She treated every child in Eden as if it were hers and so, now, at the age of eighty-five, she was seen by most as Eden’s mother.

“How goes it, my friend?” Grace asked, standing by Abbas. Despite her age, she was physically healthy and her eyes sparkled. It wasn’t until he offered a chair that she sat.

“I am almost done,” he told her. They spoke the common language, once called English, leaving Arabic for holy occasions. “All I need is one more test and then it is ready.” He looked at her. Even sitting down she looked poised, her grey hair trailing smoothly behind her back, her hands clasped in the lap of her blue dress. She was a woman of purpose, always. “You intend to make your move?”

“I feel I must,” stated Grace.

“Many will oppose you,” warned Abbas. He gestured to the screens, displaying the defeated mutant attack. “We are safe, we know this as surely as we know God exists, and your plan will jeopardise that.”

“Perhaps, however, as with God, there is much we don’t know. If all is ready, if all will work, then my argument is on stronger ground. For that I rely on you.”

“I will not fail.” Abbas bowed his head to her, out of personal respect, not due to her office.

Grace looked at the screens. “They attack us out of hate and jealousy, that we know. Yet what other motives do they have? What else hates us? What lies beyond them? These questions must be answered, and if I have to, I will force compliance. But first I will ask for it.”

#

Grace sat in her chair as the Elect gathered in the Tabernacle, the marble hall where debates and decisions took place. Those elected to this place were a true representation of the people: men and women, Arab, Jew and Christian. The latter were the minority, yet all religions, while continuing their own ways, were valued equally; they were all People of the Book.

There was a division, though. The Elect were made up of Tolerants, Conservatives and Fundamentalists. They sat in these sections as they settled on the benches, rows of them on the seven steps that arced before Grace’s chair. Their numbers were equal, that was a law, and the space among the Conservatives where she had once sat still remained. But she knew she would have to convince even her own with her idea. She had allies; she had prepared for the debate, but her proposal was known and some were set on its defeat.

“Let us begin,” Grace proclaimed, everyone ready, and now they knelt. They prayed for wisdom and guidance, calling on God by different names, using various languages, and yet were united in faith and worship. Once done, they sat again and focus was replaced on the Governor, although she wasn’t the only object before them. Next to her chair, slightly behind, was an empty throne, a reminder to all leaders that they were second-in-command only. “Never have we needed help from above as today, for I propose that we reach out into the world and see what has become of it.”

Most of the Elect reeled, gasping, exchanging stunned looks, although several were unmoved. Grace knew why.

“What is now being handed out to you by the Levites is my plan, every detail of it. You can examine it as we go through it. Summed up, my wish is to send one of us from Eden, a soldier carefully selected, to travel as far as possible and report to us as discoveries are made. Armed and equipped to the best of our ability, this soldier will be our pillar of cloud and fire, paving a way for us and revealing what lies ahead.”

“So you wish for us to leave Eden as well?” someone asked.

“It is a possibility for the future, depending on what is found. You see, that is my fear. While we have dwelt securely here for almost two and a half centuries, the world has moved on and we have no idea of what has occurred. Ignorance is a sin, many have claimed. It is a weakness too. For all we know, the human race is enslaved, or perhaps it is reclaiming the world. We obviously know of mutants; they surround us, and monsters, some still reside nearby and we were all raised on tales of their terrorism. We know machines turned on their creators when made in arrogance. But what inhabits the world now? We must know.”

“To what end?” a Fundamentalist spoke. They were her main opposition in this argument. “We are the human race and us alone. If any remain anywhere else, they are no longer kindred to us; the fact we cannot survive outside our dome proves that to us. Within Eden we will outlast all other races. What they are is of no importance to us.”

“I cannot allow that to go unchallenged,” a Tolerant now declared. “God has blessed us with Eden’s creation and we cannot abuse that by deserting humanity. We have the technology and the faith to save the world; even those misguided mutants can be helped, for what are they but altered humans? From here we can restore the world to better than what it was, except how can we without knowing what awaits us?”

“I believe we should leave the everlasting debate of humanity to another time,” announced Grace, unable to agree with either view; as a Conservative, she believed there were humans outside of Eden, but mutants too. “While I am convinced that we should extend our reach, I also feel that act should be delayed. My point here is that we know nothing of the world beyond our sensors; there could be a horde of monsters heading for us or the machines could be close to world conquest. We are safe here, but for how long? Is there superior technology for us to beware? Are we deluded in our sanctuary or are we righteous?”

“If there are dangers out there, then the last act we should make is to tell the world where we are,” a Conservative pointed out.

“There are suggestions that knowledge of Eden extends far,” someone else countered. “Despite horrific losses each time they attack, the mutants about us grow in number, not decrease.”

“The soldier could prove or disprove that suggestion,” added another.

“As you can see on my plan, the soldier will lack nothing and be able to tackle any task,” Grace said, but her look fell a little. “As you can also see, whoever volunteers for this mission will need to be altered to leave Eden, so even if he or she learns enough and survives everything to be able to return, which is unlikely, they won’t be able to live here.” This made everyone sombre: to serve Eden someone had to leave it forever.

“What if no one will volunteer?” one of her opponents had to ask.

“No one can be made to,” Grace admitted, “but that is a problem to be faced only if it arises. Nothing is lost by asking.” That, none could contest. “The Revered Doctor Abbas has worked hard to produce the necessary gear for the soldier, including a ten year battery that is going through its last test now.”

“Ten years? A personal power source cannot last so long.”

“If the test succeeds, it will. We have not needed to create anything so self-sufficient before so we have not pushed our limits.” Grace looked up and about them. “Eden is the perfect home; the generators have never failed us, the dome has not even been scratched. While I thank God every day for this security, we are highly dependent on it. We need to know if we have gone so far as to become complacent.”

“But this also argues against your proposal,” a Conservative now spoke up. “To save the world we need every advantage we have. By sending someone out so well equipped, we could reveal our secrets to our enemies.”

“This plan only endangers Eden,” a Fundamentalist agreed, which made the Conservative regret his words somewhat.

“For all we know, it already is endangered,” Grace told them and saw the uncertainty affect most. In Eden they could be sure of many things: faith, safety, happiness. Yet the world was unpredictable and that meant they either wanted to hide from it or solve it. The Fundamentalists and Tolerants each seemed united in their different choices, mainly for political reasons, and so Grace looked to her own group to decide this issue.

“The soldier we send out will not carry a banner of Eden nor shout the mission to the world. The aim is for us to learn. True, it cannot be kept a secret – suspicion will be aroused, questions will be asked, revealing the truth to some will benefit us – but the risks stand alongside the potential for when we unveil what lies beyond our sight. There could be allies out there as well as foes, and if foes, in order to defeat them, we must know them. We could be capable of saving the world while we sit here or we could be merely awaiting destruction. I believe we must know.” From many looks she now received, Grace felt more sure. “Now, let us go through the details and then vote.”

#

Captain Mordecai came through a chamber and into Eden, his home. It always felt good to walk the cobbled streets after the violence of a mutant assault. Though they were an advanced people, the city had been built to be pleasing to the senses, and so he passed by houses of smooth stone and coloured glass windows, along with blooming gardens and tranquil ponds. Technology was always present as well, evidenced by the machines that helped maintain their lives, yet the immense city remained a place to be cherished. The outside world and its harsh evolution was kept at bay in more ways than one.

The only places where this wasn’t so were the perimeter defences that surrounded Eden and the Tower of Babel at its centre. He had just come from the barracks, where he lived as a soldier; there he walked through rounded corridors of steel and could don full armour to fight the enemy. Now he headed to the Tower, a gleaming spire of black alloy that still bore the scars of long ago. It was in the Tower where scientists laboured and tested, and where Eden’s leaders met to govern the community.

The mutant attack hadn’t been a serious one, yet he had been busy since, checking on his unit, reporting to his superiors, talking to his fellow officers entrenched elsewhere. It had been just after the unit’s prayer of thanks that he had been called to the meeting with Grace. Since then he had showered and changed, leaving his combat-suit in his quarters, now in his uniform robes.

He walked with an even stride, arms by his sides; he tried not to march when he was among the people but he was too well drilled. He took in lessons better than most, always had. Not that he was ashamed of being a soldier, nor could he hide it. His robes of green and white and silver told all that he was an officer who lived to defend them. Many nodded their heads to him in recognition as they passed. It made his heart glad to see such admiration in their eyes.

Mordecai exchanged salutes with a fellow officer, then bowed his head to a priest as they passed each other. As usual, the priest wore robes of the most mundane colours; they were men and women of dignity and wisdom, not fashion or display. Of course, no one wore anything that was unseemly anyway, and only certain ranks could have colours such as gold or silver. Blue, brown, green, yellow, black – these were to be seen all around him, giving a sense of wholesome splendour. Never would someone dare to offend by wearing something as gaudy as red, pink or purple.

As Mordecai came to the Tower, a cherub approached. The hovering, gleaming robot headed down the street, pausing to scan a chatting couple, then an elderly man snoring on a bench, before it reached the officer. The cherub was about the size of a head, a cross between a sphere and a diamond, and Mordecai tingled as its sensor-ray ran down him, ensuring he was truly human. It was equipped to act if he wasn’t. The cherubim patrolled Eden and Babel constantly; every citizen could expect to be scanned at least three times a day. It was a mere inconvenience to ensure security and purity.

It wasn’t long before Mordecai had ascended the Tower and left the elevator to arrive at Grace’s office. Several Levites were at work in the reception area, hard at work he noticed, but one still came to welcome him. Even though Mordecai was not the biggest of men, he felt imposing against the slender other, whose hands had clearly never been honed in training, nor his shoulders been rounded with muscle from exercise. The captain waited patiently as he was declared, he couldn’t help but wonder how dull life must be for these people, and then he strode into the office.

Within, the woman waited and Mordecai sat before her desk, pleased to meet her; like so many he viewed her with the highest regard. She had led Eden his entire life. He had heard she had recently won yet another debate, such an historic one that whispers of it were already whirling around the city and the activity outside indicated to him that it was all true. Even so, Mordecai was amazed as she now revealed to him what that decision was. He reeled further as she explained his part in it.

“Yes, it is quite a request I make of you,” Grace acknowledged, only her gaze never left him, “but I must. I have here a list of candidates for this mission. You are the best of them all, you are also the last. I had intended to meet everyone and then choose out of those who agreed, except not one has, none will leave Eden. Before, you were my preference. Now you are my only option. I offer this role to you, Captain, yet I beg you to accept it.”

“What of others not on your list?” Mordecai wondered, unable to say much else at present.

“They are not on my list for good reasons,” stated Grace. “You are an excellent officer and fighter, and while there are others out there better than you in those respects, they lack in other vital areas. You are intelligent, but you are also clever – you think on your feet and you are open-minded. If you were one of the Elect you would be a Tolerant, not someone who saw all as enemies. Your skills are superb, your loyalty undoubted, your faith like iron. You are one of few who can handle a journey into the world.”

“A journey I can never return from?” Mordecai had to ensure.

Grace was grim but still looked at him. “There is a remote chance, perhaps. If you can survive all the world has and then penetrate the armies of mutants around us, the surgery may be reversible in the future. Presently it is not. You will be fashioned to live outside Eden, not in it.

“Yet you will serve it equally well, better I say. I will not spout rhetoric at you, tell you that this is God’s will or for Eden’s good. Others can argue the same for you not to leave. But my opinion is that we need you to go. I feel we can no longer hide from the world. In fact, I fear we have done for too long. We are ready to re-enter it and I feel you are the best we can offer as our first appearance. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – you are the choice for this role; only now, if you do not go, it will not happen. I won’t send the wrong person. Better not to do this than do it badly.”

“I can see the risks if this goes wrong,” admitted Mordecai, “however I feel you are correct. Eden needs to test the Earth it sits on, just as Noah did after the Flood.” Even so, he didn’t look about to volunteer.

“I know what I ask and I, for one, would not leave. Eden means too much to me,” Grace said, somewhat comforting, but her voice became a mix of imploring and proclaiming once more. “However, someone must go. Not merely to learn, but I want someone to seek out human allies. Yes, I have not revealed that to the Elect, but I know I can trust you. I seek to move Eden to, one day in my lifetime, expand and fight for our world. For that we will need help. I want you to discover what roams this planet, how life is lived in this time period, and as you do that, find us allies.”

There was a period of silence as Mordecai mused the plan over. As a tactician, he agreed with it; as a Tolerant-sympathiser, he supported it; as a soldier, he would carry it out dutifully. Yet, as himself, the idea of leaving Eden forever wasn’t simply terrifying, it was abhorrent. This was his home, a glorious place, safe and serene. He was at the prime of his life, recently turned thirty-one, with his career on course. Also, while he had no family of his own, surely a reason for being selected for this mission, his parents and brothers were close to him; the old rabbi would be proud if he left for this, yet devastated too.

“When would I leave, should I agree?” he asked.

“Within a week. We would move everything along swiftly; much is already in waiting. All we need is the soldier. We need you.”

“You truly believe Eden needs this? I value your opinion above all others.”

“I am convinced. I have been for a decade. Nothing has changed my mind and I, like any true believer, test my convictions so they become stronger when they are proven.”

“And if they are disproved?”

“Then I know better and can react, but that hasn’t happened.” Grace watched him as Mordecai pondered, then smiled. “Go and take time to think, we are not in that much of a hurry. Either you agree or it doesn’t happen. So go and think. I will be patient.”

TO BE CONTINUED…..

Disturbance

“Sarge, we’ll stop here,” the captain called back, then returned to his lieutenant who held the map. “Five minutes, then we go on; I want the men sharp before we reach the villages.”

“There shouldn’t be any trouble there. Whoever attacked them has moved on,” the other remarked.

“Says who? The few who fled to us without checking for other survivors?”

“They were pretty scared, Captain. Whoever drove them out did so in such a ferocious way they didn’t stand a chance, let alone get a good description.” The taller, younger officer protested while maintaining respect for his superior. It was appreciated.

“I’m not insulting them, just saying we’ve no idea of the enemy or the aftermath. We rely on our own reconnaissance and nothing else,” the captain stated, patting his arm. He was an experienced leader; at thirty-three he was young enough, and fit enough, to handle the pace but wise enough to know when you should slow down or speed up. The lieutenant nodded in response, smiling too. He had been part of this squad for over a year and was starting to realise he could trust his captain’s judgement. Well educated and keen, he liked to voice his view, even though it had shown his naivety several times. It had amused the men, but he was certain enough of himself to take it and the captain had a lot of patience.

They joined the rest of the squad, sitting or crouching in the jungle’s undergrowth, several standing farther out on guard. Something moved in the trees that clustered overhead, yet none even flinched; they knew the natural sounds of this land, understood the ways of what was out here. Still, guns were always in hand. They were soldiers and well trained ones at that.

“Corp, sit somewhere else,” urged one of the privates.

“Why? Nowhere’s safer than beside me,” responded the broad-shouldered soldier, slapping his barrel-chest.

“Nowhere’s more dangerous, you mean! What if a relative of one of your trophies turns up?” Corp just grinned, proud of his lion-skin sash, snakeskin belt, crocodile boots and strings of teeth.

“No hunting this time, Corp,” ordered the captain. “I want your focus completely on the mission, we need you and the heavy-gun.”

“But what about the bazooka and the flamethrower? Do we really have to carry all this so far?” a soldier complained.

“Yeah, it feels like we’re going to war,” added another.

“Sounds like the squad’s going soft,” remarked Sarge, eating a biscuit and brushing crumbs from his thick moustache.

“Too true, our break ends now.” The captain rose. He was a fair man who let his troops speak their minds, but he had a limit and none dare cross it. Now all were quiet as they moved out.

The squad consisted of twenty-two armed and equipped soldiers, moving almost silently through the jungle, heading south into denser undergrowth as the mission dictated. Machetes were used at times yet, more often than not, they left the land as undisturbed as possible – to cover their tracks, but as this was also their home, they didn’t want to ruin it. True, they lived in the cities, yet the jungle was theirs as well. They were trained out here as people, as well as soldiers, and some even grew up in the villages before moving to civilisation.

The Dark Land was a vast place and the Northern Federation only ran along the edge, so it had always been necessary to have troops out in it and for the people to learn of it. They couldn’t make progress; the cities that existed now had been rebuilt or reshaped where old ones had stood. It would take tremendous effort to create space and then construct new cities, not least because the jungle would try to reclaim territory. Since the Shadow World came, Africa was an untameable land.

When many nations were decimated by monsters, mutants or machines, or all of them, people fled to wherever there was less danger, near or far. Africa, despite having plenty of monsters, was the instant choice for those descended from its inhabitants to take refuge on and hordes from Europe, of all colours, took the short trip to safety, bringing what resources they could with them. That was how the Northern Federation was born; cities swelled with those from the U.S.A. and Europe, then they were fortified against the horrors that plagued the world.

However one good thing came from it all, as Africa, for so long a suffering land, ceased to bear the brunt of the sun’s heat with the Shadow World’s presence dulling the day. That gave the chance to a number of powerful magic-users who created a spell to re-ignite Africa, to bring back the lush beauty it had once known. Unfortunately, the spell took the lives of those who cast it; some wondered if the thirsty land drank more than they could spare. But what resulted was that Africa was now overgrown, covered from coast to coast to coast by plant life of many kinds. Out in the jungle, it was rare to see the pale sun.

“Lieutenant, take Yakubo and Jason and move ahead,” the captain whispered before watching the three disappear into the gloom and growth ahead of him. He halted his squad. He knew a village was near, and he was extra wary because of how far south they were. Glancing about, he saw it was the same with his men. Even Sarge and Corp, veterans who had served with him for years, were on edge. It had been that way since he had noted they were nearer the equator than their homes.

Captain Traore removed his cap and rubbed his clean-shaven head, a common feature for soldiers out in the jungle. Even if it wasn’t as hot as history told, it was still enough to make a human sweat. Only Sarge and a few others had any hair on their heads.

He signalled Sarge and Corp to him. “Keep to the flanks. I’ll need you two to keep us in shape and, if this goes wrong, organise a retreat.”

“You think this is bad, don’t you, Captain?” noted Corp.

“Six villages are nearly annihilated in four days; no one nice is responsible for that,” came the reply.

“Must be a lot of firepower,” agreed Sarge. He had started life out in a village, farther north, and he knew that, while they had no soldiers, they could defend themselves. They had to.

The Northern Federation may have been born as the world drowned in chaos, yet it took a long time to grow up. Many cities were assaulted by various foes and the people spent long periods in the jungle, along with the monsters and wild animals. The monsters grew in number as many came to this land of scattered, low-tech people and soon the humans were endangered, fearful of the things that skulked through the dark. Yet the near constant blackness wasn’t a help to the monsters either; they were not things from nightmares and only a few had the ability to see without light. It was those who were clear to them who were taken, until only the darkly brown-skinned were left. Then the tide turned.

The humans had spent so long being hunted in the dark that they had gotten used to it. They adapted to their world yet again, maybe they were actually changed by being in this land of new life. They began to be born with slightly larger irises to see into any shadow and grew up knowing every sound and smell that could occur. The monsters didn’t develop, however, they struggled to spot the black figures in the Dark Land. The screams soon transformed from human to inhuman.

Even as the cities improved and became secure, the people had their children raised in the jungle, honing them in the environment that their ancestors had thrived in. They would never return to being the prey.

Lieutenant Holden reported quicker than expected.

“The village is there and a pack of ghouls are having a feast.” Others heard this and word spread. Traore sensed the eagerness of his men, as did the lieutenant and he smiled. “They’re all gorged; they won’t sense us until we’re on them.”

“Well, we need to check the village,” the captain admitted and the others chuckled. This was where they stopped being soldiers and remembered their lessons as youths and the horrid tales they were told as infants. They were hunters with wicked intent. Traore gave orders and his squad rearranged themselves before moving out.

They swiftly reached the huts, built between trees and in bushes, and also found the holes in the ground used in emergencies. It wasn’t long after when they spotted the ghouls. Gangly, yellow-skinned and dead-eyed, they had gathered corpses and were ripping off pieces with long fingers, chewing or sucking meat off. Ghouls were despised even by other monsters, only interested in eating what was already dead. Yet, if need be, they would kill, and then they could be quick, even graceful.

Shots rang out from rifles, then Corp opened up with the heavy-gun, it bellowing away as it ripped up foliage and monsters. Surprised, the ghouls dashed from the flashes of fire, only just seeing those who came at them. Another barrage came from the side. More fell, torn open numerous times; they were being herded, driven from parts of the village and then out, except they didn’t get far. The captain and lieutenant waited with a dozen men, knives ready, then were all over the enemy remnants, silent and deadly.

With the fun over, the soldiers became just that again as Captain Traore ordered a search of the village. While much still stood, most was scattered and wrecked, and what did stand was only ruin. The ghouls had made it worse, it was hard to tell how many villagers had been slain here, but there were tracks and other evidence.

“You see this, Captain,” Sarge said, pointing to a fallen wall, numerous holes punctured in it. “Looks like the work of a heavy-gun. Someone shot through this hut and everyone in it. But that wall has the same damage, it was crossfire, and I doubt they would use the only serious weaponry they had to destroy one hut.”

“So they had more than just two such weapons,” remarked Traore.

“There’s scorch marks on a lot of trees and huts too,” added the lieutenant, looking about. “The attackers had explosives and flamethrowers.”

“And something else,” Sarge put in. “There’s scorch marks I’ve never seen before, concentrated and piercing wood.” Before the captain could reply, a call came and they ran to one end of the village, then moved on a bit farther to join three soldiers who stood open-mouthed.

“What did this?” wondered Lieutenant Holden.

“How could it possibly be done?” countered Traore. “Whatever it was, it seems the attackers also knew how to ambush people into a killing ground.”

The land had been ravaged. Several craters lay before them and blackened bodies were scattered about each, unappetising even to ghouls. Clearly whoever had carried this assault out had no concern for the land; devastation and slaughter were their handiwork, and there didn’t seem to be any gain from it.

While monsters were the main foe of the humans here, conflict between themselves was known. The captain’s first mission had been to punish a village that had raided others. Yet those attacks had been done carefully, as had the final one Traore had been a part of. More importantly, no village had this kind of fire power.

“It looks like the work of cannons, but you can’t bring those through the jungle,” said Sarge.

“If they did manage it we’d see the trail,” replied the captain. He removed his hat and rubbed his head as he considered this. Holden walked ahead to inspect a crater, yet kept out of the pool of sunlight; exposure was death in the jungle and, even in the cities, night was more active than the day. Then Traore put his hat back on and called him over.

“Let’s see some more villages before we start inventing answers. Get the squad focused and back in formation, then we go.”

With that, his subordinates broke up, giving orders as they went, and the captain took a pen and notebook from a pocket to write down his findings. It was a habit he would never let his men know about. Ever since becoming an officer, he feared failing a mission so that he and all his squad died in the jungle, leaving him unable to tell anything he had learned to his superiors. Now, if he fell, someone might find him and use his notes to go further, even succeed. It was a negative view and his men would see it as bad luck or doubting them, but he quickly wrote his discoveries down and tucked the notebook away before leading his squad on.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

I Defy You

Young Martina scrambled through the jungle, past trees, through bushes, not caring how scratched or tired she became. She didn’t look back either. She wanted to; she almost did now and then. But she had to focus on going forward, not on what was behind her. She ploughed on; if she slowed or stumbled or even hesitated, it would get her killed.

Then she had to stop. The land ended and the rolling sea lay before her; there was nowhere to run to. There was a beach ahead but it was no help: enclosed on the sides with nothing to hide her; they would catch her there easily. Martina looked about, then dove into bushes. She wormed her way deep into the undergrowth; again she didn’t care when she hurt herself or disturbed something that crawled; she had to escape their detection. Then she lay still, panting, but slowing it down, taking deep breaths, calming herself and her body so she could be silent.

The demons appeared, running after her, following her tracks, then halted where they ended. There were six of them: tall, muscular, human in form, apart from the heads. One signalled and they spread out. They searched for her, using their talons to swat aside undergrowth. Sometimes they simply lashed out with the wooden clubs, the bone hooks raking away leaves like they would skin.

Martina froze. There was no way past them; either they would find her or not, and she doubted they would give up. Demons never had before. One came close, sniffing, looking; the scarred, animal-like head moving back and forth as eyes sought her.

They suddenly stood and looked out to sea. Martina had no idea at what. For a while they remained transfixed, seemingly puzzled. She had never seen demons like this before. She couldn’t resist; she adjusted and wriggled to one side, and then saw what they were looking at.

The woman was beautiful, yet the instant Martina saw her, she noticed the nasty jagged scar across her face. It began above one eye and slanted down over her nose, cheek and to her clenched jaw, and on the way it slashed over the other eye, which was inflamed and reddened. Martina couldn’t understand this. How could such exquisite features be so ruined? Her hair was a mess too; ruffled, uneven, a silky black blaze around the smooth olive skin of her face. She was tall, appearing strong, slim and well formed. She was gorgeous yet grim, glaring at the demons, hands in fists, ready.

One charged and swung its weapon, then reeled, its head snapped back, blood spewing from the mouth. It hadn’t been a good punch. Martina had watched warriors spar and seen far better; it had been a lash of a fist. Yet, what it lacked in skill, it overwhelmed with raw ferocity. A foot drove into the demon’s midriff; again, not a warrior’s kick, but it worked. The demon folded up and dropped to its knees.

Her head smashed into a second demon’s face and she twisted its arm. It snapped. She charged it into another and the demons fell, entangled, one on top of the other. The one beneath had a shout of pain cut off when the other’s head thudded against its face. Both bled through nostrils. Then yells of pain came as the woman stamped on their legs.

The three remaining demons were springing to the fight; quick, supple, agile.

The woman spat hate as she dove into one and they rolled. She ended on top, beating down on its horrid face. Then she grabbed the head and wrenched. There was a sharp crack.

With a talon in her hand she rose, then threw it. The club struck a demon and the bone hook latched into flesh. The weapons were made to torment and catch, not kill, and the demon shrieked as it tried to pull it out.

The last attacked. She caught arms in her hands and they struggled, the demon slightly bigger, certainly wider, yet she didn’t budge. Martina was stunned. No one stood up to the demons, let alone attacked them. Now she saw the woman yell fiercely as she pushed her foe back.

It twisted and threw her around it, yet when it ran in she grabbed a leg and wrenched, sending the fiend rolling and screaming.

Two came again, one holding the talon it had taken out of itself. Both were hurt and still confused; they weren’t used to such resistance, let alone aggression. When she rose, one stepped back. She went for it, hammering fists to eyes. The other attacked from behind. A back kick on a knee produced another terrible sound, yet the talon swept through the shirt she wore, slicing open her back. She cried in pain – no, howled; it began in pain and ended in anger. The demon reeled from a punch, only to be grabbed at the throat and brought back for another punch. Then another. Then another. Then another. Then another.

Then it fell.

All froze.

The woman stood over the demon with its head in her hand. Only it wasn’t a head; it was empty. The head was still on the body; bloody, smashed, but even Martina could see it was a human face.

The woman looked at the others. Three demons were struggling to their feet, staggering and clutching injured legs. One lay dead. The only one standing was staring at the head she held.

She threw it at the demon, then lunged for the head of the being itself. The demon squealed in fright, fended her off and then ran. She charged at the rest and they hobbled away as fast as they could. She let them go and spat on the ground.

“Freaks,” snarled the woman, as she swayed on her feet. Blood was pouring down her back and legs. Martina came from hiding and ran to her side, quick to help her saviour. The woman made to hit her, but she stopped, seeing the girl. She accepted her help, leaning on her, yet she led the way to the beach.
#
The demon came to, slowly, not able to sit up for a while. Eventually it did, and then it saw the bestial head on the ground. It had never seen its own face before, yet knew that was it. It touched what was now there instead: skin, teeth, lips, ears, hair. It staggered to its feet and went to the dead demon, hesitated, before grabbing the head and ripping it off. It leapt away, falling, unable to believe it.

It looked like a human’s face!

The demon touched its own face again, then looked at an arm; the bronze skin like a human’s too. It gazed at its own body with a new level of consideration.

Movement caught its eye and it turned to see black lines race over the ground. Intertwining, separating, spreading; the thin lines sprawled across the area, then jabbed out into skin. The demon gasped in shock. It didn’t hurt, yet the lines weaved up its legs, over its body, into its arms, over its new face. Then it reached down and took up a rock before proceeding to smash to pulp the dead demon’s head. Once done, it obliterated its own.
#
“Well I’m ready to go,” announced the woman.

“What?” exclaimed Martina, looking round from the rock she sat on, lost in the beauty of the sea. The woman stood tall and proud, then turned slightly and pulled up her new shirt from her leggings, revealing a long scar. “How…? That only happened yesterday.”

“I heal fast, always have,” said the woman with a shrug, tucking herself back in. “Wish my clothes would, now I’ve only one spare shirt. No, wait, this is my spare shirt. Damn.”

“But how can you…?” Martina was lost, especially at the woman’s casual manner; not only had she healed after nearly passing out in her boat yesterday, she had fought demons, she was now a hunted creature. “You’re not from here are you?” realised the girl.

“Out there,” the woman said, pointing out to sea. “You see those rocks here and there, and bigger ones close to the horizon? Well just after it are islands, some big, some small, some tiny, and they go on for miles. It’s said there used to be land stretching from here to the landmass to the north, but it was destroyed and is now just hundreds of islands.”

“Landmass to the north?”

“Yeah, a continent I think you call it, like this one is. They used to be joined. The northern one was advanced, they had devastating weapons, and when they were overrun by mutants and machines someone used them. Legends say many humans fled south to this land, so their enemies targeted them. There were already plenty of islands around here, some great for magic. Anyway, it’s all a mess now.”

“People live out there?” checked Martina.

“Not one for taking things in easily, are you?” The woman grinned and sat next to her. Even side on, Martina could see the start of the scar, there was no avoiding it. “Yeah people live out there, if barely. Those weapons did more than blow up the land; they poisoned it, and the sea, and magic affected places too. People survived; through the centuries they found ways to keep going, even moving to different islands, but the population has always been falling.”

“You seem fine, better than fine.”

“Out there it’s said one in four children reach adulthood. I’m the only one of five, so you could say I’m owed extra,” remarked the woman with a wry smile, but she looked grim too. “You need to be tough to live out there, every generation since it happened. If you don’t have the will to get through, then you won’t.”

“Then you are from a long line of strong characters,” pronounced Martina. That explained a lot about her.

The woman grinned again. “I don’t know them all, but I imagine so; my grandfather was made of iron, knew a fair bit too. A big believer in will, he was. If your will is strong enough, nothing else can withstand it. That was his conviction.”

“Yours too?”

“Starting to be. After I made it all this way to here; over that ocean, through the wind, waves and rocks. Yeah, my willpower is feeling pretty invincible.”

Martina nodded at that, looking out over the rolling water, seemingly unmanageable. She also remembered her fight with the demons.

“Why did you come here?” she now wondered.

“Had to go one way or the other and north is crawling with mutants and machines,” said the woman simply. “Staying out there was pointless; there’s hardly anyone left and monsters are moving in. So I came south.”

“Which isn’t any better,” Martina quickly pointed out. “You aren’t safe here, the demons rule this land; they will come after you.”

“Demons? You mean those men in the masks?”

“No. Well, yes, I think. I didn’t know they were men. I know they look like that, but… they’re demons; they always have been. They roam the jungle and read the Proclamation.”

“What’s that?”

“A reminder to worship the Infestation, that which freed the land from the mutants and monsters.” The woman still frowned. “Long ago, we humans had to fight to survive too, but then the Infestation came and drove them out. We live freely now, as long as we obey the demons, the servants of the Infestation.”

“Obey them how?” Now the woman looked suspicious.

“Mainly simply by listening to the Proclamation, which tells us how we must obey and never forget what we owe to the Infestation. We give food, sometimes, and a few times tools and other things; whatever they ask for. However, now and then they claim our children.”

“They claim kids? Hasn’t anyone ever wondered about that and the men-like demons?”

“No. You see, they take boys and girls and they all go to the mines, yet many return after they have served.”

“Mines?”

“Where they do lots of digging.”

“I see. Hey, were you claimed, is that why you were hiding from them?”

“No, it was my younger brother. I didn’t want him to go so I threw a rock at a demon’s head.” Martina smiled as the woman laughed; she had as lovely a laugh as she did a horrific snarl. “It wasn’t much but they chased me for it.”

“Never bow down to anyone, my grandfather would cheer you for that. I suppose your family must be worried about you then. We should go to your home.”

“You should leave here,” warned Martina.

“Unlikely.” The woman stood and went to her boat, taking out a thin, long coat of animal hide, then a bag with a few possessions in it. She looked at Martina. “I haven’t told you my name yet, have I? It’s Persephone. My grandfather heard it from somewhere and liked it; it made him think persistence.”

“I like it too, and I’m Martina.” She rose and ran to join the woman; alongside her; no demon could touch her.
#
Martina’s return to her village caused the biggest uproar she had ever known. They had decided she was dead as soon as the demons pursued her; many took some convincing that she wasn’t a ghost. In time all believed and celebrated, the demon rebel had overcome, and then interest went to Persephone: the strident, scarred female who they soon found to have done far more than throw a rock. However, the tale of unveiling demons was beyond the belief of any.

Persephone returned to the cluster of huts before dusk with an unconscious demon, his limbs broken, a talon in her hand dripping blood. Everyone crowded round, agreeing that this was a demon, then gasping as the head was removed. The man came round and was verbally assaulted; the people demanded a name, how and why and what, but he had no answers. The people then raged, took up rocks and sticks, and beat him to death.

“You have freed us,” declared the headman; a tall, strong, leader of his people through his displays as a warrior and thinker. “Now we know what these… vermin are, we won’t hide from them anymore. We won’t stand and listen to their Proclamation! We’ll kill them and we’ll tell this truth to all other villages. Soon they will be hunted.”

“What of the Infestation?” asked Persephone from where she sat on a log. “In fact, what is it?”

“What its name says; it moves through things, living things. It is throughout this land and can even control what it infests.”

“But it doesn’t control demons,” noted Persephone. “It doesn’t need to, I suppose. Still, it needs to be defeated.”

“We will do so,” proclaimed the headman, slapping his broad chest.

“How?”

“Uh, we could raise an army and destroy the demons, then…”

“Where does it come from?”

“Everywhere.” The man shrugged.

“Where did it start?”

“Everywhere.”

“Is it up to anything, does it seem to have a purpose?” The man looked blank. “Is there anywhere people cannot go?” Now he shook his head.

“We are free, if terrorised, and of course we are actually taken to some places.”

“The mines?” checked Persephone, and he nodded. “Where are they?”

“Mountains. Wherever there are mountains there are mines.”

“What is dug up?” persisted Persephone.

“I do not understand.”

“What are they dug for?”

“Rock. Rock is brought out, then they are filled with earth.”

“Seems pointless,” noted Persephone, mulling the information, or lack of it, over. Then she regarded the big man. “How will you start your rebellion?”

“We are making weapons and forming ourselves into bands of warriors, then we will set out and grab some demons before showing them to other villages.”

“A good plan,” admitted Persephone, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. “You should capture at least some alive and make sure you don’t unmask them until you show them to others.”

“Like you did,” acknowledged the headman. “We will not fail; we will not live in fear.”

“So you shouldn’t,” agreed Persephone. The headman nodded, stood still as the silence continued, then realised the conversation was over and turned and went. “He seems capable enough.”

“He was taken to the mines,” Martina explained. “He survived and came back to give us his strength.”

“You like him,” remarked Persephone with a grin. The girl looked embarrassed, trying to cover her face with her long black hair, then she slapped her younger brother on the head as he laughed; her once concern for his life long forgotten, as was her rescue of him. Persephone picked up the bowl of food they had brought for her and ate as they argued and the young men of the village prepared.

“When will you be leaving with them?” Martina now wondered. Persephone frowned and the girl pointed to the war preparations.

“I’m not going, I’m not a warrior. I’ll leave that to them. I’ve done my bit,” Persephone stated.

“But you beat six demons by yourself. You aren’t afraid of them.”

“Neither are they, not anymore.”

“They haven’t faced them yet,” countered Martina, a good point Persephone had to admit. Still, the girl thought far more of her than she really was.

“I’m not a warrior,” she insisted.

“You’re a fighter, at least on the inside and you…” Martina paused, trying to figure something out. “You seemed a step ahead of them.”

Persephone nodded. “I get a sense of things. It’s nothing serious or clear cut, but I can pick up someone’s intentions,” she revealed. “When feelings are strong or focused, I can feel it. I’m no mind-reader; those demons were clear in their threat without an extra sense. But I sort of knew, no, felt what each intended as they came.”

“Another benefit of living in a bizarre area?”

“Probably. Also of growing up in a dangerous place, you need to see a threat coming or you won’t survive. I did.”

“I’m sure you will again if you confront the demons,” declared Martina.

“I will, but I don’t intend to confront them. I’ve had a nasty enough life as it is. Now is my time of peace,” Persephone announced. Martina gave a nod and led her brother away, back to their home.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

Pacific Rim. Hmmmmm

So I watched Pacific Rim with my dad tonight and his comment at the end almost matched my feelings on it: “What a strange movie.”

Now I enjoyed it, but it does have this very shallow feel to it. As much as I loved giant robots smashing giant monsters about, I don’t seem love it as much as Del Toro does. I want more of a story and characters who really engage me. I want a plot that puts me on the edge of my seat. This whole ‘hey it’s a dumb movie, just enjoy it’ doesn’t work for me. I could claim it doesn’t work for my age, but I’m not sure it ever worked on me.

Again, I did enjoy it, but my brain didn’t.

The main character was bland. Would have worked back in the 80s but now… Hell, Tom Cruise played a better Maverick than this way back then. I would have felt more for him if we had seen him grieving and changing, rather than the skip to 5 years later. Although I think that was better for the overall storyline.

A major issue you can have in a story is other characters who are more interesting than the main one. The father/son partnership could have, should have, been more compelling. The two scientists bickering were more interesting – although I did feel straightaway that their theories in no way competed. They came from different angles, sure, but both could have been right. Which they were. Unsurprisingly.

Oh, speaking of incredibly obvious plot lines, the moment a retired pilot says one more time and he’s going to die, you know he’s going to be back out there one more time.

Idris Elba was pretty good and I found his relationship with Mako far more intriguing than possibly any other. His character was the noble, tragic hero and he played it well. More of him would have been better.

There were some really dumb moments in this movie that pissed my brain off, which started arguments between myself and it as I just tried to enjoy the movie. Using a sword (which wasn’t previously mentioned) at the last moment seemed so dumb. I remarked about it to my dad and he burst out laughing. I know it was all about an exciting surprise final moment, yet that doesn’t change how stupid it was. I’ve since read they didn’t want to use cutting weapons because the blood of the monsters would melt it, but you would still want to use it to end a serious engagement as quickly as possible, other cutting weapons were seen used, blood was often shed, they had two swords, etc, etc etc. If it had been an easier, simpler fight, okay. But casualties had been taken, much was at stake, two monsters had to be faced. Also, if using cutting weapons was so risky, why bother fitting them?

This did lead me to wish the jaegers – the giant robots – had had weapons. Carry a giant hammer or mace. Hell, if fighting in the sea, a trident would have been cool. Swords which heated up to cauterise the wounds. Rail guns instead of arms. Flamethrowers or something to freeze.

I also wish we had seen more variety among the robots. Perhaps some were heavily built to obstruct the monster while another was built for damage. We could have seen teams that complemented each other. We did meet other nationalities, and by meet I mean walked past. The Russians had a big strong jaeger but it got ripped apart early. Again, I was annoyed at this. It felt like a waste. We could have had various national teams interacting and conflicting, but no. Get those others out the way and let’s keep this simple. I mean for fucks sake, the main character in his jaeger kills nearly all of the monsters we see in this movie.

It felt so Gary Stu. Main team does everything. I wished for more than that. I wanted other teams to do more, to share the load, to show off. Even the noble sacrifice at the end felt forced. I believed one character would do this. He seemed destined for it because of what he was going through. The other, well, earlier he had said he liked being alive. This would have made for a fascinating character change if any of it had been developed. Nope. Also, maybe I missed something but he could have escaped.

Oh, other dumb moments – let’s fire flares at a monster because, why not?
Oh no, jaeger is about to fire its weapon indoors and there’s nothing we can do! Oh he pulled the plug. Nevermind.

Other elements felt weak. Politicians pulling the plug because they’re mean, stingy politicians. The wall never looked a good idea. I really would have preferred to experience the losses as the unit was worn down. Jaegers being battered and needing repairs more and more as fights came quicker. Empty seats in the canteens as pilots died. I’m reminded of the movie about the Battle of Britain which captured the gradual losses over time very well. I wanted to feel the war being lost, not just be told about it. There’s a lot of being told in this movie. “You’re a loose cannon.” “We can win this.” “I can do this.” “No you can’t.”

The unit was losing a war when strong, but now it is down to its bare bones we’re meant to believe they can win. That felt weak as well. Of course, the Marshal had a big scheme to win, but really it was just doing the same thing one last time. This plot would have made more sense if the mindmeld with a monster brain had happened early on and changed what they thought they could do. That would have prompted a new plan, one to believe in.

Oh, and let’s not even talk about how the scheme to win is essentially the same as Independence Day’s. We even had a close up on the enemy before the big boom.

The two scientists story could have been more of a driving force to what goes on than a sidenote. Also, I like those two actors a lot, but wow, those two characters are cliché riddled. I did like their end moment but wish we had had more of them to make it feel more important.

I am a fan of Del Toro and think he is an amazing director but sometimes I suspect his storytelling. I love the Hellboy movies but they have some weak elements in them. In fact, 2 has a lot of weak stuff. But visually he has been brilliant and his love of monsters is something I share. Pan’s Labyrinth is fantastic. Chronos I saw when young and was disturbed by it (a good thing). Also, any excuse to put Ron Perlman on screen is fine by me.

Again, I did enjoy this. I’ll watch it again and again, I’m sure, but more as something in the background. A white noise movie. I felt this could have been more. If I had seen this as a kid in the 80s I would have loved it. Today, I feel generic characters following a shallow story isn’t good enough. At least my brain is insistent on this. He’s a picky sod though.

The monsters – the Kaiju – were really cool. Again, Del Toro put more into them and their individuality than anything else! The background on them was good (again, Independence Day clone stuff) and was enough for them to be showing up. The dinosaurs mention was idiotic.

I just don’t know how to feel about this one. I was moved by some of the end moments. I enjoyed the big fights. Charlie Day made me laugh. I laughed a number of times while watching this movie, but more often at it than with it. The Russians made me laugh that way, and yet I wanted to know them. Again, just feel a lot was wasted.

I guess this movie reminds me of Avatar. Lovely visuals and interesting premise, but generic story with characters I care little for. I felt this was better than Avatar, though. At least I liked it more.

Oh, one moment I loved was the father/son farewell and the son kisses his dog but doesn’t even hug his dad. It spoke volumes about their relationship. Mind you, that character was a lightweight too. He seemed to be a dick just because we needed someone to be a dick. Again, we had to be told about it. I did love the “you’re an egotistic jerk with a daddy complex” line, or words to that effect, but I never felt the movie had sold that. As with many things.

Maybe in time I’ll accept this movie for what it is – a tribute to the japanese genre of robots vs monsters. It has a good heart and doesn’t bore you with grey battles such as Transformers does. However, I often felt this movie could easily have been some throwaway anime. Neon Genesis Evangelion it certainly isn’t. I know a lot of people have made that comparison and it might not be fair, but that show had a lot of themes and subplots going on to make it fascinating besides robots vs monsters. This doesn’t.

I’ve seen a lot of people champion this movie and bemoan that it didn’t do so well at the box office. I feel that to an extent but this isn’t a movie I’d ever champion. I’d recommend it. Have fun. But as I said to a friend of mine tonight, if you’re not into robots vs monsters, there’s not much else to see this for.

Ho hum. I know there are a lot more complaints I had, ranging from petty to major. Oh just remembered! I had no idea how the British scientist was figuring out the escalation of Kaiju appearances. They had been coming for years one by one and he has an equation about it? The shorter times between appearances made sense, but why it goes from single entrants to two, then three in the next step… Well, movie thrill ride is the answer. Everything has to be ramped up to 11.

I wanted to love this movie. I liked it. No bad thing. I am sure I would have loved it once. But I just wanted a more plausible plot with charismatic characters. Is that too much to ask while watching a movie about robots vs monsters?

Oooh, forgot about this point, which I posted elsewhere so I’ll just tack it on:
Also, I am so bored of movies having the smart white man bit. Foreigner speaks their own language, assuming the white man doesn’t know it, but then he speaks up with a smug look. After that, the foreigner rarely uses their own language and the white man never uses it either. Essentially, they taught the actor one line to do this and then go back to English only for the audience. It isn’t such a bad thing, but overused. So overused.

Character Influences

Just left this comment somewhere else when discussing what influences us on what kind of characters we like:

“I do agree how interesting it is what influences us on characters. It wasn’t that long ago when I realised that watching Transformers as a kid heavily influenced me on bad guy henchmen. I pretty much see them as clever but treacherous (Starscream) or ruthless and stoic (Soundwave).

My favourite character types would have to be either rogues/rascals, simply because they are enjoyable to follow with a mixed moral code that makes them intriguing, or the honourable renegade/anti-hero type, who has a sense of honour and shows their mettle when the need arises. I think I like the latter because I grew up watching and reading bad guys who were cowardly idiots. When I watched WatershipDown as a kid and expected General Woundwort to run like the rest, only to see him leap at the dog, I loved it, and still do. Bad guys who join with the good guys but remain dubious are also very interesting. Avon from Blake’s 7 is a great example there. Spike in Buffy too. Again, the 80s were full of goody-goody good guys, so having someone on the right side who isn’t afraid to get dirty is highly appealing.

I cannot for one second pretend I’m anything like any of them though. 😉 ”

I want to add a bit more but didn’t want to ramble on upon someone else’s blog.
To expound on my second type – the honourable renegade/antihero – I wanted to be clear on the types.

One is the bad guy who isn’t a coward or scumbag. An individual who can hold his/her own against the good guys. Who is smart, resourceful, yet ruthless too. This type of character would be typified by Count Rochefort from the Three Musketeers, especially Christopher Lee’s version. He is as good a swordsmen as the Musketeers, not afraid of them, a real killer but a true fighter.

Then we have the bad guy who turns good, kind of. Avon and Spike, plus Dinobot, Piccolo and Vegeta come to mind. I also liked Garak from Deep Space Nine for this reason. They leave you wondering just how good or bad they are. They prove excellent counterfoils to the main heroes as well. Often they outshine them by being more interesting and doing what needs to be done, while the central good character backs off.

Then there is the antihero. Snake Plissken, Napoleon Wilson, Conan possibly – it is debatable what makes an antihero, but I would suggest it is the main character who you watch fighting the right cause but often compelled to and wouldn’t normally, if they clearly have a moral code of their own they stand by at all costs. These complicated characters are usually the badass versions of normal heroes so we like them more, yet are also much more fascinating when written properly.

Going back to rogues and rascals, these could be antiheroes I guess. Sometimes they are the bad guys doing good too. David Gemmell wrote some of my favourites of this type – Beltzer and Bison – plus I enjoyed Ratrap from Beast Wars and Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China. Again, they often play by their own rules but usually come through when they are needed most. Oh, reminds me = Han Solo!

Anyway, to counter all this moral ambiguity I will say that I also really love a good hero and a good villain. Really, an interesting character, well written and given an exciting storyline, is enough for us readers whatever the type. Still, we all have our preferences. 🙂