Totally Geeked is a monthly feature at Professional Geek Podcast's blog where you'll get an inside look at what our staff are geeking out about today.
Blaire Knight-Graves, Host & Executive Producer
A full month after Halloween, I am still completely obsessed with Stranger Things 2, but not the way you might expect. I actually didn’t like the sequel very much upon first viewing, so I decided to watch it a second time. Not quite satisfied, and yet still obsessed with every detail, I ended up watching it a third time. I now feel confident saying that I did not care for the first half of the sequel. It’s sloppy, lacks grounding, and plays like the writers were trying to interpret incoherent sentences out of blinking Christmas lights on the wall. The characters whose chemistry make or break the show are all separated and put into unlikely and honestly boring pairings. The Big Bad is a narrative trainwreck. Each individual episode tries too hard to replicate the narrative structure of its Stranger Things 1 episode counterpart. The references and production design elements which are meant to give you hints about each character’s mental state are unpleasantly overt. Ultimately, it felt like the sequel was screaming, “Oh you liked Stranger Things? Well, here is the exact same formula but with some new characters and some poorly written and uninspired conflict!” It’s like a bad paint job over the Beyers’ old house. And don’t even get me started on the unnecessary fanservice. I digress.
That all being said, the second act is a magical piece of narrative art somehow constructed out of the hot mess of the first act. It’s big, it’s satisfying, and it surprises the hell out of any viewer. My biggest obsession is the arc created for Joe Keery’s character “Steve Harrington” (who is sure to become a breakaway hit movie star), starting with his unlikely pairing with Gaten Matarazzo’s character “Dustin Henderson”, and culminating in his protection of the party in what I call “Tunnel Steve”, but also my new favorite meme: “Mom / Babysitter Steve”. I have plans for cosplay, and they are grand. Just you wait.
Regardless of my ability to like or dislike something, when I become obsessed I become obsessed, and so I suspect I will watch Stranger Things 2 another six times before Stranger Things 3 is upon us.
Mark Beers, Host & Guest Manager
I went in expecting the worst. As I often mention, my heart belongs to DC, but with each entry into the DC Extended Universe, I go to the theater with ever lower expectations. I joked that my opening weekend viewing was out of “Contractual Obligation,” but I came away from the film with a more enjoyable experience than I ever could have hoped for. I can go so far as to say that I believe I saw the best film entry into the DC Extended Universe, and yes, I even liked it better than the much lauded Wonder Woman.
This movie did a lot that really worked for me. Ben Affleck continues his strong performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne, nailing the obsessive and paranoid nature of Batman which informs how he assembles his league. I truly enjoy Gal Gadot’s engaging take on Wonder Woman. She really gets to take her gloves off in her combat sequences. The DCEU gets her right. Ezra Miller’s Flash is a delight. I’ve long admired Ezra Miller for his engaging performance in Confessions of a Wallflower, and I love the energy and quirks he brings to Barry Allen. This isn’t a traditional depiction of the character, but I don’t mind when The Flash is depicted as a bit more manic. I love Batman calling Wonder Woman out for staying in the shadows since World War 1. However, if this movie accomplished a truly amazing feat, it is that it made me care about Cyborg. I still can’t believe I typed that sentence. Being a fan of the Morrison JLA, I’ve always felt a strong affinity to the character of Steel and have always felt Cyborg’s inclusion in the Justice League was stealing the spotlight from a favorite character of mine. This movie actually made me care about Cyborg.
Those pros shouldn’t suggest that Justice League is a great film, though; even this, what I consider the strongest entry into the DCEU, doesn’t come close to even the least of their competition at Marvel. This is a deeply flawed film. The villain and primary conflict of the film are both laughably unintelligible and equally forgettable. The dialogue is at times cheesy, and yes...they changed the Amazon’s bad ass costumes to bathing suits. And while I appreciated Jason Momoa’s enthusiasm for his role as Aquaman, they ultimately did miss the mark. (I prefer the more regal depiction from Grant Morrisons’ JLA run of the 90’s.) Yeah. This movie has problems.
What ultimately holds this movie back the most is Superman’s baggage that spills over from Batman Vs Superman. I get that Superman is a difficult character to write. How do you create conflict for a god? Justice League’s biggest success is that it’s first film that attempts to place Superman in his proper place in the heart of the larger DCEU, as the inspiration that he provides to the heroes of the DCEU. Unfortunately, this sentiment falls flat since past films fail to convince us that Superman’s death would cause nations to grieve and for societal norms to unravel. (While not an untimely commentary on the news lately)
Not to mention that Henry Cavill’s portrayal of the Man of Steel continues to be a wooden and soulless performance. The first thing we see in Justice League is a film clip intended to show Superman’s appeal to the common man, but the sodden performance of Henry Cavill makes it come off as awkward and uninspiring. Even this deliberate attempt to establish his influence on the spirit of the population falls flat. It’s really a shame, because once the final fight comes, oh is it satisfying to watch Superman throw down.
I won't say that I’ve walked away with any great faith in the future of the DC Film Universe. Both Wonder Woman and now Justice League have shown that DC is capable of producing films that appeal to my desires from movies depicting these characters I love so much. Sadly, there is still an awful lot that are wrong about their film universe. However, Justice League is an enjoyable entry to the catalogue. However, if you have to choose...go see Thor: Ragnarock. It is still the better movie. Sadly.
Zach Weiss, Blog Manager
I write for professional geek, which you would think would imply that I’ve at least dabbled in all that cliche geekdom has in store, but as it turns out, I’ve never quite caught the bug for role-playing like our Executive Producer has! I like fantasy just as much as the next person, but for one reason or another, whether it be campaigns that fell apart before they even began, or perhaps a lack of patience on my part, I never tried my hand at that 20 sided dice.
And what’s weird about this Totally Geeked is that I still have barely played Dungeons & Dragons! I got to attend a really awesome Halloween one-off game this year, but I didn’t create my character, and the scenario took place in modern times instead of a realm of high fantasy.
So what has me totally geeked about D&D if it’s not playing the game? Well, giving a bit of a spoiler alert, I want to do a blog in the future which will be a short history of RPG’s. In my research, I found a book called Of Dice and Men, which discusses everything about the game from its history, to its future, and the people who play the game. The author includes his personal struggles with the game, and in-character storylines from the years he spent dealing with both obsession and shame regarding this pencil and paper game.
This book was just the final nail in the coffin; I’ve been hearing non-stop D&D talk in the last few months, whether it’s been from podcasts like The Adventure Zone, or The Cracked Podcast, or The Professional Geek Podcast. After lots of discussion of the D&D rule books in Of Dice and Men, I borrowed some from a D&D fan who might host a podcast about turning your passion into a career. I’m going to read everything in the books, I’ve decided. I think I even have my race and class all picked out.
The day when I play my first campaign is fast approaching. It’s inevitable at this point! After I have memorized every spell and class advantage, I’ll have no choice to find a campaign to play with. I have a feeling that my Totally Geeked this month will be one of those things that will last a long time.