It’s hard to be original in the “zombie” movie genre these days. The zombie-film lovers among us even have nerd-raging debates about how to categorize zombie films and even the types of zombies. And once you’ve gotten through the sequel of a movie boasting fast-running, treasure-hunting Nazi zombies… you might start to think that’s the end of the line.
But Super Zerois a breath of fresh air… Or, rather, fresh rotting-corpse-smell air, because, as our unlikely hero reminds us, “you never hear about how the apocalypse smells like total ass.”
This is the zombie movie for the zombie-film lover who rooted for the geeky dude Erlend in Dead Snow to be the one who makes it to the end through sheer nerdery and zombie fandom. This is the zombie apocalypse for the comic book nerd, the science geek, the Cheeto-stained-fingers gamer who’s used to killing his zombies with a joystick and a X button.
The only thing you could probably fault the film for is an overuse of the word “dickweed,” but can we even call that a fault? I mean… I get it. It’s too fun to say… “dickweed”… “dickweed.” Try it. “Dickweed”… Anyway….
From director Mitch Cohen, Super Zero is a brilliant, sarcastic, nerd-tuned take on the zombie apocalypse, so just watch it.
But here’s the brief in case you need a little more enticement:
Your standard nerd, Josh Hershberg got the shitty end of the gene pool stick. And it’s not just the lack of cleft chin and bulging muscles that screwed him over; he just found out he has terminal brain cancer… He’s ready to give up completely when the apocalypse hits. Suddenly the very thing that was going to kill him might be the only thing that keeps him alive. Well… that and apparently a knack for physics turns out to be just the thing an unlikely hero needs in the zombie apocalypse.
As unlikely hero Josh tells us “you may not be a naturally skilled athlete, brilliantly creative, or just the whole package…” but that doesn’t mean you can’t be “the baddest motherfucker in the world.”
And all the ridiculous, punny headlines about Fox new Monday night show Sleepy Holloware almost as absurdly enjoyable as the show itself.
The show premiered on Monday in a bombardment of historical hijinks, supernatural beheadings, witchcraft, and hot and heavy flirtation with threats of the apocalypse. You could hardly catch your breath to keep up with the break-neck pace of the plot, but apparently folk like their tv in a sprint, because more than 10 million viewers tuned in to catch the premiere, and the pilot rated better than any other Monday night show.
But is this just an ADD-nation love-fest or is the show actually good?
Well, oddly enough, there’s actually too much information to tell at this point. In just an hour the show introduced us to our main protagonists — Lt. Abbie Mills (the ridiculously gorgeous Nicole Beharie) and Ichabod Crane himself (Tom Mison) — beheaded 3 key characters, and basically unraveled every single mystery it had introduced in the first half of the show…. If they keep up this kind of narrative pace, it’s hard to imagine what they’ll have left to tell after 3 or 4 episodes. Then again, there’s a chance the plan is to get all the plot/surprise/mystery stuff out of the way and really delve into the character’s relationships.
This is not a feeble hope either. There’s plenty of room for development there. Abbie and Ichabod made fast friends in this first episode, after a couple quick bumps in the road, such as when Ichabod’s 18th century misogyny is offended by Lt. Mills’ wearing “trousers” or when Abbie has to side-eye Crane when he questions how a Black woman is allowed to be a police officer.
In this more or less unprecedented case of a Black female lead and a White guy lead sharing screen time (equally!) and playing characters out of time and out of place respectively, there could be a lot to work with there. Likely in less profound ways than Octavia Butler’s Kindred,for example, but maybe in the brief reprieves from heads rolling, these two can establish a meaningful rapport… or at least a sarcastically hilarious one as a point of stability in the whacky whirl of supernatural tropes.
I mean, seriously, in spoilery summary: A time-travelling headless horseman abandons his magical axe for an arsenal of automatic weapons in order to fight a Red Coat superspy scholar revived from death by his good witch wife (whose spirit is stuck in a creepy la la dimension battling demons and evil witch covens) who’s supposed to stop headless baddie from getting his head back, waking up the four-horsemen of the apocalypse and getting his world-destruction on.
Regardless, this geek is tuning into episode two and holding out hope that a sci-fi series led by a Black woman hero will be ridiculously awesome (or at least awesomely ridiculous)… ’cause it’s about time.
Fine, also because I heart Orlando Jones. I mean, how can you not?
So, when I saw the first teaser for Pacific Rim a while back, my inner snob laughed disdainfully, along with the rest of the theater, at it’s ridiculous premise. Sea monsters vs. Robots. Seriously? But as the release date neared and the trailers showed more and more of Idris Elba, I erased this early memory and started getting really excited for the film. Admittedly, when the inner snob had its back turned, I knew I’d see the movie anyway just to see robots punching sea monsters.
And dammit, it was freaking awesome! Seriously, at one point a robot wields a Titanic-sized boat as a bat and beasts the hell out of a Kaiju (what they call the dino-looking ocean monsters). How can that not be awesome?
Awesome just like a monster truck rally is awesome. Mindless destruction and gritty, roaring, beastly machines. In fact, in the movie, the Jaeger fandom’s (Jaeger is the film’s more sophisticated term for “giant swagged-out robot defenders”) appreciation of the machine’s make, model, and beastly attributes is not dissimilar to how monster truck fans idolize the beauty of the car-crushing machines.
The plot was completely irrelevant. The acting had a few shining moments, almost all of them involving Idris Elba, who played the quiet storm of a leader in Stacker Pentecost and quite literally stole the show.
But also a strong kudos to Charlie Day, who has graduated from his squeeky-voiced days as the hilarious idiot Charlie in Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to a role where he gets a brain and a purpose as Dr. Newton Geiszler, the fanboy scientist. Frankly, a better plot may have been his character’s heroic journey.
Honestly, the weakest point of the movie was the protagonist Raleigh Becket, played by actor Charlie Hunnam, who must have drawn inspiration from every cardboard cut-out hero film ever, as he delivered literally ever (bad) line with the same “hero” tone. You know the one I mean, the one they use to say things like “Let’s do this together!” or “We can do this, [insert wide-eyed sidekick’s name here]!”
Luckily, he was kind enough to (strangely for a protagonist and hero) step into the background and let better characters steal the show. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so completely indifferent to the possibility of a good-hearted main protagonist dying in a film before.
Also the very young actress Mana Ashida who played Young Mako was incredible and the only one to capture the on-the-ground personal tragedies of this apocalyptic world in one of the only scenes with real human emotion. Some big studio better snatch her up quick.
As for the Geek Outsider-y stuff, this movie actually passes The Token Test with (1) at least two leading characters of color (2) who aren’t somehow related or dating (3) and regularly speak more than a few lines (4) about something that has nothing to do with race or racial stereotypes. Bam. Aside from all of the nameless East Asian characters doing martial arts, and the platinum-haired Siberians being sober meatheads, it basically wins. With only one woman who speaks to not a single other woman, however, the film fails The Bechdel Test pretty hard. Then again, it’s hard enough to care about the plot, much less representation, when you’re mindlessly enjoying watching beastly machines smash evil baddies who magically appeared one day because why not.
Elba and Ashida‘s artistry and Charlie Day‘s frantic comedy contrasted sharply against the bland and messy plot, but at the end of the day, this is a movie about Godzilla-shaming sea-alien-monsters getting punched in the face by crazy-awesome robot giants, so who cares how the acting was. It was amazingly fun, just like a monster truck rally. In fact, I can totally see a post-apocalyptic use for the Jaegers in Jaeger rallies where they Jaeger-smash replicas of metropolises or bat around Kaiju pinatas with cargo ships as sluggers. I’d pay to see that a couple times. Oh wait, I just did.
There are some pretty badass Black women in comics, and Agent 355 is at the top of my list of favorites. Created by one of my favorite comics writers Brian K. Vaughan in his epic series Y: The Last Man, she was a secret agent for of the Culper Ring, a secret spy ring that grew out of the American Revolutionary War and conducts all sorts of shady covert ops.
After the world goes haywire and almost every single male on the planet dies suddenly Agent 355, sometimes referred to as “Three-Fifty” is charged with finding and protecting the world’s last man Yorick Brown, a twenty-something kid obsessed with magic tricks. 355’s training in the Culper Rings makes her highly skilled at hand-to-hand combat, stealth, and the use of various firearms and weapons. She was recruited to the Culper Ring at a very young age, and her first code name was 86. But after she killed her mentor (the original 355), who was plotting an assassination of the President, she took on the name 355. Her real name was never revealed. I’m guessing her codename was inspired by the mysterious Agent 355, who was possibly the first female undercover operative in the real-life Culper Ring.
355 protects Yorick throughout many adventures in the post-apocalayptic world, while Yorick mostly bumbles about pining for his lost girlfriend and generally getting them into serious ish with the rogue lady bullies trying to survive in the post-male-apocalypse. Eventually 355 finds a female scientist Dr. Allison Mann, who might have the solution to the plague that killed all of the men. Dr. Mann is pretty bad ass herself, displaying some pretty decent fighting skills and basically taking no shit, ever. She’s half-Chinese, half-Japanese, and has had to deal with her crazy warring parents. Dr. Mann is also attracted to women, and has the hots for Agent 355, with whom she shares a brief romance.
The team, including Yorick’s friendly monkey Ampersand, go on the hunt for Yorick’s girlfriend. But throughout their travels Yorick and 355 become close and develop romantic feelings towards one another. Naturally, of course, Yorick is too dense to realize this until the very last minute…
The best part of this series isn’t just the multi-culti crew, or the cadre of generally ass-kicking women (and there’s a lot of both of these), but the fact that Agent 355 is really the series’s hero. Yorick might be the only guy, but he doesn’t necessarily take center stage. In fact, his role is best described as damsel in distress. Kiinda great. Also, I just want to hug Brian K. Vaughan, and point other writers from every entertainment field ever to this example with a very sarcastic, ” Holy shit! Who knew a Black woman and a white dude could actually be sexually attracted to each other, without f*ck*d up over-sexualization, weird exoticism, or skin-whitener?? Crazy sauce.” Not to mention, being the only dude in the world, Yorick literally had his pick of the ladies. Good choice, Yorick. 355, I woulda stuck with Dr. Mann if I were you.
Anyway, if you haven’t read it, do. If you have, read it again, I’m gonna. Apparently there are clues to 355’s real name, and I bet my mind will only be blown again (double brain explosion) by all the stuff I didn’t pick up the first time around.