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I think it shows the weakness of the writers of this comic that they keep coming back to kidnapping as a plot device! (Did I say weakness? I meant genius.)

I watched the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie on Netflix, and, man, what a slog. I guess it’s not totally unwatchable, but it’s pretty clear the Pirates franchise is incapable of doing anything beyond retreading the tropes of the first film with diminishing returns. But, you know, I totally get it. That first movie is lightning in a bottle, a refreshingly clever, quirky script that revitalized the dead pirate film genre. It was a big risk that was likely to fail, but instead it became a pop culture phenomenon. Unfortunately, all the sequels have seemed out of touch with what made that first movie work so well. I think one of the biggest problems is that in the first film, Jack Sparrow is a clever person that everyone assumes is an idiot, while in all the sequels Jack Sparrow is a complete moron that everyone assumes is a genius. There’s no longer a sense that the audience is in on Jack’s clever gambits, or that he’s outsmarting his adversaries. Instead, it’s all just bumbling dumb luck. In part 5, the effect seems to have softened a little, because now everyone knows Jack is an idiot AND he acts like an idiot, leading to a character that is basically despised by everyone, including himself. Once again there is a cursed captain out for revenge while also looking to break the curse, and once again Jack is roped into helping some people who would otherwise prefer having nothing to do with him to find some magical trinket.

About the only thing I like in Pirates 5 is the stubborn obsession with lore continuity between the films, even if I don’t much care for the lore itself and its general lack of logic. Jack’s compass is still a point of interest for yet another cursed pirate, and this time the compass displays some new abilities, like reawakening an undead crew when he sells it to a barkeep. The question as to who made this compass or where it came from continues to go unanswered, despite it being the seemingly most sought after magical item in the world. Captain Barbossa is carrying around Blackbeard’s sword from the previous film, which is kind of neat. The Black Pearl is still miniaturized and trapped in  bottle through most of the movie (still no explanation given as to how that happened, and the solution for releasing it is hilariously simple). We also get the brief return of Will Turner, still cursed to ferry the dead in Davy Jones’ Flying Duchman. But the weird thing is that he’s apparently gone all barnacle gross, like the old Flying Duchman crew, which is strange, since that the whole barnacle encrusting issue had been resolved at the end of the third film.

The obsession with lore has also brought up the rather bizarre question of the physical passage of time in these films. The main characters that are not Jack Sparrow are the fully grown children of Will turner and Barbossa. I don’t know how old Jack Sparrow was supposed to be in the first film, but at least 20 years must have passed since then. Considering all we know about Jack Sparrow’s history, its hard to imagine he’s younger than 30 in the first film, putting him probably somewhere in his 50’s in Pirates 5. Granted, Johnny Depp actually IS 50-ish now, but considering the lifestyle of pirates, the pirate character he portrays should probably not be as fit and healthy as the millionaire moviestar himself. But, you know, whatever.

The movie does a terrible job explaining why its villain is a villain. He’s literally a guy that hunts pirates and shows them no mercy, which is probably a good thing since pirates are lawless, violent men who pillage, rape, and murder. Even in the Pirates of Caribbean universe pirate crews are shown to have these tendencies. It’s pretty hard to condemn Captain Salazar for wanting to get revenge on Sparrow. If the guy has one major foil, it’s his inability to use his own curse to the best of his advantage. The curse itself seems to make no sense, as we learn that he became undead when killed in a particular cursed location, but we’re shown a ship destroyed in that same location and the crew of that ship seems to have not become undead. Inconsistent curses seem to be a staple of the series at this point, though.

There’s also a scene with a young CG Jack Sparrow that is all sorts of uncanny valley. AND a trident of Poseidon that conveniently ends ALL CURSES EVER when broken, and, LUCKILY, is easily broken! There’s also some veeeery questionable physics applies to nearly every action scenes, possibly more so than the previous films. And there’s Barbossa’s death scene, which makes little sense and doesn’t even seem deadly. I mean, he fell into water, but I guess we’re just supposed to assume he died. I’m pretty sure Geoffrey Rush’s contract ended, so he was probably just eager to get out.

The real question I have is, are we done with Jack Sparrow? This movie has an end credits stinger that seems to imply Davy Jones has returned to terrorize Will and Elizabeth Turner. Considering Depp is a known domestic abuser and alcoholic (there are plenty of rumors about him actually being drunk on set), it feels like Disney would want to start backing away from him as the star of the franchise. I won’t deny that he is what made the first film special, but at this point, Jack Sparrow is just as tired a retread as the innumerable cursed pirate crews that hunt him.

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I Visited Endor

I went on a family vacation in the California Redwoods along the coast this week. Due to some poor planning on my part, it kind of ruined the update schedule, so there’s no page this week. I will share some of my favorite photos from the trip, since I’ve got nothing else to show! I also played a lot of Monster Hunter Stories during the trip. I randomly decided to download the demo just before the plane trip, fell in love with it, and ended up buying the full game. It’s super cool.

Seeing the Redwood (sequoia sempervirens) forest is a surreal experience. It’s the forest that you see over and over again in movies because it looks so alien and prehistoric. Our tour guide pointed out areas that appeared in Jurassic Park: Lost World, which I found highly entertaining, because, if you think about it, redwoods wouldn’t have even been possible on Isla Sorna due to the overly warm and humid climate (the redwood forest maintains a temperature range of roughly 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round), and because all the wildlife put on the island to accommodate the dinosaurs wouldn’t have had enough time to grow into something that looked like a centuries old giant tree. But maybe I’m over thinking Lost World.

I did have a lot of Endor nostalgia while walking through the forest. In fact, I went on the trip with the simple goal of locating an Ewok. Despite my best efforts, though, I was unable to find a single Ewok reference in any local shop or building we visited, which was very disappointing (but I’m sure the Ewoks are out there somewhere). Apparently it’s scientifically impossible to determine the exact age of a redwood, because they grow genetic clones of themselves off of the shallow roots at their base, so a 1000 year old redwood tree may actually be a continuation of a previous 1000 year old rewood tree, but still technically the same organism. Even when a rewood falls over, it doesn’t die, but instead will sprout new vertically growing trunks from its horizontal position. As long as their in their preferred habitat, redwoods are surprisingly hard to kill. I only bring this up because it sounds wild enough to actually be Star Wars lore, but it’s the REAL DEAL.

 

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NN4B Volumes 1 & 2 On Sale for Holiday Season

NN4B Volumes 1 & 2 On Sale
Hello, Bushido readers! Our printed volumes 1 & 2 are currently available on sale at the Hivemill webstore for the remainder of the holiday season. Each book is lovingly and tenderly hand signed by Joe and Alex. At last you have the opportunity to read NN4B the way it was meant to be experienced (after we spent many hours formatting it for print)!! Now GO, buy books! LET THE LEGEND COME BACK TO LIFE!

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NN4B on Canned Air Podcast!

Alex and I joined the Canned Air Podcast to talk about comics and the NN4B Kickstarter campaign!

Basically, it was awesome!

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Kickstarter is A GO!!

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The Kickstarter for NN4B Volume 2: Kyoto Chaos is live! For anyone wanting to help us spread the news, we have a little banner that you can use! For those too <enter excuse here> to follow the link, I’m just gonna embed Joe’s great pitch video below:

 

 

 

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Volume 2 Kickstarter Progress

We’re rapidly approaching the launch of our Volume 2 Kickstarter! Joe’s working out the financial details to determine our ideal monetary goal, but we’ll have an exact number soon enough. We’re intending to launch the kickstarter NEXT WEEK, fingers crossed. Tell your friends! We’re currently editing together our video pitch, which is going to have a rad semi-animated opening bit, and I have some completed Volume 2 cover art to show! I tried to incorporate characters from most of the big scenes that will be in in the book. I realize the bandits are conspicuously absent, but I’m sure they’ll be prominently displayed on Volume 3.  I also included our new logo logo designs, which I think really pop much better than the old version.

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Page 569 Delay

Bushido readers! I spent quite some time on the most recent comic page, and then the photoshop file corrupted, and I lost it all! So the page is going to be delayed, to my extreme frustration. Just wanted you all to know.

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Volume 2 Cover

I wanted to post my work-in-progress for the Volume 2 cover. I threw in all the major volume 2 characters, they get smaller as you go from primary to tertiary. It’s missing Suzuka and Masuhiro, though, but I feared it becoming too busy. Minor details to note, Ken’s in his Kabuki outfit, and Bunzo’s carrying a rock!

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NN4B Character Alignment Chart

Reader Adam Bolander – ajbo(at)cox.net – has given provided a RP character alignment chart for the main Bushido cast! In light of the most recent page, Tadashi’s ‘evil’ alignment status may be in question, but without Adam’s knowing several of these characters’ internal motivations, I’m impressed with the result.

No Need for Bushido Chart

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Bonus Content!

Doge Fanmix

Joe made a new NN4B REMIX PAGE!!! It’s great, as usual. CHECK IT. Also, we have a fanmix page from Jessica which only the internet meme savvy will get! If you want to be in the know, then check out this know you meme link!

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 Is Good, BUT…

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I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 yesterday, and although my initial impression was that I enjoyed it more than the first film, the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became with several elements. So now I’m going to dump out my thoughts on HTTYD2, the sequel to a movie that I think is one of Dreamworks animation’s two masterpieces (the other being Kung Fu Panda). It’s going to read very negative, but I just want to put a disclaimer that I did dig this film, and it’s absolutely worth seeing! Also SPOILERS.

I’ll start with what I loved about the movie. Its first half is expertly paced. For the first hour, they elegantly reintroduce the main characters and their personalities and then slide into the set up for mysterious off screen conflict that had me completely engaged. The introduction of Valka, Hiccup’s mother, was emotionally powerful, and I was incredibly eager to find out more about her history. I also loved the movie’s visuals. The aged up character looks crazy cool, and basically all the cinematography is on an epic scale. The soundtrack is swelling and heroic, and although I want to fault John Powell for overusing the main theme, it is SUCH A GREAT MAIN THEME, so I can’t be that down on it. But then the movie starts answering questions to all the mysteries it’s set up, and things begin to get muddled. They don’t exactly fall apart but we’re never given definitive explanations for a lot of what transpires.

Valka quickly becomes a bewildering character. Why did she never return home? She says she tried to convince everyone in Berk, many times before she was dragon-napped, to stop fighting dragons. She then says she didn’t think she could ever change anyone’s mind about the peaceful nature of dragons if she returned after she was taken. WHAT?? That’s like an alien abductee suddenly being best buds with a peaceful alien civilization that she can leave and come back to anytime she wants, but she doesn’t think bringing a friend to see the alien civilization will be a convincing argument for its existence! Seriously, lady, bring me to your alien civilization and I will, at the very least, strongly consider believing its existence is possible. She also says she thought her family would be better off without her, although she gives no explanation as to why.

She then claims that after she was carried off by a dragon and discovered how great and peaceful dragons were, she decided to help protect them from the film’s villain, Drago Bludvist,  instead of returning home. Well that might be a good reason not to return home, but it also raises a number of questions as to the relationship between Valka and Bludvist. Has this Bludvist guy been terrorizing dragons for the past 20 years? And over the past five years how has this group of dragon hunters not come across or been lead straight to Berk? The movie is kind of vague as to whether or not Bludvist is a returning threat from a previous generation or if he’s been doing his evil ‘capture dragons’ thing for 20 years, but if Valka’s been tending the dragons for all that time, then  one would assume he’s been actively hunting them for the same length.

To explain Valka’s 20 year absence better, I could put together a plausible scenario where Valka fell in love with her new dragon friends very quickly, saw the damage being done to them by Bludvist, and decided helping them was a more necessary cause to focus on than returning home and raising her child. I could see how she would feel very guilty about that decision, which would explain why she’s so concerned about what Stoick may think of her when they meet up after twenty years. But this all requires a lot of mental arithmetic to piece together and is not clearly stated or depicted in the film. Maybe this is all a minor gripe, but a simple line of Valka stating to Hiccup “I wanted to come home, to be with you, but keeping the dragons safe from Bludvist was too important to me, and I knew your father would raise you well,” would have clarified it all and left me feeling a lot more satisfied with her backstory. And then, of course, after she reconnects with Stoick she’s given virtually nothing to do for the rest of the movie!!Now THAT’S frustrating! In the end, her character is wildly under utilized and seems to have no other purpose than to make Stoick’s death more tragic and show where Hiccup gets all his dragon training abilities from (which is genetic now, I guess, maybe).

Also, both Bludvist and Valka can seemingly control two alpha dragons, but it’s never stated how they both know how to do this. It’s implied they’re both using the same type of staff that they wag around in the air, but where did they get the staffs? How do they each have one? It feels like they should have more of history together than is ever stated. If she’d had any history with Bludvist, then I would’ve liked to see him acknowledge her, or exchange some dialog with her when they briefly face off to tie them together more.

So when I really get down to it, my main problem with this film is Drago Bludvist. He feels as though he should be the unifying keystone of this film, the character that brings the three major plot threads together. Those three threads are: Hiccup meeting his mother, Hiccup deciding to be the new village chief, and Bludvist’s desire to conquer the world. And, to his credit, he does do that, but it doesn’t quite come together in as impactful and satisfying a conclusion as the first film’s finale. I’m mostly disappointed at Bludvist’s lack of a back story and unclear motivation. We’re told that he wants to fight the dragon menace, but that he controls dragons, and he wants to fight dragons with dragons. But then Hiccup surmises that Bludvist just wants to conquer and subjugate people, at which point Bludvist reveals he lost an arm to a dragon attack at some point, thus showing how dragons deserve to be controlled? And that’s his motivation? He’s basically a one note villain who wants to conquer the world because ‘reasons’, and instead of being a close minded counterpoint to Hiccup’s liberal open mindedness, he ends up being just some bad guy with an ability to make dragons listen to him.

I wanted Hiccup to change Drago’s mind about his own motivations, because that’s kind of Hiccup’s thing. I wanted him to piece together how to get this stubborn jerk to be less of a jerk through logic and evidence and reason. But since Bludvist’s motivations are so vague, there’s no counterpoint Hiccup can present that could ever change Drago’s mind. You have to know someone’s point of view before you can even hope to change it. This kind of muddles the theme of the film, which I’m still unsure of. I feel like the series’ first film was based on the theme of open mindedness and seeing from other points of view, and I’m not really sure the second film needed a new theme, just to present the old one in a new way. While the first film is more about being open to new experiences, and overcoming unwarranted fears perpetuated by heresy, the second film could’ve been about letting go of conflict perpetuated by justifiable hate. It could’ve been about letting go of anger that’s actually warranted to stop perpetuated violence.

If, despite Stoick’s death, Hiccup had still pushed for Drago Bludvist to change his ways, had even beaten him in combat and, as Drago lay under Hiccup’s boot, Hiccup had continued to argue for the end of conflict without further bloodshed, that would’ve been far more powerful to me. Instead, the film’s message almost comes off as “Sometimes you just need to fight people who don’t believe in what you believe in!” Sometimes that may be a legitimate message, but I feel like this series isn’t the one that should be delivering it.

Other  thoughts:

Stoick’s death is very sudden and Hiccup recovers from it extremely quickly. The music barely had time to get sad for the viking funeral before it was back to being soaring and hopeful again!

The side characters did nothing of consequence for the most part, other than establish a running gag concerning Ruffnut’s romantic non relationship with nearly every boy in the movie, which never pays off! (I did laugh at this quite a bit, in full disclosure)

Drago has a huge army in one scene, and then the next time we see him it’s GONE! Drago, you forgot to bring your army to Berk!!

The only character with a complete character arc is dragon trapper Eret, who finishes his arc just before the climax of the film, leaving him with nothing to do during the finale (just like everyone else).

Toothless murdered Hiccup’s dad!! I wish Stoick had survived but been incapacitated, and then, seeing how well Hiccup handled the crisis afterwards, could’ve run off with Valka to go travelling the world on a ‘greenpeace for dragons’ type mission, leaving Hiccup in charge of Berk. Then the happy couple could return with a dragon army or something in the sequel! BUT NO HE’S DEAD NOW SORRY.

Did Drago die at the end of the movie? Did he escape? Everything about this guy is vague, even his ultimate fate!

Watching the two Alphas battle it out in the background was super cool.

I dig that Fishlegs rides his dragon like it’s a Harley. I instantly liked him a whole lot more because of that. But then he never did anything in the whole movie!

There wasn’t a whole lot of dragon training going on in this movie!

I can’t wait for How to Train Your Dragon 3! (No, seriously, I still love this series!)

 

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