WandaVision, Episode 8 | Oblivion | Democracy 3
Reveals and revelations
TV review - WandaVision, Episode 8, "Previously On"
Episode summary: Wanda embarks on a troubling journey revisiting her past for insight into her present and future. (IMDb)
It has been interesting to see the reaction to this episode online, with some praising it as WandaVision's best and others as its worst. For me, I think it is simply 'good', with numerous high-points for the episode when taken on its own, but problems for the momentum of the season as a whole, with multiple main characters not featuring in the present day sections at all.
I say 'present day', even though it is all technically happening now, as Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) takes Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) on a marvellous magical memory tour through the various traumas she has suffered throughout her young life. Most of these scenes are very moving and emotional, mainly thanks to the continuing excellence of Olsen who utterly sells Wanda's grief.
"But what is grief, if not love persevering?" - a line from the Vision in one of these memories to let her know it's okay to continue being upset about the death of her brother at Ultron's hands, because that just shows how much she still loves him. It's also one of the best lines I've ever heard in a TV show and seems to have struck a chord with 99% of the people who watched the show.
There are other sad moments too, including seeing how her parents were killed in the middle of a happy family evening watching the American sitcoms that this series has imitated so well. There's plenty of great work here and it's been interesting to see quite the gender divide in reactions to what Wanda goes through, with the most derision coming mainly (and unsurprisingly) from younger white men.
It just reminds me of how many of the same group complained about Captain Marvel or the assembling of the female heroes in Avengers: Endgame's climactic battle - perhaps it's not meant for you, guys? That's not to say you can't dislike these things, that's your opinion after all; but to try and claim that they're terrible as if it was a factual statement when an overwhelming super-majority of the rest of the audience thinks it's good, just accept you're in a minority and move on.
One valid criticism of this episode is that the overall story does effectively come to a shuddering halt thanks to Agatha's prolonged mental torture of Wanda, leaving the audience with a lot of questions - and not the intended mysteries. What happened between Monica and 'Pietro' after their meeting in the mid-credits scene last episode? Where's Vision after leaving Darcy and flying away to find Wanda? Why are these questions a thing for a show with only one episode to tie up (almost) everything?
WandaVision's eighth episode struggles to balance the character arcs with the story, leaving multiple characters and plot threads dangling from the last episode. The character stuff is great, with Olsen and Bettany shining perhaps the brightest they have done so far in this series, but I wonder how they can tie up everything going on with just a single episode remaining.
Movie review - Oblivion
Movie summary: A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself. (IMDb)
I liked Oblivion. I know that's not much of a review, but that's really all I can say about it, as it's just a competently-made sci-fi film that I enjoyed watching but will not stick with me. While I could appreciate a lot of the parts of the movie, it never came together to generate any kind of emotional response and truly make me feel invested in what was going on.
This might seem like a slight tangent, but I think this movie highlights how good a director James Cameron is. What I mean by that, is that his movies and the characters in them are never the most original, but holy shit does he make you care about them and the stakes of their situation. His movies are so well made and so engrossing that you won't care even a tiny little bit that the plot is as formulaic as you can get.
The director here, Joseph Kosinski, is no James Cameron and that's what makes Oblivion less than it could've been. The future of humanity is at stake here, but it never feels like it and the story just unfolds in the most undramatic, unemotional way imaginable. I will repeat: I did like this movie, especially the audio-visual aesthetics which are pretty great, but I'll probably forget most of it before too long.
Oblivion is the epitome of 'fine', even if it does feel somewhat less than the sum of its parts. It looks great, the score is decent, the performances are all fine and the story is at least competently executed, even if nothing particularly original. The problem is that it all feels a bit soulless, which could potentially be seen as intentional on the part of the movie, although that doesn't make it any more enjoyable.
Game review - Democracy 3
Game summary: Have you ever wanted to be president? or prime-minister? Convinced you could do a better job of running the country? Let's face it, you could hardly do a worse job than our current political leaders. (Steam)
There's little to say about Democracy 3 other than it really isn't very good, containing a form of politics that doesn't mimic reality in any way and making me wonder why you'd even bother to spend the time making this title if that's the case. The game's tutorial effectively shows off its own inadequacies, barely doing anything to educate the player and still leaving you none the wiser when finished.
I focused on British politics (being British, I thought that would make sense), but it's just a two-party system, making deals with other parties or coalitions impossibilities. Oh, and you're told that you need about 50% of the electorate behind you to stand a chance of re-election because not everyone will vote, but you start the game with barely any support at all.
Considering the game begins with your party having just assumed power, where did the people who elected you go? If the game's not going to follow its own rules, why bother implementing any? Democracy 3 bears so little relation to reality that it's only worthwhile use is almost as a fantasy political system, because that's the only way the limited gameplay of changing policies and choosing ministers makes any sense.
Democracy 3 is a very limited and very poor representation of politics, with a poor set-up, nonsensical reactions to actions taken and a very bare-bones presentation. Some areas of the game feel more complicated than necessary, while others seem to barely be implemented, making me wonder if the focus in development was a bit mismanaged.