Riddick Official Motion Comic – Blindsided

Riddick_blindsidedFor those looking forward to the upcoming Riddick movie, there’s a little prequel you should probably watch first. It’s what’s known as a Motion Comic, which is basically video short made up of animated cells. Picking things up where Chronicles of Riddick left off, it tells of what happened that sent Riddick from the seat of Lord Marshall to a remote corner of the universe, once again reprising his role as a wanted man.

Let me be clear, this is not a fan made video. This is a studio-approved short and stars Vin Diesel and Karl Urban, providing the vocals for Riddick and Lord Vaako. And I can honestly say, its not bad. Like many people, I was wondering how the movie makers would tackle the issue of Riddick’s ascension to the Necromonger throne and how he went from that to basically reliving the plot from Pitch Black.

I mean, it’s not every day you become leader of an apocalyptic army. And you don’t just go from that to being a fugitive again, right? So with this short filling the narrative gap, fans will pretty much be set for the upcoming movie. Though I’m not sure I’m going to be seeing the movie when it comes out, I do feel prepared for it now!

Enjoy!

New Movie Trailers: Catching Fire and Riddick

It’s been a boon week for movie news and previews, and I’ve found myself quite behind on a few things. Good thing it’s not my job to stay current, otherwise I would have been fired a long time ago! But as a genre fan, I feel the need to keep up with sci-fi news and pass it on whenever possible. And lately, the big news items have had to do with upcoming adaptations, sequels, relaunches, or all of the above.

catching-fire-movie-posterSo to save some time I thought I’d do a two-fer trailer post today and feature the newest trailers for Catching Fire and Riddick. Though I’m sure the former needs no explanation, for those who haven’t read or seen The Hunger Games, this would be the much-anticipated sequel. Still trying to finish this book myself, mainly because I promised I’d review the whole trilogy. Still, the plot for this one is really quite clear.

After winning the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta are called upon to do the Victory Tour, an event which occurs between games and showcases the winners. During the tour, Katniss is made aware of how their victory has inspired dissent, which puts her in a compromising position. Between fulfilling her role as a symbol of resistance and keeping up appearances, there’s plenty of high drama to be had!

riddick_posterAs for the latter, this would the latest installment in that particular Vin Diesel antihero engine known as the Riddick franchise. It began with Pitch Black, a movie who’s script was originally proposed for Alien 3 but rejected in favor of the whole prison planet plot. It went on to become a cult classic, spawning the much higher-budget Chronicles of Riddick.

In this third installment, its clear the movie makers have decided to recycle the plot from the first movie and have once again put Riddick on some remote planet where he is being pursued by Bounty Hunters and Necromongers. No sooner is he captured that hostile aliens show up and they all have to work together to survive. As he said in first movie, “It ain’t me you gotta worry about now.” At least Karl Urban is back, and Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from BSG) is part of the cast!

Catching Fire is set to be released on  November 22, 2013, while Riddick will be premiering on September 6th. Enjoy!


Dredd 2012

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Hey all! My apologies for my absence of late, but life has been very busy on the teaching front. Cold season always brings big stretches of busy work, and I’ve been on call steadily for the past three weeks. Luckily, I find myself with a day or two to catch up on other things, and so I decided I’d get back on this horse and start things off right.

Today, I’d like to share a review of a movie I recently enjoyed, the summer remake known as Dredd. Based on the graphic novel Judge Dredd, this movie was an attempt by writer John Wagner and director Pete Travis to reboot the franchise after the semi-disastrous 1995 adaptation that starred Sylvester Stallone.

Though the film failed to recoup its production budget at the box office, which was expected, it was reviewed much more favorably than the original and earned a small following. What’s more, it is expected the movie will continue to gross now that it is released on DVD and will be available on cable and home movie providers.

Synopsis:
dredd-1920x1080-1024x576The movie opens in the streets of Mega City One, a post-apocalyptic urban environment that stretches from Boston to Washington DC. Dredd’s voice provides voiceover, describing the urban environment in all its bloody, crowded, and dirty glory. We then cut to a scene where Dredd (Karl Urban) is pursuing three criminals that have been spotted by an aerial drone. A tense chase ensues, during which time multiple civilians are killed. After taking out their vehicle and chasing the last man into a Block – one of the cities many massive apartment structures – Dredd concludes that the men were carrying a new drug known as Slo-Mo.

dredd_mamaWe then cut to Peach Trees, another major block, where we meet Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). She is a notorious crime boss that runs Peach Trees and is responsible for the manufacture of Slo-Mo, and who is plotting to expand production and bring it to the rest of the city. We get a glimpse into just how ruthless she is when she dispenses justice against three men who have been dealing in their Block and that she decides to make an example of. This consists of skinning them and then dropping from the top floor to the bottom level, but first giving them a hit of Slo-Mo so it will seem imperceptibly long.

dredd-anderson-2Dredd is then called back to the Grand Hall of Justice to inspect a new recruit named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is reportedly a psychic. She and Dredd are dispatched to Peach Trees as part of her final evaluation to investigate the dead bodies. After the paramedic examines them, he explains that they all had Slo-Mo in their system, and gives them a rundown on who Ma-Ma is and how she came to be the master of the Block.

They then proceed to the nearest distribution center on the Block and take it down, securing one of Ma-Ma’s men (Kay) in the process. Anderson probes his mind and deduces he was the one who threw the men over the balcony and they decide to take him in for interrogation. When word reaches Ma-Ma, she has her thugs seize control of building security and lock the entire Block down, which consists of external shields closing in around the structure to resist a nuclear blast. All communications with the outside are cut off, and Ma-Ma announces over the PA system that she wants the Judges killed.

dredd_gunsDredd and Anderson begin fighting their way through several groups of armed residents with Kay in tow. Eventually, Ma-Ma orders her men to bring out their greatest weapon, a bunch of Vulcan cannons, and use them to shoot up an entire level. Dredd and Anderson narrowly survive by breaching the outer wall and calling for help, and Dredd then tosses Caleb, one of Ma-Mas henchmen over the balcony in full view of her. Down below, two Judges show up on the scene, but are unable to get through the Block’s sealed walls, and Ma-Ma’s hacker insists this is all part of a security drill.

Retreating to a school house, Dredd concludes that Ma-Ma is desperate to kill Kay to keep him for revealing her secrets and begins beating him. Anderson intervenes and begins mind probing him instead, learning that Peach Trees is the center for the production and distribution of Slo-Mo. Shortly thereafter, Dredd and Anderson are distracted by some armed teens, which allows Kay to kidnap Anderson and escape using the freight elevator to get to the top levels.

Judge Dredd Still ImageDredd continues to work his way towards the top, prompting Ma-Ma to call in four corrupt Judges. They relieve the men at the front, enter without incident, and agree to take down Dredd for one million credits. Meanwhile, Kay attempts to kill Anderson using her gun, and loses his hand in the process. She escapes and begins working her way down, and becomes a target of the crooked Judges as well. Between the two of them, they manage to take out all four and meet up in the Slo-Mo production lab. Dredd is wounded by Lex, the last of the Judges, but Anderson saves him and the two carry on.

After finding Ma-Ma’s hacker, they manage to obtain the code from him to her private cell. Rather than Judge him, Anderson sees that the man only worked for Ma-Ma out of fear, and that she was the one who took his eyes, forcing him to get bionic enhancements. She lets him go, even though Dredd tells her it could result in an “automatic fail”. She responds by saying she was already taken hostage and her gun was confiscated, which is also grounds for an a fail grade, and they move on.

dredd-lena-headey-ma-maThey finally reach Ma-Ma’s cell and take out the last of her men, though Anderson is also wounded in the process. Ma-Ma then tells Dredd she has the upper levels lined with explosives and the detonator is mounted on her wrist. If her heart stops, the device will go off and everyone in the top 50 floors will die. Dredd shoots her in the stomach and responds by saying the he doubts the device has a range that can reach from the ground floor to the top, and Judges her. Sentencing her to death, he gives her a hit of Slo-Mo and tosses her from the balcony. She falls in slow motion to her death, and the building doesn’t blow up.

Convening with reinforcements and paramedics below, Anderson hands her shield to Dredd and walks away. However, when the Chief Judge comes to him and asks how she did, he replied that she passed. The movie then ends with Dredd providing voice over once again, about how the city is a corrupt mess, and the only thing standing between it and total chaos are the Judges.

Summary:
dredd_mega_city_oneConsistent with what I heard in advance, this movie was actually pretty good. And even though it didn’t do well at the box office, the result of the meme working against it, I can see it developing a cult following and becoming something of a personal classic to many in the coming years. Despite some flaws, such as the excessive gore and some self-indulgent special effects, it had some noticeable signs of quality.

For starters, the look and feel of the Megacity environment was pretty awesome. The gritty, grimy nature comes through immediately, and without any of the overdone campiness of the original movie. Rather than shooting it in a massively constructed environment with flying cars and lavish costumes, the movie is shot in Cape Town and Johannesburg and uses real locations as a backdrop and relies on CGI and models only to supplement the already dense and dirty urban environment.

dredd_atriumAnd of course there was the attention to detail with the centerpiece of the movie, the building known as Peach Trees. As a Mega City Block, this building is essentially an arcology where all the basic needs of the residents are taken care of in-house. This includes schools, medical care, food, entertainment, and all of these were illustrated at one point or another in the film. And you’ll notice that in all cases, their was graffiti on the walls, garbage on the floor, and metal bars on everything, signifying just how dirty and dangerous the environments are.

And I really enjoyed the whole “lock down” procedure, which was more than just a convenient plot tool. In a world where nuclear holocaust has already taken place and every Block acts as a self-sustaining arcology, the concept of shield walls was just plain genius in my mind. Visually it was quite cool, but it also made perfect sense and it beautifully illustrated the shock mentality and survivalist instincts that are so common to this world.

Dredd-1And of course the movie was thematically consistent. On the one hand, you had the nature of the city, which was packed to the brim with 800 million people and with a homicide rate of 1700 people a day. Whereas Dredd is the perfect symbol of social fascism in this context, a man who has little faith in people and absolute veneration of the law, Anderson is the bright-eyed rookie who wants to help people and believes there is good to be found, even in an overcrowded block like Peach Trees.

dredd_peachtreesThese archetypes are offset by characters such as Ma-Ma and Lex, the leader of the crooked Judge. As her back story presents it, Ma-Ma is essentially a sociopathic product of the Mega City environment, a former prostitute who killed her pimp after he cut up her face and who has been on a non-stop mission ever since to bring her own sense of order to the city. Lex, meanwhile, is an embittered veteran who has lost all faith in the system and helping people and is simply looking out for number one.

Through it all, Dredd is softened somewhat by his encounter with the corrupt Judges and Anderson’s gentleness. Naturally, his war of ideology with Ma-Ma ends with him taking her out, but not before a long battle of wills takes place. This is exemplified by the way the two dual for control over the hearts and minds of people in Peach Tree. Whereas Ma-Ma uses their fear to obtain their help in hunting Dredd, Dredd fights back with his unflinching dedication to take her down and anybody who gets in the way. Ultimately, Dredd wins in part because Ma-Ma’s insanity and willingness to kill her own convince people to keep out of the way and let Dredd do his job.

JWhat’s more, the movie was well cast. Karl Urban fits the bill as the surly, sour-faced Judge who never shows his face and is never to be found doing anything other than his job. And Thirlby pulls off the role of the green, untested rookie who comes through in the end quite well. And Lena Headey, whom fans know from 300, the Sarah Conner Chronicles, and (best of all) as Cersei Lannister from a the HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones, was also very convincing as Ma-Ma.

I was surprised really, seeing as how the previews kind of lent the impression that her role was overdone or just too plain evil. But it is a testament to this woman’s ability to act that she pulls off the psychotic crime boss who knows no mercy. Somehow, between her cut up face, evil eyes and bloody grin, you become convinced she was a victim who turned her abuse into complete madness and shouldn’t be messed with! What’s more, Urban’s usual combination of deadpan frowns and monotone voice worked in his favor, much like how Keannu Reeves same combination of method and monotone allowed him to pull of Neo.

dredd_slomoAnd of course, there were the visual effects. There are those who would say that this movie was just an ultra-violent gorefest with overblown special effects. But to that, I’d say it was a lot more genuine that the original, and much of the gore and violence was appropriate given the setting and tone of the movie. Mega City One is a massively overcrowded, decaying cesspool of humanity, where thousands of murders happen a day and human bodies are recycled for food and goods.

Such a place is neither safe nor sanitary, and violence is a constant, pervasive element. And sure, the concept of Slo-Mo may very well have been an excuse to employ some over the top 3D and slow motion sequences. But after watching the movie, I was forced to admit, it was a pretty damn good one! In the end, you can’t help but feel that these two factors are somewhat excessive but still appropriate.

Naturally, the original movie tried to gloss over this since they wanted to give it as wide an appeal as possible. This failed, as much of the material was just too adult for kids, but the tone and feel of it was too cartoony to be taken seriously. Basically, the movie tried to hedge its bets and ended up flopping for it. But this time around, the directors and producers were going for a cult appeal and stuck to their guns, which I have to respect. By aiming for a smaller range of consumers and a less broad appeal, they were able to keep the movie honest and truer to the source material.

In short, I give it a 7.5/10. And man, I want to see more of Mega City One! That urban landscape had a kick-ass art team putting it together! I’d recommend the movie for that much alone, especially to fans of the Blade Runner, urban noire and post-apocalyptic series’, but the rest of the movie is fun watching too. So get it and contribute to the cult following people. The producers still need to recoup their dough!

2012: the Year of Reboots

If you’ve been paying attention to the trailer circuit lately, you might have noticed some new previews making the rounds. A few weeks ago, it was the trailer for the reboot of Spider-Man, this time with the prefix “The Amazing”. Shortly thereafter, a new trailer came out previewing the relaunch of the 1990 movie Total Recall, this time starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale. And now, there’s a third trailer making the rounds. This last one previews a relaunch of the 1994 Judge Dredd, the one-time Stallone vehicle that will star sci-fi/fantasy veteran Karl Urban and Lena Headey, who’s fame is exploding due to her role as Cersei in Game of Thrones.

What do all these movies have in common? Well, for one, they are relaunches of relatively recent movies. Second, all these movies are scheduled for relaunch in 2012. That means for anyone old enough to have seen the originals, this summer is going to be jammed packed with remakes of movies they’ve already seen… I’m thinking Hollywood needs to just come out and admit that they have no new ideas left!

Now to be fair, some of these movies can get away with being remade. The original Total Recall came out 22 years ago, but for most people in my generation, it was a hit while we were tweens. I can’t imagine many people are going to be seeing it for more than the nostalgic appeal, even if it is packed with headliners. And you can just tell that casting it with Ferrell, Biel and Beckinsale and pitching it as a big FX romp was done to ensure it has a big draw. Still, expect people to comparing it endlessly to the Schwarzenegger original!

Dredd is even more recent, with most fans of the comic being the age of majority when it came out. But a relaunch of this movie seems good given that the last one was such a disappointment. But judging by the trailers, it seems like just another excuse to shoot something in 3D. The storyline also looks pretty contained, focusing on a single mission rather than the larger picture of Mega City One, the Judges and the irony of trusting quasi-fascists to bring order to a chaotic society.

And Spider-Man? Hell, the third movie in that trilogy aired just five years ago! And the original was produced when, in 2002? That’s just a ten year gap between this new one and the first of the originals! Isn’t there a statute of limitations on this kind of thing? Why does this movie even need to be remade, and now of all times? The others featured perfectly good CGI effects and good story lines, and was ably acted by Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst. And of course, most people seeing this one already saw all the others.

So really, what possible reason is there for making this version? I have heard some people speculate that it’s because they want to include Spider-Man in the next Avengers movie. So… what happened to Toby McGuire? Is he too old? Was he not returning the studios calls? Did he say there was no POSSIBLE way he’d ever do a Spider-Man movie again? Is that why they’re doing this, so people won’t be surprised when a new guy shows up to play Spidey in Avengers 2? That seems silly!

Oh Hollywood. When did you lose your way? Was it the money, the phoniness, the mountains and mountains of blow? Yeah, I’m betting somewhere between the money and the nose candy, you all just went a little batty and stopped being able to come up with new ideas. So here’s a few ideas. Hire some new people. Pitch to new writers. Try making something though-provoking and avant-garde. Do something other than throw up the same old formulaic crap and rebooting old concepts!

And before you make the excuse that audiences are stupid and won’t buy into something half-way decent and brainy, might I remind that you guys pioneered those low expectations in the first place? Were it not for you constantly trying to appeal to the lowest-common denominator, you wouldn’t be in this creative tailspin. You might say this trend is the end result of underestimating the intelligence of the average person for so very long. Them chickens roosting in your backyard seem to have brought a batch of avian flu with them! In short, Hollywood, back your shit up, get your shit together, and then get your shit off our floor!

Sorry, that got a little rant-y towards the end there. But for me, this is just the straw that broke the camels back. I’d like to see some better movies, and these guys are the one making it hard for independent producers and studios simply because they suck up so much money and produce so much PR. Still, I might see one of these movies. During Prometheus, my wife was more than impressed by the preview for Total Recall, so we’ll see. If I seem stupider once I get back, blame Hollywood!

More Badasses!

Last time, my list was already going kind of long with everyone from Alucard to Private Vasquez. So I thought I might make a second installment and include all the people I couldn’t, and break the mold a little by venturing outside of the world of science fiction. But as usual, the only real criteria is sheer badassness, those people who went above and beyond at kicking ass, keeping their cool and staying alive when all around them was dying or exploding! So here they are, the other badasses who deserve recognition for all their awesomeness!

Bill Kilgore:
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory.”

These are the words that soldier, surfing enthusiast and notorious badass Lt. Col Bill Kilgore is most remembered for. A seminal character is the 1979 epic war film Apocalypse Now, Kilgore was the commander of the an Air Cavalry brigade that was responsible for getting special agent Capt. Benjamin L. Willard and his PT Boat escort up the Mekong River. This he did by assaulting a company of Viet Cong that was controlling the mouth of the river, flying in low in attack choppers to the tune of “Flight of the Valkyries” by Wagner, blowing the shit out of everything, distributing death cards on the corpses of the enemy, and then ordering his men to surf on the breaking waves!

That’s right, in the midst of enemy fire, he disembarked on the Mekong Delta and told his men that it was either “fight or surf”. When told that this was too risky, Kilgore replied simply that “if I say it’s safe, it’s safe!” He would also remark in the midst of it that “Charlie don’t surf!” Loved by his men and feared by his enemies, Kilgore combined balls, daring, eccentricity and wry humor into one package. As if this wasn’t enough, Kilgore seemed to lament the fact that one day, the war would end. And why not? With no asses to kick and no death to defy, men like him would surely run out of things to do and die from boredom.

And as Willard himself remarked in his journal, Kilgore had a certain aura about him, as if nothing could touch him. Yes, given his indifference to explosions and bullets’ ability to miss him, Kilgore could only strike audiences as crazy, invincible, or some odd combination of both. But given his reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kilgore survived the war and went on kicking ass until the day he died. I’m sure there’s even shrines somewhere along the Mekong river that are dedicated to him!

Bo:
Man, demon hunting has been growing in popularity in recent years! And with more and more heroines taking to the stage, its also been getting a lot sexier! This is especially true of Bo, the an ass-kicking vixen of Lost Girl and a leather-wearing succubus to boot! Much like her male peers, Blade and D, she is a supernatural being with mixed origins who uses her abilities to help those in need. Largely, this consists of hunting other supernatural beings who prey on the innocent and just like to stir shit up. In addition to her leather getup, her weapons of choice appear to be traditional in nature, crossbows and blades rather than guns.

Working with the only real friend she’s known since discovering her true identity, Bo and Kenzi run a sort of Fae/Human detective agency where they investigate paranormal events and learn more about the world she comes from. In the course of learning about her true origins, Bo is brought face to face with the Fae world and its particular struggles. After being told that she must choose between “the light or the dark” of the Fae world, Bo chooses instead to remain neutral and fight for humanity, largely out of loyalty to her friend.

In time, she meets and develops relationships with other beings, like the wolf-shifter Dyson, who holds down a day job as a police detective, and a human doctor named Lauren. These relationships, in addition to the nature of her job, allows Bo to keep one foot in both worlds, which seems to be the natural resolution to her predicament (i.e. having “lost” her humanity years before).

Bryan Mills:
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Just as Ellen Ripley taught never to come between a mother and her child, Mills taught us never to come between a father and his daughter. Yes, with the release of Taken in 2008, we were all indebted to Liam Neeson for proving that a retired father-figure can still be the biggest badass on the block! Within ninety-six hours of learning that his daughter had been kidnapped, Mills flew to Paris and took down an entire Albanian mob ring and all those involved in their human smuggling. And part of what made it so damn cool was how effortless he made it look!

After spending years honing his skills with the CIA, a job which eventually cost him his job and custody of his daughter, Mills quit his job and moved to LA to be closer to her. However, things went awry when his daughter decided to take a trip to Europe to follow U2 on tour and ended up being kidnapped by a bunch of sex-slave traffickers. Thus the very thing that cost him a life with his daughter would allow him to bring her back home safe and sound! Not only was he able to deduce the identity of her kidnappers from a single phone call, he was also able to determine who amongst the authorities were on the take from them, where the bad guys safe houses were, and who they were doing business with. Not bad for an old man!

But really, the scene that took the cake for me was when he walked right into one of the Albanian mobs hideouts, impersonating a French government agent, and extorted the bad guys for more money!

Awesome, especially when you consider that it was all an act so that he could find out which amongst them was the guy he had a phone conversation with. And once he knew, he says so cooly, “You don’t remember me? We spoke on the phone two days ago. I told you I would find you.” Then proceeds to take them all out with his bare hands and their own guns! Oh, and that torture scene afterwards, where he hooks up Marko to the power grid? It was so good, I feel the need to quote his opening threat in full:

“You know, we used to outsource this kind of thing. But what we found was the countries we outsourced to had unreliable power grids. Very Third World. You’d turn on a switch – power wouldn’t come on, and then tempers would get short. People would resort to pulling fingernails. Acid drips on bare skin. The whole exercise would become counterproductive. But here, the power’s stable. Here, there’s a nice even flow. Here, you can flip a switch and the power stays on all day.”

Bad-Ass! If only Mills and Ripley could get together and make a baby, that kid would be the safest, most badassed kid in the world!

Dirty Harry:
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?” One of the most quoted lines in Hollywood history. You almost forget that the man saying it was threatening to blow the head off some thug with an empty .44 magnum. And this was after he single-handedly foiled a bank robbery. Yes, this scene not only made Clint Eastwood’s career, it also immortalized Inspector Harry Callahan as one of the baddest dudes of all time!

Working for the SFPD, Inspector Callahan became the template for an entire generation of movie cop. Nicknamed “Dirty” because of his reputation for crossing boundaries in order to get the bad guy, Callahan was also a man of deep principles who believed very strongly in what he was doing. Always, his weapon of choice was his trusty .44 magnum service revolver, a gun that is notorious for packing an incredibly punch! Though he might use other weapons in the course of duty, or just his bare hands, the magnum was always the gun he is seen wielding in iconic images.

Often condemned by higher ups and authorities for being a “rogue” or “loose cannon”, he was in fact the kind of guy who only broke the rules – including his own – when it was absolutely necessary. And when it came right down to it, his rough exterior hid a semi-tortured soul that longed for a world in which life was simpler, people were civil, and no one committed grisly crimes. But as long as they still did, he was prepared to whip out his gun and shoot them up!

Sounds like a cliche now doesn’t it? Well, that’s because Eastwood established it as a household theme! Callahan was, for all intents and purposes, the original bad-boy cop, willing to bend, grease and even break the rules in order to take down the criminal psychopaths and avenge the victims of violent crime. But always, he loved what he did, and was a hell of a lot more committed than the pencil-pushing bosses and red-tape bureaucrats who complained about his methods! (Whoa, speaking of cliches!)

John McClain:
The man who put the hard in Die Hard! Unlike most of his peers, Detective John McClain of the NYPD was good at taking down bad guys not because of his big brain or super human fighting skills, but because of his raw, unrelenting determination. Relying on a cop’s instincts, a strong sense of duty and the desire to protect the ones he loved, McClain triumphed over criminals and terrorists through persistence and his refusal to just roll over and die. Basically, he was like an itch they couldn’t scratch, slowly driving them mad until they lost all control and died in a fiery explosion or a spectacular fall.

A veteran cop with the NYPD, McClain established his reputation as a badass by taking down twelve terrorists in LA who decided to celebrate Christmas by seizing control of a multinational corporate building and taking its employees (including his wife) hostage.

This reputation was further cemented when, on the following Christmas, a bunch of paramilitary goons decided to hold an airport hostage so they could fly a Central American war criminal in safely and then ferry him away. His third stint involved stopping a former East German infiltration expert-turned mercenary who also happened to be the brother of Hans Gruber (his first victim) . Last, but not least, he managed to foil a bunch of cyber terrorists who chose July 4th to stage a massive heist involving “fire sale”ing the US economy and all its utilities. Again and again, McClain brought them down by enduring endless beatings, running around, and getting there just in time to screw up some element of their plan.

In this way, McClain did demonstrate a sort of subtle genius by being able to get under the bad guy’s skin. In all cases, the criminals he was dealing with were adept at planning and manipulation, relying on fear, feints and bluffs that would make their opponents play into their hands. Intrinsic to their plans was a sense of control, ensuring that all things went according to schedule so they could get in and get out without being caught. By putting himself at the center of things and constantly gumming up the works, McClain robbed them of this control, thus making them act rashly and stupidly until their plans unraveled. But of course, the bad guys were always on the verge of getting away when McClain finally did them in, ensuring that things stayed suspenseful until the end.

Tragically, his commitment to badassery and being in the wrong place at the wrong time cost him his marriage and pretty much alienated him from his daughter. It also led to a love-hate relationship with the bottle and a 401k that had seen better days. And though it seemed like time had run out on his marriage, John was ultimately able to rebuild things with his daughter, mainly because he saved her life! And, as predicted, she was pretty ballsy and tough herself. Guess the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree ;)

Rambo:
Much like Dirty Harry, John Rambo is one of those heroes that has been imitated so many times over the years that he’s become somewhat of a cliche. However, if one were to dig deep beneath all the merchandizing, knock-offs, and half-assed imitations, one finds an original creation who was quite the badass indeed. And like most of Stallone’s roles, there was some real substance to this character before a series of sequels buried it under a mountain of cliches and repetitive plotlines.

Born to a Navajo father and Italian/German mother, Rambo enlisted in the army at an early age and was sent to Vietnam where he served two tours: one as a regular solider and another with the Green Berets. After being taken prisoner and tortured, he escaped and deployed one last time. After all that, Rambo returned to the US to find that people had turned against the war and hated him for being a veteran. This led to a severe case of PTSD and some serious trouble with the law.

In the original novel, Rambo was arrested, escaped from jail and became the target of a manhunt. This ended with his death in a secluded wood after he had taken down several officers and National Guardsmen. In the movie however, Rambo doesn’t die but surrenders, speaking of the horrors he’s witnessed and lamenting how he cannot return to a normal, civilian life. He then is taken to jail where he remained until the second movie came out.

In the sequels, Rambo finds a sort of resolution to his conflict by returning to active duty, again and again. Ultimately, it seems that the solution to his inability to reintegrate into a peaceful lifestyle is to embrace a life of violence, but for the sake of helping those in need.

His first redeployment (in First Blood, Part II) is to his old stomping grounds of Vietnam where he is tasked with rescuing POW’s who never made it home. His second is to Afghanistan, where Soviet forces have taken his old friend and mentor Col. Trautman prisoner and he and a bunch of mujaheddin warriors must break into the camp to save him. In the fourth and final installment, Rambo comes out of retirement one last time to help a bunch of missionaries who have been taken hostage by the military Junta in Myanmar/Burma. In every case, Rambo racks up the kills, relying on his trusty bow and arrow, M60, KBAR knife, and any machinegun he can get his hands on to eviscerate, carve, punch holes in or blow the bad guys away!

Yes, as I said, things got pretty cliche with this series, relying on the latest news sensation and the repetitive theme of an old warrior returning to what he knows to make the carnage seem emotionally accessible. But who the hell cared? If there was one thing Rambo was good at, it was kicking some serious ass and it didn’t really matter who’s it was! In the end, they fell by the hundreds, overwhelmed by his mighty arsenal and signature sneer!

Raylan Givens:
What do you get when you cross a cowboy with a Federal Marshall? Why, Raylan Givens, of course! The star of the hit series Justified, Raylan Givens is a no-nonsense, gun-toting, wisecracking lawman who seems to have learned the art of law enforcement from guys like John Wayne and Dirty Harry. Much like his predecessors, he has a penchant for breaking the rules and pissing off his superiors in order to reign in the bad guys. But of course, no one can fire him because he’s just too damn good!

Born to a criminal family in Harlan County, Kentucky, Raylan joined the Marines in order to get away from the drugs, criminals and white supremacists that his hometown was known for. After becoming an expert in small arms and the quick draw, he enlisted with the US Marshalls and became a law man. Known for his accuracy, fast hands, tendency to wind up shooting people and signature cowbow hat, Raylan quickly earned the reputation  of being a “cowbow”, both in terms of appearance and sensibilities. Naturally, he would be the first to say that he tries to resolve things peacefully, but somehow, violence keeps breaking out.

After a “justified shoot” involving an arms dealer whom Raylan told to leave Miami in 24 hours or risk getting shot on sight, Raylan was transferred back to his home state of Kentucky. Here, he found the county of his youth overrun by the Oxycontin trade, prostitution, and violence, often involving people he used to call family and friends. More often than not, Raylan is forced to reign in people who are much like him, people who he could have easily become if he had made slightly different choices (echoes of Garry Cooper there!).

Xena:
Don’t ask me how I managed to forget Xena last time around! This iconic, heroine, warrior-princess, inspirational figure is someone without whom no list of inspirational badasses should even be written! So I amend my previous mistake, and include her here and now. I knew not what I did, please don’t send me hate mail. Moving on…

Xena is without a doubt one of the most popular heroines to come out of popular culture and fantasy/sci-fi in recent decades. Tough, smart, and sassed mouth, she is anything but prim and proper and has been generally known to kick some serious ass and look good while doing it. Whether she’s high-kicking, wielding that Chakram (throwing disc), slashing through bad guys with her sword, or just leering at people with those eyes, Xena is to badass heroines what AC/DC is to classic rock. In short, it’s dam hard to imagine one without the other! Originally appearing in the series Hercules as a villain, Xena went on to become his friend and lover and even earned herself a spin-off which did better and ran longer than its forebear.

Her own back story begins with her as a pirate and criminal, until she met and was double-crossed by a young, ambitious Roman officer named Julius Caesar (played by none other than Karl Urban). After surviving his brutal betrayal, she went to the East and joined some warlords, losing herself in revenge and violence until she tired of it and returned to the west. Here, she continued warring and raiding, until she met a demi-God named Hercules whom she initially tried to kill, but soon joined forces with him in order to defeat a warlord who had taken control of her army.

In time, she and Hercules had a love affair and she decided to change her ways. Nicknamed the “warrior-princess”, she soon teamed up with a young woman named Gabrielle who she taught to fight. Together, the two began roaming the lands of the ancient world, seeking out injustice and fighting for what was right. As she fights the forces of evil, Xena must also fight the forces of her own past, striving to resist the temptation to return to her old ways. Oftentimes, Gabrielle’s friendship and company prove to be the difference between resisting and succumbing.

Sounds cheesy, no? But it’s also pretty effective. In addition to being a hero to women and young girls everywhere, Xena’s relationship with Gabrielle has proven to be an inspiration to the lesbian community who claim that this powerful bond is a prime example of love which transcends gender norms or social mores. So in addition to her trademark war cry, disc-throwing and swashbuckling skills, Xena is a hero for being brave in a way that has nothing to do with ass-kicking or weapons. She is brave just for being true to herself and not giving a damn what anybody else thinks!

Final Thoughts:
Okay, now that I’ve paid homage to all these badass icons, I think I got what I need to draw some tentative conclusions. Basically, it seems to me that all of them share certain characteristics that set them apart and make them so damn unforgettable. So if you want to be badass like them, you better start thinking about adapting some of the following to your repertoire:

  1. Roguish Personality: Whether we are talking about detectives, mercenaries, or freelance hunters, it seems that in order to be badass, you need to be willing to break the rules a little. Things like convention, regulations, and red tape are the kind of things that inspire annoyance, tediousness and the desire for you to do something outlandish and possibly reckless. Screw what other people think, you know what needs to be done and someone’s got to do it! If not you, then who?
  2. Strong Values: But it’s not enough to simply break the rules. There has to be a higher purpose to what you are doing to justify this disregard for procedure and discipline. Basically, you need to have a strong commitment to what is right and know the difference between simply following orders and doing what needs to be done. After all, people following orders led to some of the worst crimes and miscarriages of justice in history! You gotta see the big picture and circumvent those who don’t sometimes, otherwise shit can happen!
  3. Mad Skills: Whether you’re weapon of choice is a gun, a sword, some high-tech device, or just your hands and feet, you need to practice hard and be good at what you do! No hero has ever excelled by being lazy or neglectful of their basic fighting skills. You don’t need to be the best, mind you. Many a time you will confront someone who is more skilled than you are. But in these cases, your wits and your righteousness will overcome. Hell, you may even find yourself being rescued by a sidekick or someone you thought was against you. Heroes are good like that. They have friends and helpers where the bad-guys do not 😉
  4. Troubled Past: Let’s face it, all this ass-kicking and smart-ass talk can’t conceal the fact that you’ve got some demons! Hell, all heroes do. Perhaps you’re struggling with your past, perhaps you’re not 100% okay with where you came from. But whatever the case, you know that ultimate resolution will come only through confrontation. Only by facing those who best embody your fears and demons will you prevail over the darkness you hold inside. But don’t do it too quickly! Chances are, you’ll become boring once you’ve vanquished your enemies and found inner peace!

Well that’s my assessment at least. But of course, if you are a true badass, you aren’t going to follow MY rules are you? Of course not! So take what you will from these “guidelines” and find your own path to badassery. For no matter what people may tell you, badasses are all rugged individuals at heart. If everybody did it, it would cease to be badass wouldn’t it?