“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Battle of the Damned

tn_battleofthedamnedIn BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, Dolph Lundgren fights zombies, and I’ll give it this: it’s way better than AGAINST THE DARK, the one where Steven Seagal fights vampires. There are two main reasons for this:

1) AGAINST THE DARK is Seagal’s worst movie ever
2) BATTLE OF THE DAMNED also has robots

It’s almost the same story: group of mercenaries led by beloved action icon of the ’80s and ’90s (in this case Dolph) patrols through a quarantine zone where a plague turns everybody into violent monsters (in this case running zombies instead of vampires) while a group of bland survivors walks slowly and talks about boring shit in a large building. They kill a bunch of the monsters, splattering that CGI blood that dissolves in the air, and there is some running around and stuff. Seagal used a sword, Dolph doesn’t, but he does meet a guy named Elvis (Jen Kuo Sung of NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 3 and BLOODMOON) who does. And he knows the military plan to bomb the whole area to stop the virus so he bands together with the survivors he meets and they try to get out of there before it’s too late. The end.

mp_battleofthedamnedAlthough this is pretty shoddy it is not as poorly made as AGAINST THE DARK. It mostly takes place in the day time and often outside, so there is sometimes colors. (Not enough, though. They always drain that shit out of DTV movies.) Lundgren is actually the lead character and seemed to be on set most of the time, in contrast to Seagal’s small amount of footage spread out to seem like he is the star. Some scenes have a sense of momentum to them, for example there’s an opening cutting between zombie fights and Dolph standing in a mansion talking to a rich guy hiring him to go in and get his daughter out.

Shit, that’s right, he even has a simple, specific mission! That was a good idea.

I also approve of the overall tongue-not-necessarily-in-cheek tone of the movie. It does have some jokey lines (a few of them groaners – like when a character insists on touching the robot when he first sees it and says “Whoah, serious nerdgasm!”) but treats the story itself seriously, despite its Asylum-esque cheapness. It’s not more of that “it’s okay that it sucks because wink wink you know what I mean, grindhouse” type bullshit we keep getting.

Actually what it kind of reminds me of is an old Full Moon movie, in both its charms and its shittiness. I guess Dolph is the Tim Thomerson then. He’s the grimacing, toothpick chewing Major Max Gatling. Mogadishu ’93, Delta Force. The type of guy who keeps saying “Gatling, you stupid son of a bitch!” to himself when he seemingly gets in over his head. But obviously this is a Dolph character we’re talking about, nothing is over his head.

There is a nice moment which could either be considered badass juxtaposition or an Eastwoodian aging action hero touch, where he lays out a map to plan a raid and puts on reading glasses. (Also he gets called “old man” at one point.)

Gatling’s rescue squad doesn’t last as long as he does, because “This whole fuckin thing is fucked!” Those who survive run for the hills (well, fly away in a “bird”), but he stays to get the “treasure chest.”

Turns out the daughter, Jude (Melanie Zanetti) is surviving in a mansion with Duke (David Field, CHOPPER), Elvis, Lynn (Lydia Look from the Gary Daniels movie DEADLY TARGET), Anna (Oda Maria) and Jude’s boyfriend Reese (Matt Doran, who played “Elan Sleazebaggano,” the guy who tried to sell “death sticks” to Obi Wan in ATTACK OF THE CLONES. I did not know that was the character’s name until now, so give me a minute to recover please). (…) Duke introduces the group as “the damned,” so I guess this is their battle.

It seems like we’re gonna get to know some of these characters, but not really. Elvis and Lynn do sweaty shirtless sword practice, Anna is Duke’s girlfriend, Duke is suspicious of Max, Reese is jealous of Max, Jude is taking a pregnancy test. That’s about it, and yet this getting-to-know-the-characters section seems too long.

Earlier one of Max’s troops got infected and started puking, and they do that whole thing where the guy doesn’t want to admit he’s infected but his friend looks at him real serious and knows he has to kill him. You know, in case you haven’t had enough of that one in ten thousand other movies and TV shows about zombies, vampires or werewolves. But it’s good set up for later when Jude pukes, looks at her boyfriend and says, “It’s not that.”

She’s just pregnant. Luckily he believes her, or that could’ve been a tragic misunderstanding.

acr_battleofthedamnedWell, Duke ends up chaining Max to a light pole and leaving him there, and of course Max’s now zombified friend stops by for a visit (“Buddy, you don’t look so good,” he tells him) and then a bunch of other zombies, and he has to spin around the pole and kick them and choke them with the chain and what not. A cool situation at least, though they don’t do much with it.

I can’t say I like the style of action scenes. There’s a whole lot of COPS style wobbling camera chasing behind somebody running. In general the zombie fighting has more kicks than you usually see (with bladed boots cutting their throats) but is not different enough to not seem shitty next to the much better effects and more varied action that you get every week on The Walking Dead.

You gotta wonder about why they keep making these Z-grade zombie movies, assuming they are actually trying to do a good job. The people that make them – do they just not see enough movies to be as sick of zombies as everybody else, or do they delude themselves into thinking they’re the ones who can do it right? I really don’t know the answer.

Luckily, robots show up. “What the hell?” Gatling asks when he spots them.

“Robots? Where did they come from?” asks Reese. The answer, it turns out, is 2011’s  ROBOTROPOLIS, from the same writer/director, Christopher Hatton. I don’t know why Reese even asks, because he’s the one who then expositions that these are the prototype robots that went berserk in a Tokyo factory, and they’re still on the loose. These are all characters and incidents in one unified Robotropolisiverse, I guess.

This is where the Full Moon vibe comes in. It’s definitely no ROBOT JOX, but maybe it compares with one of those lesser Full Moon robot pictures, like ROBOT WARS? I don’t really remember them well enough to say for sure. Anyway, these don’t look like busybot Transformers, they’re more simple and retro looking. They’re charmingly lo-fi digital animation that almost looks like herky-jerky stop motion. And of course they manage to avoid having them on screen very much, especially in the same shot with any human, unless they are just a model that’s close up and not moving.

There are several robots with different heads, and one that crawls. At first I thought he was supposed to be a crazy robot, but I guess he’s supposed to be like a dog. They don’t really manage to establish different personalities for them, but I guess you can’t expect them to flesh them out more than the humans.

still_battleofthedamned1

After initially battling what they think are “killer robots” our guys learn that the robots have repaired themselves, gone un-rogue, and are there to help. They even offer medical assistance (never taken advantage of). But the last 20 minutes of the movie are kinda fun as (as much as the cheap FX will allow) Gatling leads the robots and humans into battle against the zombies.

It’s pretty great to see the robots take out some zombies:

still_battleofthedamned2

and then to see how the humans react:

still_battleofthedamned3

I’m sure the mall-dwellers of DAWN OF THE DEAD or anybody on The Walking Dead would be equally delighted to have a robot friend to shoot zombies for them. It would make the post-apocalypse so much more convenient.

You gotta love a shot rotating around Dolph and a robot back-to-back as they both fire machine guns at zombies. Hatton must’ve known it was cooler than anything else in the movie because he does two rotations. I’m sure in a few years if somebody reminds me that this movie exists I will forget all the boredom and fondly remember the few minutes of stuff like this:

still_battleofthedamned5

The best touch in my opinion is the one point where they subject a robot to a zombie attack. Just like a human he runs out of ammo, gets swarmed and succumbs to the mob. Poor guy. He goes out like a man, too. Doesn’t scream or cry. Or move, really.

still_battleofthedamned4

Later, after a nice robot repair montage, that same robot that got killed by the zombies shows up at the hideout and attacks Gatling because he’s “malfunctioning” – just like if he got bit by a zombie! He has a bunch of blood on him too but otherwise does not look zombified.

A minor complaint: they should’ve animated him to stumble like a zombie. Also, would it have been so hard to have zombies pulling wires out of him and eating them like guts? I don’t think that would require expensive computers.

There are other kinda funny moments (Duke melodramatically screaming “BETRAYALLLLL!!!” when he gets left behind) and kinda cool parts (Elvis’s failed sword standoff shown in shadow). Not enough to make it an actual good movie, but enough to make it better than most of the shit on the SyFy Channel where it will surely end up soon.


p.s. I noticed there is a 3D release in some countries. Probly one of these quickie conversions I’ve heard they have in Europe. But somebody might want to edit the best parts of BATTLE OF THE DAMNED 3D and BATTLE OF THE YEAR 3D to make BATTLE OF THE DAMNED YEAR 3D.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 at 1:23 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

26 Responses to “Battle of the Damned”

  1. I’m so over the Scify channel and their bullshit. Sure it was kind of cute at first when Coolio was fighting pterodactyls and whatever, but it’s gotten to the point that every time I try to tell someone about Miami Connection or Birdemic and they reply “Oh, like Sharknado!”. And then I just sigh.

  2. I felt pretty much the same way. I had low expectations going into this, thinking it could be cheesy fun, but the crushing cheapness, dull drama and flat action scenes really kill it. The CGI added gunfire and blood rob the action of any impact. There are some neat moments and ideas, like Dolph tied to the post or the silhouetted sword fight, but not nearly enough to save it.

  3. To be fair, the Coruscant drug dealer’s name started out as just a joke between Lucas and the film crew. It was never really intended to be on par with, y’know, “Obi Wan Kenobi” or “Han Solo”. Still, it is a pretty good example of Lucas’ sense of humor.

  4. The Original Paul

    February 18th, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Well I haven’t seen the Dolph movie, although the screenshots probably make it look far cooler than it actually is. Once again I’m left with the frustrating feeling that a movie starring Dolph could be so great if it only made good use of him. I haven’t seen that movie yet, and from the review and comments I doubt this one is it.

    Anyway, for the sake of balance, I feel that I should add a (mildly) positive opinion on “Against the Dark”. It’s not THAT bad guys. I can name you at least three other Seagal movies that are far, far worse than “Against the Dark”. So I will.

    1) “The Patriot”. It’s like they tried to make a character-driven drama with Seagal in the starring role, which as it turns out was a really bad idea. Then they forgot to put any actual characters in it, which was a worse one. This one felt like a filmatic castration of Seagal, taking everything I like about films like “Fire Down Below” and “Marked for Death” and replacing them with… nothing. I just cannot find a reason for this movie to exist.

    2) “Kill Switch”. Just bad in an unpleasantly grimy, vaguely sadistic way. While I couldn’t summon up any emotion whatsoever in the face of “The Patriot”‘s nothingness, I really hated “Kill Switch”.

    3) “Submerged”. Well it looks pretty enough… I just didn’t care about anything that was happening, and most of it wasn’t believable. Did anybody else think the guy playing the “warlord” looked about ten years old?

    As for “Against the Dark”… it sure as heck isn’t GOOD, but that doesn’t make it the WORST. In my opinion. Vern’s right in “Seagalogy” when he points out that this isn’t really a “Seagal” movie at all – it lacks most of Seagal’s trademarks – and the few that I spotted made the movie worse, rather than better. If you’ve got a film about the interpersonal rivalries of a small group of people in a really fucked-up situation, which this is, the last thing you want is an “Everybody loves Seagal!” sub-plot, where everything he says goes is accepted without question. So that’s a big negative.

    Despite that, I couldn’t bring myself to hate “Against the Dark”. It certainly has more memorable moments than, say, “The Patriot” (not that that would be a difficult thing to achieve) and I like the central idea, even if it’s not executed particularly well. It’s dragged down by the lack of tension – we’re never sure throughout most of the film just how close the characters are to their goal, and a lot of what they do isn’t sufficiently explained – but the actors in the “group” are ok, their characters are never argumentative enough to be unlikeable, and there are one or two convincing conflicts there. The “vampires” feel like a real threat.

    So I can’t exactly recommend “Against the Dark” to vampire completionists or Seagal completionists. But I can’t agree that it’s the worst of the Seagal oeuvre.

  5. I too have noticed all those B movies they play on the SyFy Channel these days, seems like all that channel is nowadays are B movies and reality TV, do they have anything that’s actual quality anymore?

  6. What can I say, of the four movies Dolph made in 2013 this is the best.

  7. To be fair, SHARKNADO was more fun than other Asylum productions I´ve seen,even though it certainly is an atrocity to the art of filmmaking and I would never recommend seeing that movie sober,
    simply because I didn´t.

  8. @Griff.

    Nope.

  9. I’m assuming most of the market for this kind of thing is via VOD. They do seem to show up on SyFy, though. I’m wondering how it can be more cost effective to a cable network to show VOD titles as opposed to just re-running Night of the Lepus. Maybe ad rates go up the newer the packaging product is. Hard to justify that economics when you see the shittiness involved.

  10. Paul: At least THE PATRIOT looks like a real movie. It’s not a ton of fun but it’s worlds better than AGAINST THE DARK, which is so uneventful it barely exists. Seagal’s only in it for, what, 15 minutes? And most of that time he’s just walking around saying generic things. I don’t see how even the unpleasant KILL SWITCH or the convoluted SUBMERGED could possibly be worse, at least they each have a few unique touches and some good Seagal moments.

  11. Uncle_Imshi – that’s too bad because a while back, when they were still called Sci Fi, they had a show called EUREKA that was, in it’s first two seasons at least, pretty good, now it seems like they’ve just given up completely, as most networks have done these days

  12. The Original Paul

    February 19th, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Et tu, Mr S?

    I put that one down to personal taste quite honestly. I’m not saying “Against the Dark” is good – by too many filmmaking and storytelling criteria, it’s pretty much incompetent – but at least there’s SOMETHING there. It just barely held my interest – I was invested just enough in the main characters (of which Seagal isn’t one) to want to see what happened to them.

    That doesn’t happen with “The Patriot”. It’s like several films that I could name – “French Kiss”, say, the recent “Trance”. (I’d bring up a certain popular Soderbergh film here as well, but that’s not an argument I want to start in this thread.) These are films that I genuinely can’t watch for more than ten minutes at a stretch without wanting to just get up and eat something, or do something, ANYTHING, rather than being stuck in front of them. They’re completely unfulfilling – despite being competent on a technical level. There’s absolutely nothing about any of these films that grabs my attention. They don’t give me anything or anybody to care about.

    Anyway… personal taste. There are a few reasons why I might dislike a movie. If it’s full of unpleasantness that I feel isn’t “earned”, like “The Cell” or “Kill Switch” or “My Bloody Valentine 3D”, I might hate it. If it’s more interested in trying to outsmart me than it is about absorbing me into the story and characters, like “Trance” or That Soderbergh Film That We Will Not Mention The Name Of Here, I might despise it. But if you really want to find a film that pushes my buttons, just have it do NOTHING interesting, whether good or bad. Make it a complete and total waste of my time. I feel that “The Patriot” fits that category, as does “Submerged”, whereas “Against the Dark” just about avoids it.

    In conclusion, I’m still looking for my perfect Dolph-starring film. So far “Blackjack” seems to have come the closest, which is kinda sad, because I feel he’s capable of a lot more than that.

  13. Recently the AVClub had an interview with a guy who writes screenplays for Asylum. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, and if I’m honest, it’s kind of a cool job. You just come up with absurd scenarios for basic cable fodder, which is probably harder than it sounds. I too watched Sharknado, and it’s a fun movie to watch with a bunch of friends and some beer. (Spoiler!) The incredibly absurd return of a supposedly dead character towards the end of the film may have been my favorite moment.

  14. I don’t have a lot of patience for Asylum’s movies. They are good at coming up with insane concepts but they rarely do anything interesting with them. Crazy moments like that bit in SHARKNADO are far less frequent than they should be and it can’t all be excused by a lack of budget. There’s an overall lack of effort that they try to paper over with irony and self-deprecation.

  15. Griff – That show HELIX has been good b-level sci-fi schlock so far. At points it’s like PROMETHEUS without most of the frustration.

    The only movie I’ve seen by The Asylum really was ATLANTIC RIM. However I could say at least that movie wasn’t as disingenuous as a lot of big budget hollywood crap despite it’s blatant ripoff roots.

    My friend and I got ripped on good bud and drank a bottle while watching it and while it’s certainly quite terrible it never felt like a chore and gave us genuine moments of great laughter. Unlike say DIE HARD 5 which I struggled to find anything redeeming about and simply couldn’t. A movie so horrible that it gave me a headache and kept me bewildered at the level of crap I was witnessing on screen.

  16. Agreed on HELIX, it’s fun, but I’d say that “b-level” is actually a little generous. It’s a pungent piece of cheese indeed and entertains mostly on a meta level, ie you can have a damn good game of science thriller cliche bingo with every single episode. Sadly, I can’t see it lasting much longer. Those twerps at HBO have raised people’s expectations a little high for the likes of HELIX to thrive anymore.

  17. The Original Paul

    February 20th, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Broddie – it’s got to the point where I’ve seen so many people say that “Die Hard 5” is the worst of the worst (some even say it’s worse than “Movie 43”, which is something of a feat on its own) that I almost want to watch it now. Just to see if it’s got that “so terrible it’s awesome” thing going on.

  18. Paul – Unfortunately my brother it’s not in the “so terrible it’s awesome” category. NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER is “so terrible it’s awesome” so is THE GATE 2. DIE HARD 5 is just outright bad. To the point that I will avoid anything by John Moore in the future.

    The constant camera shaking and zooming in even in non action scenes got to me so bad that I had to rub my eyes in a massaging motion while watching the movie. That has never happened to me before and my earliest movie memories go as far back as 1986 and I watched the Greengrass directed BOURNEs.

    Then you have Bruce’s “I really don’t want to be here” sleepwalking routine from such classics as THE JACKAL, Courtney’s blandness, dark cinematography and generic production design and some of the worst geography in any action movie I’ve ever seen. At one point McClane is seemingly shooting people with a machine gun (HO! HO! HO!) during a standoff and we only see him firing shots at the air. We don’t have a clue who’s getting hit when they cut back to the bad guys you see them getting knocked down by an invisible kickboxer or something because you don’t even see the bullets connect. Don’t even get me started on the lack of big bad throughout the thing and the shitty twist and non sensible climax (main henchperson actually willingly propels to their death)

    It really was as bad as people say it is. My buddy and I only saw it because it was on demand and “Fuck it it’s still DIE HARD” but it made LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD look like the original by comparison. It really makes you appreciate Wiseman’s entry even more and I don’t even really care about Len Wiseman’s movies matter of fact DH 4 is the only one I’ve seen besides UNDERWORLD PART DEUX. When I buy DIE HARD again for the 30th time this time in the big box set that will feature the eventual 6th (and hopefully better than 5) installment I will never even open the disc case. It is the POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW of DIE HARD movies.

  19. Just going to tuck this in here:

    Finished BUFFY. Really enjoyed the last season. It was a reasonably natural culmination of everything that came before with a real sense of jeopardy. I like how elements from throughout the series echoed through the entire season. They somehow managed to tie up the messy Buffy/Spike relationship in a satisfying way. Even Dollhouse didn’t bother me too much. It was certainly the most plot-driven season, at the expense of the little character touches that were often highlights of the series. Former Demon Girl and Fake Kid Sister seemed really short changed in this regard, but at least Former Demon Girl got to go out doing what she does best: lashing out at bunnies. The little speech Xander gave to Fake Kid Sister about being anonymous and unexceptional was genuinely moving. Likewise, Buffy saying goodbye to Pig Face Guy was almost poignant. There wasn’t a lot of these moments, but if character work is going to suffer for the rest of the cast (or be oddly misplaced on a goofball like that Dork Villain Kid), gaining a school of slayers-in-training was a fair exchange. Principal Mommy Issues was half decent too. Not every television series ends at the right time. In my opinion, BUFFY ended perfectly, dealing with exactly the right themes (ie. What is a Slayer?). It was a very satisfying finish.

    Majestyk: I’m sure this crossed your mind while watching it: all those speeches Buffy made that you mentioned earlier were part of the show’s central focus of exploring issues with post 9/11 America’s claim of leadership in its rush into war. Maybe you weren’t satisfied with how they did this – it was certainly more than a little heavy-handed – but I found it fascinating (not to be confused with convincing or sophisticated or persuasive, but, well, it’s a goofy genre show, not TREME). In addition, the role of narrative itself was braided into these speeches, if somewhat obliquely. I really like how they eventually articulated a need for a particular kind of egalitarian leadership in explicitly feminist terms.

    To its credit, I stopped comparing the show to the far superior X-FILES somewhere in the second season. It brought its own genre agenda to the table and worked away at developing it admirably. There’s something very refreshing about watching a decidedly minor show that is executed with skill, wit and obvious affection for the process. Even though I don’t think subsequent seasons had an antagonist quite as good as Monster Mash in season one, it’s parade of inventive monsters week after week was formidable. Though it always had teen romance in its DNA, the show never devolved into empty 90120 melodrama. It kept its irony without succumbing to self-importance (which is not something the X-FILES can claim to have accomplished). And as far as I can tell the actors never became posturing prima donnas.

    Former Demon Girl might be one of the most ingenious characters ever put on television, and she was translated from the page to the screen brilliantly by the actor who played her. She’s up there with Kramer in that respect.

    I going to admit this now: I never much liked Willow, especially after the first three seasons. Did you ever notice how the actress held her smiles for way too long? It made her look brain damaged half the time. At a certain point she stopped being clever and just got annoying. Also, Nathan Fillion is terrible. He makes human prop Angel look nuanced. He makes Bruce Campbell look like Denzel Washington. Suck it, nerds.

    They couldn’t have given Spike more of a rock star finish. His last line was classic.

    Chinese Slayer Trainee was my favorite. She was hilarious.

    I’m a few episodes into ANGEL. It’s really clunky, but I don’t dislike it. Any opinions about when it really starts to improve?

  20. Glad you liked BUFFY’s last season. I continue to find the Potentials a waste of screen time (particularly Kennedy, the real Poochy of the series) and the narrative momentum gets lost several times as the threat continues to be told and not shown, but I can’t front on those last few episodes. I’ll confess that the shot of the little girl playing softball who suddenly realizes the power she has makes the room get dusty every time. It was a rough ride getting there, but the show went out in a satisfying, emotional, and epic fashion while still being light enough entertainment to make Trogdor the Burninator references. It’s got a perfect final shot, too.

    ANGEL didn’t really find its footing in the first season, which tries, with middling success, to be a monster-of-the-week detective procedural. Too many standalone episodes and crossovers keep it from getting a good flow going, but there are some crazy surprises along the way and the finale will get you psyched for Season 2, which is a massive improvement. By digging into the characters’ histories and the overall BUFFY mythology, it finds a solid foundation that cements the form the show will take moving forward, which barely resembles the pilot. Three and Four are some straight up weirdness that you should dig if you enjoyed the loopier turns BUFFY took, while Five might be the best season of television Whedon ever put his name on. So don’t worry, it gets better soon and stays that way.

    And Nathan Fillion remains a delight, I don’t care what you or the nerds say. Check out MUCH ADO for the finest Dogberry you’re likely to see anywhere. And he’d never done Shakespeare before in his life!

  21. I never saw the last few seasons of Buffy. I watched that show from day one and lost interest during the season where they introduced her super duper militaristic boyfriend; with that annoying ass harpy villain and the introduction of her kid sister. ANGEL did get better as it went along though. There’s some really great stuff in the latter days of that show.

  22. Majestyk: Thanks for the ANGEL info. I just finished the episode where Buffy visits. I can tell the writers are floundering for some way to make the series interesting.

    In the commentary for the last episode, Whedon mentioned that Kennedy was a last minute replacement for the actor who played the Stuttering Witch Girlfriend, who Whedon intended to bring back. God knows what plot contortions they would have undergone to write that particular story, or why it ever crossed their mind to squander whatever pathos they created when they killed the Stuttering Witch in the first place. Anyway, given the alternative, I didn’t have much of a problem with Kennedy. Whedon also mentioned that it was important to him that at least one character ended the series in a happy romantic relationship. If I was running the show I’d have cut 3/4 of Kennedy’s lines to make room for more Former Demon Girl hijinks and let WIllow hook up with Pig Face Guy so that we didn’t need so much romantic exposition (because fans already know that Pig Face Guy is awesome). But it was obvious from the first episode of Season 7 that they no longer knew what to do with Former Demon Girl. And seriously: too many shows get bogged down in rotating romances between principle cast members (the FRIENDS syndrome); kudos to BUFFY for bothering to write new characters.

    In defense of the Buffy Army: they didn’t take the obvious route by turning them into 30 little Jija Yanins (although, yes, I will watch any movie that promises to show me 30 little Jija Yanins). Rather, they let their fears neatly set up all the season’s themes: what is a slayer? what is power? what is leadership? what does it mean to go to war? Much of the season’s feeling of jeopardy is the result of either the potentials getting whooped or the potentials watching Buffy getting whooped. There was also that cool fake-out where the antagonist infiltrated and sewed discord through the apparition of that one potential that was rotting away in a motel room. I don’t know. I think Season 7 was largely about the kinds of stories we tell ourselves, so it didn’t bother me when the action was downplayed. There’s an inevitability that Buffy’s transition into adulthood would have to address her fitness for leadership. It still seems to me that more stuff happened in Season 7 than in Season 6.

    I agree that the narrative momentum was lost at times, but that’s been the case with this show from the beginning, even within a single episode. It’s just sloppy and discursive. Compared to the slog of the Buffy/Spike romance, or, in my opinion, that entire season where Angel came back from hell (which I don’t think should have happened), Season 7 seemed pretty tight to me.

    I’ll clarify about Fillion: he’s terrible, but he’s the right kind of terrible for the kinds of shows Whedon produces. It’s probably not fair to compare him to Clancy Brown, much in the way that it’s not fair to compare Angel to Lance Henricksen. I’ve only ever seen him in that FIREFLY movie, so seeing him in BUFFY fail so spectacularly to live up to the adulation he is given on AICN was hilarious.

  23. Well, you’re taking a guy who’s basic schtick is that he’s equal parts heroic and goofy and you turn him into a nightmare demon misogynist and some things are bound to get lost in translation. Jacob is far from his finest performance, but I think he brought something weird and oddly sympathetic to what could otherwise be just another snarling überbad. In any event, it was worth it for that moment with Xander. (You know the one.) Villains are not exactly in Fillion’s wheelhouse (Oafish antagonists are more his speed), but this was during the period when Joss was still mourning FIREFLY and so he kept giving its cast guest appearances on his other shows. It allowed the opportunity to see Adam Baldwin beat the fucking shit out of David Boreanez, though, so it all worked out.

    SERENITY is still awesome, and Fillion’s ability to nail the shifts in tone is a big part of that. His “I aim to misbehave” speech is a good example of how, not unlike Bruce Campbell, he can be an actual good dramatic actor when he’s not constantly spoofing himself.

  24. You know how much of a dunce I am? When I was watching one of the early seasons of BUFFY I saw a picture of the comic book version of Xander wearing an eye patch and I just figured it was an affectation of comic artists, like how comic book Willow looks sexy, comic book Fake Kid Sister looks tough, and comic book Angel look lifelike. It never crossed my mind that the television show would present me with the origin story of the patch. Apparently my thick head is impervious to spoilers even when they’re literally drawn out for me.

    I actually didn’t know that FIREFLY aired so early. I figured it was a post-ANGEL show. I’ve only seen the movie, and, frankly, Fillion made no impression on me (through no fault of his own: Alan Tudyk, Gina Torres and Chiwetel Ejiofor command a lot of attention). If I’m down on Fillion, it’s probably due to the disparity between his modest talent and the incessant need for the AICN crowd to uncritically nominate him for every single role (in fairness, he wouldn’t have been a worse Batman than Bale or Affleck).

    Any idea why the nerds latched onto Fillion? Is he some sort of acceptable middle ground between Xander (too dorky) and Spike (too badass to emulate)?

  25. I’ve never watched BUFFY, but when I was bored, I read some episode guides and news about it in some of those SciFi/Fantasy news magazines, that I bought back then. When I read Fillion’s name on the guest star list, my first thought was: “Hey, it’s that guy from 2 GUYS, A GIRL & A PIZZA PLACE!”

    I miss that show. One of the funnier sitcoms of its time. Especially their halloween episodes, that usually ended with everybody being dead by the end (Including a miniaturized Robert Goulet, getting eaten by a cat).

  26. A buddy of mine likes to joke that one day they’ll be a sequel called DIE HARD, 2 GUYS & A PIZZA PLACE. One day I should watch that show so that I understand what he’s talking about.

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