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Review: “Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire” (2023)

Also on Letterboxd, based on the usual Mastodon thread.

I feel about Mr Snyder’s work like most people do about the dentist, every now and then you come out and go “that wasn’t that bad,” but most of the time it’s like somebody is just violently wrestling your face. And 2023’s Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire is the exact oral fistfight it looks like.

Backing up a little, okay, so, in Star Wars, at the same time Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed offscreen by Stormtroopers, the film is in the middle of presenting this whole galaxy of magic that you, the viewer, want, nay, need to see more of. Luke, this innocent, a survivor of imperialist violence, touches but the edge of an imaginative world full of funny droids and cool swords and interesting people, and immediately you’re desperate to see him explore it, to see him bring his innocence into the galaxy, to see it through his eyes. There’s pain and loss and greed and corruption — but it’s a world full of love and life, too.

In 2023’s Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire, Mr Snyder’s equivalent of Luke is a brooding badass, already a highly-trained ex-military fighter, whose backstory is that her entire family is already long dead and she was trained by a different brooding badass. Having retired from being an action here, now her fight is against the people1Imagine the Empire from Star Wars, make their costumes 10% more Nazi, and stop there. who want to tear her village apart with visceral violence and explicitly sexual threat. Before she sets off on her quest, the world around Kora is depicted only as unpleasant, dangerous, hard to exist in — even on a better day it’s hard to imagine her having a particularly good one. And yet her quest is to put together a team2Because this is doing Seven Samurai just as much as it’s doing Star Wars. to defend her way of life on her South African-coded3I’m sorry, it’s literally called “Veldt.” home moon — even though nothing about her way of life on Space South Africa feels particularly worth defending. certainly don’t want to see any fucking more of it. I’d like to see less of it!

The film truly never makes a case for her quest, or for anything at all, beyond that that’s… what you do in these. She doesn’t need to learn anything to go on it, she already knows who to reach out to. We get a cantina scene where they meet a pilot and get some exposition because that’s what they do in Star Wars, but the scene is homophobic, misogynist, and anti-sex work at the same time, and has none of the life in it you want from a cantina scene. We get episodic introductions to each team member because that’s what they do in Seven Samurai, but they’re all sketched so thinly that they might as well be cool action figures, clanking against each other plastically. The scene with the griffin-like bennu is straight from Avatar. You’ve seen every part of this before.

While the shift of focus to an already competent adult who knows what she needs to do might be an interesting flip on Star Wars in the hands of a competent storyteller — a Luke who’s blazing with righteous fury at the injustices of the world around him, discovering he has the power to do something about it4Wait, is that Anakin? — instead it all just serves to deliver the cold, oppressive bleakness Mr Snyder has so consistently forced upon the culture around him. It’s all just unpleasant.

I don’t want to accuse Mr Snyder of anything, but if I thought there was any kind of coherent ideology to this beyond “Star Wars and Seven Samurai are cool and Netflix will give me $166 million dollars to make a 2-part 5-hour crossover of those” I’d be extremely suspicious of a lot of what’s going on here.

On top of that it’s only half a film. In the rest of this review, I will

  • 1
    Imagine the Empire from Star Wars, make their costumes 10% more Nazi, and stop there.
  • 2
    Because this is doing Seven Samurai just as much as it’s doing Star Wars.
  • 3
    I’m sorry, it’s literally called “Veldt.”
  • 4
    Wait, is that Anakin?

From the Starkzone to the Wallplace

(Game of Thrones 1×03: “Lord Snow”)

1 On allegiances

Oh, Sean Bean’s folks and the Lannisters are separate things. Okay, okay, let’s write some of this out.

Ned Stark and the Starks in the, I wanna say, North. Winterfell? This is where Ned lives, though he’s out of town right now. Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran are some of his kids, the latter is in bed, awake. Jon Snow is one of these guys, but a bastard, and attached to the Night’s Watch. Mrs Sean Bean is probably from some other grouping, but fuck knows who.

The Lannisters, then, obviously, in King’s Landing. Jaime and Cersei. Tyrion is part of this but also his own thing, also currently chilling at the Night’s Watch. Jaime is the one who chucked Bran out the window, that’ll probably come back to bite him in his naked ass. Cersei is Mrs King Robert, but also in a long-term incestuous thing with Jaime. Probably no protection from pregnancy in this world, so I assume Joffrey etc. are theirs, and that Robert doesn’t know. Lots of space for conflict here.

Daenerys and Jason Momoa and the rest of the Dothraki are their own thing. Ser Jorah is hanging out with them right now, as a sort of ambassador type figure connected to the… Starks? and so there’s a normal adult Daenerys can talk to who isn’t a grunting beefman. I think Ser Jorah is probably up to something. Daenerys’ brother seems like he’s probably not in season three, if you know what I mean.

If you’re in the Night’s Watch you’re very loyal to the Night’s Watch, but if you’re not you’re more like, wow, what a bunch of weirdoes in the Night’s Watch.

2 On places

I also haven’t really thought about geography yet, but the Starkzone is all autumnal, while Jamie’s place has palm trees. (It’s weird seeing the “Winter is coming.” guy next to a palm tree, I’m sorry.) The Wallzone is obviously where winter already is. Daenerys and the Dothraki are bare-shouldered, probably pretty warm there, too. Are these places very far away from each other? How far would I have to travel from my 5 celsius to see people in short sleeves?

I should pay more attention to the title sequence.

3 On contrasts

Arya is taught to fight as if it’s a form of dance, the Knight’s dance — when every death we’ve seen has been brutal, grotesque, awful. There’s only so much dancing you can do when somebody comes at you with a great big thing of metal that’ll cut you in half. Ned realises this, too.

4 On fantasy without fantasy

“I don’t believe that giants and ghouls and White Walkers are lurking beyond the Wall.”

You can tell which of those we’re meant to care about from which one the subtitles capitalise. No way are we ever seeing giants or ghouls.

Things That Are Coming

  1. Winter, still.
  2. A war of some kind.
  3. Bran’s testimony?
  4. White Walkers? Is this the same as winter? Are they just the friendly face of Father Winter?

On mail

Alright, I’ve had a day.

So I bought a new chair. Well, my parents bought it for me, because it’s my birthday soon, and my chair has not been getting less creaky, it has felt like it could break in half for a while, good useful gift that I’ll get a lot of daily use out of for years. Happy birthday to me.1Well, on the 17th.

Ordered it online, because none of us felt like shoving it into a car and all that hassle, picked a delivery window when I knew I’d be home. That was yesterday, the morning of the fifth, I was home the whole time. It did briefly announce it would show up today instead, right while I’d be at the cinema, but that only lasted about an hour. A little weird, not a problem. And I am, indeed, home the whole time. And then the delivery window ends, I check the mail box, and discover the delivery person has missed me. Funny way to find out I wasn’t home at all.

It is at this point that I start to seriously consider my previously announced intention to destroy and eat the next mail van I see.

Anyway, now I’ve got to get this 22kg box from a supermarket a kilometre from my house. Which is a lot more hassle than it would’ve been with the car, for anyone. Realise that might be a lot for me on my own, so I ask the Brother, who lives 300 metres away from me.2Close enough that we can juuuust about wave at and see each other if I go up the roof. He’s happy to help, and leaving a work a little early, anyway, so we go that same afternoon.

The Plan: We take my bike, pop the box on top of the bike, two pairs of hands should get it home. Simple. We’re Dutch, we could solve a murder with a bike and two pairs of hands, and we could do it without the hands if we needed to.

Halfway to the supermarket, my bike announces its plan to decouple from three of the spokes on my back wheel. Clang clang clang. Thunk, thud. Three loose at once, damn. The metal on the wheel has bad cracks in it. That’s gonna mean a new wheel, baby. Sigh. Oh well. It’s a 10-year old bike, it’s a miracle it’s served me this well this long. I’ll take it to the guy after I come home.

Get to the store, pick up the package. Well, two packages, they had a book for me, too. Coincidence. We try a few different angles, get it on the bike, standing up on the, what do you call that, the pakjesdrager, literally the “package carrier,” the metal shelf thing over the back wheel. A package carrier carrying a package. This works fine, almost exactly like I’d expected.

It is at this point that I’d like to talk about the ways in which you’re wondering how this is gonna go wrong. Maybe the back wheel collapses. Maybe the box falls off. Maybe the whole bike just explodes. Maybe– No. It goes wrong in none of these ways. The box is heavy, it’s a bit of a walk with that kind of weight, but we know what we’re doing. Two hands on the bike, two hands on the box. We get it home. I thank the Brother profusely, and offer to buy Subway tomorrow, before the movie.

Once I get the box in the hallway, I suddenly have a thought. I ask the Brother, hey, if I go inside, can you do this real quick? I do, he does. The thing that should happen… doesn’t.

There’s a beat, like a silent penultimate panel in a comic strip that overuses those.

My doorbell doesn’t work.


  • 1
    Well, on the 17th.
  • 2
    Close enough that we can juuuust about wave at and see each other if I go up the roof.

On blogging (II)

The oldest revision of this post is dated 21 September, 2023, and I think I must’ve deleted four or five different versions of it between then and now. In its first iteration, it was about, what have we learned from blogging for a month, from being off the old web forum for a little? What has changed about how I think, how I exist in the world? In a later iteration, I go through a bunch of posts and go, what worked, what didn’t? I posted none of these, obviously. They all felt annoying.

5 days into 2024, what I think each of these iterations have in common is what I’m trying to say with them. So let’s just say it without structure, without format: To a tee, every single revision of this post is trying to say, hey, I’m… better off.

In the end, the basic truth of it is, the fact at hand, it’s, with that one door closed and this one opened? I’m happier. Six months in, I like myself more, I like the shape of my life better, I like the sound of the two dozen audio tracks playing constantly in my head a lot better, than I did a year ago.

That’s all I wanted to say. Happy new year.

On allying with one of many families in a war-torn medieval land

Game of Thrones 1×02: “The Kingsroad”


“Dear brother, there are times you make me wonder whose side you’re on.”

Let’s think about sides for a moment. A lot of this kind of story hangs on whose side everyone is or isn’t on, because they all have complicated allegiances and loyalties, and they love to make snide remarks that suggest or imply those might change, or that they might have secret ones. So much said, so much unsaid. Even bonds of the heart or blood aren’t sacred if the right advantage comes along to draw one to another allegiance.

I couldn’t rattle off these allegiances to you off the top of my head right now, that’s not how my brain works. I assume Lannisters are with Lannisters, Starks with Starks, that the Night Watch will typically take priority, etc.

This may be a big part of why I found this hard to get into way back when I last tried, all those social rules — but it should be much easier to relate to now that I’ve been on Mastodon for nearly a decade.


“There’s a war coming, Ned. I don’t know when, I don’t know who we’ll be fighting, but it’s coming.”

Let’s keep track of some arrows shot that are in the air, some things that are meant to be coming.

  1. Winter — already at the Wall, but approaching places that aren’t usually like that.
  2. A war — this seems inevitable regardless of current affairs, because what is a story like this if there’s not a war to deal with.
  3. Bran, out of his coma.
  4. White Walkers?
  5. All of these people having all of this graphic sex, hopefully?


“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”

Tyrion to Game of Thrones as Sawyer was to LOST — the jester, the understander, the knower, the guy who speaks the truths others aren’t socially allowed to, and who is happy to throw himself into a fight if need be. What are the odds he’ll similarly come out somewhat on top, having suffered losses but better for it in the end?


“In the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai, they say there are fields of ghost grass with stalks as pale as milk that glow in the night. Murders all other grass.”

By whatever dead god they worship, even the fucking grass is no fun allowed.

What are your pinned tabs? Here’s mine.

Cucumber season in blogland. Or, well, lots of stuff I want to write about but that I can’t find the time or the words to, you know, write about. Let’s do a classic “what’s on your keyring” question.

As of 2 January, 2024, these are my pinned tabs. I use Opera on macOS.

  • 🫑 Piperka. The webcomic bookmarking service I’ve used for… half my life, I think. Together with its bookmarklet, first in my bookmarks bar, Piperka is how I read webcomics. Real second brain stuff for me. Here’s everything I read.
  • ♟️ BrainKing. I play a lot of board games online, these days mostly Backgammon (and several variants like Plakoto) and Dice Chess. My username is AlexDaily — feel free to invite me to some games.
  • 💬 Discord. A recent addition. I don’t really use Discord, but DMs with a friend had to go somewhere after I quit Twitter. This is essentially the slot where TweetDeck used to live.
  • 🐘 Mastodon. My own instance, Beep Boop One. Advanced web interface, always. Follow me on there if you don’t already.
  • 🎬 Letterboxd. An integral part of how I watch movies, another real second brain service for me.
  • 🪐 Cal’s forum The Planet.
  • ✍️ This blog’s admin panel.
  • 📺 The TV Calendar. More second brain stuff. Genuinely, if it’s not on here, I lose track of it and forget it exists.

A temporary addition as of last week is Paul Gadzikowski’s The Hero of Three Faces, which was due a reread — I’d do it through Piperka, but Piperka tracks Three Faces in production order, not chronological.

What are your pinned tabs? What can’t you do without in your browser? What services are second brain for you? Why not blog the answer yourself, or leave it in the comments?

On the Planet of the Blog

Just a quick little note to formally announce what was essentially soft launched a few weeks ago: I’ve started a new, separate blog called Planet of the Blog that’s a Doctor Who group blog for the modren modern era.1Can you believe nothing else on the internet seems to be called “Planet of the Blog”?

The vast majority of my own Doctor Who writing will appear on Planet of the Blog going forward. Already exclusive to it are Arc Watch for The Church on Ruby Road, and a Doctor Who style guide for the future that literally nobody will agree with me about. No specific promises for the future, but it’s Doctor Who — I’ll be thinking and writing about this show for the rest of my life.

But it’s not just where my writing about Doctor Who will go, because it’s a group blog — already up there is Kurt’s argument that the Futurama people should sue the 60th anniversary specials have a lot in common with the 2007-09 Futurama movies.

As far as I’m concerned, the “group” in “group blog” is pretty broad, and pretty undefined right now — if we know each other, if we’re mutuals, etc., I’m probably happy to run something you’ve written about Doctor Who, and if we’re friends, (I see this as a don’t ask, I’ll offer, type of thing) I’ll just set you up with an account so you can just post whatever you want without running it past me. I want this to be like Peter Davison’s face — an open, friendly, pleasant thing.

  • 1
    Can you believe nothing else on the internet seems to be called “Planet of the Blog”?
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