Invincible (Season 1): The Superhero Show We Deserve – Amazon Prime Review

A show demonstrates the glory and horror of living in a super world.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) is the son of realtor Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) and writer Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). Oh, and Nolan is actually Omni-Man, the world’s greatest superhero. Before his 18th birthday, Mark finally gets his superpowers and adopts the superhero moniker of Invincible. Now armed with flight, superstrength, superspeed, and the ability to make bad jokes mid-fight, Mark tries to live up to his father’s example. He works with the Teen Team, a group comprised of the Robot (Zachary Quinto), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), and Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow). Shortly after this, the Guardians of the Globe, the most powerful superteam on the planet, are killed, leading the world to need the Teen Team and Invincible to start picking up the slack, as new threats seem to be constantly on the rise. These threats include superpowered mob bosses, invading aliens, reanimated corpses, and the occasional kaiju, leading Invincible to learn how tough this work can be the hard way. Unfortunately, it turns out that the one who killed the Guardians was none other than Omni-Man. Omni-Man’s true mission was to weaken Earth so that his people could take over the planet, leading to a drag-out fight between Mark and his father and ending only when Nolan realizes that he cannot kill his son and flees.

Imagine that your dad is your hero and that he is also trying to kill everyone.

END SUMMARY 

I had already reviewed this show a few episodes in, but I was asked to write another one based on the finale. I will be blunt: This was the most incredibly horrifying episode of a superhero show I’ve seen yet. It almost completely outdid its comic book counterpart and that’s damned impressive. While the comic was brutal to Mark and suggested massive damage to the population, this truly brought the scale of what’s happening to the forefront. Aside from some deliberate horror comics and an issue of Miracle Man in which a psychopath with Superman’s powers is allowed a few hours of free rein on England and kills millions of people in increasingly horrifying ways, this show is about the most accurate and intense portrayal of what it would be like to live near a superhero fight. People are basically china dolls to Invincible and Omni-Man. 

Admittedly, Omni-Man didn’t choke the Thames with bodies.

I have to give it up to both the writers and animators of this episode, because even as action packed as it is, they make sure you feel all of the damage that’s being inflicted. Even when Mark is trying to save someone, Omni-Man makes it clear that he can eradicate buildings with a finger, rendering any of Mark’s efforts moot. At one point he starts shoving Mark THROUGH PEOPLE via a subway train. It’s done so viscerally that the image is still in my mind. This is what it would be like to live in a universe with superpowers: If you don’t have them, you’re basically a bug trying to avoid being squashed.

Mark tries to save a person, and only saves an arm.

On the other hand, we also see superheroes and villains producing technological and physical wonders that would be impossible in the real world. Also, if you are one of those superpeople, or figure out sufficient technological advances, then you get to experience things no other being could relate to. The universe is so much easier to explore than in the real one and so much more reward is right at the tips of our fingers. It’s a world of wonders and opportunities. Just one where the risk of dying is very, very high for things as simple as “walking.”

Even being “The Immortal” doesn’t really help that much.

I really appreciate this show subverting the superhero narrative as hard as it did. While Mark is still a good guy and the kind of person who will try to do the right thing, the show makes it clear that this comes with a massive amount of sacrifice. While Spider-Man became beloved for being a person who gets superpowers and it just makes his life worse, Invincible manages to convey this through how much Mark loses out on for so little a reward. His relationship with his girlfriend suffers, his schoolwork suffers, his relationship with his friends suffers, and even, eventually, his relationship with his family suffers. All in the name of trying to be a superhero. Full points to Steven Yeun for how great he is at conveying Mark’s emotions through voice acting, particularly when he’s trying to reconcile what his father has done before the final battle. 

Also, J.K. Simmons, you are amazing.

Overall, just a fantastic show. Cannot wait for more episodes.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Invincible: A Solid Adaptation of a Great Comic – Amazon Prime Review

The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman’s teen hero comes to the small screen.

SUMMARY

Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) is the son of realtor Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) and writer Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). Oh, and Nolan is actually Omni-Man, the world’s greatest superhero. Before his 18th birthday, Mark finally gets his superpowers and adopts the superhero moniker of Invincible. Now armed with flight, superstrength, superspeed, and the ability to make bad jokes mid-fight, Mark tries to live up to his father’s example. He works with the Teen Team, a group comprised of the Robot (Zachary Quinto), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), and Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow). Shortly after this, the Guardians of the Globe, the most powerful superteam on the planet, are killed, leading the world to need the Teen Team and Invincible to start picking up the slack, as new threats seem to be constantly on the rise.

He doesn’t fly super well, but he tries hard.

END SUMMARY

I loved the Invincible comic, as it was a story in which the main character dealt with real problems, hero problems, and the intersection between what a superhero is supposed to do and what would actually help people. Mark grows a lot over the series in believable ways that sometimes reflect his loss of idealism and often demonstrate that this loss allows him to evolve his sense of right and wrong without being broken by the weight of trying to take on the world’s problems. Also, the writing was pretty funny. Naturally, when I heard it was getting an animated adaptation, I was very excited, but also concerned. Invincible, while it was well-done and liked by many comic fans, didn’t have a lot of mainstream success. Typically, this means two things can happen in an adaptation: Either they’ll change everything (hoping the new version gets more attention) or they’ll just adapt it as closely as possible (since not enough people know what’s going to happen for it to matter). 

The trailers included some iconic comic scenes, making me think the latter.

Fortunately, this show seems to be eschewing both of those and giving a mostly-faithful adaptation with enough differences that comic fans will not be sure where it’s going. The story is mostly the same as the comics, so far, dealing with Mark trying to come to terms with being a superhero and also being a teenager. His insecurities about living up to his father’s example are a bit more exaggerated in the show, but that will likely change a bit during this season. There’s a mystery angle going on in the series that didn’t really happen in the comics and I’m excited to see if they play it out the same.

Whatever gives us more Omni-Man.

The voice cast in this show is as good as it gets, possibly rivaled only by DuckTales (woo-oo). Steven Yeun gives a ton of extra personality to Mark and J.K. Simmons as Superman with a mustache is nothing short of awesome. The supporting cast of the Teen Team has a ton of talent, and their expanded roster includes veteran voice actors Grey Griffin and Khary Payton. Walton Goggins plays the uptight and slightly shady head of the Global Defense Agency, Zazie Beetz plays Mark’s love interest Amber, and there are too many other great cameos and recurring performances to count, including Mahershala Ali, Clancy Brown, and Mark Hamill (Applause). 

Clancy Brown voices a demon detective. Perfect.

Overall, give this show a shot if you like solid superhero stories. I can’t wait for it to keep going.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Raya and the Last Dragon: A Disney Movie We Really Need – Disney+ Review

Disney brings us a story of a young woman trying to heal a broken world.

SUMMARY

Kumandra was a great country of men and dragons until 500 years ago, when it was suddenly besieged by the Druun, evil energy spirits that turn people and dragons to stone. A war ensued and the Druun turned almost everyone to stone. The dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), the last of the dragons, used her energy to forge a gem that turned the humans back to normal and banished the Druun, but the dragons stayed stone and Sisu disappeared. Six years ago, Kumandra had fallen into five nations that are constantly at odds. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is the daughter of Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), the chief of the Heart Land, the guardians of the dragon gem. When Benja attempted to unite the land, it backfired and the dragon gem was broken, resulting in the return of the Druun. Now, Raya seeks to find the long-dormant Sisu and banish the Druun again while avoiding her enemy, Namaari (Gemma Chan), daughter of Virana (Sandra Oh), the chief of the Fang Land. Fortunately, this is a Disney movie, so she has an animal companion named Tuk-tuk that is voiced by Alan Tudyk, and some friends she meets along the way, including Boun (Izaac Wang), a young boat captain, Tong (Benedict Wong), a warrior, and a bunch of other cute characters. Unfortunately, it turns out that “legendary dragons” might not be quite what she expected.

Sisu’s like a dragon mixed with a puppy mixed with Nora from Queens.

END SUMMARY

This was a heck of a film. While I don’t know that it’ll enter the top class of Disney movies, I think it’s at least up for consideration. It was good enough that, despite the fact that it’ll be on Disney+ for free in a few months, I don’t regret buying this movie. Watch it with a friend and the cost of the purchase is basically the same as if you went to the movie in a theater. I will say that this would be a movie that would be absolutely improved by watching it on the big screen, because it is beautiful and colorful and has some wonderful action sequences. Unfortunately, this ain’t the year for that. Maybe in 2022 they’ll put it back up for a limited run.

Raya wields a chain blade, like in Brotherhood of the Wolf. It’s awesome.

Part of what makes this film great is that it walks a very tough line. This is a dark film in a lot of ways. It takes place in a dystopia literally populated by omnicidal balls of energy and a bunch of countries that are basically at war all the time. Children, families, etc. are shown to be victims of the Druun, and trust me, they make sure you understand that the attacks are completely indiscriminate. The leaders of these countries are frequently shown to be willing to stab each other in the back, as are many of the people. In order to balance out this dark undertone, the film often has some extremely cute moments, as well as a wider assortment of comic relief sidekicks than many other Disney films. It also just has some better comedy routines than most other kids movies, made much better by the presence and delivery of Awkwafina. She plays Sisu as someone who lacks intelligence at times, but has great wisdom. It results in some hilarious cognitive dissonance. 

Yes, this movie makes it clear that babies are dying.

The film’s moral is one of the most important ones that a Disney picture has attempted in a while and, surprisingly, it does a pretty great job of pulling it off without being overly preachy. Most of the film is just about how you need to give people your trust sometimes in order to move forward. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but sometimes you really just need to believe in the ability of other people to do the right thing when asked. Now, the movie is not written by idiots, part of the reason why some characters can do this is that they are capable of dealing with the consequences of having that trust betrayed. But sometimes you do need to believe in people even if it means putting yourself on the line. At the end of the movie, I was reminded of the MLK quote: “Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” Truly a message that the world needs if we’re going to deal with the problems facing us in the future.

Sometimes you need to trust people who’ve broken it before.

Overall, this was a really great movie. I recommend it. I would even say that, if you have kids or are a Disney fan, this one was worth the money.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.