Shows

Gravity Falls Gets Even Weirder

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Gravity Falls Season 2

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When my sister wanted me to watch Gravity Falls, I was skeptical about whether I would like it. It looked like an uninteresting kids show or like it would have a style of humor I wouldn’t be a fan of. However, it has become one of my favorite shows.

Background

Gravity Falls Season 2 was released in 2014-2016. It stars the voice talent of Jason Ritter, Alex Hirsch, Kristen Schaal, and Linda Cardellini.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

Summary

Season 2 focuses on the search for the author of the journals, Gruncle Stan’s past, and the struggle against Bill Cipher.

Pros

  • Loveable characters
  • Unique villains
  • Interesting supernatural beings
  • Touching character dynamics between the twins
  • Entertaining setting
  • Clever and amusing dialogue
  • Fun animation
  • References to other shows and pop culture
  • Continuity between episodes unlike in some cartoons
  • Enjoyable for adults and children alike
  • Original catchy music

Cons

  • Gets darker in a way that is a bit much (though this is a minor con)

Observations

  • The whispers at the end of the intro song of each episode are hints to solve the cryptogram at the end of each episode
  • Alex Hirsch is the voice actor for Gruncle Stan, Soos, Old Man McGucket, and Bill Cipher.
  • Dipper’s hat was originally supposed to be red, but the creators feared that he would look too much like Ash Ketchum

Review

Characters

My Favorite Pic of the Whole Gang

Mabel Pines, the girl in the pink sweater and braces, is a quirky and boy-crazy girl. She wears a different sweater almost every episode and is very spontaneous.

Dipper Pines, the boy in the blue hat, is adventurous, practical, and cautious. He is eager to find out what supernatural forces are at work in Gravity Falls.

The twins do a lot of growing in their understanding of themselves and the world around them during Season 2. They have to realize what is most important and worth protecting.

Wendy Corduroy is the redheaded teenager. She is tomboyish, strong, assertive, clever, and funny. Wendy is my favorite character.

Gruncle Stan, the old man, is the main characters’ Great Uncle. Get it? Gruncle? He is miserly, bossy, and occasionally engages in criminal activities. Nonetheless, he is one of the most loveable characters.

Soos is the handyman in the green shirt. He is laidback, has a big heart, and is very close to the Pines family. He acts kind of like a big brother to Dipper and Mabel.

I can’t imagine the show without any one of these characters. They are all essential and add so much to the story.

There is only one character of note who debuted in the second season, but his existence is so integral to the plot that I cannot reveal who it is without major spoilers.

Bill Cipher is the iconic villain of Gravity Falls, and the main threat of Season 2. He’s just so weird….some of his scenes from Season 1 involve deer teeth and possession. It’s all quite odd, and that’s what makes him so unique. He is sadistic and thoughtless and enjoys making deals. Season 2 gets even weirder with his greater involvement.

Relationships

The relationship between the twins is so sweet and authentic. It is clear that they genuinely do care for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Gravity Falls avoids common tropes used in shows for twins–such as twins that are identical or very similar in personality, or the twin that is always right vs. the one that is always wrong, single-minded twins, etc.

Season 2 delves into this relationship more by revealing more of the twins’ pasts and creating conflict between them.

Setting

The show is set in Gravity Falls, Oregon. A lot of time is spent at the Mystery Shack in particular, which is a tourist trap filled with gimmicks and odd artifacts.

Dialogue

Pain is hilarious! And two eyes? This thing is deluxe!”

Bill Cipher, referring to humans

Romance is like gum. When it loses its flavor, you just shove another one in.”

Mabel Pines

A TV show that has big mystery elements and jokes that go over kid’s head’s”

Gruncle Stan, referring to Ducktective in a metajoke also referring to Gravity Falls itself

Animation

The goofy and sometimes postcard-worthy animation of Gravity Falls is attractive and fits the theme of the show.

Allusions

  • When Soos says “Shining, shimmering, splendid,” he is referencing the song “A Whole New World”
  • Smez is a spoof of the brand Pez
  • “We Built This Township on Rock and Roll” is a reference to “We Built This City” by Starship
  • “The Golf War” title of an episode alludes to the actual Gulf War
  • One episode has several allusions to the Muppets
  • At one time the Eye of Sauron can be seen in the Mystery Shack
  • There are so many more!

Continuity

The show is dependent on the episodes that come before for a lot of the development and for most of it to make sense. That makes it different from many TV shows where the episodes can be watched in any order.

Audience

The audience for this show is varied. When I was looking at who had left ratings on IMDb, there was a large age range from teens to people in their mid-20s or mid-30s–even people older than that such as in their 50s. In addition, it was made for children, so it fits all of these audiences well. There are a lot of jokes that adults will appreciate that kids may barely notice. The darker themes at times in the show makes it appealing to adults as well.

Music

The theme song is so catchy my sister and dad both made it their ringtone. I love it. It’s one of those iconic songs that will always bring back good memories for me.

Conclusion

I recommend this show for all ages except for very young children due to dark elements. Admittedly this season is darker, so parental guidance may be best. Things such as a person turning into cockroaches and a couch made of petrified humans might be uncomfortable for very young audiences, as well as the darker overall atmosphere.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Shows

Loki’s Self-Love Has Gone Too Far (Spoilers!)

Show Analysis:

Loki Season 1

Intro

If you want a spoiler-free review of Loki Season 1, check out this article. If you are looking for my promised spoiler analysis and thoughts on Season 1, you’re in the right place.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Loki Season 1, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok. Continue at your own peril.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Analysis

First off, I want to say that I rated this show a 10 out of 10, so I am not going to bash it. I will, however, poke fun at parts that deserve it. That is not to say these parts are cons or mistakes. They actually add a lot to the oddness and intrigue that makes up Loki Season 1.

This season opens in New York in 2012, where Loki manages to procure the tesseract and escape the Avengers. My immediate reaction is, oh great. This is the Loki without all the character development of Avengers: Infinity War and all that happened after 2012. This is the undoing of Loki’s poignant death scene in Infinity War.

Loki Dying in Infinity War

And for a moment, I was frustrated. Having an audience feel strongly about a character and then killing them off is not a bad choice for a writer most of the time. Bringing them back is almost always a bad choice becomes it leads the audience to believe future character deaths are reversible.

But Loki in this series is not the same Loki. Sure, it’s the same actor. Sure, he even has the same obsession with his glorious purpose. But this Loki is just another variant in a universe filled with different Lokis. The other Loki truly died, this one is a different (but similar) character with a different path.

What I appreciate from the 2012 New York scene is that the whole series was caused by Hulk being forced to take the stairs. Think about it. If Hulk hadn’t gotten frustrated about taking the stairs, Loki never would have gotten the Tesseract and teleported.

Which brings us to the next scene, where Loki is lying in the sand of the Gobi desert in Mongolia. Everyone keeps talking about how this scene is remarkably similar to another one in the Iron Man movie.

The TVA (Time Variance Authority) find Loki there and proceed to hit him, but also slow him to 1/16th time. So we get to see the strike’s effects in super slow motion and it looks super painful and weird. This would actually be a pretty effective form of torture since even quick strikes would have their effect stretched out much longer. No doubt the TVA uses those tactics for sketchy stuff, because even from the beginning they give off weird vibes.

At the TVA headquarters, Loki is treated like a product in an assembly line. A bot destroys Loki’s clothing, showing how carelessly and intrusively the TVA treats people. The bot even twitches, so it probably isn’t well-maintained and safe. It kind of reminds me of that scene from Thor: Ragnarok where Thor gets his haircut.

He’s next told to “Please sign to verify if this is everything you have ever said.” There is a compilation of papers that definitely could not be everything he ever said, because we all know Loki likes to talk. He even has to confirm he is an organic being, which confuses him to the point where he even wonders if people could not realize they were robots.

This does establish the business-like and cold atmosphere of the TVA. He even has to take a ticket even though he is the only one there.

Then we get an introduction to the kind of annoying yet unique and interesting Miss Minutes.

Even though I find her kind of creepy, I do think her character is well done. At times, she even seems sentient and shows emotions such as concern.

The cartoon where she is first introduced is old-fashioned and reminds me of the sort of thing Mystery Science Theater 3000 would make fun of.

We learn that the motto of the TVA is “For All Time. Always.” That doesn’t really make sense because the cartoon flat-out admitted that the TVA has not been around for all time. There used to be multiple timelines until they were merged and became one “sacred” timeline. The TVA only began its existence when the Time Keepers acted to create the single timeline.

Loki is then put on trial and asked how he pleads. To that he responds, “Madame, a god doesn’t plead.” This definitely isn’t true, since he “pleads” with Sif in a later scene to stop attacking him when he is caught in a time loop.

We get an explanation for why the Avengers’ journey through time was not punished in the same way Loki was. Apparently that was all went to be. The sacred timeline sure is convoluted.

Loki tries to use his powers, but they don’t work in the TVA. Lucky for them, because Loki is a pretty formidable foe to vanquish.

Mobius stops Loki from being pruned from existence because he has this odd obsession with Lokis in general and seems to enjoy playing therapist/mentor to narcissists. He asks Loki to trust him. Now that’s pretty ridiculous. I wouldn’t even trust Mobius, so why would the backstabber Loki be inclined to do so?

Trust is for children. And dogs.”

Loki

Loki is then questioned extensively by the wanna-be therapist Mobius, who proceeds to show him a montage of some of his worst moments, including future moments he would have experienced. He gets to see that his choices got his mother murdered, which had to be more disturbing than the robot stripping him naked or existential concerns about the potential of being a robot.

Poor Mobius trying to squish a couple movies of character development into one presentation. Which, ironically, is similar to what my English professors had to do for the poor novels that only got one or two classes worth of discussion. (I feel like a good novel deserves at least a week.) I don’t know if Mobius thought it would convince Loki, but again, that wouldn’t have convinced me, since they could have used their high tech to create fake footage.

Loki is only really convinced to behave when he realizes that the TVA uses Infinity Stones as paperweights and that even the Tesseract is useless here. The revelation that the TVA is stronger even then the Tesseract is like a slap in the face to Loki, whose desire for world domination is damaged somewhat.

Loki is convinced to use his skills to hunt down another Loki. The first time they try to rely on Loki is at a medieval festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he mostly just wastes their time. Once again, the only team Loki is truly on is his own.

One thing I do love about this show is the settings–whether it’s a festival, the TVA, New York 2012…everything.

We get to see the variety of Loki variants that have been pruned soon afterwards, some of which look very different from our Loki.

Loki is the one who realizes how the other variant problematic Loki has been surviving and hiding–staying in areas where apocalyptic events are occurring does not upset the timeline.

It’s not until they track the alternate Loki down to a disaster in Haven Hills, Alabama in 2050, that Loki realizes that alternate Loki is a woman. (Big surprise. I mean, this was pretty obvious, very Disneyish move.) Not only that, she goes by the name Sylvie. No doubt to make it easier for people to understand who the heck is being talked about when the season is discussed. Not complaining. It makes it easier to review to have different names or nicknames for each character.

Loki follows Sylvie when she tries to escape and they hide in another cataclysm. They get a little bonding time where we get to see that not only are they both full of themselves, they also are highly skilled and possibly ship-able. Which is uncomfortable because they are basically the same person.

It gets even more obvious Disney is setting this up to be romantic when Loki shows off his dumb fireworks illusion and they talk about all they have in common, like being adopted, bisexual, and woefully misunderstood. (He was confirmed to be bisexual and genderfluid by Disney, so that’s cool. That makes a lot of sense considering the inspiration of Loki from Norse mythology, which he came off as genderfluid even though they didn’t have that terminology at the time.) Also, we get to see Loki dance and sing, which is hilarious and definitely deserved to be on the Marvel to-do list.

When Loki gets drunk and falls off a train, their one way home is destroyed and they have to come up with another idea on the spot, which also happens to not work because giant freakin’ chunks of rock are smashing into the earth and blasts apart their ride.

Luckily, their combined presence, and perhaps the uncomfortable fact that Loki is falling in love with another version of himself, alerts the TVA to their location, and they don’t die. Surprise, surprise.

Loki is banished to a time loop for awhile to think about what he done–time out for Loki, I suppose. In it, we see Sif, which is awesome, because it has certainly been a long time. He cut off her hair in the past because he thought it would be funny, which kind of explains why she has always hated his guts.

When Mobius finally takes him out and tells him that Sylvie is dead, you can see the shock register before he plasters it over with an apathetic look. But Mobius is a very good wanna-be therapist and understands Loki’s true emotions. Loki’s self-love has truly gone too far, because he has fallen in love with another Loki. I don’t think I’ll ever feel super comfortable with them being in any sort of relationship, but hey…it’s not really a con. It’s just another aspect of weirdness in an odd but brilliant show.

Mobius’s reaction is priceless, abashed at Loki’s incredible narcissism. That may be the funniest part in the whole season, honestly.

Loki tries to convince Mobius that all the TVA agents are variants, which is surprisingly not a lie. Mobius doesn’t believe him until he did some digging for himself, and then he tragically gets pruned by the order of Ravonna Renslayer. I found this death unconvincing.

What’s even more unconvincing? When Loki gets pruned himself after they find out the Time Keepers are fake. Yeah, Loki has “died” plenty of times already and I mean, at least we would still have Sylvie, right?

When Loki is pruned and meets the other variant Lokis, all I can think is alligator Loki? Alligator Loki? How could they even tell it was a Loki? How the heck did it start a nexus event? Are all animals variants of people, and if so should vegetarianism be the norm in the Marvel universe?

He’s oversensitive like the rest of us.”

A Loki Variant

Also, the fact that Kid Loki’s nexus event was killing Thor–holy crap. Loki didn’t even manage that. In the end, he probably didn’t even want that. And this little kid murdered his brother? Yikes!

Sylvie prunes herself, because obviously the two uncomfortably similar lovers can’t be apart.

And the Lokis basically all backstab each other in a futile attempt at ruling a junk pile. The alligator eats President Loki’s (another Loki variant) hand, which is disgusting, but also gave the alligator Loki some vague purpose.

Sylvie, Mobius, and Loki all meet up to take down Alioth. Mobius gets the heck out of there and who could blame him? But first Loki hugs him, which shows how much the god of mischief has fallen, but is also kind of sweet.

Then Classic Loki (yet another Loki variant) sacrifices himself, and at this point the broadness and variety of Loki’s own personality is just insane, but okay.

Getting past Alioth only cost one Loki, so no biggie. Miss Minutes shows up like a freakin’ serial killer and tries to make a shady deal with them and they are like, um–no. Miss Minutes is creepier than Thanos. No joke.

Then they meet the actual He Who Remains, the real Time Keeper. And he’s eating an apple in a way that reminds me of Moriarty from Sherlock. Sylvie tries to kill him a bunch of times. Loki is not as keen on killing him.

The little detail that killing Kang the Conqueror–I mean He Who Remains (pretty sure everyone has determined he is Kang by now though)–will lead to multidimensional war, makes Loki hesitate. Especially since it means Kang will be alive anyway and multiplied a bunch of times.

Loki is a liar and can spot one, so he knows Kang is telling the truth. Sylvie trusts no one. At this point it’s super obvious Mr. Kang’s gonna die. The kiss was also expected but it seemed early and weirdly timed. I mean, if you are going to kill someone, why would you stop for a quick, passionate smooch? Maybe I just don’t understand love.

I don’t know what the right word is to describe two people who are basically the same person kissing? Is this coming close to incest? Or just narcissism at its worst?

Anywho, after all that kissing nonsense, Loki gets sent back through a portal to the TVA and Kang is killed by Sylvie. Loki ends up in an alternate timeline where Mobius has no idea who he is. That’s frustrating, and I have no idea where the MCU is going from here. But I am kind of excited to see what happens next.

Conclusion

These Disney+ series have impressed me so far. I am curious to see where the story goes from here. Let me know what you thought of Loki Season 1 in the comments, and as always, if you have any suggestions for reviews or analyses feel free to share.

Shows

Loki’s Back For His Own Series

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Loki Season 1

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I heard about this series, I was concerned about whether it would be any good because I was worried it would take away from the character development we saw in other movies. Instead, it provided the means for more character development and showed a different side of Loki.

Warning: This review does not contain any significant spoilers for Season 1 of Loki, but it does include some plot details from Episode 1.

Background

Loki Season 1 was created by Michael Waldron and released in 2021. It can be streamed on Disney+.

Summary

Loki escapes the Avengers only to be captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and labeled a variant to the sacred timeline. To survive, he will have to use his wits and his own self-knowledge to capture an enemy of the TVA.

Pros

  • Enjoyable characters
  • Strong character development
  • Phenomenal acting
  • Immersive setting
  • The show is unpredictable and strange, which is fitting for a series centering around the god of mischief
  • Well-chosen music

Cons

  • There are no specific cons I would like to point out. This series does stretch believability, but considering the god of mischief is the main character, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Observations

  • Inspired in a lot of ways by the comics

Review

Characters

Loki wins the prize for most character development out of everyone from this series. Watching his character unfold was like watching a narcissistic caterpillar turn into an equally narcissistic butterfly. Yeah, he does remain a narcissist, but he’s forced to re-evaluate his entire worldview and come to terms with who he truly is.

Mobius is kind of patronizing at first, but once you figure out what makes him tick, he’s easier to understand and appreciate. He kind of fulfills a mentor role to Loki in that Loki does learn some things from him, but he’s not the stereotypical old dude fulfilling his duty to pass on unwanted wisdom.

Miss Minutes is the holographic mascot for the TVA, explaining its mission to maintain the sacred timeline to Loki when he first is captured. She handles looking up information in the TVA’s databases, but is more than just a tool. Often, she acts like a sentient being with her own feelings and concerns.

Acting

The acting was impeccable, especially by Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Sophia Di Martino. Hiddleston using a range of complex expressions to get across Loki’s reactions to pivotal events was especially effective.

Setting

The TVA as a setting was perfect. It combined a bunch of old-fashioned propaganda posters, dated cartoons, and futuristic devices to make a unique atmosphere. It was a perfect blend of old and new to make the setting seem timeless and immersive.

Plot

The plot throws you for a lot of loops. (And not just time loops.) Every time everything seems chill and like things are going to go one way, things escalate and the stakes become even higher.

Music

The quirky and thematic music of this season added to the atmosphere. There is currently a soundtrack out for Episodes 1-3 called “Loki Volume 1” and it can be found on Spotify.

Inspiration

The whole concept of the TVA and the Timekeepers, as wells as many of the characters were inspired by the comics. I love that Disney is taking into account previous works in the Marvel Universe rather than taking an entirely new path.

Conclusion

If you like Marvel, then you will appreciate this show focused on one of Marvel’s most enduring characters.

Rating System

If you’re interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Movies

Disney’s First Southeast Asian Princess

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Raya and the Last Dragon

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Intro

I had high expectations for this movie, but while the animation was fabulous, the rest was generally unimpressive. It looked really cool, but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.

Background

Raya and the Last Dragon is a Disney movie that was released in 2021. Raya became the first Southeast Asian Disney princess.

This movie stars Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, and Alan Tudyk.

Summary

In the land of Kumandra, Raya the warrior princess must find the last dragon to restore her family and kingdom to its former prosperity.

Pros

  • Relationship between Raya and Namaari
  • Relationship between Chief Benja and Raya sweet
  • Animal life interesting
  • Cool idea that each dragon has a unique power
  • Somewhat unique villain
  • Strong theme that came through clearly
  • Well-researched setting
  • Somewhat developed cultures
  • Cool weapon
  • Stunning animation

Cons

  • Very predictable at points
  • Dragon design a little too cute and fuzzy to be the majestic beings they were made out to be
  • Concept worn thin at places
  • Despite being unique, villain was underdeveloped
  • Sad moments just weren’t that sad
  • Unmemorable sound tracks
  • Hit you over the head with the theme all the time

Review

Relationships

Raya and Namaari had an interesting and complex relationship throughout the film. Many people complain that despite the obvious chemistry between them, Disney was purposely ambiguous about whether either or both characters were gay, and I definitely see that point. It has a very queerbaity-feel because it definitely seemed like there could be romantic tension there. Even the actor playing Raya, Kelly Marie Tran, said openly that she believed her character was gay. I am hoping they have a sequel where they will have more space to develop their relationship further so that it is clear.

The relationship between Chief Benja and Raya was sweet. He is a father to her, but also a mentor. He embodies trust and hope and is a real role model for Raya.

Villain

The Druun are both a unique villain and an underdeveloped one. It was a creative idea but not well fleshed out. They end up being more like a natural disaster, yet seem to stem somehow from the evil of humans. None of this is well explained in the movie, but basically the villain is like a plague that turns people to stone.

Creatures

Tuk Tuk is Raya’s pet, an odd mix between a pill bug and an armadillo. It grows quite large and is surprisingly mobile even in its larger form.

Weapon

Raya’s weapon is a kind of whip sword, shifting between a normal sword form and a separated form that is longer and acts like a whip. This was much more creative than going with a traditional medieval-style sword.

Theme

The theme is trust. More specifically, that you should trust people regardless of whether you know them or if they have betrayed you in the past. This movie thrusts its theme in your face from beginning to end. While that is good for very young children, older children and adults may find this patronizing.

I wouldn’t say that this is a necessarily good or realistic theme, but for a kids movie, whatever. Generally it is good to trust people, but it’s also good to be smart about who you trust.

Setting

According to IMDb, the cultures and land of Kumandra were inspired by the countries of Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Indonesia, and Laos.

Kumandra is beautiful, consisting of various cultures known for certain traits but also defying those traits at times. A culture is not simple, and cannot be described in a couple sentences like Raya tried to in the beginning of the film. That becomes increasingly obvious as the film moves on.

The setting is beautiful, a mix of rivers, deserts, mountains, towns, and cities that were all beautifully animated.

Predictability

This was your formulaic Disney story. I won’t spoil it, but it had all the plot elements of a typical Disney movie. Yet it was much more dry, cliché, and lacking in emotion at some of the most critical moments of the film. However, it was nice that the movie had a strong female lead without having a man come in to save the day like in the earlier Disney films.

Soundtracks

None of the songs stuck out to me, unlike with the other Disney princess movies new and old. James Newton Howard composed the score, and while it added somewhat to the mood of several scenes, there were no takeaway anthems for this movie like there were for Tangled, Moana, and even Brave.

Animation

The animation of the backgrounds was phenomenal, particularly fog and water. The characters were not as well done but still pretty high quality animation.

Conclusion

If you like formulaic Disney, you may like this movie. But if you expect the movie to try anything new or exciting, you will be disappointed.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

  • Raya and the Last Dragon Trailer – quick note: It may be more fun to watch the movie without the trailer because the trailer actually spoils more than I was willing to in my article.