Thor: The Dark World Review

The first Thor movie was a bit of a mixed bag for me; while I enjoyed the overall story I felt that Thor’s transformation from the arrogant son of a king to a man worthy of the title God of Thunder as well as his relationship with Jane were somewhat underdeveloped.  As such, I went into Thor: The Dark World (which is definitely not ripping off The Legend of Zelda with its title) both hopeful that it would fix the problems that the first movie had and skeptical about it actually succeeding in that regard.  While I can say that Thor: The Dark World does in fact right the wrongs of its predecessor, it introduces a few new problems that keep it from reaching its full potential.

As I said, Thor: The Dark World fixes the main problem that I had with the first movie: Thor’s relationship with Jane.  This time around I actually believed that they were a couple mainly due to the performance of Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman who reprise their roles as Thor and Jane respectively.  Both play there parts well and Hemsworth in particular stands out as if he were born to portray the God of Thunder.  The supporting cast does fine as well, though once again Kat Denning and Stellan Skarsgard (Darcy and Dr. Selvig) play minimal roles in the overall story.  That being said, they both do well in the scenes they are featured in as are Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba.  However, the most memorable scenes are (not surprisingly) the ones featuring Loki.  Tom Hiddleston without a doubt without a doubt steals every scene he’s in and stirring up quite a bit of mischief.  Malekith is a different story, though.  Christopher Eccelston does his best, but honestly, I found his character to be incredibly generic; he had no real back story or motivation other than what you might expect from a standard comic book villain.  What does he want?  Why, to destroy the world, of course.  Why does he want to destroy the world?  Well, that’s just what Dark Elves do, apparently.

That is probably my biggest problem with Thor: The Dark World.  Ultimately, the story revolves around a villain that isn’t that interesting and so the plot basically devolves into a case of Thor having to stop some overpowered bad guy from destroying the world and save the woman he loves.  This may set up for some awesome fights, but it doesn’t really help set the movie’s plot apart from other comic book movies.  The other problem I have with the movie is the humor.  Much like Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World relies more on humor than past Marvel movies, but it doesn’t always work to the movie’s benefit.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the humor is well-timed and made me laugh out loud.  But occasionally the movie would present a scene solely for the purpose of a joke (which felt unnecessary) or insert a joke into an otherwise serious situation.  Sure, a movie like this could use some comic relief, but it shouldn’t compromise the serious tone that a given scene just set up.  It really took me out of the experience for a second and made me think “Why are you trying to be funny here?  This situation shouldn’t be funny!  Get back to the action!”

Other than those two complaints, though, Thor: The Dark World is a worthy sequel to Kenneth Branagh’s original (it’s a shame he didn’t return to direct the sequel).  If you can look past the generic villain and sometimes out-of-place humor, you will be in for a real teat.  Thor: The Dark World is a much-anticipated and welcome return to Asgard with plenty of action and a few twists towards the end.  Any Marvel fan should be able to get their money’s worth, and, even if you’re not a not a huge comic book fan and have just been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe you should still get some enjoyment out this movie.

Advertisements

Ender’s Game Review

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything.  I never had the opportunity to see The Counselor like I had planned and I didn’t have anything else to post.  But, now I think I’m back on track so I can post regularly again.  With that, let’s get into Ender’s Game.

Ender’s Game is based on a novel of the same name written by Orson Scott Card and tells the story of Ender, a young man recruited by the military in an attempt to recreate a commander who gave his life to stop an alien attack on Earth before the events of the film.  As such, the film mainly consists of Ender training to one day take command of Earth’s entire fleet and take the fight to the aliens (known as Formics).  The prospect of this being a movie about training rather than an actual war movie may sound disappointing to sci-fi fans.  However, Ender’s Game has enough entertainment value to merit you watching it regardless of that fact.  This mainly because of the characters themselves, specifically Ender and Colonel Graff.

Ender is perhaps the most interesting character I have seen in a movie this year.  He is very reminiscent of Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass (though that’s another review for another time) only without any of the negative aspects of Lelouch’s character.  Ender is intelligent, calculating, wise beyond his years, and strondg-willed while, at the same time, remaining friendly to those around him.  All of this enforced by a stellar performance by Asa Butterfield, who is easily the standout of the movie and what makes Ender’s character so compelling.

The rest of the cast does a fine job too, with Harrison Ford returning to the sci-fi genre as Colonel Graff, a hardened commander who will stop at nothing to ensure that humanity is victorious.  Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley also play their parts well, though neither of them are in the movie as much as you may think.  The only person I was disappointed with was Hailee Steinfield (she plays one of Ender’s friends at the training camp).  I wasn’t disappointed because her performance was bad, but because I felt that her character was underutilized, which is a real shame considering the potential she showed in True Grit.

This may seem like more of my own personal preference rather than a legitimate problem with the movie, but it actually alludes to my main complaint with Ender’s Game: the supporting characters don’t get much development.  It seems as though they just continue to show up where ever Ender goes for the sake of him having his friends with him.  Because of this, some moments that should have been more emotional than they ended up being fell short of getting a real reaction out of me.  I wish they could have made the movie longer so that I could have seen more of the characters grow.  Instead, the only one that gets a decent amount of development is Ender.

However, this problem didn’t detract too much from the movie, and I still found myself enjoying every bit of Ender’s Game.  The story is fascinating and the end of the movie is something that I think people will be talking about for a while.  It’s one of those endings that you continue to think about after you leave the theater and drive home.  It will stick with you and make you want to find out what happens next as well as ponder the main moral question of the movie: do the ends justify the means?  In the end, Ender’s Game is an excellent sci-fi movie with an interesting main character and wonderful story that delves into a relevant moral dilemma that has been pondered for quite some time.  I highly recommend that you see Ender’s Game and, even though I haven’t read it yet, I can say that the novel the movie is based on is probably worth reading too.  If it’s anything like its theatrical counterpart, it should be well worth it.

The Fifth Estate Review

This weekend I had a choice between seeing The Fifth Estate and seeing Gravity.  As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I chose to see The Fifth Estate (mainly because it would have been a little late to do a review of Gravity).  And, after seeing The Fifth Estate, I honestly wish I had gone to see Gravity.  The Fifth Estate tells the story of Julian Assange, the creator of Wikileaks, and covers the span of several years as Assange starts to get the attention of the US government as well as several like-minded individuals and media outlets interested in helping him.  However, despite a strong lead performance, The Fifth Estate never truly reaches its potential and instead turns out to be a partially developed movie with an interesting premise.  It has a slow start and, even in the second half when things get more interesting, the plot is never fully developed.

As I mentioned before, Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a strong performance as Julian Assange, and he is ultimately what drew me to the movie in the first place.  The cast of the cast put in fine performances, but their characters really fade into the background as the movies mainly focuses on Assange and his associate, Daniel Berg.  However, rather than taking a similar approach to The Social Network in which the story solely covers the events surrounding the creation of Facebook, The Fifth Estate also tries to add in some more personal moments with Berg.  While I see what they were trying to accomplish, these were the scenes that had me the least interested; I was never fully invested in his private life and just wanted to get back to the main story.  On top of that, the movie takes its time building up to the major leak Assange stumbles upon.

This makes about the first half more of a bore than anything else because, while I was still curious to see what would happen next, it took longer than was necessary to show me.  The second half is a different story, though; as Wikileaks starts to get more attention and leaking more classified information, the movie starts to pick up.  This part of the movie is also where the choice is left to the audience as to whether or not Assange’s cause is noble or vile.  This was one of the aspects of the movie that I actually liked because it reminded me of The Social Network; the movie doesn’t tell you what to think, it just presents the events and lets you decide what to think.  That being said, even this section of the plot isn’t fully developed.  I felt as though the moral ambiguity behind Assange’s convictions weren’t carried as far as they could have been.  Also, the second half feels a bit rushed as the plot is cut off toward the end with a brief segment following it that isn’t really directly related to the previous scene.  That was perhaps the most disappointing part of The Fifth Estate, it feels like you only got part of the story, which is a shame considering how much I wanted to know more about Wikileaks and Assange after seeing the trailer.

The Fifth Estate isn’t horrible by any stretch of the imagination; in spite of all of the problems I had with the movie, I still found the story to be an interesting one.  However, I couldn’t help feeling like I hadn’t seen it all.  It seemed like The Fifth Estate had only shown me part of what had actually happened, and that is ultimately what drags The Fifth Estate down.  The incredibly interesting and relevant premise is never completely capitalized on, leaving the audience with an underdeveloped plot and performances that, with the exception of Benedict Cumberbatch, are just OK.  I would say that The Fifth Estate is still interesting enough to see if you have nothing better to do, but there are far better movies in theaters right now.  My only regret is that I passed on one of them to see this.

Are There Moral Absolutes?

Note: For the record, I’m not a scientist, nor do I have any in-depth knowledge of the science/logic behind these questions.  As such, I apologize for any scientific and/or logical fallacies that may be in this article.  These conclusions are based on what I have read or seen in other media as well as my own thoughts.

Morality is perhaps one of the most controversial topics of discussion that I can think of, mostly because of the highly subjective nature of where people’s morals come from.  Everyone has their own moral code that they stand by, each from different sources, and that is the root of many of the arguments we have amongst ourselves today.  However, aside from the debate over whether a certain action is moral or not, there is a similar debate about whether or not there are moral absolutes, inherent, unchanging laws that determine what is right and what is wrong.  Many claim that morality is absolute regardless of one’s personal opinion of what constitutes being “moral”, while others say that there are no set moral guidelines for people to abide by and that morality really varies from person to person and situation to situation.  The question of whether there are moral absolutes is a difficult one to answer for reasons I’ll cover shortly.  However, I’ll attempt to give an objective view followed by my own personal opinion on the subject.

Objectively, it is actually impossible to determine whether there are moral absolutes, and, if there are, what those absolutes may be.  Regardless of what people may think or the merit of their argument, there is no way to prove things one way or the other.  I can’t prove that there are moral absolutes any more than I can prove that there aren’t.  This is mainly because the concept of morality isn’t a tangible thing that can be shown to exist using evidence; the argument ultimately comes down to logical reasoning.  That may lead some to conclude that there can’t be moral absolutes because there is no evidence to suggest that there are, however, that way of thinking is flawed.  That is essentially the same logical fallacy as arguing that something exists because there is no evidence to suggest that it doesn’t.  In either case, you are making an argument without any evidence to support your claim.  And so, since neither side can prove that it is right, there is no way to know for sure if there are moral absolutes.

However, I believe that there are moral absolutes.  It seems highly paradoxical to say that there aren’t any moral guidelines that determine whether an action or thought is right or wrong.  To suggest that morality is relative is to, in my opinion, contradict oneself.  Let me give you an example: I personally believe that abortion is morally wrong, but there are plenty of people out there who believe the opposite.  How can we both be right?  How can abortion be right and wrong at the same time?  Wouldn’t one of us have to be wrong?  That aside, if morality is relative, how can we as a society ever hold anyone accountable for their actions.  If a murderer believes his actions were right, and his opinion is just as valid as ours, what right have we to sentence him at all?  If the answer is that we don’t then what authority does any governing body, or society, have for that matter.  By that  logic, society should be disbanded because we could never hold each other accountable for doing something “immoral”.

Now, this merely suggests that it wouldn’t really make sense for there to be no moral absolutes, and it doesn’t explain where any sense of morality would be derived from.  So, allow me to explain more concretely where this morality would come from and why it exists in the first place.  I am basing this point on the following assumptions: all humans are inherently equal, as such all humans have certain rights (life, liberty, property, etc.), these rights are inherent to their existence, and these rights are inalienable.

Morality is similar to truth in that it is related to an outside force; truth is related to reality (something is true if it coincides with reality) and morality is related to ownership of the self.  This goes back to my assumptions above in that people automatically take ownership of certain rights inherent to their being human.  To deny this would be to deny our humanity.  Part of what sets man apart from beasts is our ability to think rationally, to use our imagination, and to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong.  People own themselves.  Because of that, any attempt at or action resulting in the violation of an individuals rights would be wrong or, in other words, immoral.  So, murder is immoral because it deprives someone of their right to life.  Stealing is immoral because it deprives someone of their right to their property.  Attacking someone is immoral because it deprives someone of their right to pursue happiness.  Morality is inherent to our existence as it is directly related to our natural rights as humans.

We form governments in order to collectively protect the rights of the individual from those who would seek to violate the rights of others.  Governments are not forcing their will on the people, but rather enforcing a moral code that already existed.  But, in the event that the government does begin to impose its will rather than imposing preexisting morality, the people hold the government accountable for any immoral actions it may take.  Now, some may argue that this logic is flawed because of so-called moral “gray areas” in which someone commits an immoral act for what they consider to be the right reasons.  However, regardless of context, any action taken is either moral or immoral, right or wrong.  Even if you kill someone in self-defense, that does not make the act of killing right, it only means that, although what you did was wrong, you were justified in doing so.  There is a distinction in the case of something being justified, but that doesn’t make the action any less immoral.  In essence, it is the concept of the individual that brings about moral absolutes and those moral absolutes are inherent to our existence.  Because all individuals inherently have rights, any violation of those rights is inherently immoral.

My opinion that there are moral absolutes is grounded in the existential belief that individual rights are inherent to one’s existence and that the preservation and protection of those rights are, by necessity, moral while actions taken to violate those rights are immoral.  However, let me reiterate: there is no way to definitively prove that my argument is correct.  My argument is more existential given that the existence of moral absolutes cannot be proven using physical evidence.  That being said, I believe that, given the assumptions listed above, moral absolutism is the only logical conclusion.  If you accept that all humans are created equal and with the same inalienable rights, it seems to me that moral absolutes (namely the preservation of those rights) are inherent to that idea.

Captain Phillips Review

The issue of Somali pirates was never something that I gave a lot of thought to.  I had heard of a few instances where ships had been hijacked, and I knew it was a problem, but I never really looked into it.  So, when I saw the trailers for Captain Phillips, I was naturally curious to see more of what was going on around the horn of Africa.  Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can say that Captain Phillips is probably the most intense movie I’ve seen this year, and certainly one of the best.  Captain Phillips is a heart-pounding thriller that will grip you from beginning to end.

As you probably know, Captain Phillips tells the true story of a container ship that was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia and the actions of the crew and, most notably, Captain Richard Phillips in response to the situation.  Much like Prisoners (which I also reviewed) Captain Phillips does an excellent job of accurately portraying the situation.  Although the movie has a somewhat slow start, once the pirates get onto the ship, it feels as if someone says one thing wrong or makes one mistake, the entire crew will die.  Even before that point, when the pirates first appear behind the container ship, the movie begins to pick up and an ominous atmosphere dominates the next 2 hours.  The tension that the movie sets up with the Somalis’ first appearance remains until the climax at the end when everything comes to a head, keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Of course, this review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Tom Hanks phenomenal performance as the titular character.  Right from the start of the hijacking, you can tell his first priority is the safety of his crew regardless of what happens to him.  The fate of the entire crew rested in the decisions that he made, and Hanks was excellent at showing that.  His performance in Captain Phillips has me truly eager to see him in Saving Mr. Banks later this year.  Now, the actors playing the crew members are fine, but its Barkhad Abdi (the leader of the pirates) and his fellow Somalis that stood out amongst the supporting cast.  Their performances add greatly to the intensity of the movie; they had such a great presence, and I felt as though they wouldn’t hesitate to shoot someone if things started going south.  The tension rose in direct proportion to their desperation, making the situation that much more convincing.

At this point, there isn’t much more I can say about the movie, and that may sound like a bad thing, but really, the premise of the movie is simple enough that it doesn’t take much to cover everything.  The only complaint I can think of is that the first 10 to 15 minutes feel a bit slow, but, honestly, that didn’t bother me at all.  The beginning is a set up for the ship to get into Somalian waters and so it was necessary.  Though, really, compared to the rest of the movie, the beginning was bound to feel slow anyway.  In the end, Captain Phillips is definitely on my list as one of the best movies of the year.  You will be on the edge of your seat as soon as the pirates appear on Captain Phillips’ radar and you’ll stay there until the last 5 minutes.  Captain Phillips is an absolutely amazing experience that should not be missed.

Memo #3

I just wanted to let you all know that I was going to post something new today, but my Steins;Gate review kept bugging me.  I couldn’t shake the thought that it wasn’t that good.  So, instead of writing something new, I rewrote my Steins;Gate review, which you can check out at https://jaketleech.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/steinsgate-review.  I hope you like the changes I made, or, if you didn’t read the original version, I hope you like what I have to say on Steins;Gate.  And don’t worry, I’ll have something new out this weekend (I’m going to review Captain Phillips).

Jake

The Merits of Selfishness

The term “selfishness” often has a negative connotation associated with it; selfishness has generally been deemed as, for lack of a better word, evil.  Putting yourself or your interests above others is frowned upon, while putting others first and sacrificing for “the common good” is championed.  People are expected to forfeit what they earn for the sake of those less fortunate than them.  They are expected to be selfless.  But, is selfishness really so bad?  Do you only help yourself by being selfish?  The answer to both questions is no; promoting ones own self-interest is part of what makes this country function.  In the end, it’s not concern for the well-being of others that drives industry or keeps our capitalist system afloat, it’s selfishness.  Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that being power mad or acting like a self-righteous person who thinks he’s superior to everyone else simply because he exists is good.  What I’m saying that promoting your own self-interest first can be beneficial to the rest of society.  In other words, being selfish doesn’t just help those who are selfish.

The British economist Adam Smith once said, “Every individual neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements.  They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.”  That is, in pursuing our own interests, we tend to also promote the public interest at the same time.  For example, a business owner isn’t in business to help his customers or to provide jobs for people who need them, he’s in business to make money, but, to make money, he has to hire workers and sell his product to people.  So, even though the business owner was only interested in making money for himself, he managed to provide jobs and provide his product to people who needed it.  He helped others by helping himself.

Now, if that same business owner were truly selfless, he wouldn’t have charged anything for his product and given it to people for free.  However, if he didn’t charge anything, he would have no incentive to work, and his workers would have no incentive to work for him because he wouldn’t be able to pay them.  But, because everyone involved in the process in making and selling the product was selfish (they all worked for their own monetary gain), they all benefited.  This concept applies on a national scale as well; we all work for ourselves, not for others.  Workers work because they get paid a salary that they can use to provide for themselves and their families.  And, although they may have obligations to shareholders, CEOs work to make as much money as possible so that they can provide for themselves and their family and have money leftover for other luxuries.  These men take on a mutual agreement for mutual benefit, but they don’t think of each other when making it.  The CEO doesn’t give the workers jobs as some sort of charity nor do the workers work to help the CEO.  They all act selfishly, and yet, they all win.  They would not be able to accomplish nearly as much if they were to take a selfless approach.  In fact, selflessness would only inhibit their ability to produce as it does with an entire economy.

There’s nothing wrong with giving to charity or helping those who are in need and are willing to work toward bettering their situation.  However, selflessness without purpose only contributes to the problems that society faces, such as high unemployment, a high number of people on welfare, and a strong sense of entitlement.  Perpetually providing for others who are unwilling to work for a living, or who choose to live off of the work of someone else establishes a dangerous precedent and only makes it easier for the non-working to forgo contributing to their own self-improvement.  Those people feed off of the able to the point where there is no point in the able working anymore.  That’s why socialism and communism don’t work: they are essentially forced selflessness.  It takes “from each according to his ability” and gives “to each according to his need”.  Since those who work will never be able to fully enjoy the fruits of their labor, they have no incentive to work, and so they stop working.  This process feeds on itself and ultimately creates a society in which none are willing to work resulting in economic collapse due to a lack of production.

A man’s selfish nature is what compels him to work with others for the “greater good” not his concern for his fellow man.  It’s selfishness that drives men to produce.  It’s selfishness that drives men to sell their product to others.  It’s selfishness that drives men to work for a living and gain income.  Selflessness contributes nothing, and in some cases, hinders everyone.  While, as I said before, there is nothing wrong with helping people get back on their feet it should only be done for the purpose of adding another able producer to society.  Funding the laziness of those who would rather sit back and collect the fruits of the labor of others will only serve to slowly drag the rest of society down (for more details you can read my post about Atlas).  Only by promoting your own interests can you really serve others.  If you really want to create a better, more sustainable society, live for yourself and your interests.  Selfishness isn’t the vice that many claim it is, it is what drives everything we do and it is one of the noblest causes in existence.

The Problem With Congress and What We Can Do About It

I would like to give credit to Navy1630 and the anonymous commenter on my debt ceiling post for inspiring me to write this.

It’s no secret that Congress isn’t very popular amongst the American people.  As of August, it has a 14% approval rating (a historical low) and that number is likely to drop even further with the current debate going on about Obamacare and the debt ceiling (see my post about the debt ceiling for more details on that).  What has often been cited both by members of Congress and by people who I have talked to as the problem is that there is too much political posturing.  I agree that both sides are incredibly stubborn on certain issues, but I don’t think that is what’s really wrong with Congress.  While bipartisanship can help resolve a particularly controversial issue in Washington, political posturing has its uses too.  In fact, Congress was designed with that in mind.

The Founders counted on disagreement, and they actually wanted it.  If the members of Congress are forced to debate their ideas and really think about the positives and negatives of a bill, they are more likely to come to a well though out conclusion, rather than rushing to pass a bill without any consideration for the impact of said bill.  Not only that, but standing up for what they believe in and what their constituents believe is why members of Congress are elected in the first place.  No, the problem isn’t that politicians dig in on their positions (like I said that can be a good thing); the problem is that many of them have become more interested in advancing their political careers than following the will of their constituents.

The main reason for this is because they are allowed to stay in Congress for as long as they are reelected.  As a result, there are a number of representatives and senators who have been in Congress for several decades.  For example, Harry Reid, the current Senate Majority Leader, will have been in office for 36 years at the end of this term.  Some may argue that we need people with a good amount of experience in office to run the legislative branch.  The problem with that statement is that, as the years go on, members of Congress tend to get out of touch with their constituents.  Thus, instead of actually doing what their constituents want, they will do whatever they think they can get away with and then try to appeal to their party’s base when the next election year comes around.

Also, if we need people with experience in the office to run Congress, why don’t we let the president stay in office for as long as they can get reelected?  Sure that’s how things used to be, but after FDR we realized that it’s all too easy for someone to be reelected as many times as he wants if he remains popular (ie. panders to the crucial demographics needed to get reelected).  And so we passed an amendment restricting the number of terms a president could have.  The Founders never envisioned people staying in office for decades, they assumed that people would serve for a term or two and then retire.  That’s why George Washington set that precedent when he refused to stay in office after two terms.  After FDR, we realized that we had to force that standard upon them for the sake of ensuring that no president could ever become he king-like figure that we had fought to rid ourselves of.

However, going back to the issue of Congress, the worst part of the problem is that we bear most of the responsibility.  We’re the ones that keep voting these people back into office.  Every election we believe their claims that they’re different than the other people in Washington or that they’ll stand up for us this term if only we’d reelect them.  Every election they say this, and every election we fall for it.  And that only serves to keep the same politicians in office who will only continue to advance their own agenda over that of the American people  The only way that this cycle can be broken is if we break it ourselves.  So, if you are unhappy with the job that your representative or senator is doing, don’t vote for them.  Don’t allow yourself to blindly accept what the incumbent tells you, make up your own mind and vote based on what you think.

Forget about party affiliation and vote based on who you believe will really represent your views in Washington.  And if the incumbent is not that person, you should seriously consider looking into their opponents positions (both in the primary and in the general election).  However, voting out the members of Congress that don’t represent their constituents’ views and values is not the only way.  The one thing that can guarantee that members of Congress can’t abuse their power or ignore their constituents for decades as they have been is to put term limits on members of Congress.  This idea may seem unlikely to be popular in Congress, and thus difficult to have made into an amendment, but that doesn’t mean that it can never come to pass.  If we all stand up to Congress and tell them to pass the amendment or be voted out of office, they will listen.  Or, if they don’t, we can find people who will.  If we stand united in our efforts, we will have our voices heard.

We the people decide what the government does, not the other way around.  In the end who you decide to vote into office and what limits you put on their ability to place their own agenda above yours directly affects the direction that this country will go in.  The future of this country rests with you, as it always has.  Only by standing up for what you believe in and standing up to those who are not doing their jobs in Washington will you be able to set this country back on the right course.  It is time for the American people to take back this country and restore the ideas and values that at one time made us the greatest country on Earth.  It is time for us to take control of our country once again.

Dexter Series Review

Now that I’ve posted a review of the last season of Dexter, here’s my review of the whole show.  As with the last review, I’ll try to keep it as spoiler free as possible, but I may reference some things that happen in the earlier seasons.

It’s not often that a show like Dexter comes around.  Not many other shows have been able to introduce such a unique and interesting premise while presenting it in such a well thought out manner and, honestly, even the shows that do have a unique premise don’t really compare to Dexter.  I mean, how many shows can get you to root for a serial killer?  Not many.  That’s one of the things that made Dexter one of my favorite shows; it takes a moral dilemma (killing murderers and other criminals outside the law) and makes you see how it could be considered justifiable.  But, beyond that, it gives a great deal of thought to the characters and their development as the show progresses.  All of this combines to form an all around great show that challenges your way of thinking when it comes to serial killers.

If you couldn’t tell from the last paragraph, Dexter is about a serial killer named Dexter Morgan (thus the title of the show), a forensic technician for the Miami Police Department who spends his nights hunting down and executing criminals that fall through the cracks of the justice system.  The fact that the show is about a serial killer may be a turn off to some, but I urge you to give Dexter a chance.  The writers really go out of their way to portray Dexter as a sympathetic character, and it works really well.  Dexter is different from other killers; he has a code and a set of “morals” that drive him to do what he does and, although he doesn’t like to admit it, he cares about the people around him.  Perhaps the biggest reason that this approach works is Michael C. Hall’s performance as the titular character.  He does an excellent job at showing both sides of Dexter’s personality (though nothing beats his scenes in the kill room).  All of the supporting cast put in great performances as well with the standout being Jennifer Carpenter, who plays Dexter’s foster-sister Deb.  With Dexter, the characters are what drive the show, and that makes all the difference.

In addition, the first five seasons do an excellent job at developing Dexter as he learns that he cares more about his friends and family that he originally thought and that, perhaps, he can find a balance between his normal life and his life as a killer.  Season 5 in particular does a good job and hammering this message home for reasons that I won’t spoil, but that I can say are worth watching the show to see.  However, the best season by far is season 4, when Dexter faces arguably his greatest foe in the entire series.  That season always had me on the edge of my seat and the season finale practically had me in tears (no spoilers in the comments, please).  Unfortunately, after season 5, the show starts to go downhill a bit.  While season 6 wasn’t awful (in my opinion anyway) it introduced a few plot points that I really didn’t like (one of which involves his relationship with Deb) that were expanded upon in the seventh season.  Ultimately, the problem with seasons 6 and 7 is that they back-peddle on Dexter being able to have a life outside of being a serial killer.  Another problem I have with those seasons is that Dexter makes the same exact mistakes that he made in season 4, and it got to the point where I started to feel annoyed with Dexter rather than sympathetic to his cause.

Fortunately, season 8 does away with that for the most part (see my season 8 review for more details) and takes the show back to what I liked about the first five seasons.  It had great build up to the finale, keeping me on my toes for the last few episodes and wondering how it would all end.  And then I saw the ending and….oh boy.  It started off really well, but then it kept going and I couldn’t help but think that the way things ended up didn’t make much sense.  The more I thought about it, the more I didn’t like it, which is a real shame considering how much I liked the rest of the season.  But, while the ending left a lot to be desired, I’d be lying if I said the journey to the end was anything less than stellar.

There’s no doubt that Dexter is a unique show and, at least at the beginning, has excellent character development and plot twists.  However, towards the end, the writers seem to have lost their way, undoing much of what made the show great in the first place and giving us an ending that left myself, and much of the fan base, disappointed.  Even so, Dexter is definitely worth watching.  Even if you don’t like the last few seasons, the first five more than make up for it by taking you on an emotional and philosophical roller coaster that will most definitely leave an impression on you.  Dexter may not be perfect, but you would be cheating yourself if you skipped out on watching arguably one of the most interesting shows on television.

Dexter Season 8 Review

I will have a review of the entire show up within a day or two, but, for now, I’m just going to give my thoughts on the 8th and final season of Dexter.  I will try to keep it as spoiler free as possible, but I am going to assume that you have some knowledge of the events of the first few seasons.

Going into this season of Dexter, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  The promos that Showtime released prior to the premier looked cool, but the last two seasons had me wondering if the show would ever get back to the greatness of the first five seasons.  Season 8 did, for the most part, but it definitely has its share of problems.  What I liked the most about this season was that it took the show back to what I liked about the first five seasons: Dexter and the police were going after some serial killer while Dexter continues his quest to find a balance between his life as a father and forensics technician and his life as a serial killer.  This season also did a good job of addressing the issues Deb faced after the end of the last season.  They didn’t sweep it under the rug in between seasons nor did they drag it out longer than it needed to.  It got the right amount of attention and then everyone moved on to the more pressing problems of the season (namely the Brain Surgeon).

Most of the intrigue comes from the introduction of Dr. Vogel, a psychiatrist who has ties to Dexter’s origin as a killer.  This coupled with the return of Hannah from the last season brought the show back to what it had hinted at earlier: that there’s something about Dexter that sets him apart.  He actually cares for people and, because of that, he may be able to have a life beyond the code.  I was relieved that they did this because I felt that they completely ignored it in the last season (when Dexter killed Hannah’s father) and it was one of the things that made me dislike Hannah for a while.  She seemed to drag him down to her level, making Dexter seem like every other serial killer.  However, they managed to fix that problem this season and got me liking Hannah again.  All of this combined for some great build up to the final episode and I couldn’t help but like where the season was going.

Unfortunately, season 8 didn’t always deliver.  There were a couple of side stories that were introduced and ended up not going anywhere, new characters that were brought in didn’t really serve much purpose when you look at the big picture, and Dexter still made the some of the same mistakes that drove me crazy in seasons 6 and 7.  He still kept that “it has to be me” mentality when he could have easily walked away from a situation.  Sure it made for plenty of suspense, but it still bothered me.  Finally, the ending wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be.  I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen it, but suffice to say that it was a bit disappointing.  At first, I thought it was really good ending, but then it kept going and I found myself wondering, “Why end it like this?”

This final season of Dexter is really a mixed bag.  If I could compare it to anything, I’d compare it to Mass Effect 3 (maybe not the best analogy, but it’s the first thing that came to mind).  The journey to the ending is great, with any possible flaws outweighed by some interesting plot points and good build up.  However, the ending itself will leave most people unsatisfied and/or wishing it had been done differently.  That being said, I would still say that this season is worth watching, so long as you’re prepared for an ending that will most likely leave something to be desired.  If you were turned off by season 6 or 7, I recommend you give this season a chance, if only to see the show through to the end.  Dexter has had its highs and lows and this season falls somewhere in the middle.  And, while I would be lying if I said I won’t miss Dexter, I wish the end could have been a bit different.