“The King’s Man”

Evidently, I do movie reviews now? I suppose it’s somewhat in keeping with all the book reviews I’ve been doing, but as it’s a new thing I still feel the need to point out: I am not a professional reviewer, I just don’t want to make an account on… whatever website it is that people use to do movie reviews.

After having it in my queue for a while, I finally got around to watching The King’s Man. I absolutely love Kingsman, and while there’s still a good deal to enjoy in the sequel, it was nowhere near as good as the original. I was hoping the prequel, then, would be as good as the original. Sadly, it wasn’t.

Quite frankly, The King’s Man is bad. Not terrible, but absolutely not good. It’s campy, but I can’t tell if it’s campy in the “this will be a cult classic in a decade” way or just campy in the “we’re all going to forget about this” sense. Too early to tell on that regard.

The plot makes absolutely no sense. And, yes, I realize that I’m saying this about a prequel to a film that had “a SIM card makes you murder people” as the core of the plot, but at least that just required some hand-wavey science fiction. That’s the problem with trying to do a prequel—we know how history went. If you haven’t sat down and called it Alternate History as a genre, then when you start breaking the timeline, it gets really hard to suspend that disbelief.

Like Deadpool 2, it feels like they came up with a couple key scenes they wanted to have in the movie, and then had to figure out a way to string them together with some semblance of a plot. As a result, though, here I am, a day later, still trying to come up with a sensible explanation for why any of the Bad Guys were listening to the Big Bad. He’s just… some guy? Like, sure, I can believe some guy with a hatch to grind could pull together a few well-connected people with grievances to start this evil plot, but Rasputin just doesn’t fit. What’s Rasputin’s motivation for listening to you, dude? He’s the de-facto ruler of Russia, he’s got all the food, drink, drugs, sex, and power a man could want; why would he show up to your drafty Evil Meeting Place in the middle of nowhere together threatened by you into messing with his good thing he’s got going?1

That said, I still enjoyed watching it. I’m glad I missed it in the theater because the best way to watch this is somewhere that you can pause it to laugh in disbelief with your friends. It’s got some solid action scenes, and the cast is fun and does a good job of it all. The pacing is all over the place, the plot makes no sense, and there’s a serious change of tone for a bit in the middle, but so long as you don’t go in expecting something that’s gonna win awards, you’ll have a good time.2

  1. And, speaking of that drafty Evil Meeting Place: this movie is set prior to the invention of the jet plane. How, exactly, is Rasputin making it from Moscow to your undisclosed location on the other side of Europe for these meetings without it being commented on?
  2. The bit in the middle is probably even more effective if you haven’t seen Kingsman, or you have the kind of brain that doesn’t latch on to world building details like mine does. For me, it was predictable, and the tension was in wondering when that Canonical Event was going to happen; I suspect that scene feels very different if you go in without that foreknowledge.


This movie is, first and foremost, stupid. The core concept doesn’t work, and a lot of key plot elements don’t work either.1

But then, it’s a Roland Emmerich movie, and he’s got a distinct style: take a thing people are concerned about in the real world, crank it up to 11 so it’ll be visually interesting, and off we go. I certainly didn’t go in expecting a robust understanding of orbital mechanics, and you shouldn’t either.

And here’s where the tone of my review changes, because for all the bashing on the concept I just did, I actually really enjoyed the movie. It’s in that sweet spot of “bad movie” where it’s fun to watch with friends and mock. “Mystery Science Theater 3,000” bad, not “Star Wars Holiday Special” bad. Do just enough prep work to know how silly it is—in my case, I went with “having been an avid science fiction nerd my whole life,” but if you want less of a time commitment, go for this Kurzgesagt video about what would actually happen if the moon fell out of orbit—then grab some popcorn and get ready to roast the movie.2 (Bonus points: make a drinking game every time you spot a sponsor of the movie. The easy ones are Elon Musk and the Chinese government.)

  1. “The moon’s been falling out of orbit for a decade, and nobody at NASA or any other space agency noticed until just now!”
  2. And, while you’re watching Kurzgesagt videos, I also recommend this one explaining why the military’s “contribution” to the plot is stupid, and this one that explains what megastructures actually are. And, really, pretty much everything on their channel is worth a watch. Kurzgesagt is great.

“Free Guy”

I’m honestly not sure what I was expecting from this movie. Something akin to Ready Player One, I suppose, if a bit less hitting-you-over-the-head with the pop culture references. And, sure, in places it has some of that—the big fight towards the end definitely does that, but it also leans in with the reactions. (An excellent use of Chris Evans!)

In general, while watching the movie, I enjoyed it. There’s some fun playing with tropes, and I really do like the concept—Mogworld gone mainstream!1 And I can set aside the bits of “that’s not actually how technology works” as being something of a Plumber Problem.2 Really? This Silicon Valley tech company has all their servers in a ground-floor room of their main office? Yes, definitely, for sure, that’s an efficient way to use horrifyingly-expensive San Francisco real estate. And all the players in Europe definitely love the super-laggy gameplay experience that creates.

But, again, that’s stuff that I, as a big ol’ tech nerd, notice, and the average viewer probably doesn’t know about. It moved the plot forward, and it wasn’t egregious, so why not; I’ve already suspended my disbelief about the core plot elements, so why not this too?

Where it fell down for me, though, was the end. Spoilers ahead!

Because, all told, the end seems to wrap up very nicely. The twist on the whole “the guy gets the girl” trope was nice, and answered a question I’d had floating around for a while, which I enjoyed. But if you think about it at all, there’s just… no exploration of the consequences of anything. Somebody invented general AI and… nobody cares? We’re just leaving them in a video game, and the positive change in their lives is that instead of a torture chamber it’s a People Zoo?

Oh, and let’s look at ‘torture chamber,’ too—because that’s what the video game they were living in was. A nightmare world where everyone is constantly in danger, generally dying every day and being reset the next morning, and for who knows how long, they were all being gaslit into thinking that was Fine and Normal. It may have been an accident, but the creators of this game up and created a slave race for their entertainment. That’s the kind of thing that the UN generally likes to do a bit of investigation of.

And, speaking of investigations, there’s no investigation of Antwan? The world seems to have, at least somewhat, accepted the concept that Guy, if none of the other NPCs, is a fully-sentient AI. Antwan just… gets away with trying to kill him? Sure, his stock price tanks, and he looks like an idiot on the news, but generally attempting murder in front of dozens of witnesses has slightly more of an impact on your lifestyle. Never mind the fact that he didn’t just attempt murder, he followed it up by attempting genocide against the aforementioned slave race.

Beyond all that, there’s the fact that this entire new population of artificial intelligences were born in that kind of a crucible. Trying to create an AI that doesn’t accidentally wipe us out is difficult enough; in this world, we created an army of them and they spent their childhoods as our torture-slaves. Given the rate at which they’re learning… well, Guy’s little “leveling up faster than anyone thought possible” montage sure looks more terrifying when you remember that they have no reason to like us and they know we’re a threat to their survival. If they make a sequel to this movie, it’s going to be about getting Guy a virtual girlfriend, because Hollywood is predictable like that. Joke’s on them, though, because we already have the sequel: Terminator.

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.
  2. A phrase coined, I believe, by John Siracusa. A plumber watching a movie will notice “that’s now how plumbing works!” a lot more readily than anyone else.

Halo: Nightfall

I’m gonna be honest with y’all, I didn’t finish this one. Not something I normally do with Halo media, but I’m bad at movie-watching to start with,1 and this one had lots of creepy worms. I quite enjoyed the setup, and figured out after a bit2 that this is Spartan Locke’s backstory, which was kinda cool. Having it be live-action, and still featuring a couple Sangheili? I quite liked, and I think the visual effects were handled well.
That was actually one of the weirder things about this, for me – I had no idea this was a thing until a couple days ago, and it seemed like a rather big-budget sort of thing for Microsoft to not have advertised at all. Then again, I don’t think Google’s ad algorithms are smart enough to link what I post on here with my viewing habits elsewhere, so probably they have no idea that I’m a big ol’ Halo nerd, and that’s why I never get Halo ads on YouTube.3
So I liked the first half of the movie or so, but then the worms showed up. Conceptually, and in writing, I enjoy the Lekgolo species, I like the idea that the massive Hunters are actually weird hive-mind things. It’s just so cool. But seeing the worms on their own? Eurgh. They’re creepy.4
The real reason I even bothered to write up this review – usually I don’t bother, for stuff I don’t finish, which is why you never really see me posting hugely negative reviews – is because of a single little joke I wanted to work in here. It’s the explanation of why I think worms are creepy, in fact.
It’s because I know that, one day, worms are gonna be one of the big contributors to the decomposition of my body. And for some reason, they all look like they want to get that started ahead of schedule.

Does that count as a joke? It’s hard to type out the tone of voice I’m going for in my head, and I think that’s more ‘morbid’ than ‘funny.’ Oh well, so is half of my sense of humor.
So… if you’re not freaked out by worms like I am, go watch the movie! It’s pretty good, well-made and all that. If you have an existential horror of worms, then… really don’t watch this movie. Your choice.

  1. I need a minimum of, like, 1.25 things to be doing at any given time, and a movie counts as, like, .125 or something. I dunno, trying to make math out of ‘movies can’t hold my attention well’ is hard. 
  2. Also contributing to my lack of attention: I watched this while ‘working,’ and even when there’s no customers, a pool is loud
  3. Except when Halo 4 came out, but I’m pretty sure that at that point Microsoft had bought every ad slot on the site, so that doesn’t really mean much of anything. 
  4. I think all worms are creepy, to be honest. It’s the one downside to when it rains – all the worms are out on the sidewalks and stuff. 


I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Interstellar, and then I went and watched this video. It’s a behind-the-scenes bit on TARS and CASE, the robots in the film. Those ‘bots were, of course, one of my favorite aspects of the whole thing.
They were so well-executed, and a lovely counterpoint to David in Prometheus. David was skeumorphism to the extreme, designed to look exactly like a human. When he (spoiler alert) gets damaged, you see a lot of biotech internals, nanowhatever and fluid that doesn’t look like blood, but definitely doesn’t look like oil.1