Category: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Prometheus

Someone has been waiting for Prometheus for 33 years. I hope they’re not disappointed. Me? Please, I’m only 26. Regardless, I’m satisfied. Others might not be so happy, but I don’t care: it’s my movie. They don’t need it, and they can’t have it.

Prometheus is kind of an entry in the Alien canon. It’s actually pretty unambiguous about that, but some people will want to ignore the various “clues” – that is, the names of entities featured in later Alien films, the designs inspired by Giger, the … Well, the everything. This is an Alien film, with echoes of the original and with something new besides. It’s not the evolution that Aliens represented, nor the declension of the latter two films. It’s its own film, and a hard film to classify at that.

But it’s good. It’s good.

Ghostbusters

“Bustin’ makes me feel good!”

Ghostbusters is legitimately one of the greatest films ever made. I like it more every time I see it, and I get more out of it each time I see it. There is something about it that simply works, whether it’s the encapsulation of New York City in 1984, the special effects that still hold up 27 years later, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis or simply its flawless script. The only element that is not all there is the soundtrack, which features a bizarre Ghostbusters swing on two occasions.

 

Still, this is a brand of perfection and it endures for that very reason. Not for Ghostbusters is the endless mystery of enduring popularity; Ivan Reitman, in his days of talent, laid his cards on the table: Ghostbusters is flat-out great.

Snuff

Samuel Vimes is one of the most beloved, and most featured, of all characters in the ever broadening Discworld series. When Terry Pratchett presents you with a City Watch book (“City” having become increasingly loosely defined as the series has progressed), you attack it in a different mind frame to any of his other books. This is because, when Vimes is in Pratchett’s hands, he becomes an incredibly single minded author. It is only rarely that we are taken out of the mind of Ankh-Morpork’s chief protector, and then that is usually only to be placed at the mercy of the inscrutable Lord Vetinari.

 

Essentially, Pratchett knows what he likes when he’s writing Vimes, and he hopes that the audience likes it, too. Fortunately, Pratchett is in but one of his many elements. The transcendental nature of I Shall Wear Midnight was always going to be a hard act to follow, so Pratchett does not try. Instead, he places us in the company of a man who has not had a book to himself since 2005 – and he has had the good grace to have made the world move in such time. Vimes is not in the same space as he was in Thud!, and the novel reads all the better for it.

John Dies At the End

John Dies At The End is not a novel, but a monster stitched together piecemeal from the detritus of David Wong’s mind over the course of several years. That it never delivers on the promise made by its title would probably not matter to the many readers unable to sustain patiences enough to stick it through to the bitter, bitter end. I stayed around, and let me say that it was so ridiculously not worth it that I practically embraced my Sookie Stackhouse chaser. John Dies At The End transmutes pulpy vampire novels into high art through sheer proximity; take Wong’s work and you can make anything entertaining by comparison. It’s a kind of magic, or alchemy at the very least.

There are several kind of misanthropies in this world: there is the kind that hates fun and the idea of anyone else having fun and must stop it at all costs (like me, telling you that this book is awful – I see this as more pragmatism than misanthropy); more sinister is the type of misanthropy embodied by Wong, which is based on the exploitation of humanity by utilising contempt for them to wring money from their all too willing wallets (this brand is also known as “capitalism”). While John Dies At The End was written by a man trying to kill the boredom of his low paying jobs, Wong has commuted that sentence to a presumably lucrative career as the editor of Cracked dot com, consistently one of the worst sites on the internet.


Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens was dead before release. Many people, having forgotten the Cowboys and Indians of their youth – or having a youth spawned after we realised that genocidal war games aren’t the best things to aspire to – didn’t recall what was being referred to.

On top of that, they thought the idea was stupid, forgetting that the latter day prophet Gary Larson had foreseen it years prior:

(And believe me, it’s not that hard for multiple people to come to this same conclusion – but it’s strange that the most common source of this image has a tape mark on it.)

 

So a double genre piece is a hard sell to a lot of people.

“That looks like the biggest waste of a cast in Hollywood history,” one of my friends told me. While that’s far from accurate, Cowboys & Aliens is a strangely sterile affair – it’s as if it wants to be good and exciting but can’t quite jump the required hurdles, ploughing ahead in a straight and flat line.

 

I’ve seen outright hatred for this movie, but anyone who would put it on a “worst of 2011” list plainly hasn’t seen a bad movie this year. This movie isn’t deserving of excess praise, but it’s done nothing to earn derision.

 

Cowboys & Aliens is basically stunningly competent; never impressing, occasionally confusing, and sometimes raising racial quandaries, it gets the job done, and done okay.

Overman King Gainer

 

I need a King Gainer …

King! King! King Gainer!

Metal Overman King Gainer!

 

Overman King Gainer can be put on record as featuring one of my favourite OPs in the history of anime. Much of the cast, including designated “villains” and robots alike, go-go dance to the rocking tune. It pumped me up so much that most of the time I didn’t skip it. I would dance around the house singing the song even when I wasn’t watching. Thanks to the wonders of the multimedia review age, I can share that OP with you right now:

 


Unfortunately, you’d be harder pressed to find the series itself by legitimate means, as it has been out of print for the English world for a fair while now. Why you can pick up something not particularly exciting like Lost Universe thirteen years after its screening but not this 2002 piece is beyond me. The two of them bear comparison because they represent two different generations of anime: Lost Universe the awkward transition from cel work to digital animation with some clumsy CG, and Overman King Gainer the confident application of digital with smooth results.

 

Overman King Gainer also has the distinction of being a mostly good series, but it’s not without its faults. I think that I noticed the flaws so intently because I enjoyed the series so much. When that happens, any let down is magnified far more than disappointments in shows that weren’t particularly good to begin with.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Full disclosure: I have an aversion to apes. I simply don’t like them. I have never seen a Planet of the Apes film, so this is a new experience for me. In the age of The Simpsons it’s hard not to have a base familiarity with the series, though, so I think I knew enough going in to make a reasoned judgment.

I had a healthy scepticism for all of the early promos for this film. It wasn’t until the last trailer was released that I was willing to give it a chance. In the end, James Franco delivers on his promise with all of his limbs intact.

 

Lost Universe

 

Lost Universe is the science fiction anime equivalent of Slayers, by substantially the same staff and set in a parallel universe, and it’s pleasant enough. Unfortunately, it fizzles into very little by the end. Given its relatively small cast, very few of the characters have clear motivations, and the ultimate threat isn’t really threatening enough. When it appears that the void of space is what’s at stake rather than visible land and people, it’s much harder to connect.

A Dance With Dragons

Dragons of the universe!

 

I didn’t expect that at the end of the available volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire I would feel like I had run headlong into a brick wall, but that is exactly what happened. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here but, while A Dance With Dragons is more of a “complete” book than A Feast For Crows (in that it covers more characters), it’s less satisfactory. A Storm of Swords still stands as the single most delightful entry in this canon.

 

Enough quibbling, though: is A Dance With Dragons any good? Keeping in mind that I only had to wait one week for it rather than six years, I’m going to say that yes, it is. On reflection, its three main characters get three complete story arcs that naturally bleed into the next part of the story. It’s just that, given its eighteen different points of view, a lot of the work that Martin performs between these pages is simple shuffling of pawns across the board so that they may be in place for greater things. None of which happen here.

 

Contains spoilers for volumes 1-4, not for A Dance With Dragons itself!

Tales of Dunk and Egg: The Sworn Sword & The Mystery Knight

The second and third entries in the Tales of Dunk and Egg complement each other so well that it’s hard to imagine that they were published seven years apart. It wasn’t until I came to The Mystery Knight that I could appreciate The Sworn Sword for what it is. I realise that a large part of this is because of the significance of the characters at play: in The Mystery Knight Dunk and Egg participate in activities that have some bearing on the future of the realm, while in The Sworn Sword they’re performing pure acts of hedge knighthood.

 

The fault in my interpretation lies not in Martin but in myself; with a fuller understanding of the canon of these characters to date I came to enjoy myself much more than I had beforehand. That Martin’s work can grow in retrospect as well as in the telling is something that I can get behind.

This site employs the Wavatars plugin by Shamus Young.