Dr. Strange: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

dr-strange

Source: ComingSoon.net

MAGIC AND MARTIAL ARTS

This is a really interesting story.  In many ways it is the story that I was trying to write with my own story, I, Magi.  The creators manage to combine Magic with Martial Arts and the results come together surprisingly well.  Now, martial arts movies are a “guilty pleasure” of mine.  I know some of the earlier ones in the 70s and 80s aren’t really good narratively speaking and that the English dubbing is sometimes so awful as to have entered into the realm of cliche, but I love the action, the movement, and the artistry of the genre.  Recent entries, since the mid-90s have been much better and I feel they have come into their own thanks to great actors in the field.  I love (& have seen most of the practicing martial arts actors–male and female–and have enjoyed them immensely, but I have a personal fondness for Jackie Chan, mostly for the outtakes reel that he includes at the end of his movies).  There are two or three centerpiece fights in this movie and add in magic–and well, you have a strong action based movie.

If there is a downside, its that the movie is an origin story, so if you already know the origin of the hero, Dr. Stephen Strange, then you will have a pretty good clue to the first half of the movie.  Still, that is a minor complaint (similar to knowing the origin stories of heroes like Batman or Spider-man.)

A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR

This movie has a pretty good sense of humor as well.  From other reviewers, some of the jokes seemed to be hit or miss for them, but for me, I chuckled at the jokes, even when the set-up was telegraphed a mile away.  There were some truly laugh aloud moments, but the movie didn’t set out to be a comedy.  In many ways, the humor is much more sedate, more dry than say, the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy.  The humor seems on par with Ant-Man.

COMIC BOOK MOVIE FATIGUE

Many reviewers seemed to be noting comic fatigue for friends who they took to see the movie and reported not like it.  I think that they fact that it is also as much of a martial arts movie as a “Marvel” movie also has something to with one’s enjoyment.  If you don’t like Martial Arts movies then chances are really good you aren’t going to like this movie as many of its set-ups and structure follow that genre and its conventions.

In many ways, the director and writers of this movie did what I wished Joss Whedon would have done (if possible based on studio notes) for Age of Ultron. They completely went to another genre–martial arts movies, just as the last two Captain America movies have done to a larger/lesser degree political thrillers.  Imagine if Age of Ultron had gone for a completely “horror” movie vibe with Ultron (and the twins) hunting/eliminating Avengers in pursuit of the “Vision” prototype.

I wonder if it is truly a case of comic book movie fatigue or rather a miscommunication of what genre to which this movie actually belongs.

IMPLICATIONS FOR MY WRITING

Fight scenes need clarity.  As I mentioned above, this is what I’d hoped I, Magi would be like, except that Magic is limited, so they (mages) have to rely on fighting skills to make up for the lack of magic available to them.  In the movie, however, I noticed that the fight scenes were clear.  I think that at times (especially when I try for action scenes) my own description breaks down and it is unclear who is where.

I intend to try to work on that and make might fight/action scenes more clear and more visual in the reader’s mind.

When the Writing Life gives you Lemons, make Lemonade.

So, the reviews are in – Faerie Knight has been reviewed in Tangent, an online publication devoted to reviewing short fiction when they reviewed the anthology Fae (edited by Rhonda Parrish).

So, these are my first reviews (professional) and suffice to say, while they are not bad (on the whole), they do offer criticism, both deserved and (in the mind of a writer) probably some that’s a little . . . well . . . nit-picky.  If you want to read the whole review for Fae, you can find it at Tangent Online, but I’m only going to talk about the reviews for my story, “Faerie Knight.”

John Sulyok had this to say:

“Faerie Knight” by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Though Thomas Theron was blind, he never let that hinder him from knowing when one of his student’s was misbehaving. He’d honed his other senses over the years and has become quite adept at understanding his surroundings. And that makes him a particularly good Knight of the Fae. Once a year, on Halloween, he accepts his Queen’s boon—the gift of sight—so that he may watch over the little trick-or-treaters, protecting them from the Unseelie Court that tries to swap human children with changelings. Thomas, old now with aching joints, must use all his senses, including his sense of duty, to fight the evil on this night.“Faerie Knight” cuts to the chase, almost literally. There’s very little set up, so it feels almost like the entire story is a third act. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s exciting, but the story also wouldn’t have hurt from more. Thomas and his history with the Seelie Court fighting the Unseelie court begs for more screen time. But it hits the spot if you just want a little action.

C. D. Lewis remarked on the story in this way:

Sidney Baylock, Jr. sets “Faerie Knight” in a world of good faeries and evil faeries, where the dark and the light are clear and the reader easily believes the depicted wrongs that need righting. The protagonist, a blind schoolteacher when not serving his Queen, thrills to do her bidding but worries advancing age and physical decrepitude have dulled his edge. “Faerie Knight” begins as the ageing servant undertakes One Last Ride. And the evil he’s asked to fight? It’s bad Fae, and they’re not just stealing children, they’re turning them bad. Once in a fight, the old Knight seems for the first time to rely on his hearing to do for his Queen what he does for himself the rest of the year, and soon his Halloween performance begins to look like Rutger Hauer’s in Blind Fury. His weird Fae weapon seems crafted for style over function: it’ll cut anything, perhaps, but apparently only if hit by both blades on opposite ends of the handle. On the upside, it’s a safety blade: it won’t easily injure bystanders accidentally. Since the protagonist takes care to keep fights outside the crowded high school Halloween party, though, we don’t see that feature in action. What we do see is an action hero who displays a pleasant degree of thoughtfulness, who carefully avoids provoking unnecessary conflicts, and whose sense of duty ultimately convinces him to keep up the fight as long as the kids need him. Bad knees, or no.

So, there are elements in both reviews that I love and that I . . . don’t love.  But this is NOT a gripe post.  I’ve highlighted the parts of the reviews that really stood out and made me think.  I’ve been wanting to write graphic novels and add that in as sort of a triumvirate of media to work in (short stories, novels, and graphic novels) as I try to discover how to become a professional writer.  What I took from these reviews is that:

  1. I’ve already done the hard work in creating the character (the “Who Am I?”) and found a compelling story.
  2. I now have a character that I can build more stories for and can give my characters (as John Sulyok says), “more screen time.”
  3. Work Smarter, Not Harder: if I’ve done a story that is good enough to be published, then there is something in there that is special and I need to focus on it.  If I’ve written the story as a short-story, that doesn’t preclude the story being expanded, added to, adapted, and enhanced to bring it to another medium.

To that end, I’ve decided that all my short-story projects that I get published, would probably make good Graphic Novels as well.  The first chapter of the story has already been written.  I can use that as a “stepping stone” to add on and create a story that furthers the character and gives him/her “more time on the stage.”

I’ve also realized that plans are great until they get in the way of execution.  The past 3 or 4 blog posts have been about plans and changes and introspection and reflection, but haven’t really been about execution.  Since I’m no artist, I’ve joined and created a profile on DeviantART, a well-known and established website for artists.  I’ve investigated some artists whose style I like and I’ve favorited them and set my profile to follow.  I will be asking them what their rates are for creating artwork for characters as I want to see how they interpret my main character for “Faerie Knight.”  I’ve also started writing/adapting the published story for “Faerie Knight” into Chapter 1 of the “Faerie Knight” Graphic Novel.

Look for updates on this new project in 2015!  Oh, and if anyone knows of any good publishers for fantasy graphic novels that I should keep an eye on, please leave them in the comments.  Thanks!